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“This above all, to refuse to be a victim.” – Margaret Atwood

Father and son in natureRegardless what events come into our lives, we get to choose how we respond and what we do next.

Sometimes it means how to best respond to minor challenges like traffic, rainy weather, cold coffee or the barking neighbor’s dog.

Yet, at a leadership event last week, I was reminded that it applies to how we navigate life’s greatest challenges, too.

I was speaking with a group of 60 leaders responsible for the benefits of the organizations they serve. It was a three-hour leadership session, I’d just shared a difficult aspect of my story, and then all the amazing gifts that grew out of that experience of being burned.

I then invited the participants to identify their story and took them through a process which culminated in them embracing the blessing in their challenging experiences, too.

I reminded them that a critical aspect of leadership is vulnerability. [Tweet this.] Then, I asked if anyone might be willing to share their story. A hand went up, a woman stood and she began with the words:

“Ten years ago I got a call in the middle of the night that no parent ever wants to receive.”

Karen continued, “A hospital staff member was on the phone and shared that my son had been in an accident and that I need to get to the hospital immediately. This person wouldn’t tell me what happened or how my son was doing. As I demanded more information, the staff member tearfully shared that my son, just 21, did not survive. My only son had died.”

Karen paused.

“So this is the story I wrote down when John asked us to own our story, our burning experience. And then I had to answer the last question, ‘What good came out of this experience?’ This obviously has taken some time to answer, but looking back it’s amazing what the community did for us. It’s amazing how we were able to be so lifted up by our faith. It’s amazing how our family, his two sisters, have grown so extraordinarily close through our tragedy. I wouldn’t ask for any of this, but we’re stronger today because of it.”

And then she shared this.

“My last conversation with my son took place two days before he died. It was New Years Day, I wanted to hear how his night was, we chatted about it and agreed we’d talk soon. Right before we got off the phone I said to him, ‘You know how much I love you, right?’ He said he did and told me he loved me, too.”

Karen then challenged every parent, every child and every leader in the room to learn from her experience, be grateful for what you have today, and realize that you have the gift of showing your love daily through your words and actions.

My friends, fortunately most of us will not ever know the pain of that phone call in the middle of the night. Most will not have to endure the loss of a child.

And yet the reminder from Karen rings loud and clear this morning: You never know what tomorrow holds. So choose to treat every experience, every relationship, ever challenge and every day as the absolute gift that it is. [Tweet this.]

This month as a community we are reflecting on the theme “choosing to be a victor not a victim.” Karen is the perfect example of being a victor in life. Instead of focusing on loss, she shines a light on the strength that has come from it and the love she can share today.

Friends, celebrate life like the gift it is. It won’t eliminate the minor or mighty challenges in life, but it will allow you to live the life, love the people and be the person you want to be during this day — which is a gift.

Did this post hit home? Would you like to better navigate adversity in your daily life like Karen? Join me at my LAUNCH Conference November 13 & 14 in St. Louis. Register here. I can’t wait to share two-days of inspiration with you!


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