the most important thing

david, finding love, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 8, 2016 59 Comments

the most important thing lisa leonard-01

We were nervous, but felt mostly ready to have our first baby. Toward the end of my pregnancy, we had tiny clothes, washed, folded and tucked into drawers. We had a crib with cozy, blue plaid bedding. We had a stroller and carseat ready to go. At my 38 week prenatal appointment, everything in our world was about to be turned upside down. We were most definitely not ready for what was about to happen.

Our routine visit began with an ultrasound. I could see the puzzled look on our doctor’s face. There were long pauses, note taking, comparing notes, checking and double checking, and then the question, “Are you sure we have the due date right? The baby’s measuring small. “

I was absolutely certain we had the due date correct. His words rung in my ears. I’d been careful to plan out the details as we prepared for our baby’s birth, but somehow I hadn’t worried about the right thing. Not that worrying would have changed one single thing. Something was wrong with our baby.

The next days were filled with a visit to the specialist, being admitted to the hospital, tears, worry and waiting. On July 4, 2002 our David was born. He was 4lbs, 2oz, had a full head of hair, a button nose, only two fingers on his left hand and a massive heart defect.

All of a sudden we had a lot of questions.

Will David survive?

Did I do something that caused this syndrome?

Will our friends and family accept our new baby?

Will we ever experience joy again?

We felt out of control. We were out of control.

On July 11, when David was seven days old, we sat down with a geneticist to discuss his diagnosis. We were new parents with broken hearts. We were at the beginning of one of the hardest parts of our journey. The geneticist could have shared meaningful statistics or current research to answer our questions. Instead he gave us deep wisdom into how to parent our new baby.

What did we do wrong?

What will David’s life look like?

How severely is our son affected by this syndrome?

Will David be okay? Are we going to be okay? What do we do next?

He calmly met our eyes. He spoke tender words with profound truth. “You’ll just have to get to know David to find out who he is.” He told us it was impossible to say how David’s life look. If we had a typical child, he couldn’t tell us how intelligent, creative, determined or successful he would be. His advice was to love our son, just the way he was, right at that moment.

Of all the questions, it really came down to one, foundational question.

“Will you love him as he is?”

We weren’t in control of the events leading up to David’s birth. We had no idea what the future held. But we were given the best, most important advice any parent can receive.

The most important advice any person can receive.

Love.

Love him just the way he is.

the most important thing3 lisa leonard

In the midst of all the questions and worry, we had the one thing we needed most. Love. And amazingly, this tiny baby was about to teach us how to love more deeply and more purely than we ever imagined.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room, talking to a geneticist, we learned one of life’s most important lessons. And although we’ve grown a lot, it’s a lesson we’re still learning.

The most important thing is love.

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what a pity

david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 3, 2016 83 Comments
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Last week at the grocery store I made eye contact with the woman behind me. She glanced at David with sad eyes, then looked back at me and shook her head. She saw his small hand with only two fingers. She heard him vocalizing sounds that didn’t form words. She could tell he had a disability.

Pity. That’s what she felt for David. Her face spoke a thousand words. I fought back the stinging tears and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I turned around, pulled my shoulders back and stood up straighter. I looked at David and focused on the mischievous twinkle in his eye and the sweet smile on his lips. I took a moment and soaked him in.

If worth is measured by academic achievement and college degrees, we have a very sad situation.
If value is determined by dollars in your bank account or the car you drive, we have reason to worry.
If quality of life is based on athletic ability or the physical beauty, David is excluded.
But, if worth is determined by a loving God who knows you by name, then we have hope.
So much hope.
If value is measured belly laughs that begin in your toes, and pure joy that radiates from your soul, then we are rich.
If quality of life is based hugs and kisses and cuddles, then we certainly don’t need pity. We have everything we need.

Yes, David’s body is broken–he has a disability. There are many things in life he will never accomplish. But those things don’t determine his worth or value.
His heart is whole. His soul is strong and powerful. He freely gives and receives love. When I look at him, I feel no pity. When I look at him, I’m overcome with admiration. Then I take him in my arms and squeeze him as tightly as I can.
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this little hand

david, finding love By February 23, 2016 22 Comments

This little hand was the first tangible sign that things were not as we expected.

This little hand, with only two little fingers, made my heart hurt and worry about the days ahead.

This little hand represented a syndrome and questions and the end of dreams I’d been dreaming for my tiny baby.

This little hand softly touches mine and reminds me true beauty comes from within.

This little hand is teaching me perfection isn’t the goal, love is the goal.

