Monday, April 18, 2011

Soul Surfer Hazel

For those of you who have seen the movie "Soul Surfer", you will understand what is going on in this picture.  For those of you who haven't, GO SEE THE MOVIE!  Yes, I am yelling at you  :)  Is she funny or what?  She walked into my room a few days after we saw the movie and saw my backpack on the floor.  The next thing I knew, she had put it on and put one arm in her shirt so that she could "have only one arm like Bethany".  (In the movie Bethany wears a backpack full of rocks and then runs with it as part of her training)   Hazel even tried running with the backpack on but it is as big as her so it was  a bit hard :)  I Just think it is so amazing how a three year old can pick up on the little parts in a movie like that. 

Surfer Hazel
Brody and Hazel with their "surf boards" trying to surf like Bethany (in the 40 degree water!) Okay, maybe it wasn't 40, couldn't have been more than 50.  It was freezing!  
I had to post one of Wyatt at the pool that day too.  I like to imagine what he is thinking sometimes.  He is so smart - and I think, in this picture, he was totally laughing inside at Brody and Hazel's surfing attempts :)

We went to see this movie last week during spring break.  A friend of ours took us with her and her girls since we don't have a car.  (Thanks C!) Anyways, I had seen the preview once and thought it looked great but was worried about my little kids seeing it just because of the shark attack.  Brody LOVES sharks and so he said he wanted to go so we loaded up 8 people in a mini van (with poor Paige on the floor) and went to the movie!  FYI: The movie is VERY clean.  Not one swear word, no sex or innuendo - unless you count girls in bikinis -  not the Baywatch type)  and the shark attack is really quite mild.   It is a great family movie. 

Spoiler Alert:  I am not really going to give all the details of the movie, but will just be sharing a few moments and points.  I don't really think I am giving anything away that the trailer doesn't already tell you, but just warning you.

I knew the movie was a true story about a young surfer girl who was attacked by a shark and lost her arm - and that was about it.  What I didn't know was how many good messages there would be in the movie and that I would cry 20 times.   I am sure that because of my life and what I am (and have been) going through I really looked deeper into some of it than maybe others do.  However, I know others that have seen it that also loved the messages.  I LOVE the fact that every once in awhile, a movie comes out that is clean and that also teaches invaluable lessons like these. 

These are the ones that I took away and what they meant to me:

  1. God loves us and has a plan for us - even though we don't know what it is.  In Bethany's case she lost her arm.  That is obviously a big deal, but maybe not as big of a deal to a tap dancer as it was to a surfer.   In the movie Bethany asks "why did this have to happen to me?" and the answer was "I don't know why bad things happen, but I have to believe that something good is going to come out of this".  That is what all of our trials are for.  They are for us to learn, grow, change, improve, become more compassionate, hard working, selfless, loving, etc.  Those are the good things that will come out of our trials and hard situations.  We all know that if we are not challenged, then we do not grow.  This goes for all areas of life:  School, sports, work, parenting, spirituality and so on.  However, that doesn't make the process easy or fun.  But if we remember that we do not have to face these challenges alone, then we can make it through and become a better person in the end.   Bethany gave hope to so many other kids and people that were struggling with situations like her own.  Because she did not give up and kept pursuing her dream, others did the same.  She could have easily just quit (which she did once) and live her life in sadness and despair.  Instead, she had to work even harder than she had before to accomplish her goals and she was able to do just that.  
  2. Perspective:  They show a few pictures really really close up and ask people to tell them what is in the picture.  There are many guesses, but no one can really tell what they are because they are "too close".  They talk about "stepping back" and getting a new perspective.  When they zoom out of the picture they are easily able to tell what the picture is.  This really hit me for some reason as well.  It is so easy to get caught up in the little small day to day things instead of focusing on the "big picture" of what is really important.   Example: When I think of how hard it is living in another state away from my husband, my home, my friends, etc, and dealing with what I am dealing with,  it can make me sad and discouraged.  However, when I think about what I will be gaining out of the situation:  Happier higher functioning children with better futures, a stronger family unit, a better relationship with my heavenly father, compassion long suffering, understanding and more, then I realize what I am doing this for and it makes everything easier.  I am happier, I have more hope, I don't get discouraged as easily and I am able to better handle the things that I am faced with.   Bethany learned this at one point when she went to serve others that were suffering terribly and she realized that her own suffering was minimal compared to theirs.  She also learned that surfing, although it was her dream, was not the most important thing in the world.  I love that she learned these things while she was serving others.  I think that is absolutely the first thing that you should do if you are feeling down, discouraged or the like.  Step back from your own problems and worries and focus on someone else.  Serve someone else.  Try to focus your thoughts and energy on what you can do to help others and you will not only feel so much better, but you will realize that you are not the only one with trials or problems.  You also will find yourself saying that you are glad you have your trials and not theirs.  Funny Story:  When Brody is having a hard time with something- sharing, etc.  I will ask him "Brody - What is more important?  Your sister?  Or Legos?"  He will always answer "my sister" and quickly hand over the Lego she is wanting.  This has been going on for years.  Then the other day as we were leaving for Brain Balance we were late.  I started driving out of the complex and Brody said "I can't find my seat belt"  I told him that he needed to hurry, but I kept driving.  He said "Mama, you need to pull over so that I can get my seat belt on"  I told him that we were going to be late and we didn't have time.  Then my cute little Brody said to me "What is more important Mama, being on time? or getting hurt in a crash?"  I love how my son is now teaching ME to step back and look at the bigger picture and realize what is more important.  On the flip side, Hazel still hasn't quite picked up on this yet.  Yesterday the kids were fighting over the balloons that their Uncle had given them.  They were grabbing them, hitting them and Hazel was doing her usual very high pitched scream telling us that she is NOT happy with the situation.  So I said to her "Hazel, what is more important?  Your Brothers?  Or the Balloons?  She said "The balloons."  We will have to keep working on that one.
  3. The last one that I will share is my favorite - AND the one that made me cry the most.  Near the end of the movie (I won't give away details) I believe it was a reporter that asked Bethany -  If she could go back and change what happened to her, would she do it?  I already knew the answer she would give because it is the same one that I have given more than once.  It is a really strange feeling to essentially say "I am glad that a shark bit my arm off".  Now she doesn't say it like that of course :) - but she does say that she would not go back and change it.   Isn't that strange?  I think being an outsider and not living what she lived through it would be easy to say - "I would have rather kept my arm."  But because of what she learned, who she helped and influenced and how it literally changed her outlook,  her perspective and her entire life forever, she realizes that something good came out of her bad situation and it was worth it.  
Autism is hard - VERY hard.  Heavens - just being a parent is hard!  Then add bowel disease, restricted diets, supplements, medications, behavioral problems, living across the country away from your spouse - yea, it is hard!  However, as I said above:  When Bethany said she would not go back and change it, that is the same way that I feel.  I would not wish this life on anyone, and I would not wish this life on my kids because it is VERY hard on them.  However, my kids will grow up so strong.  They have already experienced more in their short lives than a lot of adults have.  They will know that everything comes with hard work and that nothing just comes easy.  They will know that sometimes you have to sacrifice. They will be more compassionate and more understanding of others.  They will know that they are children of God and that he loves them and that with his help, they can accomplish anything that they want to. 

As for me, I had to answer this question last year when giving a talk in church.  To make it easier on myself, I am going to paste the section of my talk below.  I was less tired then and was more capable of expressing what I was trying to say. 

Although this is a trial for us and many times I felt the urge to ask “why”?  I know that I cannot change the past and dwelling on what could have been will not help.  To the contrary, I feel blessed to have such  sweet, smart, amazing children that have taught me so many things.  During the last few years I have become more stressed out, more forgetful, more emotional, more cautious, more worrisome.  I am a bit less social,  and  feel as though a mental breakdown is coming at any given minute.  However,  I have also become smarter, more educated, more cautious, more organized, more compassionate, more giving, more unconditionally loving and just a better person in general.  I would not change my life.  My heavenly father has a plan for me and wants me to learn and grow and he will not leave me.  He will help me move forward and be with me until the end and it is his will, not my will be done. 


  1. Loved this post! (and loved the movie too) You continue to amaze me. Your strong spirit and amazing faith blows me away. You are an amazing mother, wife and sister. I love you lots and can't wait to be together again. Tell Hazel that balloons are pretty cool, but they can't play Star Wars with her. That might help! She is such a silly girl!