Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This Is the Way We Put on Our Clothes . . .

I can remember times when I’ve studied the Fruit of the Spirit and have asked God to help me grow in them. Dangerous prayers. I actually went and asked Him to help me be more patient.

He gave me a two year old.

I am convinced that Charles Dickens must have had a two year old in mind when he penned, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” I daily find myself hilariously laughing, wanting to cry in frustration, needing to count to ten to collect myself, and uproariously laughing again. And that’s just when I’m trying to help Gabby get dressed.

While I love the learning, discovery, sweetness, and some of the funniest one-liners that I’ve ever heard, there are definitely aspects of two-yeardom that I could do without. Oddly, sometimes the parts that I love and hate are actually the same thing. I call it the paradox of the two year old.

For instance . . . newfound independence.

If I had to sum up this season in three words, it would be, “I do it.” Just about everything in our day ends up with this emphatic statement from eating food, to getting buckled in the car, and most dramatically, getting dressed. And although there was a time not too long ago when I longed for the day when Gabby could do these things on her own, I’m finding that this season is not the most efficient alternative.

After several weeks of practice with a newborn, I could get us both ready for the day in a flat 15 minutes. It could take 15 minutes for Gabby to put on a sock. A few days actually took over an hour to get her dressed, as attempts with each garment inevitably were scattered with frustrated fits of rage (Gabby, not me . . . usually). And although I could easily help her get dressed, it was made incredibly clear that my assistance was not desired.

After a few days of this routine, when we were both feeling particularly frustrated, I had this thought occur to me. “Maybe the point of this season is not actually getting dressed?”

I could focus on teaching Gabby the art of getting her arms in her sleeves and putting on her pants before her shoes, and I certainly could pick out cute, matching outfits, and get her dressed in 5 minutes on my own. At the end of the day, though, at best, she’s learned something that could be taught to some really smart primates. Maybe instead, I could use the clothes as an opportunity to talk about perseverance, asking for help, and how to handle frustration.

In a moment of divine reframing, the Holy Spirit gave me a glimpse of the Father’s heart, and His incredible kindness, goodness, and yes, patience, in helping me learn what must be some of the simplest tasks for His infinite power. I thought about my own “two-year old tantrums” that I fall prey to all too often.

I try and lead a Children’s Ministry for our church plant.

I try and adjust to a new city, culture, and friends.

I try to help my daughter get dressed.

When I try and do these things on my own, out of my own power and will, it’s only a matter of time before I find myself in tears, face down on the floor, banging my arms in frustration at my seemingly impossible task (or at least figuratively . . . usually). And my Heavenly Father so gently offers brilliant coaching, endless encouragement, and the most impeccable help the moment I ask Him for it.

He teaches me vision in the midst of weekly lesson plan preparation.

He teaches me how to find rest in the midst of a strange, new land.

He teaches me how to love my daughter the way He loves her.

And then, in a similar fashion to mine and Gabby’s post-dressed celebration, He dances, jumps up and down, and rejoices with even my mismatched, inside-out, backwards accomplishments. He knows that my growth in these seasons will go far beyond children’s ministry strategies and parallel parking expertise, just as I know that Gabby will come out of her season with far more than an ability to fix her sleeves and develop a better sense of fashion.

I was awoken this morning by a little girl running into my room, fully dressed in a matching outfit, proudly telling me how she got ready for the day all by herself. The paradox has turned, and I rejoice in the independence. And it gives me hope that maybe one day soon, I’ll master the art of newfound dependence, leaning on my Daddy to help me with even the most simple tasks, and learning to say, “You and I do it,” every step along the way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

See Your Face

In the year since we moved to Philadelphia, God has been so faithful providing for our family in so many ways. One of the biggest difficulties, however, has been the subsequent distance that we experience from our families. There has been more than one occasion when I’ve desperately wished for some kind of teleportation device that could magically bring my Pittsburgh and Detroit families all together with us.

Although physical geography makes daily visits impossible, one of the best tools that has helped the separation has been FaceTime on the iPhone. (As if my husband needed one more reason to obsess over this phone). I remember when I first saw the commercial advertising it. There was that Marine watching his baby sonogram. And the little girl telling her dad, “Good night.” But when they showed the hearing impaired couple that could now talk on the phone for the first time, I cried. Those Apple people. It’s like they have a marketing strategy or something.

For my family, FaceTime has meant that Gabby and Claire can see and know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on a regular basis, even if there are months between our physical meetings. They can share in big moments like Claire’s first crawls or little moments like watching Gabby twirl in her dress.

We use it so often, that Gabby (my two-year-old) doesn’t understand what it’s like to talk to someone on the phone and not see them. In fact, she has no use for just talking and listening to someone’s voice. She’ll instead tell her listener, “I want to see your face.”