This little hand is connected to this little body. A body that runs and explores and cuddles close to mine.

This little body that has fought hard to overcome illness and disorder.

This little body holds the heart of my child. A heart that loves deeply. A heart that laughs with joy. A heart that doesn’t worry about tomorrow but finds beauty in this moment. A heart so big and powerful that it has helped heal my own. A heart that has taught me how to love better and more purely.

I wouldn’t change this little hand because it’s part of the story that has brought us to today.

And today holds amazing, wonderful things.

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a little bit of joy to suprise the day that changed everything

david, inspiration By January 7, 2016 72 Comments

At some point in each person’s life, pain shows up. That’s the day everything changes. What was true one moment is gone the next. The path turns sharply in an unexpected direction. It’s disorienting, unfamiliar terrain.

When it happened to me, I knew in the depth of my soul, things were broken and would never be the same again. The pain, in all its heavy darkness would be with me for the rest of my life. Instead of the happy, healthy baby I imagined, our son was born with a severe disability and a body that didn’t work correctly. The joy of anticipating our son turned to grief as they hooked him up to monitors and tubes.

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But slowly, as I started to accept it, the pain became part of me. It was still there but it wasn’t quite as heavy.  I loved cuddling with David and feeling his soft breath as he cuddled into my shoulder. And that first smile when he was three months old was like wind behind me–moving me forward. Each footstep didn’t feel so exhausting.

from pain to joy-01Then, to my surprise, a little bit of joy peeked through the clouds, like ray of sunshine. I wasn’t expecting it and I almost felt guilty. It must be a fluke, right? A little accidental joy. But little by little joy showed herself. The pain was still there, it’s there today, it’s part of me and part of my journey. But the pain has allowed me to feel joy in a new, fresh way that I couldn’t before. The pain helps me appreciate the joy. The pain makes the joy much, much sweeter. The day that pain showed up, it changed everything.
And in it’s crazy, mixed up way, the brokenness of pain is making me more whole.

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Every morning I slip the sunburst ring on my finger as a reminder.

Has joy started to peek it’s head through the clouds in your journey? I’d love to hear.

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hello olympian

david, hello monday By May 4, 2015 16 Comments

Last week David participated in the Special Olympics here in San Luis Obispo. He rocked the 25m assisted walk and was pretty exhausted by the time the Softball Throw came around. We had such a fun day and I have lots of pics to share with you! How about some hellos for a brand new week?

***Hello Monday is where I greet the new week with an open heart and a fresh perspective. It’s a new beginning–and there’s so much to be thankful for! Join me by leaving your own hellos in the comments section or linking up a hello monday post there!***

Hello torch bearer! David was a torch bearer in the opening ceremonies. And he was adorable!

Hello exploring before his events. So much to see!

 Hello going from Impossible to I’m possible. Awesome.

Hello to one of the sweetest teachers on the planet!

Hello getting a fire helmet and chatting with the firemen.

And hello sitting on the fire truck!

Hello pep talk from Dad before the event.

Hello ready, set, GO!

Hello silver medal winner!

Hello working in the Dominican Republic this week.

Hello lots to do and plan and design.

Hello hard-working Dominican team. They rock!

Hello jet lag and catching up on email.

Hello sipping some of the best coffee in the world.

Hello missing my boys.

Hello sunshine, ocean waves and mango.

Hello to YOU! What are you saying hello to this week? It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found.  Leave some hellos in the comments or link your own hello monday post there.

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investing in love

david, finding love By January 31, 2015 No Comments

The fall mornings are always chilly even though after a couple hours the sun comes out to warm everything. Before we leave the house, I pull a warm vest around David and strap him snuggly into his car seat. As we arrive at school, I slide open the van door, give him a kiss on the cheek and lift him from the car.

David has special needs. He was born with a rare genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange. Because of his syndrome, he doesn’t use words to communicate, he has only two fingers on his left hand and he depends on us to feed and diaper him. David is very relational and loves to cuddle and hug—but he is cautious with new people. At times he voids eye contact and prefers to play alone.

At the beginning of the school year, he took hesitant steps toward the classroom, pulling on my hand and trying to slow my pace. It was a new school with new faces to get to know. Every morning, his teacher would bend down and with a big smile on her face, and welcome David to school. For weeks it went like this, hesitant steps culminating in a warm welcome and a fairly disinterested David.

But she persisted. She showed love and kindness to David. She invested in him…

I’m sharing at {in}courage today. Hop over to read the rest of the post. 

