Month: October 2016
It is raining here in Lake Stevens, unrelenting raindrops that will keep us indoors for the day. The boys have just gone down for their morning nap and I have a cup of hot chocolate to make my way through. To be honest though, my mind is miles away in Idaho and my heart is caving in from the weight of so many emotions. My Papa, my Father, the man whose hands have always cradled mine in his, whose eyes are filled with kindness, the man who walked me down the aisle and is loved by many, is having a PET Scan. He was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. It appeared in a lump on his neck and grew quite quickly over a three week period. We will know more after today but my whole being wants to be there to support him and my Mom. To hug him tightly, to hold his rough, strong hands that I love so much. I want to be with my family as we all rally around him and my Mom during this time.
So tomorrow the boys and I will drop Bryan off at work and make the eight hour drive to Idaho. It’s a long drive but I am so thankful we are close enough to make that now. Many of you are praying and will continue to do so and I appreciate it!!! We are hoping, praying and believing along with many others for a positive outcome from the scan. Depending on the results he will possibly go in for surgery on Thursday so please keep thinking of and praying for him!
While this is happening, my head is spinning with other things. I have an interview for a job when I get back, I still haven’t properly finished my book, I miss Northern Ireland, I don’t feel like I have been kind to my boys the past few days, my back is sore making sleep not so great, and the list goes on. I am not looking for a pity party. I am aware and know how wonderful my life is. I have an incredible husband, two wonderful sons who are gracious, forgiving and always ready for fun. We have a roof over our heads during this period of transition from the UK. We are surrounded by wonderful people who are invested into our lives. Our families are closer than they have been for years. So no, I am not looking or asking for pity. This is me processing and being vulnerable when I feel my life is spiraling out of control and I can do nothing to stop it. This is me saying there are too many emotions, too many BIG things going on all at once. I am sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes life presents multiple paradigm shifts at the same time. And whilst you could possibly adjust to one or two, the other three or four are just too much. That’s where I am at. Feeling overwhelmed with the depth of this thing called life. The hardest and most shallow trials can hit at the same time creating the perfect storm of emotional turmoil. I am clinging to the quote that ‘this too shall pass’ for I know it to be true. So what will I do?
What I will do is this. I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself to cry as much as I need to. I will not beat myself up if I shout at my boys when they misbehave. I will breathe. I will sit still when I can. I will open my heart to my heavenly Father and ask for His grace to fill in the gaps and fill my heart. I will sit some more. I will hold my boys, hug them, kiss them. I will cry on Bryan’s shoulder when he gets home from work. I will pack what is needed for our journey. I will take one step at a time. I will not rush. I will be.
I know the picture above is not the best quality, yet I love it. It captures the essence of my sweet, kind, gentle-giant loving Papa. My boys love him. When we stay with my Papa and Mom the boys love sitting on his lap, reading, chatting or watching cartoons with him (he’s a big kid at heart!). My boys are not alone in loving my Papa though, all the grandkids do and we are so very thankful as his children to have him and my Mom. My Papa has always been such a great earthly representation of my heavenly Father and I thank him for making that relationship easier than most. I am excited to get there tomorrow and throw my arms around him in an extravagant gesture of love!
I would ask you to please keep praying for him and our family though. I know it makes all the difference. For those of you who like me, find yourself in a similar season, what do you need to do today to be kind to yourself? If you can, do it. Ask for help, cry, read, walk, sleep. Do whatever it is that will ease your mind and soul. You have my permission and most likely the permission from all those around you too.
This picture is of our old nursery, our boys first bedroom. The nursery has so much significance as you prepare for the arrival of your first child/children. You imagine your child sleeping here, waking here, playing here. You carefully choose the colour of the walls, the type of crib you want your baby to sleep in, the changing table you will use more times than you could ever have imagined. You wash their tiny, little clothes and place them on hangers or in drawers. You place their teddies and blankets in the crib/s and anxiously wait for their arrival. You prepare space in your life for this new little human being about to join your family.
