Love Given Is Love Gained

be brave, david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 14, 2018 21 Comments


A few months ago, as we traveled down to Southern California to see family for Christmas, we stopped at El Pollo Loco for lunch. Steve placed our order while I got David settled in the booth and pulled out his pre-prepared foods and a spoon. Because of his disability, David eats a special diet and all his meals are blended to a smooth texture. As I began spoon feeding him a woman come over to us. She looked at David’s small hand with only two fingers and compassion filled her eyes. I could feel her love towards him.

As she approached us I wondered what she would say. Would she ask for a hug from him? Every thing about her seemed like she wanted to wrap her arms around him and snuggle him.

“Hello,” she said with a tremble in her voice. “He is so precious. Can I give him a gift?” She pulled out a crisp $100 dollar bill and handed it to me.

“Thank you, you are so kind, but that is not necessary.” I said with a smile.

“Please,” she said, her eyes pleading with me to take the money.

“He is fine, don’t worry. Someone else must need this money more than he does.” I tried to explain.

“I want to give it to him. Please, please take it.” She pleaded.

“Okay. Thank you. Wow. God Bless you.” I stumbled over my words as I stood up and hugged her. We embraced and as we said goodbye she wiped a tear from her eye.

This isn’t the first time someone has given David a generous gift. I’m unsure what to do in these situations–we don’t really need the money–David has everything he needs and more. But, how can we reject a gift given with so much love? So much bravery?

We finished our food, gathered our things and headed back to the car. As we continued our journey Steve and I talked about what we should do with the money. Let’s keep our eyes open for the right person. We’ll find someone who needs this $100 and pass it on to them.

God please bless her, I prayed as we drove. I pray her gift comes back to her tenfold. 

Later that day we picked up our family from the airport. We shared the crazy story with them and talked about the kindness of strangers. We also talked about David’s beautiful heart and how he draws people to him. It’s something I can’t explain but I’ve seen it happen again and again.

A couple days later we woke up in a hotel room, threw on sweats and headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. We had been exploring Los Angeles with our extended family as we were all wiped out. It was Christmas Eve and the hotel was mostly quiet.  We were seated at a big table and our server came over quickly to fill our mugs with hot coffee. He smiled at the kids and made small talk–asking us what had brought us to town on Christmas Eve. We went around the table and each of us placed our order for an omelet or waffles. When he got to David I told the server David was fine–I had brought special food for him. Our server smiled at David and then headed to the computer to put our breakfast order in.

This server was extra attentive with a kind smile and a gentle heart. He kept checking on us, but specifically asking after David, making sure he had everything he needed. When I finished feeding David his pre-prepared blended food, the server asked if he could take the containers to the kitchen and wash them for us. We have never had a server ask to do that! It was so thoughtful. Steve and I were both touched by his kindness. We looked at each other and smiled. This was the person who needed the $100. This gentle soul, who noticed David and went out of his way to show kindness, should be the one who received this generous gift. When the bill arrived, Steve paid with a credit card and left the crisp $100 bill as a tip.

As we got ready to leave, the server made his way to Steve.

“I think you made a mistake.” He said, showing Steve the credit card receipt next to the crisp bill.

“No, no mistake. That is a gift for you.” Steve replied.

The look on the server’s face was a mix of genuine surprise, sheer joy and overwhelming gratitude. When I saw his face I thought I might burst into tears right then and there. I’m tearing up right now thinking about it. I am confident, this was the person who needed the $100 bill. I have no doubt God put this person in our path.

I wish we’d had time to tell the server the whole backstory–that it really wasn’t a gift from us, but a gift from a stranger we had met a few days earlier. I wished we could have found a way to explain that David, our son who only has two fingers on his left hand, our kiddo who is non-verbal, has a spark that brings out kindness in people. This kindness, this love, is bigger than David–big enough to connect strangers in different cities. Every good deed comes back bigger and better. Love stretches and grows and binds us together.

Love Given is Love Gained

Generosity brings freedom
Bravery makes us stronger
Smiles are contagious
Kindness rubs off on others
Gentleness calms the soul
Creativity inspires creativity
Laughter is infectious
Honesty breaks down walls
Forgiveness fortifies the heart
Love given is love gained
Good never goes to waste

It comes back bigger and better
Love grows and stretches and
binds us together 


This is the meaning behind the Let Love Grow Cuff.

Have you experienced the kindness of a stranger?

