creativity takes courage {a lot of it!}

adventures, finding beauty, the meaning behind By May 10, 2016 35 Comments

Do you know that feeling—when you can feel the shame creeping up your neck and into your cheeks? When you wish the ground would swallow you up? I know that feeling well.

Years ago, when I was beginning to make jewelry, I sent a couple samples to one of my favorite local boutiques. The shop was located near the beach and carried high end clothing, vintage décor and handmade jewelry. I followed up with a phone call and we scheduled a time to meet. The thought of having my handmade creations in her store was exhilarating. It was exciting and humbling. It was also terrifying.

I carefully chose some of my favorite creations–lots of necklaces and a few earrings. Each was piece was placed in an individual box and all of the boxes were gathered into a structured bag. On the day of our meeting, I loaded up my creations, found a parking space near the boutique and walked with trembling steps through the boutique door.

early designs lisa leonard

{early designs from 2008/2009}

Deep breath.

The owner smiled and welcomed me to her shop. We chatted about the beautiful weather outside and a new label she was carrying in her store. As we talked, I began to lay out each necklace side by side. As I laid out the handmade pieces, I felt like I was laying out my soul, baring some of my most vulnerable hopes and dreams.

She turned her attention from the conversation to the handmade jewelry in front of her. With the precision of a surgeon and the strong opinions of an experienced buyer, she began to separate the necklaces into two categories. She went through each piece and decided whether or not it suited her taste. I could feel her words cut through me.

Yes.
No.
No
Yes.
No.
Yes.

With each ‘no’ my heart sunk a little lower and I wished the ground would swallow me up. With each ‘yes’ my hopes boosted slightly. I felt like a ping pong ball–she liked it, she hated it, she liked it, she hated it.

After a few very short minutes that felt like an eternity she counted the ‘yes’ necklaces, pulled out her checkbook and paid me for the pieces. I thanked her, packed up the reject necklaces, walked outside and got in my car. I drove down the street and pulled into a quiet parking spot. Then, like every strong and capable entrepreneur, I burst into tears. I felt humiliated. I felt rejected. I felt stupid. Who did I think I was making handmade jewelry? I was a failure.

But I could hear a little voice reminding me that this shop, a shop I loved, was carrying some of my handmade designs. Sure, she didn’t like every piece, but she liked some of them. She was carrying my designs. It was a success, not a failure. And even if she hadn’t bought one single necklace, that didn’t mean I was a failure either. It only meant the jewelry wasn’t her taste.

I was beginning to understand creativity requires courage. Sharing my creations with the world was a way of baring my soul. The jewelry was part of me. In a very real way, it was an expression of my heart.

Creativity is like hopping across a rocky stream, jumping from one stone to the next. Watching someone else do it is easy.  But as I took my first leap, my foot landed on a slightly unstable stone. Should I jump to the next stone or turn back? I could see the next stone, so I jumped. In order to get across the stream, I had to jump one stone at a time—sometimes changing course. I had to be brave.

Each step takes me further on my journey. Each step provides new opportunities, new insights, and new challenges. With each leap I am learning new ways of thinking that had never crossed my mind before. With each leap I am getting braver.

But how how do we find courage to leave the shore? How do we find the bravery to jump from one stone to the next?  I’ve found a few simple but profound strategies that work for me.

  1. I believe I am worthy and loved no matter what. My value isn’t determined by a successful jewelry business. I am enough. If I fail, I will still be loved. I will still be precious. I am surrounded by family and friends who treasure me just because I am ME. Even when I land on a shaky stone, I have a solid foundation. This gives me courage—so much courage!
  2. I separate my art from my soul–at least a bit. The work of my hands is a reflection of me, but it’s not ME. When someone doesn’t like my jewelry, that doesn’t mean they are rejecting me. It simply means they don’t like my jewelry. And that’s okay. But in the rare circumstance where they are rejecting me? Well, I go back to number one—I am worthy and loved no matter what.
  3. Failure is one of the best ways to learn. It’s impossible to succeed all of the time. If I’m able to look at a failure head on, knowing it doesn’t define me, I can learn from it, change a few things and forge ahead. Failure can be my friend.

Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I never expected my little hobby jewelry business to blossom into something bigger. I never expected to have a team of talented, brilliant people work alongside me to make it flourish. I never expected to connect with women like you–amazing women who have a beautiful heart and a deep love for others. I can look back with gratitude and look forward with hope. Where will the next stone take me?

current designs lisa leonard

{some of my best sellers from the shop}

Have you jumped from the shore onto a stone? How how you found the courage to share your creativity with the world? I would love to hear your story!

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unique, amazing and loved.

finding beauty By March 16, 2016 23 Comments

Growing up I had a large gap between my front teeth. I tried not to smile big. I hated that space and was extremely self-conscious about it. I hated my pale, skinny legs and my frizzy hair. I remember walking down the hall of my Junior High School and I was sure the cool kids were laughing at me. I thought if I could just have my teeth fixed, I would be happy. If I could get a little tan, I would be beautiful. If I could be a little more attractive I would be acceptable. If I looked better, I would be more lovable, more valuable. Those same insecurities stayed with me as I grew into adulthood. They became slightly more sophisticated, but the fear was the same. Am I loved?

I remember when David was placed in my arms for the first time. He had a lot of physical quirks—but his left hand, with only two fingers was the most noticeable. His small hand was a concrete physical representation of the syndrome that affects every cell in his body—from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. David is different. David is David. When the nurse placed him in my arms when he was minutes old, I had no doubt this baby was absolutely precious. Of course, we were grieving. There were many unknowns. But there was one thing I never questioned. I knew David was valuable. I knew he deserved love and every good thing.

Our family and friends gathered around us to support us and love David. We decided early on, we wouldn’t hide David’s small hand. We showed each visitor that tiny, sweet hand with only two fingers. I remember softly touching those little fingers as I cuddled our newborn on my chest.  I grieved that little hand and I wished David didn’t have to walk the hard road in front of him. I cried and wished he had five fingers on his left hand. But I loved David. And after time, I learned to love that little hand, too.

Those same early days after David’s birth, I would look at myself in the mirror with disdain. I could make a list of my imperfections—those extra pounds, the curly hair that wouldn’t cooperate, my fair skin that wouldn’t tan no matter what. I’d just had a baby—I was sleep deprived and grieving. But truthfully, I hadn’t accepted myself long before David was born.

As I held this tiny baby in my arms, it became clear to me in a clear, tangible way, that love and value doesn’t come from physical beauty. He wasn’t the adorable newborn I had imagined with bright eyes, chubby legs and a perfectly shaped head. Instead he was a tiny infant with a full head of wavy hair, a button nose and a lot of physical issues. And he was precious. He was loved.

I believed David was valuable but I didn’t believe in my own value. It made no sense. I began to realize I couldn’t teach David to love himself, if I didn’t love myself.

I needed to accept myself. I needed to accept the truth that I was lovable.

David is David. He is the only David in the whole world. He is uniquely himself and truly amazing.

And I am me. I am the only me in the whole world. I am uniquely myself and truly amazing.

And you are you. You are the only you in the whole world. You are uniquely you and truly amazing.

It’s hard to absorb those words, but it’s true. Anything else is a lie.

I believe that I am precious and valuable.

And it’s not because I had my teeth fixed.

It’s not because I found a product to tame my curls.

It’s not because I lost a few pounds.

unique amazing loved lisa leonard

Physical beauty does not equal happiness. Beauty doesn’t make someone more valuable or more worthy.

It’s David’s soul that shines through that makes him precious.

It’s my soul that’s unlike anyone’s else, that makes me ME.

It’s your soul, your spark that makes you rare and precious.

David is unique, amazing and loved, just as he is. So am I. And so are you.