Since adding baby #2 to the mix in March 2011 and a church plant in September 2011, I’ve found that my previously scarce alone time spent for quiet and reflection has gone the way of the wooly mammoth. It’s officially extinct. Daytime (and sometimes nighttime) hours are spent changing diapers, working part time jobs, planning children’s ministry, and enjoying time with my husband.

My quiet times with Jesus have changed a bit since the days when I could get up early before classes and journal and read for several hours. When I do get time alone with Jesus (usually early in the morning or late at night), it’s easy to find myself doing a lot of the talking. And when I say talking, I really mean whining.

“How am I going to get all this stuff done, God?”

“What am I going to do with our budget?”

“I’m a little concerned about this new behavior that I’m seeing in my daughter.”

“What are you intending to do to help that family in our church?”

And the whines go on and on.

I get so wrapped up in lengthy descriptions of problems (as if He didn’t know them) and desperate pleas for solutions (as if He didn’t have them), that I forget my heart’s true desire. In spending so much time seeking after my Father’s hands, I miss seeing His face.

Even more than I want Him to “say the word” and fix my life, I just want Him. I want to see the big things and little things that He wants to show me, whether that be direction on that important decision that’s coming up, or the beauty of my daughter twirling. And more than anything, I want to see Him. Although there may be a physical separation between my Heavenly Father and me, I’ve found that His Holy Spirit is far more effective even than FaceTime in providing a meaningful connection.

In those early morning and late night moments, when I get my alone time with Jesus, I hear Gabby’s words coming back to me, and I say them to my Father.

“I want to see your face.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer Lovin'

The summer after my senior year in high school had to be one of the best summers of my life. I had a nanny job for one 8 year-old girl a few days a week, giving me the nights to hang out with my friends. Which I did, literally every night of the summer. There was a group of about 10 of us. We would take turns going to each other's houses, watching movies, going to fun restaurants, drive-in movies. Simply idyllic.

Throughout the summer, we all had this nagging thought in the back of our minds. Occasionally, someone would mention it, but the thought was quickly swept under the carpet of our subconscious. At the end of this utopia was the inevitable end . . . college. And while we all knew it was coming, it didn't make the end of summer any easier. I distinctly remember a group of about 30 of us, standing in the parking lot of Eat 'n Park, sobbing, hugging each other, and then sobbing some more, mourning the end of our friendships, convinced that we would never see each other again.

And then everyone came home 5 days later on Labor Day weekend. We felt kind of silly.

I can't help but feel that these past few months in Pittsburgh have been my 12th grade summer all over again. It has truly been a gift. Whenever I moved to Detroit several years ago, I never imagined I would be back in my hometown, with my family, not too far from my Michigan family, and surrounded by people who also wear Steelers shirts to church. We've all gone to parks, dinners, picnics, Kennywood. Yes, simply idyllic.

And like my Fall launch to Grove City College, I will soon be embarking on another Fall launch to a land far away. Well, not that far. But definitely a land far from Steelers jerseys at church. Similarly to September of 1997, my emotions are very mixed. I genuinely am excited to go. I want to go. I would regret it the rest of my life if I didn't go. But in the midst of all the excitement and adventure, I am truly sad to see this season end.

And perhaps that's the best way to describe these special moments in life. They are seasons. Just like the residents of Narnia learned, however, one magical season that is extended indefinitely is no kind of magic at all. It's like winter all the time without Christmas. To try and continue life in these "in between times" would ruin the unique joy that they bring. The sweetness of the season would quickly rot like a piece of fruit that's been in the back of the refrigerator drawer too long.

So where does this leave me as I once again pack my boxes from my bedroom and load a truck for a strange, new land? There is nervousness, yes. Anticipation? Yes. Sadness? Definitely. Peace? You bet. Once again, I have about every feeling on the gamut of emotions, and rather than focusing too much on these feelings, I focus on my Father who brought me to the doorstep of yet another adventure once again. I know that I am not going alone, and this time He even gave me roommates that I don't have to spend that awkward "getting to know you" phase with. :-)

Good-byes are not permanent, but much more like a "See you later." My new home will be a wonderful home, and my old homes are still there for many more "Labor Day Weekends" to come.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quarterlife Discussion

I had a cool opportunity to share about a Quarterlife Crisis on Dr. Ed Stetzer's blog today. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Ed. Come on over and join in the conversation!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I subscribe to this monthly newsletter from Trendwatching.com. It focuses on a particular theme each month and shows upcoming trends and issues happening in the world right now. I found this month's theme to be particularly interesting, as it focuses on innovations, featuring 67 innovations of various businesses and companies worldwide.

Some are humorously creative such as these rain boots from Britain that will charge your mobile phone using the heat generated from your feet. I'm guessing that these would not be as effective to the Alaskan market?

