love makes the world go round

finding love By December 3, 2016 No Comments

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Mother Love is as cozy as a blanket and as fierce as a grizzly.
It sounds like the sweetest lullaby at bedtime.
It feels tender, a heart no longer beating for itself.
It looks fragile, easily torn apart.
But resilient, healing itself to become stronger than before.

Friendship love is sincere and open.
It sounds like long talks and shared secrets.
It feels like cool water on a hot summer’s day.
It looks like a soul stretched and grown over time.
It rests in being accepted just as it is.

Romantic Love is wild and free.
It feels like the wind rushing through the trees.
It sounds like shouts of joy.
It looks like learning to navigate a windy, rocky path.
If it sustains its rough edges are worn away leaving smoothness and strength.

Self Love is a deep breath and a deep knowing.
It sounds like a quiet night sky with sparkling stars.
It feels like a good night’s sleep and a warm cup of coffee.
It looks peaceful, calm and undemanding.
It smiles to itself, confident it was created to be unique and rare.

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Family love is beautiful and messy.
It feels like the shade of a sturdy tree.
It sounds like laughter and bickering.
It looks like honesty; revealing both sides of the heart–light and dark.
In the place of being known it finds firm ground and safety.

All of this love flows from the same source.
It bends and stretches through every heart connecting each of us.
This connection creates a force so strong it moves the earth.
Love, in its many forms, makes the world go round.

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one open heart

choose joy, finding love By November 29, 2016 20 Comments

I am learning one open heart can change the world.

On a sunny Sunday morning last year, we arrived at church a few minutes early. David slowly climbed the steps, one at a time, while holding my hand. Once inside he pulled away from me, wanting to explore the sanctuary before the service began. I set down my bag and followed closely behind him. I had no idea what was about to happen.

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David lives life inside a body that doesn’t cooperate. Because of his disability, he is very small, has only two fingers on his left hand and is non-verbal. David can’t speak with words but he has much to say. He communicates through gestures, physical touch and heart connection. As he moved around the room he ran his hand over the smooth wood of the church pew, weaving in and out of the narrow space. Then he crossed the aisle and made his way over to a woman sitting by herself. She was in her late thirties, had a kind face and a gentle presence.

We’d never met but that didn’t stop David from approaching her. As he got closer, the woman looked up and smiled at him. Once beside her, David turned around and backed up to her—it’s his way of asking to be held.

“He wants to sit on your lap.” I explained. “He can sit next to you if you prefer.”

“No,” she said, “I’d love to hold him.” She carefully lifted him onto her lap.

He tenderly wrapped his arms around her neck and laid his head against her shoulder.

“Is this okay?” I asked, anxious to be considerate of her space “Would you like me to move him?”

She looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“My mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple days ago.” she said in a quiet voice. “I just needed a hug so badly. He knew exactly what I needed.”

I bent down beside them and touched her knee softly as she and David embraced. It was a holy moment of connection that soothed a hurting heart.

In that moment he gave her love, changing her world.

So often I rush around, trying to take care of people, trying to serve, trying to be good enough, trying to prove myself.

David doesn’t worry about these things. He is present in the moment. He is fully himself, unconcerned with what others think.

David’s simple act of love brought hope and beauty to this woman’s day.

He saw her and without pause met her exactly where she was.

It wasn’t accidental.

It wasn’t complicated.

It was David’s open heart that created a beautiful connection.

Maybe it’s not only grand, heroic actions that change the world.

Maybe it’s the quiet moments, when, in humility and brokenness we meet each other right where we are.

We offer hope and love.

We are present to witness another person’s pain and offer soothing grace.

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When we stop rushing, stop trying, stop proving, we can be fully present in the moment.

We can be fully ourselves and open our hearts to each other.

David is showing me one open heart can change the world.

