Category Archives: Gratitude

Celebrating David’s Birthday

19 years ago—seriously, 19 years ago! We welcomed our amazing David into the world. The 4th of July 2002 brought pain and joy I had never felt before.

At Lisa’s 38 week check-up we learned our precious baby was measuring only 32 weeks. The news set in motion the most anxiety ridden 48 hours of our lives. A high-tech ultrasound revealed nothing.

Eager for information I asked the doctor, “what does his size mean?” She looked at me blankly, “What do you mean? It could mean anything. He may be undernourished, he may just be small, he may have a genetic syndrome.” Confused I pressed for more, “What kind of genetic syndrome? What issues would he have?” She coldly replied, “It could be anything from no issues to death, I just don’t know.”

David wasn’t even born yet and already the life we envisioned was crumbling around us. Anxiously coaching Lisa as she was induced so could meet our son, I feared the unknown. I had to be brave for my wife and for my son.

David at Birth 07/04/2002

On July 4, 2002, David arrived—quiet, a full head of hair looking like a rock star, small, only two fingers on his left hand. That July 4 my heart was broken. My heart was full. I was gutted and I was happy and proud. David’s sweet little face revealed he had no idea what everyone was so worried about. He was content and happy. Our precious son was born. I became a dad.

Through David, the Lord showed me our value is inherent—unconnected to what we do. Every one of us is made in God’s image—precious, valuable, and loved. I see it so clearly in David, no matter how hard I find it to believe about myself. David lives life in the present. Sad when he’s sad. Happy and giddy when he’s happy. He’s an adventurer, a musician, a jokester, and a lover of people. I’m thankful for my amazing son and the last 19 years as his dad.

You Can’t Make Old Friends

The men in this photo have been my closest friends for over 30 years. I don’t have brothers but it’s these men, and the one painfully missing, with whom I have had the closest thing I’ll ever know to brotherhood.

Losing our dear brother Leo a year ago, the pandemic, our trials with David’s health and more have taught me close relationships are one of the things that matter most in life. True, full and rich life includes real friendships and open family connection.

Like the song says, “You can’t make old friends.” Not only have these men been my friends for 30 years, we’re blessed to have married women who have grown together as friends for 20 years. In the past year I’ve realized how much I need my friends in my life—people who know the real me and who are honest with each other.

In a couple years time, together with these men, we will take the motorcycle trip of a lifetime. We will celebrate friendship, freedom and life. I am grateful for these men. Who are you celebrating in your life?

David’s Journey

Last Friday was the one year anniversary of David’s spinal fusion and the day the world shut down. It’s hard to put into words what we experienced during the night when he coded and we almost lost him. As fate would have it, he was scheduled for a minor procedure down Santa’s Barbara on Friday. Once the procedure was over, he had bronchial spasms post-Covid mixed with the anesthesia causing his oxygen levels to drop. It was another stressful day with Lisa on lock in at the hospitals and me at home meeting with Matthias’s teachers and getting him back and forth from school, while feeling helpless with David.

These episodes are more common in our lives than they should be. Honestly it’s more stressful and scary than I probably let on. I do so much to be strong for my son and my family, but in these moments I feel so helpless against these forces.

Recognizing the hard realities of David’s genetic syndrome (Cornelia de Lange) and how close we’ve come to losing him, I try to be present with him whenever I can and to be grateful for every day I get with him.

David and Lisa came home from the hospital on Saturday while I was out with a friend. After a strange turn of events lead to his 24 hour stay in the hospital, I was eager to get home to see them and be re-united.

Unfortunately, as I was driving home I saw a couple texts messages coming through and missed a call from Lisa. David’s breathing had turned rapid again and she felt they needed to return to the hospital in Santa Barbara. So, even though they had been home for a respite of a couple hours, they trekked off again before I had a chance to see them.

We FaceTimed—David in his Posey Bed (a gift to parents and kids alike in hospitals!) while I got to talk with him. He was looking at me and really connecting with me over the call. I was happy to see him smiling and happy this morning. It does my heart good.

As a dad, I always want to protect and mentor my kids. It’s important to me to be there and be strong for my boys. With Covid rules around the hospital right now, only one person is allowed in the room, so there’s no way for me to be with David. I feel cut off from him and Lisa and so helpless to do anything for them.

Meanwhile in our divide and conquer strategy, I was there with Matthias—talking with teachers, driving him to school and back and generally trying to hold down the fort of our home and businesses.

5 days later, David and Lisa came home! It had been a long few days of tests, breathing treatments, antibiotics, FaceTime with doctors and worry.

A strange phenomenon happens in hospitals after a couple of days. Somehow the reason you’re there gets lost and a new diagnosis for a new problem emerges. In this case we went from a minor oral procedure to recommending a G-tube in the time David was hospitalized. Knowing eating is one of David’s biggest joys and he has not even one time got pneumonia from aspirating in his food, we chose to skip the G-tube in favor of more information. We’ll check in with his regular doctors when there’s no emergency.

