reclaim

Reclaim: to bring back to a right or proper course; reform

Unchartered Territory: Why I never wanted to write about singleness...

Leigh Liebmann3 Comments
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Oh the millions of conversations I’ve had surrounding this topic. The countless friends I’ve sat with and asked all the same questions over and over and over and over and over and over [you get the point] again. The tears, the disappointment, the sadness, the grief, really the loss of something, of so many things…things hoped for, dreams and longing still left unfulfilled. 

I’ve been asked if I want this topic to be ‘my platform’ as a writer. That question has always been met with a pretty harsh, immediate ‘no’. Not for me. I didn’t want a platform, and I don't want to write about...singleness for the masses to see my broken heart on display. That seems well…a little pathetic don’t you think?  I’ve shared some of the depths of my heart in writing, but when it came to my marital status - I wasn’t saying a word. In fact, I got to a place where I was tired of even mentioning it to friends of mine anymore. Who could even relate?

Though, I have to say. This topic is pretty unchartered territory. There aren’t a lot of books out there talking about this…well not many good ones at least. I’m not ‘kissing dating goodbye’ and I’m not interested in being told that once I find my contentment in the Lord, all the stars in the Universe will align and I’ll meet prince charming, my night in shining armor or my perfect soul mate. I say that knowing it might come off sounding a little ,well, jaded. But I don’t believe faith or religion or a relationship with God works that way. As if we have to earn things from God. Any 'If we just _______, then _______.’ statement is a little absurd sounding to me. 

I’ve never quite been able to pin point why it’s so hard for me to put pen to paper on this subject - I think it’s more pride than anything..and let's be honest, a bit of shame. It seems you’re either one way or the other in the public sphere with singleness. You're really open and vochal about it and everyone knows where you stand or you stay quiet, do your best to ‘be ok', and just don’t bring it up. No one wants to be 'that girl'. Besides, who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Show me all the wedding photos and baby announcements but please keep that stuff to yourself. 

Some of us have put up false walls of security in an effort to ‘be ok’, and not look pathetic. The emotions of singleness have become a secret life. But here’s what I’ve realized, and here’s why I’m writing this little diddy…

Singleness is not who you are, it’s where you are and the world needs you to show up there. you are not pathetic.

It’s not a death sentence, a disease or something that makes you any less than your happily married friends with 5 children approaching their 10 year wedding anniversary. If we can’t be honest about where we are in this life…then what the hell are we doing? 

Life is moving along really quickly these days. This year I've watched so many friends who were ‘in it with me’ in a sense ‘cross over’ to the other side’ and find their person. There’s a sense of renewed hope that’s stirred up in my soul every time I watch a friend get married. But at the same time, my heart breaks. It’s not a matter of not being happy for others. But, alongside that happiness, living right there in the same place in my heart, there’s still a very real, very deep sadness within that I’d be doing a dis-service to this writing thing if I neglected to mention. 

If you’re single, I’m writing this for you...

I’m writing to tell you that it’s 100% ok to be sad about your today. It’s not what you would have chosen and quite honestly, it’s really, really tough. There you go - I said it. I think I’ve decided to say it in case no one else does. Your hardship is valid, not pathetic. 

You see, you don’t have to choose between being happy for others and tending to your own sadness. It’s not a way to live. If we neglect what’s happening in our own hearts, it will only be a matter of time until it catches up to us. 

The reality is, I’m not God and I don’t know the future or ‘if there is someone amazing coming your way in the days ahead'…but what I do know is that life is way too short to wait until that happens to start living. If you're older, I'm sure you stopped doing that a long time ago. Take the trips, form deep friendships, make the move, buy the house, heck - buy the Vita-mix for crying out loud. Go on random dates - get to know people as humans without worrying if they're 'the one' right away. Relax. Enjoy the amazing things this life has to offer! Soak up the freedom...from what I hear, when it's gone, well - it's gone. 

Though, it's equally important to learn to embrace the feelings of sadness hurt, disappointment, anger and confusion. Sit in these emotions. Cry. Ask a trusted friend if they’re up for sitting here with you for a little while…talk it out, yell it out, do what you need to do. But, don’t stay there. Give yourself a time frame, then get up, keep living your life, pursuing your dreams and loving the heck out of people. Those walls we've built up surrounding singleness…well, we’ve got to let them down.

As you live and move and love and celebrate others…let them love you back. I promise it will leave you feeling more human. 

John Piper or Pipes as I call him says this…

"Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Trust God. 

For the marrieds out there wondering how to love your single friends, well, I’m writing this for you...

It’s not as complicated as we’ve made it out to be. I always go back to one simple act. Acknowledgement. Ask your single friends this question ‘How are you doing with singleness?' Not once a year, not every day either, but when you find time for a good catch up, when you get a sense that something is off, make it a point to ask & acknowledge this part of their heart. It will go a really long way, I promise. You may not be able to relate to their exact pain, but what you can do is be present with them in it. Avoidance isn’t doing anyone any good.

When we avoid asking out of convenience, we give way to the lies that the emotions surrounding singleness are a burden to others or something to be ashamed of. 

Man I’m really passionate about this. I believe acknowledgement is the key to so many things. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to have the answers or the quick-fix and take time to listen, allow our hearts to enter in, and stay for a while…it makes all the difference. Listening is where love begins and avoidance is the culprit to letting assumptions get the best of us.

If we don’t ask or acknowledge, we’re not doing our part in Relationships. 

This morning I woke up with this topic burning in my heart and felt called to get to writing about it for well...the first time. It may not be my most finished piece or polished writing, but I believe someone reading this needed to hear these words TODAY. I know I needed to write them

So - who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Well…I do. Your pain is not your weakness…it’s actually what’s making you one really strong, incredible woman. Let the pain do its work in you, give yourself some grace, allow your emotions to co-exist and be honest with yourself and others about where you're at along the way. 

I believe there’s balance in everything and I want to find that balance.  I want to contribute to the conversation in a way that brings beauty, empathy, encouragement and understanding.  I want to put my pride aside, show up with my whole heart and remain true to where I’m at with this singleness stuff...without using it as an outlet to unleash frustration. 

Single friends, your pain is real…don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. Create space for your sadness, weep, wash your face, trust God, pursue life, love the heck out of others, let them in…and keep hoping. 

Don’t sell yourself short. Singleness is not a measure of who you are. Who you are is one incredible, strong, talented, amazing, whole person. 

You are certainly not alone and you are loved. 

 

 

Photo credit: Shea Christine Photography [For a good laugh, take notice of the boat name!] 

Still Moving: The journey towards stillness, discovering a tumor & staring down fear...

Leigh LiebmannComment

It was the start of a new year. Time to take a deep breath and make some changes…or at least set a few good intentions. The year prior was full. I packed up my life and set out to start anew. I said some tough good-byes to people I loved dearly and lived deeply with for several years. The year could be summed up by the words bitter and sweet, as endings usually are. 

It was finally time to turn the page. To let go of the past and continue to press in to the work to be done in the present.

The word I was given for the year was stillness. I felt God telling me to stop. To take time to be still, to listen, to learn, to sit at His feet…to wonder.

I knew the only way I’d ever see movement was if I carved out time to be still and look inward.

Another thing I’d set out to do this year was to start taking better care of myself. I’d realized that I wasn’t doing anyone any good by neglecting my own needs. Mental, spiritual and physical health had been put on the back-burner...all under the guise of ‘being ok’. But, I wasn’t content with ‘ok’ anymore, it was time to do my part…you know, jump back into counseling, go see all the doctors and find a gym to call home.

I hadn’t been to the doctor in well…over 3 years. I knew I had quite the list of appointment phone calls ahead. I started with the basics. I set out to find a general doctor! After countless phone calls in pursuit of finding someone to take my insurance, I found one. I went in for a routine check-up and we did all the things. I spilled about my family history, personal history and then hopped up on that dreaded scale. I weighed more than I had in a long time but didn’t feel over-weight. I was training for a half marathon and running several miles throughout the week. Hm. Could be all the chips and guacamole I’d eaten. 

Moving on...

This doctor was very kind. She’d been practicing for many years and her husband was also a physician. She told me they met at med school in Texas. Having lived in Dallas for 4 years, I feel a connection to Texans - I trusted her. She felt my stomach and immediately said ‘wow, that feels really enlarged’. For a while I thought I’d just been gaining some weight but she insisted I go get an ultrasound as soon as possible. Since I made that deal with myself to start caring more…I told her I would. 

But, ‘I’m sure it’s nothing.’ 

A few weeks later I got a call with the results of the ultrasound. The woman on the other end of the line said ‘we’re seeing a very large mass on your uterus and you’ll need to see an OB immediately.’ I was surprised and unsure of what to feel in that moment. I fought the urge to google and just went ahead and made an appointment with an OB right away to get the facts. This particular OB came highly recommended; she was one of the best. She had a cancellation and was able to see me the next day.

As she reviewed the report at her desk, she proceeded to tell me I had a large uterine fibroid tumor that would need to come out…immediately. "It seems you’ve had this for a while. The good news is, these are very rarely cancerous and almost always benign. Though, we won’t know for sure until it’s removed."

I’ve witnessed loved ones in my life battle cancer, even my own mom, but there was something really powerful about the word ‘cancer’ being spoken directly towards me personally. It’s like this word I’d read a million times finally jumped off the page and came to life.

I tried to actually hear what she said, but it was difficult to keep my thoughts from swimming in the sea of the ‘what if's’...

What if…I had cancer? I’ve never even uttered those thoughts. A still, small voice told me not to go there, but to embrace this feeling of uncertainty. 

To fill the unknown space with trust. 

‘It’s taking up a lot of space already and it's only going to get bigger.’ the doctor said. It seemed as though I’d found the culprit of my weight gain. The surgery was going to be pretty intense and the implications of how it was performed meant everything to me. As she reviewed the risks involved and what ‘could be’ the outcome. She looked up at me and said ‘Depending on the location of this tumor, this procedure could affect you having children in the future. Do you want to have children?’

As those words came out of her mouth, my eyes welled up with tears...

Being a 30-something, single, female, I’d be lying to you if I told you I never thought about it. I’ve always had hope that it would happen for me. That someday, I would become a mom. Infertility, though a common struggle for many, most definitely something I’ve never desired to have foresight into.

As I looked down at the ultrasound photo sitting on her desk, I was faced with feelings of disappointment, fear, loneliness, sadness and even some anger. Thoughts swirling around my mind like ‘Wait, you mean while all my friends are having children, proudly posting their ultrasound images to Facebook and this...this is what I have to show?’

I thought about actually taking a photo of myself holding the image but I refrained because...well, too much. Yup, a real glimpse into my thoughts. Ugly, right? I tell you what, comparison will take you for a ride...if you let it.

I knew I had to lean in and let it hurt. I needed to feel the weight of potential loss in order to fully recognize the depth of the desire for that which i was hoping for.

With confidence I said, 'Yes. I want to have children someday!'

She paused, then looked back at me and said ‘There are ways to perform this surgery which will allow for that, they are just a little more invasive. Are you up for that?' I didn’t think twice when she asked, I just responded with ‘yes’. The look in her eyes seemed as though she could empathize. As if she’d been on this side of the desk at some point in her journey. She looked up at me and promised to do everything in her power to make sure my hopes of becoming a mother could come true…I trusted her.

‘Ok, so when do we do this?’ was the next question. She said she had availability on May 9, which was just a little under three weeks away. It seemed so soon. Wouldn’t I need more time to prepare? Nope, I actually needed enough time to recover before my summer trip to Cali. That was the real situation. So, I said, May 9 it is!  

The Nashville half marathon was the weekend prior to the scheduled surgery date. I thought about sitting it out and ‘taking it easy’. I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted to and I didn’t want to' over-do it'. But then, the night before the race, I realized, since when do I ever ‘take it easy’ with anything? Surely, I wasn't going to start now. I decided to wake up and run the thing. I’ve run lots of races, but this one was something special.

I cried for what felt like the entire 13.1... 

I was reminded through the cheering of the strangers who lined the streets of the countless people in my life who are for meI took that tumor with me through every last mile and eventually crossed the finish line feeling more empowered, encouraged, seen and cared for than I'd felt in a long time.

I realized, loneliness is a liAR…and it had no place in this race. 

The days leading up to the surgery flew by. Before I knew it, I was zipping around town preparing for my recovery, buying things like comfy dresses, chicken broth and every single sanitation item I could think of. Not sure why, but these seemed like the right precautions.

My sister, my rock, was with me every step of the way! Next step…the pre-op appointment where they asked terrifying questions like…

‘Do you have a living will?’

‘NO... SHOULD I?!?!!’ 

Whew, those questions, though routine, can really make you doubt any ounce of strength you thought you walked through the door with. As they went through all the instruction and warned me about the risks of anesthesia, I thought to myself,

‘Maybe I don’t actually have to have this. Is it too late to book a trip to Europe instead?! Nope? Ok…’

The night before surgery, a few of what I’ll call my ‘deep-well friends’ here in Nashville gathered to pray over me and we asked God for some big things. Again, stating the desires deep within my heart out loud. I felt the vulnerability bring peace as those prayers went up. In that moment, I knew that all would be more than ‘ok’. I wasn’t satisfied with ‘ok’ anymore anyways.

I knew I'd see life come through this surgery, and I was ready for it!

The time came and there I was getting prepped to go in. I sat in that hospital bed continuing down this trail of vulnerability. Hospitals, where all the barriers we’ve created are stripped away. Where there are no filters, no frills, no opportunity to fake it. Quite literally, where the only thing standing between you and the team of humans who have signed up for the responsibility of keeping you alive is a thin, thin oversized cotton gown. Undergarments. Nah. Who needs em? Those sorts of barriers serve no purpose in this kind of place.

Let's get straight to the point…

As I met nurse after nurse, I lied there in awe of medical professionals. Just another day in the life for everyone there, but my first time to be put under and quite possibly the scariest day of my life. As they were all buzzing around, hooking me up to things, asking me question upon question, giving me instruction…I started to cry. I think I just had to sit in my fear for a moment. One nurse handed me a tissue and said ‘everything is going to be just fine’. Just as soon as I started to wipe my tears, the IV kicked in and I was…

{Asleep}

‘You did great!’ I heard a man’s voice say. I thought to myself, ‘Well, I don’t feel like I did much of anything, but I think that was medical code for letting me know it was over and I was alive. Phew. My sister was there waiting for me in my hospital room as well as a gift from a dear friend. Wow - just like that, it was over. That thing was out of my body. Now, all I had left was recovery…stillness was coming for me whether I liked it or not. Oh how badly I didn’t want to feel the pain. ‘Keep the drugs coming.’ I thought to myself as I pushed the little green button by my side.

Before I knew it, more deliveries showed up to the hospital room. I felt like every time I’d doze off, I’d awaken to a new beautiful flower arrangement, care package or cookie delivery. The window sill was getting fuller and fuller with each passing hour. Every time I'd read a card or see a new delivery, I’d feel SO overcome with gratitude. I thought about the lies of loneliness and how much they were being stomped on. It was as if all of my friends and loved ones were right there with me in that hospital room…empowering and encouraging me with the truth of just how loved, seen and cared for I am. That same force which cheered me through the half-marathon is what carried me through the surgery. 

I felt so far from lonely.

The next day my mom flew into town to help take care of me.  Soon enough, I was discharged along with all my flowers. My mom, sister and I went home to my sister’s apartment where I was staying to recover for a few weeks. She'd so perfectly re-arranged her furniture so that I would be comfortable. I’d never seen her apartment so clean. She was so thoughtful in her preparation for our post-recovery hang time. Then came the...

