One of my beautiful sisters gave the rest of us a key necklace with a word stamped on it for Christmas. Each one had a word she chose specifically for the recipient. The word she chose for me was, "strong". It came with a personal note that I won't share, but I will tell you it made me cry. And I've been thinking on this word and her note for the last two weeks.
After Liam was diagnosed I was told many times how strong or brave I was. I'd always smile and say thank you, but often I would shrug it off because I knew the "truth". They didn't see me in the private moments at home when I complained, lost my temper, cried inconsolably, neglected housework or my families needs, neglected my own needs, when my faith faltered etc. I felt like I was only strong when there were other people around and became very aware of all of the moments I gave in to what I perceived as weakness.
Oh my friends, I did not give nearly enough credit to myself, my Heavenly Father, or all of the people who were sources of comfort and strength in my life.
One thing I did get right was that the strength others saw was not entirely my own.
Family, friends, strangers, our care team, and most especially my God - I could not have made it through without them. Whether they stood beside me, held me up, or even carried me, I borrowed strength when mine simply wasn't enough. Why did I feel stronger when I was around other people? Because I could feel their love and compassion.
And of course I wanted to be the same source of strength for my son. He inspired me and motivated me. He has taught me so much about what it really means to be strong.
This year is brought to you by the word...
Instead of making a list of resolutions I like to choose a word that will be my theme for the year. This year I feel it chose me. My word is...you guessed it...Strong.
Let me tell you what I think this word means for me.
Look up the word in the dictionary and it will be defined as physical power, forceful, etc. Now I like to feel physically strong, but that's not really what I'm going for here. I did find two other definitions that I felt were more applicable: able to withstand great force or pressure, and of great moral power, firmness, or courage. And yet it is so much more.
Another gift I received this Christmas was the book "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown. I've been moved deeply by her work and her research and the message in this book is so very timely. To keep it simple, the book discusses the process of rising strong after we fall which is inevitable since we're all human. I have fallen a lot this past year and a bit. It's how she discusses the strength in this process that inspires me.
It isn't about having a stiff upper lip, or holding it all together. It's embracing our vulnerability, feeling emotions however ugly or overwhelming they might be, asking for help when we need it, setting boundaries, assuming the best in ourselves and others, compassion, honesty, integrity, faith, creativity. Acknowledging our frailty, our humanness and still loving ourselves. Seeing that we are enough and worthy of love right now, but still trying to be a better version of ourselves. It's hard, brutal sometimes, beautiful, and so very much worth it.
And so this year I will try to be strong. To rise strong when I fall.
Strong enough to love more openly and deeply.
Strong enough to let go. Let go of resentment, fear, doubt, judgement, unfair assumptions, the need to control everything, anger....
Strong enough to feel joy. Joy in the craziness that is my life. Joy in being a wife and a mother. Joy in my Lord.
Strong enough to set boundaries, but also to be adaptable in those boundaries when needed. And also to respect others boundaries while expecting the same for myself.
Strong enough to be resilient. Like my son after every poke. He cries and resists every time and then once it's done he wipes away his tears and gets back to being his usual cheerful, delightful self. It doesn't keep him down.
Strong enough to step out of my comfort. To not take the easy way. To live with integrity. I really like Brene's definition of integrity, "Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them."
Strong enough to acknowledge my emotions, to let myself feel them, to see them for what they really are.
Strong enough to grieve with others. To let loss be what it is.
Strong enough to work for my dreams and ambitions.
Strong enough to grow roots, to bend with the winds of life without breaking, to get back up without retreating.
Strong enough to face the darkness within, so that the Light may shine there instead.
Strong enough to accept that I am weak.
Strong enough to let Him who is the source of all true strength change me, shape me, and help me become who I am meant to be. To be ever closer to Him who loves me best. Enough to let me fall.
Strong enough to thrive.
Thank you to my sister, Darci, for her gift that inspired these thoughts. It was just what I needed. You amaze me.