Lisa Leonard Designs

reflecting back.

November 5th | older posts



I was sharing with a friend yesterday how broken i was when david was born.  i remember sobbing with steve in my hospital room.  life was over, and i would never experience joy again.  i looked out the window of my hospital room and noticed a huge oak tree.  we had driven by that oak tree every time we went to lamaze classes, every time we had a doctor visit and the day i was admitted to the hospital.  it seemed so strange to see that oak tree standing there.  the world had crumbled around me–how could that oak tree still be standing there?  grief enveloped us.  i couldn’t pretend to be okay.  i existed in a state of numbness and pain.  nothing made sense anymore.  a minute lasted an hour and a week felt like a year.


looking back, it’s amazing how different i feel today.  david has brought us so much joy.  he fills my heart with love and gratitude.  during that time, no one could tell me “it will be okay, you’ll find joy”.  i had to walk through the sorrow.  i had to heal in my own time.  i had to fall in love with david and learn that, sometimes,  joy comes from the unexpected.  there are moments, days, where i still grieve david’s missing fingers or medical issues.  there are days i wish he could run and play like his brother.  but reflecting back, i can confidently say, the joy far outweighs the pain.

69 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been and I am so glad that the joy far outweighs the pain. Every picture you post of him shows such a happy boy, and what a brilliant family to have been born into.

  2. Noelle White says:

    Please pat yourself on the shoulder for me…or better yet…give yourself a big hug. You are an incredible mom! I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed watching David’s triumphs through your blog.

  3. Beautiful, incredible, humbling, inspiring. You walk the talk, Lisa.

  4. Becky says:

    I love reading your blog Lisa and hearing about your family, seeing your new pieces of jewelry, and being encouraged! Thanks for sharing your heart and although I have never been in your shoes I pray that if I ever am I can a mother who seeks for joy to outweigh the pain and is able to as great of a job as a mother as you!

  5. hannah m says:

    Lisa, I found your blog over 2 years ago when I was in the midst of my own broken, grief-filled, “how can that oak tree still be standing there?” time. It seemed like we were discovering new health issues with my newborn baby girl each day, and I was a mess who, like you, thought I would never feel joy again.

    Two years later, my life is filled with so much joy and laughter and glee. There is some sadness, too – but I so agree with you – the joy outweighs the pain in a big way.

    Thank you for your part in my own journey – you gave me a glimmer of hope and perspective in a time when I had none. The “i carry your heart with me” necklace I ordered from you before my daughter’s heart surgery two years ago can still be found hanging from my neck each and every day.

  6. Karen says:

    Amazing and so beautiful. God bless you and your family.

  7. Wendy says:

    Lisa…I am mostly a silent reader of your blog…I don’t comment on your posts, although they always brighten my day. Today I needed to respond. I am a physical therapist and I work with children and adults like David. So many times others will ask me, “Isn’t it depressing?” And my answer is always an emphatic “No!” I have learned so much from the special people I work with – the importance of living in the moment, the simple things that bring us joy, the warmth of a smile or a hug which comes directly from the heart. I have also learned the importance of laughter. Life is so much more than what we see on the outside…it is what is inside that brings us joy. Thank you for posting this…I love your photos of David…and I can see not only HIS joy, but yours as well.

  8. Stefanie says:

    Nice post – your words are beautifully written! So inspiring, too! You should seriously consider writing as something else to dive into – it too is as beautiful as your jewelry! :) I do enjoy reading your blog so much! Have a great day!

    Your boys are such cuties! And after seeing the froggie rainboots in one of your blog posts I had to run out and get some for my son – he loves them and they’re a hit in our house!

  9. Sarah says:

    God is so good even when those hard times come. When we feel defeated by uncontrollable circumstances, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:57]

  10. Susan says:

    You are an amazing women. Life surely has a way of surprising us. With God anything is possible. Thanks for helping me to look for the silver lining.

  11. Dayle says:

    Beautiful post. Children are a gift from God, each wrapped in their own unique way. David is blessed to have such devoted parents.

  12. Melinda says:

    Beautiful. The oak tree is a perfect symbol for how life has a way of going on. Perhaps it will be inspiration for a new design. You have an amazing family!

  13. Faith says:

    Mom’s of special needs children are heroes. Every day is a challenge. I dislike the phrase that God only gives you what you can handle. Some days are overwhelming.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I am glad to hear this. Thank you for sharing; such a good reminder. David is a beautiful boy.

  15. julie says:

    you and david are beautiful… you are blessed!

