Finding a more gentle way…remembering my excommunication.


I didn’t expect to feel it in my body, my heart. The SoulStream facilitator lead us to recall examples of feeling like a stranger. I casually offered up the time I was excommunicated from, “put out” of, the church of my formative years. I shared how my faith family unrelated by blood yet named aunties and uncles and almost cousins, formally rejected and turned their backs on me in a final “just” response to my engagement to a man who was not of their choosing.

And maybe because I knew what was coming all along, maybe because I had hardened my heart, maybe because my love for my fiance transcended this outcome, I have borne that experience as a natural and even deserved expression of my actions. I was put in the “outside place.” How unlike the Jesus I now know. But that was then.

I have always been an elder’s daughter; in later years it carries little weight for me. I love my father, his intellect and sensibilities. But back then, being my father’s daughter carried a mysterious resistance to inclusion in my peer group, most obvious in the way all the girls were asked out on dates, but never me nor the other elder’s daughter. Was it my hair colour, wardrobe, body shape, struggles with pubescent acne, or was it something deeper, I wondered?

Being an elder’s daughter meant not being in the church it crowd, not being in anywhere. It was difficult. Because what was a good Christian girl to do socially? To be of the world but not in the world meant I was not at liberty to choose outside friends.  School day relationships remained that. Our lives revolved around the church. So, the other elder’s daughter (my dear friend to this day) and I tried to find a way to be. We knew some of what went on, some of what was meant to be kept secret from the powers that be. We somehow accepted that if our Dads were a problem, then so were we. But we were lonely at times. Misfits. Outsiders.

Fast forward to last week, and being on retreat with SoulStream for the first intensive of Living From The Heart, and me telling my story of what it was like to choose to marry a Catholic, to choose to proceed with what was considered being unequally yoked, to choose to choose him, rather than remain part of a community of believers to whom I once longed to belong.

I told my story as I have told the story for thirty years, dry eyed, matter of fact, the facts expressed and compassion within only for my husband who had been excluded along with me. Someone asked me why couldn’t I marry a Catholic? I tried to explain. Again I shared how hard it was for my husband. And then strong feelings of anxiety (common to me), began to traverse from my guts up to my chest and my breathing became laboured. I felt as though I was having a heart attack. It felt as though something was constricting my chest. I was afraid. My body began to quiver, and my eyes prickled with tears as I tried to hold myself together. But I could not. I felt myself letting go. Silence in the room and then…

a voice quietly offered “I think we need to take care of this right here” and then someone was on their knees in front of me, and then other voices in the room were speaking words of acceptance and love to me. My tears flowed and my body heaved with the realization of the depth of what was hidden inside me, a key to how I have navigated my life until now…

Belonging…always searching to belong, to be accepted, to be loved, to be liked. Thirty years that can be traced back (perhaps, in part) to a moment when I was made a stranger. Thirty years since a letter was read in front of my church that said Lesley-Anne Clements no longer belongs.

And so I cried out, thirty years later. And I received gentle touch to my body and prayerful words spoken over me, my heart opening to receive healing from this little group of people I had known for only 6 days. They lavished me with the love of the Father, and their love. The same people whom I secretly feared, and felt somewhat removed from, for most of our week together, held me with the genuine kindness of their presence and words.

And then, someone asked permission to pray. I nodded, unable to speak. His prayer was deeply repentant, asking my forgiveness, standing in to take full responsibility for what the Church had done to me. I was shaken. I did not know my heart needed reconciliation. But a generous knowledge of what was required and then given, met my unspoken need.

More tears and hugs and a holy kiss on my forehead. I felt emptied and filled in. I felt like blinders were removed. Now I sensed I could move forward into being more fully me. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you. Peace and reconciliation lavished on me. Mercy. Grace. Love. Thank you.

There is more to the story, at a heart level, but for now I will hold that as a gift for me alone. And I will continue to see what may be required from here, because it has been suggested there may be further trauma to deal with, there may be more for me around this notion of shame, how my hunger to belong haunts me. It amazes me that such deep hurt can be lived out without any true recognition…until….

Even this week I am beginning to see how the choices I make and the people I care for and the communities I lean into, reflect my hidden wound somehow being transformed into a gift to others. I’m reminded of a verse that says it was meant for evil but God meant it for good. And perhaps it wasn’t intended as evil at the time, but the result of my excommunication was pain, separation, and exclusion of my heart to an outside place, far removed from God’s heart incarnate in those who professed it most strongly back then. You can perhaps see how this could cause confusion in my relationship with God. Yes, there may be more to unpack here.

But thank God that His heart has never left mine. Thank God that He speaks in new and gentle ways to the broken and lost parts of my heart. And I have to believe that He has an holy intention in all of this…it all belongs.

