I first met Leslie on her way out of Christ Community Church at Hutchmoot 2019. She had somewhere to be but stopped to talk with me, and her sparkling, unwavering gaze made me feel that I was receiving the gift of her full attention and interest.
In the years that followed, this impression never changed. We traded feedback on poems and essays for various projects, and talked about poetry that framed the ordinary in solid, clear descriptions—“because,” as she wrote, “I really like things that are earthy and point to real things but also something mysterious behind it.” The snapshots of beauty she shared online always struck me as having that very mixture of concrete reality and unseen mystery: summer light and shadows dancing on her wall or floors, the movement of wind in a Wyeth painting, her own matchless smile brimming with seemingly bottomless vivacity.
Leslie also found a way to convey that combination through her own poetry, and I am still astonished at the rate at which she accomplished this; every time I turned around, I seemed to hear of a new published piece or an organization she was part of that was doing good, true, and beautiful work. Yet at the same time, I never believed the fruit of those labors came magically or effortlessly for her. She would not allow such an image to stand. In conversations we had during her visits to Colorado, she shared a few stories about everyday struggles in marriage, parenting, and writing that fell short of initial visions.
But the common theme throughout all of them was the grace of God, which allowed her to continue living in trust and to rest in a faithfulness better than her own. She lived, indeed, with a readiness to be delighted, and a contagiously inviting intensity—and always the loveliest lilt in her voice when she spoke, which I deeply miss, and look forward to hearing again.
When I heard that Leslie had taken her Homeward turn earlier this year, I lost my own words for a time. Even now, I would not be able to thank her adequately for showing me how fully life can be lived in the Shadowlands—how to create, to confess, to notice, to share, to look for the depth and worth of every person I meet.
In a piece for Cultivating in June 2021, Leslie reflected on the question of the length of her days and wrote, “I want to be like [Christ], loving well the people God has given me, sharing my gifts with those around me, enjoying all the good things that come to me, and not ruled by questions of the future.” How well and excellently you did all of this, beloved friend. And how much more beautifully and enthusiastically you will continue in it as you live and laugh as never before, in the glory of a mystery no longer hidden from your eyes. Until we meet again—I rejoice to know God holds you in the palm of His hand.
This tribute by Amy Baik Lee is part of an “In Memoriam” series we are running this week for our dear friend Leslie Anne Bustard.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and used with her kind permission for Cultivating.
Amy Baik Lee is a contributing writer for Cultivating Magazine and the Rabbit Room, a literary member of the Anselm Society Arts Guild, and the author of This Homeward Ache. A lifelong appreciator of stories, she holds an MA in English literature from the University of Virginia and still “does voices” when she reads aloud. She writes at a desk that looks out on a small cottage garden in Colorado, usually surrounded by her husband’s woodworking projects, her two daughters’ creative works, and patient cups of rooibos tea.
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