How to Celebrate the 4th of July When You're Not Proud to Be an American

Fourth of July

Before I dive into this post, I want to remind anyone reading of my comment policy. I always welcome constructive criticism, but please be kind.

I haven't felt much like celebrating America for a little over a year now. With all the things that have been happening in this country, it's made it difficult for me to feel proud to be an American. That's something that's hard to explain to some people because American pride is so ingrained in us from an early age. 

If you're like me and are a part of one of the marginalized people groups in this country, it can often feel like America isn't even home. But, this is where I was born, and it is my home, and instead feeling saddened all the time at the state of our country, I want to take some time to share how you can celebrate, even if you don't necessarily feel like there's much to be celebrated.

1. Be Thankful for Service Men and Women

I have many family members, friends, and former mentors who have served or currently are serving in the military, and I am so incredibly thankful to and for them. Serving in the military is a sacrifice, whether you die in action or not. Service men and women give up time with their own families and loved ones to protect our freedoms, so we can safely spend time with our loved ones, and I am so grateful to them for that sacrifice and bravery. So I will be thinking of all Service Men and Women on Tuesday

2. Be Grateful for the Freedoms We Have in America

I may not always be proud to be an American, but I'm grateful that I'm free to express that. I'm grateful that I have to freedom to say that I'm dissatisfied with, or even grieved at the state of my country. I'm grateful that I get to worship Jesus Christ freely and openly, and that it's not a crime. There are many countries in the world where certain religions are outlawed, and where questioning/criticizing the government could mean jail time or death. So I'm thankful for the rights and freedoms that I have as an American citizen.

3. Be Mindful of the Work Still to be Done

There is still a lot of work to be done in America so that everyone can truly feel safe here. The rights of many law-abiding citizens are still being threatened, and that's not okay. So much reform is needed, and there is a lot that's wrong. But instead of being weighed down by all that's bad and wrong, I've decided to remember what's right and to work towards what's right every day. Progress is slow, but it will happen.

4. Be Hopeful for the Next Generation

There is always, always, ALWAYS hope that the next generation will do better than the previous one. No generation ever has or ever will get life completely right because mankind is not perfect. No matter what religion, spirituality, or philosophy you subscribe to, I think we can all agree that no one is perfect. But we can always have hope that the next generation will learn from our mistakes, learn what worked and what didn't, and that they'll strive to be better than the ones that came before them. It's like hoping your kids will be better off and happier than you were. I hope that the generation after mine is incredible and that they do amazing things, not just in America, but all over the world.

I hope this has been helpful or inspiring to someone out there. Please know that I am in no way saying that America is the worst country out there. No country gets it perfect because, again, humanity is not perfect. But I just wanted to say that, even with so many terrible things happening in the world, there is always something to be positive about and something good to hope for.

Have a Blessed Fourth of July!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Leave What's Heavy Behind...

I wanted to dig a little deeper today and share some pretty personal struggles that my little family and I have been going through for the last two years.

This September, my husband and I will celebrate two years of marriage, and three and a half years of being in a relationship altogether. We're still madly in love and choosing love everyday, but it has been far from easy in our two short years of marriage.

I'll give you a brief little backstory. We both lived in Dallas before we got married, then about two months before our wedding, my husband moved to OKC for a job. After that, we got married in September of 2015, and I joined him in OKC. About three weeks after that, we found out that we were, very unexpectedly, pregnant.

Now, I am not someone who likes a lot of life change, and especially not in large doses. I absolutely adore my son, but finding out that I was pregnant with him was absolutely terrifying. I like to plan things, plan my life, and when things happen that I don't plan for, I meltdown for a little bit. My son was unplanned for, and I didn't know how to cope with it at first.

But that's not this story. This story is about how to deal when you live your life between a rock and a hard place. 

LJ The Inspired Life-Lost and Lonely

Living in Oklahoma was incredibly difficult for us. You wouldn't think so, but there is a big difference in culture between Oklahoma and Dallas. Yes, I know I'm comparing an entire state to just one Texas city, but take any major city in Texas and the comparison will still apply. 