Some are creating a whole new way to do something that's been around for thousands of years, such as this little microchip tablet that can be attached to your tombstone, allowing users to learn more about you through a cell phone app. Can you imagine what Egyptian Pharoahs would have done with this?

My favorite, though, are those that have creatively thought how to improve and help the lives of others at little extra cost or effort to those involved. This company has created ATMs that give $1 of the $2 banking fee to a charity of the user's choice. And this group has sought to improve the slums of Rio by teaching and paying locals to paint these homes in an entirely new way.

Creatively thinking of "same old things" in new ways is an incredible gift and one for which I have tremendous respect. Should we be thinking of some new innovations about the way in which we do church?

Year One

I tried to figure out how I could somehow change the date of this post, try and make it a few months ago so I don't feel so badly about my blog neglect.Poor, little Leewards. I'm so sorry. I gave her a little make-over to try and make her feel better. Make-overs always make me feel better, anyways.

It's impossible to try and catch up on several months, so instead I thought I'd give a few reflections in honor of the most recent celebration in the Leach family, Gabby's first birthday.

Here's a list I'm entitling: "Thoughts From the First Year of Mommyhood"
  1. All-nighters with a baby are very different from college all-nighters or leading middle school all-nighters. There are a lot more messy clothes, stinky smells, and loud screams. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe it's not so different than a middle school all nighter. And Gabby was a lot cuter, so maybe I came out ahead with baby all-nighters.
  2. I never knew that watching someone breathe could be so entertaining.
  3. I fell in love with my husband even more watching him be a dad.
  4. I've realized that one of my favorite things in the whole world is watching someone learn something new for the first time. I get to experience this almost every day now. It's no overstatement to call it a miracle.
  5. You can never have too many Cheerios.
  6. I can't think of too many other people in the world who could puke all over me and I'm more concerned about their health than the puke on my shirt.
  7. There's no way I can ever thank my parents enough for all that they've done.
  8. I will never be able to figure out the intrigue of my iPhone, what makes Gabby want to eat it, and how she can find it anywhere within a 10 foot radius of her little body.
  9. Toys are interesting. The boxes that they come in are even more interesting.
  10. How can Gabby come from my body and not like chocolate milk?
I'll include a few pictures from her first birthday party. We did a theme of elephants, "Gabriella-phants" to be exact. I got to live out a life-long dream of cake decorating, and can't wait for future opportunities.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I get these weekly e-mails from Baby Center that give me updates on what I can expect about Gabby's physical, mental, and emotional development. I started receiving them when I was pregnant and waited with eager anticipation each week to see how big my baby was in relation to some fruit or vegetable. They were quite the highlight to my week.

Over the last month or so, my e-mails have discussed the development of "object permanence." As developmental psychologists explain, it's understanding that various objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. That is why babies who are Gabby's age find the game peekaboo to be so delightful. It's a pretty important discovery, as without it, a person or object has no separate or permanent existence.

I've been thinking about object permanence quite a bit these days. Gabby is truly tickled with the game of peekaboo. Whether we're hiding or if she's hiding (under a bucket seems to be one of her faves), she loves to be surprised and excited to see our faces when we hide and then suddenly reappear. In addition to this wonderful development, however, comes a side-effect known as separation anxiety. I've been noticing a few more traces of this recently.

See, before this developed, when I left the room, Gabby did not get upset, mainly because when she could no longer see me, in her mind, I no longer existed. You can't get upset about something you can't see or remember. As this has been developing, however, in addition to the delight of peekaboo, there has also been a pain of realizing that there may be times when I temporarily leave her. I try to explain as a mature adult that I will be really quick and that I'm just running to the store, but rational explanations don't take you far with a baby who has just realized that her Mommy is gone for some unknown reason and she isn't coming back right away.

I suppose that the Holy Spirit has been reminding me of the need for not only the development of "object permanence" in my spiritual life, but to develop the maturity beyond it, recognizing that in moments where I may not be able to see or feel my Heavenly Father, His promises to never leave or forsake me are still true, and I need not fear or feel any separation anxiety. Unlike my metaphor, however, God never really leaves me, regardless of what my emotions may be telling me. His reasons for peekaboo may not always be clear, but resting in the fact that He exists, He loves me, and He is faithful to all His promises can get me through those moments when it seems He can't be seen.

The last few months have been filled with delightful peekaboo moments. God clearly led Brad and I to step out, move our family, and plant a new church in Philadelphia. Then there were definitely moments that followed where I've felt pretty scared and alone, wondering if God remembered our situations. And just when I really begin to question . . . "Peekaboo!" He shows me something through other people or situations that is evidence that He has been working all along.

Hopefully Gabby will continue to mature and build her trust and love for her dad and me, recognizing that as much as is in our power, we will protect her, care for her, love her, and be there for her. More than that, however, I desire her to mature and grow in her understanding of object permanence for her Heavenly Father, knowing that even when we are physically not around her, He is always a presence in her life.

