We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.
Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!
Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.
With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.
I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.
For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.
Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.
Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.
I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.
Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.
The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:
Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden
This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.
I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.
My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)
As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show. They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.
I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.
Last night Bryan and I had a date night of sorts thanks to two of his players! We said goodbye to the girls, hopped into the car and drove to downtown Kirkland and picked a coffee shop out of the plethora of choices that we have. (This feels just a little bit different than making this choice in Dungannon!)
This date happened because before I left for work I told Bryan my head was spinning with loads of ‘life’ conversations that we haven’t been able to have lately. So what did he promptly do? Got the girls to watch the boys so we could go and connect and chat through many of the topics we had been avoiding because we haven’t had the proper space and time to chat through them from start to finish.
My husband is amazing for so many reasons! The way he responds to my needs when voiced is just one of those reasons. The pictures above are snaps that he has sent me when I am at work. He loves the times he gets with the boys and it shows! I love how involved he is in every aspect of their lives and it still blows me away that he is my husband!!! I am thankful beyond words!! His capacity is far greater than mine and he is always watching out for the boys and me, making sure we are doing okay. His heart is so big!!! Thank you Bryan for being everything to the boys and me! You are a wonderful father and an amazing husband and I am thankful for you!!!
As I reflected on our date night and how little time it takes to reconnect (thankfully) in this mildly manic season of life, my mind went to other areas of my life. Over Lent I read a brief devotional each day that helped me feel more connected to God than I have in quite awhile. Again I was thankful for the little time it took to reconnect my soul to God. As I thought about Lent, I also began thinking of the many years where being a Christian and the promise of resurrection felt like a slap across the face.
For so many years I wanted, prayed, asked and begged for resurrection in one specific area of our life…that of infertility. I asked for my womb to be resurrected. I asked for our situation to change. I am still so closely connected to those feelings of waiting, of longing and this year they surfaced again as a distant but burning memory.
Lately I have been looking at my resurrection, my boys. The life they bring and represent, the promises fulfilled, the hope seen in a tangible way and I am overwhelmed. Four years ago I could not have imagined my life looking like it does right now. On Easter Sunday my heart ached, wounds re-opened and I felt some of those old feelings all over again. Not for myself this time but for many friends who are still waiting for their own resurrection. Some are waiting for it in their own journey through infertility and that especially tugs on my heart strings. Others are waiting for a relationship, a job change, a family member to come home or be healed and the list goes on.
Staying connected to the old feelings and memories of waiting and hoping has been hard at times. There have been moments where I have wanted to forget all of the painful parts yet it’s been in those parts that others have been encouraged by our story. We walked through the pain and came out the other side. I know that we eventually had our two incredible miracles and so it seems easy and shallow maybe that we would feel okay remembering the past. But I never want to forget it. I want other people to know that no matter where they are right now, it’s not the end. The thing they desire most they may receive, or they may not but where they are will not be forever.
Awhile back Bryan and I fell in love with one of Zach Braff’s films and in it the father figure says a profound statement: ‘We have to keep moving forward, it’s the only direction God gave us to go.’ So today I would encourage you to keep moving forward. Stay connected to yourself, to your spouse, friends and family. This too shall pass. I cannot say the other side will be more beautiful, that you will have everything you have been waiting for but what I can say is that in four years from now, you may not recognize the life you are living and you will be thankful you kept moving forward.
I am so thankful for our parents! Yes, that is a massive understatement as there will never be enough words or pages to truly explain all the ways they have been there for us. They supported us through the long painful years of infertility and celebrated more than anyone else when we finally got pregnant. I remember crying with Lynda over the phone as we shared our significant news and I will never forget my Mom standing up in Mancino’s restaurant shouting ‘Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!’ While my Dad’s face beamed with a mixture of tears and elation as he expressed his delight quietly.
Since the moment our boys arrived our parents have been there. My parents came and stayed with us in Northern Ireland for six weeks and Lynda stayed for three and a half months. They have visited us wherever we have been and let us come crash into their lives by ourselves and now with our boys. Their generosity is humbling and their kindness inspiring.
It has been with great joy and contentment that we have had the pleasure of Lynda visiting us here in Kirkland the past few days. Amma Chud has had so many special moments with our boys this trip and they have embraced her with open arms!! It has made my heart swell seeing our boys connect with their Amma as it does when they are with any of our family members but grandparent connections are about the sweetest.
Since Amma Chud arrived we have enjoyed some wonderful weather and have taken advantage of it fully. We have visited parks, downtown Seattle, watched Bryan’s team play their first spring season game and simply soaked up some much needed Vitamin D. We all sit back and watch the boys with joy and pride. They provide constant entertainment for us and anyone who happens to be in their vicinity.
The picture above says it all. The boys love their Amma! They have matching curls and it’s adorable!!! Plus the picture of Bryan and I on our wedding day in the background speaks to me of the legacy our two families are creating within these little boys lives. Seeing her read to them as they sit on her lap and listen, engaging with the story and read along brings me to tears.