We had culture shock. We were in a new place, with no family or friends in the state. My husband was at a new job, and I couldn't find a job. We were newly married and newly moved and, come to find out, newly pregnant. It was all so much... NEW. It was terrifying and the most stressful thing that I've ever been through, and unless you've been in similar circumstances, you can't really relate. Believe me, I've had people try, and they just don't get the magnitude of the situation. 

Well, fast-forward to a year after living there. Our son had been born, which was wonderful, but we still had no friends and no family in the area. Then my husband's job turned sour. He had someone close to him, betray him at work, and that devastated us both because we considered this person a friend.

That then made our last few months in Oklahoma even more stressful and incredibly difficult. We felt even more isolated and alone than when we first moved there. It was almost more than we could bare, and considering all that we've dealt with, I'm surprised (and grateful) that we haven't had more problems in our marriage.

LJ The Inspired Life-Are You Tired

I, by nature, am an incredibly protective person, and that is an understatement. If someone comes after my friends or family, my first instinct is to attack, to protect and defend. I can be ruthless, in a take-no-prisoners kind of way. I can be vicious and unforgiving, and the honest truth is that it doesn't bother me. 

Except...it does. I am a Christian, and I believe that, because God has forgiven me, I should forgive others. I believe that, or at least, I know it intellectually. But it's so difficult for me to put it into practice. When I feel like someone has committed a terrible act against me (or anyone else), and there is no (earthly) justice, I find myself unwilling to forgive. I feel like, if I give that up, if I "let it go," then that person has won and it won't matter that they hurt me or someone else.

I know it's not right, but it's how I feel sometimes. I have been hurt by so many people, and it's by people who should 1) know better and 2) keep doing it. So why should I forgive them?

Well, the forgiveness isn't for them, it's for me

With forgiveness comes freedom. You free up space in your mind and your heart for something infinitely better to come along and occupy it. And you free yourself from the responsibility of having to hold everyone accountable for the terrible things they've done. 

I just can't be the judge, jury and executioner (so to speak) for everyone that commits a sin against me. I can't, and I don't want to.

LJ The Inspired Life-Love That's Healing

This person that betrayed my husband...

I was so mad at them for what feels like a long time. I'm still angry with them. But the truth is, I've never wanted to forgive someone so much in my entire life. I just don't have the time or energy anymore for all that anger and resentment. 

It takes its toll. Plus, I'm still working on forgiving people I've been mad at for way longer than I've even known this person, so even more reason to just let them go with God and forgive them.

I'm ready to move on with my life. We have physically moved away from that conflict. We are back in Dallas and close to family again, and we are on our way to building healthy, life-giving relationships. 

That truly is one of the best ways to get rid of the pain: replace it with love. Love casts out all fear. Love protects. Love heals. Love wins. Every time. We can't always see it immediately, but I really believe that love will always win. And you can always find people who will love you. You can always find a tribe. 

So I'm ready to leave what's heavy behind and start fresh. I'm ready to heal, grow, and help others. I have so much love to give, not just to my family and friends, but to people I haven't met yet, and maybe one day, I'll get to help someone through the most difficult time in their life. Maybe I'll be a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, and a voice to say "You will make it through this, and you'll come out on the other side stronger than you were before."

I truly believe that. 

If you're reading this, thanks for letting me share today. And if you, too, are going through a difficult time, just know that it will get better.

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Lately...

Hello? Is this thing on?

Preparing for a new baby takes up so much time, and with busy schedules and visiting family, I have not been able to give this space the time and attention it deserves. I am back, though, and with a few tid bits about what I've been up to and how life's been going.

The above picture is the husband and me at Easter lunch. I'll be honest for a second and say that this picture was hard for me to post, because it's the first pregnancy picture I've shared online and on social media. If you follow me on Instagram, then this picture isn't new. But hey, milestone!

