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.
I.LOVE.SUMMER!!!! The heat, the light evenings, the unstructured-take-it-as-it-comes schedule, the playing!
This summer is no exception. Our summer has been filled to the brim with fun, family and friendship. Time in Idaho, Northern Irish visitors and then a magical escape to Alaska have all been pretty epic if I do say so myself! We have pushed ourselves and the boys to keep going at breakneck speed and for the most part all of us have done okay.
Yet our first two days back in Washington, routine, normal bedtimes and familiar surroundings have shown me that maybe we went a bit too far. When your normally early rising toddlers aren’t getting up till 9am (thank you Jesus!) you know you went beyond your capacity. The cracks have been showing for the last week with the boys being a bit grumpy and us being just really tired. So the unraveling of some bad habits is happening and we are in one of those lovely adjustment periods. You know what I mean right? The times when you feel like your parenting skills are substandard and your children have developed super human powers to push all your buttons at once. Yeah, it’s one of those times.
Bedtime tonight was especially delightful. And yes, I am being sarcastic. I took all of the boys toys, comfort pieces and blankets. I even unscrewed the lightbulbs in their bedroom to discourage their war on sleep. The boys did not nap today which made them extra cranky tonight. The thinking that this would mean an earlier than normal bedtime was completely inaccurate. Ha! So many grand plans lay in wreck and ruin from toddlers who took over the world inside their home!!
Yet once again my boys melted my hardened heart towards their little revolt. Kidran would continually agree with me when I would reprimand them with his encouraging ‘Yawh!’ Somehow he has inherited this from me and I got it from my Mom! It’s so stinkin’ cute though! Then Cohen asked me to kiss all the places he hurt in his little mutiny in his bed. We finished by me kissing each finger tip and the not to be forgotten thumb.
It was in the sweetness of that moment that once again my heart turned towards my two little men. Tired and overstimulated from the experiences of so many trips and people in such a short space of time. Exhausted from the pace of life their little legs were not meant to keep up with. I also have noticed that they seem less enthused with their normal favourite spots to play. Alaska has gotten into their veins and the restriction of modern city life is cramping their ever-growing style. I find myself saying ‘no’ more often, ‘don’t do that’ a lot and that is okay. They will learn to appreciate the offerings of each place they land in the future. Right now it’s just hard to explain the feeling of being out of sorts to our little men.
As I pondered the way Kidran and Cohen had dealt with the transitions of the summer I felt a new grace applied to my heart and soul. The 17th of July marked our first full year back in the states after our 12 year planting/rooting in Northern Ireland. The year has been incredible in so many ways. Reconnecting with old, dear friends, starting new and exciting jobs, being closer to family, being surrounded by mountains again, the list could go on. It doesn’t feel that long ago that we left this place because it is so familiar.
Still when I think of home my heart sees Northern Ireland. The green, the sea, the people, the growing up and growing together that was done. At first I would try to push these thoughts and feelings away. Not anymore. I welcome them. I sit with them. I treasure them. They are an intricate part of my story now. A part that is filled with love, depth and peace that came from pressing into a place. Often times people talk about growing where you are planted. I remember releasing myself to that way of thinking in Northern Ireland at times when I didn’t feel settled, when it felt foreign and not like home. So I am comforted that right now I am back to working at growing right here, right now, where I am.
Are you growing right where you are? What would help you to do that easier, with more grace for yourself and others? I would love to hear your thoughts!
It is raining here in Lake Stevens, unrelenting raindrops that will keep us indoors for the day. The boys have just gone down for their morning nap and I have a cup of hot chocolate to make my way through. To be honest though, my mind is miles away in Idaho and my heart is caving in from the weight of so many emotions. My Papa, my Father, the man whose hands have always cradled mine in his, whose eyes are filled with kindness, the man who walked me down the aisle and is loved by many, is having a PET Scan. He was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. It appeared in a lump on his neck and grew quite quickly over a three week period. We will know more after today but my whole being wants to be there to support him and my Mom. To hug him tightly, to hold his rough, strong hands that I love so much. I want to be with my family as we all rally around him and my Mom during this time.
So tomorrow the boys and I will drop Bryan off at work and make the eight hour drive to Idaho. It’s a long drive but I am so thankful we are close enough to make that now. Many of you are praying and will continue to do so and I appreciate it!!! We are hoping, praying and believing along with many others for a positive outcome from the scan. Depending on the results he will possibly go in for surgery on Thursday so please keep thinking of and praying for him!
While this is happening, my head is spinning with other things. I have an interview for a job when I get back, I still haven’t properly finished my book, I miss Northern Ireland, I don’t feel like I have been kind to my boys the past few days, my back is sore making sleep not so great, and the list goes on. I am not looking for a pity party. I am aware and know how wonderful my life is. I have an incredible husband, two wonderful sons who are gracious, forgiving and always ready for fun. We have a roof over our heads during this period of transition from the UK. We are surrounded by wonderful people who are invested into our lives. Our families are closer than they have been for years. So no, I am not looking or asking for pity. This is me processing and being vulnerable when I feel my life is spiraling out of control and I can do nothing to stop it. This is me saying there are too many emotions, too many BIG things going on all at once. I am sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes life presents multiple paradigm shifts at the same time. And whilst you could possibly adjust to one or two, the other three or four are just too much. That’s where I am at. Feeling overwhelmed with the depth of this thing called life. The hardest and most shallow trials can hit at the same time creating the perfect storm of emotional turmoil. I am clinging to the quote that ‘this too shall pass’ for I know it to be true. So what will I do?
