endurance

Darkness to Light…

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The last seven days have been interesting to say the least.

This past Friday at 10:22 a.m. my beautiful and strong grandma, Ardith Maier passed away. She was surrounded by family and went peacefully. She was the ripe old age of 98! Her mind was sharp but her body had failed her.

One of my favorite last memories of my grandma was a few years ago when my grandpa was still alive too (he passed away 5 days shy of 100!). We had completed our third transfer after 9 long years of trying, and were finally pregnant. My mom, aunts, cousins, sister-in-laws, and nieces then threw us a baby shower before we headed back to our home in Northern Ireland. The shower was at my grandparents house so my grandma could be there. My grandpa was of course there too, loving every second of us being there to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Right before we left my grandpa and grandma told us they wanted to pray for us. So I knelt in front of them while Bryan stood by my side. They laid their aged, wrinkled, and wise hands on us and prayed.

It wasn’t an eloquent prayer. It wasn’t long. It was however, powerful. It felt like a baton being passed. They had prayed constantly for us to have a family. They persistently knocked on heaven’s door for us and I am thankful they did. In that moment, we entered a holy place. A place where the veil is thin. What had been such a dark season of time for us was finally turning into a bright, blinding light. They were there to witness it and that felt huge.

So Saturday, I grieved the loss of my grandma. I grieved the loss of my sweet papa again too. It all hit me harder than expected. My body felt numb, I didn’t really want to move but just sleep. As usual my incredibly aware and loving husband took our boys and gave me space to just “be” that day. Thank you my love. Thank you for knowing when I need space and doing what is necessary to create it.

As I had the space and time, I cried at times. Then I signed copies of my book to send to some special women. Some of you who already bought the book know this, but I included the infertility struggle of other women at the end of my book. Every infertility story looks different and I wanted the women who read my book to find themselves in at least one of these stories. So I wrote my thank you’s to these women and posted their copies to them. Thank you ladies for entrusting me with your personal journey and for allowing me to share it this way with others on the same road. We are all in this together.

After feeling like I was in a bit of a funk, and going through Easter morning not feeling very present, we had the pleasure of spending the rest of the day with our adopted PNW family, the Wheelers. They love on us and our boys like family. They were also the ones who did an Easter egg hunt for Kidran and Cohen, not us. As I stood in their house, where we lived for our first four and a half months back in the states in 2016, I was overwhelmed by how thankful I am for each of them and their presence in our life. Thank you Wheeler Clan for loving and including us in such a generous, big way!

Tuesday rolled around, a day I had been anticipating. I was anxious for the day because I had my very first podcast interview about the book (which hopefully will be available mid April!). I was a mixture of excitement and nerves, wondering if I was going to totally blank on every question but hoping I would instead be able to speak straight from my heart. I think I was able to do the latter. My sweet friend Ailsa, who is ever gracious and accommodating, offered to watch my boys while I did the interview. What a gift!

I dropped the boys off at her house and we chatted over coffee for a bit. Then I drove home, lit a candle, prepared my material for the interview. I quieted my heart, had a few moments with God, and centered myself. Then I became truly present.

The interview went beautifully. We had a heartfelt discussion about infertility, the book, the ups, downs, and everything in between of this difficult journey. I LOVED IT!

I had recruited extra prayers that day and I am so thankful I have people who do pray for me. Many of those same people carried me for years as we walked in a childless exodus, trying to find our familial promise land. We indeed have landed in a sweet place now.

As I reflected on the interview, this is what I came away with.

Infertility felt so dark to me at many points. It enveloped me, to the point where at times I could not ever see a way of getting out. Now to have written The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants and be able to share my story with so many others, it feels like light breaking through. Being able to share about the book in an interview where I came away buzzing about how much I enjoyed it, again, light breaking through. Maybe the light seems brighter too because of the darkness from those years of isolation, heartbreak, sorrow, and tears cried in secret. To openly display my pain and see light cracking through every crevice as I expose my own dark journey feels like redemption.

Where are you walking in the dark right now? What part of your life is the most painful? Maybe, just maybe, in the near or far future, that pain will be what grabs the hand of someone else stumbling down a dark corridor, to help guide them towards a brighter, light-filled future. Will you share your own story of darkness and pain with the chance that it may help someone else? I really think you should.