{stillness}

My days were filled with lounging, short walks around the apartment, time to reflect, to listen, to learn, to sit, to wonder. All of that pondering combined with a heavy dose of pain meds and a whole lot of Netflix made for a great time! 'I think maybe I'd like to recover forever!' I thought. Though if you know me at all, you know that was pretty short-lived. 

A week later I was awakened by a call from my doctor. As promised she was calling with the pathology results. ‘Hi Leigh, I just wanted to let you know that I received the report and the tumor was actually pre-cancer. It’s a really good thing we removed it when we did and exactly how we did.’..

In that moment, I was stunned.

I’d researched the chances of these tumors being cancer/pre-cancer and they were extremely slim. The fact that this was pre-cancer was literally a miracle! If that doctor hadn’t ordered the ultrasound…how would I have ever found this?

Honest confession…sometimes when I’m challenged to look back and think about a miracle God has done, I struggle to name one.

I recognize the miracles a lot less often than I feel the weight of the unfulfilled.

My prayer from the very beginning of this journey was that this tumor would be brought to life. 

This news was a reminder of God’s provision and care Through the fear, uncertainty, sadness & doubt. through stillness I'd gained the capacity to feel the weight of what I was spared from. Hearing this news served as a marker for renewed hope! 

My prayers were answered. God removed a tumor from my body that would have caused a whole lot of pain down the road. 

THE MIRACLE. 

Maybe you've been on the receiving end of a phone call which didn't quite end so well and you were left feeling devastated, afraid, overwhelmed and alone. Maybe the diagnosis you received is something you wake up and have to face every single day. Regardless of where you're at in the fight, God IS attentive to the details and is with you every step of the way.

From fear to fulfillment, He sees you. He'S gone before, will lead you through, and all along will never leave your side or lose sight of your fragile heart.

As I sit here just three short weeks out from surgery, despite feeling pretty sore, I feel more empowered, encouraged, seen and cared for than ever before. I'm reminded that life is brought through this culmination of beauty and what may feel like chaos. 

Even though I suppose I saw it coming at the start of the year, stillness and this journey inward sure came by way of something unexpected. I was forced to stop, stare down my fears, acknowledge my desires, feel the weight of my pain and allow others to care for, encourage and carry me in a whole new way.

Loneliness was pushed aside, His delight made known, my hope renewed and my passions ignited.

The outcome...LIFE! I believe this for your circumstance too. May we never lose sight of the power waiting to be unleashed through our difficulties. Sometimes we find growth in the unexpected and I think all this stillness has caused the currents to move more freely than I ever could have seen coming.

Though I didn't actually give birth to a child, I know I've only just begun to experience the life that will come from this season. Maybe I should have snapped that photo holding my ultrasound image after all because, this is a miracle I never want to forget.

Whatever it is you're facing today...whether you can see an ounce of hope or not, I know someday, you'll see, this too will be brought to life! Just wait. 

...sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.
— Shauna Niequist

Freedom to Feel

Leigh LiebmannComment

“You have the capacity to experience true joy, yet you are equally capable of grieving deeply while holding onto hope.” – Chip Dodd

We all desire emotional stability. We scour books, seek counsel, meditate, pray, insert whatever it is you do to gain a handle on the needs of your own human heart. It can be exhausting. We often live in the spin of an array of emotions happening inside of our hearts simultaneously. At times, it can just seem like a bit too much to bear. How can we possibly tend to so many feelings at once? We’ve turned to things to divert our focus giving us temporary relief from what’s actually stirring inside of our soul.

I’m an emotional being. There you have it, I said it out loud. I’ve spent a lot of my life wishing away this part of my persona…or at least wishing my emotions weren’t quite so loud. I’ve attempted to put them aside at times. I've desired to become more of a ‘T’ than an ‘F’. I’ve certainly given it my all to hush my feelings when it comes to decisions and relationships, but I am always sorely disappointed when I'm met with opposition. For me, to completely turn off my emotions is actually an impossibility.

I simply cannot not feel.  

In recent months I’ve been learning a bit more about these emotions. I'm learning that they are in fact some of our greatest strengths, even though I’ve viewed them as a thorn in my side for quite some time.

We were given feelings to act as a thermometer to our soul and we are Hard wired to feel deeply.

5 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A disease that has slowly taken its toll on his physical well being and has quite frankly taken a whole lot more than that. I remember the day I was struck by the reality of his sickness. It knocked the wind out of me. I was home for a visit when I gazed across the room and saw my dad struggling to stand up from the chair he was sitting in. In that moment, I was overcome by the reality of the turning of tables, the cycle of life, whatever you want to call it. My eyes began to well up with tears as I witnessed the man who has taken care of me my entire life suddenly in need of help from his daughter to stand up from his own chair. I witnessed the frustration in his face as he struggled to do what he’s done so effortlessly for so many days. He looked up and said, ‘Leigh, can you help me?’.

My heart sank deep into my chest as I walked across the room to help him stand up. I was met by the harsh reality that this was only the beginning of what would be a long journey for him and our family. In recent years, my dad has slowly lost his ability to do simple tasks like feed himself, get out of bed on his own, get into the car on his own, open jars and some days, he’s unable to walk from the recliner to the bedroom without help…regular old daily activities, my dad can has to struggle to do on his own.

I’ve watched my mom’s role evolve from wife to caretaker. I’ve watched her struggle but, I’ve also witnessed her soar as she strives to love him well, take on his care, and navigate the difficult waters of this unchartered territory. I’ve wrestled alongside my sister as we are often overwhelmed with a deep sense of sadness for our dad and experiencing this difficult loss together.

I told a friend a few months ago over coffee that my heart was aching because I just longed to grieve.

I thought I’d put my finger on my emotional compass perfectly. If only I could be ‘all in’ the grief process and not have to juggle all of these other emotions simultaneously, this wouldn’t be so hard, right?! How can I possibly live and laugh and experience joy while at the same time experiencing this deep heartache and sadness?  That friend turned to me and said, “Leigh, you cannot block out joy without blocking out grief. Grief and joy go hand in hand" I suddenly felt breathed into. It was like I was given permission to feel what I was feeling so torn by. Later that same week I read this and was brought to tears by the weight of these words…

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. The self-same well from which your laughter rises was often times filled with your tears. The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
— Gibran, poet

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. Wait, what? Joy is actually a result of sorrow. The two not only go hand in hand, but they are actually a part of one another. You must feel the depth of pain possess the capacity to feel the height of joy. It’s like climbing a 14er or finishing a marathon. It was required of you to trudge all 14,000 ft of elevation and run all 26.2 of those miles before you were released to experience the feeling of accomplishment at the end. The struggle is actually that which made up the victory. 

We are constantly engaging in a duality of emotion. All these emotions, well, they all hinge on one another and we have actually been given the capacity to bear the weight of them all.  Some are necessary to experience simultaneously and some are simply a pre-requisite to others. Let's be honest, along with sorrow comes so many other emotions like anger, sadness, disappointment and fear. Though, we can’t sit around trying to ‘block out’ the emotions we don’t desire to feel, this will actually do more harm than good. We need them all.

We were created to embrace an emotional dance and fully feel all we've been entrusted with. This makes room for things like sorrow to be carved into our being.

The deeper we feel, the more capacity we are given to carry an even deeper sense of joy to the world.

I’m learning to listen to my heart, to create space to grieve and to give myself permission to experience joy amidst deep pain. I never imagined I’d have the capacity to feel so much all at once. Some days I have success, some days I just sit and stare out the window because I feel numb to it all. As we live amidst the tension of sadness for what is, strive to hold on to hope for a miracle, enjoy the moments we have, and ache for what’s ahead, it can often seem like simply too much to bear.

Though I don't know what tomorrow holds, what I do know is that the God of the universe is already in tomorrow and He's not letting us out of his sight. He's taken us by the hand and invited us into this dance. The more I allow my heart to engage in this movement, the more confident I feel in my complete and utter lack of ability to lead. This emotional dance is something supernatural and though we give it our best effort, we simply can't do it on our own.

Our steps have been established, our pain endured, our sorrow carved out and joy has found its home deep down inside the depths of our hearts.  

What is it that's carved out this space for you? A sudden loss, a diagnosis, a phone call which brought you to your knees? Maybe you’ve found yourself trapped in a seemingly never-ending feeling of sadness or are enduring the agony of heartbreak. Maybe you’re going through an unexpected season of job loss or journeying down the unknown path of some uncontrollable health issues. Though these circumstances are so very difficult, they are actually transforming the core of who you are.  

Frederick Buechner says it this way, “Laughter and tears come from the same place in the heart, that place deep inside...”  Today, I'm choosing to embrace the feeler that I am and let some of these emotions live together. I think they might actually need one another after all...

A Whole New Way to View Empathy

Leigh LiebmannComment

Original post featured via Darling Magazine...

We sat across from one another sharing a bowl of queso. A mutual affection for cheese dip is where every true connection begins. We both were coming out from under the fog of a major life change. We had packed up our lives, set out to pursue a fresh start, moved to a new city and, naturally, were in need of new friends.

It was a “friend date.” You know the setting well: The dinner, coffee and happy hour meet ups with someone new. You get together wanting to connect, build trust, share history, laugh a little, and hopefully experience the birth of a new friendship. These first friend dates can often feel like an overwhelming amount of ground to cover and a whole lot of heart to uncover. There’s risk involved.

Will vulnerability breed a mutual connection?

We each shared a bit of our story. We talked about things like family, upbringing, work history, passions, moves around the country, etc. Then, we began to open up about what led us to shake up our norm and move to a newfound city. Eventually, the painful details of my queso companion’s current situation began to surface. With tears in my eyes, my heart began to race as she told me more about the season of hurt, pain, disappointment and heartbreak she was experiencing.

I hadn’t been in her exact shoes, but I had certainly experienced a close enough version of her story. Suddenly, I found myself with the ability to physically feel the pain of my past experiences all over again. The shattering of her heart was something I could not only imagine, but a circumstance I could feel with my entire being. I looked across the table and felt like I could ‘see’ this person in a deeper way than I ever dreamt possible, all in a mere 30-minute interaction.

It was as though my past had given me the ability to not only feel her presence, but to speak into it with some kind of supernatural authority. I found myself encouraging her with the hope that had been instilled in me through others in the past.

This is empathy: a transferring of belief.

It’s that which takes place when you are able to not only listen to someone’s story, but you can physically place yourself where they are, because you’ve been there before. You’ve walked through the fire, cried the river of tears, asked all the same questions and believed all the same lies. You’ve doubted and wondered, how will I ever make it through? You’ve relied on others to be present, listen, encourage and remind you of truth.

Then, one day you look up and realize you’ve conquered what you once thought impossible … but not without help. You didn't go through hardship simply to look back and tell a good story. It’s through these very circumstances that you were given the unique ability to feel deeper than you ever imagined, to see the broken like never before and to believe for others when they may not have the strength to believe for themselves.

When we let empathy take the lead, we start to see the world in a whole new way and this changes everything about the way we live our lives.

Here’s how:

Empathy affects the way we engage with others.

The best way we can begin to foster empathy is to intentionally go deep with people. Relationships don’t form through happenstance. We are drawn to those who have gone before us. Empathy is the pulling towards another’s pain and this is what allows us to deeply connect.

Empathy affects the way we lead.

It can become one of the greatest strengths of a leader. Leading with empathy allows you to lead from a place of humility rather than pride. In the end, a leader who has experienced pain has become better for it and one of the greatest qualities of leadership is the ability to see and care for people as individuals.

Empathy changes the way we see our circumstances.

When we are able to look at our lives and see all that we’ve gained from the difficult times, it changes everything about the way we view the present. Hardship has the ability to shape the person you’ve become and empathy has a way of amplifying your calling.

However, we must be careful with tossing around the phrase “I understand.” We might be tempted to say this to someone going through a season of hurt, pain or loss like singleness, infertility, illness, marriage struggles, etc., but if we haven’t experienced this type of pain, then sometimes it’s better to acknowledge our lack of understanding. The best way to bring value to someone experiencing something you haven’t endured is by acknowledging their pain while assuring them that they are seen, loved and cared about.

When I think back to dinner, I see more than the birth of a new friendship. I see vulnerability fostering a place of connection. I see empathy taking the lead, further healing and, ultimately, the revelation of the need for belief on both sides of the booth. One side with the need to practice believing for another, and the other side in need for the belief of another to carry her through.

Empathy just might be one of the most powerful things we have to offer humanity.

Don’t rush the process of your pain. It is through these experiences that we become deeply rooted in hope. The only way out is through – and the only way through is to be with and believe for one another.

Becoming Together...

Leigh LiebmannComment

A few weeks ago I packed up my things and set out to make some changes. I moved. I made my way back to a pretty familiar part of the country - the Southeast. Moving. Thousands of people do it every single day. It's pretty simple, right? Wrong. Moving is exhausting. Anyone who has done it can attest that along with re-locating comes an array of every single emotion accompanied by a massive amount of manual labor.  I’m not sure there’s anything comparable to the feeling of tired that hits you quite as hard as post-move exhaustion. 

At some point all the emotions involved…the goodbyes, all the ‘lasts’, the packing of boxes, the necessary purging, the parting of ways with those sentimental trinkets you simply have held on to for far too long, the loading of the truck, carrying of furniture, the tears…all the tears. At some point these things simply knock you out for the count. It’s like going through this very intentional, very carefully thought out break up. You choose to end daily life in one place with a group of people and begin again somewhere completely new. The ending of a chapter leaves you feeling grateful for what was and anxious with anticipation for what lies ahead...

Though with moving, unlike a break-up, immediately after the end comes the new beginning. After all the blood, sweat and tears you get in the car, drive to a new place and immediately start to say one million ‘hellos’. You begin telling your story to every new person you meet…

Hi, I’m Leigh…originally from…but I’ve lived in…then I moved to…I work for… and I just moved here to Nashville…want to be my friend? Cool.

The truck you just packed so neatly all the way to the brim now has to be unloaded and all those boxes filled with fragile terrariums and picture frames you so carefully bubble-wrapped now need to be unpacked and set in a new place. All those old things you purged, like the furniture that simply didn’t make the cut, now need to be replaced.

Things suddenly start to feel a little overwhelming. Everything you own has become scattered and where the heck is Trader Joes? Let’s be real, I don’t do well when things are out of place. I’m the girl who makes her bed every single day and unpacks her suitcase immediately when returning home from a trip…no matter how late at night it is, I will unpack it.  I function best when things are in place.

All that to say...moving was a refining process for me.

My preference is always to get things done pretty fast. Though, I didn’t want my need for order to get the best of me during this move. I didn’t want to let the desire to finish take the joy out of the process. I’m learning to be ok in the middle and let others help. Often times some things are better left undone…for a time. I didn’t rush; I left some things in boxes until I’d carefully considered where its contents were going to assume a more permanent position. With the whole purging concept, I was left with some pretty functional gaps to fill. All of my folded clothes were living in a body-bag suitcase for a few weeks as I shopped around looking for the perfect dresser. For the record, aside from a bed, a dresser might be the most functional piece of furniture that exists and a suitcase is NO substitute. I need drawers in my life. But what kind of drawers…mid-century, modern, rustic, wood, white?

As the weeks went on, I eventually couldn't take it anymore...it was time to take the plunge and buy that dang dresser. I was secretly dreading this purchase because I live on the second floor and the thought of getting a dresser up a flight of stairs sounded, well…like I might need to ask for help. As you know, not my strength.

My sister, basically the hero of this entire move, came to the rescue and kindly offered to drive with me to the store and transport my new purchase in her SUV. We had no clue if the dresser I chose would actually fit, but why not give it a shot? It ended up fitting perfectly - I’m talkin with one inch to spare! With the help of the West Elm stock-men, they loaded up my new little mid-century 6-drawer  dresser and we were on our way!  Naturally – I was unsure how we were actually going to get this 215 pound beast of a dresser unloaded from the back of her car, up the stairs and into my room. Details.