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hello heart, hello monday

hello monday By November 28, 2016 3 Comments

I’ve been trying to listen to my heart lately. One thing my heart has been wanting is to watercolor. I don’t really know how but I’m doing it anyway. It’s fun and creative and it feels good. For the watercolor below, I used brush to wet the paper, then watercolored on wet paper. I was mesmerized watching the paint bleed and blur.

It’s Monday, how about some hellos?love-watercolor-lisa-leonard-01

Hello trying something new and not having to have it all figured out.

Hello big sale today–it’s cyber monday! More details in the shop.

Hello rainy weather–it was perfect for a lazy holiday weekend.

Hello catching a nap and not feeling guilty.

Hello feeling so EXCITED to watch Gilmore Girls and so sad when it ended. Love that show–and the new episodes were so good.

Hello dinner with friends. It’s good for the soul.

Hello laundry mountain that I don’t have energy to climb.

Hello Christmas party this week. Hooray for celebrating.

Hello new book I bought but haven’t started yet. I’ve heard good things.

Hello to you! What are you saying hello to this week?

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listen to your heart

choose joy, worthiness By November 22, 2016 5 Comments

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I’ve been making changes in my life over the last few months. Before these changes I wasn’t taking care of me—although I didn’t know that was the problem. I simply knew I felt exhausted and desperate. Once I realized I wasn’t taking care of myself I began rethinking my schedule, my needs, my wants and my life in general. I’d so busy taking care of everybody else, my needs were at the bottom of the list. Sure, I’d get a pedicure every now and then or have lunch with a friend—and I considered these activities to be good self care. And they are good self care, but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t taking time to listen to my heart.

My schedule was overwhelming with almost no time to slow down or be still. My family and friends’ needs came before my own. To be honest, I wasn’t aware I had needs. Or wants. I thought making everyone else happy was a selfless and beautiful thing. If they’re happy, I’m happy, right? I found out, no, it doesn’t work like that at all. I am a person with needs and wants—just like my husband and my kids and my friends. Those needs and wants matter. After years of not caring for myself I was exhausted. Something had to change. But how? I couldn’t begin to imagine what self-care looked like, let alone how I would fit it into my busy days.

My counselor encouraged me to have quiet time. There was no agenda, just time set aside to be quiet and still. This idea was so completely foreign to me, when she mentioned it, I laughed out loud. Sit and be still? But I pride myself on productivity! If I sit around doing nothing, I’m worthless. Plus, I can give you a list of reasons I don’t have time for quiet–beginning with having a child with a severe disability, owning my own business and on and on. But, I have to admit, there was part of me that was curious. What would happen if I took time to do nothing?

Everywhere I turned the idea was popping up–a friend mentioned taking time for quiet, I read about it in a book, I came across an article on Facebook. So the following day I set my phone to airplane mode, set the timer for 10 minutes and awkwardly sat on the couch doing nothing. I didn’t try to think about anything or not think about anything. I had no agenda—except to sit and simply be. And nothing extraordinary happened. The timer went off, I got up and continued with my day.

The next day I did it again. It felt slightly less awkward the second day. Again I set my phone to airplane mode and set the timer for 10 minutes. Again, I had no agenda. I sat on the couch and let thoughts come or go. I didn’t try to do anything. I just sat still. And nothing extraordinary happened.

On day three I could feel myself craving the quiet time. My heart wanted it. My heart needed it. I set the timer and sat still. When the timer went off, I got up and began to move through my day. Nothing special happened during my ten minutes of quiet, but something unexpected was happening outside of the quiet. I could feel my feelings with greater clarity. My heart was speaking to me and I was making time to listen. I could make sense of my thoughts. I was noticeably less overwhelmed. I was more present. I could make decisions easier. I could say ‘no’ to things I didn’t want to do and ‘yes’ to things I wanted to do. It was like somehow the quiet was helping me work things out. The quiet was helping me to know myself and what I needed. The quiet was making me, more me.

