Better Than I Thought It Would Be

 

And you cannot imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus
But you’ll find Him everywhere you thought He wasn’t supposed to go

… And feel all the hunger, the bellies and the bones
Shout for the prisoner, cry for justice, loud and long
And march with the victims, as Jesus marches on
And sit at all the tables, ’cause Jesus eats with everyone
And dance to the music, if you can’t sing its native tongue
And cry for the wombs, the mothers and the empty arms
And hold high the warriors, fighting now for freedoms’ song

And love, love, love, love
Like it’s your own blood
And love, love, love, love
As you have been loved

I have heard this song before many times. In fact, this whole Nichole Nordeman album, Every Mile Mattered,  landed in my lap like a beautiful gift and a time bomb at the same time and I have gone back to it over and over again since it came out this Summer.

Today though as I listened to this song, I thought about Madison. I thought about the marches I have taken her to, I thought about the way that I am raising her to see God in a completely different way than I knew him when I was her age. Yet at the same time, maybe it’s not completely different after all because the love has never changed, only my perspective has. Where I once saw division and lines, I now see connection and community. Where I once believed that some things were too big for grace to cover, instead I have found that grace is actually an endless, wonderful abyss that I am always falling into.

The only walls that are around our hearts are the ones we build ourselves through fear and pain. Fear has a way of making us choose sides, of clouding our perspective, of creating a need to be right and in turn making others wrong. Pain causes us to shrink into ourselves, to hide ourselves, to not allow and embrace connection and community. But that is never the way it was supposed to be. We need each other, we belong to each other, we are in this crazy, messy, beautiful life together whether we like it or not.

I can look back over the past ten to twelve years of my life and see the various ways life began to create cracks in my “reality.” The more that I learned, the more people that I connected with, the more experiences I had, all began to open my eyes and shake me out of my comfort zones. And the pain … oh the lessons that pain will teach you. Through a marriage of connections and pain, my heart cracked wide open to a world so much bigger than I ever knew.

I can not judge you when I am standing next to you in the trenches of life asking the same questions that you are. I can not judge you when you are extending love and grace to me even when it is undeserved. I can not judge you when you are sharing your raw and authentic self with me. I can not judge you when I sit down at a table with you and share a meal. I can not judge you when I sit at a bar with you and share a beer. I can not judge you when we cry – sometimes you cry, sometimes I cry, sometimes we both cry.

Instead, I have fallen in love with the beautiful imperfection of the souls that are around me and I am pretty sure God is in love with them too.

And so, I am teaching Madison, that we love, love, love as we have been loved. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it hurts, even when we are not guaranteed that the other person will love us back quite the same. We love those who are different; we appreciate the beauty and imperfection that is the very soul of what it means to be here in this life and to be human.

And so we march alongside those who share similarities and differences with us because we believe in love, we believe in grace, we believe in connection, we believe in each other.

It’s not what I ever expected Grace to look like, it’s not what I ever expected God to look like – in fact, it is so much better than I thought it would be.

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xo

Leah

Grown into Grace

 

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Caught in a whirlwind or two.
Divinely, my sail caught the winds of you,
and changed my point of view.
Never hopelessly lost, you see.
Spirit wind set its course for me.

And calmed the waters of a troubled soul.
Pulled the anchor from the depths below.
Set a horizon of direction
in this heart of mine.

– Watermark

 

I left organized religion a few years ago. When I say I left religion I do not mean I lost my faith or belief in God. However, the damage that organized religion caused in my own life set me on a path to seek out what faith really means and just how far God’s love and grace actually extends.

I’ll never forget the beginning of my divorce. I remember crying and saying, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever done, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done to someone.” I also remember thinking that this was too big, too big for grace to cover. I was so scared I’d never heal, never be forgiven, never find restoration.

I had no idea that the very grace I doubted could cover me would ultimately be what has carried me through some of the hardest moments of my life.

These years have been hard. I’ve struggled emotionally, physically, financially, and of course spiritually. I lost my house and then my puppy in the same year. I have had my heart broken over and over again. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life.

But I found a grace so much bigger than I ever imagined in all the little moments that were still beautiful despite the heartache and pain.

I completed my degree and received high honors while parenting, working, and finalizing a divorce.

I gained a village to raise my child with, a friend and an ally in my daughters Step Mother. This is one of the most beautiful gifts. Our family may not be made of blood but it is most definitely made of LOVE.

I found a new passion in Sailing. It has been one of the most therapeutic parts of this journey, both empowering and calming to my soul.

I have met some of the most wonderful people along the way. I would never have had the opportunity to know them if I had not set out on this journey.

I have grown and I have changed in so many ways. I’ve found my voice and comfort in my own skin. I have solidified my core values and learned what it means to stand my ground despite my fear.

I am watching my daughter become an incredible person full of love, tenacity, intuition, and joy. She is brave, she is strong, she is kind.

