Navigating The Storms Of Life, Together

Posted on March 10th, 2015

In October I received the call no one wants to receive. It was an area code I immediately recognized: Palo Alto, CA. I tested positive for a rare hereditary genetic mutation linked to an aggressive form of stomach cancer. With only a 1 in 500,000 chance of receiving the genetic mutation and 350 confirmed diagnoses world wide (at the time), I had won the lottery no one wants to win. By March I was in the operating room to have my entire stomach as well as 18 lymph nodes removed and begin the rocky road back to recovery. It has been the most difficult season my young family and I have encountered to date.

My story is not unique. No one is immune to storms in life, not even pastors like myself. In my role, I have the honor of walking alongside families through difficult times. While each person’s circumstances are nuanced, there are a couple notes I have taken as my family navigates our stormy season.

Be brave. One of the comments I have received through my recovery has been, “You are brave.” To be honest, I don’t feel brave. I imagine brave people to be those who jump into burning buildings, or who have survived chemotherapy. This comment incited a personal quest to discover “bravery.” I’ve discovered that the people whom we tend to call “brave” do not typically seek opportunities to be “brave.” They are ordinary people facing challenging circumstances and choose to walk through it, rather than around it. The temptation is to ignore the problem hoping it will disappear, or seek distractions, but sometimes walking straight though is the only way to get to the other side. It sounds cliché, but with good reason: one challenge, one step, one conversation at a time. With each challenge, we develop the tools we need to face the next squall.

Identify your sailing crew. A football team in the area has a motto they shout before every game — “Win, together, together, together!” It takes vulnerability, but the people around us need to know we are counting on them. When the people you care most about in life know that you are counting on them through trials and triumphs it makes a difference.

Research from the Fuller Youth Institute suggests every teen needs at least five meaningful adult relationships in their lives to thrive. This number can seem daunting, but their network can be a combination of relatives, coaches, teachers, etc. Helping your teen identify people who speak value, unconditional love and truth into their lives can begin with a simple conversation. Encouraging your teen to tell those people he/she is counting on them creates intentionality for both parties.

I believe this ratio holds true for parents too. Parents need meaningful relationships in order to thrive. Whether this is found within a faith community or a group of parents from the soccer league, parents need to identify and nurture these relationships with intentionality. As you encourage and help your teen to identify five meaningful adult relationships, perhaps this is a perfect time to do a little soul searching yourself.

Wherever you are in your journey, we do not have to navigate these storms alone.


Who are your five meaningful relationships, and have you let them know?

How can you help your teen identify or develop his/her five meaningful relationships?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Los Gatos Teen Therapy provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.

4 thoughts on “Navigating The Storms Of Life, Together

  1. Lindsay Smith

    Thank you for sharing your story Steve. I really like the part about working through our challenges, even though often we’d prefer to go around them or have them disappear altogether. It is true that in walking through each challenge, we develop new skills and strengthen our support system. I absolutely agree that having a strong support system is vital. What are some ways that you would suggest for both parents and teens to develop their support systems?

    1. Steve Dang

      Creating a support structure is one of the most important things we can do for our family. First, I would reflect back on your family’s life, are their faces or names that keep cropping up in the good times and bad? Who are they? Family? Friends? Neighbors? Coaches? Second, I would consider doing something special, like hosting a dinner with these people where you can celebrate and appreciate their friendship through those times. Take a moment to recall and share those stories, you will be blessing each other. Sometimes we make the assumption that specific people know that we are counting on them and when they don’t come through, we can grow resentful. On the other hand, when people know we are counting on them and appreciate them, it adds intentionality to your relationship. They might be the first people who call you when they learn of your circumstances. They become another meaningful adult voice in your kids life that you can trust to give them sound advice. They might even become the first people you call at 1 AM when something goes wrong, or the first call you make when there is something to celebrate! It’s important that your network celebrates and carries your family well. Third, leave room to be surprised at who will show up at your bedside. Sometimes we can get so rigid about the people we “prefer” to be at our bedside, but when we relinquish those expectations, we might find new and beautiful relationships emerge out of the ashes. In recap for building your network- start small: who is in your life now? Identify, call out and celebrate: do they know you are counting on them and do you celebrate life with them? Finally, leave room for surprises: sometimes the most unexpected relationships emerge from unexpected places from unexpected people.

  2. Carol Satterlee

    Steve, I am moved by your story and so appreciate your sharing it here. What I feel and receive from you is your spirituality, the positive attitude you exude, the journey and thus wisdom you have discovered along the way. Your message completely resonates for me when I reflect back on our own family crisis we faced years ago. There are definite stages in crisis, something I compared to the stages of grief.

    Being “brave” comes after recognizing, acknowledging and getting passed the myriad of emotions that come at you. For me it was fear, denial, guilt, helplessness, and looking for blame. I acknowledge my own spirituality that got me through along with my amazingly supportive husband. With him, I knew we could get through anything. This is where the support comes in. In my case, it was about choosing wisely who we would share this crisis with. I was quite intentional about who I let in based on the kind of unconditional support I/we needed. It was quite a journey and one I also chose to grow and learn about life, love and relationships.

    Thank you for your powerful story and the amazing spirit you display through this piece. With immense respect for you — Carol

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