I’ve started working more quiet into my days. I still love listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music, but sometimes when I’m driving or walking I turn everything off and let myself think. I set aside time four or five days a week to sit and be quiet. In a crazy twist, the quiet time away from productivity is actually helping me to be more productive—although that wasn’t and still isn’t my goal.

Productivity is important, but it doesn’t define my value. I am precious and worthy even if I accomplish nothing. I’m valuable simply because I am me.

Instead of keeping busy to avoid the quiet, avoid my thoughts and feelings, I am meeting myself in those moments of quiet. The story of my life is told in small moments that make up a beautiful journey. Some of those moments include quiet reflection.

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I’m listening to my heart.
My heart knows what it wants and needs.
My heart will lead me in the right direction.
My heart will always lead me toward joy.

My heart needs quiet.
The quiet allows me to know myself.
Knowing myself allows me to care for myself.
Caring for myself allows me to be my truest self.
My truest self is who I am created to be.

Do you take time for quiet? Would you be willing to try it?

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hello family store

hello monday By November 21, 2016 5 Comments

My sisters and I stumbled across an adorable boutique called Family Store in Long Beach, California. They have kids stuff and housewares–vintage and new–and they have an online shop too!

It’s Monday, how about some hellos?

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Hello vintage animals masks. Adorable.

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Hello handmade pots. Love love!

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Hello wishing I knew how to throw pottery. Someday I’ll master it.

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Hello plants and window light–a winning combination.

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Hello handmade, it’s good for the heart!

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Hello inspiration. I love a charming boutique, don’t you?
Hello week off school. Yay for slow mornings!
Hello family visiting.
Hello Thanksgiving. I’m in charge of the turkey this year.
Hello rainy day and feeling grateful.
Hello reading this book and loving it.
Hello loving these jeans–so comfortable and cute with ankle booties.
Hello wanting to see Fantastic Beasts. Have you seen it?
Hello craving sweet potatoes {with lots of cinnamon, butter and brown sugar!}
Hello Christmas shopping. I love this time of year.
Hello brand new beautiful week. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I am enough

finding love By November 17, 2016 13 Comments

I’ve beat myself up over and over with harsh words.

I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t creative enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t patient enough, wasn’t good enough.
Beating myself up with these harsh words was like setting my feet in cement and yelling at myself for not growing and changing and moving forward.

I’ve sat in business meetings and felt like a fraud.
I’ve tried on a pair of jeans and left the store feeling awful about myself.
I’ve dropped out of a pottery class frustrated I couldn’t master the techniques.
I’ve worn a big bulky sweater to hide from the world because I felt ugly.
I’ve screamed at my kids at the top of my lungs and then felt like a horrible mother.
I’ve told myself over and over I’m a failure. I’m not enough.

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. Brene Brown

I wasn’t good enough for what? Well, when I dug down deep and I was really, really honest with myself, I believed, I wasn’t good enough to loved. I believed I should be better to make myself more lovable.

I’ve been mixed up. I’m finding out…
There is no smart that’s smart enough to be loved.
There is no thin that’s thin enough to be loved.
There is no creative that’s creative enough to be loved.
There is no pretty that’s pretty enough to be loved.
There is no patient that’s patient enough to be loved.
There is no good that’s good enough to be loved.

These things don’t bring love. They may bring admiration–and admiration is a nice thing. It feels good. But I what I truly want, what my soul craves, is real and lasting love.

I’ve believed I won’t be lovable unless I live a certain way, look a certain way, perform a certain way. I haven’t completely overcome this deeply rooted lie, but I’m working to change my thinking. I’m working to believe what’s true, instead of believing a lie. It’s a simple truth but also complicated–because it means looking at myself from a completely different perspective.

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The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.
Henri Nouwen

The truth is, I am not only lovable, I am loved. Right now, I am loved, just as I am. I don’t have to change one thing.
I am smart enough to be loved.
I am thin enough to be loved.
I am pretty enough to be loved.
I am patient enough to be loved.
I am good enough to be loved.