As we approached my house I noticed a police officer standing outside talking with two men a few houses down. I wondered what that was all about, but we just kept driving, we had a dresser to unload! We parked and I told my sister…’Don’t worry, I have a plan.’ I proceeded to shimmy all 215 pounds of this dresser out of the car. In my head – I knew we needed help, but I didn’t want to bother anyone to ask.  My plan of action was to take the dresser out of the box, remove the drawers and try to move it from the street, up the porch stairs and into the house. A grand plan in my head. Also in my head – I am she-woman and can lift cars to rescue kittens in distress. Though my reality is that even though I am strong for my size, I’m not by any means strong enough to lift half the things my head tells me I can. But alas – I will always try before asking for help.  Again, working on this.

Anyways, back to the plan. I had only gotten a few minutes into ripping the box off of the dresser until I realized - this thing was really heavy, and my plan was not going to work. There was no way my sister and I were going to make it five feet carrying this beast, much less take it up a flight of stairs. All of a sudden I noticed the police officer making his way towards us. I said ‘Hello sir, is everything ok?’ He simply smiled and said ‘Yes, it looks like you ladies could use some help.’ I smiled back at him and looked down at the dresser which was now sitting in the middle of the road. I replied ‘YES WE DO!’ I then proceeded to embrace this man with a pretty intense side hug. In the midst of hugging a police officer, [my natural expression of gratitude] I said ‘Oh, I’m sorry – am I allowed to hug you?’ He laughed and said ‘Well yes, we have souls too.’ I looked at him and said ‘ well, you most certainly do, you just came to our rescue!’

There was another man sitting on his porch across the street. A few minutes later this man got up and made his way over to us to offer his assistance as well.  Before I knew it, these two complete strangers were lifting my dresser, carrying it up the porch steps and then suddenly standing in my living room. 'Oh you can just leave it there, we’ll find a way to get it upstairs.' I said. The police officer proceeded to begin taking out the drawers and replied ‘Well, while you’ve got us here, we might as well take it up where it needs to go!’ I said ‘Oh no, you don’t have to do that!’ He insisted. A few minutes later these men were climbing the stairs carrying a 215-pound dresser all the way up. My sister came up and gave them both a drink of water. We then proceeded to exchange names and get acquainted with one another.

I was overwhelmed….

Here we are living in a day in age where it often feels like everything in the news is negative; the hate, the prejudice, the crime, the division, the selfishness…the unkindness of humanity.We've grown accustomed to shouting our agendas and opinions so loudly that the voice of peace has almost become silenced. We’ve lost sight of our need to understand and help each other, stopped listening and begun to ignore the simple yet unifying acts of kindness we encounter each and every day. 

WE’VE BECOME DEFENSIVE WITH OUR WORDS AND  BUILT WALLS OF HOSTILITY INSTEAD OF BRIDGES TO RECONCILIATION.

Yet, that day I sat front row and watched kindness take the lead.  Two complete strangers walked into my situation and lent a hand…without asking what I could do for them in return.  These two men were a walking display of kindness and kindness brings this sort of hopeful perspective back to life. An old boss used to tell me “Leigh, don’t block the blessing!” Even though this statement always made me laugh, she’s right. I’m learning to ask for help...and embrace the gift that it is to receive. We're meant to run together.

Eventually these men made their way downstairs and went on their way. When they left my sister and I looked at each other and just started laughing. ‘You can’t write this stuff!’ I feel like I say that statement all too often. A few minutes later the police officer came back. ‘I came back for my water…I realized how thirsty I was when I got back in my car.’ he said. I gave him the cup of water he was drinking from, he smiled and said ‘thank you!’ I told him I hoped to see him again and thanked him for taking time to help us out, it really meant a lot. 

What if we took a break from so quickly recognizing all of the negative and started intentionally recognizing kindness?What if we walked freely embracing the privilege that it is to receive, invest in others, offer what we have, and give.  

Maybe we need to LEARN HOW TO RECEIVE IN ORDER TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE DEPTH AND POWER OF GIVING. 

The dust has settled and things have found their place. I can honestly say - I'm loving this new season! Here I am...living in a new place writing on a lazy Saturday. Writing - I came here to do this more. This city might be the writers capital of America but I can either choose to let intimidation derail my purpose or embrace where I am today, ask for help and let others help me...

Every time I find myself on the other side of any season  or major life event I look back and so clearly see how much the kindness of others has carried me through. 

Whether you’re exhausted, eager to end a hard season, on cloud nine, anxious to get to where you’re headed or skip over this current moment…don’t rush on to the next. Don’t let the desire to finish take the joy out of the process. Take your eyes off the end just for a moment and fight to remain present. Ask for help, throw out a side-hug or two and party on! Learn to be ok with a few unpacked boxes and let some things remain undone. They're all a part of becoming together and we become a whole lot better when we let the kindness of others carry us, or even our dresser for that matter.

Hello From the Other Side...

Leigh LiebmannComment
Hello, it's me
I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time's supposed to heal ya
But I ain't done much healing
Hello, can you hear me?
I'm in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I've forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
There's such a difference between us
And a million miles...

You know these lyrics - all too well. Admit it, you've sung them at the top of your lungs while driving down the freeway. At first listen - this song hit you like a ton of bricks. Adele - she's done it again, she's taken the words right out of our journals. Her talent is unmatchable. But, what's her secret weapon? That's easy - it's her ability to embody our tragedies as if she were living them right beside us. She sings about love and loss in a way that will leave your bones chilled and bring your heart right back to that vulnerable place of brokenness it once found itself on display for all to see during those immediate days following your deepest heartbreak.

Adele - traditionally known for her mastery of transforming the tragedy of love and loss into hit-ballads. I've heard this particular chart-topping anthem she calls 'Hello', for once isn't a song about a past love, but this time, she's written a letter to herself - A Hello From the Other Side. At age 25 when you release the year's biggest-selling album, selling a record 2.3 million copies of “25” in just three days, breaking ‘NSYNC’s longstanding record for most album sales in one week, I'd say you've arrived at the other side of something. 

Lately I've been consumed with thoughts about 'the other side'. In our comparative culture, we have a tendency to look to others who seem to be living on the other side....of tragedy, success, dating, hard work, their big break, infertility, that cancer battle, etc. Whatever it is, we just long to make it 'there'.

Our culture has created a standard of arrival dictated by life-stage. People are getting married later and later, causing some to live in a constant state of 'not yet'. This has surfaced as a result of unmet expectations, proving to be the leading culprit of a generation of sojourning souls. You were told from a young age that - you will get married.  The reality is, many are embarking into their 30's - unmarried. We've looked to marriage as the idealogical point of arrival and for most...it's something we deeply desire. There's a dividing wall centered around those whom have arrived and those who have yet to enter over to 'the other side'.  I believe this 'not there yet' mentality to be one of the greatest lies of our generation. Remember, when voting as a single, your ballot counts as a whole person. :) 

You are whole - with or without a significant other. 

I've been raised in the church. I've grown up learning and believing truths about the character of God. Things like His faithfulness, ever-presence and goodness. I've heard preachers teach about these things for years and knowing truth about the character of God in my head and those truths progressing to belief within my heart has come pretty naturally.

Until lately...I've started to think that these beliefs seem to be a whole lot easier to preach about and truly believe when you've actually made it to your other side. When you've gone through the valley - and have seen God show up and bring you out. He's given you the desire of your heart; He's made sense of the mess, reconciled a relationship or fulfilled your deepest longing. You can clearly look back and say 'this is why the Lord took me through that'. You've seen purpose in your pain and worthiness in the wait.

You're living proof that there is joy on the other side and this is something to be celebrated! 

For others, you may feel like you've yet to make it to the other side. You may be struggling to believe in the dark what the Lord has revealed to you in the light and asking the question - where is the hope? Sometimes the characteristics of God which we stake our lives upon like His faithfulness, nearness and goodness, begin to feel like that of a complete stranger or become a distant reality. Maybe you have yet to see the Lord show up in the way you've hoped He would for years. He seems distant and sometimes you find yourself asking...does He even care at all?

Friend, know and believe today - you are not forgotten. 

My dad's been sick for a long time. We recently found out that he's been diagnosed with a disease which has for years affected his body, is progressing to affect his mind and will most likely eventually progress to take his life. This is a hard reality to face. From the inside looking out towards the long battle which lies ahead - it's hard to confidently speak about the Lord's faithfulness or even see any purpose behind all of the pain this will cause him and our family.  Those truths I knew so well seem so far from this side of things. I'd so much rather be able to look back and proclaim the way God has come through, but right now - it's difficult to narrate the story from this perspective. Though, in the midst of the fog, I have to remind myself of this...

The character of God does not change based upon our current circumstance.

Last weekend I was visiting Atlanta, GA where I attended Passion City Church. The pastor, Louie Giglio was starting a new series called 'Label Maker'. The question he centered the series around was this - Who or what defines you? This particular week, He spoke about the word 'chosen'. He said, God has a Sovereign plan that has been unfolding since the beginning of time....

"The sovereign plan is that you were chosen by God. "

He said, Jesus gets the last word and He is saying - 'I choose you'. An idea, which countless theologians have been debating for years. Louie spoke to the divine mystery that comes along with this truth. The simple reality that God is running the show and when we understand that we are chosen by the one who is before all, in all and through all - everything matters. We have been given unshakable confidence. We don't wait for a circumstance to validate us because just as quickly as that circumstance can bring us value - it has the ability to stir up deep rejection. With Christ, we get to walk into situations already validated. 

WE DON'T LOOK TO OUR CURRENT STRUGGLE OR THE OUTCOME OF IT TO DICTATE OUR VALUE, MEANING OR PURPOSE. 

Louie went on to speak about Ephesians 1. In this chapter, the author Paul wrote about the 'immeasurable greatness of the power of God'. He wrote these words from inside the walls of a prison cell. Paul, even though shackles bound him, knew his position as a chosen son of God. If someone were to say to Paul - 'I don't see how you can be chosen when you're in prison', His answer would be...just wait. The prison is for a second. The kingdom of God, the glory of God working through your life right now will last forever. 

"The people who are unshakable through it all are the people who know they were chosen before it all." - Louie Giglio

He ended the sermon with these words - which you may need to hear just as much as I do today. These words are reminders of who God says we are. Regardless of what side you may find yourself on in this very moment - these words remain true about you...

"You are not rejected, you are chosen. You are not insignificant. You are not forgotten. You were not an accident, you were not unplanned, you were not a surprise, you were not, not-lovable and you are not, not valuable. You have always been and you always will be, to God-almighty - of extraordinary value. Before there was a Universe for us to exist in - God already was on the record and said, "I choose you". Those other words, those other labels, they're real words - but they're not the last word."

What is our responsibility in all of this?  We have to be willing to believe God and agree with Him when He tells us who we are. The truth of who God says He is - that He is with us and for us and that He is a loving Father, remains the same, regardless of if we are on the mountain or in the valley.

Today, I certainly don't feel like I'm in the strongest place of belief.  But, I find comfort in the fact that it's ok to be where I am and ask the difficult questions. Ultimately, I know I'm not alone. I know there are others living in the tension of anxious anticipation of promises unfulfilled and experiencing deep pain from a disappointment of various kinds. May we heed Paul's advice in all of this and just wait. When you feel like you've yet to see light surface from beneath the shadows, remember...

This present darkness doesn't have the ability to touch your eternal destiny.

Side note - when going through something difficult, I always find exercise to be that which allows me to hold it together. Today, as I was driving to the gym, processing the news about my dad, my heart began to break for him. I began to wallow in self-pity over those things which, I simply cannot control. Overcome by sadness, tears rolling down my face, all of a sudden, I began to feel a sense of gratitude wash over me. I thought about the empathy being instilled within my heart during the dimness of these days. I'm confident that the Lord uses empathy for his kingdom. Statements like, 'I've been there before" or "I get it" are often used to bring a deep sense of love and belonging to another. 

Empathy is an outpouring of jesus and the kingdom of God working through our lives - this makes the pain worth it.

Though this present moment may look dim and the pain may feel heavy, the Lord has gone before all of it. There is greater purpose, transcending far beyond your life-stage, present trial or success. He's called you chosen before the foundation of the world and that is the last word. Every single detail of your life will take shape - and because of this, I can't help but think, maybe there are no sides in this life. In the midst of your pain, sickness, failures, successes, loneliness, family hardship, love, loss...The Lord is at work.  When all is said and done, our lives, well, they're contributing to one hell of a Hello From the Other Side, which will knock the socks off Adele's chart-topping hit...just wait


P.S. If you'd like to watch Louie Giglio's full sermon entitled 'Chosen' - here it is. 

Rounding the corner...

Leigh Liebmann1 Comment
IMG_8309.jpg

I turned 30 this past October and drafted this blog about what I learned from 29...I never fully finished it or hit 'publish', but thought I'd go ahead and do that now - better late than never, right? 


Tomorrow....I turn the magical age of 30. Ok, maybe I'm not feeling so magical about it, but it's a milestone nonetheless. As I sit on a plane en route to meet one of my best friends in Vancouver, Canada to welcome this turning of age I can't help but reflect on the year behind me and what I've learned...

29. I'll call it 'rounding the corner'. The year of 29 has been full. In fact, all of the late 20's have been quite the hilarious turn of events and formative to say the least. However, I look back on 29 and I see a marked difference - a year filled with transformation, growth, risk and opportunity. A year where I continued to go after things I felt called deep inside my heart to do - pursue dreams. create, travel, write, love and make the most of the days I have been given. A year of continually striving to fully embrace who I was created to be [which turns out is far more creative than administrative, and a little more introverted than extroverted, who knew?!] I've realized that letting go of the way you think you 'should' be and taking off the mask of perfection is where freedom is found, and ultimately where life begins. 

I've learned to stop waiting for the next and started embracing what is. Good things sometimes come to those who wait - but they also come to those who stop waiting and go after what they want. I started buying things I really loved [in moderation] and tossed the mindset of 'I'll get what I really like someday' out the window. I realized that some things are just worth paying more for - like haircuts, the make-up on the left side of Ulta, and jeans that fit. Today is just as worthy of intention and fullness as someday - so I say, buy the West Elm Hamilton 2-Piece Leather Chaise Sectional you've always wanted, along with some accent pillows and that classy throw blanket you've been eying while you're at it. Why? Because life is simply too short to be lived in the shadows of someday.

I've learned the difference between wasted time and intention. I've understood the importance of giving, receiving and saying 'no' - even to good things. The moments we have were meant to be lived with great intention, purpose and presence. I realized that I want to be wrung out, but also maintain balance. This year, I've worked several jobs, become acclimated with things like a hammer, table saw, drill and that 15 foot ladder which has become my right hand. I've been 'busy' [so my friends say], but it's not been for nothing. I put myself out there in friendships, relationships, professionally and creatively. I've seen the importance of REST. I've failed, but I've gained. I learned to push myself and pour out. I ran myself into the ground and tried to stay true to the intention of adding value and beauty to the world. I also learned that my intentions are not always good and a pure heart is always worth pursuing. I've seen beauty in the secret things and learned that to share with nobody can often be the sweetest. 

I began to get serious about vulnerability and put my heart out there in the form of creative expression. I started putting my thoughts into words more often and my words onto paper - some of those words have been given wings and traveled further than I ever imagined, and that has been a little terrifying. I've learned from my new friend Brene Brown [or so she is to me] that tapping into God-given gifts and abilities are in fact some of the greatest contributions we can give to this world, aside from loving people like crazy.