P. S. - Brad actually wrote some thoughts about this on his blog, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chain Gang

I was reading through the book of Mark the other day when I came across a passage that really stuck out to me in a new way.

In Mark 5, we see the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man. It says that "This man lived in the tombs because no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him."

It struck me that the people of the town had tried time and time again to help this man, and quite obviously themselves as well, by attempting to tie him up with chains. So often, I think of helping people by trying to help them get rid of their "chains" that can hold us back to our past. In this case, however, chains were the best solution they could find.

It made me think about why we get stuck in "chains" in the first place. I'm using the word "chains" in a metaphorical sense, speaking of addictions, behaviors, mentalities, and other unhealthy ways of living that we adopt into our lifestyle to help us cope. They are different for each person. Some deal with stress or pain by grabbing a cigarette, a drink, junk food, or the remote control, but often we choose to put on a chain of some sort over our heart, mind or body as a way to numb and "put a band-aid" on the real root of the problem.

Many times this may not even seem like an intentional, deliberate choice, but thinking about this made me realize that I choose a chain far more often than I would like to admit.

The thing that really stuck out to me is that the chain can be broken in two ways, one far more healthy than another. The demon-possessed man had reached a point where he let the evil within him break through the chains, lashing out and driving him to a life of seclusion and torment. The only other option that he saw was to live a life of numb submission, literally a prisoner to his own chains. It was only Jesus who could provide another solution to this man's problem, breaking through the evil and the chains that tried to hide it, allowing true freedom and life to reign in this man once again.

As we've been praying and dreaming about our new church, a section of scripture that has continually been coming to mind is when Jesus speaks about His sole mission in coming to Earth. In Luke 4.18, Jesus is quoting from Isaiah when He says, "The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor."

It is our prayer that as He continues to free us from these chains, that He'll use us to do the same for the people of Philadelphia. We shall be a chain gang no longer, but like the man in Mark 5, we will run back to our homes and families and show them all that God has done for us. And the world will be amazed.

Those Parents . . .

In case you have not already seen these on Brad's blog or my Facebook, I thought I'd post some links to two recent videos that we made of Gabby.

The first is video footage of her first "real" snow, the great Pittsburgh snow of 2010 . . . which seems to keep going and going and going.

The second is total silliness of one of the most fun faces that Gabby has most recently acquired.

And with the creation of these two videos, I have finally accepted the fact that we are officially, THOSE parents. :-)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Year of the Gift

A few years ago, I read on Pastor Jeff Leake's blog about the spiritual practice of naming your year. It's a prayerful practice that I've been doing each January, asking God what would He like me to remember, to focus on, and to stand on through the upcoming year. I went back and found my post from 2007, the year when God's word to me was, "Imagine." What a fulfillment of Eph. 3:20 He chose to reveal! Meeting Brad and all the new changes that came with it truly were more than I could imagine.

This year, as I've been praying, I again felt that God gave me a word and a verse for 2010. It is "The Year of the Gift," and the verses that went along with it were again from Ephesians. Eph. 2:8-9. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works so that no one can boast." When God first laid this on my heart, I must confess that I wondered, "What does that mean?" but the more that I've prayed and thought about it, the more I think He continues to reveal.

I first thought about the whole idea of a gift. I love gifts. I love finding just the right gift for someone and I love the excitement of receiving a surprise that someone picked out to give me. But when you really think about it, receiving a gift is an exercise of trust. The receiver of the gift is trusting that the giver of the gift knows them, knows what they like, and wants to give them something that they like. We don't really think about this when we open the gift. We usually just open it and think one of three things:
  • "Wow! This is EXACTLY what I wanted! I am so excited and can't wait to use it!"
  • "Okay . . . I'm not really sure what to do with this. I wouldn't have chosen it, but I guess that I like it???"
  • "Oh dear. I hope there's a gift receipt."
I have experienced all these instances, but usually, the closer the gift giver is in relationship to me, the more likely they are to give a gift in the first category. If it's not in the first category, I really have to stop and reconsider my initial assessment of the gift.

I remember on one particular Easter Egg Hunt when I was little, we followed a clue that my parents had given and we found a small pile of presents along with a butter knife on top. We were excited about the presents, but perplexed about the knife. Figuring it must've been a weird mistake, we grabbed the presents, left the knife there, and moved on to follow the next clue.

When we got to the next clue, we realized the presents were inside this older china closet that had lost it's handle. The only way to open it was to slide a butter knife along the door and open the latch that way. My parents knew what we needed and wanted better than we did, and we would've been smart to trust them, and take ALL the gifts with us, rather than just the ones we wanted.

