endurance

My Papa…

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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.

 

 

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The Necklace…

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Last night I gave our two energetic boys a bath. While they played in the bath I put fresh sheets on our bed. I could hear Cohen whining a bit so I went back into the bathroom to find that Cohen (it’s always Cohen) had pooped in the bath. Thus a fresh bath was drawn and the boys enjoyed having more time to splash and play. Once Cohen was dried and in his PJ’s, he headed downstairs to watch a show while I got Kidran out to get him ready for bed. In the moments while I dried him off, I lifted him up to put his arms into his PJ’s. Each time I tried to put his arm into his sleeve he leaned into me and hugged me tight. This went on for five minutes at least. He would lean out, look at me, smile and then lean in for another tight squeeze. Of course my Momma’s heart melted. These are the moments I am sure Mary pondered in her heart. These are the moments that feel like I am touching heaven. In these moments, I am the reality of a dream so long sought after. I am a mother, who is holding her precious child. These are also the moments I hoped for that caused me so much pain at times as I wondered if they would ever come to be.

Flashback to the image above. The one of me wearing a beautifully crafted necklace, eyes closed tightly, touching my swollen bump while multiple hands pour out heartfelt prayers over me. I remember that moment so clearly. It was two days before my scheduled C-Section. I was uncomfortably large, feeling sharper pains by the day, anticipating the arrival of our two miracles. The women hosting my baby shower and those attending had walked this painfully long journey of infertility with me. These babies were as much theirs as they were mine. Each of them had cried with or for me at some stage, prayed and longed for the day when they would see me become a mother. In that moment I had the privilege of representing hope fulfilled, no longer hope deferred.

After a nine year wait I knew what it meant to experience hope deferred. At times I wanted to throw hope into the sea and never think of it again. I couldn’t squelch my hope though, which if I’m honest was annoying. My hope kept rising, kept resurfacing, kept appearing.

Over those difficult years I wore the necklace you see in that picture. I used to rub it between my fingers as I prayed for our future children. I used it as the image for a women’s conference at our church and now I even have it tattooed on my wrist. So many people knew of this necklace, they knew of its significance to me. The necklace was a timely gift from my dear friend Ailsa during one of my lowest points. I treasured the generous gift from the moment I received it and the necklace became a reminder of hope. A hope that was strong, resilient and based on the promise from a good God that someday I would be a mother. It brought me strength on days when I didn’t believe or couldn’t believe it would happen. It reminded me on days when I wanted to forget. It brought me comfort when I needed it the most. In many ways it was my own Ebenezer stone, reminding me of all God had done so far in my life, and encouraging me to keep believing for what He hadn’t done. It kept my flickering flame of a dwindling hope alive when the circumstances of our situation nearly snuffed that flame out.

I will not lie to you and say that this hope was easy to carry. It was not. Some days it felt like a ton weight placed on my back. This hope caused me to question my faith, caused me to correct some faulty doctrines in my own belief system, this hope caused me to relinquish the way in which I saw myself as a mother and allowed me to open my heart to many other forms of mothering. Some of you may be at the beginning of a very long journey, one which may be causing you much heartache. Some of you may be in the middle and some of you may be approaching the end of a difficult period of time. Where is your hope? Do you need more hope today? What would remind you, visually of God’s faithfulness and character on the days when you need it the most? What would ignite your own hope fire? Whatever it is, find it, use it, do it and keep at it.

After the boys went to bed last night, I looked down at my wrist. My symbol of hope has been birthed into two, vivacious boys. My hope that was deferred has been resurrected in abundance. I could not and would not have planned the way my hope was fulfilled and most likely you can’t either. This is the way of Jesus and His mystery. He has a third way for you as He did for me. Your situation or circumstances are not unchangeable. Yet your outcome may look very different to what you are dreaming. So today, as you look at the picture of my wrist, with this tattoo forever marking this personal journey for me, look also at my open hand. Keep your hands open to that which God may place in it. Open up your dreams and your hopes, because most likely what He has in store is far better than you could dream up yourself!

