brigitte kathleen

rediscovering my heart


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Learning to Love -40°

I was out walking with my dog the other night. For those of you not keeping track, I recently adopted an eleven-month old standard poodle named Teddy. Anyway, we were out walking one night. It was terribly cold. As we walked, I buried my head as far into my scarf as my slight claustrophobia would allow, pulled my hat down to just above my eyebrows, and trudged on. Teddy had decided that tonight would be a perfect night to take his sweet time, and lay down in random snowbanks, trying to find one that was going to give him the comforts of home while he was on a walk to “do his business.”

 

While Teddy’s sense of urgency was lacking, mine was not. I had my eye on the prized- a warm, welcoming home, where sweatpants and hoodies were the preferred attire, and no one would judge you for wearing clashing colors. I was driven, motivated, and determined to make it out of the -30° wind chill in one piece. Teddy, however, had other plans.

 

I watched him poking around, smelling smells, and knowing that this was most likely one of few experiences with cold and snow, seeing how he was only born last January. And while my goal was to get home and miss what was happening around me, Teddy’s main concern was being able to experience this new world. My goal was to bury my head, skip what was in front of me, and Teddy wanted to jump and pounce and prance through the new, powdery snow.

 

This pretty much describes what all of 2016 has been like. After losing my job last November, and fighting to find a full time position where I was going to be given room to grow and excel, I struggled with mental health issues, the feeling of having little-to-no purpose, and losing identity. My goal was to keep my head buried, share with no one, and not to let anyone in for fear that my weaknesses would show.

 

Instead, I buried myself in other peoples’ problems, the election, family drama, or anything else I could find to hide behind instead of facing the issues that I needed to in order to be healthy. With the new year coming, I’ve vowed to make a change in how I attack my life.

 

So many people I’ve known have chose the route of blocking out the world around them, and dealing with their brokenness alone. This isolates us, turns us inward, and sends us into a ridiculous tailspin of self reflection, that usually causes more harm than good. What we needed the most during these times are to be reminded of our worth by people who know it when we don’t, and people who value us when we feel like our value has been depleted.

 

As the year comes to a close (a long, difficult, sad, scary year), my hope for you is that you be like Teddy. Be willing to be adventurous, lay down in the snowbank, and live every day like your experiencing it for the first time (even if, as Minnesotans, we get really exhausted of days below 0°).

 

This is my new beginning, and I’m inviting anyone who wants to join me to do so. This year, I resolve to be open, welcoming, and accepting of people’s love because eventually I will need it, and when you need love in return, I’ll be there to give you what I have to offer. And I expect you to accept it.

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If Jesus Didn’t Think Peter was an Idiot, You’re Probably in the Clear, too.

I’m writing to you from the midst of this journey, so don’t be surprised if I come back with a rebuttal or “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was right!” in a couple of weeks. Right now, my life is in a season of change. Everything in my life can be boiled down to seasons: Seasons of good, seasons of bad. Seasons of life, seasons of death. Seasons of growth, seasons of transformation, or seasons that are completely stagnant.
Many of my more recent seasons have been seasons of waiting. I’ve basically been living an Advent life for the last six years- constantly waiting and preparing for what happens next, and I think I’ve finally reached the time when the “what comes next” is actually coming next! It’s not coming without a price, though. With any and every season change comes the inevitable death of the season before it. When we change from Winter to Spring, the cold and the snow die with the come of the warm and the sun. When the Autumn comes, with it comes a death of the life that the Summer brought us in new life through the creation that has bloomed. The death is necessary because it brings to us a birth of something new (which might be confusing because Winter actually kills things, but the winter is born- a time for snow, holidays…. you get it, right?). Change is almost always painful because we are being forced to let go of something that we’ve become so familiar with, but change brings joy because we’re able to look at a birth of possibilities as we move into the future.

I’ll be honest with you- I’m ready for the change that I know is coming, even though I don’t know what it is. In the last 12 months, I’ve finished and turned in a Master’s thesis, graduated from grad school, have looked endlessly for jobs, moved into a three-bedroom house by myself, ended a very special and close friendship, sparked almost a hundred new friendships, traveled overseas, experienced the death of a grandpa, had another grandpa go through open heart surgery, experienced a number of personal trials within my family, traveled all over the country, and spent a week in Germany. This year has been non-stop emotional instability. It’s been exhausting, at at times, seemingly impossible.

