Wisdom From David

david, hope, inspiration By June 30, 2017 66 Comments

David, fifteen years ago we held you in our arms and cried. You weren’t what we expected and we were grieving. I didn’t expect to have a baby with a syndrome, heart defect and only two fingers on his left hand.

I cried tears for me, what would my life look like now that I had a child with special needs?
I cried tears for you. What would your life look like as you navigate living with special needs?
From the moment I saw your sweet face I loved you. I was your mama and I would do whatever I could to protect and nurture you. But I worried about how other people would treat you. I wished you could run and play and be silly like other children.
I feel silly saying this now, but I wished I could change you.
I felt pity for you, I felt pity for me.
I didn’t know it then, but sweet David, you were born to do big things.
You are a world changer!
My pity has turned to pride.

My worries have subsided as I see you soak up life and give love to those around you.

Everyday you teach us how to live with well.
You have helped us stretch and grow our hearts to make room for more joy.
You have shown us what it looks like to love with your whole heart.
Now my wish is for you to be YOU.
You are one of a kind.
You are a light.
You inspire me.
Today, for your fifteenth birthday, I wrote down bits of wisdom you have taught me.
What follows is how you live, how you love.

Happy birthday, my love! I’m so incredibly thankful you’re my son.

***

Wisdom From David

Come over
Settle in
Sit down

Snuggle up

Let yourself relax
Let yourself enjoy
Let yourself let go

Let yourself be loved

Make friends
Make music
Make messes

Make memories

With open hearts
With honesty
With happiness

With your hand in mine

Let’s dream
Let’s explore
Let’s learn

Let’s be brave

Today holds newness
Today holds adventure
Today holds beauty

Today hold hope

We are us
We are you and me
We are each other

We are family

Slow down
Breathe deeply
Be quiet

Let your heart speak

Listen closely
Feel your feelings
Think outside the box

See with new eyes

Forgive
Forget
Let your heart

Be free

All is right
All is known
All is safe

All is well

No shame
No fear
No hiding

No worry

You are precious
You are seen
You are loved
Be grateful
Be curious
Be gentle

Be you

One of a kind
Three words (I love you)

Forever, for always

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My Spark, My North Star

david, hope, the meaning behind By March 29, 2017 7 Comments

Can I tell you something? I have worried about David his entire life. And the guilt, so much guilt. At times it has been completely overwhelming. I’ve worried about his physical health–making sure he has nutritious foods, the right medicines in the correct doses, and doctors who take time to understand his unique needs, but I’ve also worried about his mental and emotional well-being. What is it like to be trapped inside a body that does not cooperate? David cannot speak with words. He cannot dress himself or prepare his own food. He depends on me for survival. I worried if I did not give David every single thing he needed, he would not be okay. It all depended on me—or so I believed.

This simply is not true.

David is not only okay, he is incredible. He is powerful. He is learning to communicate his needs and wants. He entertains himself and soothes himself when he is upset. He connects deeply with other people. He is genuinely happy and it’s not because of me. Yes, David needs extra help and attention. There are things he cannot do for himself. But his disability does not mean he is powerless. He does not need my pity.

{Can you see that spark?!}

Inside David’s heart there is a spark all his own. It shines brightly. It is what makes David, David. It is why other people connect so easily with him. It is how he connects to the God of the Universe. I am able to meet some of David’s needs, but I am not required to meet all of them. I am just one person. When situations arise where I am unable to meet David’s needs, God will provide a way. Either David will meet his own need or someone else will be there to help. David will be okay, I truly believe this.

It wasn’t just David I worried about. For so long I believed I was responsible for everyone else around me. It was my job to manage their thoughts and feelings. I believed somehow I could control the world around me. It all rested on my shoulders. It was my job, and mine alone, to create a beautiful home, raise kids who thrive and to nurture a marriage with deep connection.

There were days I would walk around in a fog. Other people’s thoughts and emotions crowded in around me to the point where I could barely breathe. It was a fog so thick, I could not see through it. I could not think straight. It was too messy. I could not make sense of it all. The fog was suffocating.

