Growing up in a rather charismatic Christian environment, I had developed a secret belief that Jesus would come back when I turned 20. This little hidden belief was strangely solid and I genuinely believed it. When I say it out loud it is laughable and makes me feel a little silly. However, when I turned 20, in the year 2000, I felt like I had just entered bonus time that I wasn’t expecting. Like going on holiday and at the end of the it someone tells you that your trip has been extended an additional week.
I wasn’t a very ambitious 20 year old, at least not that I can remember. Fun, yes, full of youthful zeal and energy, definitely. What I knew was that I wanted to get married at some point and I wanted to travel. That was about the extent of what I really knew I wanted.
Well the sweetest thing happened right around my 20th birthday. I met my future husband, we went on our first official date on Valentine’s Day (mind you he was technically dating another girl and he promptly left our date and went to break up with her), a few short weeks later we were official. Everything felt right about him. As we walked back to our college campus in the early hours of the morning one night, holding hands, I felt a gentle nudge to give this a chance. That chance quickly turned into the love I had dreamed of having, steady and constant, solid and real. It was just the beginning.
My 20’s were full of Alaskan adventures, marriage and honeymoon bliss. Settling into life as a wife, saying goodbye to family and friends as we moved overseas to Northern Ireland. Doubting that Northern Irish people were actually speaking English while being embraced by this new group of people and culture where we had no family ties. Learning to live in a community of like-minded people while communally living and throwing ourselves into a new, shared way of life that suited our young years. Lots of travel and world view changing moments. Certain dreams came true, new ones were birthed, all the while the dream of a family came into clearer focus yet remained just out of reach.
Enter my 30’s.
Words I would use to describe those years? Well…bitter, frustrating, surprising, fulfilling, sad, prayer filled, enriching, heartbreaking, soul destroying, and solid. The 30’s have been the hardest thus far. Failed rounds of IVF/ICSI, personal shortcomings, artistic struggles, loss of illusions, leaving Northern Ireland, and losing my father. On the flip side my 30’s have been the richest. I ran a marathon, opened a community coffee shop through our church, learned to play guitar (a little bit anyway). Went to new depths in my marriage, finally became the mother I dreamed of and longed to be while watching my husband be the father I knew he would be and more. Embraced the beauty and love of so many friendships. Received the gift of living closer to my parents during my father’s last year of life, watched our sons get to know their Alaskan family and roots, while watching them soak up Idaho family summers and winters. Settling back into the PNW life that we had started so many years ago while learning to be present in the chaos.
This past decade I have also been on a journey to my own personal core. At times it’s felt like falling down the rabbit hole, not knowing where the ground or walls are, desperately reaching for something to grab onto. Other times it has been a welcome free fall, letting go of that which no longer serves me, and allowing myself to be held by the wholeness of God as I become whole. I have learned more about myself than ever before. This process has allowed me to expand within my limitations, lean into the strength of my weaknesses, and embrace the beauty of my imperfections. Laugh lines and section scars remind me that I have been living in the joy and pain of my life.
As I stand on the mountain top of these past 40 years, I look behind me with a content heart. I have much to be thankful for and I do not take it for granted. I am a pilgrim who has walked and endured many miles. I have met wonderful souls along the way and am thankful to have married one of the richest of them. We now hold tiny hands as well and will help guide tiny feet along this continuing path. I carry with me a rucksack filled with books, journals, earrings, stones, and shells. Trinkets of value to no one but me. So today I pause and take in the view. The many mountains that have been climbed, the valley’s filled with sorrows, the landscape that has forever been changed by loss. While the sun peaks through the clouds shining brilliantly on this rugged terrain of my life, I can clearly see that this one precious life of mine is enough.
This day will end and it will be like all others, except I will be different. I will blow a kiss to the past and turn to the future. A new job awaits me this next week, one that will challenge me more than I am even aware of. I will not run down the mountain because I value the way of slow, small, and sustainable progress now. I will hold the hands of my husband and children knowing that we are in this together, forever connected by our love. I will speak less, listen more, and ask for eyes to see the unseen. My search will be for the mystical moments where I can only look to God as the creator of and be thankful that I am included in the unfolding.
40, I welcome you as a friend and companion. You will no doubt change me but I will use my lungs to breathe you in and rest in your wisdom. I have what I need of that I am sure. I am becoming and that is the whole point.
I have lost track of how many times I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Alaska. I almost feel guilty about it if I’m honest. I know it’s a place on the bucket list for many. I just happen to be married to a man who is from there and where the rest of the Chud clan currently reside.
This summer we took the boys back. Even though they had been there once before, we think this will be the trip that they are old enough to remember. It started with separate flights for our twin sons. These two had never spent a full 24 hours apart. That is, until we intentionally booked separate flights which we then completely forgot about booking. We knew we were all going but somewhere in the recesses of our minds neither of us could recall making this decision until we saw the itinerary come through, separately.
