love makes us whole

finding love, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 22, 2016 8 Comments

When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a little girl who was happy all day long.  The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming and she was smiling. The End.

My seven year old self wished for that storyline. To be honest, my present day self sometimes wishes for that storyline.

But real life doesn’t work this way. Pain and joy are inseparable parts of the journey. Until I allow myself to feel the discomfort of pain, I can’t experience rich joy and deep love.

I used to think I was in control and I could keep pain away.  In the days following David’s birth, I was devastated. We didn’t expect to have a child with a severe disability–but even if we’d known, how can one prepare for this kind of pain?  I remember in those early days after David’s birth, I cried tears that seemed to come from the depths of my soul. I remember feeling physical pain in my chest as I wept. There was no escaping grief. It surrounded us and filled the room. Pain was in the air we were breathing. But slowly, over weeks and months, it began to dissipate. It’s not gone completely, but it’s not overwhelming.

These days, if I’m open to letting the dark sadness and anger creep in, I find it’s doesn’t make itself too comfortable. It moves through me and and then moves on. Sometimes it stays longer than I would like, but it doesn’t take up residence in my heart. And once it leaves I’m surprised to find genuine joy. Somehow, there is more room in my heart for gratefulness.

love makes us whole

While none of us would wish for pain

Pain makes us tender

Tenderness nurtures compassion

Compassion helps us forgive

Forgiveness teaches grace

Grace gives us hope

Hope makes us brave

Bravery enables us to love

Love makes us whole

Share:

hello coffee, hello spring

hello monday By March 21, 2016 3 Comments

Every morning as I open my eyes, I start to think about coffee. How much I love it, how comforting it is. It’s one of my favorite rituals. We’re getting new kitchen counters {hooray!} and our kitchen is ripped apart right now. Making coffee in the living room is slightly inconvenient but totally worth it!

It’s the very first Monday of Spring! How about some hellos?

hello coffee, hello spring-01

Hello favorite mug with heavy cream {no sugar} and freshly brewed coffee. A little taste of heaven!

Hello sunshiny week and grass that’s green from all the rain we’ve been getting. It feels like Spring.

Hello sore foot. David tripped over one of the dogs yesterday and he’s been limping. I think he twisted his ankle a bit. Poor guy! He’s still walking well–so I’m very thankful.

Hello reading this book and absolutely loving it. So inspiring!

Hello stealing a little time with my brother and sister in law while they pass through town. So good!

Hello ordering in or microwaving meals since our kitchen is unusable.

Hello dog hair everywhere. I vacuum and dust and clean the couches but it’s still there. It’s kind of driving me crazy and I’m trying to let it be.

Hello last day of a BIG sale in the shop! Take 25% off everything with code spring25. Click here to shop.

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

Share:

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.

Share:

hello greenhouse {achievement house}

hello monday, san luis obispo By March 14, 2016 4 Comments

One of my favorite thrift stores in town is Achievement House on Cuesta College campus. They also have an amazing greenhouse with rows and rows of succulents. The store and nursery are run by adults with disabilities. Awesome, right?

It’s Monday–the start of a brand new week. How about some hellos?

hello greenhouse acheivement house -01

Hello sunlight and rain. Everything is green and lush right now. And our lake is full after being empty for a year!

hello greenhouse acheivement house -02

Hello moving around furniture and clearing out the kitchen. We’re getting new countertops and I am so giddy I can hardly stand it! Goodbye tile, hello quartz!!

hello greenhouse acheivement house -03

Hello writing. I’ve been trying to spend some time every day writing. It’s good and scary and therapeutic. It’s stretching but I’m enjoying it.

hello greenhouse acheivement house -04

Hello Bourne Identity. Matthias and I are working our way through the series. So good!

hello greenhouse acheivement house -05

Hello clean clothes waiting to be put away. They’ve been sitting there for a week now. I don’t know why I have such a hard time with this chore!

hello greenhouse acheivement house -06

Hello heart a flutter. When I walked into the greenhouse {below} I had to catch my breath. So many beautiful succulents. How does one choose?

hello greenhouse acheivement house -07

Hello sleepless nights. David’s been having a hard time lately. He wakes up in the middle of the night and he’s energetic. Matthias has been moving into the spare room so he can sleep. I’m beginning to wonder if the boys will need their own rooms soon.

hello greenhouse acheivement house -08

Hello meetings this week. Lots of good planning and dreaming happening this week!

Hello making meals without a kitchen. Time to get creative!

Hello time change. I love the longer light in the evenings.