When I think about the gifts that God gives, I realize that it once again often comes down to an issue of trust. I've received gifts from God that were EXACTLY what I wanted (i.e. Brad!). I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and I can't thank God enough. I've received gifts that I never thought I wanted (i.e. pain, patience, and humility), and initially I want to take these gifts back. And I've received gifts that I would have never chosen or been certain what to do with them, but chose to receive them and use them and later found out that they were exactly what I wanted (i.e. God's timing, a job, etc.).

When I think about 2010, I can already recognize several "gifts" that have been surprises to open. A year ago, I would have never dreamed about going to Philadelphia and that gift alone has brought with it feelings of "Oh, I love this so much!" and "Can I take this back?" :-) In the midst of it all, however, I'm choosing to trust my gift Giver, and choosing to believe that He knows what's best more than I do. And, as His Word says, all of these gifts are simply an outpouring of His grace. I don't deserve ANY of them, and I'm so grateful for all of them, even the ones I wouldn't have initially chosen.

I can't imagine what gifts 2010 will bring, but I thank God in advance for them, and choose to receive ALL of them, trusting He is Good.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February Update

So we made the first part of our big move and have been enjoying a week in Pittsburgh without having to pack or unpack a suitcase or box. It has been great getting settled here and we're really looking forward to spending the next few months. It's such a blessing to be with my family and seeing old friends once again. I certainly still miss family and friends back in Detroit and we look forward to a visit soon when we can see them once again.

For those of you interested in any Gabby updates, here are a few highlights. For those of you who are not, please humor the first-time Mom. :-)
  • Gabby has turned 7 months old. She got to celebrate in our nation's capital with her Aunt Ashley and Uncle Nate. We did take some pictures on my camera which I'd love to post, but I just realized that the USB connector cord is in a box somewhere in the garage. Great planning, Leah. :-( Maybe I'll post them sometime in July. :-( She had a great time and was often really tired out by the end of the day. If you'd like to see proof, check out this video on Brad's blog. (It's a wonder that we haven't traumatized her from cereal entirely!)
  • She also took her first trip to her new home of Philadelphia. She seemed intrigued by the history, motivated to start a new church, and enraptured by the cheesesteaks (pictured below). Mothers can tell these things through the babbles, spitups, and naps.
  • Gabs sits really well on her own now, so I'm planning on getting some more formal pictures of her soon. It's probably one of those first-born baby things that gets skipped over as you add more kids to the family, but I think I want to go ahead with it anyway. :-) The sitting skill has made playing with toys a lot more fun.
  • She's using rolling as a form of transportation right now which can prove to be surprisingly effective. She also seems to be doing a very primitive backwards scoot. This has already resulted in her eating a dead leaf from a hibiscus plant that was lying on the floor (which thankfully was not poisonous) and has taught mommy that it's a whole new ballgame.
  • Gabby is certainly living up to her name. Her speech has become a lot more syllabic over the past few weeks and we have caught many "mama's" and "dada's" (even though I don't think she attributes them to us just yet). And, I'm pretty sure I've heard her singing the chorus to "Mmmbop." Who knew she liked Hanson? :-) I never knew that "cuteness" actually had a sound, but when I listen to her talking and singing, it is most certainly the quintessence of cute.
I think those are the major highlights. I'll try and find some pictures from my phone that don't require a plug to upload. Thanks for all your prayers! We're doing great!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Well, we've officially reached the end of a very busy week of packing, good-byes, hellos, traveling, exploring, and trying to get settled into our "new normal." While I'm still processing a lot of the experiences, dreams, and emotions, here are some of the initial thoughts.

As we were packing and getting ready to leave Michigan, I couldn't help but think back to almost exactly two years before when I was packing and getting ready to leave Pittsburgh. These were two very similar experiences, but they felt very different to me. I've been trying to process why.

When I was leaving Pittsburgh, I certainly was very sad to leave my family, church, friends, and the only home I had ever known. By saying, "Yes," to Brad, I was saying, "No," to Pittsburgh and all that it held. And while the pain of the, "No," was very significant, the joy of the, "Yes," was exciting, delightful, and certainly tangible. All of the long-distance dating was VERY old at that point and the thought of being able to stay with Brad, to live with him and do life with him was certainly a dream come true. It was really easy to see that, feel that, and touch that and it made the letting go a little easier.

With this move, we are again saying, "Yes," and, "No." Only this time, the, "No," is a lot more tangible than the, "Yes." We are confident that God has spoken to us and is leading us to start a church planting network in Philadelphia and with that, "Yes!" we feel great excitement and dreams building in our hearts. Sometimes, though, it's hard to hold on to that dream, when all we can feel is the pain of leaving so many people and places that we love so dearly behind. When the "Yes," is a bit more intangible, it can be harder to let go.