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you are enough

finding beauty, the meaning behind the jewelry By February 25, 2016 15 Comments
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Guilt says do more, be more

Grace says be still and rest

Guilt condemns

Grace forgives

Guilt screams and yells

Grace whispers kind words

Guilt gives up

Grace moves forward

Guilt scratches and claws

Grace soothes and comforts

Guilt piles on

Grace lightens the load

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Guilt brings despair
Grace is a ray hope

Guilt points the finger

Grace is a hand to hold

Guilt rolls it’s eyes

Grace smiles with warmth

Guilt is a liar

Grace is a truth teller

Guilt says you’ll never be enough
Grace says you are enough, just as you are
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what fills my heart?

finding beauty, thoughts By February 11, 2016 7 Comments

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“Actually, my heart is empty”, I thought. I slipped this cuff on my wrist last week and thought, “I shouldn’t wear this. I’m too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed.” I felt sad and blah. Some days are like that. Some weeks are like that. It’s real life–but it’s not the way I want to live my life.

Since then, I’ve been reflecting on what fills my heart.

Going for a walk and noticing the bright blue sky gives me perspective.

Cuddling on the couch with my boys nurtures my soul.

Holding hands as we walk down the street makes me smile.

Cleaning out closets and donating old clothes helps me breathe deeply.

A heartfelt chat with a dear friend brings clarity to my mind.

Praying with a humble heart quiets my fears.

Counting my blessings reminds me how truly grateful I am.

Instead of filling my days with things that drag me down, I want to focus on the most important things.

In a crazy contradiction, emptying my life of extra stuff fills me up.

Touch, time, kind words, rest, space to breathe & think, letting go–these are the things that fill my heart.

Looking at that list, it’s clear –I have everything I need for a full heart.

Today I’ll slip this cuff on as a reminder of what matters most.

What fills your heart?

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what forty knows…

finding beauty, thoughts By January 27, 2016 18 Comments

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I’ve heard people say they feel more beautiful 40 years old than they did at 20 years old.
And I agree.
But I wonder why?
Objectively, I’m not more beautiful at 40 than I was at 20.
Maybe 40 is more willing to wear bright red lipstick and high heels without worrying what someone else thinks.
Maybe 40 has seen that physical beauty won’t bring the happiness she once thought it would.
Maybe 40 has a friend who’s not a traditional beauty, but whose captivating smile radiates warmth and kindness.
Maybe 40 knows that each of us wants to be loved as we are.
Maybe 40 has discovered a new kind of beauty.
Maybe 40 can sigh at the wrinkles but admit they reflect years of working toward wholeness.
Maybe 40 has seen the sunlight through the window as she sips a cup of coffee, or felt her child’s tiny hand in hers as they walk along–and she craves those things more than a flat tummy or long legs.
Maybe 40 is more able to look at outside herself and love others deeply.
Maybe 40 is beginning to understand life will bring unavoidable pain but also undeniable hope.
And with it hope brings the truest, deepest beauty to be found.
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keeping everyone happy

christmas, finding beauty By December 2, 2015 10 Comments

The Christmas tree is up and December is officially here. So we should be feeling happy and joyful, right? Magic is in the air! So how come I feel overwhelmed? I love the twinkling lights, the cinnamon candle I’m burning smells good and there is a chill in the air. It’s a festive time of year–but that doesn’t mean I have to feel festive–at least not all the time. It’s still real life, right? Mornings are rushed, dinner time comes too quickly and by 8pm I’m ready for bed. As a mom, I feel responsible to make everything run smoothly, to keep everyone is happy and to somehow make every moment magical. It’s an impossible task I put on myself. It’s too much pressure. And bottom line–it doesn’t work.

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Today I’m reminding myself–every moment doesn’t have to magical. I’d rather have moments that are real. Real is good. Real is honest and true.

