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.

Let There Be Spaces

New relationships are always challenging, but when you begin one in the midst of chaos and change it adds another level of pressure. It has been a little over two years since R. and I started dating. He has been through some of the worst moments of my life with me and most certainly has seen me at my lowest point. We struggled, we went back and forth, we still struggle to meld two lives together. Something that came naturally in my 20’s is a whole lot harder in my 30’s. I have different ideas, a different outlook on life in general, I am a lot more opinionated and I still struggle to develop healthy headspace.

I didn’t grow up with a good sense of healthy boundaries, especially when it came to expressing emotion. We were a hot headed, loud and large family. We yelled a lot. When I got married, at twenty one, I continued this pattern in my marriage; high emotion and yelling. I thought this was normal, it was my normal but it was not healthy. My ex husband and I are both intense and emotional people, we did not know how to express our feelings appropriately or work out conflict in a constructive way. In some ways, this led to the breakdown of our relationship.

I am not saying that emotion is wrong or that you should stifle what you feel. I am a firm believer in being in touch with your emotions and your feelings. However, there’s a certain level of self control and self awareness that needs to exist so that your emotions do not control you or alienate others. As someone who also deals with anxiety, this is very difficult for me both in a relationship and as a parent. Some days I am able to internally cope and regulate, other days I miss the mark completely and end up hurting those closest to me.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate about R. is his ability to call me out on my crap. Obviously, I don’t appreciate it immediately but over time I have come to see the benefit of his insight and ability to stay calm more often than not. He has helped me to realize that plowing ahead full force with all my emotion and feeling is not healthy and in fact creates a disconnect with the people I love most. This was insight and understanding that I had never received before. I had never experienced life in any other way. My parent’s relationship was fraught with tension and emotion, my childhood and teenage years were full of high emotion and intensity, and my marriage followed the same pattern.

So here I am, in my 30’s trying to reconstruct my life and change the destructive patterns I have created in my life. I would love to say that I have figured this all out and that I am on my way. However, I am really at the beginning stages of mental reconstruction and self awareness. I have been presented with the challenge to change. I have said quite often that I believe change is a choice and I guess now would be the time for me to take those words to heart in a new way.

A few years ago, I participated the My One Word project. According to their website, “It’s okay to want to be a better you—the question is, how? My One Word replaces broken promises with a vision for real change. When you choose a single word, you have a single focus. You are moving toward the future rather than swearing off the past … This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.” So although I am a little late to the party, I have decided that my word this year will be “Space.”

I need to develop a healthier head space, I need to make time for my own space in life, and I need to give those around me the space they need. In doing so, I believe that I will begin to develop better strategies for coping with my own emotions and also minimize my anxiety.

When it comes to relationships, I am all about togetherness but I am finally realizing that for a relationship to grow and to remain healthy, there must be “spaces in your togetherness.” You can not be your best self if you do not take the time and space to develop your best self. So this is my challenge and goal for the year.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

A Safe Place to Land

There have been many times during this process of separation and divorce that I have wanted to explain things to Madi but I can’t. There are things that are too far beyond her ability to comprehend and process. Sometimes she asks me the hard questions …
“why can’t you and daddy live together again?”
“why did we have to move from our old house?”
“why do I have to leave you?”
And my heart feels like it’s dying a little every time.

I don’t always have the words that she needs. I know that she will understand someday when she is older but I don’t want to bank on that and wish her life away. In these moments, all I can do is hold her close and validate her feelings. I let her know that it’s ok to be sad, that I feel sad too. I let her know that she is so very loved by so many people and that we will get through this together. Of course I wish I could erase the hard times in her life altogether.

I don’t have all the “right answers” or a magical fix, but what I do have is the ability to give my daughter a safe and secure place to land. Sometimes this is as simple as cuddles on the couch while we watch a favorite movie, other times it means being ok with “not ok” behavior. It can be easy to forget that children have bad days too. Often it seems that our adult expectation is for children to “behave” with little consideration as to how they may be feeling. I know that when I am having an especially rough day, I just want someone to understand that, be ok with it, and maybe give me a hug. Why should I expect any different from my child?

As adults, we won’t always have someone there to give us support when we need it. As a mom, I am able to give my daughter the support she needs. Often this requires letting go of my expectations of her behavior and allowing her to express her emotions in whatever way she may need to. On days where I am at my best, this is easy. On days when I am struggling myself, this can be especially challenging.

In her article on teaching children emotional intelligence, Dr. Laura Markham talks about allowing for emotion while still limiting potentially harmful actions. She states, “while you limit behavior, your child is allowed to have, and to express, all her emotions, and that includes feelings of disappointment or anger in response to your limits. Children need to “show” us how they feel and have us “hear” them, so meltdowns are nature’s release valve for children’s emotions. Instead of banishing your child to her room to get herself under control (which gives her the message that she’s all alone with those big, scary feelings), hold her, or stay near and connected with your soothing voice: “You are so mad and sad right now. That’s ok, Sweetie, I am right here, you are safe.”

