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I’m an Artist

Matthias Drawing at a Pub in England

Matthias Drawing at a Pub in England

I am not an artist, our youngest son Matthias is. He will tell you readily. When a person meets him, it is the number one label he gives to himself. And who am I to argue? Wherever we go and whatever we’re doing, Matthias has a pad of paper and a pencil. He has spent hours drawing on tables at restaurants, in waiting rooms, in the UCLA cafeteria while we wait for his brother during doctor appointments, up in his bed at night, and just about anywhere else he can find to pull up and start drawing.

Matthias Drawing at Lunch

Matthias Drawing at Lunch

Last year for Mother’s Day, He decided to make a book for Lisa. Of course it would be a superhero book. (What else would mom want anyway?) To make it special he decided it would be a book of superheros with names beginning at A and going to Z. And, each chapter (yes, I said chapter) needed to have at least three superheros. In the end it was 52 solid pages of superhero awesomeness–not bad for an 8 year old kid! (I won’t mention how I thought it would be a good idea to bind it and make color copies for grandparents, aunts and uncles. I worked it out in my head and the cost seemed pretty reasonable. Until we picked it up. Let’s just say, it’s the most expensive Mother’s Day gift to date.) Of course, we were impressed that the first book out of the Leonard house came by the hand of our 8 year year old son.

Matthias Drawing at a Restaurant

Matthias Drawing at a Restaurant

Now, it goes without saying that I love this kid and am a proud dad. Am I bragging? A little bit. Do I want everyone to know what an awesome kid Matthias is? Yes. But that’s not why I share all this. I share it because Matthias is an artist and he pursues it with the abandon of a child. He’d love for everyone to love his art. But that’s not why he draws. He draws because he loves to draw. He loves to create. He doesn’t worry whether people will like his drawings. He doesn’t get hung up about what to draw. He just draws. It’s pure and it’s beautiful.

Matthias Drawing at Church

Matthias Drawing at Church

As I get ready to turn 40 this year, I find I have never been so willing to let expectations and perceptions shape my pursuits. But how much do I do these days because I love it? How often do I identify myself with the things I love to do? I’m a writer. I’m a speaker. I’m a preacher. I’m a singer. I’m a cyclist. Even worse, how often do I engage in these activities and find every square inch there is in which to fit these things into my life? Not enough. I’m on a journey to do just that. I want to be more like my son, who now 9, has multiple books and art projects in the works because it’s who he is. I want you to join me. What do you love that you put off for 100 excuses? Let’s share and encourage each other!

Categories: Inspiration Tags: , , ,

“That Sucks” Best. Words. Ever.

David at Birth

David at Birth 07/04/2002

July 4th 2002 was one of the best and darkest days of my life. After months of eager anticipation, days of anxiety and hours of fear, Lisa and I welcomed our son David into the world.

Lisa went in for her 36 week pregnancy check up (I almost didn’t go as they had become so routine) and the doctor told us she was measuring small–for 31 weeks! Thus began the whirlwind.

Over the next couple days we sought answers, saw more doctors, were told his small size “could mean anything” by the ultrasound doc at the hospital. I asked what she meant. Her reply? “It could be nothing. He could have a genetic disorder. It could be fatal.” Confusion and panic set in as we checked Lisa into the hospital to induce labor and play the waiting game.

In these anxious hours dear friends began to encourage us that it would all be OK. People tried to cheer us up and take our minds off of things. “I have a feeling it’ll turn out alright.” “Don’t worry, we had a scare with our first pregnancy too.” “Doctors make a big deal out things. I’m sure it will be fine.” To this day I am thankful for those people who were in the thick of it with us. Even while some of their words have given me pause in the days and months and years since, Lisa and I felt loved and buoyed up by our church family and close friends who sat with us on the phone and who brought Lisa El Burrito Jr. in the hospital when she wasn’t supposed to get it.

I remember cheering Lisa on as she endured labor. Both of us afraid of what lay ahead.

“Push baby! We’re going to meet our son!” I called out to her while wondering inside if our baby would come out dead or alive.

I said, “You can do it Honey–just a little more and we get to meet our beautiful son!”

I thought, “You have to do it Honey–just a little more and we learn if our son is beautiful.”

Finally, on the afternoon of that 4th of July (Lisa favorite holiday coincidentally), little David burst forth at a whopping 4lbs 2 oz., seven fingers, ten toes notably missing the crying sounds we had heard from down the hall every few hours as new lives emerged into the world.

24 hours later we learned David’s diagnosis. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. We had shuffled quickly back to Lisa’s room leaving our son in the N.I.C.U. while we poured out our hearts in grief, when a knock came on the door. For some unknown reason I opened the door to find Rick, one of our church elders, standing there. I didn’t know what to say, but he quickly realized he happened upon us at a bad moment and excused himself. As I began to shut the door I realized I needed to share our awful news with someone and chased after him down the hospital hallway. “Hey Rick. They just told us a couple minutes ago that David has a genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.” And the next moment is burned into my memory. Rick’s face dropped. He staggered backward until his body found the wall behind him. He looked me in the eyes, compassion on his face and said “That sucks. Steve I’m so sorry.”

Now, I know you’re not supposed to say “sucks.” I know stories like this are supposed to have some moment of profound wisdom and a turning point where everything turns out alright in the end. But this is real life. Those words have been a balm to my soul from that day until this one. Rick’s words gave me freedom to see that Cornelia de Lange Syndrome ought not to be in the world. It’s a sign that something is gravely and pervasively wrong in the world. Rick gave me freedom to hurt and weep and and question God and eventually to pick up the pieces again and move forward.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve walked through many hard moments with a great number of people since those days. I’ve sat at bedsides of dying and dead loved ones as a pastor. I’ve cried with friends enduring divorce. I’ve been in the hospital with people in crisis and more. I can’t remember all my words today. I know my own temptation toward platitudes. I know my instinct to try and make it OK. Still, the best words anyone has ever said to me came at the darkest moment. “That sucks.” Best. Words. Ever.

What words has someone shared with you that spoke to your heart in a time of hurt or crisis?

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Life as a husband, dad, pastor, business owner and fledgling cyclist