What I will do is this. I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself to cry as much as I need to. I will not beat myself up if I shout at my boys when they misbehave. I will breathe. I will sit still when I can. I will open my heart to my heavenly Father and ask for His grace to fill in the gaps and fill my heart. I will sit some more. I will hold my boys, hug them, kiss them. I will cry on Bryan’s shoulder when he gets home from work. I will pack what is needed for our journey. I will take one step at a time. I will not rush. I will be.
I know the picture above is not the best quality, yet I love it. It captures the essence of my sweet, kind, gentle-giant loving Papa. My boys love him. When we stay with my Papa and Mom the boys love sitting on his lap, reading, chatting or watching cartoons with him (he’s a big kid at heart!). My boys are not alone in loving my Papa though, all the grandkids do and we are so very thankful as his children to have him and my Mom. My Papa has always been such a great earthly representation of my heavenly Father and I thank him for making that relationship easier than most. I am excited to get there tomorrow and throw my arms around him in an extravagant gesture of love!
I would ask you to please keep praying for him and our family though. I know it makes all the difference. For those of you who like me, find yourself in a similar season, what do you need to do today to be kind to yourself? If you can, do it. Ask for help, cry, read, walk, sleep. Do whatever it is that will ease your mind and soul. You have my permission and most likely the permission from all those around you too.
This picture is of our old nursery, our boys first bedroom. The nursery has so much significance as you prepare for the arrival of your first child/children. You imagine your child sleeping here, waking here, playing here. You carefully choose the colour of the walls, the type of crib you want your baby to sleep in, the changing table you will use more times than you could ever have imagined. You wash their tiny, little clothes and place them on hangers or in drawers. You place their teddies and blankets in the crib/s and anxiously wait for their arrival. You prepare space in your life for this new little human being about to join your family.
Yet the nursery is also a way for the parents to mentally prepare their checklist of ‘Are we actually ready to bring this baby home from the hospital’? You may store your hospital bag in this room, you may have your cotton wool for cleaning up your baby’s dirty bum, you may keep an abundance of newborn nappies here. You try to prepare for something you have never experienced (if this is your first child). As you countdown the days to your due date you also countdown the projects left to finish in the nursery and possibly around the house. Many of which will be left untouched for years after that first babies arrival, this my friend is perfectly fine and acceptable.
As time went on and we organized our nursery, I realized it told so much of our story. On one wall was pictures of Bryan and I as babies with our own parents with the letters of our last name hung below representing the blending of our two lives to make one. In one corner you can see Bryan’s trophies from football over the years which in the beginning was one of our main instigators for moving to Northern Ireland. On another wall we hung a world map, hoping that our boys will love adventure and travel as much as their parents do and to remind them of the big, extravagant world that awaits their explorations. This map also had attached to it individual pieces of art representing each boys life that my mother-in-love painted for us.
We had two cribs in their nursery. Eventually they couldn’t sleep together because they needed more space to stretch and grow. One crib was borrowed from friends who were some of our closest Northern Irish family. Their two children both slept in that crib and now ours had too. The other crib is warmly referred to as The Box. This crib was loaned to us by a Dutch friend who we met through church. We always seemed to gravitate towards each other with an understanding of being a foreigner living in a different land. The final wall though was our most precious. It held a bright, lime green frame. Inside that frame were scans of our boys as embryos as well as in the womb at 20 weeks. It held pictures of our first family photoshoot with our tired eyes, contented smiles and my slightly swollen belly still present from carrying the boys for 35 weeks.
As we prepared our hearts to leave Northern Ireland, (which by the way I am not sure how you actually prepare to leave a place you love dearly), I would walk into their nursery often. I would stand and absorb the details, the smell, the light, the memories that room held for me. Nights of feeding my boys, naptimes, white noise shouting from behind a closed door, hearing the boys wake in the morning and going into get them up with their jammies and sleepy eyes. Even as I write this I pray I never forget those sweet, precious moments of the first bedroom they possessed. My eyes are welling up with tears and I have a lump in my throat as I vividly recount that time of our life.
Not only did we leave behind the boys first room, a house that we had finally filled with the sounds of our boys pitter patter running up and down the hallway. We left behind one of the most beautiful, challenging, fulfilling, heartbreaking seasons of our life together. I haven’t written about our move that much. The reason is because it is so painful to do so. Let me explain as best as I can.
We are loving this new life we have begun back in the states. In many ways it seems like our lives here are just extending from 2003 when we left Kirkland to begin our pursuit of moving to Northern Ireland. We still have many of the same friends and get to connect with them as often as we can, we are back in the same town we went to University in, Bryan loves his job and is thriving in it. The closeness to family is so special right now. I am so thankful to be staying with good friends while we wait for the little house we are going to rent to open up in December. We know we made the right move at the right time and are thankful to be here.