I've learned the power and importance of friendship and going deep with few. I learned to practice saying hard things and  realized that life is too short for drama, people are of too much value to give up on and friendships are too important to hold onto loosely. We must choose to build a history and sit in the uncomfortable, for the good of another. In regards to friendship...I've learned that avoidance can be the culprit behind shallow relationships, honesty is what we need, and intimacy - when we truly believe that we are known, loved and worth it, is the key to unlocking our deepest relationships.

This past year I stopped guarding my heart and learned to open it once again. I entrusted it to another human to care for and see into...for the moment. I gained flexibility through being stretched like never before. I exercised those muscles which allowed me to enter in again. No matter how scary it was, I learned to do it. I saw healing come in the form of something new and learned to trust again. I loved. I was reminded again that though we must hold on tight to relationships, we also must view them from the perspective of 'today'. I've learned to practice the art of open-handedness - which is HARD. I'm getting better at letting go of what was, trusting God and accepting that what I thought would be isn't always what's best. However, I've  still got a long way to go.

I've learned to let go. Though the grief process is shitty and navigating it takes a lot of intention - it's necessary and the sting eventually lessens. Our active participation in grief is in the letting go, when the time is right. Through hardship I've been given a deeper capacity to love and care. I can't say I would choose it, but I sure wouldn't trade it. I've learned that I am whole. I've finally learned to believe that love is often displayed by my Father looking back at me and simply saying 'no', and that's ok. I've learned that leadership doesn't always come by way of a title or name-tag, but it's in how we live, and invest, and love, and serve. I've realized that more than anything, character matters, and character is built through the valley.

29 taught me a lot about marriage. My perspective has changed surrounding this subject more this past year than ever before, for the best. I've learned that finding a partner isn't a fairy-tale, but a quest to find a best friend. To enter in, to know, to believe in and to see someone for the good inside of their heart - this is love. Sure there is a place for butterflies and pretty floral arrangements, but more than anything else I've learned that in love friendship must be central and the choice to enter in and pursue someone is constant, like a moment by moment kind of constant decision. My attractions have swung to see as much beauty in the inward as the outward. I've realized that to be broken, humble, flawed and honestly living in pursuit of greater things are some of the most beautiful qualities of them all. I have felt the desire to fight with and for someone again. I've learned that physical is fleeting, but genuine love and deep care for another is what will see you through.

I've realized that I desire to have children someday. I want to be a mom more than ever before and build tee-pee's with my kids. I've accepted that this desire is not crazy or something to be ashamed of - it's actually one hell of a good desire to have. In the meantime, I'll be over here loving my friends kids like crazy..

I've lived with three girls throughout my late 20's in a little dilapidating house we call Pershing. Our landlord...well, he either 'fixes' everything himself or he's 'got a guy'. A strong Catholic from Mexico, he speaks broken english, has a heart of gold and spends his free time saving babies - he actually SAVES babies. Instead of knocking, he prefers shouting our names from the other side of the front door. He is a kind soul. Life with Pershing is something I will treasure forever. Whenever I tell people I have three roommates, their response is often, 'Wow, that is so many girls.' Each time I have countered that statement with, 'It is, but it's amazing and probably the least dramatic place on earth.' Abby, Alex and Courtney have become like sisters to me. The four of us - completely different according to Myers Briggs, yet we simply work. These girls have taught me about loving well, serving first and believing the best always. I mean, they do dishes that aren't even theirs. They have literally wiped my tears, celebrated with me and loved me with great intention and patience - expecting nothing in return. They have seen me at my darkest and loved me through it. They have listened. Oh my how they have listened. They have encouraged me to use my gifts and given me the space to do so, literally...I have taken up most of our house with my random projects and creative endeavors. Big Red - the giant couch in our living room where we've shared beers, fears, tears and cheers. I've learned that togetherness will always serve us well and living in deep community is when life feels most right.

I could go on and on about the past year and the crazy happenings of the 20's, but I will let you in on a little secret - someday I'm going to write a book about all of this, so...you'll just have to wait. Besides, I need someone to buy my book. 

29 has been the pre-req to the major course - like that pesky required speech class we all grumbled our way through. This is the year where I've learned and experienced what will be absolutely crucial to chartering the territory which lies ahead. It's like God looked down all throughout the 20's and said, 'I want you to truly feel all that you say you believe, I promise you'll be better for it.' This final year of the 20's might be coming to a close, but they have been a blast and I will never forget the deposits they have entrusted me with. These are the days which have brought me to this present moment - which I truly believe to be the best that has been coming all along. 

So, as the cute little center print of your gallery wall reads...

What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?

To which I say...

Maybe I fall...or maybe I fly. Either way, at least my jeans fit like a glove and I've got my pretty Hamilton sectional as a soft spot to land. 30, I may be crossing over to your side kicking and screaming, but I think I may be more ready for you than I actually care to admit. Let's do this.

But first, Canada...

Photo property of West Elm Inc.

Photo property of West Elm Inc.

roundingthecorner

The Secret Things

Leigh LiebmannComment

The World Wide Web - it can be used as a powerful force, for good. The rise of social media has completely changed the way we see and engage with the world. We are a culture, which seeks to share our enjoyment with others, a natural pull that stems from our innate design to live in community with one another. We have gradually turned into sharing machines. We see it, snap it and almost simultaneously share it. Before the moment has even passed we’ve invited hundreds of people in to experience everything from our daily latte, to our 30th birthday party, to a getaway in the mountains, to the birth of our third child.  It’s become second nature to share our experiences instantly with family, friends and for some, countless complete strangers.

My motto for online engagement has always been ‘to each his own’.  Some share lots, some share never. I'm in no position to run around judging as if to be a part of some sort of SMPD, [Social Media Police Department], nor do I care to fulfill that role. I share a lot. For me, it’s a creative outlet. It’s a way to engage, share important moments with friends and family, talk about the good happening in the world and hopefully somewhat inspire others.

I work for a media advocacy campaign called BraveLove – we’ve set out to change the perception of adoption by conveying the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her through adoption. Our efforts are spent strategizing ways to creatively publicize a perspective that people typically don’t find themselves thinking about on a regular basis. Most days at around noon, I throw on the hat of Social Media Manager, refer to the trusty content calendar and get to posting. Though certainly not the most exhilarating part of my job, it is a crucial component to the spread of the mission of the organization and an extremely helpful tool used to engage with people who might have otherwise never been exposed to the work we have set out to do. I have seen Social Media encourage, inspire and even bring people together.

Marketing has come a long way in the past 10 years. The Internet has created space for anyone to build an empire; expose good, create a platform and spread an array of positive messages. 

On the contrary, as we have witnessed with the heartbreaking exposure of the Ashley Madison website hack this past year, just as quickly as an empire is built, it can come crashing down. The Internet can serve as a place for shame and secrecy to run wild and free, tearing apart families, resulting in great tragedy and leaving a mess behind. The secret, shame-filled life can quickly go from 'only affecting one' to affecting the masses. We are often prone to associate the secret things with the shameful things.

With the rising publicity of ‘Socality Barbie’, the world is also discovering that some of the most beautifully publicized moments are not as ‘authentic’ as they once appeared. Why? Not because these perfectly posed snapshots are inherently evil, but because these moments we share are transient, and some of them, no matter how well 'liked' they may be, they have no eternal value. We've traded authenticity for approval and these moments are quickly being glanced at, scrolled through and left to fade away into the abyss of Internet no man's land. 

But where is the balance between the secret, shame-filled life, and the over-exposed, not-so authentic life of publicity? Maybe it's a combination of the good in both of these things. Taking the sacredness of that which is done in secret in our lives and balancing that with the good we have been created to share with the world. 

The good we do, the love we give, and the words of encouragement we receive - these moments are divine appointments. Often, I find that designating some moments to remain secret adds a greater luster to my life than sharing them ever could. Shame isn’t always the bi-product of secrecy.

You know, those quiet, unseen moments where it’s just you and another person? You have those, right? The moments where you hear a still, small voice whisper ‘this experience is meant for you to be fully present. Put your phone down, treasure this time and give all the love you have.’  When we experience these moments where we feel the pull of the Holy Spirit speaking through us, or vise versa, we are left with an awe inspired humility, which no photo could ever come close to depicting. These secret moments, they are a gift…to be experienced fully, treasured and carried inside of our hearts. 

Life is moving quickly and we must be intentional about finding these moments and keeping them close, or we might eventually cease to recognize them. It could be an act of kindness - given or received, or a time in which someone unexpected is used to breathe life in to your soul. Maybe it's a 3am feeding with your newborn, or time spent alone with the love of your life, maybe it's a moment spent in the splendor of creation, time given to the poor and needy…these are the moments in which we are eternally transformed. It’s why the Bible tells us to do really beautiful things like fast and pray and give…in secret. 

So that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt 6:4

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt 6:6

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt 6:17-18

Bob Goff offers one of my favorite perspectives on life. I admire this man's tenacious pursuit of genuine love and the way he challenges our Christian idealism. He has very little tolerance for believers thinking higher of ourselves than we ought, and seeks to bring us back to the simple call to love.  In his book Love Does he says this…

"Maybe Jesus wants us to be secretly incredible instead. That was His plan for self-promotion. Secretly incredible people keep what they do as one of God's best kept secrets because the only one who needs to know, the God of the universe, already knows."

The God of the universe sees every single good thing we do, and these things honor Him because he gives them! We must believe in the power of becoming secretly incredible. We must begin to savor these secret moments, because the unseen is eternal. To enter in, to love, to give to the world, without telling a soul…this is sacred secrecy.  

There was nothing sacred about the secrecy of the Ashley Madison website, and Socality Barbie, well, she has revealed to us that our quest for "authenticity" has become counterfeit. There is a secret war happening all around which demands our genuine presence. In the midst of the unseen, there are battles being fought and tiny victories being won. These victories are contributing to a story - much bigger than us. 

Sharing is wonderful, and I will continue to do it, but what if we put as much emphasis on the secret things as we did the shared?  What if we lived for the unseen and let the quiet moments dictate our days? When we're pushed to be fully present, when God speaks through the unlikely, when He pulls us to connect personally with another human, let's pull up a chair, listen and engage. The gift of presence is what the world needs, now more than ever.

In the wise words of Bob Goff, 'Let's toss around love like confetti!'  We are constantly facing opportunities to love, and give - to make an eternal impact. So much of our efforts on this earth will fade. The secret things are shaping us and we’ll carry them with us, all the way home…let's guard them with our lives.  

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

The Dreams We Are Living Today

Leigh LiebmannComment

Dreams…those unique desires living deep down inside of our heart for what’s to come. The future, the next, that which we are preparing for, the goals we have set before us, those things we spend our days in hopeful anticipation of.  We all have dreams. They are one of life’s greatest gifts. Today more than ever our culture is saturated with dreamers, doers, world changers…people who have set their gaze ahead and are running full force into the beauty of their dreams.  Dreaming, though a great strength, at the very same time can also be the very thing that hinders us.  It’s that answer I can pull out of my back pocket when asked for a ‘weakness’ during an interview, a ‘strong weakness’ that is.  “I am a dreamer, I have ideas, I want to change the world…but then, I compare myself to people who have already arrived and immediately feel like I will simply never have what it takes to get there.”


Last week some friends of mine and I gathered together to cook dinner and share a meal.  10 intelligent, beautiful, witty, whimsical women sat around a perfectly set farmhouse table; which looked to be something  straight out of an Anthropologie catalog. Tiny gold-rimmed wildlife printed dessert plates and all. We shared our hopes for the year ahead and talked about the goals we had set before us. Since the New Year had just begun, it was an opportune time to get after it!  When I was asked about my goals for 2015, I shared that I had not set any yet, but my desire was to continue to pursue my dreams...  

This past year was full. It was a year filled with a great deal of disappointment met with the fruition of some things I had been dreaming of for quite some time. I honestly have been afraid to make resolutions for this coming year, because in my mind, 2014 will be hard to top.  It was a combination of being attentive to the tiny things…seeing the handiwork of God in the details which I so quickly ignored before. Then there were the bigger things that actually came together and I realized that I do in fact have what it takes.  Altogether, this past year was one of those milestone years, where I can look back and recognize that I was changed.  I went into the year as one person, was cracked open, experienced brokenness and came out put back together, molded into something completely new. I truly saw dreams come true, just not in the way I would have planned it. 


Back to the dinner conversation.  My fellow-dreamer friend sitting next to me responded to my statement about wanting to continue to pursue my dreams by saying, “think about the dream we are living today.”  This statement hit me…deep.  I looked around the table and thought to myself, wow, we truly are living out a dream.  To sit with friends, to share a meal, to laugh, to know one another, to experience vulnerability, to deeply care for people and for these people to deeply care for me…this was once a dream to me.  I realized that so often we are so consumed by the dreams ahead of us that we don’t take time to examine or enjoy the dreams we are living today. Where we are today was once a far-off thought.  Life moves so quickly…causing us to forget to practice gratitude for how far we’ve come or the gifts we have been given in this very moment, today.


What if we took inventory of the dreams we are actually living out today?  What is it that you might think of as a dream you are living today?  Is it your people? Friends who know you deeply? Maybe it’s your dream job.  Maybe you are a mother of two or you’ve found your soul-mate or purchased your first home.  You've started your own company or taken that trip you’ve always dreamt of taking. You’ve sold a piece of your art work or have experienced healing from something. 


There is something we are living in or have lived out that was once a dream.  May we not take these things for granted.  We are so quick to bypass the act of enjoying the dreams we have already seen fulfilled. Some of these things we worked hard to arrive at, others were simply a gift we have been given.  Whether worked hard for or grandfathered in, may we take a look around and evaluate these things…may we stay in the moment long enough to enjoy the present.


You are living out at least one dream, which was once far-off. Maybe you don’t view your life in this way because social media and the constant comparison game of our culture has you thinking that the dreams you are living simply aren’t ‘enough’.  You are looking at your life through the lens of comparison, which is leaving you feeling empty and in constant pursuit of that which you don’t possess.  This game will leave you feeling exhausted and in a never-ending cycle of discontentment.

Stop trying to arrive at someone else’s dream, you will never accomplish that which you didn’t set out on your own to do. Also remember that some things simply don’t happen overnight, people who accomplish their dreams didn’t wake up to them one day.  These things take hard work, persistence and usually a whole lot of rejection.  Along the way, may we not ignore the small successes.  Celebrate them, these are the necessary milestones contributing to the distant dream inside your heart...this is a huge part of the process. 


Never stop dreaming.  My hope is that our dreams will not be rooted in the rat-race of trying to measure up, be somewhere or someone we aren't or in comparison to someone else’s already accomplished dream. Remember - they worked hard to get there. There is something beautiful about taking a good long look at your life and enjoying that which you are living out today. Take time to look around your dinner table and acknowledge the gift of today. While we are living in hopeful anticipation for what is to come, may we not wish away today or move along too quickly…because in this very moment, the tiny things are working together, and there is always a dream we are living today.  Be thankful.

TABLE: A Heart Less Divided

Leigh LiebmannComment

It was this same time last year...just like every other year where I packed up my suitcase and hopped on a plane to South Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  Except this year things felt different.  It had been this way before, but never quite to this magnitude.  This particular year my heart was all over the map.  At the time, I was living in Dallas with my four roommates, working for a non-profit which required me to be extremely engaged with the people in this city.  At the same time I was consumed by a long-distance relationship with someone I was beginning to fall for hundreds of miles away in Atlanta, Georgia.  I had recently declared my decision to move to Los Angeles, a city where I had dreamt of moving to for years and where my best friend was living at the time. Right after coming to this decision and telling all of my family and friends about the move, I came to the realization that it was not the right time for me to move to LA and I decided to stay in Dallas.  My heart was literally in four places at once.  My day to day, my job, and my deepest friendships in Dallas.  My affections, well those were growing in the Southeast.  My comfort and support - my family, in Florida and my dreams at the time in California.  I was simply spread thin.   I was everywhere, but when it came down to it, really fully nowhere.  