Several years ago I wrote a poem that reflected part of the experience of my last meeting with the elders of the church, a meeting which set the wheels in motion for my excommunication. I remember it clearly. Only now I also feel it with more clarity. I feel anger in my poem. I didn’t know then that there were deeper layers to be coaxed out, loved on, and in God’s time, raised from the grave.

Finding the Outside Place

Two of their kind arrive
at my door, just like with Noah,
only no females. Two elders
in dark suits, carrying
The Book, King James, leather bound.
I invite them in, keep
my appointment with
their Kingdom kind. Hear
the blame and shame
coming. Same as grade
school quiet flush, my hand
goes up to take the fall for
someone’s spilled glue.
How I save the class from
time out.  These two cut
me in ways I don’t expect.
And me polite and
would you prefer coffee or tea
with one or two lumps of sugary
excuses for my errant behaviour?
(it hasn’t gone unnoticed
over several years). They sit
like bookends in rose brocade.
I practice active listening,
open faced to inherent
rhetoric. They proclaim
fundamentals, subtle
errors of my ways, the dire
consequence of marrying
outside the faith. All this and

the truth shall set you free.
They want to pray. I say
no. Thanks. (Maybe I say
more?)  They deliver
last rites. Exit, stage right.
Afterwards I gasp like one
fresh raised from the grave.

Metro Community Artist-in-Residence

Lesley-Anne Evans:

Something of my ongoing story…

Originally posted on Lesley-Anne Evans:

DSC_0038_2In September 2014, Lesley-Anne Evans was asked to facilitate a small group of poets and writers at Metro Community’s Metro Central, a Kelowna, street level gathering place for the marginalized. The “Poetry Circle” at Metro has become a weekly open table where regulars and newcomers are welcomed and heard. Participants are invited to share words in any form, life stories, and encouraged to live out the creative thumbprint of God on their lives that heals and transforms along the way.

“Art is a wound turned into light.”

At Poetry Circle, Lesley-Anne facilitates a way to belong and be known that grows through sharing creative works of writing, mainly poetry. Word activities include introductions to published poets and their work (contemporary and masters), free writing, found poetry, letter writing, and discussions around creative process.

The Poetry Circle has initiated projects such as the Metro Little Free Library, and…

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Seriously, ladybugs?

Originally posted on BUDDY BREATHING:


If I were to ask God for a significant recurring insect in my life, it would certainly not be a ladybug. Something more exotic perhaps, like a praying mantis, but not scary like a wasp or millipede. Nothing precious or pretty, nothing commonplace, please God. Let it be something with a bit of an edge to it, like the insect world’s version of a raptor, a hawk or falcon of the insect kingdom. But a ladybug? Shiny red, polka-dotted, embarrassingly cute… oh God, why that particular choice?

And, as if it weren’t bad enough to have had a ten year history (here and again, here) of encounters with these little red creatures, God continues to place them in my path. And I continue to notice. Either I find them or they find me, and it’s usually at a time when something significant is happening in my life that…poof……

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You are free to choose, always.

Does remaining silent mean I am somehow complicit? Does speaking up mean I am judging? I don’t know. I’m just tired of normalizing trends that take what is inherently beautiful, and twist it into something else entirely.

Today I came across a Facebook post by a start up company I follow who makes custom leather boots. Their new post is marketing baby boots, because “you are never too young to rock your first pair…” And as I looked at the photograph of a tiny baby, dressed in a skull and crossbones diaper, with a pair of black leather high tops, a lumberjack plaid neck fleece, and laying on a bold graphic blanket, I was saddened. Why? Because I saw the potential for awe squelched by an all too common human desire for projection of image.

The baby in the photograph with bared belly and umbilical cord still healing, was only a couple of weeks old. Surely the parents of this beautiful new human were still in the process of adjusting and welcoming and healing themselves. Surely they were still sharing birth stories with their closest friends, describing the difference of before and after, the shock of their wide eyed and brand new unconditional love. Surely they were wearing out their phones taking photos, planning futures and parties and surely, somewhere in all that, they were struck by the miracle of what just happened…and the wonder and innocence of this creature now entrusted into their hands. Surely they see the helpless purity of the creature that is a blending of their DNA and the outcome of months of waiting. Surely…

But somehow, somewhere, in this particular ad campaign, and in society in general, I sense that the function of keeping children warm and dry has run amok and become a commercialized train wreck. And we’ve seen this, haven’t we? Little boys in gangsta wear, and little girls in belly tops. But babies? I fear we are now in the business of transforming our precious newborns into our own image, into our own idea of what is hip and cool and trendy, rather than resting for just a little while, in the unadorned, unseasoned, raw versions of who they are…from the very beginning.

