Lisa Leonard Designs

Ten years later

July 3rd | finding love, thoughts

David turns ten tomorrow. TEN years old. That means he has been in our lives for a decade. Ten is a milestone. Ten means double digits. Ten is a big, big birthday.

When David was a baby I referred to ‘ten’ as somewhere far out in the distant future. I would say things like, “When David is ten, I don’t want to be feeding him with a tube. I want him to eat by mouth.” or “When David is ten he should be able to walk on his own and follow directions.”  Ten was so far away that it seemed it would never come.

And now ten is here. Somehow a decade has passed since we held that teeny tiny baby in our arms for the first time and felt like our lives had just crumbled around us. Ten years have gone by since everything came to a screeching halt and then time started over again. Ten years have passed since we slowly began to look at life through a new lens and find a new kind of beautiful.

There are so many things I would love to tell that new mama ten years ago. Of course, she had to walk through the pain to find hope. She had to live day in and day out to get to where she is today. A lot happens in a decade and a heart can heal and grow and discover many new things in ten years.

Here are ten things I would like to tell that brand new mama with tears running down her face and a broken heart she thought would never heal.

1. You will be happy again. In fact, you’ll be happier than you had imagined you’d be. There is pure joy waiting for you.

2. You are stronger than you know. This seems so hard now, but the pain will fade and you’ll discover a bravery you didn’t know you had.

3. You are not in control, and that’s a good thing. Let go, let it be what it is–even if it’s dark and ugly and lonely. There is comfort in letting go.

4. You are not the only one who has experience life-altering soul-breaking pain. There are people hurting all around you. Now that you know pain, you’ll be able to care for them better, share your heart more honestly and love more deeply.

5. Soon you will see David as David, and not as a kid with special needs. He’ll just be him and he’ll just be awesome.

6. Your family and friends will stand by you. They will love and support you. They will pray for you when you are feeling crushed, bring you dinners when you are overwhelmed and most of all, they will love David just the way he is.

7. If you look in the right places, you will find there is more good in the world than evil. There are more people who are open-minded than those who judge. There is more kindness than self-centeredness.

8. You will have another son who will help to heal your heart. God has another little person that will round out your family and help make your heart whole again.

9. You will learn to see beauty in the little things and find grace in unexpected places. You will celebrate the every day and find that the smallest victories make your heart soar.

10. Ultimately, It’s not about you. It doesn’t matter what you want. It doesn’t matter what people think about you. When all is said and done, it isn’t about you. When you can let go of what you want or what you think you ‘need’ to be happy, you will find peace.

The last ten years have been imperfect but so beautiful, I wonder where the next ten years will take us?

78 Responses

  1. LOVD says:

    Beautiful reflection, Lisa. It makes you think of the letter 10 years from now and all the goodness that is about to be. Have fun celebrating David and all he has done to open so many blind eyes.

  2. I have discovered that life has all kinds of normal . . . and each version of normal brings its own special blessings. I love your list of ten things – what wonderful lessons to enrich your life and heal your heart. Wishing David a wonderful double digit birthday – and may you all celebrate with love and laughter :)

  3. Southern Gal says:

    This is just beautiful. A testimony that God takes us through the storms to get us where He wants us – a place we could never imagine while on the journey. I’m so glad you shared this.

  4. E says:

    What a beautiful way to capture the wisdom that 10 years has brought to you. Your faith is strong and has obviously only grown stronger–God is good! Celebrate Him and that bundle of energy, David!! It is certainly a milestone birthday :)

  5. tammy says:

    lisa, you are a strong & brave woman. i am encouraged each day by the joy that you share through your blog. thank you for being a blessing. happy, happy birthday to david!

  6. paige says:

    you are an amazing mama lisa leonard
    & obviously who the lord knew david would need!
    happy happy birthday to your sweet walking not eating with a tube awesome david!!

  7. lea says:

    This is an amazing, amazing, post! I needed this today! Thank you so, so, much for sharing.


  8. Jen says:

    Happy Birthday to David! What a lovely post. I am sure it will be a comfort to someone reading as well, Lisa.

  9. Brandi says:

    Love this! Thank you so much for sharing. We have a precious 8 yr old son who has Muscular Dystrophy. So much of what you wrote rings true with my heart. What a painful but beautiful journey this continues to be and I thank our Lord that I have the privilege of parenting our precious Maxter. Blessings on you as you continue to love and parent your amazing David!

