Thrive// Selah's Story
Thriving is a big deal for me. I appreciate when my life has a little rhythm to it. I feel my best when I practice self care- spiritually, physically and mentally. I don’t believe in perfection but, when I know I’m doing the best I can to honor the values I’ve set for myself, my family and my relationships I feel like I’m truly thriving. I believe everyone was created to thrive, yet I understand that it looks different for everyone because we each have our own values.
My family’s life has always ebbed and flowed. We have had a lot of unique seasons of life-some good, some really tough. In the Spring of April 2016 life was feeling pretty darn sweet for us. We had four babies and were expectant for more. We were settled into a home that we loved. My husband had a great job. After previously going through a more challenging season, we finally felt like we were finding our groove. We were thriving. But, on April 11 we were blindsided by devastating news that our oldest daughter, Selah, could possibly have cancer. A few days later she was officially diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. My life has never been without trial. Pain and rejection are interwoven into my story from a young age but, the sting from Selah’s diagnosis was something I had never felt before. For the first time in my life, I experienced true heart break. My baby, my first born was up against a really big, ugly giant. A giant that could easily take her life. Cue the trauma, pain and confusion.
I spent the days following Selah's diagnosis just trying to keep my head above water. I cried a lot. I wailed. I groaned. The thought of thriving was the furthest thing from my mind, I was in full blown survival mode. Taking deep breathes and choosing to get out of bed each morning felt like a win for me. I kept trying to force the pieces of my life back together but, nothing fit anymore. Life was different in every way imaginable and my heart grieved because of it. As the days passed, I slowly realized that I could either resist and resent the change or surrender all my feeble attempts at trying to control what was happening in my life. In her book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown talks about our “face down in the arena moment” and this was definitely mine.
Thriving can feel effortless when life is being kind. When bills are being paid or when your spouse is being awesome. But, how we do thrive in the midst of pain, disappointment and heartache? I don’t have all the answers but, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me along my journey. This is my story.
Get out of bed.
When your heart is broken, mornings can be really tough. Sleep gives you a short relief from your pain. When you open your eyes in the morning you find that your heartache is indeed real. After Selah got sick, all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed, pull the covers over my head and hide. I never felt ready or capable to seize my day. Instead, my heart would race, I’d feel sick to my stomach and my teeth would immediately start to chatter from shock. But, I got out of bed anyway. When my feet hit the floor it was my way of telling myself that I wasn’t going to hide. Even though I felt afraid, I was still going to show up for myself, for Selah, and for my family. So if you’re walking through your own storm and you’re choosing to get out of bed every morning, I commend you. You are so brave.
I can’t say enough about gratitude and thankfulness. If I didn’t cling to gratitude I would have been swallowed into a dark abyss of despair, anxiety and sadness. After Selah got sick, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to say 10 things that I was thankful for everyday. This little exercise shifted my perspective in big ways. I started to notice all the beautiful, wonderful things in my life. Honestly, it was as if I was seeing my life through a different filter. My short list of 10 things quickly turned into a lifestyle of gratitude. I encourage you to start celebrating all the good in your life. Choosing gratitude in small ways will eventually lead to feeling it in big ways. I should warn you though, gratitude may birth a wild, uncontrollable joy in your heart.
When we’re wrestling through trauma and pain we will need to make a lot of choices. We can either hold on tightly to the facade of control or we can accept our powerlessness. When we loosen our death grip on a situation it creates space for God to move. Some might say surrender is weakness but, I think its the biggest indication of true strength. When we let go, we are giving up our rights for life to be fair and to make sense. Surrender doesn’t mean that you no longer care or that you’re giving up, it simply means that you’re releasing your pain (the outcome, your burden) to God and trusting Him to handle it. Surrender doesn’t come naturally to most of us. You might have to surrender the same thing over and over again everyday until you feel a shift within yourself. There is so much freedom in true surrender; it will feel like a glorious relief. You might even notice that you feel a little lighter.
Everyone needs a little help here and there. We weren’t created to go about life alone. I need people and so do you. If you have people in your life who rally around you consider yourself very fortunate. Let others bring you a meal. When they offer to help watch your kids or to clean your house, say yes. Never refuse coffee or chocolate either. Listen closely to the gems in your life that remind you of truth and speak life over you, you need them. Pay attention to what they tell you.
What I’ve learned is thriving has more to do with my heart posture and perspective than it does my circumstances. My life hasn’t slowed down. Selah is still in treatment. I’ve had a fifth baby. Life is still really unpredictable. Yet, our family has never felt more whole. We aren’t thriving because our life is perfect, we’re thriving because we make daily choices to do so. I still don’t want to get out of bed each morning but, it’s only because I’m sleepy not because I feel fearful. There are days when I still feel like I’m going to crumble but, I gently remind myself that my God has my back. My appreciation for gratitude has only deepened. I continue to allow my close friends to participate in my healing journey. They celebrate each victory with my family and I.
My family is on the other side of an agonizing life event and we’ve never felt more free. Life can change so fast. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. It’s foolish to leave our contentment up to circumstance. The opportunity to thrive is available to each of us, we just need to commit to choosing to thrive, which reflects in the small choices we are faced with throughout our days.