I Held My Heart

choose joy, hope By November 12, 2016 20 Comments

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.



choose joy

choose joy By November 8, 2016 18 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.


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.


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


hello chrissie’s home {texture + light}

decorating, hello monday By November 7, 2016 2 Comments

When we were down at UCLA a couple weeks ago for David’s check-up we got to see my sister’s new home. Chrissie has an eye for texture and light. The way she mixes pattern and color inspires me. I snapped a few pics around her beautiful space to share with you.

It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found. How about some hellos?
hello-chrissies-home-08Hello plants and window light. Kind of a magical combination.

hello-chrissies-home-01 Hello mid century lamp she snagged at a garage sale for almost nothing. Love.

hello-chrissies-home-02 Hello walls filled with paintings and photos.

hello-chrissies-home-03 Hello flowers, fresh and persevered in paintings.

hello-chrissies-home-04 Hello vintage tapestry and corded lights hanging from found branches. Kind of genius.

hello-chrissies-home-05 Hello tray of sculptures.

hello-chrissies-home-06 Hello keeping a journal with me at all times lately. I have so many ideas to write down.

hello-chrissies-home-07Hello large table. A perfect gathering place for heart connection.

Hello having dinner with new friends this week.

Hello gazing at my newly cleaned out closet. It’s a thing of beauty.

Hello lots of meetings this week. Some weeks are meeting heavy–and this is one of those weeks.

Hello wanting to fill myself with rest and beauty and connection instead of material things. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.

Hello sniffle going through our home. I think Beasley got it too. Can dogs get colds? He’s had a runny nose the last couple days.

Hello daylight savings. Or should I say good-bye daylight savings? We gained an hour and I’ll take it!

Hello to you. This week holds good things, I can feel it.

What are you saying hello to this week?


the perfect berry crumble

choose joy, finding love, worthiness By November 1, 2016 80 Comments

Every marriage goes through difficult times, and we were in a difficult time. We were both trying but we weren’t connecting. We were both hurting but didn’t know how to help each other. We were both making mistakes but we didn’t know what they were.

During this time, we had plans to gather with friends for a celebration. I decided to make Steve’s favorite dessert, berry crumble. This wasn’t going to be just any berry crumble—I was going to make the perfect berry crumble. I wanted to show Steve how much I loved him. I wanted to show him he was precious to me. This berry crumble was going to knock his socks off.


I spent time researching the best recipe online. I gathered all the ingredients and spent a good chunk of the day making the amazing dessert. As the celebration approached, I slowly pulled the hot crumble out of the oven, wrapped it a heavy towel and we all loaded into the car. We parked in front of our friends’ home and I carefully got out, maneuvering the hot berry crumble to avoid a spill. I took a few steps and suddenly I lost hold of the wrapped glass dish. I watched in slow motion as my perfect crumble splattered all over the sidewalk. I felt the sting of hot tears behind my eyes.

“Hold it together.” I told myself.

But I couldn’t. The tears overflowed and once they started they wouldn’t stop. I could barely catch my breath between sobs. This was no ordinary berry crumble, this was the perfect berry crumble. This crumble was going to show Steve how much I cared for him. This dessert was going to save our marriage. It was going to make Steve fall in love with me again. I looked down at the berry crumble splattered all over the sidewalk and sobbed.

I tried so hard to be good enough. I tried to be the perfect wife. I tried to become less so he could be more. But it wasn’t working. Instead I was becoming less than whole–and a relationship can’t thrive without two whole people. I thought being perfect would bring me joy. But I was so focused on being perfect, I was missing all the joy.

I’ve clung to the belief that perfection held joy. I’ve spent most of my life believing if I could be perfect, or at least almost perfect, I would be lovable. So I worked hard to create the ‘perfect’ life for us. I tried to create a beautiful, tidy home. I tried to be the perfect mother—patient and fun and consistent. I tried to be happy even when I felt sad. I tried to be needless and wantless and take care of everybody else. My good intentions to ‘take care’ of everybody were really a desire to control. If I could control everything I would be good enough. I was terrified I wasn’t lovable, so I tried to control. The more I tried to control Steve, our marriage and our family, the more out of control I felt. I’d worked tirelessly to try to hold it all together, but we were a mess. It was falling apart—not just the berry crumble, but our marriage too.

