Finding Freedom with Anita Lustrea

Five years ago my husband, two kids and I pulled into the driveway of our new house in the Chicago suburbs, a geographic region roughly four times larger than any place we’d lived before. Other than a few people we casually encountered during my husband’s job interview process, we didn’t know a single soul. Not one.

It was three days before Christmas.

You can imagine our surprise then, when two days before Christmas our doorbell rang. My husband’s new coworker, Mike, and his wife, Anita, stood on our porch with a gift basket: welcome to your new home, welcome to your new job, welcome to your new life. And by the way, Merry Christmas.

At the time I had no idea that the woman standing in my living room that day was the    co-host of a nationally syndicated radio program soon to be awarded the National Radio Broadcasting Program of the Year. And I had no idea that our common passion for God, for women and our favorite cafe would not only forge a friendship, but continually overlap our circles, ultimately providing me with the privilege of scribbling in the margins of her unpublished manuscript. A manuscript that almost five years after our Christmas encounter would become her first book: What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom from the Secrets We Keep. 

The subtitle grabs me now more than ever, especially when I look back on that December day and realize the things I really had no idea about: that sitting on my couch was a woman who had survived the unending grind of single parenthood, a woman who had been deeply wounded by lonlieness and divorce and, perhaps most surprisingly, a woman who had endured the devastating effects of a spouse addicted to pornography. (For the record, Mike was the one who came later. . . riding the horse . . . wearing the full suit of armor).

It seems to be the way it goes for us, doesn’t it? Seeing the polished exterior and then being surprised when the inside isn’t just as shiny?

It’s why Anita wrote her book.

Because she knows that secrets are dangerous and that often they fester in people whose lives are so pretty on the outside that no one would ever suspect that they’re actually dying a slow emotional death. Secrets carried by the people who sit next to us in church, who pass us in the hall at work, who chat with us at little league games, who post chummy one-liners on their FB status. Secrets carried by people like you and people like me.

Secrets from which Anita desperately wants us to be set free.

“We think we are all alone, that no one else is in our same situation,” Anita said. “And we believe that if others really knew, I mean really had a clue about our secrets they’d never want to be in relationship with us. In fact we think they’d turn tail and run for the hills so we remain paralyzed and we live a lie. Wherever there are secrets there is darkness.”

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if God really does have the power to heal and transform even the darkest parts of us? What if, as Larry Crabb tells Anita (p. 194), “You are this beautiful mare that has been confined to a horse trailer; you’ve been pulled around in that horse trailer for years, but someone has just opened the back gate, and you’ve come out of that trailer and you’re free.”?

What Women Tell Me shares the stories of Anita’s listeners — women who have experienced despair in the midst of domestic violence, eating disorders, sexual addiction, lonliness and divorce — as well as Anita’s own story in response. The convergence of these two experiences not only gives Anita a unique perspective, but has ignited her passion to communicate freedom to burdened souls, freedom given by the One who knows all of our secrets and loves us in spite of every single one.

If you would, take a moment to check out the book (and by check out I mean buy) and Anita’s website. Pass it on to your friends.

Just one caveat: When you read Chapter 2, the part about how she used to wear a two-inch square pendant with a fist on it that said, “I am a revolutionary and my hero is Jesus Christ,” go easy on her. I promise she’s come a long, long way. I guarantee if she showed up on your doorstep two days before Christmas, you’d become fast friends too.

Congratulations Anita. It’s a privilege to share your work here on this blog.

********

READ ME: One last thing! I have a FREE AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book to give to one lucky blog reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog (not on my FB page!) by Friday, January 21, in response to this post.  Anita will stop by and pick her favorite comment and I will mail you an autographed copy of the book. Just do it!

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14 thoughts on “Finding Freedom with Anita Lustrea

  1. Great post (as usual). I’m leaving you a comment so you know that I’m reading what you’re writing not because I want a book. I already have one and I love what I’ve read so far. It’s on the very top of my ever-growing pile of books that I can’t wait to read.
    I have a spot saved for your book, too, Suanne. 😉

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  2. Great post Suanne. I don’t always get a chance to read your blogs but found this one intriguing when I read the title on facebook. I have to say I agree – as women esp. I feel we keep what is really going on inside us a secret – afraid of what other’s will think!
    Miss you and Eric and the kids – but LOVE seeing pics and keeping up with posts and blogs when I get the chance.

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    • Thanks Angela. What’s interesting is that we’re afraid what others will think, but then when we take the leap, more often then not, we find that we’re not alone. The response is often “Oh my gosh, me too!” Someone just has to go first. Thanks for the post.