  10. yvonne says:

    Happy Birthday David!
    and here’s to many more decades!

  11. sheri says:

    awesome awesome post! happy happy birthday blessings to your sweet boy! you are one terrific mama.

  12. Happy Birthday to David! A lovely post. You have a truly beautiful family, inside and out.


  13. LuAnn says:

    God bless you and your family, you are an amazing inspiration. And a beautiful reminder of what this life is about!

  14. Mojca says:

    Beautifully written. Happy birthday, little man, God has put you in the right hands!

  15. Mary Beth says:

    This is beautiful, Lisa. You will never know what a constant inspiration you are to me. You are such a blessing to those of us who read your blog. A very happy birthday to sweet David!

  16. Julie T. says:

    Beautifully said. I wish that I had someone tell me these things 10 years ago when my first daughter was born. We all have our challenges, but God blesses us in so many ways! Happy Birthday to David!

  17. aimee steward says:

    I just love your heart, Lisa! #10 can ring true for any new momma. Very wise advice in all of these. Happy 10th Birthday to David! Hope you have lots of fun celebrating!

  18. This made me shed a few happy tears – thank you for your honest words. Happy birthday to an incredible child!!!

  19. Brooke says:

    Simply wonderful! Happy birthday to David!!!

  20. Lisa – happy birthday to your sweet boy. What a blessing you are to each other. This letter is gorgeous. You are in inspiration to your family, to new and current mothers… I needed to read this today. Thank you. Keep living and loving just as you are. It is so beautiful to see you are everything David needs… xo

  21. Lisa R. says:

    Thank you for sharing. As I have had glimpses of your family’s journey, it is wonderful to see Gods faithfulness!
    Celebrate Big!

  22. kristin says:

    Your words…So Beautiful.
    Happy Birthday, David!!
    God Bless You and David and your whole family.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Love you

  23. Paige says:

    Wow. Happy 10th Birthday sweet David! That was a lovely, heartfelt reflection. I hope you have a wonderful celebration!

  24. Bre says:

    A beautiful testimony. Happy Birthday David and wishing many more to come:)

  25. Shana says:

    So beautiful. The happiest of birthdays to your precious gift!

  26. kristina says:

    Beautiful, beautiful post, Lisa.
    Happy Birthday to David! Hugs!

  27. beautiful, Lisa. you are a lovely inspiration. :)

  28. karen says:

    Yes, beautiful and brave and so very real. Thank you Lisa for sharing so freely and Happy, Happy Birthday to David. :)

    Blessing to your sweet famlly……..

  29. Cindy says:

    I loved this. I shared this with a friend of mine who also has a special needs child. I know this will give her heart peace.

  30. Beautifully said..I’ve written to you before ,telling you how much I like your jewelry,but more so,love your life story.As a mom of 4 boys,one who has autism,I get exactly what you are saying.I have learned more from my kids in the last 15 years than from any book I could possibly read,or any school I ever attended.They teach us,and in my case & yours,they teach us wonderful,beautiful things.We know where the really important things lie….within ourselves & our family.God only gives special children to special people.A very Happy Birthday to David!!!

  31. Diane A. says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt message! Happy b-day to your sweet son! You truly inspire me, Lisa.

  32. nicole i says:

    perfectly said. blessings to you for all the decades ahead.

  33. Stephany says:

    Lisa, you have a beautiful family. The many happy moments take you through the few bad ones. Love reading your posts. Happy birthday to David! :-)

  34. Shauna says:

    What a beautiful perspective. You are so inspiring, it’s no wonder David chose you to be his Mom. Thanks for sharing.

  35. anne says:

    This is beautiful. Happy Birthday, David!

  36. Mariel says:

    That really was beautiful…and although what brings me pain is something totally different… I feel like #3, #4, & #10 were written for me :)
    I am so glad I stumbled upon your website and then blog. Its wonderful to read things that lift you up and speak to you rather than all the negative that is out there.
    Happy Birthday to your little guy and Happy (becoming a first time mom) Birthday to you!

  37. Cheryl says:

    What wonderful wisdom! #10 is for everyone… so much heartache, depression and sin could be avoided by simply remembering that it is not about us. Thanks for closing with that one… and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVID!!!