I guess that's why the end of this past week was so significant for me. Almost immediately upon arriving in Pittsburgh, we left again to visit my sister in DC and then to travel to Philly as a family and scope out the city for a few days. As we were entering the city, I was busy navigating for Brad, trying to look for road signs in the midst of six lanes of congested traffic.

Somewhere in the middle of this, however, I paused, looked out the window, and felt my heart leap inside my chest. Perhaps it was seeing the city skyline. Perhaps it was the sun peeking through the clouds. Perhaps it was the fact that we just passed a Target right in the city limits. :-) Whatever the case, it was a definite excitement burst in my heart. I wasn't even looking for it, but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

I would be lying if I said that over the next 48 hours I never had moments of feeling fear, anxiety, tension, uncertainty, or stress. These were certainly present and I'm sure it won't be the last time that I feel these over the next few months. Underneath it all, however, there was this underlying peace, this inexplicable confirmation to embrace the, "Yes."

I've identified with a picture of a trapeze artist who has just leapt off the platform to be caught by their partner. I've read that when the "catcher" successfully grabs on to the "flyer" sometimes the catcher will shout out, "Gotcha!" to their partner. This lets the flyer know that the catcher has a good grip and that the flyer can now let go of the bar.

At the end of several months of leaping off a secure platform into the arena of the unknown, this trip to Philadelphia was the "Gotcha!" at the peak of the leap. God was letting me know that He did have me in His grasp and that I could let go of the security of what we were leaving behind. Even in the midst of hanging at the end of a wild swing on a trapeze, there's nowhere more secure than in the grip of the hands of our Father.

I'll probably have to re-read this several times in the months ahead, but in the meantime, I'm going to try and make an intentional choice to enjoy the ride as a "flyer," and rest in the grasp of my Catcher.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Leach Family 411

So I'm ashamed of how long it's been since I've written. I made it a New Year's Goal to try and write once a week, but I've already fallen behind in that. :-( Because there's been a lot of changes in the last few months, however, I thought I'd give a quick update.
  • Baby - Gabriella has officially turned 1/2. We used the day as an opportunity to discuss integers and rational numbers. I think she caught on, though she started asking some questions about irrational numbers and I told her we'd wait until she was at least 5/6 to discuss those. The imaginary number can get a little confusing. :-) It truly has been amazing to me to see how much I'm enjoying each new phase more than the last. Often I can actually see her learning something new. It's such a fresh, new perspective on life to see someone trying something and doing something for the very first time. It's really made me appreciate again the unique diversity and beauty of our world, things that are so easy to take for granted. I'll post some new pictures below.
  • Holidays - We were able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends. We got to spend some time in Tampa with Brad's family and then enjoy a Pittsburgh Thanksgiving with my family. For Christmas, Brad took me to Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland for the first time and I hope it's a tradition that we can continue as a family for a while. It truly made me happy making Christmas memories as our new expanded family. :-) Gabby was blessed with many wonderful gifts from Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles and she's definitely enjoying playing with them now (although she seemed to enjoy the wrapping paper the most).
  • Philly Project - God has been doing some amazing work in the hearts of both Brad and me over these past few months. It's ultimately resulted in us stepping out in obedience to leave Detroit and plant a new church in Philadelphia, PA. You can read about the initial process of making the decision to plant a church here on Brad's blog. And you can read about the way God led us to Philly here on his blog. Honestly, more than any end result, I'm so grateful for the way that God used it as an opportunity to bring us closer to Him and to each other. It was really the first major decision that we made together as a married couple and we learned a lot about how God has spoken to us individually in the past and how He's speaking to us as a married couple. I'm so grateful and humbled that we serve a God who actually speaks to us and guides us. In the months since, I can honestly say that God has been growing the seed of faith and excitement that He first planted several months ago. I never imagined planting a church, but the more that I've learned, studied, and felt God planting a new dream in my heart, the more excited I've been. It's definitely bittersweet to leave a home, church, and family that we love, but we are filled with hope for the next chapter that God is bringing.
  • Next Steps - So that brings us to the specifics and logistics of now. I've noticed several comments on FB that have been wondering what I'm talking about when I discuss packing and moving. Yesterday was our last official Sunday at COTK, although I'm sure there will be visits in the future. :-) Brad preached such a meaningful message and you can read the highlights here. We will spend our 2 year wedding anniversary tomorrow packing up the last boxes, cleaning the house, and loading the moving truck. We will head to Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning and unpack there as we will be staying with my mom and dad for a few months. Allison Park Church is going to be partnering with us to launch a church planting movement in the city of Philadelphia. You can read more about Pastor Jeff's thoughts here and here. It is then our goal to be in Philly by June 2010.
  • Prayer Requests - I have heard so much encouragement and prayers from so many people as they've found out. To each of you, I truly am grateful and thank you so much for all your kind words. We would continue to covet your prayers. Specifically, our house is on the market at a time when it is not the most ideal timing to sell a house. We're praying that God would help it sell to the right person in His perfect timing and that He'd give us the patience, faith, and strength to trust Him in the meantime and glorify Him throughout the process. We'd also ask for prayers as we'll be making some major decisions in the upcoming months as far as location, housing, team building, financing, etc. We really trust that God will continue to lead us and want to remain soft and open to hearing the Holy Spirit each step of the way.
I guess the length of this post is evidence of what happens when you don't blog in 3 months. Sorry about that. :-( Hope to be better in 2010! You can also follow on Twitter if you wish at LeahLeach. I seem to be able to manage 140 characters a little better. :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Alive and Well

