Monday, January 31, 2011

January Somethings

Time for the monthly round-up...

Reading: The Heart of the Matter (Giffin) and Finding Our Way Again (McLaren).  Plus doing Read-Alongs for Your Secret Name, @StickyJesus, and Made to Crave- how on earth did that happen? (I read 7 books this month.)

On deck:  Juliet(Fortier), Divine Appointments (Baumbich). I may be most looking forward to savoring 1000 Gifts (Voskamp) which I won from (in)courage while at Blissdom. I've loved Ann's blog and to read a whole book of her work will be such a treat. This winning has turned out to be one of God's little gifts. Since I've put myself on a CD/book budget this year, I've already had to rein in my impulses. (in)courage and Bloom Book Club announced that 1000 Gifts would be the next book club read, with a discounted price to boot.  However, I knew that 1000 Gifts would put me over budget this month, which would cut into February and there's already a CD that I plan to purchase (see Listening below). So I sadly passed on it and entered (in)courage's giveaway instead. Now I have the book and am still under budget!

TV: Chuck, Glee, Parenthood, Vampire Diaries, The Office, and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Top Chef: All-Stars, Brothers & Sisters.  Also sneaking in Kourtney and Kim Take New York when I can.  I have no idea why I find the Kardashians to be interesting.
 
Movie: Easy A- LOVED it!  Found it to be a smarter, funnier version of Mean Girls.  Twilight: Eclipse- meh. I love the books so much more.  It's interesting to see certain scenes brought to life but the actors don't come close to the characters I envisioned while reading. Step Up: 3D- so-so. I absolutely adored the first two movies. The plot was disappointing but the dancing was phenomenal as always.

In my kitchen: My newest Dinner Club started and it's just what I needed.  I haven't been around for much other cooking this month- the occasional tried-and-true recipe but mostly quick grilled cheese sandwiches or plates of pasta.

Listening:  Now that I have a stereo again and don't have to play CDs via laptop or DVD player, I'm listening to music all the time. I received several CDs for Christmas that I've been wanting and am taking my time with each one. Right now, Bebo Norman's Ocean and The Punch Brothers' Antifogmatic are holding my attention. Side note: cannot wait for The Civil Wars' debut album to be released tomorrow. I'm even more excited to see them perform again this week.

So...what were you into during January?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Sentiments: Inspiration

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.


There are ideas brewing inside of me right now. Ideas that seem so lofty, I wonder if I have the right to imagine them in the first place. Ideas that make me giggle at the sheer awesomeness of the "what if" factor.

The next few weeks are for dreaming and, in the dreaming, planning. Most dreams need us to act for them to come true. And these dreams and ideas are too wonderful for me to sit idly by, merely hoping they'll happen.

I'm going to work for it.  More importantly, I'm going to pray.

None of this requires the miraculous- although it may seem miraculous if it does somehow happen- yet these words come to mind.  "Is anything too marvelous for God?"
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Risking It

The first day of school.

Starting a new job.

Before every vacation, whether to Ireland or visiting friends the next state over.

Moving to a new state.

Going to a work conference.

Before I took my social work licensure exams.

Studying for my certification in thanatology.

***

In all of these situations, there's been a moment where I think I should just back out.  I may have been looking forward to hiking the Grand Canyon for months but the night before I leave, I envision what could go wrong and try to calculate how much money I'd lose if I cancelled my reservations.  Then I get over myself and take the trip and am reminded of how much I love to travel.

I never had a choice to not go to school but I was always so nervous before the start of a new year that I had to give myself a pep talk.  The worst nerves accompanied my transition from private Christian grammar school to public high school.  It took a couple of months before I stopped begging my parents to let me go to the private Christian high school and started realizing I actually had a good thing going at this new school.

Before I left for a mission trip to Ecuador, I was convinced that I was going to die while I was there.  I updated my living will and hugged my parents extra tight when I said goodbye.  Thankfully I survived, despite getting motion sickness on a bus winding through mountain switchbacks.  I did a lot of growing up that trip, as well as eating delicious food, petting a puma, and crossing into Peru via river.

Almost every important test I take, I'm convinced that I'm going to fail.  That may be part of the reason I only applied to social work graduate schools that didn't require the GRE.  My goal became to simply pass.  And guess what?  I have each and every time.

I don't think of myself as a courageous person.  I don't think of myself as an anxious person either. 

I acknowledge my fears and then decide whether I'll let them stop me or not.  Risk vs. reward.  I've found that the risk is almost always worth it because at the very least, I'm not left guessing the outcome.

If I listened to my fears every time, I'd never have applied to my long-shot schools or dream jobs.  I'd never have volunteered with a non-profit in Thailand.  I'd never have moved away from my family.  I'd have missed out on so many of the things that make me me.  I'd have missed out on the chance to see God show up in ways that are big and small.

That's why I'm choosing to go to Blissdom in spite of the butterflies, in spite of fears that I'll have no one to talk to or that my blogger friends won't like the real life me.  The reward of possible connections, new friends, and a wealth of knowledge will be worth it. 

Here I am, world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mirror Images

 Image from Pottery Barn

My thoughts toward the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah have changed over the years.  When I was young, I thought it was utterly romantic that Jacob would toil away for 14 years just to marry Rachel.  As I grew older, I began to feel sorry for Leah, who comes off looking the worst in this tale.  Her father's pawn, her husband's unwanted wife.  How must Rachel have felt toward Leah?  Then once Rachel became Jacob's second wife, how must Leah have felt toward Rachel?

There's a parallel here that I'd never considered before this week's chapters from Your Secret Name.
"Serving as an uninvited truth teller, Laban's treachery reflected Jacob's past with fresh eyes, mirroring his present struggles with entirely new hues. After all, he still had Esau to contend with and soon enough he's have to stand before his brother and deliver another apology." -p. 108
Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother's birthright.  Laban deceived Jacob by switching daughters in the wedding ceremony.  Laban benefited by marrying off not one but two daughters to Jacob in the end, as well as gaining wealth from Jacob's years of labor.

If you don't consider Leah and Rachel, you might be tempted to say that Jacob got what he deserved. 

If you do consider Leah and Rachel, you might feel sorry for two girls caught in the middle of such deceit. Laban's and Jacob's actions ended up having huge ramifications on the sisters' relationship.

It seems that Jacob needed a wake-up call. How could he be angry at Laban for something that he'd done himself?  The man Jacob might have seen in the mirror would have been a difficult reflection to face in light of all of this.  In fact, I'm reminded of The Picture of Dorian Gray. We may be able to put on a fine face while our souls tell a more decrepit story.