When you have a child with special needs, no one knows your child better than you. Just because someone went to medical school doesn’t mean you have to do what they say—especially in the moment. You can always take a beat, go home and get a second opinion. And, you have to balance preserving life at all costs with living real and full life.

We’re thankful once again for those of you following our family’s journey and for praying for us and for David. Most of all, I’m thankful to God for bringing my son home again and for being together as a family.

30 Day Living Inspired Email Journal

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These have been a crazy couple weeks and there’s no obvious end in sight. Our family has been in the throws of our son David’s scoliosis surgery complete with lung infection and an 11 day hospital stay. His surgery happened to coincide with the largest global pandemic in history. Timing is everything! Even as we face our own personal crisis, everyone has been facing increasing challenges over the past couple weeks. From suddenly becoming a nation of home-schoolers, to job insecurities, to compulsive handwashing and more, each day seems to bring its own unique obstacles none of us has faced before.

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30 Day Living Inspired Email Journal

With so much bad news out there, increasing isolation from each other and more time on our hands, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help right now. I have created my 30 Day Living Inspired Email Journal to help us use this time positively and to build our resiliency for when we come out the other side. Beginning April 1 (no April Fool’s joke!), each day I will deliver a short inspirational thought with a journal prompt each day for the next month. My goal is for this to be a 5 minute exercise to start or end your day well while we’re hunkered down. Of course, you can take longer if you want! So grab you favorite journal, or pick up a Discover Leather Journal from my shop and join us!

It’s a great resource for moms managing their families at home right now (let’s be honest, in most homes moms shoulder the brunt of these times—many of them while balancing their careers!), or for guys working from home who want a tool to get in the right headspace each day, it’s great for work teams to use together to maintain a sense of team spirit while physically separated, and more.

Let’s Connect on Facebook!

Because community is so important, I’ve created a private Living Inspired with Stephen David Leonard Facebook Group where we can gather together to share our insights, ask questions, encourage each other and help each other through this crazy time. I’ll post additional thoughts and videos there and engage each day so we can be connected (I’m an extrovert, so I’m looking for any way I can to connect with others!). We already have a fast-growing community there and would love for you join in!

From raising a son with a severe genetic disorder, to a decade of pastoral experience, to owning my own business, I have experienced challenges, crisis, and I’m working to overcoming the rollercoaster of uncertainty. The 30 Day Living Inspired Email Journal and Living Inspired with Stephen David Leonard Facebook Group are both free resources to inspire us during these difficult days. I want to share my experience with you and give you a tool that can help you right now. We’re all in this together and by banding together we can thrive.

How do I join?

Simply sign up for my regular emails and you will receive each daily email plus get insider info on any special deals or news from stephedavidleonard.com! It all starts April 1!

Want community? Join my Living Inspired Facebook Group!

Thank You!

I’m thankful for the way you have followed our family’s journey with David these past few weeks. Now I want to give back to you. Please join me, I look forward to seeing you there!

Father’s Day Musings

Father’s Day is almost here. Our lives have been so crazy lately with David’s surgery and Matthias graduating Middle School, it’s easy to miss everything happening around us–especially a day like Father’s Day. But this time of year reminds me how grateful I am to be a dad and how grateful I am for my sons.

A few weeks back Matthias and I went on his school camping trip. I love getting out into nature with him and seeing him hang out with his friends. He seems to be growing and changing before my eyes lately. Honestly, sometimes I find myself freaking out that he only has four more years until he graduates. I think of the things I haven’t taught him yet, the things I neglected when he was younger, the things out ahead of him and feel like I could be such a better dad to him. Then I remember growing and learning is a life-long journey.

David has had a few bad colds and a hard time breathing this year, to the point I have worried about him many nights as I put him in his bed. Finding out he had a polyp in his nose the size of my index finger has explained so much. All these things remind me how inadequate I really am to keep my boys and my family from harm. No matter what steps I take to protect them, so much is out of my control. I have to admit the idea I can keep them healthy and safe is an illusion. And yet, I am grateful for those who surrounded our family and helped us help David get the surgery he needed.

People don’t really talk about this, but being a dad is vulnerable. Dads want to be strong for our kids and families. Dads work hard to provide for our families. Dads want to be role models and to teach our kids. We may not wear our hearts on our sleeves, but our love runs deep. Every dad, whether he drives a truck, works in an office, or stays home with the kids wants the best for his kids. And yet we all wonder if we’re up to the task. We worry the day will come when we can’t provide, can’t protect, can’t be there.

We want to be the super hero who can fly in and defeat our foes with lightning speed and the strength of steel. But we know we are flesh and blood. Our foes don’t use magic, or diabolical riddles, or elaborate scientific contraptions. Instead we fight to pay mortgages, pay for college and provide the best life we can for our families. Dads want the best for our kids.

In today’s world, being a dad takes courage. We have to withstand the pressures and fears we face. This Father’s Day honor and celebrate the dads you know who have shown their faithful love. Remember the dads who mentor and teach you. Let them know the difference they make.