  38. mary. says:

    thank you for sharing, lisa – so beautifully written!

    happy birthday, david!

  39. Pam says:

    Lisa, thank you for the beautiful post about your wonderful son. I think posts like this are why I keep coming back to your blog. Your have a great outlook on life that seeps into what you do, and your love of things around you. David is blessed to have you for a mother.

  40. Megan says:

    So touching, you and your family are beautiful in so many ways, thank you for sharing your lives with all of us! Happy birthday to David!

  41. Deb says:

    Beautifully written! You are an amazing Mom, business woman, wife…thanks for being so inspirational! Happy, Happy Birthday to David!

  42. happy happy birthday to your sweet boy and thank you for this wonderfully inspiring post!

  43. Colleen says:

    Beautiful, that made me feel good!

  44. This is a beautiful post! Happy Birthday David!

  45. Lorena says:

    Happy Birthday David! I only know you thru this page but boy am I glad I do! and also thank you David because I think you are one of the reasons your Mom has this page that brings joy in the life of so many of us.

  46. Guy says:

    Happy Birthday David! You are a wonderful, sensitive, sweet little boy and you have been blessed having been given a wonderful mommy, daddy and brother. Enjoy your special day and know that you are being prayed for and thought of as you enter your NEXT 10 years! Cheers big guy!

  47. Pam Godwin says:

    Beautifully written, Lisa. God has a way of breaking it down for us…to see the realness of Him in our lives and how He is in control and has plans for our good. Happy birthday to David!

  48. Shelby says:

    Beautiful, comforting and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your heart, and for reminding us what this mommy hood journey is all about. Happy birthday sweet David!

  49. Kelli says:

    You have so much grace! Happy Birthing-Day, Lisa!

  50. Lavonne says:

    You perfectly described my own journey with my special needs boy. My sixteen year old has Down syndrome, and what you would say to your younger self is just what I feel in my heart.
    I also have another boy, he’s twenty. At sixteen, he was diagnosed with high functioning autism. But it’s okay. I learned from my younger son that God is in control, and what He wants for my life is better than I can imagine.
    Thank you for your honest sharing.

  51. WoW! Thank you so much for sharing your 10 lessons – so perfect for all of us to learn. Especially that it is not about us. I needed to hear that today… Thank you.
    Happy Birthday David! What an amazing boy you are!
    Blessings, Patti

  52. Melanie says:

    What a beautiful, amazing, honest post. Brought tears to my eyes. God bless you and your beautiful family, Lisa…and happy birthday to David! Can’t believe he’s 10 years old already.

  53. Victoria Pasquale says:

    Happy Birthday David!! I hope you had a wonderful birthday! Your family is so special, David. I love seeing pictures of you with that HUGE smile! It makes my day. Welcome to the double digits, theres no turning back!

    This post brought me happy tears! You are an AMAZING woman Lisa. I truly enjoy reading you blog. Have a great Fourth of July with your adorable family. Be Blessed
    -Victoria Pasquale

  54. jessica says:

    i wish i could give you a big hug right now. one of the ladies that i have nannied for—when she was in college her friend said to her one day, “i hope i never have a special needs kid, what would i do?” and she replied, “give him to me, i would love him.” and then god gave her henry, who i lived with and helped with his care for five years. he is seventeen now. he is non verbal, and low functioning, but he knows how to love better than anyone i have ever known. god gives parents special kids who are remarkable people and if they don’t think they are remarkable, that child makes them remarkable because they are, in face, remarkable. happy early birthday david!

  55. Angie says:

    What a lovely post!

  56. Sue says:

    Awesome advice for anyone in any season of life! Thank you, Lisa and Happy Birthday, David.

  57. Tanya says:

    LOVE this. Thank you Lisa.

  58. Suzette says:

    Wow! Amazing, wonderful, beautiful, moving! Happy tears!

  59. Christine says:

    Awesome. Just awesome! That sweet boy was chosen for you so you could both love and grow in ways you never imagined. You both are so lucky!

  60. Brenda says:

    Happy Birthday David! May your life continue to be filled with joy and wonder and may God continue to reflect who He is through you and your family.

  61. Jo says:

    Lisa, I found your blog through a post you had on (in)encourage awhile back. You are such an articulate lady and there are brand new mamas that will benefit greatly from what you shared today. Happy Birthday to David!!!