I wonder about the mirrors I've had to face.  What am I indignant about when I have perpetrated the same act? Am I mistaking the speck for the log?  Do I need a wake-up call?

Can I look at myself in the mirror in the morning with a clear conscience?  What about at night while I get ready for bed?

How does my past mirror my present struggles?

May I be open to the uninvited truth tellers in my life and may the reflected images I see compel me to become more like Christ.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click over to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, your purchase will help support this site.  Thank you!

This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blissdom Intro

I told you about how I decided to go to Blissdom but now you'd like to know more about me?  Well, then allow me to introduce myself.

  • I've never known anyone else named Leigh but I think there's actually another Leigh coming to Blissdom according to one of the participant lists floating around. We can commiserate about how often our names have been misspelled and mispronounced.
  • I'm a pediatric social worker and I love what I do.  My secret dream is to write a fiction book and I'm hoping to move a step closer in that direction this year.
  • I'm working on 32 Things Before Turning 32.  This will take care of #9!
  • I'm an excellent listener and I love hearing other people's life stories.  When we meet, I'll probably ask you a lot of questions about yourself but since I'm a social worker, you probably won't even realize what I'm doing.  That being said, please feel free to ask me questions about myself!
  • I'm a good mix of extrovert and introvert.  I tend to focus on getting to know the people around me, instead of the whole room.  I tend to observe and listen (see above) when I'm in a bigger group but I am most definitely not quiet or shy.
  • I'm a former insomniac and I believe this quality will come in handy this week.  If I don't stick to my sleep schedule, then I might as well stay up as late as I can! Fellow night owls, please introduce yourselves!
  • I am a huge tea drinker but if I'm really tired, coffee will do.
  • If I don't get a lot of sleep, I might wear my glasses instead of my contacts. Just imagine some dark frames over my blue eyes.  The rest of me will look the same.
  • I have a phobia of slipping on ice.  If you ask me to go ice skating, I will kindly decline. If I'm walking on a snowy or potentially icy surface, I take very small shuffling steps. I'd advise you to go around me if you're in a hurry.  This is why I'm glad Blissdom is occurring inside Opryland and we can ignore whatever is going on outside.
  • My business card is not impressive but it'll have all the info you need to keep in touch.  That's what counts, right?
  • I'm a White Sox fan but I won't hold against you if you're not.
  • I love talking about books, music, and food. In no particular order.
  • I'm looking forward to connecting with all my Twitter and blogging buddies!  I still feel intimidated to be going to my first conference but it helps knowing that many people feel or felt the same way.  Let me know if you'll be there so we can make sure our paths cross!
See y'all soon!

Blissdom Bound

Blissdom Conference ~ Nashville ~ January 26-28, 2010


Blissdom, a blogging conference that takes place in Nashville, is finally here!  I will be joining approximately 500 bloggers at the Opryland Hotel this week.  It's my first blogging conference and this newbie isn't quite sure what to think between the excitement and the nerves.

Even though I've been blogging for almost 5 years, I don't think I considered myself to be a blogger until this past summer.  My first blog started out on a whim and took off in an unexpected direction, which then led to the creation of HopefulLeigh.  This blog seems more like my baby, something I have grown to nurture and cherish. It is also allowing me to view myself as not just a blogger, but a writer. Blogging has reawakened my childhood dream of someday being an author. While I don't know if I'll ever have a book published, blogging has allowed me to wonder and dream that just maybe it'll happen.

This past summer I realized that there was a lot about blogging that I didn't know.  I mean, I really didn't know anything.  Like the fact that you could schedule a post instead of posting automatically?  Yeah, I had never bothered to nose around Blogger to figure out that little gem before.  With that life-changing revelation, I started seeking out blogs with more how-tos and made a few design changes here and there. I began envisioning what this blog could become.

Then all the BlogHer chatter started on some of the blogs I followed and that exposed me to discussion about other blogging conferences.  When I realized that Blissdom would literally be in my backyard, I felt I had no excuse not to go.

Except for that tiny detail of being completely intimidated.  I happened upon the Blog Conference Guide for the UnExperienced.  I learned more about business cards, conference fashion, and the importance of joining Twitter.  I'd felt I didn't have time for more social media but after reading this article, I decided give it a try.  Can I just say joining Twitter was one of the best decisions I made this past fall?  I can't imagine going to Blissdom if I hadn't.

Then I posted about considering Blissdom and Staci commented with: "COME TO BLISSDOM!" and shared about her experience last year.  Well, that dose of encouragement went a long way.

I decided I would go because I wanted to learn and because I wanted to be amongst people that don't think blogging is some cute kind of hobby or, worse yet, a waste of time.

I bought my ticket, then debated whether I should stay at Opryland when I live locally. I posed my question to the #Blissdom feed and most people recommended the hotel experience, although there were a few commuters.  Amanda from They Hold My Heart, a fellow newbie, and I decided to be roommates over Twitter while I sat in the airport waiting on my delayed flight home for Christmas.

I'm looking forward to meeting bloggers I've followed for awhile and connecting with others I haven't yet discovered.  It'll be good to hang out with the #FlaskTribe and the #Newbie Tribe and the #Lifestyle Tribe. I'm ready to soak up knowledge from the presenters and figure out how to apply what I learn.

Just wait- next year I'll be encouraging you to come to Blissdom!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Sentiments: Lesser to Greater

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

Oh my gracious, y'all.  Last night's sermon was crazy good.  I'm still mulling it over.  It's amazing how the verses you've read for years can be turned on their side when a skilled teacher reveals new connections, parallels, and insights.  That happened in spades last night. 

My church started a sermon series on Luke a couple of weeks ago.  Several years ago, I went to a church that studied Luke for a whole year, from the sermons to our weekly small groups.  I learned a lot then so I thought Fellowship's spin might be a nice refresher course.  Then I thought about how much I've learned and grown since joining Fellowship and realized that Luke was probably going to kick my butt in a whole new way.  Michael, Lloyd, and Bill have that kind of skill when it comes to unveiling truth.

Which brings us back to last night.  Lloyd taught on Luke 1:26-38, when the angel appeared to Mary.  Lloyd noted that the Catholic church tends to overvalue Mary's faith while the Protestant church doesn't value it enough.  He pointed out Zechariah's response when the angel appeared to him, which we studied last week in verses 5-25.  Zechariah asked for a sign that what the angel had said would happen would actually happen. His lesser faith rendered him mute until the birth of John the Baptist.

