what if?

the other evening after tucking the boys into bed, steve came downstairs and said, ‘i just had the most surreal experience. i was telling david to lay down and kissing him good-night and as i looked at him i saw a nine year old boy–no disability. just david. it was like our souls had a connection.’

as soon as he described the interaction the tears began to roll down my cheeks. i knew exactly what he meant–there are times, small moments, when i see beyond david’s disability and into his soul. and i see a little boy stuck in a body that won’t cooperate with him. i see him wanting to speak words and unable to get them out. i see him wanting to tell me something, to ask for something or describe something but there is a chasm between us and it’s too wide to cross.

and sometimes in those moments i let myself dip my toe into the dark, scary pool of what if? what if david wasn’t born with a disability? what if he had ten fingers? what if he could munch on a hamburger and fries at mcdonald’s and begged to play just one more game on the ipad? what if he could imagine stories and tell me all about them and illustrate his ideas on leftover sheets of computer paper?

the truth about ‘what if?’ is, it doesn’t exist.

the truth is, i will never know ‘what if?’

the truth is, david was born with a disability. he has seven fingers instead of ten and he can’t speak words or express complex thoughts. he is a soul stuck in a broken body.

and the truth is, time spent thinking about ‘what if?’ is time wasted.

today i choose to focus on what is. today is a new day with joy waiting to be discovered. today is a new day with mercies waiting to be uncovered. today i am grateful for what is. grateful for a nine year old who is healthy and silly. a little boy who is curious and loves to explore and learn new things. grateful for my sweet son who loves to cuddle and kiss and be tickled.

what is, is beautiful.

The steadfast love of the lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord.

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  • http://www.drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Amazing what a difference one small letter can do! Thank you so much for this beautiful post.

  • http://N/A Helen Tisdale

    Lisa, what a beautiful post today! I so related! My special need son is 38 yrs. now. God has blessed me to take care of him for all of these yeas as a single parent. He is beautiful to me. I would love for him to be whole, but I wouldn’t change the journey we’ve had. His love, without being able to say a word is the most wonderful experience I have ever had! I just encourage you today with the love of the Lord. I can’t figure out how to subscribe to your blog. Only to your newsletter.

  • http://thefisherlady.blogspot.com thefisherlady

    thank you Lisa …. I am grateful God has blessed you with His gaze and His love. When we see our children as He does then we love them unconditionally… not what ifs… just I love you because you are…
    we will one day be set free from the prison of our flesh that binds us. Many of us are more imprisoned than your son because we get caught up in false vanities and ego and cannot see the heart as God does. I bet your son sees the heart ….
    blessings to you this wonderful Christmas season
    Be strong in the Lord
    His joy is our strength

  • Mary Kay

    Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom. What a great reminder to stay in the what is’s, not the what if’s–for there truly is where we can commune with God.

  • Lisa H

    I was paralyzed by ‘what if’s’
    -I say something I’m not allowed
    -something drastic happens to my children
    -he finds out I’m talking to you for counseling and guidance
    -he doesn’t leave
    -he takes our kids from me
    -I never know what its like to be free from depression
    -someone finds out who I really am inside
    -someone finds out about my past
    -my best friend walks away from me after we’ve spent so much time together as she counseled me
    -what if…………

    I can come up with a bazillion more like these because that is how my mind is wired and let me say that rewiring a 41 year old brain is HARD!!!! But, I’m doing it with the help of some wonderful godly women that God has put in my life. People who do not think like me but help me take my thoughts and turn them around into, as you say, ‘what is’ comments.

    Now instead of the constant flow of ‘what if’s’ they only come every now and then. Mostly when something shakes me up but even those moments are fewer these days!

    I work in a pediatric office that specializes in special needs patients and families, and we hear families as ‘what if’ so many times and we wish there were answers for you all. Then we do also hear them tell us about ‘what is’ so great about their child that others may not see or understand but we get it! Sometimes I wish I could not hear the what if’s in my mind but just see the beauty of everything like the eyes of a child who doesn’t know those what if’s. They know love and that is all they can show.

