A mother is only as happy as her saddest child. Because of the enormity and weight of the trial one of my sons was asked to bear, there is absolutely no way around having it affect those who love him most. Each member of my family feels the weight of his burdens to some degree and it affects each of our thoughts, emotions, moods and actions. It is impossible to be so close to another human being, knowing they were once the helpless babe in your arms, and not be so deeply connected to them that you can prevent your heart from breaking and your soul from feeling crushed when you are so helpless in being able to lift their burdens or even take their burdens from them. In reality there is really very little any of us can do to help Riley carry his burden. This is his trial, his lesson, and his journey. As desperately as I would love to take this from him, I cannot. Believe me, if there were a way, I would have done it a long time ago.

As I look around at the extremely trying circumstances that others are placed in, I think the inevitable question in all our minds is, “how are they handling that?” I know I have asked myself this question as I have looked in on those who have had giant burdens placed before them, and now, as I watch my child, and as his mother, who feels so helpless, I have constant chatter in my head…. “How am I going to get through this? How can I physically feel any more pain without imploding? How can I continue to watch my beautiful child be trapped in this hell? and twelve billion other questions that replay themselves in my mind.

I do not have the answers to these questions, but I will share what I have learned, in hopes of helping another in their moments of despair.

You would think that having a child with cancer would be enough to bring one to their knees, and I don’t mean just kneeling in prayer. When I use the term “bring one to their knees”, I’m talking about bringing a person to a place of complete desperation to the point where they finally begin to understand that we, as humans, control nothing and own nothing. In a one year period of time I have come to learn, and I will spare you the details, that I own NOTHING, not my spouse, not my children, not my job, my car, the health of my children, not my parents or their health, and certainly not my false identities that offer up false security and a false sense of worth. There is very, very little that we truly control.

Here is what I do own. I own the wisdom and knowledge that I have learned throughout a lifetime of experience. I own the love I have felt in my heart, both giving and receiving. I own the knowledge of who I truly am, a child of God. I own the feelings I have literally experienced in my body, which is a gift from God, including the love I have felt from Him and the miracles I have witnessed because of Him. I also own the memories I have in my heart and mind of precious time spent with loved ones. That pretty much sums it up.

As for what I can control, there is one thing…. How I choose to act, re-act, or handle whatever life hands me. Period.

This seems a bit frustrating doesn’t it? Here is the conclusion that has taken me months, even years to discover, in fact, it is a quest, a mission, a life-long journey to find the solution to this very frustrating fact, and I realize that I am only beginning to tap into a portion of the answers.

Here is what I’ve discovered… there is only one source of peace. When you are truly “brought to your knees”, there is no human act or piece of advice that can even scratch the surface of the gift of peace. There have been periods of time, when even living amidst the most horrific trials I never imagined would be a part of my life, when I have experienced so much peace and so much comfort that I actually started to panic and wonder if my ability to feel was broken. I felt kind of numb, in a way. I started to feel guilty for the peace I was feeling because It seemed as though the world thought I should be freaking out. I noticed how the important things in life came into focus and my perspective changed. I started to see, feel and realize who I truly am, without the false identities I had thought myself to be. I was able, almost effortlessly to see the big picture, to understand a portion of God’s ways and to feel reassured that He is in charge and He knows what’s best. I felt as though the lines of communication were seamless and without delay between myself and God. I knew when to step and in which direction and I began to feel what truth felt like in my body. For the first time ever, I felt real peace, a peace beyond explanation.

But then, I started to panic, I started to question what was wrong with me. Was it normal to feel so much peace? Was I being a bad mother because I wasn’t suffering with my child? What were those around me thinking, perhaps that I had no soul? I got in my head. I allowed my mind to get on one of the fifty-nine hamster wheels that take up space there. I checked out, numbed out, and distanced myself from God through my thoughts and actions. We all have coping mechanisms that we have developed over a lifetime and without thinking we automatically return to them when something new and unfamiliar enters our life, even if that new thing is good. We, as humans, like familiarity, we are resistant to change, we want to know what to expect. Even if the familiar place is painful, dark, lonely and unhealthy, we turn to it because it is familiar. I caved to my familiar coping mechanism and it was as though a bubble was placed over me. Immediately I felt the exchange of light stop. I felt the lines of communication with my light source become hard to decipher, my ability to feel God’s love, even though I’m sure it was still there, became impossible for me to feel. I no longer knew where to go or when. I could no longer see the big picture, or the grove of trees in its entirety, as I was focused on only one tree. I panicked. I felt alone. I felt all of the hurt, fear, sadness, frustration, and anger come back. I also noticed that the gifts I had been given in that place of alignment had disappeared. I no longer had inspiration to give to my son. I no longer had the insight I needed to be able to share our story. My ability to embrace adversity was gone. I could no longer feel peace. I longed to have the peace back but it felt impossible and overwhelming to get back to that place.

Here is what I know. I know how to get back there. I know what it takes. It does not come all at once, but rather line upon line, one foot in front of the other. It takes patience, perseverance and faith. For me it takes scripture study and fervent prayer, not the rehearsed prayers we quickly say at our bedside, but the kind of prayers where we fall to our knees, look to the Heavens, and cry out in desperation, begging for God to please help us to feel of His love and admit to Him that we cannot do this alone. It takes the ability to recall what it felt like in those moments when I was connected to God. It takes being vulnerable and willing to admit my shortcomings and to surrender my will to Gods so that I cannot only feel and receive His light, but the ability to become one with Him as I repent and hand my heart over to Him, knowing that He loves me even more than I love my children and that He knows me best, will take care of my heart and mold me into the person He knows I can become … if I will only trust in Him.

The trials we are given in this life can do one of two things. They can destroy us and define us, or, they can be the fire that refines us and make us into more than we ever imagined.