There is purpose in the order of Luke's first chapter.  The announcement that Elizabeth will become pregnant segues into the announcement that Mary will become pregnant.  Elizabeth's pregnancy, while unexpected due to her age and barrenness, is unexpected but not atypical as it's assumed that she and her husband still enjoyed marital relations.  Mary's pregnancy, as a virgin, is both unexpected and impossible as she and her fiance would not have had sex.

Luke mentions John the Baptist first because he prepared the way for Jesus.  John prepared the way for Jesus, who is greater.  Then we have the comparison of Zechariah's faith to Mary's faith.

Similar to our study on Noah over the summer, Lloyd mentions that just as Noah didn't do anything to merit God's favor, nothing in Mary caused God to favor her either.  He chose to grace her.  Just as I hadn't previously realized that Noah wasn't more righteous or better than the rest of folks at that time, I'd always assumed or been taught that Mary was somehow more special and that's why God picked her to be Jesus's mother.  Not the case, however.

Mary's response is worth honing in on.  Mary heard what the angel said and she pondered it.  Then she states in verse 38:
"I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said."
Mary's declaration that she is the Lord's servant is a statement that she no longer has a personal agenda. Instead of belonging to Joseph, her betrothed, she belongs to God. This statement of faith jeopardized her future with Joseph and her standing with her family and the rest of Nazareth. It didn't matter to her though.  She knew what God had said and that was enough. 

Do I believe that God will do what He says He will do in my own life?

"May it be to me as you have said."  That is faith in spite of all the uncertainty and the sheer impossibility. 

As I was taking all this and more in, Lloyd made the link that I'm still rolling around in my mind.  The baby in Mary's womb will grow to surpass her faith. Jesus probably asked his mother to tell him the story of his birth and how the angel appeared to her.  He most likely knew her response to the angel. "May it be to me as you have said."

What was Christ's response as He prayed on the Mount of Olives just before Judas betrayed Him?
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42
"Yet not my will but yours be done."

Do you see the parallel between Mary's statement of faith and Christ's?

I pray that I will have a willing heart to listen to what God is telling me and to then act on it.  I pray that Christ will produce great faith in me, to believe that God can still initiate events that are humanly impossible in order to keep His word to me.

The sermon, titled The Annunciation, hasn't been posted yet but I would encourage you to keep an eye out for it here. Well worth listening to.

What do you make of this teaching?  Any other insights into this passage in Luke?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cupcakes and Roadkill

My friend Jason likes to say that the second thing I ever told him was, “I like to eat.” I'm sure it was more likely the tenth thing I ever said. Jason does like to exaggerate, after all.

On the other hand, I tend to rhapsodize about food. Cupcakes become life-changing experiences. Soup, hearty fare that it is, is declared as good for the soul. A meal is hailed as the best thing you'll ever eat. I don't just like to eat, I relish it.

I sit here today and wonder where this relationship with food began and why I'm unwilling to change my habits.

I'm not that overweight, you see. Most people meeting me would never guess that I'm carrying about 10 more pounds than I'd like. I've learned the art of camouflage and, since I'm single, I'm the only one that knows what lies underneath. Since food derives such pleasure for me, I've had a hard time recognizing that I need to change...
I'm honored to be guest posting at my friend Mary Kathryn's Beauty for Ashes blog as part of her Made to Crave community. I definitely recommend Lysa TerKeurst's book if you'd like to reexamine your relationship with food and how God fits in.  Click on over to find out the rest of my thoughts and join in on our conversation.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Awakenings

In order to share my thoughts about chapter 6 of @StickyJesus, I have to bring up another Read-Along I'm participating in right now.  The recent chapters I read for the Your Secret Name Read-Along stirred up some memories from my past and intertwined with the present in an interesting way.

I had no idea how I should write about it.

Or if I should write about it.

Except that I knew that I needed to write it.  So I went back to the how of writing it.

I try to read the assigned Read-Along chapters at least a couple of days before the post is "due" so that I have time to ponder and percolate.  But every time I sat down to write Tuesday's post, I couldn't.

I started to pray about what I should write, which is probably what I should have done as soon as I read the chapters.  I just hoped the words would magically come to me.

I prayed and then I sat down to write and the words still didn't come.  I thought I would type the post before Bible study Monday night but it didn't happen.  And then, while I should have been paying attention to the Beth Moore video, the words came.  I suddenly knew the point of my reaction and how it was related and what God was trying to get through to me.

I Want Love came quickly together once I arrived back home from Bible study.

I hoped it was an accurate reflection.  Actually, I hoped it was just plain coherent.

I never expected the outpouring of supportive comments.  I definitely didn't expect that my experiences, past and present, would be encouraging to someone else.  I've shared my story of past depression and suicidality for so long now that I don't always remember the impact it has on listeners.  I worry that I write about my struggle with being single too much, that I'll be viewed as complaining about the same old thing.  Even though the link between my self-esteem and marital status was revelatory to me, I didn't think it would minister to anyone else.
"He will allow situations that put a spotlight on the yet unsurrendered places of your heart that may trip others up." -p.86
The response I received was humbling and such an unexpected blessing.  I think it also helped sink these particular lessons a little further down into my soul.

Chapter 6 mentions what it would be to have an "awakened heart."  I love the idea of my heart hurting for what hurts God's heart, not for the sake of pain but to be able to view the world through His eyes.  Living a life that intentionally seeks depth and authenticity in all relationships.  Remaining open to the process of sanctification. Caring for others out of compassion and kindness, especially when I could use some of that myself.  Seeing beyond myself.  Reaching the lost.  Truly loving people. Growing.

I aspire to have an awakened heart.  I aspire to be transparent.

I want this blog to become a community of awakened hearts.  But it's like many things in life: sometimes we must be the change we wish to see.

This post was written for the @StickyJesus Read-Along hosted by Michelle Sarabia.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dinner Club Redux

One of my favorite things to do is cook for friends, gathering them around the table and fostering new relationships.

My heart soars over the thought of menu planning, creating an invitation, and staging my home.  These things might not appeal to you but they are essential for this hostess.

Since I've moved to Nashville, I have not been able to practice hospitality in my home.  The living room is smaller than my last apartment and I don't have a dining room, much less a dining room table.  When I've cook for others these past 7 months, I've done it in their homes, which has worked nicely but it's not the same as entertaining in your own space.

I started two dinner clubs in my hometown in the last several years.  The first was a collection of my favorite people.  When we started the group, only one of the girls was married.  By the end only 3 of us were unattached.  Schedules were more complex with the addition of spouses and fiances and so that particular Dinner Club, lovely as it had been, sailed into the sunset.

Perhaps because I was tired of going to so many weddings and showers that particular season of my life, I wanted this next dinner club to be my single friends.  I emailed the lot of them to see who was interested and our new group was formed.  Many of them had never met before.