I was finding out, there is no berry crumble so perfect it can hold a marriage together.

Perfection is a lie. It demands more and more, never offering a moment’s rest. Perfect is never satisfied. I kept reaching further and further, thinking I was almost there, but perfection was always just out of reach. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be perfect.

But honesty. Honesty looks like me showing up and being my truest self, and Steve showing up and being his truest self. Two people showing up and being honest is imperfect and messy. Sometimes it’s more than messy; it’s super ugly and dark and scary. I don’t like messy. I wish relationships could be nice and tidy–but I’m learning that’s not how relationships work. Life is messy, marriage is messy, kids are messy, friendships are messy.

When we show up in the mess and we’re open, we are taking a step towards each other.

When we share our honest thoughts and desires, we begin to truly know each other.

When we’re brave and real our hearts connect.

When our hearts connect we begin to discover joy.

I can’t control my husband or my kids. I can’t keep my house perfectly clean.

I’m not perfect, I’m just me.

I want to be loved for who I am, my truest self. I want to be in an honest marriage where we step into the mess together and together we work to make something beautiful. I want to let my kids be kids—in all their moods and messes and silliness. I want to order pizza instead of stressing about making the perfect meal. I want to see toys and shoes all over the family room and know we are living life together in this space. I want to let go of perfect and embrace truth. I want to be present in the crazy ups and downs of every day.
I’m learning I have to let go of perfection to have joy.
Today I choose joy.

How about together we let go of perfection and choose joy?


Hello stepping into a new week

hello monday By October 31, 2016 2 Comments

img_1585Hello new week. Hello new month!

Hello trick or treating around the neighborhood. We’ll take some pics to share.

Hello cleaning and organizing and getting inspired. I love fresh spaces and a fresh perspective.

Hello writing and thinking and writing and making new space and writing some more.

Hello mornings that come too soon and coffee to ease that pain.

Hello watching X-Men Apocalypse. I’m a boy mom.

Hello finishing this book. Wow, she tells her story with so much detail I feel like I was there with her!

Hello no school on Friday. Yay!

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


Beauty is Not a Waste

finding beauty, worthiness By October 26, 2016 18 Comments

I have spent a lot of my life feeling that beauty was a waste. I craved it, pursued it and spent hours creating it, but it seemed indulgent rather than important. It was careless pursuit, not a critical pursuit. As I scoured thrift store for beautiful treasures I felt pangs of guilt.


“I should be cleaning our closets, not finding another treasure.” I scolded myself.

When I took time to put on mascara and lipstick I had a nagging sense that my priorities were all wrong.

Setting the table with our “good” dishes, pretty napkins and candles was just silly if it was only the four of us at home.

My heart craved beauty but my brain disagreed.

Over the last months and years, I’ve begun to rethink my perspective on beauty. Beauty matters. Beauty is not a waste. God created a beautiful world and called it good. God made us creative. He gave us an innate sense of beauty and a desire to seek beauty.

But I have misunderstood beauty. I’ve tried to use beauty to prove my worthiness. Instead of letting beauty wash over me and fill up my soul, I used beauty as a tool to feel good enough. A perfect home, beautifully set table, delicious meal or the right shade of lipstick could never make me more or better. Misused, those things become a wall between myself and others. I am already enough. I don’t need to prove my worthiness; I’m already worthy.

When I start from a place of knowing I am worthy, beauty becomes a gift to myself and others. Beauty inspires instead of distracts. Beauty connects instead of divides. There is no need for comparison, because each of us is worthy and amazing in our own unique way.

Beauty is everywhere.

There is beauty in a sink full of dishes after a delicious meal shared with treasured friends.

There is beauty in the red lipstick kiss I leave on my son’s cheek.


There is beauty in the way the sunshine filters through tall, dry grass as I hike the hills near our home.

There is beauty in slowing down, breathing deeply and just being.

There is beauty in two hearts truly knowing and loving each other despite the messiness of relationship.


There is beauty in the bravery of trying something new.

There is beauty in letting the moment be whatever it is, without trying to control it.

There is beauty in the pain of being human, the tears of a friend sharing in my pain.

There is beauty in a carefree moment of laughter and being silly.