  62. Lindy says:

    Lisa, I just found your Blog through a link on Ann Voskamp’s Blog. And I am thanking God for you. You have just changed my life. My husband of over 40 years has a degenerative brain disease, which is slowly turning him into a child again. I just read several of your posts about your sweet son, David, and each one speaks to my heart in a special way. The “What if?” post was a picture of what I have been saying about my husband’s condition, and God used you to help me see myself and how my discontent is eating my joy. My husband is still sweet, happy, and enjoying life, but I have been so busy missing the man he was that I have failed to be grateful and to enjoy this time that God is giving us. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your life and your family’s life with people you don’t even know! You are a blessing and in inspiration!

    • Lisa Leonard says:

      Wow Lindy–you are encouraging my heart! Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey–hugs to you! And I’m praying you can find joy, even in your difficult circumstances. xxoo

  63. amyks says:

    Happy Belated Birthday to David, and to his amazing parents who gave him life! What a beautiful list of advice to give any new mother! Hope that your day was full of wonderful things.

  64. Claudia says:

    Lisa, your writing is so powerful. You have a precious soul. Many congratulations to David! He did something that didn’t exist before you met him – a better you.

  65. Lynn says:

    Beautiful post, Lisa. That is the bottomline,isn’t it. Seeing a person for who-they-are, not for their disabilities. Every child is a gift. Happy Birthday, David!!

  66. Cheryl says:

    I have so often wished I could go back to the day of my daughter’s birth and tell myself I was going to be happy again. I kept nodding as I read… is all so true! I can’t even imagine our family without our 12 year old Claire now. Thank you for taking the time to write these things down. They will help a new mom in more ways than you know.

  67. So beautifully said, and just what I needed to read as I head into the hospital to give birth to my #2 baby boy. I admire you a millions times over. You are a Super Mom! xoxo! love you, ashley

  68. Ashley says:

    Thank you! Our 20 month old son was recently diagnosed with a rare brain malformation. I thank God every day it’s not life threatening, but I also grieve the things that won’t be. Truth be told we won’t know exactly what his challenges are for years. Right now it’s speech, he doesn’t talk & gross motor(he just started walking some). He is also very weak in his left arm & hand. Anyway, thank you for reminding me that he is still MY Connor no matter what.

    P.S. David & I share a birthday. 😉 Hope his was great!

  69. Melanie says:

    Great post— Great for mothers, people who have lost jobs, their homes, their spouses. Sooner or later there will always be rocks in the road and your post is inspiring….

  70. Julie says:


    You’ll never know the hope you’re words have given my heart. My 5 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with a genetic condition that will progressively take away her ability to walk and limit her upper mobility. As our family has journeyed through 7 months of medical tests and meetings with specialists, we’ve waited and wondered what her life will look like, and honestly, what our lives would be like with a child with special needs. Because it is a genetic issue, we also wait and wonder if our other children will present with symptoms in the coming years.

    Thank you so much for showing a mom that life will continue to be beautiful and rich with blessings beyond today. Your post was perfectly timed as we waited for specific answers from the doctors. Thank you for your obedience in sharing your heart with the world. I needed to be reminded to see my child as God sees her- not the world.

  71. Erica says:

    Hi Lisa,

    So many of your posts have spoken to me but this post really touched my heart. I have two sons, 6 and 4, and my youger son has severe special needs. We have a feeding tube, he’s non-verbal, just learned to walk… I’ve come a long way from the heartbroken mom I was four years ago but at times I still feel like I’ve just begun this journey. Your messages give me hope that in ten years I’ll feel a bit more settled. Both of my sons have brought me such love and joy. God is good and has already blessed my life with such beauty since Alex’s birth, as well as carried me through the pain.

    David is absolutely besutiful! He looks so much like my son! :) Happy belated birthday, David!

  72. Carol says:

    10 is a definite milestone in a child’s life. Thank you for the beautiful words. My son is almost 17 and diagnosed at birth with CdLS. I share with you, the joy, the sorrow, and the triumphs.

  73. […] Ten Years Later by Lisa Leonard, on what she would tell her younger self when her son with special needs was born – we all learn in our own time that the perfection the world tells us a child ought to have is completely relative. Each child is perfect just as it is. […]

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