Eating, breaking bread and sharing wine, this was the foundation of my dinner clubs.  This almost guarantees that connections will be made and friendships formed.  We each took turns hosting.  Linda made fondue once, which was a huge hit.  Ellen made a large vat of soup that was soothing on a cold rainy day.  No matter who hosted, we welcomed the opportunity to gather and dissect our lives.

Jobs changed, engagements occurred, and suddenly this group was no more.  I came to think of my dinner clubs as a seasonal effect.  Wonderful and life-giving while they lasted.

I am in a place in my life now where most of my friends are wives and mothers.  I have been fortunate to befriend some single women, with whom to commiserate on the paltry dating scene and the latest insult we've suffered.  As we've talked, we've realized there isn't really a place in our churches for us.  The older singles group in my church, for instance, meets on Saturday nights when I generally have plans.  Elizabeth and I started to talk about what we'd want in a church singles group and as our discussion flowed, dinner club returned to my mind.

Elizabeth caught the vision and I returned to what I do best: the art of hospitality.  As potatoes baked and caramel sauce simmered, while dicing onion, and cooking bacon, these ritual steps soothed me as I anticipated this gathering.

Last week I opened my home to my new dinner club companions.  There are six of us to start and who knows where it will go.  Single, strong Christians, and sassy, these ladies enrich my soul.  Single Lady's Supper Club, as Lauren has dubbed us.

I served Julie's obsession-worthy Baked Potato Soup and my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread Pudding.  The sectional couch served as our table. Stories flowed faster than the wine, second helpings were served, and we all felt a part of the start of something good.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Want Love

I was at my friend Rachel's house for a sleepover towards the end of 4th grade.  We lay giggling in the dark and ventured into previously uncharted conversation territory: boys.  I thought our classmate Brad was so cute and we laughingly plotted how Brad would fall in love with me and we would get married and live happily ever after.  What do 10 year olds need to know about love and marriage beyond a particular boy's cuteness?

I had no idea how Brad felt about me but a year later I got a glimpse.  A friend came up to me on the playground and told me Brad had been talking about me.  Hope welled from within.  The ever so hunky Brad was talking about me?  Indeed he had.  He said that I was RAD.  Before I could fathom that such a cute popular boy might like me, my confidence was dashed.  RAD, my friend informed me, stood for Retarded and Dumb. 

I deflated.  And there planted the seed that I was ugly, unlovable, and the host of other Given Names I would use to identify myself with a couple of years later.

The other seeds I must have sowed myself, maybe attached too much meaning to words that were spoken or unspoken.  I came to believe that a relationship would make me whole.  I would be Beautiful if someone loved me.  Life would be Grand if I was married or at least dating.  Every year of junior high, high school, and college was measured by guys' interest or lack thereof.  And when each year didn't bear the fruit of a romantic relationship, I chalked it up to God not caring about me.
"I didn't doubt His existence- I just doubted His presence in my life." -Your Secret Name, p. 83
Because I didn't have a boyfriend and because I didn't believe God cared, because I was convinced that I was Ugly and Unlovable, I began to toy with suicidal ideation.  I had ideas, plans, and the self-righteous belief that no one would care when I was gone.

In some ways, the private grammar school I attended saved my life.  I couldn't access the things or people that would further my self-destructive habits.  Even though I hated my school and the cliques and the emphasis on money (when my parents sacrificed to send me and my brother there), I shudder to think of who I would be if I'd attended public school.  But grammar school alone was not enough to save me.  If you had looked at me during junior high, you would never have guessed how much I loathed myself.  As a good Christian girl, I knew all the right answers and how to behave.   
"Many of us war our masks far too frequently- and we've lost touch with our potential for who God created us to be." -Your Secret Name, p. 60
By college I realized that the masks no longer served their purpose. I had to start dealing with the pain or else die trying.  I began therapy and, shortly before that, began keeping an affirmation log.  I thought if I wrote down what everyone else liked about me, I would start believing it myself.  That log made a world of difference but then a few years later, I realized it was more important for me to see myself the way God saw me.  We all know that human perception is flighty and this was not a foundation upon which I could base my self-esteem.

I never went through with my suicidal plans by God's grace.  I worked through my depression and self-esteem issues.  And yet, I still define myself by the lack of a romantic relationship.  I'm beginning to realize how intertwined my marital status is with my self-esteem, even after all this time and effort.  Even though I fight against it, in my lowest moments I'm tempted to believe God is withholding a husband as some form of punishment or because He doesn't love me.

In my better moments, I realize that God protected me from what would have been poor dating relationships in the past.  In junior high and high school especially I would have been consumed with being the perfect girlfriend and letting someone else dictate my life and decisions. 

I'm not that girl anymore though.  It's puzzling to me and to my loved ones as to why I haven't met the right guy.  It may be timing.  Or it may just not be in the cards for me.  Either way, I don't want to believe that I am less than just because I don't have a spouse.

This is something I struggle with: I don't understand why I'm single yet I also believe that God doesn't promise we'll always get what we want and therefore marriage may never be a part of my future.  I believe I will be an excellent wife and mother and it is something that I desire.  I don't yearn for it the way I used to.  I no longer believe that marriage or a man will transform life into daily sunshine, rainbows, and ice cream.  Life on earth will never be perfect and no one can satisfy our deepest longings but God.  I don't know why I'm still single but I am striving to be content and to accept that this is where I'm meant to be for now.

I don't want my singleness to become a wedge between me and God.  I don't want my past depression to resurface because of discontent.

It's difficult to reimagine your life when you've believed the past 20 years that marriage and family would already be a part of it at this point.  By no means have I put my life on hold while waiting for Mr. Right to appear but I am unsure how to move beyond this insecurity.
"We get a tiny peek at what could be- the possible- while taking a vacation from what is- the actual...The following days, years, and perhaps even decades help us hone in on that original vision we received. Time brings clarity. Yet for the moment we must be content to simply understand where we are and how far we must travel in order to arrive at our destination." -Your Secret Name, p. 90
Right now I don't know what the What Could Be is.   I don't have a clue what lies between here and eternity.  I don't know what my Secret Name could be that would redeem the insecurity and uncertainty that taunt me but I will continue to press forward.  I want love, yes. However, I want to know and experience the all-surpassing, unconditional love of Christ first and foremost.

May that be my prayer, may that be my guide.

This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#10: Go to an NHL game

I've had a few opportunities to go to an NHL game the past few years but it never worked out.  In honor of my 31st year, I thought it was time to rectify that problem.  Tracy and Joel agreed to accompany to my first game.  Luckily for me, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to come into town the same week of my birthday.  It was celebration time!