  16. Gwynnie says:

    Joy is a beautiful thing. It comes with different voices and different bodies, but overall the joy far outweighs the pain. And the big oak tree knew this! Thank you for sharing, Lisa!

  17. Joanie says:

    Lisa, you and Steve and your sons are so special and so dear. Thank you for honestly relaying the thoughts on your heart, and encouraging us. You truly are an inspiration.

  18. Julie says:

    I understand 100 percent and can relate to everything that you wrote. I remember when Collin was born and it hit me… “This is not going to be anything like I thought it was.”….. You know what??… It isn’t anything like I thought it would be… it is better!!! I am so lucky to have a little man that daily teaches me and inspires me. Not everyone is that lucky! We belong to a VERY special club you and I … and for that I am grateful!

  19. Bethany says:

    As I read this and about your oak tree this verse came to mind: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3) What amazing things He does when we think all is broken and wrong. And what a beautiful family He as given you. What a joy to be able to peek in on it – thanks for sharing your heart.

  20. Cindy B says:

    You should design a jewelery pendant with a tree stamped no it. Such an inspriational story and great metaphor (is that the correct word?) to remember as we go through life. No matter what happens in life, we need to stay solid and true to our foundations in life – such like the tree. We can sway with changes, but still we are rooted in who and what we are.

  21. michelle says:

    Hi Lisa, I so can relate to what you have written about David. My husband and experience a very similiar circumstance as you and your husband did on David’s birth — thank you for sharing and touching so many with your words.

  22. Misty says:

    i was there too.. and YOUR blog and DAVID helped me through the darkness! and although i don’t comment all of the time, your blog continues to help me every day!

    i look back on the past two years with Mason, and he has brought us so much sunshine and joy.. he makes us laugh and smile everyday! i wouldn’t have imagined that to be possible in those first days. i too had thoughts of my life being over and i questioned myself over and over ‘Can i do this?’….

    thank you so much for being there. for sharing your honesty and beautty! (and your fabulous jewelery 😉 you have helped so many of us Lisa! I take great comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in this journey with CdLS.. :)

  23. Tiffany says:

    This was beautiful Lisa. Your son David, what a beautiful little boy he is.

  24. angie says:

    darn i am crying…hes just a beautiful boy so are you and family too!!!!!!!!! (((Hugs)))

  25. Melody says:

    I totally agree. We can’t compare this little ones to anyone else but themselves. They are truly individual. Good luck through your journey.

  26. Tiffany says:

    You are an inspiration! Thank you for reminding ME to find joy in all things in my life! No matter what our life circumstances are – they are OUR circumstances and its up to all of us to embrace those, live in the now and be thankful for ALL we have! My eyes are filled with tears – and that’s a good thing!

    Have a blessed day!

  27. Stephanie says:


    Got to your blog from another link….and WOW…..CdLS, right? I, too, had a CdLS angel and experienced all the same emotions when she was born. Unfortunately, her time with us was only 18 months, but in that short time, our lives were changed forever. I am so very grateful, each and every day, for the gift she was and the lessons I learned that are with me EVERY SINGLE DAY. She was beauty in imperfection……and the strongest little thing I’ve ever known. Congratulations for finding the joy again… is good!

  28. katerina says:

    hi lisa,
    blast from the past here. :)
    i came across your blog and am so touched to read your story. your writings are very inspiring.
    i also love your jewelry design!
    a hug and kiss to you and your sisters


  29. Tammy says:

    Your “Oak Tree” reminds me of one of my favorite quotes … “Tall oaks from little acorns grow” … I even stitched it onto one of my children’s birth records. It seems an appropriate phrase for your little David, too!
    I agree with the other commenter who suggested a jewelry piece with an oak tree! (Perhaps with the words ‘little acorn’ at the base of the tree.)

  30. Paige says:

    Thank you for always being so real on your blog! Your sweet family is so inspiring. As a mother with a child with special needs I know your feelings well and it is so good to see that so much joy can come out of such difficult situations. God bless!

  31. Theresa says:

    We don’t know eachother. I lurk and sometimes comment. I must say….

    I love you! You exemplify God’s Grace.

  32. Becky says:

    nothing i can think of to write seems to convey the right sentiment … yup, ditto, me too, preach it sister …
    I’ll never forget the geneticist saying “it’s not going to change how much you love her.” i didn’t get it at the time … but now i say every day how thankful i am that God gave me ‘an Emma’!

  33. Kimberly says:

    Lump in my throat, wow! It is amazing how LOVE, true unconditional love is so beautiful!