    • http://www.lisaleonardonline.com/ lisa leonard

      thanks for sharing a bit of your journey with me, lisa. xxoo

  • http://www.thepaperbagprincesses.blogspot.com Christy

    Lovely, Lisa.

    The what if, doesn’t exist. Love this.

  • Melissa

    Having just finished my quiet time this morning, I opened my email to find your daily devotion. I had just finished singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”. God speaks loudly and clearly to us when we quiet our pelvis before Him. By you seeking ‘what is’ vs. ‘what if,’ He blessed you to see things in HIS light. He used your blog today to confirm what He was speaking to me through His Word today. Confirmations that He is actively present in our lives are everywhere, if we simply sit at His feet and take time sitting in His presence. Thank you for blessing me today. It is ‘what is!’

  • Melissa

    Quiet ourselves…not pelvis…gotta love instant spell corrections…sorry!

  • Mitzi

    I was just explaining to my 11 year old daughter last night that her body is just a house for her spirit.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • http://www.lisaleonardonline.com/ lisa leonard

      all of us are a bit ‘stuck’ in our bodies, aren’t we–whether we have a disability or not. i think our souls long for eternity. xoxo

  • http://www.ashleymlarkin.com Ashley

    Lisa, I am touched to the core by your beautiful message and beautifully told story You are so right — “what-if’s” hold us captive, but what-are’s make us free to see the good gift God has given right here. The photo of you and your son radiates beauty. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  • Ashley

    Lisa, I have been a follower of your blog for about a year, (since an ad ran in parents magazine.) and for a for a short time I had been reading over here too. I never knew that you wrote on (in)courage.
    You are an inspiration. I really hope I find as much balance in my life that I can do all the things you have done, while still staying true to my faith, family.

    • http://www.lisaleonardonline.com/ lisa leonard

      hi ashley–so fun that you found my blog through parenting magazine! i’m not sure i’ve found balance–so don’t be too impressed. i struggle with balance and perspective every day–but hopefully i keep my priorities {my family, my faith} as the most important things. hugs!

  • http://www.forsuchasthese.blogspot.com Charisa

    beautiful. just beautiful. you and him both.

  • http://facebook barbra

    thank you for sharing your heart~~the Lord really spoke to me through it in my own situation. Lord bless you!!!

  • http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.comm/ r.e.

    Just a deeply beautiful post…and I too am learning to live in the what is…not the if only….
    Blessings to you and your sweet family….

  • Alicia

    so beautiful……I have a 12 year old son with autism and though he has made tremendous progress, I see his brain working and feel the tension between his desires and the physical / neurological issues that hold him back. I suppose, if I were to consider, the real tension lies in a child of God living in this world but longing for “Home”. Thank you for this wonderful reminder to be present, intentional and to explore the wonderful blessings before us.

  • beth c

    Lisa,
    I have followed your blog for years now…you are SUCH an inspiration!! I love the way you put things into words and your heart is so amazing!! Those of us who have special needs kids have alll dealt with the ‘what if’s’, but as you stated it so simply ‘today, I choose to focus on what is.’
    That is a decision I made years ago when my little one was so fragile, I think it is one of the best choices I ever made.! <3
    Blessings to you,
    beth

  • http://chasinghugo.com kelly

    God knew what he was doing when he gave you David.

  • http://www.holleygerth.com Holley

    Wow, Lisa, this puts everything in perspective. I visited a friend who just had brain surgery yesterday and these are just the words I needed to hear.

  • http://www.thegypsymama.com Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama

    Oh man, this is so powerful

    “time spent thinking about ‘what if?’ is time wasted.”

    Choosing to live in the “what is” with you today!

  • http://thedollymama-dolly.blogspot.com Dolly

    Thank you Lisa. Such wonderful encouraging words of hope and love.

  • http://www.momsquire.blogspot.com Floralba

    Wow, I’m grateful to have read this……

  • http://whateverislovelyblog.com Kristy

    Beautiful. Really beautiful thoughts. Thank you.

  • http://iftheresonethingiknow.blogspot.com/ Kerry A.

    Thank you….I was just talking to my sister who has two autistic sons…and I pointed her here to read this. She called me back and I know it made her cry but made her think to. She told me she was not wasting any more time on *what ifs* Just staying in today *loving them and what is!!* Thanks so much…your words helped me help her.
    Very powerful!