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  3. When I opened up my email this morning at my favorite Saturday morning “library” – Panera Bread (sorry Eric – I still can’t handle Starbucks – guess I’m a wimp), I saw that you had posted a new blog. I couldn’t wait to open it up. I was not disappointed. I, too love checking the “rear view mirror” of my life to see how God has brought significant people into my life in a very “normal” and “insignificant” manner – at least in the beginning.

    Just two days ago I was talking to my daughter, Mashawn. She shared how her neighbor’s son had very suddenly died. She, the neighbor, and her husband are pre-seekers and Mashawn was wondering how she could minister and care for her in this deep time of loss. The best advice I could give her was to just be present for her and to pray for God to open the door and then keep your eyes and heart open for any such opportunity.
    Yesterday, Mashawn called me and in an excited voiced told me that that very morning there was a knock on the door and when she opened the door, there stood her neighbor – crying with wet hair and her bangs hanging down into her eyes. Mashawn brought her inside, hugged her for the longest time and then she said, “Can you help me? I need to trim my bangs, and I can’t hold the scissors still or stop crying long enough to trim them!” Mashawn, the hairdresser that she is was thrilled to not only cut her bangs, but to pray with her and simply spend quality time with her. It’s more than ironic that the name of the salon that Mashawn owns is called “Bangs”.

    Thanks you again, Sueanne, for coming into our lives – for both of you teaching me so much about community and how it’s within community that we feel the permission and freedom to take our masks off and truly be ourselves – warts and all.

    Love you guys,
    Pete

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    • Warts and all…isn’t that the truth! My boss gave an interesting devotional yesterday at a staff meeting about how our deepest longing is to be known but that being known is also one of our deepest fears (i.e. taking off the masks and letting others see our warts). What is really ironic about it is that when we trust enough to take off the masks, we often find a love and acceptance beyond anything we ever could have imagined. Longing fulfilled.

      Pete, don’t you think this is most difficult in the context of church? As a pastor, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Seems like the place where people should be the most free is where they are most afraid.

      Love the story about Mashawn and am so excited to see the way God is using her. Thanks for sharing!

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      • Without a doubt this is one of the most difficult challenges of the local church. I can remember very clearly the church of my youth – when people experienced sin – (and by the way – don’t we all?) – especially the more public ones, they usually just disappeared. I really can’t remember coming before the body and confessing a sin and having the body surround him/her with prayers, support and assistance. As a result, the unspoken rule became very clear – “Confess anything significant and you’ll pretty much be unwelcome around here.” So, what happens? We learn to stuff and hide our sins because we know we can’t share them.

        Kind of odd – that the local bar would be more accepting of failure & helpful than the local church. Probably too old for you to remember, but the old sitcom, “Cheers” reveals more genuine community than the local church as a rule.

        Pete

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  4. I continue be encouraged by your blog, my friend! Keep ’em coming.

    Galations 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    Praise God that He has promised us freedom from secrets, slavery and sin! If we could all just grab onto that promise…the sky would be the limit in our relationship with Christ.

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  5. I love all the comments. Vicki, when I sign people’s book I always write Galations 5:1. It is so meaningful to me because I’ve lived many years in bondage and struggled to be free. Once you enter the realm of Freedom, you can never go back and I’m thankful to God for that. We really are set free when we begin to open up and share our secrets in the context of community.

    You are right Vicki….the sky would be the limit in our relationship with Christ.

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  6. very nice to “meet you” Not as nice as having someone show up on your doorstep just before Christmas, but nice just the same.
    As a long time listener, I remember when I figured out that Anita must have gotten Married!! I was thrilled 🙂 Can’t believe that was 5 years ago
    Enjoyed your blog and will stop back…

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  7. Pete, first, not sure whether to be flattered or offended that you don’t think I know what Cheers is . . . : )

    But, your comment is profound. I’ve been thinking a lot over the last year how easy it is for our community (i.e. church, myself included) to extend grace to the women at the well type who come to Christ with their baggage, not knowing any better. We welcome them with open arms and rejoice over their finding a new way of life. Yet, when believers need the same kind of grace, we get tight-fisted with it because we think they should have known better, that they don’t deserve the grace. . .which is ironic considering it’s when they need its healing power the most.

    It’s a shame so many have been hurt by this misunderstanding, although I have hope it’s changing.

    (Btw, this would be a great edge-of-the-stage between-games conversation : ) )

    Thanks for your insight. As always!

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  8. Just a comment to the conversation of Pete and Suanne. I have so much trouble with this exact situation when trying to be a witness to the unsaved, too. They seem to think that since I a Christian that I shouldn’t have faults or sin…that I’m a hypocrite. When did “follower of Christ” become the equivalent of “perfect?” I can’t figure it out and I do my best anyway….longing to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”

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  9. I seriously love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own website and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Kudos!

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