identical twins, unique souls

finding beauty, soul connection By October 7, 2016 6 Comments

“Oh my gosh they look exactly alike!”

I heard this phrase over and over throughout my childhood. It was usually followed by a request that my identical twin sister and I stand next to each other so a person could compare our features.

identical twins lisa leonard

“Her eyes are more almond shaped.” My mother’s friend would say.

“Her jaw is more square.” The lady at grocery store would comment.

“Her nose turns up just slightly.” My Sunday school teacher would remark.

Back and forth their eyes would go from my sister to me and back to my sister again. Counting freckles, examining ear lobes and looking at us from every angle.

“Now which one is Lisa and which one is Chrissie?” They would ask. Over and over they would ask.

Sometimes I loved the attention, but other times I felt insecure. As they compared, I wondered if they were asking bigger, darker questions, “Which one is smarter? Which one is more athletic? Which one is more outgoing? Which one is thinner? Which one is prettier?”

They were looking at me but I didn’t feel seen. The closer they looked the more unseen I felt. The more they compared, the less I felt like an individual. Ironic, isn’t it? The closer we look at the outside of a person, the less we see the actual person.

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Twins are fascinating. I have always loved being a twin. But being one of two, being constantly compared to another person has its challenges.

It’s crazy to consider I have a sister who has been by my side since before we were born. We have so many shared experiences, not mentioned shared DNA, that we literally know each other inside and out. At first we were one; one egg, that became two. I am incomplete without my twin sister. She is most definitely part of me. The only way I can begin to describe the unique relationship of being a twin is to compare it to motherhood. Many of my friends have remarked when they became a mother they experienced a deep, passionate love for their child they had never felt before. The love of a mother is fierce and intense. This baby is part of her and she will love and nurture this baby at all costs. She will fight to protect her baby. It’s an rare and beautiful thing. When my baby was placed in my arms for the first time, I thought, “I know this love. This is the love I have for Chrissie.

Comparing two similar things is part of human nature. And it isn’t just twins. As women we naturally compare ourselves against our sisters, friends and coworkers. I grew up being so often compared to Chrissie, so often coupled with her, I began to believe there was nothing unique about me. We looked exactly the same except for slight variations. We were practically the same person, right? Of course not! We were very different despite our similar exteriors. We had very different personalities. We had difference preferences. Each of us exceled in different areas. Despite looking so much alike, in many ways we were opposites who complemented each other—two pieces of a puzzle that fit together, night and day, peanut butter and jelly.

identical twins lisa leonard

As I grew into an adult I became less dependent on Chrissie. We had different jobs, different friendship circles and after college we lived apart. I worked with people who didn’t know I had an identical twin. They only knew me, Lisa. They didn’t compare me against my look-alike. I was growing into my own person. I was becoming me, instead of being one half of a set of twins. I was a whole person, just on my own. And one day I had the very big realization that my soul is completely my own. My soul is unique and amazing and no one, not even my identical twin, has a soul like mine. God created me to be me.
My soul can’t be compared with any other soul because it’s unlike any other soul.

My soul was created by a God who makes wonderful, amazing things.

My soul was lovingly designed by a God who has endless creativity.

My beautiful soul makes me, me.

And your beautiful soul makes you, you.

It’s our distinct souls that make togetherness an incredible blessing.

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Comparison wonders, “Which one is better? Which one is best?”  Comparison wants to categorize things from greatest to least. Comparison begins with the false assumption there is one correct standard and everything is measured against it. Comparison can make us feel powerful or desperate, turning on us in a moment. The more I compare the flatness of my tummy, the length of my legs, the wrinkles near my eyes, to another woman, the less I see myself or her. Her value cannot be summed up by examining each part of her. Her value isn’t found in those things at all. Her value is found deep within her soul. It’s a spark all her own, so uncommon and rare it can’t be found anywhere else in the whole world. And truly, how can we compare one soul to another? Each is so unique, so precious, so individual.