  • all shall be well

    Thank you Lisa, this is so true and you express it so eloquently. Straight to the heart in the midst of life.
    Blessings to you and your sweet family.
    karen :)

  • Sheila Wilson

    As a mother of a special needs son I have grieved for the perfect son I was supposed to have. You know the son without a mental disability and compulsive behavior. But I was blessed to me the mother of Jonathan and God always gives us what we need. All His gifts are good! Jonathan has taught me many lessons in life of unconditional love, compassion, determination and humility. I have not always been the most patience mother and I think have expected too much at times. But yes I want to live in the “What is” and to be thankful for what the Lord has given me! This story touched my heart today!

  • http://www.queenieslittlekingdom.com wanda

    Lisa
    I love your heart! You are such an inspiration to me. As a mom to 3, I know what you’re dreams look like for your kids. They are big, always big. You show the world how to live in victory when it would be so easy to wallow in self-pity.
    I am moved when I see you write of your love for David because JESUS–He sees all that David is….just like you (only better!).
    God bless you sweet lady!

  • http://3dlessons4life.wordpress.com Lyli

    You inspired me to see my day through different eyes today. Thank you for that. Many blessings to you and your boys.

  • DeAnn

    My what if is for my son also. What if he wasn’t mentally ill? What if he had become that promising smart, going somewhere person he started out to be? Now he is captured by this illness in dark paranoia,cigarette smoke and angry accusations. Where is my son what if this schizophrenia may never have happened? Would I know a daughter-in-law and be blessed with grandchildren? But I will never know it seems but God has given me the strength to move forward and find joy still in this world. Thanks for your post, may God bless and keep you; may we forever love our sons and daughters no matter what.

  • Mari

    David is a precious gift that God has trusted you with. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://feelLOVDeveryday.blogspot.com LOVD

    I commented on your blog as well…

    Parents always want the best for their kids. We want to raise them above their limitations and any help we can provide, we do. I can’t imagine the yearning to help David get out those words he desperately wants to share with you. But I can appreciate Steve’s comment of seeing David beyond his disability.

    My mom has been confined to a wheelchair for over 30 years, now. I never see her as a disabled person, I see her as my mom. The wheelchair was never her defining character and seeing what she gives to the world is her beauty.

  • Charla

    Thank you so VERY much for this. I have a little boy who is differently abled, as well, and you spoke to my heart in such a poignant way. Blessings to you and your sweet family.

  • tiffany

    Oh i love you Lisa Leonard!! And love you when you write here!

    thank you from the tips of my toes to the top of my head for sharing this! I love how you lay out your feelings and spread hope and joy all over them. THis truly blessed me as I too can dip my toes in the dark pool of “what ifs” and you are right – its dangerous! I like this perspective What is – and seeing all the good beautiful and blessings that ARE!! Thank you! I am adding you and this post to my graditute list tonight! :)

    xoTiffany

  • Penny

    This just may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read.
    What is…
    I will remember.

  • http://sarahjanebeautifuldawn.blogspot.com/ Sarah Jane | beautiful dawn

    wow. thank you, lisa.

  • Judith

    I have been unsettled and sad since my grandson (aged 3, nearly 4) was diagnosed with Aspergers. These feelings have taken me totally by surprise. My brother has autism, I teach people with autism, I knew long before the diagnosis. But somehow, all those reports and assessments make it more real. Crazy really. Nothing’s changed and he’s still my best and perfect boy. I suppose it’s that I see all the challenges ahead and it scares me for him.
    Thank you for writing this- I needed to hear it. X

  • Mandy Kirk

    I have an 11 year old son with disabilities, I am constantly told how amazing I am, and that they couldn’t do what I do. I hate to hear that, because I don’t feel that way, and I always tell them that if they were in my shoes and it was their son they would do the same thing. I found this quote on Pinterest and love it.

    God doesn’t give children with special needs to strong people; He gives children with special needs to ordinary, weak people and then gives them strength. Raising a child with special needs doesn’t TAKE a special family, it MAKES a special family.”