I snagged some great seats on the lower level since you only celebrate your 31st birthday once.  Well, at least I only celebrate mine once.  I know there are some ladies who like to stay 29 and holding.  Since I don't look a day over 20, I can proudly celebrate my age each birthday.

Is anyone else curious about what a Nashville Predator is?  Maybe that dangling Predator head will give you a clue.  I'm still not sure.

I was so excited to see the Hawks, our resident Stanley Cup champions, take to the ice.  The Blackhawks have not had the best track record against the Predators this season but I didn't care.  It was just fun to cheer for a Chicago team in my new state!  Now if TN had a baseball team playing the White Sox, my life would be complete.  Well, a girl can dream...

Can you see ALL the red in the stands?  I knew there were Chicago fans living in Nashville but I thought I'd be a lone fan in my red sweater.  In fact, it seemed like there was a 50-50 split and my particular section and row was filled with Blackhawks fans.  Red and Black everywhere!  I was also pleased to see some people wearing green Hawks jerseys.  If you're not aware, all the Chicago sports teams have green versions of their stadium wear due to the St. Patrick's Day tie-in.  If SPD doesn't happen during the season, i.e. baseball, there's usually a Halfway to St. Patrick's Day celebration.  We do love celebrating holidays!

Tracy didn't have any particular hockey allegiances so she cheered for the Blackhawks in honor of my birthday for most of the game.  Joel, traitor that he is, cheered for the Preds.

I can't give Joel too much of a hard time though.  He bought me nachos and beer.  Is it really a sporting event if you don't eat nachos?  It might be but I'd rather not know.

The game was intense!  My blood pressure goes through the roof at Sox games and hockey was no exception to that rule.   I find it hard to watch hockey on tv, what with the camera whipping back and forth to follow the puck.  Being there live makes all the difference in the world.  It's like you're a part of the action.  The crowd was really in to it, screaming, cheering, at times jeering. This was a sold-out game, in fact, which has rarely happened for the Preds this season.  Also enjoying the game?  Outgoing Gov. Bredeson- Haslam was sworn into office that very morning.  There were a few shots of actor Zach Galifinakis in a private box- or at least his look-alike.

The Blackhawks scored not once, but twice.  They were mightily outplaying the Predators.  But then, somehow, the Preds scored twice within what seemed like 5 minutes and tied the game.  Do you know what Preds fans do after a shot is scored?  They sing a song along the lines of "You suck" and "We're going to beat the hell out of you."  As Tracy noted, this was sportsmanship at its finest.

My heart just about gave out during the shootout.  I was very disappointed when the Hawks couldn't get a goal past Rinne, especially since Preds managed to get past rookie goalie Crawford.  Still, if your team is going to lose, I'd rather it happen during a shootout than the game itself.  And so the Blackhawks lost to the Predators 3-2.

Overall, I loved my first NHL game!  I hope I'll be able to watch the Blackhawks win the next time they come to town.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Sentiments: Greatness

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

When I've been doing a little too much naval-gazing, it's time to take the focus off of me. It's important to be self-aware and to work through one's frets and fears but too much of this and you'll drive yourself crazy. When I have a right view of God, when I conscientiously remember all the good He has done, my problems don't disappear but they're easier to take.  I worry less and I don't feel as frustrated and hopeless.

Since I was out late for a hockey game last night, I wasn't able to go to Saturday night service and was ambivalent about waking up for the 8 am service this morning.  Still, I know that it's important for me to go to church each week, not in a legalistic sense but as a way to set the tone for the week.

I'm sure I've mentioned the song "The Greatness of Our God" before but it's worth focusing on again.



The Greatness of Our God- Hillsong

Give me eyes to see
More of who You are
May what I behold,
still my anxious heart.
Take what I have known
And break it all apart
For You my God, are greater still.

Chorus: No sky contains,
No doubt restrains,
All You are,
The greatness of our God.
I spend my life to know,
And I'm far from close
To all You are,
The greatness of our God.

Give me grace to see
Beyond this moment here.
To believe that there
Is nothing left to fear.
That You alone are high above it all.
For You my God, are greater still.

Bridge: And there is nothing
That can ever separate us.
There is nothing that can ever
separate us from Your love.
No life, no death, of this I am convinced.
You my God, are greater still.

And no words can say, or song convey,
all You are the greatness of our God.
I spend my life to know,
And I'm far from close
to all You are,
the greatness of our God.


The stand out lines for me?
Give me eyes to see More of who You are
May what I behold, still my anxious heart. 

Give me grace to see Beyond this moment here. 

God's greatness, His sovereignty, His faithfulness...let that be my focus for the week ahead.

What do you need to focus on this week?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My 31st Birthday, also known as The Leigh Effect

I woke up Monday morning filled with grand plans of how to celebrate my birthday.  I was excited to unveil my 32 Things Before Turning 32 as well as the summary of my 31 Things.  I was looking forward to a day with Tracy and Anna, starting with breakfast and then an Impressionism exhibit and definitely a cupcake or three.

I got out of bed luxuriously, a leisurely way to begin this day off, and then shuffled to peak outside the front door.  Where this awaited me.

I knew that there was the possibility of snow but I had been hopeful it was a false alarm.  It wasn't and we all know that Tennessee does not view snow the way Illinois does.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've had bad weather luck on my birthday.  When I turned 2, the negative 20 degree, negative 80 windchill conditions kept all party-goers away.  The year I turned 17, many area schools were closed because of icy roads and snow, although my school had stayed open.  Luckily, most of my friends were still able to come to my party, although I question why parents let anyone out on the road.  Canceled parties, no-show guests, changed plans...my birthday has seen it all.  I had hoped that moving to a warmer state would end this bad run.  Alas, January 10 has proved the location does not matter when it comes to bad weather.

Never mind that it wasn't snowing during the day.  The two inches of snow shut down schools and many businesses.  There went my plans to go to the Frist and The Cupcake Collection.  Tracy and Anna were ready to forge ahead with Plan B.  Luckily, Pancake Pantry was still open and we didn't even have to wait in line!

A little background on this picture.  First, Tracy gave me that fantastic purple cardigan for my birthday because a) she loves me b) she knows I'm a sweater whore and c) it's so dang perfect for me!  Second, I'm holding a tray of sugar packets.  In high school, college, and let's face it, just a month ago, my best friends I would play the Sugar Packet Game.  This involved trying to toss a sugar packet into each others, um, assets.  Should I be ashamed that we roped our guy friends into playing along and that we found the whole thing to be both funny and innocent?  In any case, Tracy and I did not play the Sugar Packet Game this morning.