I love being a twin. I cherish our unique, deep bond. I know Chrissie’s soul and she knows mine. We look alike but we are not the same. Together we are stronger. We shine brighter. We are better.

My soul is the truest, deepest part of who I am. My soul is a marvelous thing that belongs to me. It’s been given to me by a God who created it and called it good. My soul, and yours too, is incomparable, there is nothing else like it on earth.

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hello DIY fiberglass planter

DIY, hello monday By October 3, 2016 2 Comments

Another planter? Yes. I can’t be stopped apparently!

Lately I’ve been finding lots of interesting “planters” at thrift stores, like this mid century DIY, this macrame hanging planter and this terrarium. It’s fun to see what interesting objects can be turned into a beautiful container.

This fiberglass planter is intended to be a plant holder {unlike some of the things I turn into planters}. I liked it because it was big and simple–and often large planters are expensive. I kept it plain for a while, but last week I decided to make it prettier with a little gold paint.

It’s Monday, how about some hellos?

diy-fiberglass-planter-lisa-leonard-01 Hello plain planter for $10. Not bad!

diy-fiberglass-planter-lisa-leonard-02 Hello using painter’s tape and about four coats of acrylic gold paint. {The paint was $2 at Michael’s}.

diy-fiberglass-planter-lisa-leonard-03 Hello ready for the big reveal!

diy-fiberglass-planter-lisa-leonard-04 Hello a little streaky but I didn’t mind. The tape kept the lines fairly clean. I’m pleased.

diy-fiberglass-planter-lisa-leonard-05Hello pups. Oh, you’re taking pictures? We are here to help!

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Hello pretty planter making our family room a little happier.

Hello split leaf philodendron. One of my very favorite plants! I only water it about once a week.

Hello future planning. Do you think about 3-5 year goals?

Hello washing all the sheets and towels. I love fresh!

Hello dreaming of fall. Did you hear it’s October now? I’m waiting for cooler weather to follow. I’m ready for cardigans and boots.

Hello adding cinnamon to my coffee.

Hello finding time to visit the pumpkin patch.

Hello reading this book. Stop what you’re doing and order it {or download it}. It’s so good.

Hello to YOU. It’s a brand new month, a brand new week, a brand new day. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I should do more, should be more.

an everyday moment, thoughts By September 30, 2016 5 Comments

I should keep the house cleaner.

I should lose ten pounds.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.

I should be more.

I should be better.

I should be someone other than who I am.

Should. It has a heaviness to it, don’t you think? It seems innocent enough but has undertones of guilt. It always points out my shortcomings and implies I’m not who I should be. It blames me and says I’m not good enough. There are as many shoulds as moments in a day. My head is full of them. They make me feel tired–like I’ve already failed. I’m letting people down. I’m inadequate.

Should takes away my power and shames me. There is a right way to do things—and I’m not doing them that way. Should pretends to be on my side, but should is no friend to me. Should says it has my interests at heart and simply wants to motivate me, but should will never be satisfied. Should has already decided who I should be and how I should spend my time. And no matter how hard I try, should always wants more.

I want to eliminate should from my life. I want to speak words that encourage and lift up. I want to free up myself, family and friends from should. I want to replace should with kinder, gentler words.

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I should keep the house cleaner.
I could keep the house cleaner or I could choose not to worry about the dog hair and laundry today.

I should lose ten pounds.
I’d like to lose ten pounds but I am lovable and worthy just as I am.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.
I want to speak more kindly to my kids. I’m not getting enough alone time and I feel worn out. I will make rest a priority this week.

I should be better.
I am imperfect.

I should be more.
I am enough.

I should be someone other than who I am.
I am loveable just as I am.

Where did all these shoulds come from? They’re everywhere, woven into the fabric of our culture. We use should as a tool to criticize ourselves and others. We don’t intend to be harsh but should always murmurs its disapproval.

I am working to remove should from my vocabulary. I’m replacing it with words like need, want, can, am. Words carry power. I want my words to offer grace and allow imperfection. Words that celebrate who I am, who you are. Words that remind each of us we are precious and unique. I shouldn’t be anything other than who I am. I am enough, just as I am. You are enough, just as you are.