I tried to be needless and wantless and put myself last. I tried to be everything I thought I should be. I tried to say everything I thought I should say. I tried to prove I was lovable, I was enough, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, it never seemed to be enough.

I am learning I have nothing to prove. I am growing and beginning to believe I am lovable just as I am. In this process I found out something AMAZING.

When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. ~ Brené Brown

Inside my heart there is a spark. It’s the center of who I am. It is my truest, most beautiful self. This spark is my North Star and it is there to guide me. My North Star shines so bright it burns away the fog around me. My North Star is how I connect with the God of the Universe.


I hold this spark inside my heart.
My spark is what makes me, me.

My spark makes me beautiful.
My spark lights me up from the inside.
My spark has facets like a diamond.
My spark makes me curious, angry, sad and silly.
My spark makes me wonder and explore and ask questions.
My spark makes my feet stomp and my voice loud.
My spark makes me cry while heavy tears fall.
My spark makes my eyes twinkle and my mouth smile.

My spark is all mine.
And David’s spark is all his. It shines bright!
And your spark is all yours. You shine so very bright.

God has given each of us our own spark, our own North Star. I cannot tell you how to follow your North Star, just as you cannot tell me how to follow mine.
I cannot make my husband okay.
I cannot make my kids okay.
I cannot make my friends okay.

I can love them. I can listen to them. I can walk alongside them. But each of them must look to their own North Star to find their way.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure everything out on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.
Proverbs 3:5-6

I can feel my feelings, you can feel your feelings.
I can think my thoughts, you can think your thoughts.
I can say what I want and need, you can say what you want and need.
Each of us can be completely ourselves.
Each of us can look to our own North Star.

This where we find love and hope. This is where we find peace.

When I follow my North Star I will always be where I’m meant to be.
When you follow your North Star you will always be where you’re meant to be.


This is the meaning behind the *new* North Star necklace. Each handcrafted charm has an initial on one side and a Braille constellation on the reverse side. Your personalized initial is a sweet, gentle reminder to follow your North Star.
Create your own North Star Necklace here.

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where dreams and reality meet

be brave, hope By January 17, 2017 17 Comments

I had no idea joy, pain, exhaustion and sheer delight waited for us. I had no idea this tiny baby growing inside me had a genetic disorder. I had no idea he would break my heart, turn my world upside down and then slowly help me heal and grow into a person who loves more deeply.


I remember holding the positive pregnancy test in my hand. I was sitting in the bathroom of our small apartment near Los Angeles. We had been married for three years and we had been trying to start a family for the last six months. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me as the HUGENESS of the moment filled the room. I stared at the pregnancy test in disbelief.

“We are going to have a baby.” I thought. “Oh my goodness, there is already a baby growing inside me.”

We had boarded an unstoppable train headed toward an unknown destination. We wanted to start a family and we were trying to get pregnant, but when I saw the positive test I was terrified. I had been dreaming of this day since I was a little girl. When it arrived I was surprised to find myself so afraid.
My life was about to change in massive ways.

I was about to fall in love with a little boy who would forever change my heart.



The unknown is scary and I was looking into a vast world of unknowns.
The intersection where dreams and reality meet is perhaps the most terrifying place to be.
I stood on the edge of the known, looking into the unknown, with shaking legs.
Looking back, I could see where I had been.
Looking around me, I could see where I was.
But looking forward I could see nothing.
I took a step forward.
It was one of the most important steps of my life. David has brought beauty and joy to our family and changed us in amazing ways. He continues to grow and thrive and show us what it looks like to live with joy.

A couple years later I stood at another crossroads.
David was a baby, I was teaching part-time in our local school district and stringing beads into necklaces in the evening. A little dream started to grow inside my heart. What if I could turn this creative hobby into a little business? Friends loved my handmade jewelry and my coworkers were asking if they could purchase my necklaces and bracelets. I decided to make it official and get a business license.
As I got into my car to make my way towards City Hall, I felt sick to my stomach with nervousness.