And perhaps facebook posts and instagrams and the incessant need to show off images of our most personal and intimate treasures, including our newborns, perhaps our overwhelming desire to (over)share the visual, is causing us to lose sight of what matters most, what happens when we are off camera and naked and fully ourselves.

Today you can find niche fashion sites that allow you to outfit your baby boy in biker gear or tattoo sleeves, or your baby girl in slutty slogan onesies. You can find skull and crossbone slippers, diapers, and pretty much anything else in most mainstream outlets. And while how we dress our children is absolutely a personal matter of taste, and has been effected by cultural and social norms through the centuries, I just want to say I am sad about what is happening in 2015. And maybe it doesn’t matter to you, maybe this is far too serious a consideration when buying baby clothes, because they are just so cute and fun and everybody else is rocking them too. But maybe you find a hint of truth in what I’m suggesting. I wonder why we are so easily convinced of what is normal and acceptable. I wonder…

All I know is this. I am not willing to trade in my sense of awe at the warm curl of a newborn’s fingers around mine, or the poignant sight of first hair worn thin on the backs of tiny heads, or the way it feels to breathe her smell straight out of the bath, all wet and shiny and bright, or hear his first musical cooing. I will hang onto it tight, and I will celebrate the sweet innocence of new beginnings. And I will not tarnish my experience of the miracle or the glory I see in each brand new life, by bowing to clothes or accessories that suggest otherwise.


Interview with Poet, Lesley-Anne Evans

Lesley-Anne Evans:

Sharing what was both unexpected and personally enlightening. There is a sacred gift in the individual who knows how to ask good questions, and how to hold a safe place for timid souls to find answers.

Dear Geosi… thank you from the depths of my heart for helping me to know more about why I do what I do. Thank you that you do this for so many. May it be increasingly so.


Originally posted on Geosi Reads:

Photo: Lesley-Anne Evans Photo: Lesley-Anne Evans

Brief Biography:

Lesley-Anne Evans was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She graduated with a B.L.Arch. from University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, in 1987, and practiced Landscape Architecture and theme park design in Toronto, Ontario, for several years. Lesley-Anne moved west to Kelowna, British Columbia, where she pursues creative contentment with her husband of 27 years, three young adult children, and rehabilitated hound. Lesley-Anne’s poetry has placed in contests, and is published by Leaf Press, and in The Antigonish Review, CV-2, Quills, Ascent, Sage-ing, Pantheos, UBCO’s Lake Journal, and others. Lesley-Anne is drawn to poetic activism and word sharing activities with her street level initiative Pop-Up-Poetry, and facilitates a poetry circle with writers who live on the streets.  She sees artists and poets as culture makers, and art in all its varied forms as witness, influencer, advocate and healer.

Geosi Gyasi: Let’s begin with your poem, “Desert

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Seriously, ladybugs?


If I were to ask God for a significant recurring insect in my life, it would certainly not be a ladybug. Something more exotic perhaps, like a praying mantis, but not scary like a wasp or millipede. Nothing precious or pretty, nothing commonplace, please God. Let it be something with a bit of an edge to it, like the insect world’s version of a raptor, a hawk or falcon of the insect kingdom. But a ladybug? Shiny red, polka-dotted, embarrassingly cute… oh God, why that particular choice?

And, as if it weren’t bad enough to have had a ten year history (here and again, here) of encounters with these little red creatures, God continues to place them in my path. And I continue to notice. Either I find them or they find me, and it’s usually at a time when something significant is happening in my life that…poof… there they are again!

Still, they always come unexpected, and cause a sharp intake of breath that I hope is at least partially spiritually significant. These bugs hijack me, beg the question “Why?” (like most other things in my life) and have me asking, “What God, what are you saying in this, what would you have me learn in this?” And sometimes, I end up smiling, like there’s a private joke between me and the Almighty. So maybe I have come to terms with them as my significant bug species? I have not, nor will I ever, get a ladybug tattoo or wear representational jewellery. I have yet to witness any cool ladybug t’shirts. Those darn bugs keep showing up, and I keep wondering what they really mean?

Last weekend, 7th floor apartment in Vancouver, B.C. and I’m there with my young adult son helping him nest, watching him put together IKEA bookshelves and bed frame and it gets a little stuffy in the small studio and I go and open the sliding door to the balcony and there, in the track of the door frame…yes, you guessed it…ladybugs…3 dead ladybugs. Why? I have no idea. I’m not an expert in ladybug flight patterns, but 7 floors up seemed pretty high to me, let alone a little bug with translucent wings. And they were dead, again, dead and dried up. But this time there was no voice saying a word. Silence. There they were, and there I was. They were dead. I am alive. And these days I’ve taken to flying more. My son is leaving home, and I am still alive, still standing. Big changes, still standing. Big changes, still flying. Maybe that was it, more of a comparative analysis this time around? Was that it God? I don’t know.