Hello, Pecan Pancakes!  These pancakes were quite delicious.  Don't you love the slab of butter on the side?  Pancake Pantry is a Nashville Original and thus counts toward my 32 Things (#26).  Pancake Pantry strikes me as any other diner but it seems to have taken on a mythological status among Nashvillains and tourists alike.

Onward with Plan B of the birthday plans.  They involved watching Anna frolic in the snow and some Red Box movies.
 Seriously, this little girl makes Plan B great.  Even if she was especially wild and rascally that day- she gave me enough spontaneous hugs to make up for it!

Tracy and I watched Twilight: Eclipse (books are still so much better than the movies!) and Easy A (simply hilarious...I liked it more than Mean Girls.)
I took a break before dinner to respond to a few of the Facebook messages, Tweets, blog comments, and emails, as well as talk to my parents on the phone.  Last year my mom and I celebrated my 30th in Asheville, NC.  Now we don't even live in the same state!

Tracy made PW's Butter Chicken for my birthday dinner.  It was delicious and I was too stuffed to eat the special cupcake Anna had made me.  Don't worry, I took it home for later.  Then while Joel watched a championship game of some sort, Tracy and I watched all the crazy that went down on The Bachelor.

It was a great birthday altogether.  Tracy, thanks for making it great and for spending the whole day with me!  You are the bestest of best friends and I'm so glad that we're just blocks away from each other now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Appetites and Almosts

There were a few sentences in chapters 3 and 4 of Your Secret Name that stood out to me this week. 


"Most men define who they are by what they do- their jobs. Most women define who they are by who they know- their relationships."  -p. 37
This was very striking to me.  I have had a season of unemployment and it was very disconcerting to not have a job as an identifier.  However, throughout my life, I have primarily defined myself by my relationships, or lack thereof.  I pride myself on the friendships I have maintained over the years, from grammar school to different jobs to random connections.  I strive to keep in regular contact with my extended family.  I view myself as Daughter, Sister, Cousin, Friend, Auntie. 

And then there's that other identifier I wish I could shed.  Single Woman.  Marriage is something I desire but it hasn't happened yet.  Now that I'm getting older (although, yes, still young in grand scheme of things), I feel the weight of my singleness all the more.  The majority of my friends and relatives are married.  I fear how I will come to be labeled if I never get married- even if that is God's best plan for my life.  (Ack!  God, I don't really mean that quite yet!)  The church doesn't quite know what to do with us Singles of  Certain Age and this doesn't help matters much either.

"I felt like He had dangled yet another dream in front of me, only to yank it right back when just inches from my grasp."  -p. 43
I haven't dated all that much, for reasons I'm never sure of.  However, I did have one very short relationship.  I won't go into the history but suffice it to say, at the start, I thought he was quite possibly The One.  When it ended abruptly, I was furious with the guy, to be sure, but also at God.  Why had He let me experience something so wonderful only to yank it away? 

I had had a break from being known as Single Woman, only to put that label back on, akin to pinning an S to my shirt.  I was not pleased.  I can now look back and realize that Mr. Wonderful was not as wonderful as he seemed.  We would never have been a good match in the long run.  There was blessing in that heartbreak, though I definitely didn't see it at the time.

Speaking of Esau: "He let his stomach get the best of him, listening more to his urges than to his better judgment.  He sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. On the verge of tasting a new name, Esau preferred a pot of pottage instead."  -p. 56
While I want to be known as Wife and Mother, I have not let that desire sway me in settling for less.  Truthfully if I wanted to be married for the sake of being married, I could have done that a long time ago.  But I want to know true love and I want to experience God's best for me.  I continue to wait, some days more gracefully than others.

Esau's story sobers me.  He's not the only one that allowed his appetite to get the best of him.  I don't want to settle.  I don't want my hang ups about being single to lead me down a bad road.  I don't want to view singleness as something "wrong" with me, as if marriage is the ultimate reward for Christians.  I know that's not true, no matter how many of the people around me believe it to be.

I want to hone my ear to God's voice, instead of my urges. I want to move past the almosts to the actuality of my life, even when it doesn't turn out the way I had planned.  I want all of this to be enough.

This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.


Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Monday, January 10, 2011

31 Things: The Reckoning

Today marks the end of my quest to complete 31 Things Before Turning 31, as today is that most magical of days: my 31st birthday.  I'm actually proud of how many of these I was able to do, especially since I created my list a month after my birthday.  Even if I didn't finish a few of these, they're at least in process or in the works.

Without further ado, here's the grand updated list!

Photobucket


1. Visit my brother Matt in Virginia

2. Move to Nashville

3. Flambé something

4. Read 100 books

5. Go to a writing workshop, read a book on writing, etc.

6. Take a horseback riding lesson -I had scheduling difficulties with this one.  My former roommate was going to give me a lesson before I moved but we couldn't get our acts together.  However, a few months ago there was a LivingSocial deal for a riding lesson and this will be in the works for this spring.

7. Go to the Holocaust Museum

8. Eat at one of Rick Bayless' restaurants

9. Scrapbook 2007, 2008, and 2009 -So close!  I made it to about April in 2009.

10. Complete Anna and Katelyn's birthday presents- This is an insanely huge undertaking!  I've started cutting out the pattern but two of these means double the work.  The silver lining is they're both young enough that they don't know Auntie will be late with their present.

11. Go to Medieval Times
12. See the new Modern exhibit at the Art Institute
13. Dance every week

14. Update my recipe book -Another big undertaking!  I've made good headway but I still have a lot of transcribing to do.

15. Buy a new stereo system

16. Reacquaint myself with my Canon Rebel -Canon Rebel or not, I've overall increased my picture taking.  Next on my list is to get a new digital camera for the days I don't want to lug the Rebel around.

17. Regularly paint and sketch -I did paint and sketch more than I did the year before but there is definite room for improvement.

18. Make next T-shirt blanket

19. Do an intense Spring Clean

20. Enlarge blog readership for HopefulLeigh (Goal of 25 confirmed followers.) Between Google Friend Connect and FeedBurner, I more than doubled my goal!  Thanks for following along, friends.

21. Enlarge blog readership for my professional blog (Aiming to get to 50 here.) I exceeded this goal as well- I've been holding steady at 70+ readers.  I thought my transition to pediatrics might have cost me some readers but the opposite has happened.  All the more impressive since I'm lucky if I update it once a month!