It’s always interesting to watch Kidran and Cohen take strides by themselves. Most of the time they are together and in some ways rely on each other for a certain degree of comfort and stability. So when opportunities arise for them to shine individually we soak it up. This little slip up on our part did just that and made us make a mental note for the necessity of time apart in the future.
So…back to Alaska.
Alaska is Alaska.
In your face.
It has the ability to stop you in your tracks simply with it’s natural grandeur.
For us however, it holds some of the people closest and dearest to our hearts. It provides opportunities for us to show our children what we love about the Last Frontier and this wild, untamable land. It also gives us the chance to share Grandpa J, Bryan’s late father, with our boys as there is a small plaque on a rock up in Hatchers Pass where his ashes were sprinkled years ago. We had many moments of chatting, sharing our hearts, catching up about life and everything in between. So many sweet times shared that my heart still feels full.
This trip also gave myself and one of my sister-in-laws the chance to experience a first of our own, this meant jumping into our first glacial lake! (Very glad I made the leap!)
The trip also encompassed a deeper meaning. Our incredible Amma Chud will be celebrating her 70th birthday next week. We decided that while so many of us were there that we would have a celebration of her life. It was one of those nights that felt surreal, magical, and like time may have just stopped. I have always been thankful for my side of the family. When I married into the Chud family I became equally thankful for the heritage and legacy I stepped into by marrying Bryan. Our boys now reap the benefits of both sides and this truth still stuns me.
The party was exactly what I hoped and envisioned it to be. Certain family members (namely the littlest brother, aka Nate Chud) outdid himself and had interviewed Lynda about each decade of her life. He then condensed the interview into 40 minutes for us all to watch. Those 40 minutes will be something I revisit for sure. So much life to unpack, wisdom to learn, and lessons to pass on.
After many days and evenings together I sought out time alone on our last day there. I chose to take my Bible and journal up to the A-Frame restaurant. It’s been around for ages, has changed very little, and feels nostalgic while full of new possibilities.
As I sat there on my last day, I stared out the vast windows. I reflected on my life and the many times I had sat in that very place in the past. I had been on this path before, it was well worn to me. I then thanked God for my family and wrote private words in my journal that the world will never see but God will always know.
Now that I am home, I look back at this picture and see something else. Looking through those windows in that old A-frame lodge I see the landscape of my soul. Plush, green with growth, and vast. Yet untamed, dangerous, and unchartered. The trip marked a changing of seasons for me. Not within the physical world so much as the spiritual world. I can see now that I am being transformed from glory to glory, much like that view.
Recently one of my best friends and I met up for happy hour. We try to do this as often as we can because each of us comes away feeling a little bit more like ourselves. Throughout the course of the evening we covered every inch of our present lives. From motherhood/parenthood, to workouts, Jesus, marriages we are grateful for, and the general busyness of life. As we chatted there was a point that I went off on a rant and it went a little something like this:
“Okay, so I am over people talking about finding balance. It’s like a mythical creature or a unicorn. Everyone swears they have seen one but no one has proof in real life. Balance feels mythical, like it truly doesn’t exist. I think we should be working towards living in the tension of our real lives instead of chasing unicorns.”
Now that I reflect on the moment, that is most likely not at all what I actually said. All I can honestly remember is feeling a shift in my body as we discussed this idea.
Tension vs. Balance.
When I think about balance, all I can see is some circus performer, holding and spinning all these different plates in the air or maybe someone walking a tight rope. So you either have plates requiring you to look at them for a split second to keep each one spinning but not really observing what the plate is doing or what is on the plate. Or you are walking on a tight rope, looking down missing what’s right in front of you. Whereas tension feels different. Tension feels more real to me and less like a show.
Let me take you into my little world for a moment. Most days I spend my time trying to remain present in my physical body. It’s a struggle to not get locked in my head that is swirling with thoughts and/or tread water in my hearts pool full of feelings. (I mean I am a 4 on the Enneagram after all.) I am gonna focus on the spinning plates here for a few minutes. This idea literally gives me the visual of never looking down or out, only always up which is the exact opposite of what I have found to be healthy for me. There is no end in sight when spinning plates. Pointless, busy, and screaming of urgency.
Then there’s tension.
I imagine tension as a rope tied at one end to an unmovable object while the other end is attached to my waist. I know that may sound like an anchor to some but in a way, that’s kind of what we all need don’t we? Something solid to hold us in the midst of the chaos catapulting us into the ever present, always changing future. This image brings me an odd touch of serenity and grace. Knowing that my life has flex and bend while remaining in tact feels energizing, purposeful even. Each day that rope tightens and loosens, some days by the second. That rope though is closer to the ground, closer to the dust. (There it is again, that word, dust. What we are all made of. I digress.) That rope keeps me looking around instead of up or down. It keeps me in the present because it’s tugging at my core, where my intuition resides.
For example, there will be some mornings I wake up and immediately there is very little slack in my day. From the moment I open my eyes till I crawl into bed that night. Then there are other days where the rope is a little slack in the morning or the evening, there is room to breathe and wiggle if you will. I can sit, stand, and move fully in my life with a rope around my waist. If I choose to spin plates I can barely move an inch for fear of disrupting the little bit of balance I may have imagined I found.
