keyart2Have you ever had one of those days when you felt broken? Let me refresh your memory. Every appliance in the house is on the fritz, the cat brings you a “present” that resembles a dead dragon, the kids have strep throat for the third time this season, the babysitter cancels at the last minute and you have a “very important” deadline you are clearly going to miss. Oh, and there’s a note in a backpack warning of a lice epidemic at school. Been there? Me, too.

In times like this I try not to let my situation define me. I look around at others who are facing far worse misfortune and wonder what it takes to rise above life’s challenges. I marvel at the capacity of some people who remain #unbroken in the face of extraordinary adversity. People like Louis Zamperini, whose life is chronicled in the movie (and book) Unbroken, a remarkable story of survival and forgiveness.

On the surface, I don’t have a lot in common with the late Louis Zamperini. But I think moms can learn from Louie what it takes to remain unbroken in spite of life’s detours, trials and obstacles. We don’t have to be shipwrecked, beaten beyond recognition or imprisoned in a Japanese war camp to experience the kind of difficulty that can break us. New babies…aging parents…setbacks in our health…marital struggles…financial problems…unplanned relocations… These are the things that derail us. They have the power to break our spirits, dissolve our will and test our faith – if we let them. Or, we can allow them to shape us into the women God calls us to become. It’s our choice. And we can choose to be #unbroken, like Louis Zamperini.

Characteristics of an #Unbroken Mom

Resilience: Louie’s horrific experiences are difficult to watch on screen, but the message is uplifting. Under the same circumstances, most of us would crumble both physically and emotionally. Yet, Louie grew stronger with every ordeal.

I think that’s how many mothers manage to get through the seemingly endless parade of challenges that greet us every day. We don’t allow them to grab ahold of our heart and fill us with anger and frustration. We accept each one, doing our best with what we know and the resources we have. And we grow stronger as mothers because of the experience. We become #unbroken in the face of life’s tribulations.

Clear Focus: Despite the unfathomable suffering and despair that surrounded Louie, he was able to keep his eyes fixed on his goal: survival. He knew that surviving the war was his way to win the battle and defeat the enemy. Nothing else mattered.

As mothers, we can easily lose site of our priorities in an effort to complete the tasks set before us. That’s why I often find myself choosing to do laundry or wash dishes when I had planned to read scripture. And I’m ashamed to admit it’s why I sometimes shush my child and devote my attention to a business related project. Every day is a new opportunity to reexamine what matters most to us. And to ask God to provide clear guidance and direction so that we remain focused and #unbroken when it comes to our true priorities.

Wise Companionship: God placed mentors in Louie’s life including his brother Pete, his pilot and friend Phil, and his wife Cynthia. Without their encouragement, support and faith, Louie’s life would certainly have taken a different path.

Our life story may not be as enthralling as Louie’s, but the people we surround ourselves with truly make a difference in who we become. And while we can’t always chose who we spend time with, we can chose who we let into our hearts, who we listen to and who we trust with our hopes and dreams and fears. We pray that our children make wise choices when it comes to their friends, so we too must seek out relationships that enable us to be the very best versions of ourselves. We must choose companions that allow us to remain #unbroken moms!

Patience: More than once, Louie’s patience saved his life. He endured delays, difficulties and obstacles that would have made most of us concede failure and give up our dreams. But he remained steadfast and ultimately realized many of his goals, including the opportunity to run in the Olympics, carrying the torch in the opening ceremonies in Nagano, Japan at the age of 81.

In my daily life as a mom, I confess that patience sometimes eludes me. I lose patience with my children, my husband and myself. But I know God is shaping me and refining me with each test of my patience. And I know that an #unbroken mom is one who remains patient and surrenders to God’s timing.

Optimism: Louie’s life certainly didn’t turn out the way he planned. His path took him from juvenile delinquent to Olympic athlete to prisoner of war. But no matter what he faced, Louie was able to adapt to and even embrace his circumstances, replacing fear with hope. When he was stranded on the raft with two friends, it was Louie’s optimism that saved him, while Mac’s hopelessness became his downfall. Louie “remained infectiously, incorrigibly cheerful,” says author Laura Hillenbrand. “His conviction that everything happened for a reason, and could come to good, gave him a laughing equanimity even in the hard times.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want in my life. Infectious cheer and optimism. That’s what I believe it takes to be an #unbroken mom.

Imperfect Faith: From what we see in the movie (which did not show the story of Louie's conversion to Christianity), Louie didn’t walk around quoting scripture. He questioned his faith, challenged God’s plan and made deals with the Lord. His spiritual walk wasn’t paved with perfection…it was sprinkled with divine intervention. And it was punctuated by a forgiveness that can only be possible through Christ.

Sometimes on my quest to be the “perfect mom,” I adopt the misguided belief that if I only read the Bible more often, prayed harder, or taught my children hymns, I would find myself in God’s graces. But some of us have a faith like Louie’s – we are filled with questions and challenges. I don’t think that makes us any less Christian. I think it makes us human. And loved. It gives us a faith as real as the Pope’s. And it is the one thing that we have left when everything else is broken.

It’s your turn. What do you think it takes to remain #unbroken?

Copyright 2014 Theresa Ceniccola