what a pity

david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 3, 2016 85 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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the making of a family

family, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 1, 2016 6 Comments

Family doesn’t flourish or break in one moment.

It’s not defined by a perfect, smiling picture.

It isn’t shaken by a stressful morning of rushing and yelling.

Family is nurtured over months and years. It’s the process of growing together.
Family doesn’t require perfection, but depends on forgiveness.

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Family is bed head and a good cup of coffee

Family is a sink of dirty dishes after a pancake breakfast.

Family is silly texts and handwritten love notes.

Family is a hurt feelings followed by bear hugs.

Family is a cozy blanket, a cuddle on the couch and a good movie after a long day.

Family is an inside joke that lasts for years.

Family is staying by your side when you’re sick.

Family is sharing your toys and sharing your heart.
Family is an umbrella on a rainy day.

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Family is shaped by laughter and tears,
adventure and routine,
the magical and the mundane.
Family is the vulnerability of being known and the relief of being loved just the same.

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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 brother’s heart

family, matthias By February 17, 2016 61 Comments

When the boys were very little, maybe three and four years old, we tucked them into a side by side double stroller and set off with sippy cups and a diaper bag. As we walked along, Matthias saw someone staring at David, and he protectively put his arm around his brother. Steve and I exchanged a knowing glance. It was a small action with big meaning. Matthias was beginning to understand that his big brother needed looking after.

Months later, Matthias asked me, “Why do they stare?”, His green eyes full of innocence and righteous indignation. “They’ve never seen a child with only two fingers before. It’s unusual and they’re curious.” I tried to explain. My words sounded calm and rational, but inside their stares tore at my heart too. “He’s just David.” was Matthias’ perfect, childlike answer. “He’s my brother. He’s fine just the way he is.” In his unwavering acceptance of David, Matthias was beginning to grasp that his brother was different.
F3C41F14-26C7-4435-BA25-72AAC7B4E3A7Sometimes I wish Matthias didn’t know so much about how hard life can be. Having a brother with a disability means simple outings sometimes turn into complicated situations. He’s heard my voice shaking as we debate taking David to the emergency room. He’s had to be flexible too many times when plans get changed because his brother is sick or in the hospital.  And no one is as better at packing a bag with art supplies, books and snacks to wait out a long doctor visit.

And each time everything grinds to a halt to care for David, my heart hurts a little for Matthias. He assures me he’s fine. And I know Steve and I are intentional to make special time for him, too. But it’s hard. It’s imperfect. The stress that comes along with having a disabled brother affects Matthias, and it isn’t fair.a brother's heart lisa leonard1Thankfully he also sees the beautiful and amazing parts of this journey. Those long waits at the doctor’s office have given him time to nurture a passion for drawing and creativity. He has insights beyond his twelve years that will serve him well in life. He has compassion for others and cares for those who are hurting. Matthias adds stability to our family. We are better because of him. His life hasn’t been easy. Having a brother with a disability has shaped him and given him a bigger heart. As mothers, we want every good thing for our children.a brother's heart lisa leonardWhen I see my child struggle, it breaks my heart. But as I see those struggles produce a kinder heart that loves more deeply, I’m flooded with gratefulness. This journey has it’s twists and turns but I’m finding, step by step it’s taking our little family to beautiful places. We are stronger together.

Have you walked through a hard time with your child?

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Risky, Messy Love

family, finding love, Louis and Beasley, matthias By January 19, 2016 11 Comments

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The other day, as I was driving the boys to school, Matthias told me he loves our new pugs so much it makes him sad.

I asked him what he meant, and he explained, “I feel so much love for them—but what if they get hurt or sick or worse, die? I would be so sad. Just the thought of it makes my heart heavy.”

I sighed and nodded. I knew exactly what he meant. I feel those same feelings and worry every day. Not just for our dogs {I mean, I love those doggies!} but even more so having children, committing to a husband, sharing life with sisters who are dear to my heart, it’s amazing and it’s terrifying.

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Love is vulnerable.

Love is a risk.

Love is messy. Always.

Love isn’t safe.

If we love deeply and honestly, we’ll most likely get hurt.

But if we protect our hearts and keep them safe, we miss out on, well, the best of what life brings.

Because love is imperfect, we’re imperfect—flawed in all of our good intentions, living in bodies that will eventually fail us.

It’s heart-breaking.

But it’s also breath-taking.

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Love makes the journey not only bearable, but beautiful.

Love may break our hearts but it also heals them.

Love eases our pain and comforts our souls in a way that’s impossible to understand.

To be loved is everything.

And so, these two sweet dogs have walked into our lives, made them sweeter and unexpectedly, they’re teaching us about love and life. And that is no small thing.

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celebrating Matthias {twelve!}

adventures, matthias By January 15, 2016 2 Comments

Today is Matthias’ official birthday. Earlier this week we celebrated at Disneyland with his cousins, Torie and Lexie. We’re pretty much all about Star Wars right now. So fun! Matthias is twelve–I keep trying to make myself believe it. It’s cliche but the time goes so quickly!

Matthias, you are such a blessing to our family. You make us better. You teach us to see the world creatively. You help us understand David. You’re an old soul with keen insights beyond your years. I adore you!

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Happy birthday, Matthias! We have so many reasons to celebrate you–and your birthday is a perfect opportunity! I can’t wait to have new adventures with you this year. And may the force be with you.