This picture of a rope works wonders in my brain and maybe it will in yours too. This imagery gives room for the both/and kind of perspective, for the now and not yet. Overall there is more room for the grey parts of life which if I’m honest is where I believe most of this life is lived. Sure we all would love black and white, we all want nice neat, tidy boxes, or tidy spinning controlled plates. We want certainty and clarity but I’m not really sure that is the actual point of living. When we choose to spin plates it feels like choosing to look away from the gaze of Christ and instead doing it all our own way in our own strength and ability.
In other words friend, I never want to be a plate spinner, constantly looking up while missing the life all around me. Spinning plates is not my jam, oh and did I mention it creates false drama too? What if I let a plate drop? What then? Well my friend, you break a plate. Did you really need that plate or were you spinning it to keep up appearances, please your dad, fulfill an unnecessary obligation? It may be time to break some plates and find a rope.
Growing up I went to a lot of rodeos. My Papa always loved horses and that love was passed onto my younger brother who took it a step further. He became a calf roper and traveled all over competing in rodeos. Over the years I don’t know how many times I saw him tie a calf but it was a lot. He would fly out of the shoot like a bullet, with his rope loose, swinging in a large circle above his head. He would be positioning himself to throw and catch the calf. As soon as the calf was caught, he was off the horse in a flash sprinting towards his calf, hand gliding along the tightened rope towards his next move. It’s the picture of that rope pulled taut that gets me. My brother at that point had laser beam focus moving towards a goal. When just seconds before that same rope was loose, creating the space and momentum needed to stretch out ahead and lasso that calf. The moments of slack in our life create the ability to pull the rope of life tight when we need to. We can’t have one without the other.
So yes, I will take the rope life over striving for balance any day. I am interested in looking and living in the tension of my life. Some days will look more chilled, while others will feel militant. Still I will take it over the balancing act because it’s just that, an act. You never catch your breath that way. You remain scattered and distracted, never fully present and what a shame that truly would be.
Have you become a professional plate spinner? Has this been your own choice or does it feel like life was thrust upon you in this way? Would you like to stop spinning plates and pick up a rope? I hope so! If this post feels like an invitation you have been waiting for, send me a message. I would love to encourage each of us to move into this way of living.
Today felt like a marathon of task ticking on my to-do list. Telling the boys constantly to go play in their bedroom as I filled in mountains of paperwork and made phone calls felt a whole lot like #adulting. There are a lot of days like this but the things on the list today were more than the normal things. By the end of the day I felt accomplished, tired, emotional, and giddy at the thought of taking a few minutes to write which helps me come back to myself. (If I don’t fall asleep first thanks to late night Memorial Day celebrations with dear friends!)
One of the big things on my list today was to put in applications for the boys to attend preschool in the autumn. First, I am still not old enough to have kids am I? I mean, when it’s dinner time I’m looking for the mom and then realize that’s me. Second, okay, so yes, I am the mother and yes I do cook for our family. However, are my babies really the age where a school allows them to come and spend a significant chunk of time with other kids their age and a person who in my opinion may be categorically insane for wanting to teach this age group? (We all have our gifts and teaching is not mine.) Thank you by the way to all preschool and kindergarten teachers for often times completing the lessons of life skills for children this age. I promise us parents truly are trying, but when it’s the hundredth time they whine about wiping their own bums I cave and do it for them because honestly I just want a second of peace and quiet. Third, watching your very different sons walk through the halls of the school they potentially will attend soon, gives some key insights into how they will actually respond in real life. Their reactions remained true to their individual personality types and this made my momma’s heart happy. Stay true little men to your own beat for as long as you can. When the world tries to drown out the sound of that beat we will do our best to help you hear it again and get you back on track. Until then march to that beat in whatever way fills your little heart with joy!
Since I have been thinking about preschool and filling out all these papers the past week or so, something has been stirring in me too. I have been gently confronted with the reality that I am not as far along as I may have thought I was. Grantit I thankfully don’t need anyone to wipe my bum; but I am not as clever as I thought I was, as kind, as humble, as caring, and the list goes on.
I am in preschool folks.
My reactions to things lately have been more like a spoiled brat at my heart level than I would like to admit. Someone gets what I want? Inside I start whining and stomping my mental feet. I am tired and grouchy, well then of course it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be annoyed at things that deep down I am beyond grateful for. Things that I thought I was doing a good job on, come to find out it was more like an inexperienced carpenter saying she had built a firm foundation only to find it sinking in the middle. This type of reality has been much truer for me lately than I would like to admit. I am falling short and no one but me can stop the patterns.
How am I changing? How am I addressing such stark contrasts in my reality while measuring them by my longed for steadfastness and life reflection? Below I will share a few ways I am attempting to learn again and become a sponge like my sons who graciously grow and accept correction daily.
So here goes:
- I am relearning how to love my people, my husband, my children, my family, and friends in this season.