  34. Hillary says:

    During a time when the state of the world makes me feel nervous and uncertain, your blog posts always give me strength. By reading what you have overcome, you make me realize that I can face anything and come out stronger. Thank you for being a beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs more light.

  35. Amy Gregg says:

    Thank you.

  36. Tara says:

    Wow. Tears were filling my eyes. I love reading your blog and wearing your jewelry and sometimes feel like we are family. David is a blessing from above. Times can sometimes be difficult and I know that we become tired and feel like we are being broke down. Just remember that with GOD on our side, Nothings Gonna Stop Us! Your family is so fortunate to have you as a mother and wife.

  37. Jessica says:

    beautiful. thank you so much for this reminder.

  38. Paula Warlick says:

    All moms have a since of doubt,etc… when their child is born and your world was truly turned upside down and all around. I love your honesty and know others who face these moments in life are inspired as well. I know that I am. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Lisa says:

    Your blog made me smile………..9 years ago when our special-needs son Jack was born prematurely, a nun at a monastery in our area told me repeatedly that Jack was going to be just fine. At the time, I thought she meant that he’d be “normal”, and of course we hoped that he would be, but now I realize that she meant that things would be fine but just not as we expected!! He learns and grows every day and has made us such better people by just having him in our lives. I see many similarities between Jack and David and I read your blog every day. You’re an inspiration!

  40. Jennifer says:

    David has been a blessing and joy to you, but he also brings a lot of joy to people who don’t even know him. Your blog is beautiful and inspiring. I love to hear of David’s progress, and I love to see his smile. Beautiful.

  41. Heidi @ ggip says:

    Wonderful post. I do remember someone telling me about 16 months ago how blessed I would be as a special needs mom. I couldn’t understand it yet but that promise gave me some extra hope as I was coping. And it is wonderful how I am coming to understand it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  42. lisa says:

    So amazing, Lisa. You brought tears to my eyes and I recall that often God’s biggest blessings cause some of the greatest pain in the beginning. How very blessed you are. Here’s to many more years of joy to come, sister!

  43. Caroline says:

    As an adult with a tiny disabilty, I am so grateful to my parents for their unconditional acceptance and love, and for leading me to find the same, but stronger, from God. I love the way that I had as normal a life as I possibly could. I know that they played a very large part in helping me to be the whole and secure person I am today. When I read your blog and see the way you and your husband love, accept, play with, and live with your two sons, I am moved to tears because I can understand, in a small way, the importance, the strength, the blessing and the wonder of what you give to them each day as their parents – all 4 of you are truly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing so much with us

  44. Staci says:

    Great post Lisa—I to have felt those same emotions–it seems so recent, but yet so long ago…Funny how they tend to creep back up when you least expect it. I find myself more and more not grieving, but relishing in the joy my Vinny has brought to our lives! I used to sometimes wish that I could take the CdLS away and have him “typical”, but now I KNOW I would NEVER change him for the world! He has taught me and my family way to much and we have grown in ways that we never knew we could!!!!

    Hugs Staci and Vinny :)

  45. Kathy Eller says:

    Thank you so so much for your honesty. It is so easy to look at someone, especially in this medium and think how “she is so cool” and “she can make the best of things” and not know that it has been a process. You are an encouragment to us all!!

    Im getting teary eyed reading the above comments KNOWING that you have been an encouragement already.

    <3 Kathy

  46. Rachelle says:

    I was broken once too. I walked through the sorrow, fought the pain and grief and our family has emerged winners. Winners because we too share the unbelievable joy of having someone with CdLS to love in our lives. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wouldn’t have been so disheartened the first time I heard the words Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. I hope someday David and Joey can meet. They would have a fabulous time together.

  47. Daniele says:

    Here is something a parent of a differently-abled child once shared with me. As a special educator these words remind me of the reasons I get up everyday to teach. I hope that you can take something good from it:
    “Instead of walking; I will crawl with you.
    Instead of focusing on what you cannot do; I will reward you with love for wath you can do.
    Instead of isolating you; I will create adventures for you.
    Instead of feeling sorry for you; I will respect you.”

    All the best to you and your beautiful family!

  48. Beck says:

    This was so beautiful to read. At first I didn’t quite understand your pain but by the end I could see more clearly what has happened in your life. Your boys both look like very loved and happy children and it is you and your partner that help create this for them. All parenting is challenging and some people have more to deal with than others. I suppose it comes down to how you handle it and this can of course change from day to day. I admire you for talking so honestly about your struggles, your acceptance and your joy. Thankyou xo

  49. Michelle P says:

    There are moments of complete and utter sadness and anger but the joy and the accomplishments and the laughter and the determination all make those dark moments pass. My Zoe is 6 and I remember wanting to take my girl and run away from everyone’s prying eyes when she was born. Now she is the apple of many people’s eyes and I am grateful that she picked me to be her mommy and that God thought I was the right person to raise this amazing individual who helps bring everyone around her to a place closer to fine :) Your sons seem amazing and they get it from you and your hubby – you should be proud!