There is beauty in a vintage wool rug, a worn chair and a cozy blanket.

There is beauty in accepting things don’t have to be perfect.

There is beauty in an amazing thrift store find.

There is beauty in an orderly, cleaned out closet.

There is beauty in seeking out beauty and sharing it with others.

There is beauty in choosing hope, choosing joy, choosing love.

And there is so much beauty in knowing I am enough just as I am. You are enough. You are worthy. You are amazing. You deserve sunshine and good coffee.

There is beauty in knowing beauty matters. Beauty is not a waste.


hello summer to fall to summer

hello monday, what I'm wearing By October 24, 2016 2 Comments

We’ve been teased with some cool fall weather only for the sun to come out in full force again with a heat wave. This is common for us this time of year, but it always catches me by surprise. Layering is the trick. As the sun warms we shed layers–and pretend it’s summer for a little while longer.

It’s Monday–a brand new week with beauty to be found. How about some hellos?

summer-dress-to-fall-dress-lisa-leonard-02 Hello dress from one of my favorite shops Ruby Rose. If you love vintage and good design make sure you stop in next time you visit the central coast.

summer-dress-to-fall-dress-lisa-leonard-03 Hello denim jacket. It’s a staple don’t you think?

summer-dress-to-fall-dress-lisa-leonard-04 And some really good booties.

summer-dress-to-fall-dress-lisa-leonard-05 And of course the perfect accessory. This ring represents Hope and Love.

summer-dress-to-fall-dress-lisa-leonard-08Hello warm sun on my shoulders and rain in the forecast. Fall can’t make up its mind.

Hello lovely visit with Nana.

Hello lots of doctor visits for David. He and I are at UCLA to see 5 different specialists. We have no big concerns, just mainly check-ups.

Hello looking forward to watching this in depth look at an awesome broadway play.

Hello reading this book and getting inspired.

Hello cutting back on carbs this week. It’s two steps forward one step back for us! I wish I didn’t like sugar so much.

Hello Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Holiday season is here!

Hello busy busy but making time for quiet.

Hello you. It’s a new week, a new beginning and a fresh start. What are you saying hello to the week?


hello roll up piano, hello monday

hello monday By October 17, 2016 2 Comments

If you’ve spent any time around here, you know David LOVES keyboards. Nothing makes him happier. We’ve bought pretty much every kid keyboard from every major retailer–but every once in a while I spot something new. Last week on Amazon I spotted this ‘roll up’ keyboard. It’s flexible and light. It’s not meant for kids in particular but I knew David would love it. And he does! Also, it makes a really nice sound {not like a cheap kid keyboard}. We’ve all been playing with it–so fun!

It’s Monday, how about some hellos?

hello-roll-up-piano-01 Hello making music all day long. I love the tunes he taps out.

hello-roll-up-piano-02 Hello thick hair! This kid has the thickest hair ever!

hello-roll-up-piano-03 Hello passion. Matthias is all about art. David is all about music. I love that they have hobbies they’re passionate about.

Hello roll up keyboard. We’re so happy we found you!

Hello haircuts this week.

Hello rain! We had two rainy days–not a ton of rain but we’ll take it!

Hello watching these movies with Matthias.

Hello cleaning out cupboards–I love a clean, minimal space.

Hello getting back into our regular routine after being away for a few days. I’m always surprised how hard it is to re-enter regular life. It takes me a few days to get my bearings.

Hello amazing book. If you’re super hard on yourself this book just might change your life. It’s definitely been huge for me!

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


The Unexpected Gift

hope, the meaning behind By October 12, 2016 110 Comments

“I have a gift for you.” said the God of the Universe. “I made this precious gift just for you. I’m giving you this gift because I love you.”

I closed my eyes and held out my hands with anticipation.

“What will it be?” I wondered with childlike curiosity.

“Is it something wonderful like traveling to a far away country to see exotic and amazing things?” I asked God.

“No,” He replied. It’s far more wonderful than that.”

“Is it riches? I’ll have a large home, fine clothing, lovely things?” I asked.

“No,” He replied. “It’s much finer than anything you can own.”

“Is it beauty?” I asked. “Will I be graceful and pretty with bright eyes and long legs?”

“No,” He replied. “This gift is far more valuable than physical beauty.”

“Is it wisdom?” I asked. “Will I understand the great scholars and philosophers?”

“No,” he replied. “It isn’t wisdom. Your gift will bring deeper insights than wisdom can provide.”

“What is it?” I asked.

God placed the wrapped gift in my hands. This wasn’t the gift I expected. I didn’t understand it. It felt heavy—so heavy I could hardly hold it.

“Don’t unwrap it.” God said. “When the time is right, you’ll see the gift for what is truly is. Until then, trust me.”

“This can’t be my gift.” I told God. “It’s much too heavy for me to hold. It hurts when I hold this gift.”

“You can’t understand the gift yet,” God explained. “but this gift is made just for you.”

“I don’t want this gift. Can I have a different gift? This gift is too much for me. This gift feels painful and raw. Please God, anything but this.” I pleaded.

God spoke soothing words to me in quiet, hushed tones, “Just wait. Just breathe. Just be. Trust me. I made this beautiful gift just for you. You think it’s too heavy right now, but I will help you carry it.”

“Okay.” I finally agreed. “I will accept the gift. I don’t want it, I don’t understand it, but you are the God of the Universe. You are a good and loving God.”

I was surrounded by darkness. I felt afraid–nothing made sense. Those around me seemed to think everything was fine. Didn’t they understand? Nothing was fine.  I couldn’t see the way forward.

“I know you can’t make sense of this.” whispered God. “I will help you carry this gift. I will direct you each step of the way. I will walk beside you and soon you’ll begin to see things clearly.”

I held my gift and began to cry heavy, salty tears. The tears came freely, so freely I wondered if they would ever stop. On and on they flowed, so many tears.


“Let the tears come.” whispered God. “Every tear you cry makes room for more joy than you can imagine.”

The ache in my heart was almost too much to bear. There were times I was sure my heart would break into a million tiny pieces. It was an ache so deep it seemed to come from a place inside me I didn’t know was there.

“I know you’re hurting.” whispered God. “This ache is because I am growing and stretching your heart to make room for a love deeper than you can imagine.”

With time my gift began to change me.

After a while it didn’t feel quite so heavy.

The tears made room for joy. So much joy.

My heart grew and stretched to make room for love. So much love.

As the darkness subsided, rays of light began to break through and something unexpected emerged.

Beneath the tears, heartache and darkness I saw my gift.

Hope. So much hope.

It filled me up. My hope was light and bright and good. It was so beautiful my soul could hardly take it.


God explained, “You had to walk through darkness to see the light. You had to cry heavy, salty tears to make room for joy. You had to ache deep in your heart to make room for love. This was the only way I could give you my true and lasting Hope.”

“Thank you.” I said. “The darkness has subsided and I can see more clearly. My tears have dried and made room for joy. My heart is bigger and I can love more deeply. I have hope. Hope is a gift more precious and beautiful than I ever imagined.”


hello nook, hello monday

hello monday By October 10, 2016 2 Comments

Our home is a newer build–around 2000, and it has a few nooks built in. They add interest to our home sometimes I wonder what to put inside them! Last week I refreshed the nook near our dining room table with some thrifted baskets and sunburst mirrors that were on clearance at TJ Maxx. And I’m loving it!

It’s Monday, how about some hellos?
hello-nook-lisa-leonard-01  Hello mirrors reflecting light. Hello light giving hope to the soul.

hello-nook-lisa-leonard-02 Hello vintage ma and dreaming of new places to visit.

hello-nook-lisa-leonard-03 Hello cactus planted in the glass shade of an old light fixture. I can’t believe how much the cactus has grown in the last couple weeks.

Hello heat wave and tank tops in October. It always surprises me but it happens every fall.

Hello making time to think, dream and just be this week.

Hello feeling thankful for my husband and the way he loves me and our boys.

Hello seeing my boys grow and change overnight. The teenage years are pretty great.

Hello loving this new show. Do you have a favorite new fall show?

Hello beginning this book today. Have you read it?

Hello tears that heal and make space for love.

Hello stepping out bravely into the world and letting it be exactly what it is–messy, imperfect and amazing.

Hello Monday, I believe beauty awaits. What are you saying hello to this week?