My current situation could be the end of this time that feels like it has little-to-no foundation. It could be the beginning of something huge. And on the other hand, it could be all for nothing. I’m in the middle of a very turbulent hiring process for a job I never thought I’d get right out of grad school. I’m so excited for it, but every other day, there is a new development that changes how the process is playing out. I’ve waited and waited…. and waited some more. Last night, I came to the conclusion that God is doing one of two things: Telling me to move on or press on. It’s amazing how the message for those two VERY different messages can be so similar. And what do I do now? How do I know which message God is trying to send me? At what point do I need to trust myself to make a decision that’s worthy of the faithfulness God has shown me? As much as people like to preach “Let go, and let God,” the material and tangible decision is ultimately left in our hands. As much as my Type-A, control freak loves having that control, the faithful servant who wants to chase God’s will is terrified.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hang out with some senior high students which was so much fun. I invited them to ask me any questions they wanted to ask me about anything. So, after we got the superhero questions out of the way (my favorite being: Batman: Hero, or Superhero?), one of the boys began asking me questions about the bible. He asked me pretty basic “What’s your favorite ________?” questions, which were fun to answer because who really takes the time to think about that stuff, especially in Seminary when you’re having information shoved down your throat faster than you can swallow? But the one that caught me off guard the most was, “Who’s you’re favorite disciple or apostle?” This was a question I’d honestly never thought about. My go-to would have been “Mary Magdalene, obviously,” for the ‘girl factor,’ but I actually sat and thought about it. And I eventually decided on choosing Peter.

Good ol’ Peter. He get’s a bad rap, you know? He’s our overzealous, outspoken, try-to-hard, knucklehead. I, for the record, think he’s incredibly charming. He’s the most like me of anyone in the Bible. When I think of my current season of change and wanting to allow God to guide me through it, and the internal battle between Type-A and Faithful Servant, Peter’s attempt at water-walking is where I land in an attempt to illustrate it.
Matthew 14:22-33 is where I find my humanity buried in the mess of laws, grace, stories, allegories, and poetry of the Bible. Peter, being the hot-shot he is, begs Jesus to call him out onto the water with him, to which Jesus kindly obliges. Peter thinks he’s got it, and I can only imagine this scene- Peter’s walking on the water, thinking, “Oh, for crying out loud… I’m walking on water! …….. OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, I’M WALKING ON WATER!!” When he takes his focus off of Jesus who is there to help him with this feat he’s decided to jump into- when he decides to depend on his own strength, it’s over for him. Yet, Jesus doesn’t call him out and tell him to go back because there’s no hope. Jesus doesn’t tell him to get back into the boat where he can play it safe. Jesus simply confronts Peter’s  lack of faith, reaches out his hand, and continues to accompany Peter on his watery journey.

Peter’s “season change” was his transition of faith in what Jesus could do with and for him. But it didn’t come without becoming overwhelmed. It didn’t come without struggle. It didn’t come without what could have been a very literal death. And Jesus had two options: He could have stood there and said, “You fool…. I didn’t tell you to get out of the boat. Go back or die…. *mumble* idiot *mumble*” Or he could have taken option B- He stood there, accepting Peter’s zealous decision to hop on out of the boat and he he started to sink, reach his hand out and not let him be overwhelmed by the waves. Changing seasons come with hard decisions. Hard decisions are sometimes followed with remorse. When we start to regret or be remorseful about the decisions we make during times of change, we lose focus on the hand that Jesus is extending to us. When we focus on anything other than the hope of something bigger, we get swallowed up in the waves so much easier. It takes strength to get out of the boat, but it takes perseverance to keep going.

Earlier, I said that the two messages I could be getting from God right now are , “Move on!” or “Press on!” And when it comes down to it, whatever we do, we’re pressing on through whatever season we’re in at the moment. Ultimately, giving up is never going to be an option, because giving up means you’ve let the waves overcome you. Giving up means you’ve forgotten about the hand that’s reaching out to you saying, “Why don’t you trust me?” You don’t need to give up. You need to see his hand keeping you from the waves and urging you to press on.