 

Monday Musings

Last week was a busy week. It began and ended with David seeing specialists in LA. On Monday we went as a family to the pediatric orthopedist at UCLA to learn what’s going on with David’s scoliosis. The X-rays were shocking. His spine looks like a mlid today today, when only a few years ago it was straight. Apparently it’s classified as moderate, so we will wait and watch. Fortunately he’s not in any pain.  

Friday Lisa took David down again to Children’s Hospital LA to see the Ear, Nose, Throat doctor as he has developed a small growth in his sinuses called a polyp. We’ll be able to remove it with a simple surgery, but it means at least four more trips to LA for various doctor sign offs and tests beforehand.   

Saturday we took Matthias to see the new Avengers movie! I was thinking today, What do dads do who have daughters and no sons when movies like this come out? Do you play it cool and go with a friend who wants to see it, or do you just suck it up and admit, you’re a big kid who wants to go watch super hero movies? I love getting to share all these movies wit Matthias as he grows up. We’ve been able to see Star Wars premieres together, geek out over the Avengers and weep in frustration over Fantastic Four (why can’t they get that one right?).

I cook breakfast for our family every morning. Usually it’s our special protein rich pancakes, but sometimes I do bacon and eggs too. Our dog Louis always stands right behind my feet where I can’t feel him, but leaves me no where to go. I have tripped over that dog a hundred times if I’ve done it once! It’s our morning routine.

Fortunately, this week is a little less crazy than last week. I’m retooling my schedule and responsibilities to make more time to write, develop product and focus on my goals. Seems life is always clamoring to take over any time in the calendar. I didn’t get done everything I wanted to do last week, but I did get to be there for Lisa and the boys. As a husband and dad, I’m grateful for that.

Giving Thanks

I have been learning more and more about gratitude. I am wired to see problems and think about how to fix them. It takes discipline for me to see what’s good and right. This time of year is a time to stop, look around and give thanks.

I’m thankful for the reception to the launch of the new Stephen David Leonard brand! Many of you have shared kind and encouraging words with me and having your support means a great deal to me. I’m thankful for the opportunity to bravely engage life together—taking the risks necessary to fatherhood, leadership, and relationships. I’m grateful to provide product to inspire you in your journey—to live brave, risk and step into the life God created you to live.

I’m thankful for the noon crew at Gymnazo who inspire me to show up, work hard and live healthy through their presence and their own dedication to their health. In 2013, I knew I had to make a change in my lifestyle to get up from my desk and move. I needed a habit change—ideally one with accountability. In November 2013, a friend told me to check out Gymnazo and am proud to say I have been working out there 3-5 times per week for four years now! I feel better in my 40’s than I felt in my 20’s. Most important, I’m available to Lisa, to David with his physical demands, and to Matthias as he enters his teen years. I’m thankful to the coaches who encourage, correct and instruct us day in and day out to enjoy the God given gift of movement to its full.

I’m thankful for the conflicts, challenges and obstacles I have faced this year. They continue to teach me about myself—my blind spots, where I need to grow, where I am willing to give up instead of press on. One of my favorite books is Mindset by Carol Deck. Mindset talks about the difference between a fixed mindset (seeing intelligence, personality, talents as fixed traits) and a growth mindset (believing our abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work). This book taught me brains and talent are the starting point. A growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. Conflicts, challenges and obstacles provide me the crucible to learn, work hard and increase my resiliency. I’m grateful for the (difficult) lessons I’ve learned this year.

I’m thankful for my advisors, coaches, therapist, pastor, friends and mentors who have pointed me forward when I have felt lost and down this year. You have been willing to critique, challenge, and correct me when I need it. I have consumed gallons of coffee, made my ear shine bright red from hours on the phone and learned every frustrating feature of video conferencing as you have spent countless hours engaged in my life.

I am thankful for my boys, David and Matthias. Ever since he was in the NICU after his birth, I have delighted in seeing David’s eyes lock onto mine. I am thankful for his spark evident in his eyes and his smile. I’m grateful for his love of music we share—and when we rock out together! I am thankful for Matthias and his creativity and his willingness to work hard to grow and learn. He has had to find a new gear in school this year and I have watched him embrace a growth mindset, engage, and experience the joy of his labors. I’m grateful we not only share our love for Star Wars, superhero movies, Planet of the Apes and the ancient world, but he also loves to discuss and debate their deeper meanings now!

I am thankful for Lisa. The last couple of years have been the hardest and best of our relationship. Raising children—one with special needs, running a business together, marriage, all take their toll. Add to that the perfect intersection of our “stuff” as we approach two decades of marriage and you have a recipe for disaster. I am grateful we have separately and together chosen to do the hard work we need to do as individuals to become whole and healthy. (One day I will write about why “working on the marriage” is far from enough!) I am grateful we have sought help together for our marriage. Lisa is my business partner, my parenting partner, my confidant, my wife and my best friend. It could have gone otherwise. For her I am grateful.

I am grateful to the Lord for His grace, strength and power that sustains me. My faithfulness to Him lacks, but His faithfulness to me is everlasting. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20)

What are you thankful for right now?