I watch my sixteen-year-old son and in some ways, it is like he has been inside a fish bowl. He has not been part of the environments where most kids his age find fun and life. Diagnosed with Crohn's-Colitis at fourteen, for him the last two and a half years have been riddled with lots of unpredictability, physical and emotional distress and tremendous waves of challenge. The good news: he is weathering the storm well, and as a family we've all experienced tremendous growth.

He is weathering the storm wellAt the outset, he had an extremely positive outlook and oftentimes said, "However uncomfortable I am right now, it could always be much worse." These self-soothing words were a source of comfort, motivation and positive perspective, all of which served as a real anchor. Yet powerful medications produced disfiguring, debilitating side effects, and fatigue and exhaustion defined most of his days. No longer did springtime mean his love for baseball would come to life. With bones too sore and achy to be far away from bed, being on the field was just not possible. His social life became more restricted and eventually, the whole school routine became too taxing, so home became the site for his schooling. My son was beginning to feel isolated and very different than his peers, and the most painful realization was that he was missing out on being a teenager.

Being in and out of school for three school years has created feelings of isolation and loneliness; depression came along with the unpredictable cycles of the illness and for a teenager, this is very difficult. The road to healing requires a lot of effort and energy, and the reserve isn't always readily available. Is this what my son is really meant to be experiencing? Are the lessons this situation presents what he really needs to be learning? What has this experience done for me? For my marriage? For my family? Have we changed?

For a mother, the pain involved in watching your child in pain and struggling is deep and defining. The tapestry of my son's life and our family experience has been woven with a pattern very different than many of our peers. But there is a silver lining. My husband, son and I have all discovered that through every painful experience, grows fertile opportunities to recreate ourselves to better fit the changes in our lives. I have heard on many occasions that Judaism is a religion of action. Within this situation, many opportunities for positive action have presented themselves, all of which have been eye opening and life altering.

Only six months after my son was diagnosed, I went to Israel for ten days on a program that deeply affected me. It was a perfect opportunity for my husband and son to bond and pretend they were living in a fraternity house while the "house Mom" was away. It was on this trip I met a rabbi who ended up becoming my life coach and spiritual mentor. It was through my learning with this rabbi that I met a very special friend and learning partner.

Through these relationships, I have been exposed to many great tools for coping, staying focused on the good, and keeping an optimistic outlook. By using verbal introspection as a tool to explore myself, I have found all sorts of details about who I am, how I am, what I am doing and where I am going. The lens for looking at and receiving life has greater clarity, and accepting those things I cannot change has become easier.

In living with a child who has been sick more days than well, I have come to realize that I need to face my fears and frustrations. I found myself opening up and talking to my husband a great deal more, hoping he would listen and be a source of support. His voice and words gave me strength and comfort, direction and love. His compassion helped me be more conscious about being compassionate. His anchor helped to secure my roots.

I need to face my fears and frustrations The perspective I was developing was to keep moving forward, with optimism and acceptance, staying present and finding all the good everywhere in everything. The more my husband and I were in sync, the better equipped we were to provide loving support and guidance to our son.

When I would share my struggles with my friends, they would be quick to point out my courage and calm, my strength and positive manner, all of which I was apparently overlooking. They helped me take ownership of these qualities. These relationships have been grounds for fertile personal growth, gratitude and humility.

When I was presented with the opportunity to accompany my friend to visit the sick children and their families at Children's Hospital, I couldn't resist. It seemed perfect. The perspective I gained from everything I saw there gave me reason to explore my faith. I saw teeny bodies entwined with tubes, invaded by multiple IVs and surrounded with beeping machinery. I saw mothers who seemed grounded and hopeful, steeped in faith and grateful for the company, which was a pleasant distraction.

This period of my life has presented me with the gift of presence and of developing my faith. When I examined what I had the power to change and what I needed to accept, I also became more capable of accomplishing most tasks either through my own work or through recognizing when I would need the help of others.

The power of prayer has played a significant role. When I need to be more accepting, when I need to act with more compassion, when I need to listen more and speak less, when I need to think with an expanded consciousness: I know I can connect through prayer.

No matter what the circumstances, I am learning that we are still responsible for our own happiness, and sometimes we have to step aside, looking beyond the immediate darkness to see the light; that goodness is always there to be found.

I ask for help to show me a better waySometimes I talk out loud to my Creator, and I ask for what I feel I need. I ask for help to show me a better way. I could be anywhere; walking my dogs, driving my car, or cooking in my kitchen. Sometimes I turn to traditional prayers and recite them mostly in English, sometimes in very deliberate Hebrew, and then I read the translation. I see growth opportunities lying in surrendering my will and ego to a Higher Power and acknowledging that it is in no way a sign of weakness to feel a need for a boost, rather it is always a source of clarity, relief from burden and a way to see a brighter angle. When I connect in prayer I always feel more capable and prepared, and that I'm never alone.

We are now in the month of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah. As Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the creation of the world, I have been celebrating the unfolding of a world that, for my family and me, has been a gift of re-creation. Who we are now and how we approach loving ourselves and each other has changed. The sound of the shofar, which we will hear on Rosh Hashanah, brings us energy to wake up so we can tap in to our real potential and approach life with a new vision. If we listen closely and quietly to the messages our challenges reveal, they are our personal shofar.