22. Eat at 5 new restaurants

23. Get my next tattoo- I came so close on this!  Before I moved there were a few friends that wanted to accompany me and get their own tattoos as well but this fell through.  Then once I moved, I faced the task of finding a quality tattoo parlor.  I started asking around and I'm glad to say that I've finally found the perfect place!  I'm excited to check this one off the list soon.

24. Consult a naturopath -I didn't completely follow through but I did research some different options on eczema and that's good enough for me.

25. Preserve my White Sox 2005 World Series newspapers and memorabilia- I got stuck on researching the preservation materials and then never got around to ordering them because, well, they're pricey.  In any case, I think I have it narrowed down to a few options.

26. Buy a new computer printer -My friend Kelly gifted me with her old printer.  Score!  (Thanks again, Kelly!)

27. Be a peacemaker -Strange as it may seem, this little goal stayed in the back of my mind whether dealing with office politics or friend drama.  It helped me keep my tongue in check when need be but also helped me be a mediator.

28. Bring back Last Minute Dinners

29. Cook a real meal 2-4 times per month whether or not I'm having company  -I've been a cooking fiend again which has been great!  I've been intentional about trying new recipes, tweaking old ones, and feeding my favorite friends.  Cooking is such a great stress reliever for me.
 
30. Find a new small group Bible study

31. Be open to wherever this next year takes me!  -It would be simple to say "look at #2" and leave it at that.  However, through the ups and downs of this past year's transitions, I did remain open to whatever God was trying to teach me each moment.  It's not always easy but a lesson I hope to cultivate through the rest of my life.


Take heart...my quest is far from over.  Go here to look at 32 Things Before Turning 32!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Sentiments: Prodigal's Sister

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

I was on my way to meet my friend Trish at Edgehill Cafe yesterday morning, in good spirits and looking forward to tea and brunch.  My mind was wandering and I landed on a certain gripe I have with God right now. We've been in a holding pattern on this particular topic, with me alternately pleading, then content, and then frustrated.

"Hey, God.  Remember me?  I don't understand why you won't let ___ happen!  I have been obedient, even when it isn't easy!  And other people don't (or do) ____ - why do they get these things when they're not living how You would want them to?  I don't know what more you want!  What is the point of this?"

As I sought clarity, I had an uncomfortable realization.  I was sounding an awful lot like the brother of the prodigal son.  Crap.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’    28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
   31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”  -Luke 15
It is telling that I read this passage and still have a lot of sympathy for the brother.  Yes, I know the point of the parable is to show God's incomparable grace.   The prodigal son wanted to sow his oats, realized he'd screwed up, and came home on the off-chance that his father would let him be a servant.  Instead, the father is so happy his son has returned, he has the prized cow killed for their dinner and throws a big party.

To the other son, it had to seem patently unfair.  Here he is toiling away without any seeming recognition.  The party thrown for his wayward brother had to seem like a slap in the face.  I understand that the prodigal's brother wants a little tangible recognition.

I realized that some of my reaction comes from a place of self-righteous pride. After all, I didn't do x, y, or z.  But when someone else gets what I've been wanting and waiting for?  Well, a little bitterness has started to take root.  That's why I keep going back to God, trying to understand, trying to accept, and really trying to maintain some hope in what can seem like a hopeless situation.

How do I value eternal reward over temporal earthly blessings?  My sympathy for the brother lies in understanding his discontent.  We may be close with our Father and all He has may be ours someday but we want something tangible now.

I don't want to turn into the prodigal's sister but I'm not sure how to change.

What say you, readers?  Have you had any prodigal brother/sister moments?  What's helped you through them?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blind Hope review

Blind Hope has it all: a rescue ranch, a rescued mutt, and the transformation of the rescuer.

Kim Meeder and her husband Troy own Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon, which serves horses and children that have experienced abuse and neglect.  Rescuing horses evolved into a ministry of rescuing people and dreams.  Equine therapy at its finest, I suppose.

The ranch has an active volunteer program and sometimes volunteers are hired on as staff. Such is the case of Laurie Sacher.  Blind Hope tells the story of how Laurie picked a dog no one would ever want, nurtured her through unexpected illness, accepting Mia's eventual blindness, and training Mia how to experience life in spite of her disability. You can't help but root for this dog!

Along the way, Laurie learns lessons about herself and her relationship with God.  The book is sometimes written as dialog between Kim and Laurie and this comes across as awkward at times.  Is this really what their conversations were like?  I didn't always buy it.  The chapters with Laurie's story told plainly in third-person form worked better for me.

There are pictures of Mia and Laurie interspersed throughout the book, which I appreciated.  While the descriptions of Mia are rich, I loved being able to see her personality come alive through the photographs.  That alone made me wonder whether I could take time off of work and go volunteer at the ranch!
This was a quick read while I was on the plane from Chicago back to Nashville.  I knew I was taking a risk by reading a dog book on the plane.  And yes, that risk was warranted.  You might cry at some point or another while reading, not just because of what Mia the mutt goes through but because of all that Laurie learns about herself along the way.  The lessons God teaches Laurie are lessons we can all benefit from.

Dog lovers will especially enjoy reading about "an unwanted dog and the woman she rescued."

Disclosure: I  received this book free fromWaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group  as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.  

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rules of Engagement

I admit when I first started reading chapter 4 of @StickyJesus I was a little worried the authors were going to tell me how to pimp out Jesus. Thankfully, they did not, nor did they talk about how we could "sell" Jesus.


Instead, the message was simply how far-reaching and vast Christ's audience was.  His words struck a chord with people then and they continue to reach people 2000 years later.  In marketing speak, He had a sticky message.


He didn't use any tricks or gimmicks.  He was Himself and who that was is someone who knew how to engage others.  He saw right to the heart of things.  No one could hide who they were from Him and yet His love for them became all the more evident.


Relationship over religion.  The truth is Jesus does not always make sense.  It does not make sense to love sinners- not just love them but love them enough to sacrifice His own life for their salvation.


It's easy to think that if we had been face to face with Jesus when He walked the earth, that of course we would have received His message and we would never have denied Him.  I like to think that being able to look into His eyes and be on the receiving end of His ability to relate to others would have been enough for me.  Since I'll never know the answer to that, all I can do is try to live in His footsteps and mirror His actions.


How do I relate to others?  More importantly, how do I engage the people in my life?  


Luckily, this is an area I excel in.  As a social worker, I am an expert at drawing out people's stories, getting them to think about situations from a different angle, and affirming who they are and where they want to go.  I know how to value someone's opinion while not necessarily agreeing with it. I cringe when I see people being "talked to" instead of "related to."  I am an excellent listener.


