There’s so much pressure to have it all together; pressure from social media, pressure from friends and family, pressure from ourselves. It can be overwhelming, it can be too much. Lisa Leonard has some honest, raw words to share today about her search for perfection and how it all came crashing down. In her new book, Brave Love she tells us about the birth of her boys, one with a disability, the birth of the business she built with her husband and rebirth of their marriage. I’ve known Lisa for years and I’m so glad she’s here today to tell us about some of her journey—the ups and downs. It’s a grace to welcome her to the farm’s front porch today…
Every marriage goes through difficult times, and about fifteen years into marriage we were in a difficult time.
Steve and I walked through difficult things in our marriage. We walked some rocky roads but now we were facing something new.
We were simply not connecting.
We were both trying but we could not seem to see eye to eye.
We were both hurting but did not know how to help each other.
We were both making mistakes but we did not know what they were.
During this time, we had plans to gather with friends for a celebration. I decided to make Steve’s favorite dessert, berry crumble. This was not going to be just any berry crumble—I was going to make the perfect berry crumble.
I wanted to show Steve how much I loved him.
I wanted to show him he was precious to me.
This berry crumble was going to knock his socks off.
I spent time researching the best recipe online. I gathered all the ingredients and spent a good chunk of the day making the amazing dessert. As the celebration approached, I slowly pulled the hot crumble out of the oven, wrapped it in a heavy towel and we all loaded into the car.
We parked in front of our friends’ home and I carefully get out, maneuvering the hot berry crumble to avoid a spill. I took a few steps and suddenly I lost hold of the wrapped glass dish. I watched in slow motion as my perfect crumble splattered all over the sidewalk. I felt the sting of hot tears behind my eyes.
“Hold it together.” I told myself.
But I couldn’t. The tears overflowed and once they started they wouldn’t stop. I could barely catch my breath between sobs.
This was no ordinary berry crumble; this was the perfect berry crumble. This crumble was going to show Steve how much I cared for him.
This dessert was going to save our marriage. It was going to make Steve fall in love with me again. I looked down at the berry crumble splattered all over the sidewalk and sobbed.
I tried so hard to be good enough. I tried to be the perfect wife. I tried to become less so he could be more.
But it wasn’t working. Instead I was becoming less than whole–and a relationship can’t thrive without two whole people.
I thought being perfect would bring me joy.But I was so focused on being perfect, I was missing all the joy.
I’d clung to the belief that perfection held joy.
I’d spent most of my life believing if I could be perfect, or at least almost perfect, I would be lovable. So, I worked hard to create the ‘perfect’ life for us.
I tried to create a beautiful, tidy home. I tried to be the perfect mother—patient and fun and consistent. I tried to be happy even when I felt sad. I tried to be needless and wantless and take care of everybody else.
With four people in our family and so many differing opinions, things got complicated. I thought one way to make things less complicated was for me to be what I considered flexible or easy going. Ignoring my needs made me feel agitated and frustrated.
So, I tried to ignore those feelings—and sometimes I seemed to succeed. Other times I would explode with anger. All the things I needed and wanted, all the things I felt but ignored had to find a way out.
My good intentions to ‘take care’ of everybody were a desire to control. If I could control everything I would be good enough. I was terrified I was not lovable, so I tried to control.
The more I tried to control Steve, our marriage and our family, the more out of control I felt. I had worked tirelessly to try to hold it all together, but we were a mess.
It was falling apart—not just the berry crumble, but our marriage too.
I was finding out, there is no berry crumble so perfect it can hold a marriage together.
Perfection is a lie. It demands more and more, never offering a moment’s rest. Perfect is never satisfied. I kept reaching further and further, thinking I was almost there, but perfection was always just out of reach. No matter how hard I tried, I could not be perfect.
I had a lightbulb moment.
There are four people in our family, and I am one of them.
There are two people in our marriage and I am one of them.I needed to be a whole person. I needed to show up, let down my walls and be honest.
Honesty looked like me showing up and being my truest self. It looked Steve showing up and being his truest self.
It was going to take a lot more than the perfect berry crumble to fix this marriage. Marriage is two people showing up and being honest.
Honesty is imperfect and messy—but it is real. Sometimes it is more than messy; it is super ugly and dark and scary. I don’t like messy. I had been trying to make my marriage work without actually showing up and being a whole person in my marriage. I thought if I could make Steve happy he would love me, but he already loved me. He loved ME. He wanted me to be ME.
I am learning I cannot control my husband or my kids. I cannot keep my house perfectly clean.
I can’t always be happy. I am not perfect; I am just me.
I’m learning I have to let go of perfection to have joy.
I am learning I have to show up and speak up and be honest—no matter how messy.
I am learning it is the only way for us to have a marriage where we connect and truly know each other.
And I am learning the only way to be give and receive love is to be completely me—nothing more, nothing less.
Lisa Leonard is the founder and creative force behind Lisa Leonard Designs, which makes personalized jewelry and gifts. Working together, Lisa and her husband, Steve have built a multiple, thriving businesses. When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she was determined to be the best wife she could be. When her first son was born with a severe disability, Lisa promised herself she would always be the mother he needed. When she began her jewelry business, Lisa committed to giving it her all.
Over the years, the exhaustion of trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and businesswoman took its toll. Lisa knew it wasn’t working. She wanted to change things, but how? Everyone depended on her. So she kept going, kept pushing, kept trying to prove she could do it all.
In Brave Love: Making Space for You to Be You, Lisa shares her story of finding truth and wholeness in the midst of life’s competing demands. Brave Love is about what it means to be human, how it feels to be broken and afraid, and what happens when we dare to love deeply. Join Lisa on a journey where you will discover you are worthy and lovable just as you are. You don’t have to try harder or be better.
You don’t have to prove yourself and you don’t have to make others okay. In this freedom you will find more peace and more joy. Most importantly, you will learn that as you stop trying to be everything to everyone, you will love others better.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]