Today I’m reminding myself–It’s okay to not feel happy. It’s okay if I don’t’ feel happy or the kids aren’t happy. The pressure to be happy doesn’t make anyone happier. It’s okay to feel tired or sad or even angry. It’s okay to not be okay. And strangely, things are more okay when I let them be what they truly are.

Today I’m reminding myself that grace is real. I have a family that showers me with grace. I have friends that don’t expect me to be perfect and actually embrace me in my brokenness.  This community is real. In the craziness of life, we share our stories–the beauty and the mess. I love that.

Instead of keeping everyone happy, I want to keep things real. To let this journey be what it is–beautiful and crazy and messy.

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Together is a beautiful place to be {real moments, real memories}

christmas, finding beauty By November 10, 2015 9 Comments

I looked at the calendar yesterday and saw that we are already well into November and my heart did a flip. Wow, Christmas comes so fast every year! Even with the best intentions, I seem to find myself overwhelmed and rushing in those final days before Christmas. When I saw the date on the calendar, I felt like I was already behind. I was on the path to failure before I’d even begun. But Christmas isn’t about having it all together, is it? This year I want to slow down and go a little easier on myself. I want to focus on real moments, create real memories and love the people around me well.

When I say ‘real moments’ I mean, I want to get away from trying to create the perfect picture to post on instagram. I want to be in the moment. I want to let it be imperfect and honest. When I say ‘real moments’ I’m admitting to myself that there will undoubtably be stress, frustrations and messes. I mean, life simply isn’t perfect–no matter how hard we try {and believe me, I’ve tried!}. But in the stress and mess there are silly moments and laughter. There is forgiveness. There is love. There is togetherness. Together is a beautiful place to be. I believe this is where memories are made.real moments real memories-01-2

Last week, I cleaned went through all our Christmas decorations and gave four large boxes to the thrift store. Now everything we have fits into two bins {except our white tree}. I’m keeping the decor simple this year. Truthfully, I never used it all–it was just clutter. The decorations add to the fun, but it’s really about being together. A few twinkly lights and go a long way.
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I’ve started Christmas shopping but I need to make a list and get organized. It will come together, right?!

real moments real memories-03-2This is our busiest time of year. The shop is crazy busy {so exciting!} and there is so much to do to prepare for our own celebration. This year, I’m making decisions to embrace the imperfect and live in the moment. Stress will happen, but if I’m not aiming for perfect, I’m pretty sure there will be less stress. And the stress will be less stressful. And what is, will be enough.

I want to focus on my family and not worry about the dishes in the sink.
I want to sip cocoa, watch Elf and say all our favorite lines.
I want to take naps and drink lots of vitamin C to fight off the inevitable cold.
I want to let the kids decorate the tree even if all the ornaments end up on one side.
I want to give meaningful gifts and not worry about having it perfectly wrapped.
I want to remember that the bedhead, the pancake breakfasts, the kids laughing and playing, the gift wrap littering the floor, the yummy food, the time together, the love–these are the things that matter. What’s real is what matters.

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embracing change, embracing this moment

adventures, finding beauty By September 24, 2015 3 Comments

It has been such a season of change! In some ways, fall feels more like the ‘new year’ than January 1st. The kids started school and have new teachers. It’s a new rhythm. It’s exciting, disorienting and it’s life–life is full of change. Sometimes I wish things didn’t have to change–but looking back I see the blessings of change. I’m glad these moments have been captured on my blog and instagram. I can look through photos and remember little details. I can see that we’re different today than we were then.

When I’m in a season of change, we like to stop and reflect on where we’ve been, where we’re going and where we want to be. I like to reflect and plan. I like making lists and setting goals.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.36.22 AMThe boys have changed so much since I started blogging 10 years ago. {Check out this post–the boys were so little, I stamped jewelry in my garage, we celebrated David taking 6 steps. Crazy!} Heck, BLOGGING has changed so much since I started blogging ten years ago.

