We need to know ~to remember~ that treasures don’t usually lay on the surface. It is called “treasure hunting” because sometimes they are hard to find.
The Grinch couldn’t really steal Christmas because in Whoville it wasn’t about what lay on the surface.
Macey’s traumatic experiences couldn’t steal our faith because it doesn’t depend on everything going well or being in our control.
Perhaps we need to lean into faith, go on a treasure-hunt, and find Christmas spirit in small under-the-surface ways. We might not want to, but we can do this. This year. This moment.
Throughout our journey I wrote a lot (you’ll see quotes from my writing sprinkled throughout this blog). You may be able to relate to what I wrote in 2015:
“All this to admit out loud that this last year hasn’t been good. In many senses it has been terrible. But as with any valley, if you look carefully there are amazing moments, lessons, and ultimately growth.”
Now is a time for treasures. Here are 11 that I discovered through our hardest seasons. I hope they remind you that:
- Hard things are possible, and
- There is glitter in the muck (if you’re willing to treasure hunt).
(1) The Treasure of Resiliency
We discovered our children are even more resilient than we are.
They faced the hardest of times by force. Just like 2020 things were out of our control, undesirable, and exhausting.
We were weary, scared, and separated from each other much of the time. The fog lifts a little more with every step farther from the height of trauma and the treasure of resiliency is clear to see.
“Macey’s brothers are learning compassion and patience in a way that no five or six-year-old should have to. I am learning the same. My daughter is learning strength and resilience, while teaching the same to me (August 2015).”
There were many days I questioned how to go on, and whether we would ever feel like ourselves again.
The pieces do fall back into place over time. You do recover.
We worried for the boys about the long-term impact. They would often cling to me and cry when Macey and I had to return to the hospital.
There was an abundance of junk food, video games, and gifts.
They saw their sister in pain. They said goodbye to her when she would go to stay at the hospital for unknown lengths of time.
And they were pulled from school to say goodbye the day Macey was airlifted to Edmonton on life support. Hudson recounts this as the worst day of his life.
Yet, watching the boys with Macey is amazing. They do not appear to have any resentment for the abundance of time and attention that had to be given to her.
Their love of Macey and their resilience is beautiful.
“Everywhere Macey goes, she makes people happy. Our little social butterfly could have come out of this experience feeling shy, withdrawn and fearful of adults because they were the ones who poked and prodded her over the years. But she isn’t. Rather, she smiles and laughs and plays with her brothers just like any other little girl (2015).”
(2) The Treasure of ‘The Moment’
There is magic in our moments when we stop to be fully present. Macey demonstrates this every day. She is 100% IN her day and living the moment that is offered to her.
“The life of a small child demonstrated to so many what strength looks like and reminded us what it means to celebrate the small joys in life, like her brothers, long lazy walks, and lays chips (2015).”
What would life look like if we were 100% in the moment? I keep trying to achieve this.
I can think back on little moments and milestones we celebrated because at the time they were worth so very much.
Macey taking the first lick of a popsicle after weeks on a ventilator, or sitting up by herself were celebrated for the wonderful things they were.
(3) The Treasure of Stillness
There is power in the pause and stillness. I found this treasure by force.
We love reaching the destination and then setting our sights on the next goal, occasion, or purchase.
The anticipation of achievement can be fun, but ticking boxes – to-do lists or accomplishments – is the ultimate goal.
We want to get there and when that doesn’t happen fast enough we are not always good at being still and waiting.
We were forced to slow down because of Macey’s illness and ongoing needs and sudden traumatic events.
It didn’t feel good to cancel what felt like everything, but to slow down and have to take one little step at a time was a huge learning.
Sometimes the treasures are found in that time of waiting.
“Each day is a gift that brings fresh perspective about what really matters. I am type A personality and it’s like God is saying `slow down, stop planning, stop list-making, and take it moment-by-moment’ (Jan 2015).”
(4) The Treasure of Faith
“Even in the moments where we were faced with the real possibility that her time on this earth was done we knew that she had gifted many people with a joy and a connection to something beyond her years.”
We needed faith in small doses to make it through a moment, an hour, and day-by-day.