From Infertility to family…

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I have a secret to tell you…come close, I’m gonna whisper it.

I am writing my first book.

‘I’ means me, little old Breanna Jo Chud from Nampa, Idaho. ‘am writing’ translates to currently doing which is true, it’s actually nearly done. ‘my first book’ implies that there is more to come which I hope is equally true.

After our first failed round of ICSI fertility treatment Bryan surprised me with an overnight trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast for my 30th birthday. This fulfilled a dream I had since university and was a great distraction from the pain of our pursuit to start our family. On that little trip we went to a small, authentic Italian restaurant close to the theatre. We ate thin crust pizza, dared each other to eat green olives which we both hate and continued to dream of our future together. There were a few tears shed but at one point we both agreed that our story needed to be written in a book someday. Well family, friends and those I hope to someday meet, in some ways that day has arrived, just not fully. Let me explain.

I have been working since February quite consistently on my first book and it’s called…The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants. I have spent hours reliving this emotional and many times painful journey. I have experienced the same emotions over failed pregnancy tests that I had years ago, etc. (It’s crazy to realise just how much your body stores your memories and emotions!) Needless to say the process has been intense and exhausting, yet very therapeutic and healing. Plus, it wouldn’t be happening at such an intense rate if it wasn’t for my amazing husband, this unique season we find ourselves in and the constant help of my friend Hilary!

This first book is about our struggle over 9 years with infertility that eventually led to having a family. The book is a handbook/guidebook of sorts for those experiencing infertility on a personal level as well as for those who know someone going through infertility. In the book I share my personal experiences of treatment, the emotional roller coaster of infertility/fertility treatment and also give what I consider to be some helpful and practical advice on surviving along the way. I also have stories of other people who have struggled as well as the impact infertility has on your relationships. In many ways it’s a journal of sorts that I am giving people permission to go through and read. It feels a lot like the dream where you are walking down the hall with no clothes on and everyone is staring at you naked, yep, that one, the really unnerving one.

This book is aimed at a wide audience of people because I know infertility touches so many lives whether it be your life, your wife, daughter or friend, we all know someone who has been affected by infertility. My desire is to allow my own vulnerability and honesty to help someone else along the way. Am I terrified? Yes!!! But I think that’s part of what makes it worthwhile, it scares me! The reason this is hopefully only my first book is that I would like to write a second book chronicling the faith journey I went on in more detail. It will be a very different book with a different audience yet I feel both books are valid and important enough to distinguish between and write.

I am planning on publishing the book myself in the coming weeks while also sending it to publishing companies. Once I can get the final edit done and figure out all of the publishing lingo I will be flying! So watch this space!!! I will be putting any book updates here on my blog, on facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

(For those interested, I am sharing a bit about the book and my journey at Causeway Coast Vineyard Women’s Breakfast Club on the 24th June, 2016. If you would like to come reserve your space by clicking the link!)

 

Settling in…

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We are past the two month mark and we are settling into being a little family. The boys are growing so fast and getting stronger everyday. We love watching them hold their heads up now to look around as they are taking in more and more of their surroundings. I am a little sad that they are getting so big but also enjoying this new stage. They have started to smile and that makes you feel amazing! Seeing their faces light up when you talk to them is probably one of the best feelings I have ever felt. Sleep deprivation has been lessened thanks to my incredible husband and his amazing Mom. Everyone is so concerned for my well-being making sure I am eating properly and getting enough sleep that sometimes I feel like I am more rested than everyone else! I will enjoy it while it lasts thank you very much!

People keep asking what has been the best thing about having Kidran and Cohen here and that is so hard to answer because it’s not just one thing. Each of them has their own personality, likes and dislikes. They have their individual cries and preferred holding positions. They feed differently, sleep differently and are so unique in every way and that is a beautiful thing. The best thing is that they are real, here and are ours, no one else’s.