I was living in one place, giving up on another, contemplating more and more the idea of moving someplace else.  Sometimes when you are single and in your 20's, your affections begin to take the lead and you feel led by the pull of your heart to be closer to whoever it is that is holding it at the time. Long distance relationships are tough for so many reasons, but mainly because I don't believe we were created to live in the pull of a divided heart. I thought it was perfect timing to begin to tell my family and friends that I would be heading back to the East coast, to pursue this relationship, new opportunities and not to mention be about 16 hours closer to home.  I knew my mom would be ELATED.  I was feeling a great amount of relief as I prepared my heart to leave Dallas and move along to a new city, pursue new opportunities and really be 'all in'.  I began to look for jobs in Atlanta, in hopes of this move becoming a reality and my heart becoming a little less-divided...all the while, never having had fully invested in Dallas.

I landed in Florida where I was greeted by the magnificence of the shoreline, followed by my family who as always, welcomed me home with open arms at the airport.  Shortly thereafter I received a phone call from that special someone in Atlanta.  This call was one of those phone calls you remember as clear as day.  It was the call which ended with 'I have to let you go'.  Not in a 'I have to let you get off the phone' sort of way, but a, 'I have to let you go...forever' way.  My heart, though divided, was now shattered...into a million pieces.  My tears flowed into what could have formed a river, I was brought to my knees and my new reality was that of a crushed heart, not so much of a less-divided heart.  I spent Thanksgiving with my family and shortly thereafter hopped back on a plane to return to Dallas, to face my new reality which consisted of a broken heart, thwarted plans and extreme disappointment in a circumstance which was out of my control.

Dallas...the city in which I had been living for over two years, where I had met so many wonderful people, launched my non-profit career and experienced things which had truly changed the way I see the world.  All great things, but at the same time, it was still the place I had always referred to as 'not forever'.  I coined the phrase 'Texas for now' in response to those who used the phrase 'Texas forever' as some sort of Texas term of endearment.  It was my way of keeping this place at an arms length for no apparent reason other than my own lack of intention.  I was attending a great church with a ton of young, single, incredible people, but it seemed like everyone I met felt the same way about this place...it's great for now, but not forever.  We were all living here, working different jobs, going to the same church service week in and week out, having lots of lobby chats, but still finding ourselves with this hesitance to plant, to invest, to go deeper.  I found every excuse in the book to move along, to bypass the process of the uncomfortable, to take the easy way out.  The distance I had allotted was contrary to the way I lived the rest of my life, I cared for people, my hearts desire was to know and be known. Something in my spirit felt discontent with the way things were.  It was time for a change.

Coming out of relationships on the other side, can bring us to a place of feeling more vulnerable than we ever thought possible.  I was brought to a place of feeling like I had just gone through open heart surgery, feeling more exposed than ever before. Like I had been cracked open, feeling a bit paralyzed but not wanting to waste this season of being put back together and ultimately 're-molded' into something completely new, different and beautiful.

I suddenly had this desire to start something, to create space, a space which might cultivate vulnerability, a place where women who rubbed shoulders in the crowded church lobby week in and week out might have an opportunity to just sit and 'be' together.  My roommates and I had tossed around the idea of doing a monthly brunch for quite some time, so upon my return to Dallas I nailed down a date, threw together a paperless post and sent an invite to a group of women.  It was something I simply called 'TABLE', and everyone was welcome.  The purpose? To carve out time, to sit and engage with one another.  About 20 women were invited into our backyard to sit together while enjoying a meal and a mimosa and intentionally, yet organically pursue after each others hearts.  

There is great potential for something beautiful to be birthed when we create space to sit in that which is uncomfortable.

We are coming up on a year now, and this Table thing is still happening!  We are still gathering, people are still showing up and contributing and hearts are being exposed. We just had our first Friendsgiving Table last night, where we gathered around a table which took up my entire living room and ate some of the most delicious Thanksgiving food I have ever tasted. We have gathered in various homes around Dallas and gracious women have offered up their time and talent to host and create space for us to intentionally 'Table' together.  We have skipped a few months, but the beautiful thing is, it hasn't gone unnoticed.  I have been kept in check by people asking the question of 'when is the next Table?'.  

My insecurity told me lies, it told me to just keep living in this 'not forever' state, to keep living for the next, until the next came to fruition.  It told me to just give up when things didn't go according to my plan.  The Lord simply told me to 'stay'.  To press in, to be patient, to pursue, to actively wait. Something I began to realize was that if we were to go around the table and ask each other if Dallas was our 'forever' home, most would say no.  At the very same time, those same women would express a deep desire to know and be known in this city.  The women who come together every month, well they have encouraged me in more ways than they may ever know. They have shown me that it is possible, we can live in the 'in between' and still pursue authentic, lasting relationships along the way.  

TABLE, certainly not an original idea, but the way we were intended to live. People all over the place are gathering, realizing the importance of inviting others in, not only to come inside our homes, but to enter in to each others lives.  I love the conversations that take place when we gather at Table, not to mention the unique echoes of laughter that erupt when we take time to lean in and listen.  Laughter, the universal language which brings healing and communicates joy. We all come to the table with our own story of brokenness, struggle and baggage, but we also all carry with us our own individual stories of redemption, our own unique gifts, abilities and value to add.  

This Thanksgiving I am reminded that it is in the places of brokenness where we look back and notice that we have been put back together and transformed in ways we never could have imagined.  We have been called to give thanks in 'all circumstances'.  When our perspective is shaken, we begin to see things through a new lens, that of a thankful heart.  I've heard it said that 'Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.' I believe this with all of my heart. When hope is deferred, we must believe that beauty will rise from the ashes and there is no earthly circumstance that will be experienced for nothing. When our plans are thwarted, we must lean in, listen and obey...because it is in this new reality where we were meant to land.  

A year has passed and I haven't move to Atlanta or LA, I stayed right here in this place, and began to pursue different passions inside of my heart. I have become more and more content with the answer 'not yet'.  I have given thanks through hardships and in return, He has given me joy.  This past year I have felt more present than ever before, and brokenness has given opened my eyes to greater things.

Just because somewhere may not be forever, it is absolutely vital to fully engage in that which is today.

Are you living in the tension of a divided heart?  Maybe you are living somewhere just for a year, or two or three.  In spite of this ticking clock, how can you be intentional where you are today with the time you have been given?  Go and do whatever it is.  Don't let your fear or a time frame stop you from doing that which you have been called to today. When we stop striving to arrive and start creating space to sit, to listen, to laugh and to engage with those who have been set before us, we will start to experience joy and contentment in a whole new way. Allow your heart to be undivided and give yourself permission to fully 'be' where you have been planted before asking God to move you along to the next.  I promise it will be worth it and it is in the planting where your heart will surely start to flourish

What Do You Have in Your Hands?

Leigh LiebmannComment

What if we sat and thought long and hard about the answer to this question? What if we took a good, long, hard look internally to recognize all that we actually held in our possession? What if we sat and made a list of every gift and talent and unique ability we have been given?

This is the question Hope International is asking their clients.  I have loved this organization since the moment I first encountered them years ago. This past week I sat at their annual breakfast and learned more about the work they are doing around the world and watched the incredible video below. I look forward to this breakfast every year, because my heart is truly ignited when I hear about the dreams of this organization and the work they are accomplishing. The 'Investing in Dreams Breakfast' - the name alone is encompassing of the things that make my heart beat a little faster.  I so believe in the dreams of the poor, I believe that hope and dreams go hand in hand. You see,  dreams stem from talents and abilities and when talents are valued and individuals are invested in, their dreams are given wings. They are given the ability to take off and eventually soar. These dreams can take them to places they never imagined possible.  When people are empowered, equipped and believed in, their capability is unstoppable. 

Unemployment robs individuals of the opportunity to soar, to provide for their families, to accomplish their dreams, but Christ-centered micro-enterprise development is restoring it by helping men and women create jobs for themselves and others in their community. 

This is the model of Hope, they are serving the poor, investing in the lives of over 750,000 families in 17 countries worldwide, asking men and women the simple question of 'what do you have in your hands?' Allowing them the ability to purchase that sewing machine, to start that small business, to utilize their talents...to soar.  

This question applies to all of us, it takes a blend of humility and confidence to see the potential in all people. It requires that we stop trying to give those in need everything, that we let go of the drive to fix people and their circumstances and start to empower others by challenging people to see all that they actually possess.  Those in need often don't need a hand out - these individuals are just waiting for someone to care enough to take a good look into their eyes, listen to their dreams and ask them what they possess rather than focusing on what they lack. 

Every human on this earth has been instilled with creativity - and it must be expressed. We were made in the image of a creative God - the creator of all things, therefore even if we don't see it in ourselves, or express it very often, we are all called to creative expression.

What gifts have you been given that you have stored away? What do you have that you haven't thought enough of to actually build upon or practice?  Those gifts you have, they aren't as common as you may think. Is it the gift of encouragement or maybe the gift to create something beautiful? Whether it's the tangible or intangible, these things are valuable and worthy of being shared.  

Stop comparing your gifts to everyone else's, stop thinking about all that you lack. What you have been given is enough, you may not be as far along as you would like, but remember, no one wakes up at the pinnacle of their dreams.  These things take hard work, time, commitment and most of all, continual belief.  

If we will stop spending our days focusing on all that we are lacking and start to realize just how much we have been given, if we will value our gifts as well as other's enough to call them out in each other, we will start to see people come to life!  If we want to see people fully alive, we have to help them believe in their ability to...do anything!  It is in this place where we are able to see past the fog of inability and start to see hope again.  If we could all just take time to ask each other the question - 'What is it that you have in your hands?', those things we lack just may fade away and we may realize that the staff we are holding is more than enough...

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.”
— Exodus 4:1-2

Watch this video and consider giving to Hope International to be a part of the work they are doing to empower the poor to carry out their dreams.  I hope you will utilize what you have been given today! 

Wonder Revealed; Big Sur & The Journey to Right Here.

Leigh Liebmann1 Comment

This past year for my birthday I took a trip with dear friends to Big Sur, located off the Central Coast of Southern California. One of my very best friends (and trip planner extraordinaire) planned the most incredible birthday get-away I could have ever dreamed. Camping amongst the redwoods, exploring desolate trails leading to peaceful beaches filled with canyons, sunset picnics overlooking the Santa Lucia Mountains sprawling throughout the Pacific Ocean...just a snapshot of some of the single most awe-inspiring sights I have ever seen.  There are no words to describe it, the most prominent feeling I can remember while looking around at these beautiful sights is that of an overwhelming sense of wonder. One of those experiences where you cannot deny the existence of He who created it all. Where you see the intricacies of creation in a way which allows you to pause, look around, and think, 'I am not the point.'  Where you are led to a place of genuine gratitude to be right there, in that very moment, with those dear friends, surrounded by the beauty of creation.

{Wonder: Feel admiration and amazement, marvel}

Understanding.  It’s not always something we are granted in the end. There are those open-ended situations, where it feels like that which was 'undone' has forever left a hole inside of us, or the potential of what 'could be' seems to consume our every thought. Our minds can’t comprehend the answers to the why’s of these things, and when memories begin to flood our minds, we will continue to find ourselves in a state of actively wondering

Wonder...but why?  The wondering of every case scenario, the constant questions we find ourselves continually asking.  The ‘what-if’ and the ‘if-only’ statements seem to play on constant repeat running rampant throughout our minds.  We often want to be anywhere but where we are in this very moment.

Wonder can take over our thoughts and lead us to an overwhelming unsettlement, because our mere wondering will never lead us to any kind of certainty. 

This kind of wondering is exhausting, it is the true mark of an over-thinker. To sit and wonder about the outcome of those things we simply can't control can be a true waste of our thought-life, leading us down a path which will ultimately not help us move forward or rest.

{Wonder/verb: desire or be curious to know something}

Our wonder, when rooted in an attempt to solve the unsolvable or understand that which we have not yet been entrusted to understand, is doubt…disguised.  This wonder, is wonder as a verb or an action. Think about all the time you spend wondering. Think about where this action of wondering has taken you. What starts as a mere thought or daydream, quickly takes on its very own journey inside of your mind, before you know it that wondering has taken on a life of it's own, leading your thoughts into a downward spiral which leaves you having to force yourself back to reality, right where you started.  I don't know about you, but this wonder always seems to take me down a path of deep hurt, regret, comparison, insecurity, doubt, shame, guilt…the list goes on.  'I should have done this differently.'  'Maybe things would have been different if.' 'I said too much.' 'I said to little.'  Sound familiar? 

Wonder, in the same sense is one of the characteristics of our creator I love most.  His wonder is so grand, because it is beyond our comprehension.  His works are wondrous, but why?  They are wondrous because His actions have our best interest in mind.  He is for us, and our good is constantly on His radar.  We doubt God’s sovereign plan every time we waste our precious moments wondering how things might have been or what things might be today, 'if-only'.  His wonder is not an action, it is who He is, His character is Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God.  

We continue to re-visit that which we have been freed from when we sit and participate in the active thought-life of wonder.   When we dwell on those things we haven't been granted the understanding of, we welcome that doubt, which can easily start to control our actions.  We are without rest when we sit in the spin of suspicion of the ‘if only’.  Our wonder can be detrimental and it is ultimately a lack of trust. His wonder is rooted in love, our good and His glory.  His works are wondrous, His ways are perfect, they can be trusted.  

Science, theology, creation, humanity, His power, all these things encompass the wonder of God...

He is wonderful, because He created it all.  Our ability to understand the circumstance doesn't even touch His ability to carry out His ultimate plan. Wonder has a name, and it is Jesus.  

{Wonder/noun: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable.}

There are those things we were never meant to understand, but that's where trust comes in.  We have certainly been promised the ability to trust in the wonder of our creator.  He made the sprawling seas, yet tells them when to stop at the shore...why is it so hard for us to believe that He has control over our situation?  

For me, it's in nature where I see the wonder of God.  It's in the sprawling of the ocean or the creeping of the sun rising to light up the world where I am overwhelmed by wonder.  It is in a trip to Big Sur, or Portland, down the street at the park, over a cup of coffee with a friend who knows you better than anyone...or you fill in the blank.  Sometimes we go too long without taking a break from our self centered wondering thoughts to sit in the midst of the wonder of our creator.

His wonder reflects His glory, our wonder can often doubt His good.  Do you see the difference?  

Wonder...why? Wonder because it keeps us on our knees, because it keeps our gaze upward and our eyes fixed on that which is greater than our own story.  Don't wonder to try to arrive at a solution, or reconcile, or justify...but see wonder, because it is in the midst of this wonderment that we are brought back to a place of inexplicable peace.  

Where is your place to see wonder?  Where is it that your heart is ignited and your gaze turned upward?  Go.  Find that place.  Be consumed by the kind of wonder which will ignite a passion inside of you to run from the bondage of your self centered thoughts.  Meditate on the one who created it all, He who is wonder.  He is before all, in all, through all and above it all and His ways can be trusted.  

It is when we sit and see His power through that which we cannot comprehend that we are brought to a place of gratitude to be right here in this very moment, and we begin to see a little more clearly that not only are we not the point, but this moment is right where we are meant to be...

 

 

A Break From the Display...

Beauty BeneathLeigh LiebmannComment
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Disclaimer: It's not what you think, I'm not about to make you feel awful for using social media, or challenge you to take this long dramatic break.  Do that on your own terms, I'll let you make your own decisions in that department.  It's safe to keep reading. 