This is imperative at my job.  However, in my personal life, it can create some lopsided relationships.  I can't exactly be a light for Christ if the other person never stops talking.  I've had to be intentional in sharing parts of my life with friends, instead of lapsing into my role as The Listener.  


Chapter 4 reminded me that I have a message to share.  I want to be someone who people know is a Christian, within minutes of talking to me- even if I'm not bringing up Church, God, Prayer, or the other Christian buzzwords.  I want to be so filled with Christ's love and grace that it overflows from my life into the lives of others.  And I don't want it to just be evident in my life but in my blog and on Facebook and on Twitter.  I guess what I'm seeing is that I want to be that sticky message wherever I am with however I'm interacting with others.

This post was written for the @StickyJesus Read-Along hosted by Michelle Sarabia.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon from HopefulLeigh, any purchase you make supports this site.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Expectancy

You may have noticed that different bloggers are choosing a word for this year, whether they're participating in OneWord2011 or came up with the idea on their own.  One word to keep at the forefront of our minds, maybe an area we'd like to improve on or a way to still our hearts.

I love this idea because it goes beyond resolutions, right to the heart of active change.

Still, I had a hard time coming up with a word.  What word could I be mindful of this year?  What change would I like to see in my life as a result?  What are my biggest concerns and struggles right now?  And what, really, is God trying to say through these things?

I call myself HopefulLeigh but really that is what I aspire to be.  I am ever so hopeful and encouraging with everyone else, so much harder on myself.  After a 2010 that was filled with transition, I find myself once again the waiting room. I wonder what God will do in my life in 2011, which dreams will be realized and which dreams will continue to be on hold.

But really I wonder what my attitude will be like through it all.

I love these words from Shauna Niequist: 

"Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it's been lost."  -Bittersweet, p. 95
"Sometimes the happiest ending isn't the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are." -Bittersweet, p. 129
These words have shaped what will be my word for this year: Expectancy.

For some reason, I don't always expect a whole lot from God.  I am so surprised and overwhelmed when He blesses me.  Case in point: getting my dream job, moving to Nashville 7 months ago, and all that has accompanied it.  I knew I needed to take a leap of faith but I never expected God to come through in such huge ways.

What would it look like to expect and anticipate God's work in my life?  I'm not referring to a Name It and Claim It type of gospel.  That's probably on the other spectrum of where I sit. 

I want to taste and see God's goodness in my life. 

Even when, and maybe especially when, things go awry.  My first weekend call was this past weekend and it was, quite frankly, hell.  God did not answer my prayers for a quiet weekend, no middle of the night calls, or that my worst fears (DCS or psych cases) wouldn't be realized.  However, I believe God gave me a sense of clarity, which enabled me to triage what I was given, know when I needed to ask my co-workers for guidance, and successfully do my job, even when I was at my breaking point.  So perhaps I had prayed the wrong prayer.  I shouldn't ask to avoid my fears but ask for the wisdom to handle them when they occur.  And I should anticipate that God will give me the strength to keep going no matter what.

I want to live in more hope.  Hope that my dreams will come true or that I will start dreaming the right ones.  Hope that God will use me for His good.  Hope that my loved ones will recognize their need for Him.  Hope that I will be more graceful toward myself, that I will not miss out on what God wants to do in and through me.

Even though my life is fairly lovely in so many ways, I can't see the happy ending from where I sit.  If I could live with expectancy through my time in this waiting room.  If I could anticipate that God is at work right this minute, that He is bringing forth something in my life that is more than I could ever ask or imagine.  I think if I can be expectant in all of these ways, I will be an entirely new person by the dawn of 2012.

I am going to live with expectancy that as the year progresses, I will see traces of God at work and glimpses of what my dreams will be.  As I gain more knowledge of the Holy, perhaps I will learn to be more expectant of myself in the process.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Too Legit to Quit

Author Kary Oberbrunner set me at ease with his opening lines in the first chapter of Your Secret Name.  He mentions the difficulty of growing up as a boy with a girl's name.  I grew up with a similar problem in reverse.  Leigh is a unisex name.  While people who know me know that I am unquestionably feminine, I've amassed stories over the years of people who heard my name and guessed I was a boy.  That even includes my best friend Erin. 

Back in freshman year of high school before our paths crossed, she was dating one of my grammar school classmates.  Only a handful of us had transitioned from private Christian grammar school to public high school and Erin wanted to know who else had accompanied Troy.  Troy mentioned my name and Erin replied, "Oh, I don't know him."  We can laugh about it today but I can testify that no one wants to be mistaken for the opposite gender.

I suppose my bigger woes have been the constant misspelling and mispronunciation of my birth name.  Lee, Lea, Leah, Lee-ih, pronounced like "sleigh."  The possibilities are endless, including one telemarketer that asked to speak with "Legit."  I wish I was kidding.

Kary mentions how the teasing over his name brought him to his breaking point.  My name has never brought me to my breaking point but it has brought me to full-on irritation.  It's annoying to correct people all the time.  Family friends will lapse into calling me "Leah."  A relative will switch the "e" and the "i" in a card.  Differentiating that while some parts of the US name their boys Leigh, my parents named their daughter Leigh.  I've never met anyone with my name and spelling- although I have run into one or two in the blogosphere.  Despite all this, I don't know what other birth name would better suit me.  I am a unique girl with a unique name and spelling.  Leigh somehow fits me.

I never intended to take any other names for myself (beyond a new last name if Mr. Right ever gets around to meeting me.)  Yet, over the years, I've amassed various Given Names.  Given Names, those manmade traps, false selves- they bring us to the pit of despair.  Even though I've been able to replace the truth for the lies with some of them, these Given Names remain in my history.  I used to call myself Ugly, Unlovable, Unwanted.  Those were dark days.  Even now, on an occasional sad day or insecure moment, I can see them hovering in the background, just waiting for me to put them back on.  But I don't.

Even though I can boast victory over those Given Names, there are other Given Names I still have and I long to discover what God's name for me might be.
"You too need to be awakened by God's whisper in a dream because, most likely, you have no idea of all the wonderful plans God wants to lavish upon you."  -p. 27
I want to see the ways that God created me in His likeness.  What are the parts of me where God shines through?  I want to be centered in His will no matter what is going on around me.  I don't want to get hung up on how other people see me or how they want me to be.  I am simply me. A daughter, sister, friend, pediatric social worker, White Sox fan, music lover, book nerd, and child of God.  That last identifier should trump the who of who I am.

The first two chapters of Your Secret Name held such wonderful nuggets of truth.  I'm looking forward to how the rest of this journey will unfold.


This post is part of the Your Secret Name Read-Along hosted by the ever-lovely Marla Taviano.


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