“Surely they do not give business licenses to people like me. They are going to laugh me out of the building.” I thought. “They will know I am a fraud as soon as I step through the door.”

My heart was pounding and I felt my face go red as I asked the receptionist for a business license application. My hands shook as I searched for a pen in my purse and began filling it out line by line.

I had no idea incredible opportunities and long sleepless nights waited for me. I had no idea my little business would grow and change. I had no idea two years later I would quit my job to focus on making jewelry. I had no idea some day my husband and I would have a team of amazing individuals helping us with marketing, customer service and manufacturing.

The intersection where dreams and reality meet is perhaps the most terrifying place to be.
I stood on the edge of the known, looking into the unknown, with a shaking hands and a red face.
I took a step forward.

No matter how difficult, wonderful or mundane our circumstances, they are known—there is comfort in what is known. But the what lies ahead is unknown and the unknown can be deeply unsettling. We do not know what the future holds and deep down we know, we do not control the future.
We feel fear.
But we do not face fear alone.
We have a powerful force behind us.

Hope.

With hope at our back we take a step into the unknown.
At the intersection of dreams and reality, it is natural to feel fear.
Fear does not make us weak.
Fear makes us human.
When we move through fear toward what is true and right and beautiful, it makes us brave.
With each timid step the future becomes the present and the present becomes the past.
All that is required in any moment, is one step.
We take that step with hope at our back.

Have you found yourself at the intersection where dreams and reality meet?

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pain is not a gift

choose joy, hope By November 14, 2016 9 Comments
Pain is not a gift from God.
It’s what God does through the pain,
the way He molds us,
the way He enlarges our hearts to love more deeply
and opens our eyes to see more clearly,
this is the gift.
pain-is-not-a-gift-lisa-leonard-01
Pain is clarifying.
When we’re grieving, everything else melts away.
Things that usually worry us seem trivial.
Pain shows us the truth; we are fragile creatures.
We come before God empty-handed.
In that humble, needy place, He meets us with love and grace.
We are changed in a way that can’t be undone.
We are torn apart and lovingly sewn back together.
Each stitch piercing our tender hearts.
It’s a deep, indescribable ache.
We will carry this ache with us always.
Slowly, the ache becomes part of who we are.
We would never wish for pain, but once on the other side, wouldn’t change it.
We’ve walked through fire and we are not the same as we were before.
We’ve been through the darkest night and we’ve glimpsed hope.
pain-is-not-a-gift-lisa-leonard-3
As we heal we see with new eyes.
As we heal our hearts beat with new strength.
As we heal we hold more joy.
Most amazingly, in His unknowable way, God uses the brokenness of pain to make us whole.
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I Held My Heart

choose joy, hope By November 12, 2016 20 Comments

i-am-enough-lisa-leonard-01
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.

i-held-my-heart

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The Unexpected Gift

hope, the meaning behind By October 12, 2016 126 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.

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“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.

the-unexpected-gift-lisa-leonard

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.”

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Honoring the Pain

david, hope, the meaning behind By August 30, 2016 86 Comments

David was four days old and asleep inside his little bed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit {NICU}. An adorable blue plaid baby quilt my sister made was draped over the side and a paper tag with David’s name written in cute, happy lettering was taped to the edge. His weight had dropped since birth a few days earlier and he was down to 3 pounds, 12 ounces. We had been told he had a rare genetic disorder but a million questions loomed in the air. We were in shock. We’d been expecting a healthy baby and everything had gone wrong. Both Steve and I were walking around in a daze. Steve sat near David and I stepped outside the NICU with a folder of bills and the checkbook. Even in crisis, real life demands to be lived. Bills have to be paid. Cars need gas. Clothes have to be washed, dried and folded. Well, maybe they don’t have to be folded. It’s surreal to do normal, everyday tasks while you’re world is crumbling around you. I remember clearly, sitting in the lobby right outside the NICU, opening the folder to pay bills and thinking, “This is so strange. Who cares about the gas bill? My baby was born with two fingers on his left hand.”

