LeAnn was raised on a dairy, which she said put a lot of foundation in her life, and she learned early that “you have to work for things.” LeAnn recalled asking her dad to pay her for working at the dairy. “We had milk hands and they got paid. And I thought, ‘I’m a milk hand, and I want to get paid,’ and he said okay.” After two weeks went by without receiving any money, she nervously asked her dad about it. He told her “You did get paid last night. You bought and paid for your entry fees at the rodeo, and you paid for breakfast afterwards. You paid for diesel up to the rodeo.” LeAnn thought “Alright, I get it.”
Life got a little tougher for LeAnn when she was around 13. Her parents started having problems, “All I wanted to do was blame, and when my parents started going through a divorce I was 15/16.” Her dad moved to Alabama, and she began to sneak out, and was getting into fights. But one afternoon, LeAnn would experience what she called an “awakening moment.” LeAnn shared, “There was one afternoon where I really just went against my momma, and I skipped school, and I was drinking vodka. I can remember leaving there. I was like, ‘I’m moving out’ and mom was like ‘no you’re not.’ I did…I left. I don’t know how she found where I was. I wasn’t but three miles up the road at a girl’s house, and obviously I didn’t know where I was because I was wasted. I couldn’t tell her how to get me. Of course, I didn’t want her to come get me at that time. But here my momma was, she found a way to get a number to call me, and she did. I ended up thinking ‘I’m not letting her pick me up’. And I walked three miles home that night.” But the story does not end there. LeAnn continued “I saw a man on the street, and I literally picked a stick up because he tried to come on to me, and it scared me so bad. I thought I beat him to death, to be honest with you. And I was in flip flops, and ran a mile home, and I remember sitting there just crying. Momma had called the cops because of that man, and we went back, and there was no man there. It was a really sobering moment for me, because you know, even though you think we have to be in church to know that’s where Jesus is, I really believe that Jesus sends us people, that God sends us people. And I don’t even know if there was a man there.” LeAnn continued through tears “I’ll just be honest with you, because there was a stick, but there was no man. It was an awakening moment for me. That was just one of many, because after that, I quit the partying.”
Another strong foundation was left by her grandparents, who sang with the Happy Goodman’s. LeAnn knew she did not want to go to college, she wanted to sing. So, at the age of 18, her aunt drove her to Dollywood. She auditioned, and got a part in Paradise Farms, The Life and Times of Dolly Parton. She graduated in 98, and moved to Tennessee in 99. While in Tennessee she fell in the party scene for a short time, but said she never felt “fulfilled.” She became friends with an older man, who was “like a papa to me.” He became a mentor to her, and helped her stay away from the partying. LeAnn later moved from Dollywood to Nashville, where she took on several jobs. She was breaking horses at a ranch, working at Applebee’s, and cleaning stables, but she felt she just wasn’t blessing anyone. “What sobered me up from that, and made me wake up, and say that ‘here I was working my butt off and not even using the gift that God had given me’.” One of her jobs was working on an Arabian ranch. She had reluctantly agreed one time to travel with the men to groom the horses. After arriving and settling the horses in, she realized that the owner wanted her to share his room. She refused, and called a friend, who drove 5 ½ hours to come pick her up. That experience convinced her to move back to Sevierville. Her decision to return to singing was reinforced by a lady named Ruth. “I’ll never forget it.” Ruth asked me “Are you happy doing what you’re doing.” And I said “yeah”. Ruth then asked “And you’re making a living doing it, right? You’ve made it!” LeAnn replied “You are so right. Here I am, I’m singing every night old country music. I love it, and it’s on the stage.” LeAnn also enjoyed that she was surrounded by elders. “Unlike people your own age that tend to tell you what you want to hear, elders tend to tell you what you need to hear.” LeAnn continued to work there for almost 2 more years.
LeAnn would continue to work in Tennessee, but would go home from January to March to Louisiana to stay with her momma. On one of those visits, her mom encouraged her to go on a trip with some friends to Tampa, FL. That trip would turn out to be another turning point in her life. J.W. Hart was at the event she attended. LeAnn and J.W. had met a couple of years previous to this, but they were both dating different people, and LeAnn recalled laughing, “We really couldn’t stand each other to be honest.” But things were different now. LeAnn had broken up with her boyfriend, and J.W. spotted her out of the crowd sitting in the stands. “And since day 1, it was like that day in Tampa, it was ‘I love you’, and we have been best friends ever since.” She chuckled “We’ve fought and thrown things, and kicked each other a bit, but we’re still best friends.”
After some time dating, J.W. convinced LeAnn to move in together. Again, LeAnn found herself in a situation that went against what she believed. She can remember going home at Christmastime, and having to explain to her grandparents, “I’m sorry I’m still living in sin.” She knew they were judging her, but she pointed out to them “You may be judging me right now, but I get judged every day by my heavenly father. That was a really difficult thing for me because I knew I wasn’t living the right way.” In 2005 LeAnn and J.W. got married. “When we finally got married on the 26th of November in 2005 I was like, I can remember, I just cried when I got home. I was like we are no longer sinners, at least in this way.”