  • http://ajoyrenewed.blogspot.com/ Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)

    Beautiful post. Thank you for reminding us all that contemplating the “what ifs” is just time wasted. So true.

  • http://betty-wiseheartedwomen.blogspot.com Betty Draper

    Beautiful Lisa…we have a grandson just turned 19, trapped also in a body that can do nothing by it self. We are so amazed at the strength of God that flows from his parents. I know they have thougth “what if” but have chosen to live in the moment. God has gotten so much glory from our grand son and his parents testemony. Hope is a huge thing, hope founded in the truth that some day in heaven Matt will be whole, have a divine body…and we will not have to think, “what if.”

  • http://simplycreatedbycole.blogspot.com Nicole

    So, so, beautiful Lisa. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • http://bettysdc.blogspot.com/ Betty

    Gracias!!
    Really, thank you!!
    Bicos (Galician kisses) from Spain.

  • Anonymous

    Everyone has their what ifs to ask..truth is forget what if and focus on what is…

    Thanks for the reminder and beautiful post!

  • Michalina Peterson

    I am a special education teacher. I just happen to have a wonderful little girl in my classroom this year with CDLS. I have a slew of wonderful children in my classroom with a wide variety of disabilities, and O!, the wonderful things they can do & the wonderful joy they bring into my life. You’re absolutely right Lisa, What is…. is wonderful.

  • http://www.deliajude.blogspot.com nicole @ deliajude

    changing what if to what is. so powerful.
    we just read that verse this week with our kids. i love the new mercies. i need the new mercies.

  • http://www.imperfectpeople.net katie @ Imperfect People

    What a precious gift! My mom has worked with special needs children all her life. I love how she has taught us to see everyone as a gift. What a beautiful post!

  • Anonymous

    This is a beautiful post, Lisa, and your words are so true. Time spent thinking about ‘what if’ is time wasted! Thank you for this reminder!

  • http://ajigreer.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    This is a beautiful post, Lisa, and your words are so true. Time spent thinking about ‘what if’ is time wasted! Thank you for this reminder!

  • http://juliesunne.com Julie Sunne

    This is an absolutely beautiful post, Lisa! Our 13-year-old daughter has disabilities as well. It is so easy to fall into that “What if” game; a dangerous place to hang out. God has blessed me with the opportunity to truly grasp the beauty of my daughter and to see that her purpose on this earth is no different than mine: to glorify the Lord and point others to Him. She’s just much better at it then I am. “What is” is an excellent substitution. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

  • http://juliesunne.com Julie Sunne

    I forgot to mention–I love the picture! So sweet!

  • Vicki Roberts

    What a wonderful post, it hit me right in my heart. My granddaughter also has CdLS, short arms and only one finger. She is the most beautiful loving child in the world and would not trade her for anything. Gods little gifts.

  • http://www.pensieve.me Robin Dance

    Oh, Lisa….

    You speak with authority because you’ve l.e.a.r.n.e.d and lived the truth of your words. A lovely telling of soul connection, a beautiful admonition to live in and above your circumstance.

    I’m so glad to have learned more of your story.

    xo

  • http://simplysplendidliving.com Linda

    That’s so so beautiful Lisa.

  • Jen

    Thank you…
    We just had our 7th annual CdLS 5k today in Atlanta and you just ended the perfect day in a perfect way.

    I will always remember “What If”
    Thank you again…

  • Aida

    Lisa thank you for sharing….this was beautiful and so is David!.

  • http://www.cranberryteatime.com Rachel Lundy

    Oh, Lisa, this was beautiful. There is joy in today, even in the disabilities. Your life and your family is a sweet testimony to the Lord’s grace and goodness. What a precious little boy you have!