Reading... The most recent book I read was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Very good read! It was a page turner, and it kept me on my toes. I've also heard it's going to be a series on HBO next year. I'm interested to read more books by her.

Writing... All. The. Lists. Lists on lists on lists. I wrote an extensive to-do list of things my husband and I need to get done before Baby Boy makes his appearance in 56 days...!!! It can get really overwhelming thinking of all the things that need to get done, but at the same time, it gives me a sense of control when I accomplish something.

Wearing... Lot's of stretchy things! It's odd because, on one hand, I don't want anything touching my belly. Like if I could walk around in midriff tops all day everyday, I totally would. But at the same time, I need the stretch because my belly no longer fits anything that I wore pre-pregnancy, or even in the first and second trimester.

Eating... Anything and everything. But I'm still keeping it pretty healthy. I'm trying to get in lots of proteins and veggies, but I have always been a huge fan of carbs, so those are in there too. I'm trying to eat a lot of organic food and foods without a ton of preservatives. I've been doing a lot more scratch cooking (which Joshua LOVES), so that's been fun.

And that's all I can think of to update you guys on! It's been a crazy few weeks. I'm tired all the time now, and I don't sleep well, but I've got less than two months before I meet my new little man and life changes forever (again). I'm scared as crap, but I'm excited!

Let the Pain Remind You...

Today, I had planned on writing about wedding etiquette. We've been keeping things pretty lighthearted so far, which has been great and due in large part to my wonderful fiance. I hate to follow up his post from yesterday with a much less lighthearted one, but I like to be honest, and I believe in the power of sharing stories.

Getting married is a funny thing. The business of planning a wedding is absolutely nuts, exciting, nerve-wracking, and fun. There is so much that goes into it, and if you're like me and a stickler about the details, then things can get overwhelming pretty quick. 

But they tell you that. They tell you to start planning pretty much from the time you answer his proposal with a "yes!" They tell you what the deadlines are, and when to get fitted for this or that, when to put down a deposit for this or that, how to haggle for certain services and which ones you should splurge on. They give you all the directions and endless resources on how to have the perfect wedding of your dreams.

It's what they don't tell you...

Before I ever met Joshua, and before I was cynical, I had dreamed of the different ways I would meet and fall in love with my husband. In my head, it was all magic, and moonbeams, fairy tales and sweet dreams...

But in real life, I tripped out of a van after spending a couple of hours talking (and flirting) with him. In real life, his car died on our first date. In real life, I'm planning my wedding, and I'm sort of depressed.

See, what no one tells you, is that getting married will change everything about you. I mean, if you really, truly love your future spouse more than you love yourself, that kind of love will change you. It will make you realize all the selfish and terrible things about yourself, but it will also allow you to see the absolutely wonderful things about yourself that you fiance sees. 

It will challenge you to think, speak, and live in way that you never would have thought of before, because before, you were single and only worried about you. 

And what they don't tell you is that it will bring up things from your past that you have long forgotten and thought you'd gotten over, but you really haven't, and now even going to the grocery store can make you want to break out in tears...

Woops! Did I say that last part out loud?

The truth is, no one makes it through life without having their heart broken by somebody. And I don't just mean romantic heartbreak. Friends, family, teachers, neighbors, strangers...they can all break our hearts. None of us makes it through life without experiencing any pain. It's part of the human experience is this fallen world. And every time we experience heartbreak and pain, it can have a lasting effect on us. 

The memory is a powerful thing. It's so strange how certain things can take you back in time and force you to relive traumatic things. And by strange, I mean it sucks.

Even still, I've been blessed to know love in this life, and many times more love than I know what to do with, so I try not to complain too much.

I am still me, though, and I do not like change. I have also received my fair share of trauma, too, so this is no cake walk of a life transition.

The change and the trauma are giving me the blues, but I'm trying to keep my chin up because at the end of the day, I have someone by my side who walks with me through it all, and I have a Father in heaven who hears the cries of my soul and who is healing me even as I write this.