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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.

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Then, 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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why we’re in love with boston and our family moments to share

adventures, family By November 25, 2015 6 Comments

Last week we took a family trip to Boston with my sisters Susan, Ellen, Chrissie and Chrissie’s family. Matthias chose Massachusetts for his state report last year–so we wanted to visit and see the historical sites. But we also just wanted to travel and do something fun! And we had a great time. The boys have grown a lot since our last adventure–and we’re planning to visit our family in England this Christmas, so is was kind of a warm up trip. We saw a lot, ate great food and had a blast with cousins, aunties and uncle. IMG_1371

We explored Harvard. Cambridge is beautiful–it was a highlight of the trip!

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Since I’ve never seen Boston–I was taken with all the history. It’s so different than California. I think it’s kind of a mash-up between England and San Francisco.

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The trees were gorgeous this time of year. Some had colorful leaves, some were bare. The weather was chilly but manageable.

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The cousins missed their first flight {along with their parents} and they arrived 18 hours late. We were THRILLED when they arrived. The cousins had so much fun together!

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Look at those smiles. David smiled the whole weekend. He was such a trooper!

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Oh the leaves and this gate at Cambridge. Spectacular.
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I loved getting some sister time!

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Red building, red leaves.

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I can’t get enough of that sweet smile. I think David loves to travel. He’s an explorer. He wants to see and touch and experience everything.

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Matthias spent time drawing and sketching. Of course.

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We found a mini kalimba for David at a little boutique. He spotted them right away and I couldn’t resist getting him one!
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Twins <3
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Steve and I explored some fun boutiques on an evening out. It was such a treat to explore Boston for a few hours without kiddos!

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A green bike in front of the boutique Sault. So inspiring.

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Evening light.

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So thankful for our family of four!

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Susan planned the trip and found us a great Air B&B where we all stayed together. Most mornings we made breakfast and we relaxed in the evenings. Perfect!

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Hey, it’s Paul Revere!

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I love the texture of this alley and the peach door at the end.

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David crashed out on the way to the airport and Matthias snuggled up with him. Matthias is faking–but isn’t this the sweetest?!

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Berries growing on a brick wall.

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Here’s our whole gang! Party of ten. We had so much fun!!

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We walked the Freedom Trail on our last day and explored a couple old graveyards. So much history and story and texture.

Have you been to Boston? What are you favorite things to do there?

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how we created the ‘cross of light’ ornament {matthias remarkable imagination}

christmas, inspiration, matthias By November 18, 2015 3 Comments

Months ago, I was working on our Christmas ornaments and I asked Matthias if he would like to design one. At eleven years old he draws and sketches all the time–I mean, he literally carries his drawing pad and pencil case everywhere. And this is nothing new–he’s been drawing since he was three or four years old. I thought an ornament would be such a fun gift for aunties, uncles and grandparents. I asked him to draw whatever he wanted and planned to create the ornament from his drawing. Take a look at what he came up with!

*Also, scroll down to the bottom to see our ornament special happening today!*

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Matthias drew the cross himself, then from his drawing, together, we created the ‘cross of light’ ornament. It turned out so well!

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I asked Matthias why he wanted to draw a cross for the ornament and he said, Christmas is about Jesus and the cross symbolizes Jesus. Beautiful!

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The ‘cross of light’ ornament is finished with a sheet red ribbon and can be personalized on the back with a name or the year.

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I love having Matthias use his talents and creativity to be part of the business. He loves to draw and sketch. This was a perfect opportunity to use his artwork in a new and different way. He inspires me!

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All ornaments are buy two get one FREE today! Enter code ‘happytree’ at checkout. Yay! They’re the perfect gift for each kiddo, teachers and dear friends.

You can find the ‘cross of light’ ornament here. Click here to see all the 2015 ornaments.

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researching and loving Morro Bay {kayaking as a family}

family, san luis obispo By September 10, 2015 6 Comments

One of the things I wanted to try this summer was kayaking. A couple of years ago, some friends of ours took Matthias and David–and they had so much fun! So we figured we should be able to make it work.

I researched Morro Bay kayaking and Kayak Horizons had excellent reviews. We loved them and we will definitely use them next time we go {which I hope is soon!}
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Matthias was a little nervous but he did great!

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I love all the colors against the blue sky and Morro rock in the background.

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They gave us each a life vest. I love that silly face Matthias is making–what a ham.

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Can you see that smile on David’s face?

David and Steve used a single kayak, Matthias and I used a double. We wanted to keep David close by–and the single worked great. After a bit we ended up switching and I took the single with David and Matthias and Steve took the double.

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Matthias did a fabulous job paddling. He told me I was being too bossy, though!

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We pulled the kayaks up the sand bank and played for a bit. Matthias named this bit of land ‘Barnacle Island’.

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The three towers in the back and our kayaks on the beach.

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Matthias wrote in the sand with the oar.

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They’re checking on David to see if he likes kayaking. Love my boys!

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All four of us. I loved sharing this adventure together.

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David loved playing in the sand and he got it everywhere.

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Steve pulling the kayak out so we could explore more.

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There were lots of sea lions hanging out on this dock.

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We paddling around lots of boats and up and down the bay. It was a beautiful day. Afterwards, we got lunch at Blue Sky Bistro overlooking the water. It was such a fun day!

Have you tried kayaking? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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