- I am trying to shut my mouth more and listen longer.
- I am asking a few close friends to keep me accountable to areas of growth, watering my little seeds hoping for shoots of green to come.
- I am returning to some old, well worn paths of looking for the mysterious in my life.
- I am revisiting lessons I thought I had learned before and meditating on them.
- I am prioritizing my exercise, times of quiet, and the space I need in the mornings.
None of these things are rocket science I know. Yet sometimes when we live in such a fast paced way it’s easy to miss the little moments where our trajectory took a slight bend and we now find ourselves in a different place than we expected. I am a full believer in making little changes that eventually make a big impact later. All of these things are sweet and simple because that’s how I prefer to live life. However, addressing each of these takes a new level of grace towards myself, the attitude of a student, and the willingness to unlearn some things and find a better way even if I am not the teacher.
Can anyone else relate to this type of season? As tiring as learning can be, it also feels exhilarating because I’m giving myself permission to try new things or to try old things in a new way. It’s like going to your favorite restaurant and instead of ordering what you always order because you know it’s amazing, you choose to order something new knowing you may hate it. These seasons are times to embrace humility which does not mean your old way was awful or you are not smart enough. It means choosing to grow, choosing to try new things, maybe even be a little or a lot scared. It means starting small and being happy with the small, knowing it may never get big. So it’s time to prepare for preschool!
*I will also add here an unashamed plug for my favorite podcast that also happens to now be a book: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I am including it here because one of the episodes on the podcast talks about being a beginner and it is something I go back to time and time again. It also helped me identify this new season I find myself in.
I of course have to include some pics of what we have been up to recently! The boys first Mariners game, a new haircut, and some Memorial Day celebrations!
There are seasons of life that can be full of complexities and I have lived through many. An upheaval of the day to day, the loss of a parent, years longing for a family; these times can feel long, out of control, and very uncomfortable. During these periods of life I remember longing for a simpler, less complex life.
Right now life feels simple and it feels true and good. The days consist of Bryan, the boys, work, laundry, cooking, digging deeper into friendships, and little family traditions. When things are complex we often get bogged down with our thoughts and analyzing why life is so difficult which is completely normal. Then the dust settles. Some type of normalcy appears and we slip into it not really giving it much thought.
Well today I nod my head to simplicity. To a walk by myself in nature where the quiet is calming. To our morning coffee ritual of a rich, French press poured hot into my Papa’s old mug. I nod my head to weekly meal and activity planning. To naps with my boys where they cup my chin in their hand and we fall asleep. To building LEGOS with my boys more times than I can count. To baking cookies with Cohen and having chats with Kidran about his favorite Star Wars characters. To the times when Bryan comes home from work, walking straight into a wrestling match. To the times sitting on the couch once the boys have gone down. To turning off my phone when I lay down at night and shut my eyes.
This is my simple life. It’s sweet, not glamorous, but rich and full. I am thankful for this simple season. Is it always easy or fun? Definitely not. Yet it is true and real.
If you find yourself in a complex season of life I hope it transitions to a simpler existence soon and subtly. Until then, search for the quiet life. It may not solve the difficulties but it can help you hear your own voice more clearly and that of God which is always a good place to start.
Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls? It’s definitely a teenage classic, not completely moral but quite funny all the same. There is this one seen that has produced a repeatable quote in my life. The seen shows these teenage girls at a high school, gathered together in a gym to apologize for how they have all wronged each other. At one point a girl gets up, says her piece, then someone shouts that she doesn’t even go to the school. In her defense she says “I just have a lot of feelings.”
Well, this weekend I have had “a lot of feelings.” My mind and heart have been flashing back to memories of the past. I have been replaying these key moments through the years with certain friendships. The memories stem from cultivating growth in these friendships over many years.
Right now however, I find myself in a unique season. I am living closer to two of my best friends than I have in over a decade. Even though they both live more than an hour away from me we have been able to see each other multiple times since being back in the states. The richness of this season is not lost on any of us.
Over the years we put in the hard work of remaining in touch, sharing our lives, and keeping our friendships a priority within our ever changing lives and different seasons. We encouraged and challenged each other from afar and now we are doing it close up. The type of friendship I share with them cannot be fully expressed with words. That’s also why this weekend I have had so many feelings being with both of them.
On Friday night I was able to attend my friend Kelly’s first Dream Catcher Gathering at her home. People have described her home and her events as magical, breathtaking, and incredibly life-giving. Friday night was no exception. For the past few years Kelly has been leaning into her strengths and growing a new business helping others flourish in many ways. From partnering with Rescue Freedom to help end human trafficking, to her online ethical shop, and these kinds of evenings spent empowering women around a table, she is running hard after her dreams. She is doing this with extreme focus and intention and I’m so incredibly honored to have played a tiny part in that through our friendship and it’s depth over the years.