  50. dawn says:

    David is blessed to have you as his mama, and you are so blessed to have him as your son. You allow God to give you the grace you need to walk this path with David. He is certainly adorable. God shines through the whole story and through your writing.

  51. shannon stinson says:

    i think this post was beautiful! i want to say so much more! the feelings are so deep, i can’t put the words down for you to see. so all i can say, is this is beautiful. your family is beautiful. david is beautiful. and the JOY is beautiful. thank you for sharing it all with us.

  52. Tamra says:

    Lisa, the pictures of David laughing and smiling bring joy to my day each time I sign on to your blog! EVERY child deserves love and happiness. He is so very fortunate to have parents who know that. Hang in there and surround yourself with those who love him like you do and he will be just fine and so will you.

  53. Mimi says:

    God’s gifts put man’s dreams to shame.

  54. Maureen says:

    what an unexpected blessing God bestowed upon your life. I love your honesty and clarity, comparing today with the past. beautiful.

  55. Tina B. says:

    Wow! This really touched my heart! Thank you for sharing!

  56. What was meant for bad, God can turn into good. I have seen it in my own life. What was meant to destroy you, God can use to build you. You are an overcomer. Don’t ever believe otherwise.

  57. Maureen says:

    I’ve been a lurker for ages but I just wanted you to know how beautiful that post was.

    I’ve had two kids with CdLS — my daughter is 2 and my son passed away when he was three months old — so I’ve had many oak tree moments too. Life doesn’t always turn out as we plan but that’s OK too. There is joy after the sorrow.

    Of course, I still grieve for what will never be but than I try to remember all that I have. And it’s soooo much. And I’m so thankful.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing. Your blog is lovely — gorgeous pictures and posts. I feel like I’m reading Real Simple magazine (which I love) every time I visit.

  58. Kristin T says:

    When I read this post, I thought of this poem. I bought it years ago on a card. I thought I’d share.

    A mighty wind blew night and day
    It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
    Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
    Until the oak was tired and stark

    But still the oak tree held its ground
    While other trees fell all around
    The weary wind gave up and spoke.
    How can you still be standing Oak?

    The oak tree said, I know that you
    Can break each branch of mine in two
    Carry every leaf away
    Shake my limbs, and make me sway

    But I have roots stretched in the earth
    Growing stronger since my birth
    You’ll never touch them, for you see
    They are the deepest part of me

    Until today, I wasn’t sure
    Of just how much I could endure
    But now I’ve found, with thanks to you
    I’m stronger than I ever knew

  59. Robbin says:

    God knew what He was doing when He placed David into your lives. And to be able to share in the life you have is such a blessing. I sure do miss seeing you and your boys coming to the office to visit Steve. Seeing you all together is just a joy and to see the joy on your faces with your boys and see their joy, it’s just beautiful. Watching David walk made me come to tears, especially knowing what the doctors had told you to expect. They just didn’t know David had a Physician who could work miracles. Love you guys. Give Steve a hug for me.

  60. donna says:

    What a loving post. And all those loving comments. So many good people in this world. You are a beautiful family that radiates happiness. Keep up the good work.

  61. Karen says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. David looks like such a big boy in your photos!

  62. Marty Mason says:

    Thanks for sharing the joy your family has in your children. They are both so beautiful. I smile with each photo you post of them.

  63. You’re absolutely inspirational for your strength and your positive outlook. David is a beautiful child, and those pictures really capture what a happy little guy he is. You’re obviously doing something right, and I love that you choose to share your little moments with us!

  64. Debbie says:

    There is so, so much joy, isn’t there? Much more than I ever anticipated. God is good!

  65. Laura says:

    Trust me, I know. I have been there. Hugs to you.

  66. Beth says:

    i, too, have a child with special needs. betsy is so different from her brothers and sister, yet, so much the same. i grieved, and sometimes, still have very rough days (she’s now, 5). this was beautifully written and so eloquent. being betsy’s mother is my proudest ‘accompishment’ in many ways. being her mother, also, got me an all expenses paid lifetime membership to a club that i wished i didn’t belong. a bittersweet blessing. your post made me smile through tears. it’s good to know that i’m not alone. thanks!

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