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A Letter to My 12-Year-Old Sister About Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About

Dear Little Sister,

You just finished 6th grade! Congratulations, you’re officially half-way through your childhood– wait, WHAT? This letter couldn’t be coming at a better time for you! Being well into my adult-hood (although I try to stay young, and you help me do that– especially since we wear the same size clothes), I believe I can offer you a little insight about what you’ve already experienced and what you have around the corner. Ready? Here we go!

1. Mom and Dad

Mom and dad are really great. They each have certain things about them that make them really AWESOME people. You might not feel that way right now because they’re always telling you to clean your room or practice piano, but they really are doing it because they love you and they want to see you succeed. I know that sounds corny, but you have to trust me- I’m your older sister.  It might seem like sometimes they’re just giving you work to do they don’t want to do. Guess what? They are, and they can. They’ve earned that right. It might suck, but that’s part of earning your kid stripes.

Mom and dad really are awesome people, and they’re really, really smart. They’re not going to make you do something that’s going to hurt you, but they’re trying to teach you things about what it means to grow up. Trust them. They know what they’re doing.

2. School

STUDY. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I know it seems pointless sometimes and a lot of times, teachers just give you busy work. But here’s the deal- YOU HAVE TO DO IT IF YOU WANT TO GET ANYWHERE. Not only will doing your homework teach you the material you’re learning, but it’ll also teach you about discipline, time management, and prioritization. None of this means anything to you right now, but I promise it will.

Being able to bounce back is a really good skill, but don’t use it a lot. In 7th grade advanced math, at mid-quarter I had 14 late or missing assignments and I still pulled out a B in that class. What did that teach me? Nothing, except the realization that I could finagle my way out of almost any situation and still be above average. While this is respectable, it’s not admirable. Strive to be admirable. Show us what you can do because you can, not because you have to.

One last thing- do everything you can to be amazing. Study hard. Be involved. You know why? Not only will this just continue to prove to everyone that you are, in fact, AWESOME, but you’ll also start applying for college someday (the money talk is next… get ready), and the more free college you can get because you’re awesome, the better. Make schools WANT you to come to their school. Make them WANT your awesomeness. Because, girl, you are.

3. Money

Money sucks. And it’s only going to get worse. Here are my rules– pay attention.

– SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. Save your money. You’ll thank me and yourself later.

– Students loans are terrible, but they’re a reality. This is why you need to do awesome in school– the less student loan debt you have, the better. Trust me- my student loan debt is the reason you won’t be an aunt or sister-in-law for a very, VERY long time.

– Be responsible. Don’t be impulsive. Your good credit (once you have some) is next to Godliness. Be careful.

– Money is not the end of the world or the defining quality of a good life. If you’re responsible with your money, you’re paying your bills, and you don’t have much money left but you’re happy, that’s all that matters. Money will not make you happy. As long as you’re living the life you want, and you’re happy with who you are and what you’re doing, that’s what matters.

4. Friends

Some friends stay forever. Some friends stay for a week. Friends will hurt you. Friends will love you. All of the experiences you have with your friends will become a part of who you are, and you, in turn, will be a part of who your friends are. I have three best friends (and they might not even know who they are), but I have a small group of really close friends, too. Each of my friends has turned me into the person I am, and the person I’m continuing to grow to be. You’re young, you have a lot of growing left to do.

If a friend hurts you, make sure you forgive them. But you also need to remember that you’re worth being treated like gold. If you’re friends don’t respect your, or use you, or hurt you constantly, make sure you know that you deserve better than that, and that  maybe it’s ok to walk away from that relationship. This way, you can invest more in the friends who love you and care about you and will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. But make sure you’re the best friend you can be to your friends, too. Respect and love in friendships is a two-way street.