  • http://onceuponagrainofsand.wordpress.com Carissa

    :) I love this. I have been learning to be say thank You for what is, too…

  • Emily

    Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing your journey with us! Living in the “What Is” can be hard at times because the “What If”s are sometimes so big…my son has cerebral palsy and each day is challenging. I read something the other day about when we get to heaven, we will be like Him. No disability. No pain, sorrow. Only joy, love, peace, happiness. What a great comfort to know that while it may seem like a long journey, there is light at the end of our tunnel in that some day, We shall all be like HIM!
    Blessings to you and your sweet ones today and throughout the holiday season!
    Emily

  • Maureen

    Lisa,

    I have bought your jewelry for years, but never looked at your blog before, so this is the first I am learning about your journey with your on. I realize it isn’t exactly the same thing, but I am a 44 year old who lives with many serious chronic illnesses, and I learned the danger of what if a long time ago. I am grateful to have a mother who loves and supports me as I am, and your son obviously has that too! God always knows what he s doing, even when we cannot understand, and your son is a very special gift from God.

    Bless you this Chrustmas and always. Now I know the spirit that drew me to the jewelry!

  • http://www.arearrangedlife.com Miriam @ a Rearranged Life

    Lisa, what a precious gift you have in David! Very thankful for your writing! We do the What if and What is moments too!

  • http://theredneckmommy.com Redneck Mommy

    One day I would very much like to get your David and my Knox together so we could be blinded by their combined awesome. One day.

  • http://www.steadymom.com steadymom

    I just love this. Thank you for sharing your beautiful boy with us, Lisa!

  • Kelly

    Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!

  • http://www.pagesofd.blogspot.com Diane

    This touched me deeply just now. I need to renew my mind and my perspective. Thank you for sharing, you and David are just beautiful!

  • Marie

    You always have such a beautiful way with words. Tears and my eyes as I type. Thank you for sharing. What is? You have a beautiful family!

  • Debbie Ridgeway

    Lisa, thank you for sharing about your wonderful family. Your heart and spirit of love is the face through which David see’s Christ. I have been blessed by your story today!

  • http://lisaleonarddesigns Debbie Ridgeway

    Lisa, Thank you for sharing your story about your wonderful family. Your sweet spirit and heart of love is the face in which David sees Christ. I have been blessed.

  • Lisa Adcroft

    Lisa, thank you for sharing “What is”….as the mom of a 12 yr. old daughter with Down Syndrome, I can relate. I gave up on “what if” as soon as I recognized the amazing and unique person she is, and I thank God for her every day. I always enjoy reading your blogs, they are so inspirational! You truly are a special woman, and God knew what he was doing when he sent you your beautiful angel, David.

  • http://www.kelleyroad.etsy.com Wendy Y.

    Lisa-Your words have touched me beyond measure today. I have been struggling this summer with lots of anxiety, anxieties I have dealt with my whole life. Your post has truly inspired me to drop the what if’s and live the what is. I must remember this!! Thank you for sharing!

  • http://thehouseonmoss.blogspot.com/ kay burnett

    what amazing words. how true they are. it took me years to let go of “what ifs” and i can see clearly now. so much less of a burden. i placed my troubles at My Father’s feet and said i can not do this any longer. i know i’m not alone but i can not carry this one more step. my heart is free. i see those moments clearly now. and i am no longer afraid. i can not claim those moments i missed but for today, tomorrow, and the next i will claim those moments. thank you for sharing your family. you have a beautiful family. God is good.

  • http://ScriptorDeus Valerie Ronald

    You are so right, Lisa … the “what if’s” and “why’s” steal our time, energy and joy. God taught me that lesson a while ago when I was sunk in trying to figure out why I was swamped with so many trials all at once. When I gave up asking and just rested in Him, He held me up through the mess and pain. I don’t need to know what could’ve been or why I was chosen to experience certain trials … all I need to know is the One who holds me in His arms and who is ever faithful. Thanks for the encouragement and affirmation, Lisa! God bless you!

  • http://www.terelina.typepad.com Tracy

    I try to avoid “what if” but “what is” just seems too hard lately. I know in my head that I am just sad and not trusting much right now, but my heart is hurting too much right now. It helped some to read this today. Thank you.

  • Melanie McCarthy

    Thank you. You just changed my day. Maybe even more…

  • http://www.positivelysplendid.com Amy @ Positively Splendid

    You have blessed me so much with this post today. Thank you!

  • http://www.thepenningtonpoint.com Lisa~

    Just beautiful. A blessing is a blessing no matter how small. Thank you for sharing this. Lisa~