People also keep asking what’s been the biggest adjustment? In all honesty it hasn’t been that different than what we imagined. It is hard, really hard at times but so incredible that it just seems worth it. Period. I would say I do miss time with Bryan but that will come back too and we are already planning date nights to make the most out of having a constant babysitter right now with great credentials!

More than anything we are finding our way, getting to know our wee men and soaking up every second of this stage. These times are precious, times that become fixed in your memory and that you will replay constantly as they grow up, and eventually leave home (no, I am not ready to think about that in any way!!) These feel like the moments that we will share with them as they get bigger. Cohen, we remember when you used to sit straight up as we tried to burp you and look around taking in everything. Kidran, we remember when you used to grunt and groan all the way through a feed with your raspy voice. I could continue listing these little memories but I would bore you all.

Abba, I don’t spend a lot of time talking to You these days. I do spend a lot of time thanking You under my breath. Thank you for Kidran and every detail of his perfect face. Thank you for Cohen’s pensive eyes and sweet smiles. Thank you for entrusting us with these two treasured gifts. We pray you help us be the best parents for them, seeking You in every stage of their lives so that we can direct them to You. We pray you protect them, speak to them from an early age and that you give them courage to be the men of God you have designed them to be. Thank you again Father, Amen.

Forever changed…forever blessed!

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On the 1st September 2014, Bryan and I welcomed the arrival of our two beautiful sons. Kidran J Caleb Chud was born at 11:48am weighing 5lbs6oz and Cohen V Ryan Chud was born at 11:49am weighing 5lbs1oz. From the moment we heard Kidran and Cohen’s first cries our lives were forever changed. The boys are incredible! They are handsome, sweet, have reasonably chilled attitudes so far but with very distinctive personalities. We are in love! Hours are spent each day simply staring at their perfection and the blessing that they represent in our lives from God. We are caught in the web of not wanting them to grow up already yet longing to see how they change and develop in time. Each day is precious whether it be an easy day or a difficult one. We are living each moment as much as we can and enjoying the journey. Thankfully this has been made easier by the help of my giving and generous parents who are here for 6 weeks. We also had the privilege of our good friend Molly Olsen coming and helping us get onto pure breastfeeding for a whole week! The help doesn’t end there as Bryan’s mum Lynda arrives the beginning of October to stay for 3 months. It has been such a huge adjustment having our two wee bundles at home but we are loving it. We have been inundated with such extreme generosity from our family, church family and friends both here and in America and feel incredibly fortunate that so many people are celebrating the birth of our boys with us! Thank you to each person who has blessed us!!!!

There is so much I could say but my brain won’t really allow me too and there’s not a lot of time as the boys feed every 3 hours at the moment. (Totally worth the sleep deprivation as Kidran now weighs 6lbs1oz and Cohen weighs 5lbs15oz!) As you can imagine there have been so many moments that have wrecked both Bryan and I when we contemplate the road we have travelled to arrive where we are. God’s faithfulness displayed in such splendor is almost too much at times to take in! Yet one of my favourite moments that comes to mind is the day we brought our boys home from the hospital. As we drove down the M1 back to Dungannon Bryan played an album by Kristine Mueller- Those Who Dream. (If you can, buy this album! You will not be sorry!) The album has special significance to us as it was played non-stop during our first two failed attempts at IVF. A few years on we lost the album when our computer crashed. This Christmas Bryan was able to get it again and as we moved forward with another round of treatment the songs took on greater meaning. One of the lyrics talks about God making us into mountains that cannot be moved or shaken. Throughout our journey to start our family we have felt God so close and had many ‘thin place’ experiences. We do not believe He orchestrated our struggle to have a family but we do believe He walked through it with us. He used the experience to make us into mountains. Mountains that display the grandeur of God’s faithfulness and His attention to every detail of our lives. Through the process we have become stronger, our faith more solid than ever before. Things that used to shake us or tried to move us have less of a hold. That does not mean what lies ahead will be easy or we will be unshaken. Still we have the promise of God always being with us and this settles my heart and mind. Another lyric states this fact: ‘Over and over, you prove yourself faithful’. As we drove home with our physical representations of God’s promises fulfilled, we were both overwhelmed by God’s proof of being faithful. Our eyes filled with tears, our hearts beat that much fuller and we knew we had met with God, we had experienced one of the holiest moments of our lives.