*If you are interested in purchasing the book you can do so by heading to Amazon or if you are local to the PNW, you can DM me on Instagram, @breannachud or FB @breannajochud. Please share this book with those who may be struggling and if you read it, would you do me a favor and review it on Amazon and my FB page? Again, the podcast interview should be up mid April so have a listen and review that too! Thank you!

 

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I gave birth to a paper baby!

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When I was in high school, I liked English. My teacher however made it very clear to me, on more than one occasion, that English did not like me. She held my paper up, covered in red marks, in front of both classes, and announced that I made the most mistakes in both her classes. It was a defining moment. From that point on, I became pretty insecure about my ability to write throughout high school.

Imagine my surprise then, when I tested out of the basic English composition class to move onto the next level when I arrived at college! It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually write. Combine that spark with years of journaling, and I decided to ignore my high school teachers decision of my ability.

I did this when I started blogging for the community coffee shop I opened in Northern Ireland called The Press. I would share about the experiences in the coffee shop and announce our upcoming events. I LOVED IT! Writing had always been an outlet and at that point I started to find my own voice.

Fast forward a few years. Bryan and I decided to give IVF one last shot, no pun intended! I figured the easiest way to keep people informed of our progress was through my personal blog. I had only one or two entries at that point. I guess I also need to rewind and insert this little fact. Through the years that we struggled with infertility I also journaled. I used my writing as a way of processing my pain, as a way of praying, as a way of dealing with the grief I carried, but didn’t always want the world to know. I also didn’t want to consistently be “Debbie Downer” by always talking about the sadness I felt. This could be partly my personality or partly the lies we believe that people can’t handle our pain and suffering, I’m not really sure.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. Years before the blog started, Bryan and I had made a special trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast. It was one of my bucket list items. It happened around my 30th birthday along with our first failed round of IVF. As we sat having dinner in a little Italian restaurant across from the theater, we decided that someday, when our family had finally arrived, by whatever means it came, that we would share our story in a book.

That moment has arrived. The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants is our story from my personal perspective. I allow you to crack open pages of my own journals, private pictures, sketches and my honest response to the struggle of infertility. I really hold nothing back. I am not trying to shock people, but I am trying to wake people up. This issue is painful. Painful for those struggling and painful for those who are watching someone struggle. 1 out of every 8 couples will deal with infertility now, 1 out of 8!!! Next time you are around that many couples, just look around because I would bet my own money that someone you know really well is struggling. It’s that real friends.

This book took me almost two years to complete. Life happened in a not so kind way almost immediately after I had the full manuscript completed. My father was diagnosed with cancer. At times the book felt like a burden I couldn’t shake while dealing with the grief of watching my father deteriorate. Other times it felt like an escape and a lifeline. What definitely helped was writing. Writing has become a way of life for me. Thanks to authors like Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene′ Brown, I began to believe in the power of my own voice. I also had my husband and amazing family and friends cheering me on too!

So the other night, March 12th at 7 p.m. I had my very first book launch! I was overwhelmed to see so many lovely faces come. Some I hadn’t seen in years, and some I have only recently become friends with. It was a beautiful collection of people and I am so grateful for each person taking the time to come and support me in such a tangible way.

Now I have the privilege of promoting this much needed book. I get to share my story again and again with people. Validating each time that what I went through, what we went through, and maybe what you are going through will not be wasted if we let it help and guide others. Our pain truly can bring comfort to someone else’s suffering, if we will let it. It means standing with our hands open instead of with clenched fists.

“I would describe infertility as a process of purification. You go through the fire, but at the end you come out your truest self.” p. 51 The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

What have you experienced by way of pain in your life? Are you willing to open that area up to even just one person? If so, I think you will find there is healing there. There is purpose in your pain there. There is also forward momentum that helps you leave the past in the past and move towards your future with hope and joy. Please share your story, the world needs it!

You can find me on Instagram @breannachud and on Facebook @breannajochud. If you would like to purchase the book you can find it herefile11Bre Book - Front Cover V1 (1)file17file6file8file16file7file9file-2 (2)file5file10file12file15

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.

 

 

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!!!