My boys are in 6th grade and middle school. They are full of thoughts and opinions. Their needs are so different than they used to be–but no less important. Steve is CEO of our business that started at our kitchen table. When I wanted to quit, he gave me hugs and pep talks. When I needed a break, he would jump in and help. When I didn’t know what to do next, he took brave steps to make the business stable. Steve has not only supported the business but visioned how to grow it and make it thrive. There would be no Lisa Leonard Designs without him.

We are literally moving our workshop as I type. I’m typing among packed boxes and empty tables. We are scheduling utilities to be turned off in our current space and turned on in our new space. We’ll be downtown in San Luis Obispo–more on that soon. It’s exciting. It’s crazy. It’s kind of hard for me to believe it!

We are partnering with artisans in the Dominican Republic to hand-craft our jewelry. It provides life-changing jobs for these people–which means they will have food, housing and education. I never thought the hobby business that started in our kitchen would touch hearts around the world. I haven’t built this business alone. We have a team of amazing people here in California and in the DR that make this business work. They believe in the heart of Lisa Leonard Designs.

And YOU have supported this little business. You’ve loved me and my family. You’ve prayed for us when David had open heart surgery and you’ve cheered for us in the good and bad. You’ve cried with me on hard days and laughed with me on good days. You’ve shared your own journey with us–the beauty and the pain. I am so thankful for this community. I’m thankful for you.

We are all in this together–and I’m so grateful.

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update on jazmine

dominican republic, finding beauty By July 21, 2015 3 Comments

My heart is so happy today! I have an update for you about Jazmine, the precious little girl I fell in love with in the Dominican Republic last February. While doing a home visit one day we ended up meeting Jazmine, her brothers and her grandmother. It was a life-changing experience and honestly, I can hardly talk about it without crying. If you haven’t read my post about Jazmine, you can start here.

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Jazmine stole my heart. I think her often. When I tuck my boys in for bed at night, I pray that Jazmine knows she is loved and precious. This little girl, with a severe disability, lives tucked away on a mountainside in the Dominican Republic. She matters. She matters to God, she matters to me, and she matters to Compassion.

After we left Jazmine’s home, I wondered if I’d ever hear from the family again. Well, good news! Compassion has been keeping me updated on Jazmine’s care and her family’s needs.

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Compassion International has helped Jazmine’s grandmother get a wheelchair that will enable them to get around easier. When Compassion brought the wheelchair to Jazmine, her grandmother said,

“ I am very happy, we have been waiting for a long time to have a wheelchair, others has promised it but never keep it “
“I feel like a child with a new toy!”
“Now, I can visit church, it is more easy to transport Jazmine”

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Isn’t that exciting?! I hear Jazmine loves her wheelchair. I’m told she smiles when her grandmother straps her into her chair. I mean, she’s got wheels now. She will live more life, see more things and be able to move!
And there’s more! Our Lisa Leonard community was able to purchase a bunk bed and new bedding for Jazmine and her brother. So instead of the whole family sleeping in one bed, they’ll be able to have their own space. We should be getting photos of that soon and I’ll share them with you. This community is making a difference. YOU are making a difference!
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If you’re not sponsoring a child, today is a good day to change a child’s life.
Click here to sponsor a precious kiddo from the Dominican Republic. It’s beautiful, amazing thing!
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new for summer! {and what it means to me}

finding beauty, jewelry By June 26, 2015 6 Comments

Our new summer collection is here! You guys, I have been so excited to share this with you and now I can! Each piece is full of meaning and heart.

Summer is such a special season, don’t you think? The kids are out of school and the regular routine is out the window.

Summer is for sandy toes and splashing in the waves.
Summer is fresh strawberries, sunscreen and staying up past bedtime.
Summer is for taking silly selfies that in ten years will be priceless mementos of memories made.
Summer means the sun on our shoulders and our hearts full of love.

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Some of my favorites include the swept away necklace, the anchored necklace and swing free earrings.
You can see the whole collection here. 

It’s summer! Warm sun, warm hearts! Let’s make memories!

Which piece is your favorite?

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