Oh Sad! I had no idea how long it had been since I've been on here. Let's see what I can remember for a quick recap:
  • Gabby enjoyed her first trip to Disney World! During the AG General Council in the beginning of August, we took Gabs to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. While there, I wondered what kind of parents take their 6-week old to Disney World? Apparently some do, because Disney has a "Baby Care Center" in each park. For those of you who may also do the same thing, Baby Care Center is the place to go! Very well done and nice touch to the day. For a really cool story on an amazing day in Hollywood Studios, follow the link here to my mom's blog. Samantha Edwards is my FAVORITE Idol! :-)

  • Gabby is now smiling and laughing up a storm. I read a story a few weeks ago about a research study conducted in Texas where they tracked what happened to new mom's when their babies smiled. What they found was that the brain activity that occurs is similar to what happens when one takes a hit of cocaine. I have no trouble believing that study. When I heard Gabby laugh last week (I mean really laugh . . . belly shaking, consistent laughter), it was intoxicating. I could listen to it all day.

  • Brad and I celebrated our birthdays in September. For his, I went to my first Michigan football game against Notre Dame. Great game and VERY exciting! Then, I turned 30!!!! It was a little weird because with everything else that has happened these last few months, 30 almost seemed like an after-thought. My husband made it so special, however, planning a party full of surprises including a visit from my childhood hero, Psalty the singing songbook. For a recap on the night, you can visit my mom's blog or Brad's blog here and here. What a man. I love you, Baby.
I know there is more, but it's all I can think of now. I'll try and do better in the future. :-)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't Cry, Baby!

One of the things that I've most appreciated about being a parent is the entirely new perspective that I've begun to realize, recognizing God as my Father. I've always related to God in this manner as a daughter, and because I've had such a great Earthly father, I feel as if I've been blessed to understand how God loves me and cares for me.

Now that I am a parent, however, I find myself going throughout my days with these "epiphany moments," when I understand a spiritual Truth that I've always known on an entirely new level.

For example, often, when Gabby wakes up from a nap or her "sleeping time," (which is still pretty much a 3 hr. nap) she is waking up because she is hungry. And if it's been a few hours, she finds that she is ravenously hungry. And she really wants to make sure that we know that she's hungry and that we didn't forget about her, so she cries. In several cases, crying is not the best word for the situation. The sound is more like how you would imagine she would scream if we were dipping her in hot oil. She gets so worked up, all the while I am getting a bottle ready trying to remind her that I have never before forgotten to feed her, and we don't plan on doing it any time soon, so she doesn't have to worry.

She doesn't seem to understand this yet.

And the really sad part is that while she is so worked up, it's often hard to try and get her to eat because she is gasping for breath and cries, and well, if you've ever had to deal with this kind of crying baby, you know what I mean.

The moment that I am able to get the bottle into her mouth, however, the crying stops. She starts eating and then looks at me with this, "Oh, yeah. We've done this before. Guess Mom didn't forget about me," look that makes me smile.

And then I realize how often I do the same thing. Throughout my life, God has NEVER ONCE neglected to take care of my needs. Never once. I've always had food to eat, a house in which to live and more than enough clothes. And yet, I still find myself from time to time worrying about paying bills or our budget or so many other little things. And sometimes, I get so worked up, I can barely think about anything else, almost like that wail that Gabby does.

And then, God pulls through. Once again. Big surprise. He does something big or small that reminds me that He's always done this before. And He's going to continue to do it again. So maybe I should just chill out for a bit. This verse came to mind.

Psalm 131.2
"But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with it's mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."

My "quiet times" are certainly different these days than they used to be, but God is using so many different opportunities to show me more of Himself. I can't wait to see what they continue to be!

More Pics!

Here are a few more pics so I didn't clog up the one entry. Some of them are just plain cute and some include a variety of my favorite faces that she makes including the "deer in headlights" look and the "Popeye" (can't you just see her thinking, "Ah, guh, guh, guh, guh.") :-)

Still Alive!