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All Is Well

the meaning behind the jewelry, thoughts By July 31, 2017 133 Comments
About 30 minutes after our plane took off for England, David started having rapid breathing. We gave him his inhaler–which helped a bit, but we watched him closely and worried throughout the 10 hour flight. After we landed we took him to the emergency room in London. It ends up he had pneumonia–thankfully we caught it early. Everyone at the hospital was wonderful. They sent us home with meds and within a day David was back to himself.
I am a worrier.
I worry about David’s health.
I worry about my boys’ safety.
I worry when I’m a passenger in a car.
I worry about what others think of me.
I worry if I give my boys enough love and attention.
I worry about my marriage.
I worry I’m letting people down.
And on and on and on.
And my worry never helps me or anyone else–not one single bit.

I wrote this poem on a walk in the English countryside and I wanted to share it with you–because maybe you’re a worrier like me. I hope it encourages you.


All Is Well

Stress and worry
Have helped me not
My joy they’ve taken
This moment forgot

My thoughts bundled up
In fear of unknowns
My mind distracted

My present disowned

Detached from what is
I guess what may be
I imagine the worst

Dark and doom I see

Instead of the light
That always surrounds me
I am safe and secure

God loves me profoundly

My path is before me
God planned every part
Before my first step

From the end to the start

Life’s mysteries to me
Are by God fully known
I am His child

He cares for His own

When sorrow takes hold
And the light seems so dim
His grace and love find me

My hope is in Him

When the pain of this world
Crowds in to oppress
My God gently holds me

And shows me His rest

My worries don’t help me
I’m beginning to find
They wreck and they ravage
I am free, I can breathe
Nothing can alter
The path I am walking

My God will not falter

Today I will practice
Letting go of control
I am held by God’s hand

All is well with my soul

I will learn to be still
And quiet the fear
Today is a gift

My God holds me near

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a magical moment

david, matthias, the meaning behind the jewelry By April 19, 2017 15 Comments

Last night Matthias sat down beside me on the couch and told me, “Something amazing just happened.”

I set aside what I was doing so I could give him my full attention.

“Tell me.” I said.

“David was relaxing on the gray couch so I went over and sat down. I said ‘Hi David.’ and he looked at me, I mean really looked into my eyes. We sat there for a moment just looking at each other. I saw him in a new way and I felt something deep inside.”

“That sounds like a soul connection.” I told Matthias.

“Yeah” he said with tears in his eyes, “A strange feeling came over me. I felt an overwhelming love for David.”

I felt goosebumps on my arms. Matthias and David shared a moment beyond the physical, beyond the ordinary. Despite David’s disability and his inability to communicate with words, their souls met, their souls connected.

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve had those experiences with David, too. Every once in a while, we have a moment where our souls connect in a deep and meaningful way. There are no words spoken, we’re just caught in a quiet moment and souls see each other. It’s a beautiful and miraculous thing.”

Matthias’ experience reminded me how important it is to slow down, be quiet and listen. He reminded me when I take time to simply be present, with an open heart, amazing things happen. We are drawn to each other with a kind of magnetic power. We walk together on this beautiful winding road, and sometimes we have a magical moment where our souls connect in a way that’s impossible to explain. Love is powerful force that draws us near. This is the meaning behind the Draw Near necklace.

Have you experienced a deep soul connection with your child, spouse or friend? Tell me about it!

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love makes us whole

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

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

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

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

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

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

love makes us whole

While none of us would wish for pain

Pain makes us tender

Tenderness nurtures compassion

Compassion helps us forgive

Forgiveness teaches grace

Grace gives us hope

Hope makes us brave

Bravery enables us to love

Love makes us whole

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the beauty of emptiness

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

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

the beauty of emptiness lisa leonard 12

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

the beauty of emptiness2

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

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

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the most important thing

david, finding love, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 8, 2016 83 Comments

the most important thing lisa leonard-01

We were nervous, but felt mostly ready to have our first baby. Toward the end of my pregnancy, we had tiny clothes, washed, folded and tucked into drawers. We had a crib with cozy, blue plaid bedding. We had a stroller and carseat ready to go. At my 38 week prenatal appointment, everything in our world was about to be turned upside down. We were most definitely not ready for what was about to happen.

Our routine visit began with an ultrasound. I could see the puzzled look on our doctor’s face. There were long pauses, note taking, comparing notes, checking and double checking, and then the question, “Are you sure we have the due date right? The baby’s measuring small. “

I was absolutely certain we had the due date correct. His words rung in my ears. I’d been careful to plan out the details as we prepared for our baby’s birth, but somehow I hadn’t worried about the right thing. Not that worrying would have changed one single thing. Something was wrong with our baby.

The next days were filled with a visit to the specialist, being admitted to the hospital, tears, worry and waiting. On July 4, 2002 our David was born. He was 4lbs, 2oz, had a full head of hair, a button nose, only two fingers on his left hand and a massive heart defect.