Hello brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

Share:

the beauty of emptiness

motherhood, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 10, 2016 14 Comments

One day last week, David’s tummy was hurting on and off for hours. GI pain is a common with his syndrome and he struggles with it daily. I worked through our list of remedies to soothe his pain and comfort his soul. I gave him Advil, held him, rubbed and patted his back and had him soak in a warm bath. Nothing worked, he continued to arch and scream. What began with confidence ended with discouragement. We reached the end of the list and the end of my energy, and I began to pray harder, “Lord help him, Lord help me.”  There seemed to be no answers, no solution and we were both exhausted. We laid down together and cried. Finally, he drifted off to sleep and I got up and made myself a cup of coffee. As a mother, I’d been there before—the excruciating place of feeling helpless. In that moment I couldn’t feel it, but as we walk this journey together, the outpouring of love, pain of emptiness and beauty of grace have come together to form a deep bond between us. Somehow, the struggle strengthens the bond. Our souls are connected.

the beauty of emptiness lisa leonard 12

I’ve experienced this with both of my boys. Each one has their own needs and their own way of communicating. Each one, in some inexplainable way, has my whole heart. When I became a mother, my heart opened itself in a new way. The depth of love I felt for this new, tiny person, entrusted to my care was overwhelming and amazing and terrifying. The caring, listening, nurturing, feeding, worrying, comforting and constant guesswork of loving my child was and continues to be the most humbling and important work I do. Where I’ve found myself empty, I’ve also experienced the miracle of being renewed and beginning again. To my relief, there are new mercies every morning.

the beauty of emptiness2

Motherhood has no clear boundaries or end, it flows into every part of my life. My heart is always with my children, even when we are physically apart. I can’t help it, I want to give them my time, compassion and love. A whole heart, devoted to another is a beautiful, imperfect thing. The sacred sacrifice of motherhood is a high and humble calling. Pouring myself out means sometimes I will be empty, but in that place deep bonds are formed. It’s much more difficult and much more beautiful than I expected. I am so much better for it.

Have you experienced the beauty of emptiness as a mother or caregiver?

Share:

DIY lamp to terrarium

decorating, DIY By March 9, 2016 15 Comments

I found this old hanging lamp for $2 at a thrift store. I thought about cleaning it up and hanging it–I love the geometric shape. But then the idea of a terrarium came to mind and I got inspired! I’ve seen some beautiful terrariums around town–like these and this one.

DIY lamp to terrarium2We have a Goodwill Outlet in town and where all donations go before the hit the other Goodwill Stores. They open it to the public and if you’re willing to dig through bins, you can find some pretty amazing things for very low prices.

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-02-2This is how the lamp looked when I carried it out to my car. It was dusty and definitely has a nineties vibe.

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-01-2I removed all the hardware {I cut through the electrical cord}. It came apart easily. I threw away all the other parts and kept the glass shade.

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-03After a good bath in hot soapy water, I dried the shade well and then cleaned the glass with glass cleaner.

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-04I put some rocks on the bottom, then succulent soil and took a few clippings from other succulents I have.

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-05I also added an aqua stone. I seriously can’t believe how pretty it looks. And it was only $2!

DIY lamp to terrarium lisa leonard-02I gave the terrarium to a dear friend. Now I’m on the hunt to find similar hanging lamps so I can create more. How fun is this? The whole project took about an hour. I think terrariums might be my new obsession.

Share:

the most important thing

david, finding love, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 8, 2016 58 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.

Share:

hello happy wire basket

hello monday By March 7, 2016 2 Comments

I was strolling through Home Goods last week and found this rose gold wire basket in the clearance section. I hung it on the wall next to my thrifted baskets and it’s making me so happy!

Sometimes it’s the little things, right?

It’s Monday–how about some hellos?

hello wire basket lisa leonard Hello hungry. David’s had a BIG appetite lately. Maybe he’s headed for a growth spurt? He can’t seem to get enough food.

Hello rain. Hooray! We’re getting lots of rain this week and we are so grateful.

hello wire basket, hello monday-01
Hello to do list that seems to get longer instead of shorter. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

Hello watching the Divergent and Insurgent movies with Matthias. We can’t wait for the new one to come out.

hello wire basket2 lisa leonard

Hello sweet pups that have been snuggling with Matthias in bed. I go in to check on him and they’re all so cozy and crashed out. It’s a very sweet thing.

Hello feeling addicted to plants. They add beauty and life to our home and I love it.

Hello trying new recipes through Blue Apron. It’s been fun and we’ve loved almost all the meals.

Hello working on a few projects around the house this week. I’m hoping to spruce up our front porch.

Hello carving out some alone time for me this week. My soul needs it.

Hello caught up on laundry. Tomorrow I’ll be behind a day–but today let’s celebrate.

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

Share:

what a pity

david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 3, 2016 83 Comments
IMG_0452

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.
Share:

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.

the making of a family lisa leonard 2
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.

the making of a family lisa leonard
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.

Share: