Maybe love doesn’t last

finding love By February 2, 2016 62 Comments

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When Steve and I got married almost 17 years ago, I had love figured out. Or at least, I thought I did. We vowed to love each other ‘for better or for worse’. I had the ‘better’ part all planned out. We would work hard, save our money, buy a cute little house, have a couple kids and keep on loving each other and having fun—just like we did while we were dating and engaged. I was confident we could avoid the ‘worse’ part. I mean, nobody loved each other like we did! We were going to beat the odds. Sure, we’d have the occasional argument—but that’s normal. We knew how to communicate and listen to each other. We had found true love and we were going to make it last.

Then life, in all it’s crazy, imperfectness began to get real.  Sometimes it was big stuff—like having a baby with a disability or getting fired from a job. Sometimes it was just the normal, every day stuff—the stress of grocery shopping on a tight budget or car trouble. I began to have hours, days, sometimes weeks were I didn’t feel that love I felt when we got married. But then we would reconnect. The love was still there {what a relief!}. Although it looked different. It didn’t feel new and shiny. It felt normal and comfortable. Love grows, love changes, that’s what love does, I told myself.

Then ten years into our marriage we started to see marriages around us crumble.  Close friends separated. A couple that mentored us split up. Sometimes it was an affair, sometimes it was just unhappiness. We couldn’t believe it. These were the people who showed us what made love last–and their love wasn’t lasting. It was unsettling and scary. In my own heart, I began to feel discontent.  A scary little thought crept in—maybe love doesn’t last.

We have walked through our own hard times–fighting, feeling disconnected, not understanding each other. There have been times where the anger and hurt feels much stronger than the love. I’ve wondered if our love was ever true. Maybe we weren’t well matched. Maybe we made a mistake. I suspect every marriage goes through these dark times. I think it’s the rule, not the exception.

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It seems true love gives all it has, breaks down, then reconnects to heal. A new love begins where the old love left off. Perhaps love is a journey of holding on to each other, even when you want to let go? True love is more about forgiveness than feelings. It’s more about giving than getting. It finds it’s hope in humility. Love begins, it breaks down, it begins again. Where love began is not where it will end. We will be broken and changed and hopefully over the years, with a lot of grace, we will find ourselves in a marriage that has lasted, defined by a love that has been renewed again and again.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast.

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking.

It is not easily angered.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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Risky, Messy Love

family, finding love, Louis and Beasley, matthias By January 19, 2016 10 Comments

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The other day, as I was driving the boys to school, Matthias told me he loves our new pugs so much it makes him sad.

I asked him what he meant, and he explained, “I feel so much love for them—but what if they get hurt or sick or worse, die? I would be so sad. Just the thought of it makes my heart heavy.”

I sighed and nodded. I knew exactly what he meant. I feel those same feelings and worry every day. Not just for our dogs {I mean, I love those doggies!} but even more so having children, committing to a husband, sharing life with sisters who are dear to my heart, it’s amazing and it’s terrifying.

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Love is vulnerable.

Love is a risk.

Love is messy. Always.

Love isn’t safe.

If we love deeply and honestly, we’ll most likely get hurt.

But if we protect our hearts and keep them safe, we miss out on, well, the best of what life brings.

Because love is imperfect, we’re imperfect—flawed in all of our good intentions, living in bodies that will eventually fail us.

It’s heart-breaking.

But it’s also breath-taking.

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Love makes the journey not only bearable, but beautiful.

Love may break our hearts but it also heals them.

Love eases our pain and comforts our souls in a way that’s impossible to understand.

To be loved is everything.

And so, these two sweet dogs have walked into our lives, made them sweeter and unexpectedly, they’re teaching us about love and life. And that is no small thing.

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meeting joely {our sponsored daughter}

dominican republic, finding love By February 24, 2015 12 Comments

On Friday, last week, we met Joely, our sponsored daughter through Compassion. I was nervous to meet her–would she be shy? Would she like us? I guess I didn’t need to worry. You guys, she completely stole our hearts.

I say sponsored ‘daughter’ because seeing firsthand how families view sponsorship is amazing. The consider you family and are so grateful for the sponsor. If you have considered adoption, but aren’t able to take that leap, sponsorship is an amazing alternative.

Joely needs a couple surgeries–cleft palate repair and cornea replacement {for her left eye}. We will be talking with Compassion further to see how we can help with the surgeries. We chose Joely because children with special needs are so close to our hearts. You guys, she is FULL of spunk and personality. Getting to hold her, getting to play with her made my heart explode with gratefulness. Sponsoring a child through Compassion is life-changing for them. And for us, too.

We brought her a few small gifts–this stuffed fox she named Didi, stickers, paper and crayons. It really broke the ice to have a couple gifts and to have some activities to do together.

She was a little shy at first but warmed up quickly. And once she was warmed up, she was silly and bossy. She had us laughing so hard.

Didi got lots of stickers put all over her.

Joely lives with her mother, grandmother and grandfather. She really latched on to Steve and wanted lots of piggyback rides and cuddles.

We also brought Joely a necklace so she would remember the she is ‘so very loved’. Seeing that necklace around her neck was heart-melting. This is the same necklace that Compassion is sending as a gift to anyone who sponsors a child. Precious.

I love her. Can you tell?

Above, Steve and Joely give Didi, the stuffed fox, kisses.

Before our trip, I knew child sponsorship was important, but I had no idea how life-changing it is. A sponsored child will escape poverty. The will have amazing opportunities because someone is willing to spare a few dollars a month.

Steve and I are trying to figure out how many more kiddos we can sponsor. Each of these children is absolutely precious. When a child finds out she has been sponored, the family rejoices–it’s HUGE. It’s life-changing. And the letters sent from sponors are treasures. The kids read them over and over and cling to the words of someone miles away who loves them. It’s truly humbling how so little can do so much in someone’s life.

This week we are donating 10% of all sales to Compassion International’s unsponsored children’s fund. This fund helps care for kids who have been accepted into the program but are not yet sponsored by an individual. Click here to shop.

And will you please sponsor a child or two? It’s a beautiful thing.

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investing in love

david, finding love By January 31, 2015 No Comments

The fall mornings are always chilly even though after a couple hours the sun comes out to warm everything. Before we leave the house, I pull a warm vest around David and strap him snuggly into his car seat. As we arrive at school, I slide open the van door, give him a kiss on the cheek and lift him from the car.

David has special needs. He was born with a rare genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange. Because of his syndrome, he doesn’t use words to communicate, he has only two fingers on his left hand and he depends on us to feed and diaper him. David is very relational and loves to cuddle and hug—but he is cautious with new people. At times he voids eye contact and prefers to play alone.

At the beginning of the school year, he took hesitant steps toward the classroom, pulling on my hand and trying to slow my pace. It was a new school with new faces to get to know. Every morning, his teacher would bend down and with a big smile on her face, and welcome David to school. For weeks it went like this, hesitant steps culminating in a warm welcome and a fairly disinterested David.

But she persisted. She showed love and kindness to David. She invested in him…

I’m sharing at {in}courage today. Hop over to read the rest of the post. 

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Loving Each Other in the Mundane

finding love By January 22, 2015 64 Comments

Married life is so different than I thought it would be.  When we were young and in love, I was sure we would be the couple that would beat the odds—and you know what, in some ways, we have. But it’s nothing like I expected. I thought true love was fluttery feelings and never disagreeing.

“Okay,” I used to think, “we can have the occasional disagreement, as long as we communicate well, listen to each other and resolvd things in a calm, healthy manner.”. But marriage isn’t usually so neat and tidy.

Now I think true love is something altogether different. It’s actually deeper and more profound than I used to think.

Steve and I are well matched. During pre-marital counseling, our pastor had us take an assessment to help us identify ‘red flag’ areas where conflict would likely arise. When the results of the assessment came back, there were no red flag areas. Sure we had different backgrounds and slightly different perspectives on some things, but overall we approached life with similar beliefs. We exhaled a huge sigh of relief. We were going to be okay.

We got married, decorated our apartment, and stepped into life thinking we had it figured out. We had a solid friendship and we truly enjoyed being together—but we didn’t have a clue about what life was about to throw our way. We started off optimistic and in love, then real life happened all around us. We’ve been through some crazy, hard stuff—depression, getting fired from a job, friends divorcing and having a baby with a severe disability. We’ve held each other and cried with grief in moments so dark we could hardly see a way forward. Through those rough waters I have been so glad to have him by my side

We’ve also had some amazing experiences together—walking the red carpet with Gerard Butler at a movie premier in Los Angeles, attending a ball in Ginezno, Poland, sipping tea in an old estate home in England, oh, and building a thriving business together. We’ve done things I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to experience. I remember moments, staring into each other’s eyes, and not being able to hold all the joy inside. And through those fairytale moments, I have been so glad to have him by my side. His smile, his friendship, his sense of humor makes the exceptional even better.

But after 15 years of marriage, I no longer believe it’s the highs and lows that make or break a marriage. The lowest lows and the highest highs are the exception to the rule. And while they may be extremely difficult or hugely exciting, they don’t define a marriage. It’s day to day life that makes or breaks a marriage. The drain of the mundane can be exhausting. We work together, raise our boys together and live life together. It’s busy and stressful. Sometimes, after the boys are in bed, and we are both sitting on the couch catching up on our favorite BBC show, I wonder why it feels like there is a wall between us.  Those bricks pile up one at a time—a small comment that hurts or being too tired to share details from the day. Each one doesn’t seem like a big deal, but over days and weeks they pile up to create a wall. Sure, these bricks can be torn down, but it takes vulnerability. Someone has to reach out to the other person with a hug, kiss, or a kind word. The same fatigue from the every day stress of life, the stress which allowed the wall to go up, makes it hard to tear it down.

I used to think highs and lows put strain on a marriage—but now I see it’s more than that. The every day stress of life is what makes marriage so challenging {and so beautiful}. Every day we have to fight the distance that wants to creep in and build a wall between us. I wake up in the morning to Steve making breakfast for our family and give him a little kiss. And bricks come down. Sometimes I slip a little note into his bag that says, “You are brave.” And bricks come down. Every day we have to hold each other, listen to each other, and share our hearts with each other. It isn’t fancy, but it matters. It isn’t complicated but it’s not simple either. Marriages are built in the little, everyday moments of life. Marriages are broken through the everyday strain of life and the drain of the mundane.

As I sit here reflecting on how different married life is from what I expected, I feel grateful that I married my best friend. I am grateful that he and I are committed to breaking down walls and fighting the distance. Together we are learning to be more vulnerable and to love each other better in the midst of the mundane.

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*brand new* nativity set! {love}

finding love, inspiration By October 14, 2014 12 Comments

OH MY GOSH!

Friends, I have been working on this project for a year! It’s been such a labor of love. I started it as a gift for my nieces and nephews. I wanted them to have a keepsake to treasure year after year that reflects the true heart of Christmas.

As it started coming together, I knew I had to share it with YOU as well!

Our brand new nativity includes 15 hand-molded pieces and a stable made from California Oak wine barrels and a story book with the Christmas story.

Molding baby Jesus was a truly humbling thing. How can one capture something so meaningful, life changing, world changing and hope-filled?

There are three wisemen, a shepherd and six hand-crafted animals. The pieces range from 1/2″-2″ each. Precious.

Each nativity includes a story book that tells the Christmas story and has questions to help kids {and adults} understand the meaning of the nativity.

Joy has come to the world!

Today we are offering a very limited edition nativity with a few very special features.

*Baby Jesus is finished in gold
*Marking from California Oak wine barrel are visible
*Bottom of stable is signed and numbered by me

Growing up, the nativity was part of our Christmas celebration every year. After we went to sleep on Christmas eve, my parents would place Baby Jesus in the manger and we would wake up to find him there. We read Luke 2 together and talked about the gift that Jesus gave us on Christmas.

Do you have a nativity tradition to share?

Click here to see the new nativity set! {There are only 100 limited edition sets, so don’t wait!}

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a brother’s words…

family, finding love By March 1, 2014 5 Comments

Matthias is ten years old and David is eleven. Matthias is the younger brother, but because his older brother was born with special needs, he functions as the big brother. At school, he was given a writing assignment to share thoughts on someone he cares deeply about. He chose his brother, David. His teacher shared the essay with us at our parent/teacher conference and I was, of course, tearing up at his sweet words and insights. Can I share it with you?

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My Brother, David
By Matthias Leonard, age 10

A person I have strong feelings about is my brother. His name is David Stephen Leonard. The reasons I have very strong feelings about him is because he has a birth disease called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.He has two fingers on one hand and five on the other.

I’m sharing over at {in}courage today. Hop over to read the rest of Matthias’ essay.

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I’m so glad you’re you.

david, finding love By February 4, 2014 8 Comments

for david…

I’m so glad you’re not like I expected you to be.

I’m so glad you have your own passions and hobbies.

I’m so glad you came along and turned everything upside down.

I’m so glad you aren’t perfect. I’m not either.

I’m so glad you changed my idea of what’s beautiful.

I’m so glad you showed me how to be a mom.

I’m so glad you love to be silly.

I’m so glad you’re you.

Because you are truly amazing.

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unexpected blessings

an everyday moment, finding love By December 31, 2013 15 Comments

I always imagined myself with little girls. When I got pregnant with David, I was disappointed to find out I was having a boy. Then with my second pregnancy, I hoped for a girl again, and Matthias came along.

Of course, when David was born, his disability was a shock. And although it brings it’s own challenges, it has made me kinder, softer and taught me so much. I wouldn’t have asked for that, but I’m thankful for David and the beauty he brings to every day.

These pictures serve to remind me that i have no idea what I want. These boys are the best! I couldn’t ask for more.

I didn’t ask for this, and yet, I find myself overwhelmed by my blessings. As we approach a new year, I don’t know what God has in store, but I want to have an open heart to the gifts he gives. Sometimes I don’t know what to ask for, but He knows what I need.

What unexpected blessings are you thankful for today?

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life lessons from david

david, finding beauty, finding love By November 22, 2013 42 Comments

David is eleven and a half years old. Sometimes I have to stop and absorb that–it seems like just yesterday he came into our lives and turned everything upside down {and made life BETTER}. When he arrived I felt broken to bits, but as we regrouped and healed, I began to grow and learn. He’s taught me about what’s important and what’s not. He lives life with passion–and I want to be like that, too.

But lately, I don’t know, it’s like he’s growing and changing and doing new things every day. He’ll walk up and take my hand and lead me to the front door–letting me know that he’s ready to go out for an adventure. Or he’ll climb up on the couch next to me and lay his head on my shoulder–completely melting my heart. When I arrive to pick him up from school, a huge smile takes over his face and he throws his arms around my neck. At dinner, he pushes away the spoon if it’s food he doesn’t want and pushes my hand toward the food he does want. He’s able to communicate his preferences and initiate affection–and with each step of growth it’s like a window into his soul. I know him better and I understand him more. It deepens our connection and it makes my heart want to explode

Here are some life lessons David’s been teaching me lately.

1. Give kisses. Lots and lots of kisses {over and over}

2. Take baths whenever you want. Take multiple bathes a day. If you’re dirty, sad, your tummy hurts or if you just need a good soak–go hop in the tub.

3. Hold hands whenever possible.

4. Eat your favorite foods every day–especially vanilla yogurt.

5. Smile at strangers

6. Music heals the soul and should be played as loud as possible all hours of the day and night.

7. Always keep a cozy blanket nearby

8. Don’t hold a grudge. It’s not worth it.

9. Jump in puddles and dig in the dirt.

10. Soak up THIS moment and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Oh friends, just writing this list is making me tear up. I want to live more simply and soak up the moment. I want to be happy and not grumpy. Are you learning any life lessons lately?

 

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