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From that safe place I can live with bravery and intention. You can too.

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thrifted DIY jacket

what I'm wearing By September 28, 2016 3 Comments

I found this jacket at the thrift store last week. I loved the texture but the sleeves narrowed toward the wrist {an 80’s cut} and it made the sleeves look fuller and a little puffy. Since the jacket was only $4 I decided to risk and do a little altering. My alterations consisted of cutting off the sleeves to make them a 3/4 length. I didn’t even hem the end of the sleeves–I left them frayed. Pretty much the easiest alteration ever!

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-01 The jacket has so much texture. I love the nubby weave.

thirfted-jacket-lisa-leonard12-01Here’s the jacket laid out on my tile at home. I cut the sleeves then used the hand wash cycle on my washing machine and laid it out to dry. I ironed it to soften the fabric again and get the collar to lay nicely.

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-02 In general I prefer a 3/4 sleeve–so this was just right for me.

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-03 See how much texture the jacket has? Love!

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-04 The fringe bag is a TJ Maxx find. Sandals are Nine West.

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-05 These earrings are some of my favorites. They’re backordered in the shop right now. But these have a similar vibe.

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-06 The mother’s ring has each of our birthstones. I love it.

thrifted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-07 I’ve been seeing frayed edges everywhere in retails lately. Fun.

thirfted-diy-jacket-lisa-leonard-104-01This $4 risk paid off. I love my new jacket!

Outfit details: Jacket, thrifted. Camisole, Target. Black jeans, Madewell. Sandals, Nine West. Bag, TJ Maxx. Earrings, My shop. Mother’s Ring, My shop.

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I am not my to-do list

an everyday moment By September 20, 2016 12 Comments

My to-do list has a dark side. There are days when my to-do list glares at me while I sip a second cup of coffee or whispers words of condemnation when I lay down for a nap. My to-do list can be harsh and judgmental. I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this—but my to-do list actually called me a worthless failure the other day. Unbelievable, right?!

Who gave my to-do list that kind of power? Well, I guess I did.

Every morning, for as long as I can remember, I wake up and start making a to-do list. Some items are small, like ‘wash dishes’ or ‘schedule doctor visit’. Other items are bigger such as ‘go through the boys’ clothing’ or ‘plan marketing presentation’. I love seeing check marks next to each item on my to-do list. Ah, isn’t that the best feeling? It makes me feel like a superhero!

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I’m probably not the only one who feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day. I hop out of bed and hit the ground running. Between emails, dishes, meetings, grocery shopping and signing permission slips I barely have time to gather my thoughts. The day rushes by—and I know by evening I’ll hit a wall of exhaustion. We’ll have dinner, cuddle on the couch while watching Netflix, then fall into bed. The next day it starts all over again.

But recently I’ve been rethinking my to-do list. I give it too much power–way too much power. I’ve been letting my to-do list determine my self-worth. If I accomplish a lot, I’m a wonderful person. On an unproductive day, I’m a waste of space. Both of those statements are lies. I am me, just me—creative, kind, imperfect, unique and amazing. I actually need downtime. I thrive when I have space to do nothing. Making time to clear my head and think brings new ideas and clarity. Rushing isn’t effective—in fact, it makes things worse. And when I’m tired I’m such a grump. My meltdowns are not fun to watch.

I’ve been experimenting with a different approach. I still use a to-do list but there’s a lot less on it. I’m learning I can only accomplish a few things each day and I have to prioritize what’s most important. Instead of getting everything done, I’m getting the most important things done. I’m intentionally slowing down and making room for peace and calm. This necklace is my reminder to make space to breath and stop trying to do it all.

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Yesterday I didn’t make our bed like I usually do and it wasn’t a big deal.

I didn’t make it to the grocery store, but we got by.

I didn’t fold the clothes in the dryer. I let them wait.

I didn’t return emails. I just didn’t get to it.

And I didn’t stress out. I got some other, really important things done. And it was enough.