When I arrived on Friday night Kelly and I embraced in a hug. As we did, it was like my body was taken back to many years earlier and a similar hug. She was standing in her doorway in Kirkland with three small children behind her. Feeling the full impact of having small children and it’s challenges, she still found joy and leaned into these fleeting yet hard years with passion and positivity. I, on the other hand, was heading back to Northern Ireland to pursue our life overseas which had allowed us to travel a great deal, live in a foreign country and have some wonderfully rich experiences. We both loved the life we were in but also kept one eye on the future. I was desperate to start our family and that wasn’t coming easy. Kelly was looking towards days when her life didn’t require her to stay close to home because of three small children. While we were both living the reality of our dreams, we were still dreaming of more in the future. In our hug it was as if we had a holy exchange. Without using words we were saying, “I see you. I see your beauty, I see your pain, and there’s more to come. Hold on friend. Hold onto these moments. Life will change before you know it.”
That is exactly what has happened. Kelly is pursuing this new dream with all three children in school providing her the time and space to give her other dreams more of her time and heart. I am a mother now to twin sons who are four and a half and keep me very busy. I am working part-time while trying to pursue my dream of writing my next and first fictional book. Life looks vastly different for us both but we still know how to cheer each other on because that’s what we’ve always done.
So yeah, all the feelings.
On Saturday we drove to Tacoma to spend the night with some other dear friends and go skiing the next day together. This couple lived a few blocks from us when we first got married and we practically lived in each others homes. I think we shared at least three meals together every week. Our husbands would play video games late into the night while Molly and I watched Trading Spaces and fell asleep together.
Molly and I joke that we are sister wives, when we are together we are one complete wife. Her husband said we move together, finishing each others task without even speaking about what’s next. We have cooked together more times than I can count and laughed so hard at Snapchat filters that I have nearly peed my pants and her too!
Yesterday all four of our boys played together. From legos and trains to our tradition of an evening dance party before bed. Watching the four of them together is like watching magic. For years when we would come back to the States for trips home we would snuggle our friends boys before bedtime or after their naps. Then when it got to the point of us deciding to try one last time, to eventually getting pregnant with our own boys, their boys would pray every night for our boys. Our little, premature baby boys were the first, tangible answer to prayer that our friends sons had experienced. Watching their rapidly developing bodies bounce around like crazy in our little family dance party made it hard for me to swallow. The moment felt sacred. The miracle within these kinds of shared times is not lost on me. For years I wasn’t even sure that they would ever happen so to be present, dancing together, it feels heavenly.
Bryan and I often comment on how fortunate we are to know and be friends with so many amazing people. Yet these friendships, they are some of our oldest, and there’s nothing like old friends. There is something forged in a friendship when you have the chance of sharing almost 20 years of life together or more. It’s in these moments, where we have intentionally carved out the time to see each other, where the magic continues. Sometimes the plan comes together easily while other times it takes multiple attempts before it actually happens. I am always happy when it works though. The investment we have made and continue to make in our friendships is absolutely priceless. It also makes me want to continue investing into the friendships that I have the chance to experience on a more daily basis. These friendships are important too and are vitally important for our day to day life.
It’s funny though; as I write this I know someone is going to read it and realize that they too want these kinds of friendships. If that is you, I want to encourage you to keep looking. Keep friend-dating as I like to call it. Set up play dates, set up coffee dates, organize an evening at your house and invite a few girlfriends over. There is no way to microwave these kinds of friendships. They don’t come from following each other on social media or from likes on your pictures. These kinds of friendships require humility, sacrifice, and intentionally choosing to make time even when it feels awkward or hard. Trust me, in the long run it will be worth it because one of those friends may fly to be by your side when you are having fertility treatment or another friend may fly to be by your side when your father passes away. They know what’s really important and they make the effort to be there and so do you. So here’s to friendship and ALL the feelings from this past weekend!
My sweet friend Molly told me about a podcast and now I will pass it on. It’s called The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. Everything about this podcast has been about timing. There are seasons of life where something comes into your life at just the right time, just the right season, and helps you put words to your feelings. This podcast has been that for me.
By nature I am an extroverted introvert, maybe even an ambivert. When I was growing up I didn’t know it but my life was set up in such a way that time by myself and quiet was built in everyday without me trying. I was the youngest by far in my family and had my own bedroom. I would have friends come and play but often I was left to play on my own and that suited my personality. I remember filling sketch pads with fashion designs or building Barbie houses out of cardboard boxes and tissue boxes. When I became a teenager and my social life was everything, I still had that downtime built in. I would get home from school or practice and go back to my bedroom for a bit before emerging for dinner, then onto my next social activity.
As I got older, my life changed. I had my first roommate at college at the age of 18. I didn’t realize it then but this would begin undoing my normal pattern. After my college years of roomies, I got married to the love of my life straight after graduation. I went from communal living to marriage. As anyone who is married knows, it’s wonderful! Yes, there are ups and downs, but at the end of the day I am beyond amazed at how well suited Bryan and I are to each other. This has especially become evident as we have entered into the world of parenthood. I see us balancing each other in ways I couldn’t have anticipated but am so thankful for.