All of a sudden we had a lot of questions.

Will David survive?

Did I do something that caused this syndrome?

Will our friends and family accept our new baby?

Will we ever experience joy again?

We felt out of control. We were out of control.

On July 11, when David was seven days old, we sat down with a geneticist to discuss his diagnosis. We were new parents with broken hearts. We were at the beginning of one of the hardest parts of our journey. The geneticist could have shared meaningful statistics or current research to answer our questions. Instead he gave us deep wisdom into how to parent our new baby.

What did we do wrong?

What will David’s life look like?

How severely is our son affected by this syndrome?

Will David be okay? Are we going to be okay? What do we do next?

He calmly met our eyes. He spoke tender words with profound truth. “You’ll just have to get to know David to find out who he is.” He told us it was impossible to say how David’s life look. If we had a typical child, he couldn’t tell us how intelligent, creative, determined or successful he would be. His advice was to love our son, just the way he was, right at that moment.

Of all the questions, it really came down to one, foundational question.

“Will you love him as he is?”

We weren’t in control of the events leading up to David’s birth. We had no idea what the future held. But we were given the best, most important advice any parent can receive.

The most important advice any person can receive.

Love.

Love him just the way he is.

the most important thing3 lisa leonard

In the midst of all the questions and worry, we had the one thing we needed most. Love. And amazingly, this tiny baby was about to teach us how to love more deeply and more purely than we ever imagined.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room, talking to a geneticist, we learned one of life’s most important lessons. And although we’ve grown a lot, it’s a lesson we’re still learning.

The most important thing is love.

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what a pity

david, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 3, 2016 88 Comments
IMG_0452

Last week at the grocery store I made eye contact with the woman behind me. She glanced at David with sad eyes, then looked back at me and shook her head. She saw his small hand with only two fingers. She heard him vocalizing sounds that didn’t form words. She could tell he had a disability.

Pity. That’s what she felt for David. Her face spoke a thousand words. I fought back the stinging tears and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I turned around, pulled my shoulders back and stood up straighter. I looked at David and focused on the mischievous twinkle in his eye and the sweet smile on his lips. I took a moment and soaked him in.

If worth is measured by academic achievement and college degrees, we have a very sad situation.
If value is determined by dollars in your bank account or the car you drive, we have reason to worry.
If quality of life is based on athletic ability or the physical beauty, David is excluded.
But, if worth is determined by a loving God who knows you by name, then we have hope.
So much hope.
If value is measured belly laughs that begin in your toes, and pure joy that radiates from your soul, then we are rich.
If quality of life is based hugs and kisses and cuddles, then we certainly don’t need pity. We have everything we need.

Yes, David’s body is broken–he has a disability. There are many things in life he will never accomplish. But those things don’t determine his worth or value.
His heart is whole. His soul is strong and powerful. He freely gives and receives love. When I look at him, I feel no pity. When I look at him, I’m overcome with admiration. Then I take him in my arms and squeeze him as tightly as I can.
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the making of a family

family, the meaning behind the jewelry By March 1, 2016 6 Comments

Family doesn’t flourish or break in one moment.

It’s not defined by a perfect, smiling picture.

It isn’t shaken by a stressful morning of rushing and yelling.

Family is nurtured over months and years. It’s the process of growing together.
Family doesn’t require perfection, but depends on forgiveness.

the making of a family lisa leonard 2

Family is bed head and a good cup of coffee

Family is a sink of dirty dishes after a pancake breakfast.

Family is silly texts and handwritten love notes.

Family is a hurt feelings followed by bear hugs.

Family is a cozy blanket, a cuddle on the couch and a good movie after a long day.

Family is an inside joke that lasts for years.

Family is staying by your side when you’re sick.

Family is sharing your toys and sharing your heart.
Family is an umbrella on a rainy day.

the making of a family lisa leonard

Family is shaped by laughter and tears,
adventure and routine,
the magical and the mundane.
Family is the vulnerability of being known and the relief of being loved just the same.

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you are enough

finding beauty, the meaning behind the jewelry By February 25, 2016 15 Comments
you are enough-01
Guilt says do more, be more

Grace says be still and rest

Guilt condemns

Grace forgives

Guilt screams and yells

Grace whispers kind words

Guilt gives up

Grace moves forward

Guilt scratches and claws

Grace soothes and comforts

Guilt piles on

Grace lightens the load

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Guilt brings despair
Grace is a ray hope

Guilt points the finger

Grace is a hand to hold

Guilt rolls it’s eyes

Grace smiles with warmth

Guilt is a liar

Grace is a truth teller

Guilt says you’ll never be enough
Grace says you are enough, just as you are
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