We are more visual than ever before.  I believe it, I don't hate it, but it's the reality we live in, and it can be a struggle.  There are those things which captivate us, those things which win us over, gaining our attention and in turn taking up space in our minds, occupying our moments, days and even weeks.  The shine, the glitz, the glam, the perfectly placed, the photograph worthy...we are enamored by the way things appear. Especially as women, pretty things just captivate us.  

As for me...I am describing myself.  I love the art of detail and beauty, the combination of different elements coming together to create something appealing to the eye. I love to style things, create and host.  I believe these things are often an extension of who you are.  I recently took on a second job as a 'stylist' at an amazing home-design store here in Dallas.  I think the term 'stylist' is pretty new as of the past 5 years....but whatever works.  As a 'stylist' I am given projects to complete that display products throughout the store in a way which will appeal most to a customers eye.  Basically it's my job to make things look 'pretty', because this is how the process goes...customer walks into store, customer sees pretty things, customer chooses their favorite of these pretty things, customer spends lots of money, store makes money, everybody wins.   There is a very involved process behind the placement of products and displays, let me just tell you, those things don't just come off the truck looking that way.  

The other night I was tasked with making the 'luxe' room in the store look pretty.  The luxe room is an array of extremely shiny pieces, lot's of gold and silver going on in this collection.  I spent hours arranging a giant table full of everything from shiny silver votives to gold vases to silver wolf statues...yes, those are a thing.  This table had hundreds of pieces on it and my entire shift was spent re-arranging all of these tiny, shiny objects in an effort to give them some sort of orderly appearance.  This is fun for me, I love to think of all the possibilities, choose one, and go for it.  To work with the varying color, texture, size and concepts...to make sense of the chaos.  I love taking what is, and re-working it to become something completely different!  I guess that is the art of design after all.

After hours of re-working the shiny items on this table, I went to go grab some dinner because I was working the late-night shift and would be there until at least midnight.  I ran over to the cafe on the corner, ordered my soup and salad combo, got some tea and sat down.  There weren't many people in the restaurant, after all it was almost 10pm.  I sat in a booth which was connected to another, and there was a man sitting rather close.  Some days I would choose the table furthest from another person, but this night I thought, 'why not sit near someone if you are going to eat alone right?'  I noticed the man, he was working on his laptop, but I didn't really examine his face, I just sat down and began eating my meal.  

After several minutes, I looked over at the man again.  He looked like he just came from work, paint splattered on his arms and his clothes a bit dirty.  I looked at his face, it looked worn, but he was intently focused on his computer screen.  After a few seconds of looking at his face, I realized...I knew this man.  'Colby, is that you?' He looked up at me, 'Whoa, fancy seeing you here' he said. He stared at me rather blankly, and I couldn't tell if he remembered how he knew me or if I was just a familiar face to him. I said,  'Last I heard you moved yourself to California, I can't believe I'm sitting next to you having dinner, how are you?'  He proceeded to tell me he was back in the area and life was still 'awful'.  I told him not much seemed to be new with him then. He laughed. Colby was always known to be a bit pessimistic, well more than a bit.  He was the type to always answer the question of 'how are you?' with the same 'I'm horrible' answer.  I always knew that it wasn't fully true, but he had just been saying that for so long that somewhere along the line, this response became his go-to.  

I asked him if he remembered me, He said, 'of course'. 'I remember you, but I really remember that one conversation we had where you asked me if I believed in God.'  I laughed and said, 'I remember that conversation too.'  'I remember it was like pulling teeth but you did tell me you grew up in a very strict religious home which caused you to run away.' Sad, but unfortunately a likely story.  He just stared back at me, as if it had been a while since someone knew his story.  We then proceeded to talk for a few minutes, but my dinner break was coming to a close and I had to get back to work.  I told him how great it was to see him, and that I hoped to see him again.  He said that he would be at that cafe every Wednesday night.  I asked him why? He told me he had bible study there every Wednesday with people.  I smiled and asked him 'what people?'. 'Just people.' he said.  He always was a bit ambiguous, I think he liked it better that way.  I was ok with it.  'See you aren't doing so horrible after all.' I said.  He smiled and I told him I hoped to see him next week.

Colby was one of the homeless men I used to know over at the Salvation Army from when I worked with Back on My Feet, an organization which runs with individuals experiencing homelessness.  That guy could run, he ran for miles and miles.  We had several other conversations throughout my time knowing him, but the one he remembered struck me.  I left that cafe with tears in my eyes and a greater understanding of God's divine plan for us.  It's like He was nudging me, telling me to not get so caught up in the display of things.  He was telling me to take a break, to never forget to see people, even those who aren't shiny or on display.  See the people who aren't so put together and perfectly presented...to have more conversations about things of value, even though they don't always come natural, in the end they are always worth it.  

People may never remember anything else, but a single conversation of meaning.

I went on my way, back into the store to complete my project.  I finished and by the end everything had a place and the products on the table looked a bit more appealing than when I started.  Mission accomplished, at least for the night.  I left work that night with a deeper perspective.  I was reminded that there is nothing wrong with enjoying pretty things, it is ok to love styling, or photography, or design.  We have all been given unique gifts and the display of those gifts are absolutely to be valued.  Though, all of that stuff means nothing if we don't continue to challenge ourselves to see the people surrounding us in each moment.  If we allow the art of beauty and display to steal all of our moments and occupy all of our thought process, then we leave no room for the supernatural to occur, because this requires us to simply be present.  To engage, to be in tune with our surroundings...to look up. 

I have been distracted by the display rather than fully engaged with God’s very own displayed handiwork...His people.

This is something I have failed at far too many times.  Let's strive to find the balance.  Often life is about this balancing act...of good things and our view of greater things.  I'm not saying that we all need to get 'off-insta' or stop doing things which bring us to life, I just believe that if we aren't careful, we will keep missing it.  I have missed it, time and time again and each day I hope to come a little closer to the mark.  

Marks of the True Christian

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality....

May our talents always intersect with our passion and may we always be passionate about loving people well.  I hope you'll recognize your gifts and run with them.  Run with them in a way which allows you to continue to live each day in the moment, engaged with others.  I hope you'll continue to love pretty things, but not let the things which are visual take over all of your thought life.  We can find the balance, sometimes all we need is a little break...time away from the glitz, to gain perspective.   Maybe it's in a booth alone, or maybe it's in a booth next to someone else.  Wherever it is, I hope you'll find the time to sneak away from that which is on display today. 

 

*Photo credit- Sam Melton the incredible. 

Permission to Experience Joy...

Leigh LiebmannComment
Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty Thy glory in my valley.
— The Valley of Vision

In a perfect world…

Do these words even belong in the same line on a page?  The reality is, we fell from perfection long ago, before we ever made our tiny, little, grand entrance into existence.  We fell…hard.  As a result of that fall, we will experience pits, valleys, and hardships, which often feel like the sinking ships of this life.  Can someone throw me a lifesaver…please?  Is anybody tracking with me?  Does anyone even see me?  Is this really what I signed up for?

The more days I live out to completion, the more I realize that one of the few things we can continually count on in this great journey of life is a good trial.  I have come to an understanding, because it has been proven time and time again - great trials precede great things.  It’s as if our Father is looking down, telling us, “Now this is going to hurt, and you might wish you could skip over this part of your story, but in the end, it is for your good…trust me.” All the while assuring us that He will carry our burdens, He will walk by our side the entire time, stay close, and never let go of our hand.  He will not only utilize our circumstances to make His glory known to others, He will use them to transform our hearts to reflect more of Him.  

We are told to ‘count it all as joy’ when we experience ‘trials of various kinds’. (James 1:2)  Notice the ‘when’, meaning we will experience trials if we are following Jesus.  The promise of trials…one of those promises we don't typically repeat to ourselves over and over, or stick up on our mirror for when we need a reminder of those things promised to us.  This promise is not typically the hook drawing the masses down the aisles on Sunday mornings.  When faced with death, job loss, heart-sickness, loneliness, grief, pain, hurt, betrayal, we are to find…joy?  Really?  This seems a little counter-intuitive.  When experiencing hard times, our natural inclination is to respond with anger, question God, run to the quick-fix, or just throw down a giant pity-party.  

One's response to the trial is what marks the difference between a human soul which is fettered to the anchor of their creator.

We were never called to cruise through life, hair blowing in the wind, hands gripped to the steering wheel,  jamming to the latest new worship tunes.  Should our approach not look much different?   We are daily marching into battle, fully dependent on our Saviors leading in the midst of experiencing trials of various kinds.  Trials we can count on, in the very same way we count on the suns rising every single morning.  It is in the trial that the great purpose of God is being accomplished in and through us.  Our circumstance doesn’t inhibit His purpose.  The Lord can use the most horrific of circumstances to refine our souls to reveal His character in our lives in a way we never could have imagined.

It is one thing to expect the coming of trials, another to accept them when they arise, but to give ourselves the permission to experience joy in the midst of them, to me, is the greatest challenge.  In tough circumstances we have a choice…to sit in defeat and wallow in our self-pity while asking the question “why me?” over and over.  Or, we can choose to stand up, face the challenge with full confidence that there is light in the darkness, life in the death, joy in the sorrow, grace in the sin, riches in the poverty and will ultimately be glory in every single valley!  Self-pity is undoubtedly the easy choice.  I once heard it said, “We belittle the life, death and resurrection of Jesus when we sit in our pity party.”  The truth in this statement has changed my world.  Challenging times should cause us to confidently run to Jesus when we are tempted to revert to self-pity.  It has already been finished, the battle is won, the victory is ours...and in this is where we find the anchor for our soul, and our greatest joy.

Time and time again, we will go through the valley kicking and screaming before making our way up the mountain.  We are so inclined to want to bypass the process by which we are most transformed.   The only way out is through, and it is through the trials that we are being refined, sharpened, and in the end brought into a deeper relationship with our creator.  The one who is before all, in all, through all and over all.  He sees you, He does.  He knew about this trial, before it ever came about, and you know what?  He still has your best interest at heart.  

We must see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances.
— Trusting God, Gary Bridges

We must allow ourselves to experience fullness of joy in all circumstances.  May we, like Paul…”Count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:8)

I wish you joy!  Whether today you are on the mountain or in the valley, I wish you joy in the moment and the strength to endure!  Fight for joy, give yourself permission to lead a joy-filled life in the ups and in the downs.  When you are in the fire, let faith assure you of the things hoped for and convict your heart of the things unseen.  In the overall picture, these troubles are only for a moment. 

I once heard Beth Moore say, 'Jesus knew He had to die and yet didn’t bypass the trial'.  He knew it was only through death that we could be made alive…the greatest trial anyone could ever endure was that which has brought us eternal life. The perfect world is already, but not yet.  When we move on from this life to the next, may we be shining brighter because our joy has increased with every single step knowing He has never left our side. 

Belief Through the Cracks

Beauty Beneath, Reclaim hopeLeigh LiebmannComment
Gardenofbeauty

A water-bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect.  The perfect pot always delivered a full portion of water at the end of a long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water.  The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.  

After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream.  “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said. “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.” 

The story of the cracked pot is one of my favorites.  One which deeply resonates. The truth beneath this story is full of wisdom, redemption, humility and beauty...from literal brokenness. It's about finding strength in our weakness, living in the midst of our brokenness, rising above the thorn in our side, embracing our unique story and belief that our imperfections are contributing to something greater.

It seems as though so many of my dear friends are experiencing a season of shattering. They have been faced with the unexpected, they have lost something or someone they love a whole lot.  Plans have taken an extreme turn in a direction that ultimately is not for the worst, but sure seems like it right now.  Those things, which were seemingly certain, have now been thrust completely out of their hands leaving them feeling completely paralyzed. They have fallen to their knees, been cracked open, left feeling exposed and brought to a place of deep pain, brokenness and wonder. 

You see, when we hit the bottom, when we are broken, cracked, discouraged and just trying our best to experience joy through the trials of this life, there is hope.  We must see past the now, which appears to be the end and recognize that it is only the beginning.  I assure you, there is beauty waiting to be revealed on the other side of this brokenness, both for you and for others.

I say this out of a place of belief; yet this still tastes bitter coming out because as much as I believe this truth, I know it doesn’t take the pain away, it doesn't make the struggle any less tangible. Pain is intense, necessary, real and must be felt.  It is one of the few guarantees we will experience as living, breathing humans on this earth.  Like laughter and happiness, pain is universal. No matter what language we speak or what nationality we are, pain, once felt in its truest sense, transcends to the core of who we are and gives us the ability to truly understand and empathize with others.  

As we navigate life through these seasons of pain, let us trust. Maybe it's not a current season, but you still carry the weight of your past, these cracks have left you feeling 'less than' enough. Rest assured that your past has molded who you have become today. Trust that ultimately the cracks in our lives are shaping who we were meant to become all along.  We can never become fully whole until we have been broken.

God often uses those who have major flaws or who have been through a great deal of pain to accomplish many vital tasks for His kingdom. No one is too messed up for God to use.
— Brennan Manning

Our pain gives a greater luster to our lives because light shines brightest through the cracks.  May we not be ashamed of these cracks and allow ourselves to continually let vulnerability ‘leak’ the truth of our hearts on to others.  Allow others to benefit from the pruning of your heart. 

At the end of your pain, there is a garden of beauty
waiting to be exposed.

Don’t miss it.  There is purpose in your pain, in your loss, in your disappointment, in your feeling of hopelessness.   Allow hope to carry you through to the other side, and believe that through this there will be good.  All things are working together for your good, but our view of good isn’t always the full picture.  Sometimes the best comes from our plans simply falling through.  

When you have hit the bottom and feel like these broken, shattered pieces can never be put back together, the creator of the universe sees you.  He not only sees your pain but He is with you and for you...until the end.  Though you may never be 100% put back together the way you were before, that’s ok, the old is gone and you are now more radiant than you ever could have imagined.  

For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.” 

To embrace the here, the now, the highs, the lows, the pain, the struggle and to believe that we may not know or be able to see the good today, but we can be sure of its presence. Years may pass, and you may be convinced that there is nothing good coming from your circumstance, but hold on, trust the process.  Embrace the cracks, hold on to Jesus and have faith to believe that the creator of all things has destined your unique journey to be a part of His ultimate good.  May we let go of trying to live in perfection, embrace the cracks and believe that our little lives are contributing to something greater.  You'll see the garden, just wait. 

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”

- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Stop All Your Striving; Beauty Reclaimed

Beauty BeneathLeigh LiebmannComment
Put your make-up on, get your nails done, curl your hair, run the extra mile, keep it slim, so they like you...

You don't have to try.  These five words, if only believed, could be the simple solution to all of our striving.  Yet, we will never stop trying, because the way beauty has been defined is, quite frankly, unattainable. We have been fed lies since we were old enough to talk.  We have been groomed to believe that beauty looks a certain way and that our worth is measured by this outer shell.  We try and try, over and over again, in an effort to reach a 'higher level of beautiful', a beauty which is limitless, because there will always be more to attain.  As my mom always told me growing up, 'for every pretty girl, there is another ten times prettier'. We spend hours of our day comparing, striving, trying to be more of something.  If we could only be more...well, you fill in the blank here.  We are striving to reach something that isn't reality.  Beauty has been mis-defined.  Beauty, in our society looks like a 90 pound, flawless, plumped, airbrushed, suctioned, enhanced digital illusion.  This is what women are up against and the deception men are constantly falling into believing.

This is not reality...