Over the years as I discovered my more introverted nature, Bryan has been so helpful in helping me carve out space and time for me to be alone. We live a pretty social life and our hearts are continually expanding with love for our family and friends. So these times of alone have become vital for me to stay sane. That’s where my good friend Ems, as me and a few friends have affectionately named her, speaks to my deeper longings.
The aim of her podcast is to help people with decision fatigue determine what their next right thing is and then to do that thing in love. Brilliant right?! After a season of big moves, big changes, grief, and exhaustion this podcast came as water to my very thirsty soul. It continues to help shape my thoughts and decisions which are becoming clearer most days.
This past weekend my little family had the rare opportunity of going out to Lopez Island to visit friends. It’s one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state where I live. It was such a push to get there. We left Saturday evening once Bryan had finished work and didn’t arrive until after 10 p.m. Yet the next morning we awoke to a magical place. The island is the “slow” I have been craving. All around me people use the word “hustle” and it kind of makes me cringe. Mostly because the good things in my life have taken time and patience, they have taken the slower path and that word makes me feel rushed, out of breath.
We took our time sipping coffee in the morning, ate slowly, walked slowly, and took time for slow, meaningful conversations. Our second and sadly last morning there, I stepped outside, walked down the makeshift staircase to the beach below and stood on the rocky shore. Clams were squirting out water, coming up in tiny spouts. Seagulls were flying overhead, and the waves crashed calmly against the smooth stones. As I stood there I took five minutes to be silent. This was a practice that my friends and I took up on our recent trip to Northern Ireland.
It was only five minutes but my senses were overwhelmed with beauty, serenity, gratitude, and peace. The rest of the day was full of the slow kind of fun. We spent the day chasing one amazing creative scene after another, ending the day with a fire and s’mores under starlight with our friends and our four little boys. It was such a gift.
Now I am thinking of ways to carve out these five minute silent retreats on a daily basis. Five minutes is not that much time but it can pump the necessary life breath back into my lungs. It will help me breathe in the depth of this beautiful life I am living and help me sit back in admiration of the subtleties and creeping changes that are leading to personal growth. These moments in turn help me feel the satisfaction with my own pace, helping me not to run someone else’s race, only my own.
Can you take five minutes today? If so, do it. It may feel foreign or you may be distracted, but I promise, if you keep at it, you will reap the reward of beginning to hear your own voice in the silence.
“Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein” (Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner p.190).
Friends, I am about to open a vein.
Today, the 1st of September, 2018, my twin sons turned four.
The day was rather unspectacular if I’m being honest. We are having a proper celebration for them in “two more big sleeps.” So there was no big party or presents today. It was like any other day, except it wasn’t.
On this day, four years ago, my swollen belly waddled into Craigavon Area Hospital. A few hours later — our boys were in our arms. This act of birth that happened in mere seconds, had taken nine painful years of infertility to get to.
So today could have felt and seemed normal, except that it wasn’t.
I took the boys to Top Pot donut shop in Bellevue for a birthday breakfast. To everyone in that place I was a normal mom, sitting happily with her twin sons eating donuts. Except I wasn’t.
I was the mom who was sitting, staring, at two walking, talking, laughing miracles. I was looking at my nine years of tears cried, longing to be a mother. I was looking at what seemed like a crazy promise fulfilled. I was looking at my husbands’ and my face staring back at me, seeing both of our families in the faces of our sons. I sat looking at the most tangible proof I have of a God who hears me, sees me, and answers the deepest longings of my soul.
I LOVE being Kidran’s mom and Cohen’s mom. I love the connection that we have fostered these past four years. I love that they give me their best and throw their worst at me too. I love all the crazy ways they make me laugh and at the same time make me want to pull my hair out. I love that they are big lovers, who lavish me with hugs and cuddles. I love, love, love being their mom. My heart is beyond full as I live in this reality of my dream.
Now though, the vein is beginning to open.
After nine years of infertility, we gave birth to our handsome and healthy twin sons, Kidran J Caleb and Cohen V Ryan. We were one of the “lucky” couples who finally became pregnant. What many of you may not know is that our final round of ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) was so successful that we now have eleven remaining embryos.
We don’t know what our future holds. What I do know is I cannot have potentially eleven or more children. That fact slaps me across the face sometimes. I hate that I do not have the capacity or means to give birth to all these miraculous, potential lives. I hate that I feel stretched to the max being a mother to two incredible, energetic sons. I hate that after years of struggling to finally have our family, we are now wrestling with this additional piece of the heartbreaking puzzle of infertility treatment.
Of course I can see that this is where so many others would long to be. I am not stupid or blind. I see others who cannot produce even one viable embryo and here we are sitting with eleven. I also know that the only option for us and these precious embryos is not something I’m sure I will ever have peace about.
Early on in our treatment we made the decision that if we were fortunate enough to have any embryos left that we could not care for, we would adopt them out. We would not discard them, leave them to science, or not pay the storage so that the holding clinic would end up making a decision regarding their fate. (Yes, people are starting to do this more often because they can’t make a decision either.) We decided that they were lives and we would give them the best chance of a life we could, even if that home was not our own.