Yet the nursery is also a way for the parents to mentally prepare their checklist of ‘Are we actually ready to bring this baby home from the hospital’? You may store your hospital bag in this room, you may have your cotton wool for cleaning up your baby’s dirty bum, you may keep an abundance of newborn nappies here. You try to prepare for something you have never experienced (if this is your first child). As you countdown the days to your due date you also countdown the projects left to finish in the nursery and possibly around the house. Many of which will be left untouched for years after that first babies arrival, this my friend is perfectly fine and acceptable.
As time went on and we organized our nursery, I realized it told so much of our story. On one wall was pictures of Bryan and I as babies with our own parents with the letters of our last name hung below representing the blending of our two lives to make one. In one corner you can see Bryan’s trophies from football over the years which in the beginning was one of our main instigators for moving to Northern Ireland. On another wall we hung a world map, hoping that our boys will love adventure and travel as much as their parents do and to remind them of the big, extravagant world that awaits their explorations. This map also had attached to it individual pieces of art representing each boys life that my mother-in-love painted for us.
We had two cribs in their nursery. Eventually they couldn’t sleep together because they needed more space to stretch and grow. One crib was borrowed from friends who were some of our closest Northern Irish family. Their two children both slept in that crib and now ours had too. The other crib is warmly referred to as The Box. This crib was loaned to us by a Dutch friend who we met through church. We always seemed to gravitate towards each other with an understanding of being a foreigner living in a different land. The final wall though was our most precious. It held a bright, lime green frame. Inside that frame were scans of our boys as embryos as well as in the womb at 20 weeks. It held pictures of our first family photoshoot with our tired eyes, contented smiles and my slightly swollen belly still present from carrying the boys for 35 weeks.
As we prepared our hearts to leave Northern Ireland, (which by the way I am not sure how you actually prepare to leave a place you love dearly), I would walk into their nursery often. I would stand and absorb the details, the smell, the light, the memories that room held for me. Nights of feeding my boys, naptimes, white noise shouting from behind a closed door, hearing the boys wake in the morning and going into get them up with their jammies and sleepy eyes. Even as I write this I pray I never forget those sweet, precious moments of the first bedroom they possessed. My eyes are welling up with tears and I have a lump in my throat as I vividly recount that time of our life.
Not only did we leave behind the boys first room, a house that we had finally filled with the sounds of our boys pitter patter running up and down the hallway. We left behind one of the most beautiful, challenging, fulfilling, heartbreaking seasons of our life together. I haven’t written about our move that much. The reason is because it is so painful to do so. Let me explain as best as I can.
We are loving this new life we have begun back in the states. In many ways it seems like our lives here are just extending from 2003 when we left Kirkland to begin our pursuit of moving to Northern Ireland. We still have many of the same friends and get to connect with them as often as we can, we are back in the same town we went to University in, Bryan loves his job and is thriving in it. The closeness to family is so special right now. I am so thankful to be staying with good friends while we wait for the little house we are going to rent to open up in December. We know we made the right move at the right time and are thankful to be here.
However, we still feel very much Northern Irish. We long for a cuppa with a bar of galaxy chocolate or a digestive biscuit. We long for a drive to the North Coast to visit friends and soak up the landscape of sea and cliffs. We long for the short drive to the Big Smoke(Belfast) to the Christmas Market with friends. We long for a curry from Bengal Spice on a Saturday night with our friends. We long for the closeness of community with people we had done so much life with over the years. We long for the Bush Road and Dungannon. We long for the slower pace of life. We long for the proximity to the rest of Europe making it possible to travel to places like Italy and France. We long for the people who carved themselves into our hearts, never to be forgotten. We long for it all.
We don’t know what the future holds and there is no point clinging to the past. The present is our home. So today, I reflect with a humble, thankful heart for the fullness of our life both there and here. The two look vastly different but both show me the goodness of God in the land of the living. I stand with my hands outstretched and open once again to all that God has in store.