When it comes to our children, the goal should always be for connection. When we tell our children to suppress their thoughts and feelings, we are creating isolation and shutting down meaningful communication and connection. “Children WANT to have happy, warm interactions with their parents. They want to be good people. Misbehavior comes from overwhelming feelings or unmet needs. If you don’t address the feelings and needs, they’ll just burst out later, causing other problem behavior (Markham, 2016).”Our children deserve to be seen and heard. Their thoughts, feeling, and emotions are valid and deserve respect.

There are various ways that I make a purposeful commitment to be there for Madi when she is having a rough time.  I never isolate her in the midst of her emotional outbursts. Even if she runs away and slams the door on me, I go after her. However, I respect that she may  need personal space. Sometimes I sit and quietly wait until she is ready to come to me and other times I am able to pick her up and hold her until she calms down.There are times during conversation, she may share a negative interaction she had during the day. I make sure to acknowledge her feelings about the situation, validate her right to speak up for herself  and still encourage her to be kind in spite of what other people may say or do. She’s a little girl with big feeling and it’s my job as her mom to help her sort them out.

When we take the time to connect with our children, to validate their feelings and give them a safe place to land, we are creating emotionally intelligent children. There is less of a need for children to act out when their emotional needs are being met. Of course just like us, children are human and will make mistakes. However, the way in which we respond to their mistakes will determine the value of lesson that they learn.

Love Shows Up

Tonight as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across the hashtag, “Love Shows Up.”

I began to think about these words … and of all the ways that showing up is worth it despite how much it may hurt and of the many people in my life in the past couple of years who have showed up when I needed them the most.

As I have gone through my divorce, the intensity of school/work/motherhood, and most recently the move I am making from my home as we prepare to put it on the market, never once have I been left hanging. Even in the moments that felt the darkest, love showed up.

There have been moments too where I have had to make the choice to show up, although the cost often felt greater than the reward. Heart breaking, gut wrenching, moments where I had to actively make the choice to not give in and give up but rather, to fight for what I believed in, to fight for love, to fight for my happiness.

Love doesn’t wait for the right answers, love actually doesn’t really wait for an answer at all, it simply shows up and says, “I am here, not matter what, no matter how rough this gets, you can kick and scream all you want but I am not leaving.” #loveshowsup

And sometimes showing up and loving looks a lot like weakness from the outside. In a world where we are taught to put ourselves first and fight for our rights, putting others first, extending grace, and loving anyway doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But at the end of the day, I can promise you this, you will never, ever, ever regret showing up – You will never regret love, no matter the cost.

Love will always come full circle. As we extend ourselves in love, we will find that love is extended to us as well. It may not come in the way we are looking for it or the way we had hoped it would, but if we open ourselves up, allow ourselves to be broken, love will find a way to bring healing and hope to us again.

There’s a certain sober, honest way that you see the world, you know what it can do to you …You’ve seen the kind of pain that life can bring. And it is easy to let it crush you, it is easy to let it take away every reason to get up in the morning. But the real art of life is to see all that, to feel it. Not to stuff it, not to avoid it, or to numb yourself … You let yourself feel it all and then you make room for it so that you now contain the summation of all your experiences. You make room within yourself for the immensities of the Universe. And when you do that … you will transcend that experience and include it. You will not leave it behind, it will be a part of you, an integrated part of you. You will not be longing to go back to how things were because you have gone through it to the other side. – Rob Bell

There is a love that never fails,
There is a healing that always prevails … #loveshowsup

xo

Leah

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Many thanks to A Diary of a Mom, who I very recently starting following on Facebook. I have been continually inspired over the past couple of weeks by the raw, real, and beautiful words that Jess posts. Thank you for your inspiration this evening.

Asking Questions, Finding Grace, Taking Chances

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The Summer of 2013 completely changed the course of my life. I didn’t see it coming until it was in my face and then I realized it was something I had known for a long time. The heart ache, the guilt, and the tears that followed have been intense but yet I have found a strength I didn’t know I had and grace that went far beyond anything I had ever imagined. Lately, I have begun to come out of a self induced hibernation.

Losing the me I’d always known and the life that went a long with it, left me reeling and falling flat on my face over and over. I was overwhelmed and so I shut down. I had dreams of babies and a white picket fence life since I was about five. No one could have prepared me for the heart ache of the past five years – postpartum depression, loss of income, and finally divorce. I didn’t see it coming until everything fell apart. This wasn’t my dream! This wasn’t how it was suppose to happen! This isn’t the picture I painted!

All of a sudden, I had to reimagine my life, repaint the picture, and make something beautiful out of all the broken pieces. I am still working on this, still processing what my “new life” will look like.

In many ways, I shut down on friendships because I was so overwhelmed with trying to figure out my place. Especially with friends who seemed to embody the dream I once had of a perfect little family, in a perfect little house, living the perfect life.

Obviously, I understand that nothing is perfect, but watching someone else find a way to make my dream a reality for themselves was just too painful for me to deal with. How does one fit in at play dates, birthday parties, cookouts, etc., when they’re no longer part of a typical family unit?