Someone told me about a week into mommyhood that it is "The hardest job you'll ever love." I can't think of something more appropriate to describe the last 5 weeks. It is by far the hardest job I have ever done. Being a mom quite literally beats the selfishness out of you. I had no idea how selfish of a person I was until I saw how much my life had centered around me pre-Gabby. I guess some of that is normal, but truly, having this little life has so dramatically shown me what it means to put another before yourself.

I don't know if there's any way that I can ever show enough appreciation for my mom. Every day should be Mother's Day. :-)

Truly, though, it is pretty amazing. Sometimes I just stare at Gabby in awe that God created this little life completely unique to the world as we know it. I wonder what she will continue to be like as she gets older.

And it's been really cool to see how it has taken the relationship that Brad and I have to an entirely new level. I really think one of my favorite parts of having Gabby is watching him interact with her. He's an amazing dad.

I'm afraid that my window of time when I have two hands free to type is quickly closing. I will try and post some new pics and will try and update them on Facebook, too. For those of you that have sent an e-mail/voice mail, I am so sorry if I haven't talked to you yet. I so appreciate all the love and prayers and couldn't make it without them!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Training Wheels Mommy

Well, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. I apologize for the delay in blog updates. Hopefully, you've been able to keep up on Brad's blog. If not, you can catch up here.

First of all, I can't thank you enough for all the FB messages, blog comments, texts, e-mails, calls, and prayers that I have received from so many of you. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. We have felt such joy from this little girl and to know that it brings joy to others as well has been such a gift.

Secondly, I have to thank all of my families for all the love and help that they've given. Between Brad's family and my family I've had my laundry done, dishes washed, weeds pulled, home projects completed, and I'm sure I don't even realize the extent of everything that they've done for us. And our church family has been blessing us with meals delivered to our front door! It's why I think of myself as a Mommy with training wheels right now. I realize it will be a whole new ride when those training wheels come off.

Thirdly, GABRIELLA IS HERE!!!! :-)

I know we all know that, but sometimes I have to remind myself that this is all real and that yes, there is a baby in the next room. And yes, she belongs to Brad and I. Madness. Over this last week or so I've felt the whole gamut of emotions, but more than anything I feel incredibly thankful and so very blessed.
Here's a quick recap on the last week.
  • Monday, June 22, I got to enjoy the day with my parents. They decided to come out on Sunday night even though nothing was happening because my dad had already taken the week off of work and they chose to wait out here rather than in Pittsburgh. I can't express what a lovely time I had with just them and in retrospect, it truly was a gift of perfect timing.
  • 4:45 PM, Monday, June 22. My water broke. I wasn't even sure that it had really happened, because it wasn't exactly what I expected. Contractions started almost immediately and again, I wasn't sure that they were contractions because they were not at all what I expected. And when I was timing what I felt, they started at 4.5 minutes apart. That wasn't supposed to happen that way, was it?!?
  • The doctor recommended heading to the hospital to check things out and Brad and I have been concerned all along about the time of day that we would head there, as it is full of traffic during construction and especially during rush hour. We were headed in the middle of rush hour, but by God's grace, hit NO traffic. It was a good thing, too, b/c by the time I made it to the hospital my contractions were about 3.5 minutes apart.
  • Within the next 2.5-3 hours, I was 10 cm and ready to push. I couldn't believe how fast everything was going and the only sad part about the whole experience was that it looked like my sister Ashley and brother-in-law, Nate, would not make it in time from their drive from Washington D.C.
  • I have never been so aware of the curse of sin as I was during those contractions.
  • The speed of the labor was made up for in the delivery part of the birth. It took about another 2.5 hours all in all, but again, the timing worked out perfectly. Ashley ran into the delivery room with 20 minutes to spare and because she was officially born on Tuesday, my other sister, Samantha, won the baby pool. :-)
  • Gabby was born on Tuesday, June 23, 12:21 AM and was 7 lbs., 15 oz. and 19 in. long. It was an incredible moment and I don't know that I'll ever find the right words to describe it.
  • The days since then have felt far more like weeks. I don't mean this in a bad way. I just think that when life is reduced to 2.5-3 hr. naps, that you lose sight of day/night and it all just turns into one big blur. I can't believe she's only been here for 9 days.
  • Baby girl has been doing pretty well with sleeping. At times, I've thought she would be on just the perfect schedule if we lived in China. I keep trying to explain to her that we live in the Eastern time zone, but she doesn't seem to quite grasp this. I can't really blame her. Time zones have been an elusive concept for me as well.
  • Brad has been absolutely AMAZING. Truly, my love for him has gone to an entirely new level and again, I wish I had words to express my feelings. He's the most incredible dad, sacrificing so much for his wife and daughter and showing such love and grace through it all. He is a gift beyond words and I'm so grateful.
This is already way too long, so I'll spare the extra details and try and post more frequently in the future. Also, I'll include some pics, although most of my family has the really good ones, as I've not really been able to take quite as many. :-)