So here are a few pictures of our beautiful boys! They are from the first week so already they have changed and grown so much but I wanted to capture them this way as much as we could! Enjoy!!!

32 weeks and counting!!!!

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Looking back at the blog I see that it has now been nearly two months since I last posted anything!!! Where does the time go? It seems like so much has happened since my last post and I will do my best to condense it. The two new pictures are of me with some of my fellow prego mommies!! Our church seems to be having a baby boom as there are a few ladies not even in this pic from our church who are pregnant. There is also another girl pregnant with twins so we have had fun comparing notes. I think it is a sign that God truly is up to something magnificent and big for the upcoming years as these little boys and girls grow up in His presence!

Shortly after the last entry Bryan and I went and stayed two nights in Belfast at the Europa Hotel to celebrate our 12 year wedding anniversary. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that it has been 12 years since we said ‘I do’ but a lot has happened to fill those years. We had a wonderful, relaxing time in Belfast. The highlight would have to be our anniversary journals. One of our wedding gifts when we got married were two journals, one for each of us. The couple who gave them to us encouraged us to write about each year of our marriage and then share that with each other as part of our anniversary traditions. We have done this each year and found it to be tedious yet rewarding and this year was no different. Although there was a difference. In our entries over the years we have written about our trials and the ups and downs of our journey to start a family. Sharing those entries has been bittersweet at times as we were never blind to the fact that we still had not been able to start a family yet we always were overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness, presence and extreme blessings in our lives. This year we sat in the piano bar at the Europa Hotel, with the World Cup muted in the background and read to each other our view of this last year. As we did, we both sat with tears streaming down our faces at the miraculous events that had taken place in our lives namely us finally getting pregnant. It felt so monumental for our journey and seems to us like a script that not even Hollywood could write. God does love a good story and He is the giver of good gifts and good surprises and we are proof of that. After all the years of waiting, of hoping, of crying, of anger, of pain…at the end was a beautiful picture of resurrection. (If you own Nathan Chud’s album Moratorium, now would be a good time to listen to resurrection.) Jesus had taken our dead and buried dreams and brought them back to life in fullness! Thank you Father for hearing every prayer and giving us this privilege of become parents and having a family!

After our time in Belfast we came back to Dungannon for church that Sunday morning. Bryan celebrated his first Father’s Day and it was awesome to experience!! That brings us into July where we had people come and stay with us nearly every weekend of the month. We enjoyed the time catching up with friends and family whom we have not seen for quite some time but I must admit I was a little tired by the end of it and have enjoyed time with just Bryan since everyone has gone.

Something else marked July for us unfortunately and that was the death of my beloved Grandpa Maier on the 10th July, 2014. My Grandpa was one of my favourite people and growing up I respected him so much and that only grew as I became an adult. He loved people, served people and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. More importantly he was a man who gave his entire being to Jesus and was so passionately in love with Jesus that he couldn’t help but be a contagious spreader of the love of Christ. I always said to him that I wanted a double portion of what he had and my Mom kindly reminded me that I had been given that double portion, God had given us two boys! When he passed he was surrounded by my lovely Grandma Ardith, my Mom and her sisters and the entire Maier clan. They sang old hymns and songs to him, they told him their favourite memories and was there until he breathed his last. Moments like this make the distance between us and the rest of my family so very big and hard. I just wanted to be there with my Mom, my Grandma and the rest of my family who were grieving the loss of this incredible patriarch. I wanted to cry with them, tell stories with them, relive our best moments with Grandpa Maier (him tickle/pinching us as kids, making us wooden toys, him leading the Lion of Judah at convention, him preaching at Fellowship Tabernacle, the list goes on and on). I just wanted to be with my family. So being heavily pregnant was probably the only good excuse I could use to justify to myself not being there with all of them. Thankfully Brent, my eldest brother, organized to have the funeral streamed so I was able to witness the celebration of his life and his incredible legacy. I will miss and love you forever Grandpa, thank you for showing me what a life centered around Jesus looks like and the fulfillment that only He can bring to this life looks like. You will never be replaced but always remembered.