Starting from a place of enough is like a pair of the best running shoes and a long, straight dirt road with wildflowers popping up on either side. It makes my daily to-do list shorter and frees up brain space. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath and I can finally exhale.

I’ve spent so much time trying to prove I’m lovable, because underneath, I believed I wasn’t.
I’ve worried about what my husband thought of me, what people at church thought of me, what other moms at school drop off thought of me, what strangers at the grocery store thought of me. Believing I wasn’t lovable got me nowhere. It was exhausting–so much energy, so much work, so much wasted time. How can I ever truly know what someone else thinks of me? In a business meeting, one person might think I’m smart and insightful, another person in the same meeting might think I’m completely missing the point and wasting time. Worrying about what other people think of me never, ever worked for me.

What other people think of me is none of my business. Wayne Dyer

It doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of me.
It only matters what’s true.
And the truth is I am loved, right now.
How do I know it’s true?
The God of the Universe says, “I love you.”

Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Philippians 4:8

From the starting place, ‘I am enough right now’ I begin to make change, I begin to grow.
I don’t make change to be loved, I make change to live out of my truest self.
I don’t grow to be loved, I grow to love others better.
I’m starting from a place that’s filled with hope and light.

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I am enough.
You are enough.

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pain is not a gift

choose joy, hope By November 14, 2016 6 Comments
Pain is not a gift from God.
It’s what God does through the pain,
the way He molds us,
the way He enlarges our hearts to love more deeply
and opens our eyes to see more clearly,
this is the gift.
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Pain is clarifying.
When we’re grieving, everything else melts away.
Things that usually worry us seem trivial.
Pain shows us the truth; we are fragile creatures.
We come before God empty-handed.
In that humble, needy place, He meets us with love and grace.
We are changed in a way that can’t be undone.
We are torn apart and lovingly sewn back together.
Each stitch piercing our tender hearts.
It’s a deep, indescribable ache.
We will carry this ache with us always.
Slowly, the ache becomes part of who we are.
We would never wish for pain, but once on the other side, wouldn’t change it.
We’ve walked through fire and we are not the same as we were before.
We’ve been through the darkest night and we’ve glimpsed hope.
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As we heal we see with new eyes.
As we heal our hearts beat with new strength.
As we heal we hold more joy.
Most amazingly, in His unknowable way, God uses the brokenness of pain to make us whole.
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hello new york in the fall!

adventures, hello monday By November 14, 2016 1 Comment

Steve and I had a meeting in New York–and a few hours free time to explore. We had so much fun. The weather was cool and crisp. A nice change from our indian summer in California. It’s a brand new week, how about some hellos?

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Hello home and happy to be here! To be honest, it’s always hard for me to jump back into the normal routine–the day to day stuff plus David’s care can be exhausting. But I love my home and my boys.

Hello americano, my favorite coffee drink lately. Kaffe 1668 in New York. So good.

Hello feeling a complete lack of desire to cook. I need inspiration!

Hello wishing school started at 9am every day. Or maybe 10am.

Hello Thanksgiving–it’s next week. What?! That means Christmas is around the corner.

Hello working through this journal and loving it.

Hello reading happy about this new book. She cracks me up!

Hello maybe just maybe getting rain this week?

Hello typing one-handed because David wants to cuddle.

Hello getting ready for a list from grandma, aunties and cousins–yay!

Hello to you! It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I Held My Heart

choose joy, hope By November 12, 2016 20 Comments

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I took care of my body.
I ate healthy foods, I walked every day.
I found the right lipstick, I bought the perfect jeans.
“This is good.” I thought. But it wasn’t enough.
I held my heart and it was empty.

I got married, we had two amazing children.
I was a loving mother; firm and fun.
We made pancakes every morning and read stories before bed.
“This is good.” I thought. But it wasn’t enough.
I held my heart and it was empty.