Last night I gave our two energetic boys a bath. While they played in the bath I put fresh sheets on our bed. I could hear Cohen whining a bit so I went back into the bathroom to find that Cohen (it’s always Cohen) had pooped in the bath. Thus a fresh bath was drawn and the boys enjoyed having more time to splash and play. Once Cohen was dried and in his PJ’s, he headed downstairs to watch a show while I got Kidran out to get him ready for bed. In the moments while I dried him off, I lifted him up to put his arms into his PJ’s. Each time I tried to put his arm into his sleeve he leaned into me and hugged me tight. This went on for five minutes at least. He would lean out, look at me, smile and then lean in for another tight squeeze. Of course my Momma’s heart melted. These are the moments I am sure Mary pondered in her heart. These are the moments that feel like I am touching heaven. In these moments, I am the reality of a dream so long sought after. I am a mother, who is holding her precious child. These are also the moments I hoped for that caused me so much pain at times as I wondered if they would ever come to be.
Flashback to the image above. The one of me wearing a beautifully crafted necklace, eyes closed tightly, touching my swollen bump while multiple hands pour out heartfelt prayers over me. I remember that moment so clearly. It was two days before my scheduled C-Section. I was uncomfortably large, feeling sharper pains by the day, anticipating the arrival of our two miracles. The women hosting my baby shower and those attending had walked this painfully long journey of infertility with me. These babies were as much theirs as they were mine. Each of them had cried with or for me at some stage, prayed and longed for the day when they would see me become a mother. In that moment I had the privilege of representing hope fulfilled, no longer hope deferred.
After a nine year wait I knew what it meant to experience hope deferred. At times I wanted to throw hope into the sea and never think of it again. I couldn’t squelch my hope though, which if I’m honest was annoying. My hope kept rising, kept resurfacing, kept appearing.
Over those difficult years I wore the necklace you see in that picture. I used to rub it between my fingers as I prayed for our future children. I used it as the image for a women’s conference at our church and now I even have it tattooed on my wrist. So many people knew of this necklace, they knew of its significance to me. The necklace was a timely gift from my dear friend Ailsa during one of my lowest points. I treasured the generous gift from the moment I received it and the necklace became a reminder of hope. A hope that was strong, resilient and based on the promise from a good God that someday I would be a mother. It brought me strength on days when I didn’t believe or couldn’t believe it would happen. It reminded me on days when I wanted to forget. It brought me comfort when I needed it the most. In many ways it was my own Ebenezer stone, reminding me of all God had done so far in my life, and encouraging me to keep believing for what He hadn’t done. It kept my flickering flame of a dwindling hope alive when the circumstances of our situation nearly snuffed that flame out.
I will not lie to you and say that this hope was easy to carry. It was not. Some days it felt like a ton weight placed on my back. This hope caused me to question my faith, caused me to correct some faulty doctrines in my own belief system, this hope caused me to relinquish the way in which I saw myself as a mother and allowed me to open my heart to many other forms of mothering. Some of you may be at the beginning of a very long journey, one which may be causing you much heartache. Some of you may be in the middle and some of you may be approaching the end of a difficult period of time. Where is your hope? Do you need more hope today? What would remind you, visually of God’s faithfulness and character on the days when you need it the most? What would ignite your own hope fire? Whatever it is, find it, use it, do it and keep at it.
After the boys went to bed last night, I looked down at my wrist. My symbol of hope has been birthed into two, vivacious boys. My hope that was deferred has been resurrected in abundance. I could not and would not have planned the way my hope was fulfilled and most likely you can’t either. This is the way of Jesus and His mystery. He has a third way for you as He did for me. Your situation or circumstances are not unchangeable. Yet your outcome may look very different to what you are dreaming. So today, as you look at the picture of my wrist, with this tattoo forever marking this personal journey for me, look also at my open hand. Keep your hands open to that which God may place in it. Open up your dreams and your hopes, because most likely what He has in store is far better than you could dream up yourself!