Heart Wide Open

motherhood, the meaning behind, worthiness By April 4, 2017 9 Comments

I thought I had to be strong all the time. I thought if I admitted how exhausted I was, I was admitting my failure as a mother.

A couple of years ago, Steve and I traveled to New York for a business meeting. It was a last-minute trip and my twin sister, Chrissie, graciously offered to watch our boys. Matthias was ecstatic—this was basically a mini-vacation for him and time to hang out with his cousins. David, who has special needs, was harder to leave overnight. He needed lots of attention as he was spoon fed and non-verbal. We planned to be away for four nights, so I prepared food David’s favorite foods, made a list of his medications and mapped out his schedule. My sister found a sitter to help her each afternoon. We were all set!

As I boarded the plane for our trip, I exhaled deeply. The plane ride was five hours—I could watch movies or read or sleep or heck, just sit and do nothing at all! I needed a break and even though this was a ‘work trip’ it felt like a vacation. We landed in New York, had a few great meetings, ate delicious food and slept in a hotel bed. As we packed up to come home I could feel a heaviness in my heart. Jumping back into the routine of feeding and caring for David felt overwhelming. I felt tired just thinking about it. But I couldn’t wait to see my sweet boys.

The plane landed, we collected our luggage and drove to my sister’s home. It was wonderful to see the boys. We brought them each a souvenir and listened to Matthias describe their adventures; including lots of ice cream and a bowling alley dance party. Memories were made! The kids ran outside to get a few more minutes of play time while the adults sat around the table to chat. After a quiet moment, Chrissie put her hand on my arm and looked into my eyes.

“Lisa, caring for David was so hard. Wow, it was so hard. He needed help from the moment he got up in the morning to the moment I put him to bed. And even after bedtime I had to check on him a few times and put him back into bed. When the sitter arrived each afternoon, I could take a couple hours to get other things done, but even with her help it seemed like we were both moving nonstop.  How do you manage to meet all of David’s needs and still find time for Matthias? How in the world do you do this every single day?”

My eyes began to fill with tears as I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. Over the years I was determined to keep a positive attitude. I loved caring for David and spending time with him. When I felt exhausted or frustrated I reminded myself how precious David is to me. I refused to let myself fall into sadness—there was no time for that, I had told myself. David was wonderful and it was my honor to care for him.

But as we sat there at her kitchen table, my sister’s words made their way deep into my heart. She had walked in my shoes for the last five days. She had seen my life through my eyes. She was speaking honest words right to my heart. I couldn’t hold back my tears.

“I don’t know how I do it. I’m so very tired.” I said with a shaky voice.

I was terrified to admit how exhausted I was, believing if I admitted it I would be a failure. I worried that because David needed so much help, Matthias was only getting leftovers. I thought I needed to keep a positive attitude be a ‘good mom’. I thought I could push the difficult feelings away by being strong. But it wasn’t working. I was exhausted. I was discouraged. I couldn’t hold myself together. I didn’t know it in that moment, but my breakdown was actually a break through.

My heart needed to grieve. Caring for two boys with such different needs was really, hard—and that was okay. I didn’t have to pretend it wasn’t hard. I could be honest. I could say it was hard. I could ask for help. I could take breaks. None of these things affected my love for David or Matthias. None of these made me a ‘bad mom’ or a failure. They simply made me human.

I tried to keep the door of my heart shut tightly so I wouldn’t feel the pain, but the pain seeped in anyway. It came through the tiniest cracks and crevices. No matter how hard I tried to keep it out, it found its way inside. With trembling hands and tears running down my cheeks, I loosened the deadbolt and cracked the door open just the tiniest bit. I admitted being a mom to two boys, one with special needs, was hard. I admitted I was exhausted.

To my surprise, a warm, soothing light flooded inside. I felt lighter. The light gave me strength to open the door a bit more.  Hope streamed inside like a breath of fresh air. I didn’t have to suffer through this alone. No one was judging me except myself. As difficult as it was to admit I was exhausted, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as trying to keep the door to my heart shut tightly. I felt like I could finally breathe. I felt seen and loved. I felt like I was allowed to be me, I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else.