I am still standing, I still have hope.

All of this … Grace, amazing, overwhelming, unfailing grace. God is not inside the walls of religion. God is not confined by tradition and expectation. He walks beside us, he is in the moments of every day, mundane life.

Grace never gives up, there’s nothing so big that it can not be covered by grace. I know because I live and breathe in it every day and I always have. Now I know. I have finally grown into grace.

In the darkest moments of the soul, I hope you too will find the beauty and the Grace.

The Moments

It was in the moments

That I found life

Unfolding.

And I had to stop, take a deep breath

So that I didn’t miss

The beauty.

Then I understood

That hard times are just life’s way

Of forcing the slow down.

On the happiness high

You miss a lot.

In a state of euphoria,

You overlook the details

and yet …

The beauty is in the detail.

All the tiny pieces,

Collecting in a heart,

To tell their very own story

Of Life and Love

l.perez

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What If …

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What if we stopped worrying so much about what others are thinking and just allowed ourselves the freedom of being real? We are all in this crazy, chaotic, wonderfully messy, beautiful life together. Yet, we isolate ourselves because we’re afraid of others seeing our real, authentic selves.

I don’t have it all together, you don’t have it all together, but what if we decided to just do this thing called life together anyway?

We strive so hard to prove ourselves and find such loneliness in the process. We are hard wired for love, connection, and community.

What if we let go of our need for perfection? What if we allowed others to see us for who we really are? I know … It makes me cringe too. I don’t want others to see my dark, my weakness, my vulnerability. It’s scary to allow someone that close. But we have to open ourselves up to allow the light in …

So let me begin … Here I am and I have no idea where I’m going quite yet. Life has never gone according to my plan. Yet, the more I focus on how plans fell through, went haywire, or just plain fell apart the less time I’m able to spend in the moments of beauty that flow through each day of my life.

We will never do it all right, we will never attain perfection, we will never have it all together … The facade that these things are attainable keeps us apart. It’s time to let it go, to the let the love and light of connection flood the deepest, darkest parts of our souls.

We all, we all, we’re gonna be alright
We got, we got, we always got the fight in us. – Ingrid Michaelson

Reckless Heart

I will not stop giving my heart away

Recklessly

I will not stop loving with everything

I have

I will embrace this gut wrenching pain

I will take it and run with it

I will breath it in as fuel

To power my journey

It is the force that pushes me forward

Outside of myself

Into places I never thought I could go

It’s terrifying

The plunge that my heart continues to take

But it gives me life at its fullest

It spills over and washes my world

In full color

It allows me to see life

In all its bittersweet glory

And I’ll come to last leg of this journey

Knowing that I never gave just a little

There was no half way

And the reward will be in knowing

That there is no regret in love

Only brokenness made beautiful in the end

Falling Down Girl

A couple of weeks ago, Madi and I were in the yard and she was running around in her own imaginary world as she likes to do. When out of her mouth came this phrase, “The power of falling down! It happens to everyone.” I was struck by the power of the statement itself and her ability to put such a deep concept into words. In some ways it was a proud Mama moment as I realized that all the times I have told her, “Its ok, mistakes happen, let’s try again…” has now become a part of her subconscious. What amazing strength we would all have if we were able to approach life like this on a consistent basis!

There is power in falling down – it means you were trying to do something bigger than you’ve ever done before. Even though you didn’t make it all the way, you were still brave for trying. You put yourself out there, you were “actually in the arena.”

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while DARING GREATLY.” – T. Roosevelt

As she continued to play, she started to chant to herself, “I’m the falling down girl, I’m the falling down girl.” Again, I was struck by the depth of this statement and her proud ownership of this title. Too often, we shy away from the raw and the real, we want to appear as if we have it all together and that everything is perfect. In reality, there is nothing perfect and put together about life, its one big, crazy, chaotic, beautiful mess and we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve been given.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall. ― Nelson Mandela

So in our house, we’ll proudly say, we’re the falling down girls,  but we’re going to keep getting up over and over again!

So fall hard, fall with abandon, fall wildly, fall gracefully, fall however you will … but whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fall.

xo
Leah

Change Is the Only Way

I’ve learned to never stay down too long

I get back up, I pick myself up

I smile

Not a fake smile, not a pasted on smile

An assured smile

Because life keeps turning

I keep learning

Change is the only way I know how to grow

Maybe I like the pain now

It inspires me, it motivates me, it moves me

So I look up at the Sun

And I drink in the beauty of this broken thing we call life

And know in my heart

It was not a mistake, it never is, it was the process

And I trust the process

It takes me where I need to be

When I’m too wrapped up in what I want it to be

Every time I fall

It’s the vast sky I look up to see

And I know life has a long road ahead for me

Even in the darkness

There’s such beauty

So raw, so real, so deep

And I realize I was too distracted to see

What was right there in front of me

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Onward & Upward, Always … xo 

Leah