Some years are harder to say goodbye to than others and this was that kind of year. 2017 was unknowingly the last year I would have with my sweet Papa and that in turn made it hard to let go of. 2018 has begun and is the first year without him here. Without a text, a phone call or one of his all encompassing hugs upon arriving home to my parents house. The proof of his well lived life is everywhere but he is not. That’s a difficult realization to settle into. I’m not sure you ever fully settle.
Watching my family go through our first Christmas without him, especially my Mom was emotional. I am so thankful for our boys though. In the midst of the heaviness they brought life, light and laughter to our family. We remembered him well though. One of my brothers read the Christmas story like my Papa used to while the other one prayed the prayer that my Papa usually prays. There was not a dry eye in the house. Yet even as my brother prayed, Cohen, our sweet, social butterfly wanted to join in. So he did. He tried to repeat everything my brother prayed. This is how we say our prayers at night. Bryan or I pray and the boys repeat. It was a breath of fresh air in a room that was suffocating. Thank you Coco for your heart to join into every aspect of life all the time!
After Christmas was over sickness fell over so many of us. The end. Or at least that was kind of how it felt. I was so sick, Cohen was too, my Mom, my brother, one of my sister in laws, my niece and then Bryan and Kidran eventually got it too. But we are back in our sweet little house again. I have taken down our minimal Christmas decorations and am decluttering our tiny space. It is a spring clean in January!
I still have yet to write down my New Years Resolutions and share it with some of my Home Team girls from Northern Ireland. I still have yet to finish my book. I still have a few drawers to clean out. Yet I feel a desire to pursue wholeness this year. How? I have no idea. I think it will start by listening to my body, soul and emotions. When I feel tired, take a nap. When I feel lethargic, do a workout. When I feel drained, call a life-giving friend to go to the Monks with me. When I don’t feel good enough, remind myself that I am all I need to be in this season. Full stop.
I also have a list of chapters I want to close this year. In order to embrace what the future has for me, I need to walk out of this room and shut the door. I hope to shut it with a gentle, thankful pause. Then I will walk down the dark hallway toward the light I see creeping in. I will walk out of the house into a wide, open space. My lungs will fill with fresh air, like a first breath of a baby entering the world. A field lays stretching out before me and it’s inviting me into new adventures this year. Ones that will stretch me, ones that will break and mend me, ones that will give me eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that is full. That is what I speak out for my life this year. And for yours too. This is our year. I am taking it with gentle force and so should you. Oh, and I am gonna dance a whole lot more this year too!
PS Lovely, fun pics showing a bit of our happenings over the holiday and this season of life! Enjoy!
The boys had a check-up today at the doctor’s office. It was actually kind of fun to take them back and see how much progress they have made. Not only have they grown taller and weigh more, they also handled the procedures of the appointment better. There were no shots today thankfully which made it easier but they still did great! Things that upset them before they embraced. They listened well and interacted with the doctor and staff in fun and playful ways while still being respectful. A lot to accomplish at the age of three! Needless to say I was proud! Plus they are so darn cute right now and full of exploding personality and talking flat out which is super entertaining!
Speaking of their weight gain…good old fashioned wrestling has become less of an engaging activity for me these days. They are so much bigger and when we wrestle they can hurt me now. Like the ‘land on me and knock the breath right out of me’ kind of hurt! They don’t hold back and I love it but I am leaving that kind of wrestling to Dada while I steal as many cuddles as I can! Most of the time these cuddles come in a form of less intense wrestling though. They love being tickled, poked and picked up, all ticking the box of physical affection they crave and need while saving my body. Hallelujah!
As I thought about the physical wrestling that happens with our boys it got me thinking about the personal wrestling we all go through. There are times in life when we struggle and fight. Not necessarily physical wrestling but working stuff out that requires hard effort, persistence along with serious character building. I imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, took part in some wrestling as her little holy bump of a babe developed. A bump that had nothing to do with her future husband, Joseph, but everything to do with hope for humanity!
The Bible describes Mary as accepting this honor with grace and acceptance. Yet…I wonder if she ever had a little freak out? Did she ever go back and forth with God, even just once about ‘Why me? Why now?’ Culturally there was so much at stake for her and she had to have felt the looks and judgement towards her. I wonder if she felt afraid for her life at times? Was the pressure overwhelming? I imagine it to be. We read verses like Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to be me be fulfilled.” -Mary, and we think it was easy for her, #motherofthemessiah. She was heroic, angelic, gifted, etc. She was, after all, the Mother of Jesus. Yet we also forget her humanity. I think Mary was incredible. I think she had vision for saving her people. Yet I also think she was a woman, who was unmarried and pregnant in a time and place where that alone could get her stoned to death. Still Mary could see something no one else could see. I think Mary had a feeling and sense that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. (An angelic visitation probably helped!)
Lately, more accurately, since we left Northern Ireland I have felt like I have been wrestling. Wrestling God, myself, my dreams, my passions, my exhaustion, my emotions, my everything really. It’s been hard and felt long. Yet I have had this sense of purpose through it all. Today I had a moment. One of those moments that you not only blog about but journal about. I had just finished a quick meeting with a friend after our staff meeting at work. I was walking up the hill I always walk up after work when I got the sense that God was telling me I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. This place is a place of tension. Tension with my dreams, giftings, passions, ability, etc. Tension is not always easy but Jesus gets that, I mean he was God’s son living in a broken and hurting world after all. He gets tension. But in this place there is satisfaction. There is fullness. There is a calming, an anchoring happening. There is a new level of trust and acceptance developing. Trust and acceptance of myself especially, of who I am but also of who I am not. I am not trying so hard and it feels good.
The past few years I have started looking forward, almost craving the season of Advent. I was slightly aware of a type of Advent growing up but it mainly involved the chocolate countdown calendar that my boys are now experiencing. Now I follow an Advent practice that causes me to pause, think, look at beautiful artwork, listen to glorious music and soak in some of the deeper meanings of Advent. It’s in this season of Advent that my wrestling becomes more visible. What are you wrestling with this Advent? What dreams are you staring at that are not coming true? What questions are you asking that are remaining unanswered? What do you hope and pray shifts this year? Lean in. Lean into the tension. Lean into the blank space. Lean into the darkness.
I have no answers or clever remedies. Some things are done in secret, quiet and not on our timeline. So we wrestle. Never be embarrassed by the wrestling. You just may touch God and come away changed. In fact I am almost sure you will. And that is worth the wrestle.
PS. These are a few pics of this season of life! Us as a family at a carol service where Cohen thought he was part of the program! Lol! Bryan taking the boys to one of the many parks we visit year round no matter the weather. Some of my amazing coworkers from Purpose Boutique at our Christmas party. And finally the boys at Crossroads Mall where they have every old fashioned kid ride known to man!
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.