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

Tied

Do I live for the fire
Strive for the rain?
Do I crave hanging by a thread
Losing myself?
My heart tied to your disaster
Souls without escape
All this pain, all this joy
Interlaced
Can I live outside this space
You have my heart
But maybe I need you to let it go
I thought you were my wings
But now I no longer fly
Because I’m tied
To this thing called “You & I”

 

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 Grief, The Growth

For the past few months I have been contemplating a lot of the transitions and changes I experienced throughout the past year. This is the first time I’ve been able to write about it and it only touches the surface of all that I lived and learned.

I experienced a significant amount of loss on an emotional and personal level in 2016. The emotion surrounding that has often bubbled to the surface. At times I have found myself in tears as I continue to process the grief and move into the growth sometimes the tears still come. I want to fight the feelings, to ignore them, to have them not exist but one of the things I learned best this past year is to allow myself to feel – feel it all, good, bad and ugly. Don’t pretend it’s not there. The only way to deal with it is to actually deal with it.

I thought I had given up on fairy tale endings long ago. I thought that I had come to terms with the fact that life and love are far more complex than the stories that we read and the dreams that we dream. Last Summer though, for what feels like a moment now, I thought that fairy tales might be true after all. I was giddy with it. I was head over heels, all in, and I let go of all my inhibitions. I am not usually one to let go and just give in but this time I did. I don’t let go easily but when I do I am someone who loves with all their being, I don’t hold back love, I’ve never been able to.

My heart had been broken very recently so it seemed a little crazy to open up to someone new. Maybe it was crazy but I was willing to take the chance because I wanted to believe in something more and to this day I do not regret taking that chance. I wanted crazy, head over heels, love more than anything in the world. Even now, months later, my throat closes up with the sadness and it feels like a million little splinters to my heart. The healing is beginning though – I am finally able to find the energy and the words to write again. I haven’t been able to write a single post since last year. My heart was far too heavy with the weight of all the sadness I experienced in such a short time span. My mind was filled with the confusion and conflict I was feeling and it drowned out my creativity for a long time.

There were so many magical moments, so many seeming coincidences that led my heart to believe and to hope again in this new relationship. My heart was still a bit fragile from the pain of my past relationship but I was committed to living from a place of courage and vulnerability. “He’s charming until he’s not,” one of his friends jokingly said and I laughed not quite realizing how true this statement was. I wanted to believe, I wanted to love, so I did. The connection was intense and sudden; at times it was overwhelmingly beautiful yet other times it was painful and confusing.  I began to question myself, to feel as if there was something about me that was either too much or not enough. I reminded myself that love is never easy and continued to try to understand, to love, and to be myself even when it was painful. 

At the time, I needed a place to rest, a place where I felt at ease and cared for. There were moments of love and care; little notes, flowers, poems, dinner, coffee dates, and day trips … Those are the moments I cherish still, the moments that make me feel as if it was worth it even though it didn’t end the way I had hoped at the time.

But months later I still wrestle with the unanswered questions, I wonder why it all ended almost as quickly as it began and with such finality. Why my truth was never accepted as truth. I wonder why I was critiqued and criticized, questioned and doubted, isolated and shut out. I wonder why I felt that every move I made was under a microscope and why towards the end I began to feel scared – scared that I would end up again in a relationship that would try to tone me down, change me, control me, and require me to paint on a smile when I was dying on the inside. I let go in the end, just in a different way, I let go of the fairy tale because it wasn’t true.

I stood my ground for myself even though it felt like my last dream was dying and the tiny flicker of hope the relationship had provided was being extinguished. I stood my ground because I had fought too hard to become myself, to be free, to remove myself from toxic relationships, and to be fully alive. I stood my ground because my daughter deserves to have a mother who knows who she is and walks in it with confidence despite what others might say or do. I stood my ground because I am enough as I am. I stood my ground because growth is the most important piece of all that I am becoming and I refuse to go back. I stood my ground because I will not dumb myself down, quiet my voice, or change who I am to make someone else comfortable. I stood my ground because although the fairy tale has died, I believe in love, a love that is tough as nails and all encompassing. A love that embraces me as I am while it allows me to become all that I am meant to be – a love that holds me secure and gives me wings.

 

 

 

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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