I made a cozy, beautiful home.
I saved for a couch and throw pillows, I kept it tidy.
I invited friends over for dinner and we talked late into the night.
“This is good.” I thought. But it wasn’t enough.
I held my heart and it was empty.

I started a handmade business.
I created jewelry, people wore it.
I wrote words, people read them.
“This is good.” I thought. But it wasn’t enough.
I held my heart and it was empty.

I went to church every Sunday.
I read my bible and prayed consistently.
I tried to love others. I tried to be spiritual.
“This is good.” I thought. But it wasn’t enough.
I held my heart and it was empty.

I broke down.
I sat alone in a quiet corner while tears fell.
In my desperation I called out to the God of the Universe.
“I’ve done all these things but my heart is empty. I need you.”
“You are good. “He said, “You are enough.”
Then he whispered, “All you need, I have given to you. Come to me empty-handed and open-hearted.”
He held my heart and it was full.

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choose joy

choose joy By November 8, 2016 13 Comments

The phrase ‘choose joy’ used to turn my stomach.
So trite.
So fake.
Just choose joy—it’s easy, right?
No, it’s not easy, but I believe it’s possible.

A few years ago Steve and I traveled to Thailand to visit friends and meet artisans. We joined our friends, and some of their friends for dinner one evening. One of the girls in the group had just celebrated her 15th birthday.

“Wow, fifteen” I thought. “She’s only been in a Thailand for a couple years. What’s it like to be an American girl at fifteen, living in Thailand?”

So I asked her.

“It’s been really hard,” She answered honestly. “I didn’t want to move. I miss my friends back in the United States. I don’t know the language and I’ve felt lonely and sad. But last week was my birthday. So I decided to be happy and not worry about all the hard things. I decided to enjoy the day. It was great! I felt so free. I laughed and had fun. It was the first time I felt happy since we moved here. The next morning, I woke up and asked myself, ‘Why not be happy again today?’ So I did. Since then, I’ve been enjoying Thailand. It’s beautiful here. I’m making friends. I like it.”

Whoa. Her story stopped me in my tracks. So much insight. So much real life experience—real pain, real joy. She was learning to choose joy. Was it easy? No. But sadness and loneliness aren’t easy either.

The day David was born was one of the hardest days of my life. Everything I expected for my life, our new baby and our family was gone. There I was, a brand new mom with a tiny baby who had two fingers on his left hand, and lots of questions. I remember Steve and I sitting on the edge of my hospital bed in my sterile post-partum room, sobbing. I can’t remember another time I’ve been so overcome with grief. I could feel the pain coursing through every part of my body. My chest felt heavy like lead and burned hot with hopelessness. It was over. Life as we knew it was over. Grief was appropriate. We were experiencing tremendous loss. We were also worried for our new baby—what would his life look like? And oh my gosh, what would my life look like? I was terrified.

Slowly over the next weeks and months we got to know our sweet David. We learned how to change his tiny diapers and feed him through the tube that went directly to his stomach. We learned how hook him up to a machine to monitor his heart while he slept. We adjusted his car seat to the smallest setting to keep him safe. Slowly but surely I was falling in love with him, but I was still trapped in shame. Was there something I’d done that caused his disability? Did I use a cleanser or chemical during my pregnancy that affect normal growth? Did I eat something that hurt my baby? Wasn’t a mother supposed to keep her baby safe? I failed. David’s doctors assured us we hadn’t caused David’s syndrome. And yet, as his mother I blamed myself.

I remember walking through Trader Joe’s market with David tucked inside his baby carrier close to my chest. An older gentleman looked at us and noticed David’s small hand with only two fingers.

“God bless you.” He said with kind eyes.

“God bless me?” I thought. “I’m a failure. I don’t deserve a blessing.”

Still, his blessing was a soothing balm to my hurting heart.

Days later we went to lunch. While we waited for our burritos, we munched on chips and salsa and sipped our sodas. I found I was accidentally enjoying myself.