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Hello David! {hello twelve!}

david, family, hello monday By July 7, 2014 15 Comments

David turned TWELVE! Every year I can’t believe how old he is, partly because time flies and partly because he is so tiny–he seems to defy age. But this year he seems older to me. He has more opinions. He has new ideas. He has taken to laying on the couch and crashing midday. He is acting like a pre-teen. It’s crazy and exciting and awesome. And sometimes it’s hard too. I’m getting to know him in a new way.

This year we had a very mellow day. We went and saw ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2’ and had presents and cupcakes in the backyard. Celebrating David’s birthday holds meaning for me. His life is precious. He is loved and cherished. He has changed our lives in beautiful ways.

How about some hellos for a new week?

***Hello Monday is where I greet the new week with an open heart and a fresh perspective. It’s a new beginning–and there’s so much to be thankful for! Join me by leaving your own hellos in the comments section or linking up a hello monday post there!***

Hello cupcakes! Hello cute topper!

Hello bubbles! What a fun addition to our party.

Hello happy. That smile slays me!

Hello brother helping open presents.

Hello new toys to play with!

Hello silliness and laughing. David loves being the center of attention.

Hello serious bubble making.

Hello reflecting on what we love about David. His determination, his silliness and his cuddles.

Hello frosting. Yum! More please!

Hello messy!

Hello father/son selfie!

Hello celebrating one very amazing kid!

Hello sneaking away for a couple nights with Steve. I can’t wait!

Hello seeing family next week. Hooray! The Omaha cousins are coming!

Hello haircut. My favorite.

Hello BBQ and fresh fruit.

Hello crazy summer days that fly by.

What are you saying hello to today? Leave some hellos in the comments or link up your own hello monday post there!

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the best kind of worn out

david, finding beauty By June 10, 2014 10 Comments

This post is from four years ago. I just ordered new shoes for both boys and they arrived yesterday–and I remembered this post. As soon as I looked it up, I got tears in my eyes and knew I wanted to share it with again. It gives me all kinds of hope.

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these are the shoes david wears every day.

and guess what? they’re worn out.

there’s a hole right through the bottom of the shoe.

and you know how he did it?

exploring, walking, running, and generally getting into trouble.

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and we couldn’t be happier.

i remember when david was born

and the doctor told us he would never walk, or talk

that he may not see or hear.

and we cried.

and we wondered and waited.

and one day, when he was five years old-he did it!

for months, he’d been pulling up, cruising, but finally, HE WALKED!!

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and now he’s wearing out his shoes.  love that.

here are some new kicks. get busy wearing them out, kid!

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and david we love you.

you are pure joy and silliness.

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the meaning of most important thing

an everyday moment, david By April 25, 2014 12 Comments

After I changed my third poopy diaper that day, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ll always change diapers. I will never NOT change diapers.” Our oldest son David has a disability and will likely be diapered his entire life. At the end of a long day, I felt defeated. I felt done. I felt empty.

Then my husband asked me, “What if changing diapers is the most important thing you do all day?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. How could changing a diaper be important? I create jewelry, I write a blog, I speak at conferences. How could something so menial and mundane, like changing a diaper, make even the smallest difference?

I’m blogging over at {in}courage. Hop over to read the rest! 

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david and goliath

david, finding beauty By April 4, 2014 111 Comments

If you sat through Sunday school every week, like I did, then you know the story of David and Goliath. When David was a young boy, he went out to fight the mighty giant Goliath. He didn’t wear armor and he carried no sword. Armed with five smooth stones and a slingshot, he rushed toward the giant, striking him with a stone between the eyes. The giant fell facedown to the ground. With God on his side, the mighty giant was no match for David.

Before David was born, we had already picked out his name. As I held my tiny son in my arms those first days, I marveled at how appropriate the name was.  Born with a syndrome causing a serious heart defect, two fingers on his left hand and global delay, our little boy entered the world with his own giant to face.

At eleven years old, my David faces his Goliath every day.

He has no words, but patiently takes my hand and leads me to what he wants.

He suffers from reflux throughout the day but is quick with a smile between episodes.

He’s eager to make a new friend. If you bend down next to him, he’ll likely throw his arms around your neck or climb up onto your lap.

He faces countless doctor visits, invasive procedures and surgeries, but instead of being bitter, he’s joyful.

He wakes up ready to greet the day and walks to school with a spring in his step.

My David battles his giant every day. He rushes toward the day with bravery. With God on his side, this syndrome is no match for David.

Are you facing your own Goliath? I would love to hear about it.

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