With my more streamlined, kind-hearted to-do list life continues to move forward–everyone is bathed, dressed, fed and healthy. The world hasn’t spun off it’s axis. In fact, although not everything is getting done, I’m getting the important things done. I’m prioritizing what matters most. Instead of trying to do everything halfway or ‘good enough’. I’m doing less but giving it my full attention. I’m rushing less. I’m scheduling less and making room for downtime. I feel stronger, more peaceful and present.  Overall I’m better. It’s been life-changing. I think I’m hooked.

My to-do list doesn’t determine my self-worth.

I’m already worthy and loved.

I’m already enough, just as I am.

How’s your to-do list treating you lately?

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hello louis and beasley

hello monday By September 18, 2016 5 Comments

Oh my goodness, these pups and their personalities. I can hardly stand it–they are so cute. I’m thankful for the love and companionship they bring to our lives. They fill a space we didn’t know we had!

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

hello-louis-and-beasley-03Hello Louis and Beasley. I’m glad we have you and you have each other. I love to see you cuddle together. You’re the best of friends!

hello-louis-and-beasley-01 Hello Louie. You are very serious and you look a little worried. You don’t really want to play and you hardly bark at all. You’re an excellent cuddler and you make our lives better!

hello-louis-and-beasley-02 Hello Beasley. You are probably the sweetest dog that ever lived. You’ve really stolen our hearts. I love your crazy old man expressions and your gentle way. Also, you love to talk–especially when it’s time to eat.

Hello flat caps from the dollar section at Target. Priceless!

Hello messy house. I feel like I’ve given up a bit. I need some motivation.

Hello oh-my-gosh-amazing book. Drop everything and read it asap. It’s a world changer.

Hello cute jacket. I’ve got my eye on this pretty piece.

Hello alone time. I’m planning in some time alone to reflect and think this week. So hard to do but so necessary.

Hello Stranger Things. I love and hate this show. It’s super fascinating and well done but scary. I don’t like scary at all.

Hello writing and writing and writing some more. I’ve been writing a lot lately and it feels vulnerable and empowering.

Hello visiting my brother and his amazing family. They recently moved from Texas to California and we can’t wait to see their new home!

Hello to you! It’s a new week, a fresh start and a chance to begin again. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I Love You Body and Soul

david, finding beauty By September 13, 2016 43 Comments

At the cellular level, every bit of David’s body has been affected by a chromosomal abnormality. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The coordinates on the map are incorrectly labeled. The recipe has all the ingredients but in the wrong amounts. The computer coding has a typo and the program won’t run correctly. When David was born we saw his left hand had only two fingers. It was the first indication David had a genetic disorder. His body is broken, imperfect, flawed. His soul on the other hand, is intact and whole. We are two parts, body and soul. His soul resides in a body that simply doesn’t cooperate because it can’t. His soul fights every day to live fully.

body and soul lisa leonard

Before David was born, before I was married even, I taught with kids in wheelchairs, kids with g-tubes, kids who were non-verbal, kids with autism. I worked with special needs kids, or I should say, I worked with typical kids trapped inside bodies with special needs. Every day they arrived at school at 8:30am, every day they left at 2:40pm and in between we lived life together; learning, growing and connecting. I knew each of my students well. I knew their physical needs and quirks, their preferences and personalities. I knew their souls and they knew mine.

When two people truly connect on a soul level it’s a kind of miracle. It’s much deeper than a physical connection. It takes time and energy. It takes patience and quiet. It’s a soul to soul, heart to heart connection. It’s the way an expectant mother bonds with her child before he’s born. It’s the way we can’t stop thinking about a friend–so we call up her up only to find out she really needed words of encouragement at that very moment. It’s a deep knowing cultivated over time. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

We may be tempted to say the body doesn’t matter. The body is broken—who cares?! It’s the soul that truly makes us who we are. And yes, in part, this is true. But the body does matter. The body carries the soul. The body breathes and speaks and sings and moves. The body is the outward representation of the soul. The body works on our behalf to make our soul known. A soul needs a body and a body needs a soul. So we care for our bodies. We walk and run and try to eat healthy food. We brush our teeth and see doctors and have surgery to repair a heart defect. We buy clothes that fit and have our hair trimmed. We honor the soul by caring for the body.