I live in Dallas, Texas and like any city, it has it's stigmas.  While some might not be true, like the assumption that everyone has hair teased through the roof and trots around town in cowboy boots, others most certainly are.  Now, I will go to bat for Dallas because it is a great city with lots of hidden gems, but there are often those moments when I just have to shake my head and say 'Oh Dallas'.  In the middle of writing this very article I set down my computer and went to a yoga class at my favorite rooftop restaurant down the street.  This yoga class is unbelievable.  Not only because of its prime location on a rooftop overlooking the city, but because Kurt the instructor is literally the yoga master.  He is the inspiring hippie type who just by the sound of his voice seems to make you feel a little lighter, challenging you to not major on the minors and sometimes just let go and enjoy the moment for what it is.  He talks about things like kindness and 'letting go' of that which is holding us back.  He is constantly encouraging us to smile throughout the class, because our minds react to feelings and a smile tells our brain that we are feeling happiness.  You have accomplished something as an instructor when you can get your students to smile for an entire hour, despite the extreme burning sensation they are having to endure as a result of holding these acrobatic poses.  People flood to Kurt's class, he wins. No pain, no gain. Right?  

Before entering into this peaceful state of enduring extreme pain for the next 60 minutes, I sit down on my mat in anticipation, legs crossed like any good yogi.  I begin to listen to the group of women chatting in front of me.  They start talking about all the 'work' they have had done.  One woman starts talking about her recent purchase of matching accessories which happen to fall (but most certainly not sag) on top of her chest.  "This is the best thing that I have ever done' she says.  Now, I realize that might have been a flippant remark and obviously she didn't really mean that this 'work' was the best thing she had ever done.  I mean, that is what I will choose to believe anyway.  The other woman starts sharing about her nose job and how it was one of the best decisions she had ever made because now she 'actually feels pretty'. They then start talking about things like gel nails and how great they are and so on and so forth.  No judgement here, I love me some gel nails, those things are genius and totally worth it, but that's besides the point!  As I listened to this conversation my mind was brought back to the things I had just started writing about.  I thought to myself, man do we have it all wrong.  All this time, energy, money and value we are placing on these things, these empty things.  All of which send us spinning around in never-ending circles, getting us absolutely nowhere.  We are being drawn by the empty pull of the 'if only I had' which can never ultimately fulfill what we are looking for.  

We have got to start reclaiming beauty and start believing that we are enough, just the way we are.  I believe that the way we see beauty changes the way we see the world.  What if we lived in such a way which placed the same value on the beauty beneath as the beauty we saw on the surface?  What if we stripped ourselves of all the make-up, hair and accessories and offered to the world our bare beauty once in a while?  A beauty with no sugar added, beauty which in it's rawest form is ultimately the sweetest.  Where we stop trying so hard, and start being who we were created to be!  It is here where we will find true freedom and greater confidence.  Freedom from all of our striving to be more of something and greater confidence to embrace our flaws and imperfections.  These are the very things that make us who we are.

I stumbled upon this video of Colbie Caillat's new song entitled 'Try' and well, I love it and want you to watch it.  Keep your judgements in check, at least until after you watch the video.  The last line of the song says...

Take your make-up off, let your hair down, take a breath, look into the mirror at yourself, don’t you like you?

Well, do you?  You are beautiful, just the way you are.  Stop all your striving, comparing and 'if only' statements.  Start realizing that you are enough, and you are beautiful because of so much more than the layers you are constantly adding to your appearance.  Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, let's hold beauty to a higher standard.  One which values character, embraces imperfections and adds value to the world.  If we choose to measure beauty by the aroma of the internal lasting qualities of others, we may just end up seeing the world a little differently.  Not to mention, we will have a whole lot more time on our hands without all the trying.  

Now go, embrace your own kind of beautiful, without trying so hard.  Stop aiming to embody what you think you 'should be' and start embodying who you truly were created to be.  Own it, love it and see the value you have to add to the world through your own kind of beautiful!  Let others see beneath your beauty...cracks, imperfections, flaws and all.  

You don’t have to try so hard, you don’t have to bend until you break, you just have to get up, you don’t have to change a single thing...


The Volume of our Value; A Journey to Dinner and Pursuing Passions

Reclaim Living, Beauty BeneathLeigh Liebmann4 Comments

I used to wish I could fit myself more into a ‘box’, but over time, I have come to realize that I could never function in a box.  I’m the borderline ENFP.  As taken straight from my personality type analysis…”They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things”…I come by it honestly. These passions along with the joy in learning something new keep me trying, time and time again. I’m a dreamer, a doer, a thinker and a flawed human who wants to do it all! I dream about all of these things eventually intersecting to be used for one common good.  

As most, I have great hopes and dreams for the future and pursuing these things can be risky, vulnerable and altogether terrifying.  As I think through some of these dreams, I can get easily overwhelmed, but I continue to go back to one common thread, I want to challenge myself and others to see people, to see the good in them, to bring value, to listen, to engage to care for...and about them.  I have allowed myself to begin to dream, all the while challenging myself to be fully present in the now.  It’s a hard balance, to dream while being present…but so very important, or else we risk missing what is in front of us each and every day.  

I'm not one to need a label for everything, but it was a Sunday afternoon a few months ago when I was told to create this website and call it 'Reclaim'.  It was a few nights prior, I was sitting in my room thinking through some of these ‘Reclaim’ dreams and putting more of my thoughts to paper, when, per usual, I began to hear the roar of my insecurities.  Publicly sharing this is terrifying to me because, like most, I have a fear of failure…'What if no one ever reads this very sentence? What if my dreams don't come to fruition?  What if people think the things I say are ridiculous? This is a waste of time.' Lies. As I finished writing, I went out to my living room to find my roommates face-timing with their endearing mom, Yvonne.  I chimed in to say hi and Yvonne proceeded to say hello, ask how I was doing and profusely compliment the piece of furniture I had re-done which she noticed in the background.  She kept saying over and over again that I had a gift, and should create more.  God was saying, ‘see, people like what you do, have confidence, keep going.’  I am an awful compliment-acceptor.  My knee jerk reaction is to say, 'thanks, but you don't have to say that, I actually think that piece is awful.'  Isn't it funny how we have such a hard time accepting flattery about something that isn't ours to possess in the first place?  Gifts are for giving, when we give of our gifts and constantly reject any form of flattery, we just might be holding on to our gifts a little bit too tightly.  

Back to the story.  I was on my way out the door to meet some friends for dinner, I said bye to my roommates and their mom via the computer screen!  I had a few minutes to spare before dinner and I was out of almond butter, so I decided to stop by the Sprouts grocery store on my way.  Besides, Whole30 without almond butter is something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy…this was an emergency.  I went in, got what I needed and was on my way.  As I approached my car, I noticed a homeless man standing next to it.  He seemed to be in his late 50’s or early 60’s, tattered clothes, dirt covering his face along with a straggly gray beard…he asked me if I had some money for a bus pass.  Before giving anything to anyone, I always ask them more about who they are and their current situation.  I asked him his name and where he was from, he said, his name was John and he was from Arkansas.  He told me that he was a veteran, a navy seal.  He was trying to get to the Austin Street Shelter and just needed a bus pass.  Usually I have bus passes in my wallet, but tonight I was fresh out.  I told the man that I didn’t have a pass, but was able to talk with him about some other shelters he could go to right up the street.  I gave him my card and told him to call me if/when he ever did make it to one of these facilities.  I told him a little bit about the organization I was working with at the time, which was a program to help individuals experiencing homeless get back on their feet, and that I would love to get him into the program.  Tonight, my offer to him was $5 and just a few minutes of my time.  As I looked deep into his eyes, I asked him if he had an addiction problem…he told me yes, alcohol.  He was honest, I told him that I really hoped he’d stay away from that stuff, at least for tonight, because God had a plan for him.  I asked him if he worked, he told me he did odd jobs here and there.  He dropped my card, and as he bent down to pick it up, I could tell he was in pain.  I asked him if he was injured, he said he had spinal stenosis in his back, I shared with him that my dad suffered from the same problem.  I asked him if he was looking for work and he said that he was learning that life was more about the people we meet along the way rather than the destination.  I had just written that almost exact line in the ‘about’ section of 'Reclaim' a few days before.

 “I see life as an adventure and realize it is not so much about the destination as it is the incredible journey…oh and the souls you encounter along the way.”

I told him I believed that same thing…life is about the people we meet.  Being a person of strong faith, I asked him if I could pray with him, because I believe there is power in prayer and God is a God who moves mountains and sees our need, in our darkest hour.  He excitedly said, ‘yes!’.  It seemed as if this was the best thing I could have done for him in that moment.  We stood right there in the Sprouts parking lot where I was able to pray for John…pray for his healing from his ailments and his safe arrival to the shelter.  I prayed for his future, that God would make a way for Him and that he would trust Him, for safety, and direction.  As he looked up, his eyes were filled with tears, he said, ‘thank you.’  He went to shake my hand and I gave him a hug…it is always good to hug, and look into the eyes of people you meet, they often aren’t expecting that and both of those things can go a long way.

I got into my car and just began to cry, as I was starting to see faith...working itself out through action of myself and others.  My friends texted me and told me they were going to be late, I had a few more minutes to spare, so I quickly ran to 7-11 to get some gas.  I had an early morning meeting and didn’t want to have to fill up in the morning.

As I got out of my car and began to pump my gas, another man approached me.  He spooked me a little, but assured me that he was not going to harm me.  He was an older African American man, his clothes were filthy, his body bruised and as he began to speak to me, I noticed that half of his teeth were missing.  In his very broken, slowed speech, He told me he had just gotten beat up, he showed me his feet which seemed to be bruised and broken.  He then proceeded to tell me that he had been stabbed a while ago, and raised his shirt to show me his stomach.  I quickly dodged my eyes so as not to pass out right there in front of this man.  As I continued to listen to him, his stench was getting stronger and stronger.  I had not smelled anything this foul in a while, this man was filthy. I could smell the alcohol on him, I was unsure if he was sober or if it was a lingering aroma from the past weeks.  He told me he just wanted to get to a hotel to take a shower.  I then told him about some of the local facilities he could go to where he would not have to pay a fee.  As I was telling him that, he looked into my eyes and said ‘girl, you gots Jesus in your eyes, you know that?’  He said ‘I don’t know if you know Him, but you gots Him in your eyes.’  I said, ‘yes, I do know Him, do you?’  When I said that he immediately began to cry and said, ‘thank you Jesus.’  He then said, ‘yes, I do know him, but I have some questions for you about Melchizedek…I’ve been reading about him and I don’t understand why the bible says he was in the likeness of God.’  I told him that I had never studied Melchizedek’…he said ‘well, look him up, it’s in Hebrews chapter 7!’.  I took out my iphone, looked up Hebrews chapter 7, and sure enough…there was the chapter about Melchizedek.  He asked me to read it…I then proceeded to read the entire chapter aloud.  In the middle, the man said to me, ‘by the way, my name is Gregory Brown’, I said, well, nice to meet you Gregory, my name is Leigh.  He said ok, keep reading.  I finished the chapter and he began to tell me all that he knew about Melchizedek.  He said he understood the bible, but sometimes had questions that drove him crazy.  As I kept looking into his eyes, he kept instructing me to turn to different passages.  He then told me a story that he said he hadn't told many people in his life.  He said that the day he got out of the hospital, he was sitting on a bench reading his ‘little green bible’ when a slow moving, elderly man with a beard came up to him and said ‘boy, do you know what you are reading in that bible?’  Gregory said that he told him, yes.  He said the man told him he needed to shut his bible, get on his knees, pray for understanding then start reading again.  Gregory told me that he looked at the man, got on his knees, prayed for understanding, and when he opened his eyes the man was nowhere to be found.  He said that since then, He has understood the bible like never before.  He then started to tell me all about his theories on Adam and Eve, and why he believed they were not the first people on earth.

After preaching an entire sermon to me where he periodically would have me read, then say ‘we are about to bake a cake here’, meaning, we were going to get to his point soon…Gregory then asked me for that money for the hotel.  I told him that I really didn’t feel that my money was what he needed, but that I was going to pray for him.  I asked him how I might be able to do that…he looked down at the ground, then looked up at me and said ‘will you pray that I might be able to help people?’  I looked at him and said, ‘yes I will pray for that, how would you like to help people?’  He said, ‘well, I think I just did.’  Of course, I knew that I had been encouraged by Gregory, but I didn’t know that he would ever know that.  I said, what do you mean?  He started to walk away…I said, ‘you are right, you did help me tonight, thank you.’  He came back, looked at me in the eyes and said, ‘you know, I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I feel like I gots to…you need closure.’  He said… ‘ from whatever it is, you need closure, you need to have that conversation because it is eating away at you.’  As tears welt up in my eyes, I looked up at him and said ‘how did you know?’  He said, ‘I don’t know, from the minute we started talking, I have been wanting to tell you that.’  He said, ‘just know that He sees you, it’s for a purpose, and He wants you to be free.’  He said, ‘I don’t know how I know these things, I don’t even want to know these things, but I do.’  I told him that he was spot on…he told me not to cry.  I just stood there and looked at him for a few moments and he said again‘have that conversation, you need closure, then let it go.’  I told him I knew this, and that this was my hope.

I then opened my trunk to find something to give to Gregory…my trunk which was always filled to the brim with different things because of my role at the time as ‘running gear delivery girl’.  He said he didn’t want anything…but then said he would take a Dallas Cowboys beanie, even though he wasn’t a Cowboys fan. As I shut my trunk, I also gave him a dollar, it was the cash I had, and the cash I felt he needed.  He took the dollar and gave me a hug.   We hugged, and he began to walk away, singing some gospel tune.  He turned back, looked at me and said ‘I love you.’  I told him I loved him too and so did the God of the universe.  I thanked him and told him I hoped to see him again sometime.

That night was confirmation…in so many beautiful ways. Confirmation in the things that stir my heart; in passions, in moving forward, leaving behind and in my belief that God truly is using the least, the unseen, the poor, the broken and the hurting...in a mighty way.  That night I was given a word from God by a filthy, tattered, bruised man at the gas station.  That night, a man who surely thought I had something for him, really ended up having something for me. 

A verse from the bible I was challenged to memorize that same week through a prayer study I was going through at the time is…

‘Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’ Hebrews 7:25

Hebrews 7….the exact chapter Gregory asked me to read aloud to him! God is interceding, He is literally praying on my behalf.  He is for us…and that is all we need.

I eventually made it to dinner, 30 minutes late but made it.  My friends were a little perturbed at me…I tried my best to explain to them why I was late, but was really not able to put the experience into words.  We ate quickly, then the restaurant closed shortly after that, so we left.

I came home and told my roommates about the evening I just had…where dinner with my friends was clearly not the focal point.   They got chills, they, more than anyone know the significance of this evening and the words spoken over me.  I knew I also wanted to tell our friend Lindsey…who had just last week told me about a recent experience she had similar to this.  I texted her and told her I had a story to tell her, but I wanted to get it in writing and send it to her.  I sat and wrote the story you just read late into the night, then sent it off to her the next morning…I received a text from her which said…

‘Leigh, Gregory Brown is the homeless man I prayed over in the back of Mudsmith the other day. When we prayed I asked God to use him this week in a mighty way so that he could be reminded of the value he has in this world and in the kingdom.’

Mudsmith is the coffee shop we often spend our days working from, and Lindsey had just told me last week about a man she met outside.  When she sent me that text, I got chills all over my body.  As I sat there on my bed, in awe of the way God is working in and through His people.  Lindsey was led to empower Gregory last week, to pray that he would be ‘of use’…someone whom from the outside, seemed to have nothing useful left in him.  Gregory was then led to talk to me…though he asked me for money, in the end, he realized that this wasn’t necessarily about what he could get from me…the purpose was that he might give what he has to me, and find the value he has to bring to this world.  

