Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops.

Life is gut-wrenching one minute and exhilarating the next.

You’re on top of it all — unstoppable and unbreakable, and suddenly, you’re on a merry-go-round that won’t stop, holding on for dear life as the winds of life push faster and faster.

Life is hard — even cruel — sometimes.

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Since 2012, we’ve experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows as a family. Both of our children have experienced serious struggles both physically and emotionally since our move to the Cincinnati area. Every parent knows the sting of helplessness, watching a child struggle with no ability to make it better. It’s awful.

We’ve sat and cried with our children over long-term illness and emotional stress that’s taken its toll physically as well. We’ve prayed and talked and gone to the appropriate professionals as needed, but the truth is the road for both of my children has been long and winding and a little dark at times with no quick fixes to be found.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know we’re not the only ones who’ve experienced hardship. We’ve watched friends and family experience loss in many forms: death, divorce, unemployment, etc.

Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops, and the whiplash of disparate experiences can take a toll on your relationship.

When your personal merry-go-round spins faster and won’t let you off, one of two things can happen to your relationships:

  1. You and your partner grow closer together.
  2. You and your partner grow farther apart.

Steven and I have been really tired at times throughout our family struggles. We haven’t always agreed on the proper course of action to take with our children. We’ve had some hard conversations, and it’s tempting to pull away when we’re scared and hurt and tired.

But we have also done the hard work of not giving up — which is sometimes a daily choice — of reaching for one another in the darkness.

Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a walk together when we’d rather zone out in front of the TV. Other times, it means we binge-watch to give ourselves a break from the stress of life.

Sometimes it’s speaking truth to the other’s fears, so we can snap ourselves out of the haze of deception. Other times, it’s watching Brian Reagan with the whole family to remind ourselves that fear is a bully and laughter can exist even when we’re walking through the valleys.

Maybe it means listening to the advice of friends and family or completely ignoring it.

When the storms come, fight to stay present. Don’t check out. Remember feelings can’t be trusted.

The same choppy waters you’re navigating will turn placid again, but if you jump out of the boat? You’ll be alone with nothing but a lonely swim to shore waiting.

Fight through the fear. Reach for your loved one when they disappear into the darkness. Reach with love and understanding instead of judgment and criticism. Put yourself in each other’s shoes and empathize.

The storms never last forever. Do everything you can to hold on to each while the thunder claps and the lightning flashes because it will pass, and you don’t want to be standing alone when the sun shines again.

What to Do:

The darkness of life won't last forever.When you’re afraid and defensive, take a deep breath before you speak. You might find that a hug accomplishes far more than a speech about your feelings. A simple I love you might accomplish more than another worn out diatribe.  

Listen and keep connecting even in small ways. Take a walk. Watch the sunset or sunrise, and remember that every season passes. Even droughts come to an eventual end.

Isaiah 43: 1-4 (MSG)

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.