John F. Kennedy once said, “Don’t pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”

Karen Bohnert
I often think of these words when I pray before bed. I ask for the strength to endure what lies ahead. I’ve also tried to slow down and appreciate the beauty that comes from life’s struggles.

For me, my life’s failures have launched me forward. Sometimes, I have moved forward after taking a few steps back. But, I have picked myself up after laying flat on the floor, thinking I could not move on. Failures come in pint sizes and in big chunks. Thanks to social media, they can be seen by all — or covered up, depending what filter I use.

What I’ve learned from my life’s heartaches and failures is that coping is not a quick fix. It is a lifelong process.

My youngest son, Jacob, has a huge personality. Sometimes — actually many times — we have to remind him he is just 8, and that he doesn’t have to tell everyone his opinion.

When he was struggling in school, I kept telling him he needed to learn to cope. I would even say, “How do we spell cope, Jacob?” My third grader quickly caught on. He learned to take a deep breath and understood that if he wasn’t the line leader or the winner of a recess football game, life would go on and he would be okay.

However, by teaching Jacob how to cope, I realized I was in third grade all over again. I was failing to do the very same thing that I talked to my son about daily. I wasn’t coping. The problem is that I was blinded to the obvious problem until it became so big that it was eye opening.

Last year was a transition year for me on so many terms, but then again, isn’t every year a transition year? Life changes at lightning speed. Kids grow in a blink of an eye. Seasons blend into the next, and when life gets heavy, it seems like that is when time slows down and the clock stops. I’m often reminded that good times don’t last forever. Thankfully, neither do bad times.

During the tough times, when I wasn’t coping, I learned I need to go easy on myself. I felt like I had failed so many people, but in all reality, the only person I was failing was myself. Can any of you relate?

My oldest son, Tyler, was transitioning into high school and needed less Mom time and more Dad time. I should have been grateful that he has an incredible, hands-on, learn-by-example father who exemplifies everything I want my children to blossom into. Instead, I saw it as a loss, another grief. My child didn’t need me anymore. It crushed me.

For those that aren’t there yet, or have never experienced this, count yourself blessed, because this was a hard hurdle for me to get over. But, I eventually took a deep breath, learned to spell the word cope, and have managed to tread new waters.

Sometimes when we feel like we are losing at life, even if it is in just one area of our life, our lens can become so foggy that it feels as if we are failing life all together. I know this holds true for me.

During the same time that my oldest son was transitioning into high school and needed less of me, I had lost some clients that I had been working with. In a nutshell, I was doing less writing. This was hard to handle — both financially and personally. But, I learned to cope. I really had no other choice.

Through the process of coping, I had to come to terms with my feelings. What I felt was like I had lost part of my identity. People associated me as a writer and as the Jersey Mom, both of which I felt like had been chipped away from me.

But, I’m reminded that failure is a good thing. It teaches us humility. It teaches us perseverance. It teaches us patience. These are life skills that we all have to learn.

My life hurdles this year have taught me more about self care. Not being able to cope made me stop and take a big look at myself. I had moments that I dropped to my knees sobbing and moments of depression. But, when the storm passed and I was able to breathe, the sunshine filled my soul and heart and I’m thankful for it.

So, don’t wish for easier times. Pray for strength, perseverance, and patience because those will allow you to better handle life’s stresses and challenges. They have enabled me to move forward with confidence, hope, and strength to face both life’s blessings and its challenges.

Tyler and I have always had a special bond, and this still holds true. He is learning to be patient with me as I navigate new waters of mothering a high school child. We both are learning to cope with the mistakes, forgive when needed, and grant each other the much-needed space.

I’m learning to look at life’s struggles less like grief and more like change. Life is different now. The past was good, but so is the future. I’m really learning to coin the mantra of extending grace to others, but also to myself.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.