5. Boys/Love

This is last because it’s the least important. I know you’re not experiencing it much now, but you’ll start (sooner than I’d like). First of all, boys are dumb. They’ll never understand what is going on in your head, so don’t expect them to. Second, boys aren’t worth it. Guys are almost worth it. Men are sometimes worth it. You have TOO MUCH to focus on right now (and through high school) to get caught up in “boy” drama. Wait until you meet a man… then come to me and I’ll let you know if it’s time and if he’s good enough for you.

No boy/guy/man is worth your tears. If they’re not nice to you, get out right away. Make sure that if whatever feelings you have for him aren’t mutual that you either tell him that, or get out. Your broken heart or his broken heart isn’t worth the dragging out of something that isn’t there– TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.

Don’t let mom, dad, grandma, or any of our aunts or uncles make you feel bad about your relationships or lack thereof. Eventually, you’ll be smart enough to make your own decisions without knowing that your family is judging your every word or move. Your relationships are YOUR relationships– not anyone else’s… except I expect to be overly involved. I can. I’m your big sister.

Little Sister, you are so incredible, and you don’t even know it yet. You’re not even your whole person yet! That’s what’s so exciting about being 12. You have so much time to make mistakes and correct them, and to make masterpieces and enjoy them.

In closing, here are the things I love about you, because sometimes it’s nice to hear things like that:

1. Your loving heart

2. Your willingness to try new things

3. Your excitement to learn about new things

4. Your beautiful artistic abilty

5. Your musical ability

6. Your creative spirit

7. Your unconditional love for people (sometimes to a fault)

8. Your beautiful smile

9. The fact that you are a bed hog

10. I love that you laugh at my jokes

Dream big. Be awesome.

Love,

Your Big Sister

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Who I am.

Who I am.

I’m posing this as a statement and not a question. Although I’d say I’m pretty confident in knowing who I am,  I wouldn’t say I’m confident in knowing what I’m doing with myself. Today, I thought I’d do myself a favor and recognize who I am and what I have to offer myself and the world.

I think it’s important for us all to celebrate who we are as individual souls and personalities. Celebrate the things that make you unique.  Today I’m treating myself to a gentle reminder that I am a person deserving of love.

I am Brigitte Kathleen Leininger.

I am 27 years old.

I am a brown-haired, blue-eyed child of God.

I am a woman.

I am a daughter.

I am a step-daughter.

I am a granddaughter.

I am a step-granddaughter.

I am a great-granddaughter.

I am a sister.

I am a niece.

I am a cousin.

I am a friend.

I am a bestie.

I am a classmate.

I am a theologian.

I am well-rounded.

I am a work colleague.

I am a writer.

I am a leader.

I am a trumpet player.

I am terrified of rodents and arachnids.

I am a singer.

I am an artist.

I am spiritual.

I am an ENFJ.

I am religious.

I am well-traveled.

I am a story-teller.

I am open-minded.

I am an extrovert.

I am a sports fan.

I am a Seminary graduate.

I am compassionate.

I am passionate.

I am an adventure seeker.

I am emotional.

I love autumn.

I am well-read.

I am a conservative dresser.

I am a social media enthusiast.

I am a Democrat.

I am an excellent driver.

I am in love with the people of Kenya.

I am an advocate for justice and equality.

I am a lover, fighter, and dreamer.

I am a visionary.

I am an ELCA Lutheran.

I am a less than excellent athlete (but I try).

I love large bodies of water.

I am a baker (but not so much a chef).

I am patient with everyone but myself.

I am a confidant.

I am slow to trust others.

I am quick to love others.

I am partial to blue skies.

I am a voice.

I am a migraine sufferer.

I am relational.

I am sarcastic.

I am a jokester.

I am warm.

I am astute.

I am persistent.

I am a survivor.

I am afraid of vulnerability.

I am a momma’s girl.

I am multifaceted.

I am a dog person.

I am free-spirited.

I am not afraid of a challenge.

I am not a Pepsi person.

I hold true to my convictions.

I enjoy shopping.

I am a New Yorker at heart.

I am critical.

I am a vodka-tonic enthusiast.

I am enthusiastic.

I am earnest.

I am excitable.

I am thoughtful.

I am joyful.

I am wonderfully made.

I am beautiful.

I am me.

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