As I wrote the first check and tucked inside the envelope, our friends Josh and Maggie walked into the lobby. In the early years of our marriage they were our upstairs neighbors, worked in ministry with us and were some of our closest friends. They spent time with us during hospital stay. They brought groceries and arranged meals. On this afternoon, when our tiny David was only a few days old they sat down with me on the uncomfortable lobby couch and said nothing. They just sat, no words. I set the bills aside, buried my head in my hands and began to sob. The tears came from a bottomless well inside me. As I gave into the grief I wondered if I would ever stop crying. I held the pain in all its unbearable heaviness.  They sat with me, their arms around me and cried with me. They were powerless to change the situation but they stepped inside the darkness with me. I wasn’t alone.

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Pain demands to be felt. It won’t be rushed. It won’t be pushed away or minimized. There is no set timeline for grief. There is no bible verse or life truth that can lessen pain’s grip. No matter how much we may try to push it away or pretend it isn’t there, it manifests itself. There are no tricks or tips to lessening the agony. Pain is moving through darkness, one tiny step at a time with faith that eventually a ray of light will break through. We honor our pain with tears and time. We honor our pain by acknowledging its heaviness and hurt. We honor it by recognizing loss and the hole it leaves behind.

love and loss rings lisa leonard

We honor pain by allowing it to wash over us like a tidal wave, and in its own time it recedes a bit. That first ray of light breaking through the darkness is fresh air and we breath it in as deeply as we can. We breath in hope. And hope is the balm that soothes the pain. Just as we can’t expedite pain, hope also won’t be rushed. It comes in its own time. It comes as we honor the pain.

When Josh and Maggie cried with me they honored my pain. They honored our tiny baby David and the difficult road ahead of him. They honored broken hearts and lost dreams. They didn’t minimize the journey before us with advice or easy answers. They loved him exactly as he was—a whole soul inside a broken body. And they breathed in deeply with us as the first ray of light broke through the darkness.

Are you honoring the pain of a difficult situation right now? Are you walking with someone through pain?

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Your Answer Revealed

hope, worthiness By November 29, 2015 3 Comments

Am I Enough?
Worthiness Inventory

10-17 points 

You feel there are many areas in your life where you are either performing average or below. How does everyone else seem to do it so effortlessly? You’re tired. You’re hurting. You feel alone.
You may hear the whisper of harsh words, like, failure and stupid as you move through your day. These words do not define you. In fact, you are not a failure.
Whether or not you excel in each of these areas does not define your worth or value. You are already loved but because you are YOU. There is no one else quite like you on earth. The world needs you to be you. You don’t have to change, you don’t have to be better or do more. You’re already worthy. You are enough.

 

18-22 points

You find yourself succeeding sometimes and failing sometimes. There are moments you feel you’ve got it all together—but other times you’re a complete failure. Emotions run high and low—and you vacillate between hope and desperation. The ups and downs are draining.
“Why can’t I figure this out?” you think.
If you could just get each of these areas under control you would be fulfilled–but it always seems just out of reach. These things will never fill you, because these things don’t define you.
Productive or unproductive–you are incredible simply because you are YOU. You are already beautiful and loved. You’re already worthy. You are enough.

 

24 and above

Hello overachiever! Wow, you are a hard-working woman!
Do you every feel tired or disappointed—like you’re doing all these things and it’s still not enough? You drop into bed exhausted only to wake up the next morning and start all over again. It all depends on you and it’s never-ending.  I have good news, even if you stopped doing some–or all–of these things, you would still be lovable. You would still be precious. These things do not define you. Trying to be perfect may become a wall between yourself and those you love.
You can rest. You can exhale. You are amazing and wonderful just as you are. You’re already worthy. You are enough.

Today let’s let go of trying to be perfect. Instead let’s choose joy. Let’s remind each other we are enough just as we are. Let’s offer grace to ourselves and others.
The things we do don’t define us. We are defined by God; He calls us worthy, He calls us loved.
You are enough.

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