For me, on this unlikely journey to dinner, I heard the words, 'go' from three unlikely people.  'Go' meaning, do what has been put in your heart to do, regardless of your fears!  I was once again reminded that we all have so much to give, not in this ‘pay it forward’ sort of way.  Our stories are being intricately woven together to encourage and breath life into another's to contribute to the greater story, God is using the very least to make the very most of Him.  

If you aren't a person of faith, I hope you are still encouraged.  Simply to see beneath the surface and in to the heart of those brought into your path.  Know and believe that each person has value to bring to the world and a story worth listening to.  There is so much we can all gain from one another.  There is no rule that says, only the monetarily rich can give to the poor, we can give to each other, I believe that’s the way God intended it to be.  That it is in our greatest efforts to put our best foot forward and help someone with ‘nothing to offer’, that we see the power of hope.  When someone has been given hope, they have everything to offer in their ability to extend hope to someone else…and this is the greatest gift of all... 

So whatever it is, may you go confidently in the direction of your beautiful dreams and invite others to join you!  Let the value spoken over you through subtle whispers of the unlikely speak louder than the roar of your insecurities.  Freely give, while freely receiving, walk with confidence and let your passions ignite a fire within you!  May this fire continually light the way towards the 'next' and lead you to see the value in others.  You never know what could be around the corner...may we trust the process all the way through. 

Assumption: A Chance to Believe The Best

Reclaim LivingLeigh Liebmann1 Comment

In the age of constant communication, we have grown to feel an obligation to live in this sort of  'on call' mentality all the time.  We expect our friends to respond to a text message within the hour and any further delay has become, well just plain rude.  We know it well, we live inside its walls, our constant need for instant gratification has become one of the downfalls of our day.  We want answers to our questions, text messages, e-mails, phone calls and situations immediately.  The reality is, we don't always get answers right away, and we have got to learn how to function well while honoring others in the gray area that is the unknown.

I used to be that person on the other end who grew frustrated with these delayed responses.  I would often assume that the other person was upset.  As if they had something more important to do than respond to my emoji filled text message about my latest love interest.  Were they ignoring me?  Maybe I just wasn't that important to them.  My insecurities caused me to assume the absolute worst in some situations. *Anyone else been there?  Just me?  Ok, moving on... I found myself thinking thoughts about friends and loved ones that were completely absurd, and not at all in line with the character of who they were.  I began to see assumption become the leading cause of my frustration and quickly realized that if I was not careful this could very well translate into every area of my relationships...

Assumption causes us to create full-length stories in our minds and our own insecurity will lead us to believe these stories to be absolute truth.  When given a situation, we have two choices, to assume the best, or assume the worst. 

The soul is without rest in the spin of suspicion of what-if’s...

Confession; I'm a people pleaser to the core.  I try not to live in this identity, it is something I have to be absolutely conscious of, or else it will take over my entire calendar and become the driving motivational force behind everything I do.  One day I realized that this wonderful quality I possess plays out most significantly when it comes to my cell phone.  I used to have two, one for work and one for personal, this was an absolute nightmare.  Two inboxes, two text accounts and two call-logs began to take over my life.   I lived under this heavy weight of feeling the need to respond to the world, immediately.  I would find myself with a constant running mental list of who I needed to text or call back, all the while working in a highly relational job where it was absolutely necessary for me to be 'all there' all the time.  One day, I realized this was not only impossible, but my efforts to do this were unsustainable.  There is just no way to be presently engaged in life and 100% on top of your iphone game.  Something had to give.  I began to extend grace more often to others because I realized how much I was in need of that same grace.  

My lack of immediate response had nothing to do with my level of care for those trying to get in contact with me, it had everything to do with my inability to be all things to all people, all at the same time.  I realized that I simply needed to start taking the pressure off of myself and start assuming the best of others, in every situation.  To start seeing and believing that the people in my life care deeply for me, and have my best interest at heart.  I began to believe the qualities about my relationships that I knew to be true instead of painting pictures of situations that were completely absurd.  I began to imagine the reasoning for delayed responses and un-answered phone calls to be out of a place of striving for an active pursuit of presence on the other end.  It is my hope that people continue to choose to truly 'see people', and I know, often times the biggest obstacle standing in the way of this view is our constant fight to 'be fully present'.  I can only hope that myself and others can experience tiny victories in this battle, and if I have to practice patience on my end in the meantime, then count me IN for their win. :)

Stop all your striving and give yourself permission...to take the pressure off, to stop trying to be all things to all people.  I don't mean that we should just turn off our phones and never respond to anyone, I think there is an art to this great balancing act of communication, and we can all continue to get better.  We know we can't live without this tiny piece of technology, but what we can do is extend grace to one another more often in this area.  We can do our best to truly make the most of our time with those we are actively engaging daily.  What we can do, is choose to assume the best, to bridge the gap of the unknown with trust...in every situation!  

For those situations where we just don't have the answers, would we practice trust.   One of my all time favorite books is Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust, one of the most powerful parts of the book hit me on page 5 where he quotes this story from Mother Teresa the great...

"The great teacher of ethics John Kavanaugh visited Mother Teresa while working for three months at her “house of the dying” in Calcutta. He was seeking clarity from God on the direction for his future. She asked him, “What can I do for you?”

He asked, “Pray that I have clarity.”

Mother Teresa said firmly, “No. I will not do that.” He was surprised and asked her why. She explained, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”

Taken aback, he said, “But you seem to have clarity from God.”

Mother Teresa laughed, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Where there is tension, may we choose honor, and would we honor others by simply trusting them through the gray and assuming the very best.  Let's practice giving others the benefit of the doubt in all situations.  After all, silence leads to assumption, and there are two roads we can choose to travel in the quest to finding a conclusion.  We can either choose to assume the best or assume the worst, this choice belongs to us.  I hope we can continue to honor people for who we truly know them to be,  and take the chance on believing the best behind their intentions...always.

Wouldn't you want them to do the same for you?  

Where there is tension, choose honor...

In Light of The Dragon: The Struggle Reclaimed

Reclaim Living, Beauty BeneathLeigh LiebmannComment
I’m sorry, have we met?

You don’t remember the introduction, but it's been living inside of your heart for some time now.  You're so well acquainted, over the years it seems to have become a part of who you are.  You don’t recall ever granting it permission to come inside, but somehow it has slowly creeped in, has taken root, and is well, flourishing. You cover it up well, you play the part of who you wish you were without it, you put on a mask and somehow no one notices just how much of your being is occupied by this unwelcomed guest.  It is just a guest, right?  Surely it's stay is not forever.  You have done everything in your power to keep it quiet, because if you tell someone, well, you could just never do that.  You are sure someone will start to take notice sooner or later.  Won't they?  You’ve spent a lot of time normalizing it, it's not as big of a deal as it feels.  But, it’s impossible…its effects are heavy and they are weighing you down.

I was recently introduced to the greatest children’s book called ‘There’s NO Such Thing as a Dragon”, in which the situation I just described is the premise of the book. 

Billy Bixbee was rather surprised when he woke up one morning and found a dragon in his room. It was a small dragon, about the size of a kitten.

Billy goes downstairs to tell his mother, but she insists that there’s no such thing as a dragon!  Billy goes back to his room to get dressed and the dragon comes close to Billy wagging its tail.  Billy doesn’t give the dragon any attention, because, if there is no such thing as a dragon, then it is silly to pay any attention to it.  As the story progresses, the dragon continues to grow larger and follow Billy around wherever he goes, all the while growing at a rapid pace.  The mother insists, the dragon does not exist, but has to make accommodations to clean the house around the dragon because it has grown so large that there is nowhere in the house the dragon isn't.  The dragon eventually outgrows the house and when it takes off running down the street, it takes the entire house, Billy and his mother included, along with it.  When Billy’s dad comes home, he of course notices that the house is gone.  He immediately goes looking for it and when he finally finds it, he has to climb over the dragon’s head to make a way into his own home.  He asks Billy and his mother what happened and Billy says, ‘It was the dragon.’  His mother starts to say ‘There’s no such thing….’ but Billy interjects and says, ‘There IS a dragon!  A very BIG dragon!’  Billy then pats the dragon on the head and even faster than it had grown, the dragon shrinks down to the size of a kitten again.  The last lines of the book read…

"I don’t mind dragons THIS size,” said Mother.

“Why did it have to grow so BIG?”

“I’m not sure,” said Billy, “but I think it just wanted to be noticed.

One morning you open your eyes to arise from your cozy, pillow-topped bed to get a start to your day, but you can’t.  You feel so heavy, you can’t muster up the strength to even leave your bed.  You have hit the end of your rope, you are weak and you can’t live like this anymore.  This secret has taken hold of you, and it is growing into something much bigger that you simply can't manage on your own.  This thing has not only affected you at the core of who you are, but it has affected your relationships, and deeply started to affect others.  The question looming over you is, "How did this happen?"  Your immediate thought is, "I have got to acknowledge this, how has nobody known about this?"

You see, because the dragon in Billy's room represents our struggle.  The rapid growth of the dragon is our shame.  Shame comes as a result of that ongoing struggle we are always fighting, but constantly hiding away.  Shame is the dark cloud covering us, because we simply will not acknowledge our struggles existence, power and strength. Your struggle IS powerful, and you weren't meant to take it all on yourself.  Shame quickly covers, and the longer we continue to deny our struggle exists, the sooner it will completely overtake us.   Often times, shame knocks us down…hard enough to lead us to believe that we will never overcome.  It’s the stumbling block standing in our way. Without fighting back and knocking it down by way of exposure and acknowledgment, we will never experience true freedom, healing and victory.

Acknowledging the secret which so easily entangles us is one step closer to coming out on the other side. 

What if we allowed ourselves and others to see clearly into the struggle; what if our secrets were known, and we truly allowed others to fully know us, all of us.   We would then be able to embrace this life of authentic struggle and experience limitless love from God and others, on this journey towards freedom.  Rather than living inside the prison walls of secrets and masked perfection, which will only lead us to self-destruction, we are free to live in light of being fully known and truly loved, the greatest kind of love. Let's reclaim the power we have been given over the struggle and continue to fight for living in light of our dragons, fully exposed.   

That all sounds great, but you just...could never, because of your position.  What will those you are leading think?  But, you don't understand, I'm a pastor, teacher, role model, *insert position of influence here...I'm not supposed to struggle.  The reality is, we ALL struggle, and we are all prone to fall.  If we aren't careful, the shame we walk in day in and day out will one day cause our secret to grow so big, it just might take off running with our entire life.  

We might as well turn on the lights, acknowledge it, give it a little TLC, and invite others inside to sit at the table alongside both of us.  Sometimes a little attention can make a big difference, no matter what size the problem.  May our shame be put to death by our constant pursuit of a life lived in the light...because this is truly where we were meant to live!

Delight, when we are fully known, drives out shame.


Our Whole Broken Heart.

Reclaim LivingLeigh LiebmannComment

I have joked with friends about my ambitions of writing a book someday, and I have to believe that if that dream ever may come to pass, this past year will be one of the most climactic chapters.  It's been a year...full of beginnings and endings, a year of introductions and bittersweet good-byes.  This year I've been met with challenges, a broken heart, ruthless trust, hurt, joy, struggle, hope, dreams, perspective, adventure, confidence, just plain craziness, pain.  I've experienced some of my happiest of days, darkest of nights, been deeply disappointed and responsible for disappointing others along the way.  I've depended on others and been depended on by others like never before.  I've carried burdens, experienced freedom, walked beside, fallen down, been carried, and lifted up.  This year, the unlikely have left an imprint on my life, for good.  Through my time working with individuals experiencing homelessness, I have been given more than I could have ever dreamt possible. I've learned to listen, and I've felt the purest kind of love I believe exists. I have come to realize that the things we are called to care deeply for and about have everything in common.  There is great power in relationships and I truly believe that people are put in our paths to be cared about, known, empowered and loved...with our whole heart. 

I've recently started working to defend a new cause, as my story typically unfolds, the path was made clear, and I felt confidence in the timing to move in to the next.  My new endeavor is with an organization called BraveLove.  Here we go again, another role where I am ill-equipped to bear the weight of the mission I have signed up to carry out.  This is when my gaze is turned upward and my hands are held open, because none of this is mine to hold.  BraveLove is a movement to increase adoption...this mission is heavy, needed and so very beautiful...

'Our mission is to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative, and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family through adoption.

The heartbreaking truth is that many women facing unplanned pregnancy feel unable to care for a child. Sometimes the single-most loving thing a mother can do is place her child with a loving, eager adoptive family. We aim to invite and empower women to choose adoption.'

During my short time with BraveLove, everything about this organization has resonated deeply within my heart.  I've always been 'for' adoption, but I have not always understood the importance of also being 'for' a birth mother.  You see, a birth mother really is the hero involved in the adoption story.  Her love is real for her child, and her love is the bravest kind.  It's the selfless kind of love that knows in advance it is going to lose.  The love of this mother is so great that she gives of herself for 9 months, loves in the most humanly intimate way, and then chooses to place her child with another family, so her child will not only live, but live a life filled.  We all know the phrase, 'it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'  So easily said, yet so hard to believe when truly experienced.  

This year, I've loved, laughed, lost, left and recently stepped into the next.  I've realized that through it all, love has been the key component.  It's that word we toss around more casually than a pair of jorts on a hot summer day.  We use it to describe our affections towards a bowl of queso in one breath, then in the next to tell that single individual who has the ability to take our breath away, just how deeply we care.

Love is the act of making the world more beautiful, and if you've read anything I have ever written, you know that I am a believer that this beauty is not always what we see at first glance.  This is where our 'change of thinking' must come in.  We have to change the way we think about certain things in order to see positive change in the world. We must re-direct our mindset towards this act of a birth mother and recognize her decision as one filled with hope, love, trust and surrender.  We must not see her as 'giving up' but as one who is so very 'giving'.  I recently read an eye opening statistic...

‘There are currently over 20,000 newborn infants voluntarily placed for adoption every year in the United States, but there are approximately 60-80,000 parents wanting to adopt.’
— http://childrenofallnations.com/adoption-programs/domestic/infant-adoption/

There are 3-4 times the number of parents seeking to adopt children in the US than there are women choosing to place for adoption.   2% of all unplanned pregnancies result in adoption. Two. percent.  Countless individuals across the country are rising up to adopt children, both domestically and internationally, unfortunately, there are not enough children being birthed domestically for every family to take in a child.  If we are 'for' adoption, we must also be 'for' this mother, before, during and after her pregnancy. 

With any act of love, no matter how big or small, comes great risk, therefore love is always brave.   Whether we know we will lose from day one, like these precious birth mothers or we are simply risking it all with no foreknowledge of how things will take shape, to extend love we must be willing to fully expose our hearts.  We must uncover beauty in the unlikely places.  To love the world, and those in it, takes bravery.  It is in that moment when your heart is broken, when you are mourning the loss of that sweet one your heart has become so very attached to, that you begin to realize just how courageous this act really is.  True love is not for the faint at heart, it involves sacrifice.

We must run from fear, and continue to love out of our broken hearts, because though shattered, light shines brightest through the cracks, and it is in these crevices where darkness is dispelled and beauty unveiled for the world to see.

May we learn to rest in the assurance that our courageous acts of love are never in vain and always so very worth it.  No matter the risk involved, no matter how much it might hurt, to love is never the wrong choice.  I hope that we can learn to see past the situation, the struggle and the circumstance and see through to the bravery just bursting to shine through!  I hope it will empower you to love in the midst of your brokenness, may we allow light to shine bright through the cracked spaces in our hearts, and be inspired to care for and about people...with our whole broken heart.  

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