Yesterday David worked on feeding himself. He carefully lifted a spoonful of lemon yogurt to his mouth, took a bite and placed the spoon back into the bowl. He isn’t able to scoop up another bite, so I do that part for him. Again and again, I fill the spoon, again and again he lifts it to his mouth and places it back into the bowl. Over months and years of working on this skill David continues to improve.

And we celebrate! Because David’s amazing, stubborn, beautiful soul is winning over a body that doesn’t work right. We celebrate because it’s a HUGE accomplishment. No, eating a spoonful of yogurt isn’t a huge accomplishment for most 14-year-old boys, but for this kiddo, who lives inside a body that doesn’t cooperate, it’s massive. It deserves shouts of delights and high-fives.

While my hands are clapping and I cheer for his success, a tear slips down my cheek. This sucks. I hate that my son has to fight moment by moment to live a full life with a body that fights against him. I hate that he has to work harder than most kids to communicate and eat and walk and sometimes just to breath. I hate that he sees seven different medical specialists. I hate that he’s had multiple surgeries and will likely have many more. I hate there are times he comes up beside me and takes my hand, looks at me with an intent gaze while he stomps his foot, hoping I’ll know what he wants. I offer him a snack and see the frustration cross his face. He stomps more and pulls on my arm. I offer him a cuddle and he pushes me away. I hate that he can’t tell me what he wants and I hate that sometimes I can’t read his soul well enough to guess.

But that soul. I love that soul. And I love that broken, imperfect, adorable body that holds his beautiful soul. A love that is deeper because our souls have struggled and grieved and found hope together.

i love you body and soul lisa leonard 2

Today I will put this necklace around my neck as a reminder of the love between his soul and mine. He is part of my tribe. He is my safe place and my love. I will do my best to care for his physical needs with patience and tenderness. I’ll help him scoop up spoonfuls of food again and again. I’ll help him put on his pants and button his shirt. I’ll cuddle him and kiss him. In return he will smile at me making my heart do flip flops. He will take my hand and show me what he wants. He will teach me how to be grateful. He will teach me to notice the beauty all around me. He will move through the day with bravery and determination. He will inspire others and spread joy to all who know him.

His soul knows mine and my soul knows his. And at the end of the day, we are both souls living inside imperfect, broken bodies. Not just David, but me as well. And someday I know it won’t be this hard. Someday all with be made right and our bodies will be made whole. Someday heaven will come. Today we find beauty in this moment, hope for tomorrow and a deep love between our souls.

Have you experienced a soul connection?

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hello DIY mid century planter

DIY, hello monday By September 12, 2016 4 Comments

Hello friends!

I have been eyeing the gorgeous mid century planters at West Elm for a few weeks. Aren’t they amazing? Friday when I was at the thrift store I saw this yellow pot and thought the shaped looked a lot like the planter I’ve had my eye on. I felt inspired to I started looking around for some kind of a stand–and came across the black tea light holder. The bowl and the tea light holder were each $1.70–so I decided to give it a shot! scroll down for details.

It’s Monday–a brand new week with beauty to be found. How about some hellos?
diy-mid-century-planter-lisa-leonard-05Hello inspiration. I love it when things jump out at me and make my heart happy.

diy-mid-century-planter-lisa-leonard-03Hello finding treasures at a thrift shop. It’s kind of the best feeling!

diy-mid-century-planter-lisa-leonard-04Hello oil based sharpies that are much easier to use than paint!

diy-mid-century-planter-lisa-leonard-02Hello using command strips to hold the pot and the tea light holder together.

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Hello bright happy pot in our entry way. I still love the West Elm version, but while I save my pennies this one is fun!

Hello snake plant. It’s one of my favorites and so easy to care for.