This is the part of infertility that I was not prepared for or I guess didn’t anticipate. I have cried so many additional tears about this. I have questioned the capability of the family/lies who may adopt our baby embryos. What if they have a baby like Cohen? Will they put him on meds because he seems to have “too much” energy? Will they see the subtle change in their baby’s smile that is similar to Kidran when he gets excited about something he really loves? Will they fill their house with laughter, patience, creativity? Or will it be strict, rigid, full of hardline rules? The questions are endless, and so is the grief.
When I think of not having these babies, it strikes me as one of the biggest points of grief I will ever experience in my life.
Yet, I had another thought.
Maybe, just maybe, these sweet, unborn lives will be placed with people who have exactly what my babies need because I think at the end of the day I will always feel like they are mine. Maybe we will help answer years of prayers for someone else. Maybe, just maybe, someday I will get to meet them.
I have agonized over this very scenario time and time again. Even as I write these words, my eyes are full, tears waiting to be released, to let the next wave of grief hit me. This choice and choosing it feels impossible. My stomach hurts thinking about it. Years of trying, waiting to now be here.
I know I can’t answer this question right now. Instead, I can work on more of the party favors for the boys Star Wars themed birthday party in two days! They recently had a little family party in Idaho that only wetted their appetite for birthday parties and presents. They are now truly excited for this birthday and that excitement is spreading. I even found Star Wars shirts for Bryan and me to wear! Roll on Monday evening! All things Star Wars, light sabers, and cupcakes! May the force be with you!
As a kid, summer time felt slow, warm, sleepy, and fun. As a parent, summer feels fast, hot, sleep deprived, and adventure packed. Anyone else feel stretched over the summer months to cram every, last, second with activity, friends, and more calorific treats than usual? Good, I’m glad I’m not alone!
Due to the quickened pace of summer, longer days, later bedtimes, snack meals instead of sit-down dinner, and fewer naps for the boys and me, I have not been writing much. I enjoy and eventually soak up all that summer has to offer. If I’m honest though, I miss routine at times. I miss downtime, I miss the boys napping so I can take time to process our sweet and simple life. This has become a way for me to be more present here and now. I become more thankful for all that my life holds when I stop and take time to ponder it.
As I watch my boys grow daily I can’t help but recall each of their stages. I have loved every stage so far. By loved I mean, each stage seems better than the one before, and I have found so much joy in them. That doesn’t mean I have been 100% joyful all the time. Come on people, I am no saint. My boys whine, kick, and hit each other, I shout at them to stop (sometimes even in public!), and meal times are still painfully long and a test of my endurance and will.
The days have been flying by and I realized that I am still unpacking the book tour to Northern Ireland. I am a slow processor. So for those of you who have kept up with my blog, bear with me as I go backwards to move forwards.
I have already written a bit about our first day and some of the wonderful family members we have in NI. So I am ready to move on to Day 2! Which is so funny that I am only on Day 2 of a 5 day stay on the island.
Day 2 was packed, but with all the good stuff! We started our morning off with a mindfulness session led by Pete. This was so timely for each Kelly, Molly, and me. We all found so much value in slowing our step, to take time to pause, to think. We even carried a bit of the practice with us during the trip which I will share later.
After quieting ourselves, Julie drove us to one of the newer coffee shops in The Moy. (Side note: If you live locally you would never say “Moy”, only “The Moy”.) Brew coffee shop is run by two lovely friends of ours. They create a sense of community that always draws people in and do everything in excellence. They have incredible business heads, great senses of humor, and are always up for a good chat! If you are in the area, definitely go, you will not regret it!
Once we were fed and watered, we loaded into the car and headed up the M1 to the Big Smoke, Belfast. Ahh Belfast, I have such romantic, nostalgic feelings about you. We had date evenings in Belfast. Birthday hotel stays, always the Christmas market + annual shopping trips, concerts, and much more. Belfast is culturally and historically rich. It was often our destination for celebrating life too. We spent many anniversaries there, writing in our journals, reflecting on the past year. Recently Bryan and I were chatting about sitting in the Europa hotel, listening to classical music being played on the piano, with the World Cup on in the background. While this was happening we sat and cried, reading our journals together. We were pregnant. Finally, after so many years, so many journal entries of not being pregnant. Here we were, so close to the boys arrival, celebrating our life together, our ups and downs, hurts and heartaches, and feeling so beyond seen by God. Neither of us will ever forget that anniversary.
What I loved about being back in Belfast was that it still held the same feelings. I still love the Big Smoke. I loved that I got to show my friends around to some of our favorite sites. We hit up Established Coffee which was new to me but had been on my list to visit before we left. We went to Victoria Square, City Hall, Cathedral Quarter, Avoca, eventually landing at Made in Belfast near the City Hall. I have always loved it! We would go any chance we got and had many dinners with friends there too over the years. The food and drinks are always incredible and they source as much as they can locally which I love!