LeAnn will be the first to tell you that she did not live a perfect life, and she made mistakes, but her life is a testimony to the strength and continued battle to achieve what God wants for each of us. Each story and experience has made her the person she is today. God has molded her and made her into the LeAnn Hart that we see today that lives a life that glories God. But there is still more to her story.
J.W. was a bull rider, and that meant a lot of traveling. Their first couple of years together they spent traveling and hard core partying. Every weekend it was the same thing, and after a while it just seemed normal. Even though LeAnn enjoyed the opportunity to meet people, the lifestyle started to become harder to deal with. “You just get tired of that same ole feeling after a while and it got really hard for me.” LeAnn felt again God tugging at her and re-directing her back to where He wanted her to be. She said “In my relationship with Him [God], he puts stuff in order for us when we start bowing our heads. We really do start seeking Him.” She added “And He [God] was like for a really long time you didn’t seek me first, so now let’s try that out.” and “so I did, I seek Him first every morning when I get up.” LeAnn said her husband is second and then her kids. “You know it falls in a certain order, and I’m just glad that I had the foundation that I did.” LeAnn feels that God brought her through the walks of her life so when someone else is faced with a storm, she is able to better relate to them in their struggles.
If you know LeAnn, or simply follow her on face book, you will see evidence that she has done just that. LeAnn shares her life, her faith, and her love with others, in a way that makes it extremely evident that God is using her for His glory. LeAnn uses the voice that God has given her and sings at 3 services on Sunday in her church. She has also led worship at several Riding High Ministry services at PBR events. She was over the toy run and angel tree for Love County which helped over 600 children last year. In addition to that toy run and angel tree, God gave LeAnn a vision that every child in Love County should have a Bible. Through some work and a lot of prayer 500 Bibles were donated to the children. LeAnn recalled “It was an overwhelming feeling for me because God was there and it was like, wow, I just gave it to Him.” LeAnn has also opened up their home to mentor girls through Bible studies and sleep overs. She recalls the fun from her first sleepover, and how exciting it was, “I was like wow we are gossiping about God at 3 in the morning!” She started getting calls from girls wanting to bring groups over for one of “LeAnn’s sleepovers.”
LeAnn said she always craved kids. But God had a different plan for her and J.W. LeAnn recalled traveling to the PBR events and “everybody was always wanting to know when are you guys going to have kids.” LeAnn soon experienced her first miscarriage, then two, three and after the fourth miscarriage, LeAnn decided that they were going to adopt. She was so determined she said, laughing, “I would have forged his [J.W.] signature if he would not have signed the paper because I wanted a baby.” In October of 2008 they started the process through an agency, signed the paperwork, and were chosen. “We were told right before New Years that year  that we were going to have a son in March of 2009.” Then as one of the happiest moments was about to happen, J.W.’s mother came down with pneumonia in the hospital. “She was really sick. She had cancer and there was 2 weeks that I got to spend with her. It was probably the most precious time I had ever gotten to spend in my life. She passed away the same day Wacey was born.” It was a difficult time for them as LeAnn had to be with Wacey and J.W. had to stay and be with his momma. “It was a really trying time for us. I can remember getting to Michigan with my momma, calling J.W. at 5:36 and Debbie had passed away about 5 minutes before that. She literally hung on for us to hold that baby.” LeAnn smiled and added, “If you knew Debbie Hart, she loved her kids, she loved her boys, both of them. She had ‘momma of JW and Cody Hart’ on the back of her car. She was a proud momma.”
Because of paperwork problems they were not able to go home with Wacey for over a month. During that time, LeAnn experienced her fifth miscarriage. “But almost a year to that date, March 14th, we got another baby in our home, Malayla Hart.” Now, in 2012, she recalls having another miscarriage in 2011 when she didn’t even think she could get pregnant again. LeAnn said, “Through that miscarriage, God just kept whispering to me that God’s timing is perfect and it has been absolute.” Since this interview the adoption of Makayla Hart has been finalized!
LeAnn has had a life of ups and downs and good and bad, but she has taken what God has taught her and the trials she has been through to reach others with love and compassion. She has now started posting prayer requests daily on her face book page. “Starting in January of this year I have been getting like 10 to 15 prayer request a day.” She said “I know it’s not because people think that I’m God, but I believe with all my heart that they know that I am going to go to God and seek Him.” LeAnn said “Whenever you start opening your door, God starts opening up His doors. When you’re honoring Him, he starts honoring you. When you seek Him, he starts saying come on in, come a little further.”
Sitting and listening to LeAnn Hart share about her life, I began to appreciate her even more than I did before. LeAnn is a person I felt comfortable around the first time I met her. The next time I saw her she came up and hugged my neck. God gives each of His children special gifts, and I do feel that LeAnn has been given the gifts of compassion and mercy. She has the southern charm and smile that draws people to her. And she does not waste the opportunity given to show God’s love and compassion to everyone she meets.
One of the last things LeAnn shared with me was something Tim Tebow had said. “You know we were sent here to save lives.” LeAnn said “If Jesus Christ can’t save every single person because of that little thing called our free will, then I don’t think you or I can either, but we are going to give of Jesus because that is what we were put here to do.”
Story written by Tammie Webster