Hello Toto! We saw them in concert last night with friends and it was amazing!

Hello tired. Can we have one more weekend day?

Hello hiking with a friend today–time to soak up the sun and share our hearts.

Hello listening to this podcast and loving it!

Hello thinking and writing. My head is spinning lately with ideas.

Hello busy week. Ready or not, here we go!

Where are you saying hello to this week?

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adventure is calling!

adventures, the meaning behind By September 8, 2016 13 Comments
Despite my good intentions, our flight to Paris a couple months ago had some stress–one incident in particular. Somehow, as I grabbed David’s baby food to throw it away, the sweet potatoes slipped out of my hand and went flying through the air. The box of orange mush landed in the aisle and the contents sprayed everyone nearby. I looked at the man across the aisle from me and he had sweet potatoes on his face, neck and shirt. I quickly grabbed some wet wipes while profusely apologizing. The woman in the seat behind him stood up and screamed, “WHAT WAS THAT?!” Oh my gosh, the shame fell over me like a heavy blanket. Five or six people hopped up out of their seats–each with orange flecks of sweet potatoes sprinkled across their clothes and seats.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “It was sweet potatoes. I accidentally dropped my son’s food.” I continued apologizing as I handed out wet wipes to everyone around us.

Packing our bags a couple days earlier, I told myself, “Don’t think of it as a vacation. This is an adventure.” I was nervous but excited. I had visions of us beside the Eiffel Tower and eating macaroons, but I also had fears about the long plane ride and potentially sleepless nights. Traveling is challenging, but traveling with a kid who has special needs is even more so. When we travel our routine goes out the window–and it’s our routine that enables us to give David’s his meds throughout the day, keep him on a good schedule and plan for downtime. But France was calling! How could we say no? As I saw the sweet potatoes fly through the air in slow motion, I was pretty sure we should have stayed home.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself (in my most soothing inner voice) “This is an adventure. It’s okay if it’s imperfect. Adventure means things will get messy. It’s practically a requirement, right?” We arrived in Paris jet lagged and grumpy and I wondered if all this struggle was worth it.

But standing beside the Eiffel Tower I knew we had made the right decision. This adventure held magic.
When we ordered chocolate croissants at breakfast I let contentment wash over me. I soaked up a quiet minute during our crazy adventure.
We snapped a picture walking above the Seine River as misty raindrops landed on our happy faces. Adventure called and we listened.
Standing in front of Van Gogh’s self portrait I felt my heart soar with gratitude. Adventure had led us here.
Watching David and Matthias explore the cobblestone streets of France reminded me how adventure changes how we see ourselves and the world.

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Of course we need routine; it’s how things get done. We need a schedule and a clock. We need school and work because it’s how we expand our minds. It’s how we accomplish tasks.

But we also need to break from routine. We need to throw the schedule out the window. We need to build a fort in the living room and not clean it up. We need to order pizza on a school night and leave dirty dishes in the sink. We plan a spur of the moment getaway. When we break from the routine we set off on an adventure.

Routine keeps us stable, adventure makes us flexible.
Routine makes us strong, adventure makes us brave.
Routine gives us discipline, adventure gives us boldness.
Routine depends on logic, adventure depends on imagination.
Routine makes the most of everyday. Adventure makes the most of life.

grow-roots-sprout-wingsToday I’m slipping on my cuff as a reminder that routine helps us grows roots and adventure helps us sprouts wings. We need both.

Routine helps us get up when the alarm goes off and lace up our running shoes. Routine enables us to keep the fridge full of groceries and the car full of gas. Routine provides a perfect environment for homework and home cooked meals.

Adventure on the other hand lets us make a new friend or try a new hobby. Adventure encourages us to climb a little higher and sing a little louder. Adventure gives us the freedom to fall in love, have another baby, start a new business and travel abroad. Nothing big and important happens without adventure.

And at the end of the day adventure reassures us, saying, “Don’t worry if you fail. It was just an adventure after all.”

