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When I was given the diagnosis that the new life inside my belly would have a bilateral cleft lip and palate, it was initially just hard to comprehend.
Medical staff went on to test, poke, and prod me, continuing to outline other potential complications which could be our family’s new reality. A medical dictionary full of shocking pictures of other real life kiddos’ cases was thrust in front of me by a slightly inconsiderate doctor; it jolted me into the realization of the difficult path now laying ahead.
Worst of all, I was presented with the option to consider an abortion, leading us to feel as if the being my husband and I had created may not even be worth a chance at life at all.
Throughout it all, the most difficult was the unknown. Would he live for more than a week? Were there going to be medical difficulties too tough for him to overcome? What would his quality of life be? And my most humbling internal struggle: was I strong enough to endure whatever was needed to care for and love this child?
Remaining stuck in a place of fear, worry, and discomfort, however, was of no use. What good would it do me, those supporting our family, and more importantly, the baby?
It’s powerful to stop and reflect, both in the midst of a trial and a good time after weathering the storm. The reflection doesn’t make the pain or difficulty any less; it does allow, though, time to realize the importance of having laid a strong, personal, authentic foundation of joy. It’s the ultimate way to provide a path through any challenge—no matter its size or breadth—resulting in a strengthening of your character rather than the opposite.
Do you know how to curate your unique joyful foundation so that when life’s inevitable frustrations come your way, you’ll be ready?
My son just turned three years old and began preschool—yay!
When it comes to his cleft journey—and believe me, it’s an ongoing challenge beyond just the initial surgeries spanning his breathing, eating, hearing, speaking, and other hurdles—this kid is silencing our original fears like no other. He’s becoming more bold, funny, brilliant, and strong-willed, teaching me full, fruitful, and humbling lessons nearly every single day.
Knowing we’d need a joyful target to carry us through his medical journey (and still do!), when I was pregnant I wrote a prayer over his life, including the following three hopes:
The will of the Divine be done in the life of our son, to which we are able to adapt instead of forcing our own will into existence.
That our son be able to use what appears as weakness as his strength.
Our family is able to use every single piece of what God wants to teach us through each step of our son’s journey.
As you consider your ability to discipline yourself for joy, try adapting these statements to any struggle you may face. Feel free to adjust and tweak as you see fit—your journey through joy should be as unique as you.
I continue to see these prayers answered daily—not because they’re shouted aloud in some extraordinary fashion, but because through daily practices, habits, and continual choice, I’ve disciplined myself to count it all as joy. And no matter where you are in life, despite your circumstances, current status, or past choices, you can too.