Friends (and ladies in particular), I'm here to tell you this: the road to your "happy ending" may not look like you thought it would, even after you've got the ring on your hand. There will still be hard days, bad days, days when you would give your right arm not to get out of bed in the morning. But those days will be fewer and far between. 

Hanging out with with the ones you care about, that's the bliss. That's when you remember what you're here for. Because all life's one great love story, and we all have an important place in it...

For all the things that you’re alive to feel, just let the pain remind you hearts can heal...
— Paramore

The Woman, Blossoming...

There is someone...

A man whom I admire. A man who makes me proud. A man who makes me giggle like a school girl...

He's wonderful. He really is. 

In the short time that we've been spending time together, he has (unknowingly) helped me to realize something about myself: I've grown up.

I remember the start of every dating relationship I've ever had. I remember how I felt and what I liked about each guy. I remember the excitement, often paired with anxiety, because I wanted to impress them. I wanted them to like me, to be proud of me. I remember being so worried about what they thought me, but looking back, I was never really me at all.

This time, it's different. I'm not worried about what he thinks of me. I honestly don't really care about impressing him. While I want him to like me, I not going to go out of my way to try to be someone who I think he'll like. I'm just going to be myself, and hopefully that's enough.

The funny thing is...this wasn't something I thought about and made a conscious decision to change. It's something I noticed myself doing, without thinking about it or analyzing it or praying about it. I believe it's me growing up. It's LesLeigh, the woman dating a man, not LesLeigh, the girl wanting a boy's attention and affection. 

I often find myself being very honest with him. Not necessarily about deep things, but surface level things that I used to hide from previous suitors. I don't over-analyze everything that I'm thinking before I say it. 

With him and I, it's not a competition as to who can hide even the very least of their intentions and emotions. It's two adults, talking and laughing, with friends or alone, enjoying each other's company. 

I was afraid to write this down, to publish this, because everything is so new and I feel the need to protect it. However, if you know me at all by now, you'll know I am a fan of transparency and of sharing anything that anyone might be able to relate to or learn from. So here we are...

I don't know if he's my husband or how long we'll last. I'm not sure of the future, or if his future has anything to do with my future. I don't know what the great Lord has in store for us. 

All I know is that I find him kind of fascinating, and I like the way he makes me feel when I'm with him. But already, I am grateful for the woman that he has awakened within me. The mature, graceful woman of God. And oh, how wild and lovely still is she...

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"When You Lose Something You Can't Replace..."

This week has been a hard one. 

I either haven't slept, or I've slept all day. The first three days of the week, I barely left my room, and the only time I did leave was to go to work. 

When I was awake, I was wondering what the hell my problem is because there really isn't anything "wrong" with me. I didn't just break up with a boyfriend, I'm not fighting with any friends, I didn't get fired from any jobs. 

But I realized, I'm still grieving.... 

You see, a couple of weeks ago, my cousin died. It was unexpected, and the way I found out was...just unfair.  

I know what you're thinking. "Were you and your cousin close?"  

That's what everyone asks. No, we weren't. Especially in the last couple of years. But that doesn't make the loss any easier. It didn't keep me from crying when I found out. It hasn't kept me from spiritually mourning him, even though my mind moved on to current matters. 

He was young. 20 or 21 years old. A baby in the grand scheme of things. His life had barely started. That's part of what makes this so hard. It hurts my soul when people die young, and for it to be a family member this time.... 

My soul hurts. 

Out of respect for my family, I don't want to share too many details right now. But, tomorrow, my family and I will be making the trip to Illinois to see family and pay our respects to my sweet cousin.  

I'm not really looking forward to the trip. I'm pretty sure my whole body is protesting, which is why I've been so out of whack and kind of sick this week. 

If you read this all the way through, bless you. I know it's long, and there aren't any pictures or videos. And if you pray, then please take a knee for my family if you feel led to. 

*Post title from the song "Fix You" by Coldplay*

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