And then this, again, these words,

Coincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

I’m choosing hand, and I’m beginning to see humour in it, how God might be enjoying a belly laugh when his kid (me) stops everything she is doing, everything she finds so vitally important, in the presence of this blatantly red yet miniscule stop sign! Yeah, maybe that’s it, it’s an attention getting thing. Whenever I get a little too hung up in my own way, my own pain, my inward focus, my work ethic, my sadness that my son has grown up and away, my, my, my… Oh my… then God says…

…consider this…

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothes [or whatever else…you choose what fills in the blank]? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

Stop, observe, consider. Maybe that’s it. About seeing.


Dem Bones, Dem Bones ~ Of Bugs and Bones, Part 2.

Dry-BonesCoincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

The following year, after my first encounter with a ladybug at Seton House of Prayer, I returned to the retreat centre for what was becoming my spiritual practice of solitude and silence. I left the busyness of my daily routine, and, for a day, invited God into the silence, into the inner room of my heart. I have not yet found my journal from that visit to confirm the precise date, but my experience that day remains indelibly etched into my psyche.

In planning my time of solitude, I gathered my journal and pen, my Bible, spiritual books I was currently reading, my camera, some lunch, some layers in case the weather turned, a plain wooden box with an inscription, “Buddy ~ Forever Faithful, Forever At Rest,” and Buddy’s old collar. I carried a painful weight of loss. Buddy, my companion and muse, my gorgeous German Short Haired Pointer, had died not long before. I was not moving past his void in my life, and I thought I might be able to bring Buddy to Seton House, release his ashes there, and in that find some release for my deep sadness, find some solace from the God who again felt so distant to me.


I drove to Seton House, unpacked my car, and moved into the Poustinia for the day, alone, with Buddy.

By now my solitude practice had widened to include several ways of contemplative and prayerful being, the stations of the cross, several walks with niches and statues of saints, a lovely woodland altar where one day I came upon a doe resting, a labyrinth, and a small chapel at the top of the property. I quietened myself in the Poustinia, fed by the views of my natural surroundings, read some scripture, prayed, journaled, and then took a walk to the chapel.

I felt broken, empty, so placing my body prostrate on the floor of the old chapel felt right to me, to lay myself down in a response of surrender to God and to my feelings, there, in an old wooden chapel, with a plain altar, and embraced by the forest beyond. I lay myself down. And when I opened my eyes and looked around me, I saw dozens of dead ladybugs.

My sharp intake of breath, as in the next thought vicious words drove into my mind;

This is you, Lesley-Anne! Dead. Empty. Dried up like these dead ladybugs. You are not worthy of flight. You are not who you thought you were. Rise up… I don’t think so. You aren’t going anywhere.

No, no, I cried. Tears, running down my face. No, that’s a lie! God does not speak this way. I am not dead or dried up. I am sad, mourning, and that does not disqualify me from anything. I recognized the darkness, the lies of the enemy of my soul. Thank you God that I recognized who spoke.

But I was shaken. I quickly left the chapel, made my way back to the Poustinia, as these thoughts, jumbled but memories of a certain story came to my mind;

And God took his servant to a mighty valley, full of dry bones, and he asked the man, can these bones live? (My own paraphrase and just enough to send me back to my bible with hunger to learn how God can make dead things live.)

For the next two hours I poured…poured over the scripture verses I found in the book of Ezekiel, poured out my deep anguish and despair over the death of my sweet dog, and the death of my spirit because of his loss. And I felt God asking me the same questions as were asked the prophet of old, And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! And in me a shift, a realization, a revelation, something opening me to the answer within my pain. God knew how he might take my loss and turn it from death to life again. So I prayed it out, anguished out a surrender of whatever was going to come from my pain, and I thanked him for my dog, for the love I had experienced, and I thanked him that he could make my dry, broken, mourning bones live again.

And then, my time was over, and I packed up my things, and I went back down the mountain, with everything I took up. And the plain wooden box with the ashes of my precious Buddy remain unreleased, instead gathered, to my bedside table.

And change comes, and life comes, more pain, more loss, more dry bones transformed.

My journey continues, and the mystery of ladybugs returns from time to time,

chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand?” “You can decide for yourself if…[these events] together have meaning or are only interesting but ultimately random coincidence of events. If you decide they do have meaning this does not imply you know what that meaning is.” John Terpstra ~ Skin Boat

Like last week…but that’s another story.

On the way,


P.S. If you missed Part 1 of this story, see Of Bugs and Bones, Part 1.