It took us a few weeks to recover after our adventure in France. I was ready to get back into our regular routine and catch up on missed sleep. Routine is a good thing, but I know it won’t be long before adventure calls again. And I know we’ll take the risk, with the assurance we can always fall back into the comfort of routine.

Have you stepped outside of your routine lately?

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The risk of being me

finding love, marriage, the meaning behind By September 6, 2016 33 Comments

I was unhappy. Steve was unhappy. I began to feel afraid. We were unhappy so I must be doing something wrong. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I’m a pleaser. I want to make others happy—sometimes to a fault. I want to make my husband happy, my kids happy, my friends happy, heck I even want to make the cashier at the grocery store happy. I’ve long believed if I could make others happy, they would love me.

Steve and I fell in love. Initially we were just friends, hanging out in groups with other friends.  But as we spent time together I saw his integrity, insight and compassion. Once I saw his heart, I fell hard. I knew he was a good man. We dated for a few months, had a short engagement and said our marriage vows with confidence. I was determined to be the best wife I could be. I believed with all my heart, I would make him happy and he would love me.

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We’ve walked through some of the most difficult things two people can face; losing a job, depression and having a child with a severe disability. Through these storms our friendship has been a strong foundation. Inevitably though, when two flawed people spend an extended amount of time together, conflict happens. Things get rocky. And for us, things began to get very rocky.

We weren’t connecting. I was unhappy. He was unhappy. My fear was paralyzing me. I believed if Steve was unhappy he would stop loving me. I believed if Steve was unhappy it was my fault. I believed I could control his moods and emotions. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I kept a mental list of the ways I could please him. I put his needs before mine and tried to think of my own needs less. I tried to control our marriage, avoiding conflict at any cost. The more I tried to please him, the more I lost myself. Steve didn’t want a wife who lived to please him, he wanted the strong, confident woman he married. My fear of losing his love was putting walls between us. The harder I tried to make him happy the more frustrated and discouraged I became. I falsely believed if I focused more on him and less on myself I could heal our marriage.

I went from unhappiness to exhaustion and desperate sadness. No matter how hard I tried, nothing changed. I was reaching a breaking point, so I decided to risk it all and tell Steve how desperate I felt. He had no idea I was so deeply unhappy.  I’d been trying to save our marriage on my own—and I was losing myself in the process. We met with a therapist and both shared honestly and openly. She helped {and continues to help} us work through our blind spots. We began listening to each other more. I began to say what I wanted instead of trying to please him all the time. I started taking better care of myself and cutting things out of my schedule. I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and began to focus on being me—even if it meant rejection. I needed to be me, not knowing if Steve would love that person.

And something miraculous happened. It wasn’t easy or magical but it was truly amazing. Together, with tears and humility we began breaking down walls. Together we grew closer. Together we shared more, we listened more. Together we stopped casting judgement and being defensive. We set aside our fear of losing each other and began choosing to stay together.

I believe there are cycles within a marriage; we give all we have but love still breaks down. In the breakdown both partners have a choice: go through the pain and fear of reconnecting or continue to pull away. If in our brokenness we can be humble and honest, a new love begins where the old love left off. Love is risky. Showing up is risky. But a healthy marriage consists of two people, each showing up and being their truest self. Two people who adore each other despite their flaws and imperfections.

the risk of being me lisa leonard aodred ring

Slowly but surely I’m learning I can’t make someone else happy. I’m working daily to overcome false beliefs that I can control another person’s moods and feelings. I can only control my own emotions and my own actions. Caring for my own heart enables me to love better.  An ignored heart loves incompletely, a nurtured heart loves deeply. I want to be in a marriage where instead of avoiding conflict, we engage honestly, work hard, daily choosing to be together. When love breaks down, we begin again. I’m still a recovering people pleaser but I’m growing. I’m learning to feel my feelings and stop managing other people’s feelings. I’m beginning to understand love isn’t based on emotions or changing circumstances. Love isn’t one sided. Love thrives when two people choose kindness, patience and forgiveness.

Being me is risky, but losing myself is even riskier. Brave love is risky and beautiful.

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