All the while, I was also juggling working full time and going to school full time. I got to a point where I was struggling just to process conversations and retain basic information. I felt like a shell of myself and just wanted so desperately to feel strong and together again. I cried a lot, probably more than I’ve ever cried in my life.

Yet, here I am, I’m still standing! I’m regaining my footing and finding my way. It has not gotten any easier, moments when I’m alone and Madi is gone still really, really suck. Somehow though, I am finding a new sense of peace and the ability to just be. I am still hibernating in some ways, not because I don’t love everyone per usual me, rather because this journey is so intense and personal it takes a lot of energy and time to process.

I am so extremely thankful for the handful of people who have seen me at my absolute worst and yet stayed in the mess with me. I am stronger because of them. They have offered both support and tough love. They refuse to let me wallow but they are always there to hear me out no matter how crazy I am sure I have sounded. Yes, I am strong, but they made me stronger.

Better days are on the way, I am sure of it now. 🙂

Xo
Leah

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I Adore You

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Sometimes these days seem

Too hard

The changes tossing us back and forth

Like a ship on a turbulent sea

Moments fly by far too quickly

Breaking my heart

I long for days past, sweet memories

When the world was just you and me

The tide has changed for us and yet …

Love remains even when we’re apart

I ADORE You

I LOVE You

You are my world

The song in my heart

The reason I keep on

We are STRONGER than this

We are BRAVER than this

We

Will

Be

Ok

We will find a new way …

Love you darling girl,

Xo

Mama

Stumbling Forward …

Winter has always been a difficult Season for me … I live for Sunshine and the outdoors so the Winter months feel as if they drag on endlessly, this Winter was especially hard. In the Summer of 2013, my life changed drastically and the road that I had originally mapped out for myself became new and uncertain. I love change because it causes me to grow in new ways and expand my horizons, I hate change because it is brutal, painful, and pushes me out of my comfort zone.

I was living a “typical” life, a “normal” life and then I wasn’t anymore … My marriage of eight years ended and although it was a decision that I fully supported, it still left me in a state of chaos and all I could do was keep stumbling forward and stumble I did! I found that it wasn’t the person I missed but the tradition of it all that I missed. What do you do for the Holidays? What do you do on Sunday when everyone else is with their family? What do you do when you hang out with your married friends and they’re bitching about their husbands and you’re thinking, “the things that frustrate you are so minor, let it go …”

My divorce was the hardest thing that I have ever done and I am not being dramatic about that at all. I was always the “good girl,” I lived and still do live my life for the most part, to make other people happy and eliminate pain as much as possible. The truth sucks sometimes, the truth is painful and messy; it makes you want to run away and keep running. However, thanks to my beautiful gift, Madison, I was forced to stay in the pain and chaos and fight to make something beautiful out of all the broken pieces.

For the first time in forever, I had to stand my ground and speak my truth even though it was not what other people wanted to hear. I was scared and then I was pleasantly surprised … the love, support, and understanding that was given to us was amazing. The judgement I feared was so minor in comparison to the grace that has been extended to us. Fear makes you run and hide but it is not the choice you should make when you are going through a painful and difficult situation. We all need each other, letting go of fear and allowing others into our brokenness is one of the most beautiful experiences life has to offer. We are all broken, we are all stumbling, and when we reach out to each other in pain and with honesty, love is waiting there.

The Winter months were difficult, full of change, angst, and rediscovery; but then Spring … And I feel that we’ve all turned a corner. There is a new normal now, there is a new happiness and peace. And these words from one of my favorite authors explains it all so clearly and resonates with me so deeply:

“And sometimes, a woman decides to leave — not because she has given up, but because she refuses to give up. Sometimes she leaves, not because she’s confused or lost, but because things are just becoming painfully clear … And sometimes she leaves because in terms of parenting, she’s taking the long view. She knows that staying might help her children in the short run, but that staying — with everyone in his current state of being — would hurt her children in the long run. Because she never wants to tell her children that she compromised her integrity for them — that’s too heavy a burden for them to bear. They never asked for a martyr mother. And because she never, ever wants them to martyr themselves for marriage. Because she wants them to know that there is a chasm wide gulf between co-dependence and love.”  – Glennon Melton Doyle

Because sometimes in life, the hardest thing and the right thing are the same … I can’t tell Madison how to be a strong and independent woman, I have to show her by the way that I live my life.

And I have been blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by the love and support of such dear, sweet friends and I am amazed at the beautiful relationship that I have developed with my ex husband’s new girlfriend as we share the responsibility of caring for and loving Miss Madison – The word that comes to mind is GRACE. When you allow your heart to remain open in the face of bitter disappointment and pursue peace, you will be surprised at the results. There’s no such thing as “normal.” We are all living in the best way we know how, we are all loving as much as we are capable of, and we are all stumbling forward – So let’s just keep moving forward because at the end of the day, that’s all we can do.

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Love, Grace, & Peace to you … 

xo

Leah