After having an early dinner (or tea for my NI friends), we headed back down the motorway to Lurgan. That evening I shared at Emmanuel Church and it was a very intimate evening. I had no idea how many people would be willing to come and identify with infertility in such an open way. A small crowd came, including two supportive husbands. I thought it was brave and beautiful for these men to stand alongside their wives that evening, showing the solidarity of their shared experience of infertility. What was also amazing was that my contact for the event just happened to be a woman who had stayed at our house in Dungannon ten years earlier. We hadn’t seen each other for years but we had a depth due to our shared past. This happens so often in Ireland. It’s one of the most enchanting things about living in such a small place.
Two of my NI sisters also came to support me as they had done over the years simply by being one of the first families to accept us. One of the sweetest surprises was having my first mid-wife turn up to the evening. When I saw her I got quite emotional. So many people played big and small roles in our journey through infertility. Having these face to face moments with so many of them to say “thank you”, to hug them tightly, and to look them in the eyes years later was soul enriching.
Again, I am thankful for the opportunity of sharing with the people that night. After each event you could almost feel the atmosphere open up and people would share more. As our good friend Brene′ Brown says, “Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.” Or at least I think it was her! Anyway, it’s good practice in life.
So where can you breed vulnerability in your own life? I am not talking about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. I am talking about acknowledging that maybe you feel like you don’t fit somewhere. Do you feel inadequate? Share that. I guarantee someone else will say “me too!”
A few days ago I was sitting in a dentist chair having work done on my teeth. As I sat there, a tv screen was playing the news in front of me, the radio was on in the background, the dentist and hygienist were chatting, and then they began drilling.
I felt like my head was going to explode with all the noise, distractions, and bombardment of the senses in one tiny little room! So I closed my eyes, tuned out the tv and radio, started taking deep breaths and focused on the real people in the room and the conversation they were having about why they never wanted to go to India. I could barely keep from interjecting my love of this special country and it’s beautiful people, but the drill in my mouth did it for me.
People often ask if I “miss Northern Ireland?” I say “yes”. Then they ask “why?”
Quite plainly, it’s a simpler place to live and I feel at home there, like my lungs can fill up fully when I breathe. There is less of everything in a good way. Less people, less traffic, less choice, stores are open fewer hours, and my list could go on. It feels like there’s more space, more quiet, more room to breathe. More time to live, to connect with people, to explore. Maybe that’s why it felt easier to write The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants there.
One place where I feel this is at our good friends Pete and Julie’s house (not to mention countless others who always invited us in for a cuppa or tea, creating space for us at their table and in their lives). Peter and Julie are visionaries and pioneers. They see the future and they bring it into being. I love this quality about them. We have had so many life changing conversations with them over the years, and I look forward to that continuing. They have been willing to be uncomfortable to pursue change that will in the long run create space for them to dream, live freely, and help others do the same. When you walk into their house you are not overwhelmed by noise, music, or stimulus. It’s a warm home, quiet, lived in, and usually calm. Neither Pete nor Julie are loud people but if you know them well, they both have a wicked sense of humor. They create incredibly delicious and healthy food, will allow you to fall asleep on their couch, and can go deep if you need/want to.
They are like family to us and have been for years.
I am so beyond thankful that on my recent visit back for the book tour we were able to stay at their house for our few Dungannon days. They live a spacious life and help others too as well. While staying at their house we had the privilege of taking in a mindfulness training session with Pete that is still bringing about personal transformation in me and my friends since arriving back home. Their friendship and what they teach us is something that we will always treasure. It’s true and beautiful.
Now going back to the noise of that dentist chair.
I have been seeking out ways of living a more quiet, peaceful life. In many ways it felt easier to do this in Northern Ireland. Yet I am determined to create this way of living here, now. Some of this means doing less, seeing fewer people, not turning music on in the car, carefully choosing the podcasts I listen to, and overall taking mini breaks from social media.
I listened to a Rob Bell podcast recently where he talked about “you listening to you”. So much of what he said rang true to where I currently find myself. I am trying to silence the voices so that I can find out what my own voice sounds like as well as the voice of God. I find both our voices usually whisper an invitation, they don’t come cranking out at top volume like the latest pop single on the radio. In order for me to hear these two very key voices, I need silence.
One thing that has been helping tremendously is my new favorite podcast. Thank you Emily P. Freeman for your wonderful work at The Next Right Thing. Your work is so valuable for those of us with decision fatigue, who are longing for space and room to live, move, and breath in the being God created us to be. As well as this shorter than short podcast (which makes it more poignant) I am writing more in my journal, lighting a candle often in the mornings, and simply trying to take deeper breaths. These are things that I did regularly in Ireland, but also felt easier to do there. However, I want to learn to cultivate these and other practices in this new space and time we live in. Busy with work schedules, fun and demanding children, and daily living, these things will be what creates that margin in my day to day that is so vital.
Do you need some space? Do you need some silence? If so, give it to yourself. You will find yourself in those moments and let’s be honest, that’s probably what you are looking for anyway.