Now when I am tired, I take breaks. Sometimes I even take breaks before I am tired! We have a sitter that helps us with David’s care. Matthias and I spend some together each week, just the two of us. We have lunch at Olive Garden and it’s our special time.  Steve and I have a regular date night where we can talk, hold hands and have fun without distractions.

I have begun to open my heart in other ways as well. I am learning to say what I want and need inside my marriage. For so long I thought I had to be needless and wantless. I thought it was my job to take care of everyone else and ask for nothing in return. I found it simply did not work. I am a whole person with my own needs and wants–and that is a beautiful thing! I have also begun asking for help inside our business. We have an amazing team of people who help with everything from web design to marketing to customer service. I am thankful I do not have to carry this load alone.



As I open my heart more and more I find bravery and love abound. Keeping the door to my heart closed didn’t keep me safe, it kept me isolated. To live fully and be completely me is to open the door to my heart and allow the beauty and pain inside. With an open heart I am able to love myself and others more deeply. I want to live every moment of this amazing, imperfect journey with a heart wide open.

This is the meaning behind the Heart Wide Open Necklace. Click here for more details.

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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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Stepping Into the Light

finding love, the meaning behind, worthiness By February 7, 2017 3 Comments

For anyone who has ever wondered if the messiness of love is worth it…

Opening ourselves to love means

Taking down the walls around our hearts,

And leaving our hearts vulnerable.

A vulnerable heart does not simply risk being hurt,

It will be hurt.

Love is not safe.

I am imperfect.

You are imperfect.

We love each other imperfectly.

We hurt each other.

So why take the risk? Why love?

Because in the broken down, messiness of vulnerability,

While we wade through the pain of sharp words

and the loneliness of being misunderstood,

we are met with the healing balm of forgiveness.

While we journey down an unexplored, windy path

Sometimes hand in hand, sometimes with our backs to each other,

We find something truly magical.

When we leave safety behind

We find truth.

The truth we are loved, exactly as we are; broken and imperfect.

We leave safety behind to find something immeasurably better.

We find LOVE abounding in grace and hope.

We find we were not safe before, we were simply numb.

Numbness is comforting.

Numbness means not feeling the deep, painful ache of our hearts

Being pulled and stretched and torn.

But numbness means missing out on the exhilarating joy of being known.

The joy of being seen, just as we are.

The joy of being accepted.

The joy of being called worthy.

The joy of hearing the God of the Universe say “You are enough”.

It is only when we step out from the shadows and let the light shine on us

We see ourselves as God sees us.

We see who He created us to be;

Quirky and insightful and creative and wise.

He knit me together and gave me a unique soul.

I am one-of-a-kind.

He knit you together and gave you a unique soul.

You are one-of-a-kind.

In that place of power, we look shame directly in the eye and say, “You are a liar.”

Now we know the truth.

We leave safety to find freedom abounds.

We are free from the fear that held us prisoner.

The sun shines on us, warming our shoulders,

Filling our hearts with peace.

We soak it up, knowing

We are loved,

Just as we are.

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We Need Each Other

david, matthias, the meaning behind By February 1, 2017 43 Comments

I have been surprised to find many times, instead of me teaching my kids, it’s my kids teaching me.

When Matthias was in first grade, David’s 1st-3rd grade special needs class would walk over to Matthias’ classroom for reading time, language arts and special projects. Mainstreaming created a space for students with special needs to learn beside their typical peers. In this environment every child benefits and grows.

While Steve and I love mainstreaming and having special needs kids working with typical peers, we were concerned for Matthias. He had just begun first grade and was adjusting to a full day at school. We didn’t want him to have to explain why his brother had only two fingers on his left hand or why his brother couldn’t speak with words. We didn’t want Matthias to feel he was in the spotlight. We wanted Matthias to have his own space at school. We explained our concerns to David’s teacher and we all agreed it would be best to have David work on skills such as kicking a ball or sorting colored blocks, while the other special needs student mainstreamed into Matthias’ classroom.

