I don’t have anything against sunflowers; I have just always preferred dahlias, chrysanthemums, daisies. Last October my daughter, Callie, wanted to buy flowers. I tried my best to redirect her decision, but her mind was set. I looked at sunflowers on our kitchen table every day for weeks. Those sunflowers unexpectedly taught me a valuable lesson.

Sunflowers are unwavering in their dedication and devotion to the sun. Their energy is clear and focused on keeping their face forward and following light. They continue to daily grow facing that illuminating ball of fiery energy. All of its hope for life seems to be entangled in that burning sphere. It’s really that simple for the sunflower. Always face the sunshine.

I realized, as positive as I am by nature, I didn’t always face light. Too often I was allowing myself a glimpse in the dark shadows. And not just look, but live in the shadows. It’s been said that our life moves in the direction to where our eyes are fixed. If I wanted to have the life I hoped for, I needed to somehow shift my vision. I wanted to make sure my eyes were fixed forward, towards light—joy, peace, laughter, love, forgiveness, gratitude.

I needed to become like those sunflowers sitting on my table.

There is nothing easy about the adoption process. There can be immeasurable amounts of peace and love, but easy is never a word that could describe adoption. Unless, that is, you are referring to how easy it is to become befuddled with uncertainty. Or how easy it is to feel hopeless. Discouraged. Emotionally tired. Even a glass-half-full kind of gal can get caught up in the all the stress of not knowing.

When I start to feel drained, that’s when I know I need a solar powered recharge. Here are four helpful tools that I use when I need to strengthen my hope muscle.

1. Be Pro-active. Nothing is more depressing than feeling powerless. I greatly dislike it. So, we create a plan for our adoption journey. We try to put our name out there. Write an entry on our blog. Remind Facebook that we’re still waiting. Create little cards to pass along to friends. Doing something feels really good. This gives my husband and I a boost of confidence that we are doing all we can.

2. Show Gratitude. Studies show that those who are more grateful are also happier. Test this theory out yourself. I know when I take time to not only list those things I’m grateful for, but express my gratitude to others, I feel lighter and truly better. Gratitude goes a long way in healing the hopeless heart.

3. Take a time out. I know I just suggested being pro-active and I still stand by that suggestion. But let’s not underestimate the power of taking a break! I’m talking about small breaks each day that bring those cortisol levels down. What helps you, personally, relieve stress? I like to do a deep breathing exercise. Meditate. Work out. I strongly believe in balance (even though it’s probably not one of my strengths yet). So to balance out my day, sometimes the best thing I can do is take a time out. It’s amazing what five minutes of a stress reducing activity can do for our spirit. How can I look toward the sun when my stress is pushing my head to the ground? Yeah. It’s difficult.

4. Surround Yourself with Cheerleaders. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of a hopeless funk. So I call on my cheerleaders, my supporters, my friends. Let’s limit contact with those who are pessimistic and/or make us feel bad and discouraged about our adoption path. Who needs that? I have a set of cheerleaders for Team Me who steer me towards light. These are the ones who cheer me on even when I’m struggling. They bring pep and enthusiasm back when it goes missing. Most of the time, we don’t even talk about adoption, but their presence alone lifts me up into the sun’s rays. We all need cheerleaders.

Sunflowers have actually become one of my favorite flowers. They are strong, bold, and resilient. My list contains only four practices that help me when hope seems to waiver. But what helps you?

In autumn when sunflowers appear in abundance, I feel my hope renewed. And during National Adoption Month, when I think about the road we’ve walked and the road we are traveling again, I buoy up my heart and look towards the sun.  Helen Keller said it best when she stated, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”