Now we are into August and I am 32 weeks today! This baffles me! The time has flown by and outside of the whole appendix episode, the pregnancy has gone really well. I have been enjoying feeling more movements from the boys as they are now estimated to weigh 4lbs 3oz and 4lbs 10oz! So when they move it is no longer a gentle nudge or tap but feels more like a wrestling match is going on inside of my stomach! We have made great strides in getting the nursery set up for the boys arrival thanks to the generosity of so many and even have the hospital bag and nappy bag packed in case I go into preterm labour. I am scheduled to have another scan on the 28th August and will then get a date for my C-section.

I have also finished up my job which was a wonderful job during this time but my body was ready to rest. Over here it is quite common for women to finish work a month before their due date to rest and prepare for the arrival of the baby/ies and I am so thankful to be living here because of this! I know it’s not that way for my American friends. At work they made me a sweet little peanut butter and buttercream iced cake that said Yummy Mummy on it and we all had a coffee break together, it was very sweet. Now it is time to get the rest of the nursery set up, try to make a few meals for the freezer and clean the house from top to bottom (which because of the lack of negotiating I can do with the bump will take me probably two weeks)!!! There is always the chance that the babies could come earlier than planned which is okay as their weights are getting up there and we have already had the steroid injections to mature their lungs. Yet it would be nice to have my Mom and Dad here before they come or at least as soon as they arrive. I know we can’t control this aspect of pregnancy so we are trusting that they will come when they are ready and healthy enough to be brought home.

To finish this long overdue and lengthy update I wanted to share a very sweet moment I had the other evening. Bryan was playing a chilled out song on the guitar that was beautiful and as he was playing I was folding the baby clothes that I have washed so far and picking out which pieces I would pack for the hospital. As I stood their in that moment, tears began to fill my eyes. The complete reality of what I was doing hit me. I was folding the clothes that our little boys will wear. Our boys. Not someone else’s miracles but ours, the two gifts that God has blessed us with. It was one of those surreal moments that felt like time stood still. My heart felt like it could explode in gratitude and joy! I paused and thanked God for every prayer He heard, for every tear He kept and for releasing His Kingdom power into our lives in this way at this time. It was precious and not a moment I will ever forget. Bryan came in a few minutes later and we both stood, hugging, in awe of what these little clothes represented in our story. Thank you Abba!

If you would like to pray for us here are a few prayer points that we would love you to partner with us in:
*Pray for continued healthy development of the boys and that they will come only when they are healthy, strong and ready to come home.
*Pray for us to find a new car that will be more suitable for our growing family needs:)
*Pray for job opportunities for Bryan to come up.
*Pray for the safe arrival of our family and friends who are so graciously coming to help support us through the first few months of becoming parents, hallelujah!!!
*Pray that the delivery, whatever way it happens, is smooth and uncomplicated.

Thank you for your continued support!!!

20 weeks!!!

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The big scan is coming up this Wednesday so we will find out for sure if it is two boys as they think it is. Very excited to see them for an extended period of time at the big scan and to see what they look like at this stage (more human than white blob:) ). This picture gives you an idea of what we are looking like at 20 weeks though. People keep saying the bump is growing everyday which I definitely feel. A wee prayer point though, please pray for the scar from the appendix that it will grow and stretch with the growth of these babies. Plus Bryan has only about 2 1/2 weeks left before he is home so I am delighted with that fact! I will also hopefully be going back to work after the 30th of May and seeing how long I can last. I have started collecting bits and pieces as well for the babies arrival and it feels nice to finally do something productive for them coming. Sitting and relaxing has been great but I have also gone into nesting mode, but don’t worry! I am not lifting/moving furniture as that will be Bryan’s job when he gets home. Now bring on Wednesday!!!!