“Oops!” I thought, scolding myself. “I’m not allowed to be happy. I have a baby with a severe disability.”

The moment was a breath of fresh air but I was still stuck in shame and sadness. I remember regretting I didn’t worry more about David’s health while I was pregnant–as if worrying would have changed something.

The first months and year of David’s life were tumultuous. Being a brand new mom is a massive transition, but the health issues, doctor visits and multiple surgeries his first year meant we mostly functioned in a haze. Falling in love with David was the sunshine that began clearing the haze. His adorable giggle was music to my ears. His smile was like a magic glue that healed the cracks in my broken heart. I began to see his life was not a tragedy but something precious and beautiful.

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I realized I had a choice. I could continue to be sad, or I could decide to choose joy. For months upon months I’d wished things were different. I cried many tears. I carried the heavy weight of grief with me everywhere I went. Our situation wasn’t going to change. My sadness didn’t make David healthier. My misery, although completely appropriate for the situation, didn’t ease my pain.

I could feel it. My mourning was coming to an end. I was ready to find joy.

One day, I made a conscious decision to accept David’s disability. I made the decision in my head, hoping my heart would follow along–and it did. I would no longer be ashamed of my son or myself. I was honored to be his mother. From the moment of his birth, David was adorable, determined and ready to love with his whole heart. And I had the priviledge of being his mommy. I had nothing to be ashamed of—and so much to be joyful about.

I began to look people in the eye when we were out and about. I made eye contact hoping somehow my eyes would say, “I am grateful to be the mother of this incredible person. I am a proud mama.”

And people smiled back.

One young mom asked, “How old is he?” and told me about her nephew who had a rare syndrome.

I wasn’t alone.

Kids would ask, “Why does he only have two fingers on that hand?”

And I would answer, “That’s how God made him. Some people have curly hair. Some people have no hair. Most people have five fingers on each hand, but every once in a while God makes someone with only two fingers on one hand.”

This answer made perfect sense to them.

“Yes.” They would nod in solidarity. “Each of us is different and that’s okay.”

I was learning it’s both our similarities and our differences that bond us together.

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I used to think ‘choose joy’ meant slapping on a fake, plastic smile and pretending everything was fine, when inside I felt sad and alone.

But that’s a lie.

Choosing joy means letting go of the things I can’t control–which is most things.

Choosing joy means having compassion for others, with all their strengths and weaknesses, and having compassion for myself.

Choosing joy means forgiving others and forgiving myself. There is so much forgiveness, so much grace.

Choosing joy means not worrying about what someone else thinks of me.

Choosing joy means speaking my truth, even if it means disagreeing with my husband or a dear friend.

Choosing joy means taking time for me—time for quiet, time for a massage, time for an evening with girlfriends, because my heart requires these things in order to find joy.

Choosing joy means accepting my disabled son just the way he is, from his small hand with only two fingers to his contagious smile. It’s all him and I love him.

Choosing joy means accepting myself the way I am—from my blue eyes to my soft tummy to my tendency to procrastinate. It’s all me and I love me.

Choosing joy means working with a therapist to learn more about myself and heal my heart.

Choosing joy means I am responsible for my own happiness, and you’re responsible for yours.

Choosing joy means letting go of perfection and waking up to see the beauty surrounding me.

Choosing joy means knowing deep in my soul the God of the universe loves me. Love surrounds me.

Choosing joy means letting go of fear and resting in that love. It isn’t easy. Finding this place was like stepping off the ground and onto a shaky ladder. I could only see one rung of the ladder at a time. With each step the ladder became more stable and I became braver. As I climbed higher I saw something truly beautiful.

I glimpsed joy.

It is truly worth the tears, pain and vulnerability. It’s filled with hope and freedom. I will keep fighting for honest heart connection knowing that anything less is a shadow of the life we are meant to live.

I choose joy.

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
-Henri Nouwen

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