However, we still feel very much Northern Irish. We long for a cuppa with a bar of galaxy chocolate or a digestive biscuit. We long for a drive to the North Coast to visit friends and soak up the landscape of sea and cliffs. We long for the short drive to the Big Smoke(Belfast) to the Christmas Market with friends. We long for a curry from Bengal Spice on a Saturday night with our friends. We long for the closeness of community with people we had done so much life with over the years. We long for the Bush Road and Dungannon. We long for the slower pace of life. We long for the proximity to the rest of Europe making it possible to travel to places like Italy and France. We long for the people who carved themselves into our hearts, never to be forgotten. We long for it all.
We don’t know what the future holds and there is no point clinging to the past. The present is our home. So today, I reflect with a humble, thankful heart for the fullness of our life both there and here. The two look vastly different but both show me the goodness of God in the land of the living. I stand with my hands outstretched and open once again to all that God has in store.
We left the states on the 23rd February, had a 25 hour layover in Iceland for my birthday and landed back in Belfast, Northern Ireland at 4:20pm 25th February, 2014. When our plane landed it brought me back to 9 years ago when we first moved to Northern Ireland. We had very few contacts, no jobs, no church, nothing really that would make the transition smooth. What we did have was a belief that God had called us to Northern Ireland and that He would meet us there.
This time when we landed we came home, the place where we have invested the last 9 years of our life. One of our dear friends who is more family than friend, Julie, collected us at the airport. We had our lovely home to go back to. We had a bed, food in the cupboards and a few other friends had already been ahead of us and cleaned the house for us. We were coming back to a wonderful church family that we love and have missed so much while being away. We were coming back with a promise fulfilled and it felt strangely familiar to our first arrival yet so very different. Even though it was so difficult saying our goodbyes to our incredible families and friends in the states whom we love dearly, we knew we were coming to the right place. Our hope that God would meet us here 9 years ago has been physically displayed to us by all that we have come back to and all that has happened through the years.
As you can see in the picture above, we did not travel lightly. I collected many new clothes (including both maternity and baby) while away and Bryan aquired skis and boots. We both had our concerns about how the journey home would be. Traveling with that much luggage is not easy, especially when one of you is not allowed to lift anything heavy. From our first port in Seattle our trip was smooth sailing. We had help from Pete and Molly getting everything sorted in Seattle. When we arrived in Iceland all our bags were there as were trolleys for us to push our heavy bags with. We were able to collect our rental car no problem and they extended our rental till the morning we left. All our bags fit in this tiny car like puzzle pieces perfectly cut. Our bags then arrived in Gatwick and were checked into Easyjet with only one bag being additionally charged. The whole journey was so smooth and easy. Thank you God!!!
As we reflected on the journey both Bryan and I felt God’s hand had been with us. I am not trying to over-spiritualize traveling and our luggage but we both could see it. In many ways it felt like a confirmation that we were headed to the right place. It felt like a reminder of God’s faithfulness. It also spoke to us of God’s ability and desire to show up when His children do.
Our journey back to the states to invest in our families did not seem like the logical think to do. We had finally arrived at the point where both of us had full time employment and life felt comfortable. In our history when life feels comfortable that is usually when God begins stirring us to do something unique. I am not saying this is a recipe that every person should adhere to but this seems to be the way God speaks and moves in our lives. Going back to the states was a gamble and a risk financially. Yet God provided for us every step of the way after what we had saved was gone. Family and friends dug very deep at times to take care of us. Thank you family and friends for doing so. We watched you be the church and God’s hands and feet to us during our time in the US. Without your extreme and outrageous generosity we would not be pregnant today.
When we went back to the states we also left with no intention of going through fertility treatment again. Now look at us, pregnant with twins! We thought we were merely going back to invest into our own families while God could see that we would be investing in the future of our own as well. Wow!!! What a beautiful experience to have gone through it all with our families standing by our sides!
Now we are back in our lovely home living normal life. Looking for jobs, cars, making plans for the next year and settling in again, but oh it feels so good. Daily I feel God gently reminding me that He is aware of our biggest and smallest needs. Once again we are seeing miracles daily in God’s ability to provide for our needs better than we can provide for ourselves. Our past has been a continual reminder that when we are proactive and take a few risks that God tends to show up in the gap that we could not fill. Our past is also occurring in our present and I am confident that it will be the same in the future.
Abba, thank you for bringing us back to this place that represents your promises fulfilled in so many areas of our lives. Thank you for allowing us to have a home over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and even sunshine today. Thank you for preparing the way when we cannot even see a path. Thank you for my husband and his support in my life. Thank you for our expanding family and showing yourself faithful to us this way. Thank you for our family and friends who are still loving and supporting us from a distance and for our friends who are doing it up close. We give back to you these little lives that you have given us. We dedicate them to you. We will love them to the best of our ability and be thankful that you will always fill in the gaps. Simply put… thank you Jesus! Our hearts are full as are our lives!