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.

IMG_5283 IMG_5281 IMG_5280

 

 

 

xo

Leah

Love & Light

I don’t write about Faith very often anymore. I have had a Faith Shift and have been grappling with what I believe as it has been evolving. I grew up in such a strict, religious environment and now I don’t even attend church. It’s not that I’ve lost my belief in God, rather I’ve lost my faith in organized religion.

I am sure many people I used to know think that I’ve “fallen away” or “lost sight of my calling.” But the truth is, in these past couple of years I haven’t fallen away, rather I have fallen into the Wastefulness of Grace.

Dealing with my divorce has probably been one of the most crucial turning points for me. Finding God in the midst of it all has been so very difficult and yet breathtaking at the same time. Knowing that His love surpasses my brokenness is astonishing and freeing and healing.

And I am still trying to figure it all out and I still don’t fully know what I believe about religion anymore but I have never felt more at ease about who God is and the vastness of His love for me. There’s no fear in Love because Perfect Love casts out all fear.

There’s a reason for the Journey, There is purpose in the learning … We’re getting there.

– Steffany Gretzinger

I believe in the God of love & light

In the One who surrounds and engulfs and envelopes you as a whole

A whole being, just as you are

Just as you were made

In an unending Ocean of Love

Where drowning is the ultimate end

And the place where a heart can truly begin

Oh the vastness, the greatness, the richness of this Love

That not one can comprehend, prevent, or box in

It is beyond a wildest dream, it is as tender as the hearts deepest wish

Why are you afraid?

You have been led to believe it can’t be this good

You have been told it never could

Cover you

Yet there it is, this Love In the deepest parts of you

Hidden and obscured by lies and abuse, yet unchanged

Unchanged, unending, unfathomable, yet completely yours

This God of pure Love

Sets you free to let go, to give in, to enter the safest place you’ll ever know

The Depths of Love

– Leah Perez

If It Doesn’t Scream “LOVE!”

My beliefs have always been something deeply personal to me. I find them hard to express to those who “believe” and to those who don’t; because they are my own, not shaped by a specific affiliation, they can be misunderstood or disregarded. I think more often than not, when you believe in something deeply, passionately, and unreservedly it can be daunting to others who either do not believe or whose own beliefs are challenged by yours. As for me, personally, I am not threatened by what others may or may not believe, this is my walk and only I need to be at peace with my path. The journey here has been a long one, one filled with many questions and doubts. I have experienced a shift in beliefs more than once and have found continued enlightenment along the way as I have opened my heart fully to listen and learn.

One of the main things that I have come to understand is this, if you are scared to open your mind to a change in your beliefs than your beliefs are not that solid. Fear is the greatest inhibitor of growth. I determined some time ago to open my mind to the possibility of change – I wanted to be able to stand solid in my core beliefs while still allowing myself to see things from another point of view. I am not scared of changing the way I think; I am well aware that I am not an expert and that I don’t know everything. I want growth, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and that requires facing down the fear of the unknown even if it rocks me to my core.

I recently stumbled across a blog by Micah Murray, Redemption Pictures, and his writings have resonated with me deeply. He writes the raw, the real, and with great thought and depth. I have been inspired, encouraged, and comforted by his words. Lately, I have found that I am feeling the need to stop censoring myself when it comes to what I really believe and how I really feel. Micah touches on this in one of his entries:

“I’m done with writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe again. I’m not going to sit here and talk like I’ve arrived, like I don’t feel completely lost sometimes, like every day isn’t a journey. But I’m stumbling in the direction of God, I think. I hope.”

That is my hope as well, that I am stumbling in the right direction. I have always followed Love. At the core of everything that I believe, if it doesn’t scream “LOVE!,” then it is not something that I can accept or follow. So today and everyday, my path will be guided by Love and Acceptance. All are welcome, all are cherished – we all belong.

I believe in the God of love & light

In the One who surrounds and engulfs and envelopes you as a whole

A whole being, just as you are

Just as you were made

In an unending Ocean of Love

Where drowning is the ultimate end

And the place where a heart can truly begin

Oh the vastness, the greatness, the richness of this Love

That not one can comprehend, prevent, or box in

It is beyond a wildest dream, it is as tender as the hearts deepest wish

Why are you afraid?

You have been led to believe it can’t be this good

You have been told it never could

Cover you

Yet there it is, this Love

In the deepest parts of you

Hidden and obscured by lies and abuse, yet unchanged

Unchanged, unending, unfathomable, yet completely yours

This God of pure Love

Sets you free to let go, to give in,

To enter the safest place you’ll ever know

The Depths of Love

Let Go of Fear, Breathe in the Love

xo

Leah

Letting Go of Expectations

My expectations have always been high –  Now there is most certainly something to be said for always being hopeful, always expecting the best; but, there is also the matter of holding on to unrealistic expectation. There is an element of “magical thinking” that helps us to move forward, to imagine greater things are possible, and even at times, motivates us to accomplish things that we would otherwise be unable to do. I most certainly believe that there is power in positive thinking, however, I often forget to take into account that some things are just not in my control.

Not all of our expectations are realistic. It’s realistic and necessary to have expectations but it’s critical for them to have a basis.  – Natalie Lue

The problem with expectations though is that it leads to …

1. Guilt – Feeling that your not doing enough, being enough, or giving enough. Second guessing yourself, self doubt.

2. Placing high expectations on others – It is unfair to expect everyone to hold the same ideals and views that you do. Yes, we should all treat each other with mutual respect but that’s where the expectations must end. 

When you make someone else wrong, you hold the energy of needing to correct, convince, control ,or change someone else. Someone should “be or do” the way you expect. Blaming, complaining, or condemning becomes acceptable. When you make yourself wrong, you hold thoughts of how you should be, and end up feeling not good enough. We now see ourselves and others as objects or problems that need to be fixed.

Carolyn Hidalgo

It is time to change the way that you view yourself, the change as a whole, starts within. When I let go of expectations that I place on myself and instead focus on doing the best that I can with what I have, in turn I can extend more grace and understanding to those around me. Letting go of expectations requires letting go of control. I want to fix everything, fit everything nicely and neatly, make everything pretty –  But that’s not life! I can not force outcomes, I can not “fix” people. I can only choose how I will react in any given situation and Let Go …

If the desire to control is a central issue in unhappiness, then accepting a lack of control is the solution.

– William Berry

Expectations are prisons that we live in and create for others to live in. Expectations create guilt, fear of failure, disappointment, and disillusionment. We need to learn to love ourselves and trust that we are worthy of love so that in turn, we can love others despite the fact that they may not, most likely will not, live up to our ideals. We are here for love and connection – but in order to find and maintain meaningful connection with those we love, we have to let go of our preconceived ideas of how things “should” go and instead allow life to happen as it is meant to. We must extend the same measure of grace, compassion, and love to others  that we desire even if it is not returned. Stop drowning yourself and others in expectations – Let us instead live with love and the freedom to disappoint one another at times because after all, we are only human.

compensation-in-disappointment

Much Love with no strings attached! 😉

Leah