A couple months into the school year, David was playing in the small playground next to the larger playground. Matthias spotted David and his aide over on the little playground.

“Oh my gosh!” Matthias yelled as he ran over to the chain link fence separating the two playgrounds.

“David, DAVID! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” he yelled, waving and calling to David.

As David and his aide made their way toward the Matthias, Matthias turned and called his friends over.

“You guys, come here! Quick! I want you to meet my brother.” Matthias said.

Matthias was joined at the chain link fence by three or four friends. On the other side of the fence stood David and his aide.

“This is my brother!” Matthias said with pride. “When David was in my mom’s tummy his instructions got mixed up. That is why he only has two fingers on his left hand. That is why he is so small. That is why he can’t talk. But isn’t he AWESOME?!”

Matthias’ friends nodded with smiles.

“Bye David!” they all yelled as they ran back to their game.

When I arrived at the school that afternoon David’s aide recounted the whole story to me. I could feel the lump in my throat as she described how excited Matthias was to see David and introduce him to his friends.

I felt tears filling up my eyes as I realized I didn’t need to worry about Matthias. I didn’t need to create a safe place where he could be himself without having to explain about his brother with special needs. Not only was Matthias capable of explaining David’s special needs to his peers, he was proud of his brother. He loved his brother. He wanted to be near his brother. Matthias is better because of David and David is better because of Matthias.

{The Cross Bar Birthstone Necklace represents stability and strength}

We need each other. Together we have stability. Together we are stronger.
Family is messy and imperfect. Family is the foundation that keeps us on solid ground. Family is love. And love is everything.

Matthias has taught me so much about what it means to LOVE with your whole heart.
These two are better together.

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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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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.

lets-be-adventurers-lisa-leonard

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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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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wholeness is a contradiction

finding love, jewelry, the meaning behind By June 29, 2016 4 Comments

What is wholeness?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve spent time reading about it, journaling about it and praying about it.

I want to be whole–but often I feel so broken and inadequate. I’m imperfect, but also amazing. I’m strong and capable but also prone to discouragement when I’m worn out. Wholeness is a contradiction. The more I accept my inability to be whole, the more I find it.

To fully experience life I have to open myself to every part it—the beautiful parts and the ugly parts.

wholeness lisa leonard2-01

Wholeness isn’t perfection. I’ve made my to-do lists and faithfully checked off item after item. By the time I reach the end of the list I have to start over again. The list is never-ending, but my energy is limited. I’ve tried to be perfect and failed miserably time and time again.

Wholeness isn’t life without conflict. I’ve tried to control things in my environment, my home, my family to make us all ‘happy’. It’s impossible. Each of us with our own personalities and preferences can’t be simultaneously pleased and content each moment. Relationship requires give and take. It requires flexibility and freeing ourselves to feel what we feel.

wholeness lisa leonard-01

Wholeness is waking up on a Saturday morning to pancakes and syrupy fingers.

Wholeness is taking the dogs for a walk and letting the laundry wait.

Wholeness is clearing our calendar last minute to stay home and rest.

Wholeness is a date night that ends with a fight. But we climb into bed and drift off to sleep side by side anyway.

Sometimes wholeness is laughing and sometimes it’s crying.

Sometimes it’s singing together in the car.

Sometimes it’s raised voices and strong opinions.

Sometimes it’s kind words.

Sometimes it’s forgiveness. Maybe all the time it’s forgiveness.

Wholeness is taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually, so I can love you better. And knowing you need to do the same.

Wholeness is believing you’re strong where I’m weak. And I’m strong where you’re weak.

Wholeness is you and me smoothing out each other’s rough edges.

wholeness necklace lisa leonard

Wholeness is a little necklace around my neck reminding me together we are better. Together we are stronger. Together we will walk this winding road hand in hand.

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creativity takes courage {a lot of it!}

adventures, finding beauty, the meaning behind By May 10, 2016 37 Comments

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

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

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

early designs lisa leonard

{early designs from 2008/2009}

Deep breath.

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

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

Yes.
No.
No
Yes.
No.
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

current designs lisa leonard

{some of my best sellers from the shop}

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

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