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.

Pause … Step Back … Breathe …

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Pause … Step Back … Breathe …

I am by nature, a very sensitive person; I care deeply, I feel deeply, I love deeply. However, I have a hard time staying calm and composed in the face of disappointment and difficulty. Right next to my sensitive side stands my Type A side – so basically, I am a sensitive control freak. Lovely … I know.

I am intense. very intense but this doesn’t always serve me well. In fact, sometimes I end up tripping over myself because I don’t take the time to step back, calm down, and assess the situation for what it really is. Instead, I am quick to jump to conclusions and assume things that are not true and you all know what they say about assuming …

A good friend recently challenged me to focus on taking the high road in emotionally charged situations. This has been a huge mental shift for me – it is not about making my point, it is not about being right, it is not about controlling outcomes, instead, it is about doing what is right even when it hurts. Right doesn’t always mean it is going to feel right for me or that I am going to like it in the moment. Sometimes I have to do what is right for someone else.

It is easy to remain calm when all is well and things feel certain. It is far more difficult to stay calm and composed when you are facing challenge and uncertainty; but, that is when you need it the most. Every day, we are faced with challenges we can not control.  The only thing that we have control over is our reaction.

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It is not easy, I am still learning, I still fail, but my hope is that over time,

I will learn to Let Go and Trust the Process.

I hope that soon it will become second nature for me to,

Pause … Step Back … Breathe.

And to move forward from a place of Peace rather than a place of fear …

Love & Peace to you! 

xo

Leah

Authenticity – That One Powerful Word

When I chose the word “Authenticity” as my word for the year, I had no set plan. I went forward blindly and without thought. At some points, I even forgot that it was my goal for the year. However, life did not forget. In fact, life seemed to think it was a pretty funny joke to play on me. You get what you ask for let me tell you! Just last night, in conversation about my chosen word, I said, “Why didn’t I pick a word like “Peaceful?” Yes, indeed. Why didn’t I? However, I am sure that no matter which word I had chosen, I would have been challenged in some way because that is how growth occurs and that was after all, my ultimate goal.

What I had never considered before I started this journey is that Authenticity and Vulnerability walk hand in hand. You can not have one without the other. This is both a deeply rewarding and deeply painful journey at the same time. I am always convinced though that the benefits of growth far out way the discomfort and pain that precede. As a fellow blogger wrote:

A big part of my journey has been to become better at expressing myself. At sharing my thoughts, feelings, and honestly bearing my whole heart and soul sometimes. Vulnerability has been a biggy for me too … This is me. This is how I feel. This is how I feel about you. I love you. You’re beautiful. You’re perfect. You’re awesome. I’m not afraid to hug. To cry. I want to feel life and all its emotions. Good or bad, how else can I grow? What lesson is this teaching me? I face plant regularly, but each experience makes me a better person. – Brittany Paulin

Yes, exactly, how else can we grow? And if we are not growing, than we are not fully living.

I grew up trying to be anyone but myself. I wanted to make everyone happy even if it was at my own expense. I thought that being “good” meant keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself so as not to rock the boat. My need for affirmation and acceptance was greater than my need to be true to myself. I was willing to live without freedom because it seemed so much easier to pretend that I was fine, everything was fine, and everyone liked me. I would like to say that I no longer care what people think; but, I do. When you choose to be yourself and stand up for what you believe to be true, not everyone is going to applaud you for this choice. In fact, you may lose people in your life that you thought would always be there because they don’t like the “new” you.

Let’s examine the options though … You can continue to be a people pleaser and never live fully alive, never grow any deeper, and never change or you can step off the ledge and learn to fly. The learning curve is deeply painful and at times feels like it costs more than it’s worth; but, trust me, you will actually begin to like yourself, be yourself, and eventually love and trust yourself.

You are enough. The Authentic you is Beautiful and expressing your self wholeheartedly and unashamedly is the Bravest choice you could ever make.

And so …

I wish you joy in the pain and and hope in the darkness of your journey. BE BRAVE!

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