The treasure of faith allows us to find purpose in our experiences, and to trust that someday we will use our challenges to give back and share hope.
Having faith in the power and purpose of it all allows us to bless other people.
(5) The Treasure of being Not In Control
We frantically race the clock trying to fit everything in.
Twists and turns come and throw us off course – they can hit so suddenly and turn everything on its side.
There is no certain way to predict what the next day or even moment looks like — relinquishing some of the logistics we try to map out so perfectly can lead to freedom.
It’s a surrender. That is not the same as giving up. We can take a breath, surrender, and find some relief and peace in that.
“Giving up the idea that I am not in control is refreshing (July 2015).”
“I learned the amazing freedom of embracing the unpredictable (July 2015).”
(6) The Treasure of Support
Accept help. Give help. Connect with people – especially right now.
Accepting help throughout Macey’s journey not only helped us, but I think also showed our children that it’s okay to need and accept help.
It also taught them what it looks like to give during a crisis. They learned compassion through accepting gifts and playdates and by watching their parents serve food delivered by our amazing village of helpers.
People don’t always say the right thing in a crisis, but if they say “Let me know if you need anything” and you have a need, make sure you actually do ASK.
Take people at their word and be willing to accept the support. #noonefightsalone was demonstrated to us in an amazing way. We could not have survived without all the action taken to support our family.
“Knowing we have such support behind us has helped us find the strength Macey needs us to have (2015).
(7) The Treasure of Miracles
“We are living mini-miracle by mini-miracle.” (Sep 2015)
It was evident to us that Macey was our miracle long before she had to battle so many hard things. But she did have to battle.
Macey survived circumstances the medical professionals did not expect and became a testament even to them that miracles exist.
Her story became a gift to so many people outside our little family. Macey’s purpose to demonstrate the power of miracles is bigger than I likely know.
(8) The Treasure of Perspective
Positive thinking, your mindset, the stories you tell yourself, and “treasure-hunting” really matter.
We can be thankful in things without being thankful for them:
“… although not much is good about the circumstances there is a lot of good to be found IN it (May 2015).”
“… this very trying time actually leads me to find joy more than ever before, teaches us lessons, and changes me for what I think is the better (March 2015).”
“Watching Macey trouble-make, mess-make and noise-make is what dreams are made of. My prayer is to not lose sight of that (July 2016).”
I am not exempt from complaining because of what we endured, but my perspective has been changed.
My patience has been increased and my ability to find joy in the little things is a beautiful treasure.
(9) The Treasure of Big Problems
Big problems reduce the size of the everyday ones. Very little is urgent.
I try to practice the idea of expectancy over urgency. To keep hoping, but not panicking is the goal.
It doesn’t all need to happen right this minute. And, if I go to the grocery store and forget the bananas, that is okay (more annoying during Covid, but okay).
The little things really are little and sometimes it feels like the world drives us to fret and worry all the time.
Very little is an actual emergency.
(10) The Treasure of Life
Life is precious.
“In time I want to do more. I want to volunteer. I want to give back. I want to run races and fight for the big picture (August 2015).”
Sometimes it feels like we lost out on some years, but preciousness is not measured by perfection or ease. We learned about how precious life is because life was so imperfect, hazy, and hard.
2020 is not a wasted year. We have the opportunity to demonstrate that life and health are precious. We should be thankful for the days we get on this earth – even the hard days.
(11) The Treasure of Grace
The trick is to adjust your expectations and offer yourself grace when walking unknown territory.
The saying, “It’s a marathon not a sprint” is so true.
There are things I chose to do in the height of Macey’s illness that seem ‘odd’ to me in hindsight. But coping looks the way it looks. So give yourself grace to run the race at your own pace, and with your own flare.
You can hunt for treasures of your own when the time is right. For today, I hope you find some encouragement in these ones.
I didn’t even know I was on a treasure hunt until we were through the other side.
But I will always believe “There are treasures to be found in the rubble and gloom (CB)” and “glitter to find in the muck (CB).”
Press on and conquer this next phase of 2020 with the hope of treasures hidden under the surface of your weariness, fears, and scars.
(There is a three part series on my website under Blog if you want to read Macey’s story. caitlinbangsund.com)