I find myself taking so many mental snapshots right now. I am trying to let these days, even the not so fun ones, really imprint themselves on my heart and mind. It will be ten years from now in the not so distant future and I will look back at these times with our boys and cry. Cry for what has happened, for what we didn’t capture and for the future that is coming all too quickly. Yet I will also smile and ponder these things in my heart, recounting the ways Cohen always embraced life and every adventure. I will replay the nature walks with Kidran that took three times as long because he noticed every little detail and every bug, stopping to fully take in these tiny forgotten fragments in the array of large life. I will remember Cohen’s consistent greeting of ‘Hi Momma, hi Dadda!’ with his dummy in his mouth, holding both toy bears, as if it was the first time he had seen you in ages! I will reminisce about the way Kidran always used my clothes as his towel when getting out of the bath while clinging to me, cuddling in till I put his fresh PJ’s on.
So tonight, as you tuck your own children into bed or say goodnight, whatever their age, remind them of what they were like when they were little. What did you love about them at age two? Age five? What did they do then that they do now? Tell them the silly things they did or the sweet things. Share the joy their lives bring to you with them and create some more memories!!!
Then if you want a really good cry, go watch this Ed Sheeran video! It’s absolutely one of my favourites!!
Be still my heart! This has quickly turned into one of my favourite pictures of the boys. Rarely do you get them both sitting, smiling and together!!! This is a true gem snapped by their Father extraordinaire! This picture also captures each of their ‘little but growing bigger everyday’ personalities. Kidran still fits his nickname Disney while recently I called Cohen Swag and it seems to fit. These boys experience life so differently. I love my front row seat where I can observe these differences, then watch them share with each other their unique views.
As well as being cute and hilarious they are also very rascally. Their wills are getting stronger by the day. With that comes some meltdowns on my part and I have shouted in frustration which I am not proud of. Yet that is real motherhood and I would challenge anyone to find the mother who never once shouted at her children. She deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!!
Along with this stage of rapid development for our boys, Bryan is putting in a lot of hours. He is recruiting and getting his team ready for the quickly approaching spring season. I say to him all the time that his capacity amazes me!! Then he comes home and continues to love on me and the boys in sacrificial ways. I am one thankful woman for the man that I married!
However lately I have been feeling anxious. Anxious for many reasons, none of which are life shattering or life altering but feel important all the same. Then this morning my boys slept till 8:30, both of them!!! Shock and awe!! It felt like a real, tangible gift from God and I took it. I spent time alone, sitting in the dark, just being. Not moving or talking or cooking or cleaning. Just sitting. Breathing.
Then today at work ( Purpose Boutique ) I was in the back steaming some sweaters that had just arrived. As I sat their steaming the wrinkles out of these sweaters I felt like I was having an Ah-hah! moment. For some time now I have been treating myself like a bunched up, article of clothing that has been shoved in a bag and taken along for the ride. When I have been taken out of the bag in the past I have ironed my creases out. Applied the heat straight to the line and forced the wrinkles to come out quickly, with no patience. Today as I steamed I saw a gentler way. Instead of trying to force myself to unwrinkle, to smooth out in a flash, I will let the steam do it gently. I will let each crease relax and fall into it’s place in it’s own time. I will allow myself to unwind, untangle and be. Have you been ironing yourself and are ready for a gentler way? I encourage us all to take those few minutes to just be. To not talk or even move and just breathe. I am by no means a master at this art form of being gentle and gracious with myself but today I took a step closer and that is what matters.
As I walked down the hill into work today, taking in the view of Lake Washington and the mountains, it hit me that we are living what feels like a new life. I really loved our old life but I also am loving our new life. We have recently moved into our own little house that feels so cozy and sweet. We had our first Christmas here which included Skyping with my parents and us having the whole day together as a family. It was lovely! We also were able to celebrate New Years Eve with good friends at our place, six adults and seven children fit comfortably into our new home and I loved it! Plus we have a great walking/running path right out our front door with access to three parks all within half a mile radius. And did I mention Bryan can walk to work in five minutes too? Perks for sure!!
Part of this new life has been reconnecting with old friends which has been such a gift. Having solid friendships here has made this move so much easier. Bryan’s new job has been better than we could have imagined and he is of course incredible in his role. I am so proud of him and how he handles so much all the time! He truly amazes me with his capacity. I have started working again and feel fortunate to really love my new job. I believe in what we stand for at Purpose Boutique and love getting to help share the vision behind this up and coming business venture.
We are juggling our schedules right now so that the boys are with one of us all the time and that has been wonderful! Bryan has enjoyed more time with his wee men and I have enjoyed more of a break from them. It’s all part of finding the balance that works for us and we are getting there. The boys are so hilarious right now! Their friendship is developing daily. Some days they love well other days they fight well. It’s pretty entertaining though. They also take every opportunity to get into little bits of mischief when they can. I think they were born with a sensor that tells them when the chance is present. The other day it was flooding the bathroom floor during their bath while today it was dissecting the fruit bowl not once but twice using their teeth to destroy perfectly good pieces of fruit. Discipline is becoming very real but they make me laugh more than they make me cross!
My Dad seems to be remaining stable through his radiation and has even put on a bit of weight in the past week thanks to my Mom’s faithful cooking. I am planning on going to visit in February for a few days which I cannot wait for. As well as the daily pieces that make up our life I am still working on my book about our journey through infertility. A friend here is helping me with a book proposal and I am also going to create my own book and make a few copies via self-publishing. I will keep updates regarding the status of the book here so if it does get picked up you will all know.
There is so much good in life right now and I want to celebrate that! I hope you all had a great New Years Eve and holiday season. Embrace this new year and move forward, it’s the only direction God gave us to move in!
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.