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.
Most days I walk around my life content to be what people see. Then there are days when I wonder why the world cannot see the markings of the people, places, and experiences that I wear. Then I remember, it is because these treasured moments in my life have been captured in an invisible tattoo.
It took 12 years to create. It is full of details and embellishments. Both shadow and light is captured within it’s lines. This tattoo could very well be a map of the whole of Ireland, etched with invisible ink across the length and width of my back. It depicts stories of growth, transformation, heartache, love, satisfaction, longing, adventure, and thin places. I carry this imprint wherever I go.
Recently I went back to visit my other home. At times it felt like the lines were searing hot, like I was being branded anew, stingy with the memory of the life we lived on the island. Moments and sites revisited, new places explored, history appreciated while writing new chapters in this never-ending book.
The trip was profound on many levels. I left the States content with my lot in life. I went with an open heart, open hands, and an open mind. I noticed that I walk a bit differently on Irish soil. A very true part of me comes alive in this magical land. I hear I am not the only one to experience this effect.
There are now new friends that have been made from this trip. Barry, Sebastian, Meredith, David, and Elizabeth to name a few. Celtic Dawn Expeditions, the embryonic adventure of Dave and Leanne has officially begun. Along with the new friendships, I cradled moments with the old faces of a time passed. Faces that reflect to me who I became while living on the island. There was a deep level of knowing that took place in each of these encounters and my heart swells when I think of them. The list of people who shaped me is too long to spell out and I don’t want to forget anyone, but I hope you each know who you are, how loved you are by me, and how much you impacted my life and who I have become.
Months later I am still revisiting moments of this special trip. There is so much more I could say but I’m not sure how. What I can say is this, each of us wears invisible tattoos. We all have life experiences that are unseen to those around us. As we develop and grow, maybe we are meant to begin tracing the lines with our own ink, bringing color and life to the parts that display our invisible, beautiful history to the world. I trace mine with words, with watercolors, with baking, and with nature. Each line I trace is a step towards unveiling my full self to a world that if I’m honest, may not be ready to receive this offering. Still I will reveal myself, the truest parts of me, over time. This space here, where I write, is one of the main places I do that. So thanks for reading and thank you for accepting.
For those of you who want a song to accompany this post, you are lucky. Here it is:
(Side note: One of the creative outlets that grew from my recent trip back was a melding of these years into me beginning my quarterly newsletter: Slow Small Sustainable. If you would like to journey with me as I share more on this, please send me your email address either through the blog, on Instagram @breannachud, or on FB: breannajochud.)
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!
Years ago I remember chatting with my good friend Lila in Northern Ireland about her early days of parenting and having small children. My ears usually perked up if she spoke about these topics because she had six children and seemed to love almost every second of being a mother. I learned so much from watching this incredible woman parent and I am forever thankful for her example.
She said when her children were small connecting with God looked very different and a friend passed on a verse to her that was really helpful in being present in that stage while still feeling connected to God.
“…he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
In my own early days of parenting I remember reading this verse and finding my own comfort from it’s words. So much so that I wrote it on a chalk board and hung it up in the sunroom at our old house where I would sneak away to if I had any time to be alone.
Recently I shared this verse with a fellow momma of littles. We talked about how the early years of motherhood can feel very disorienting, like you’re living in a dreamland. Never rested enough, not sure if you are even the same person as before you had kids, and the constant struggle to dismantle the old ways of connecting with God in order to be satisfied meeting with him for even 30 seconds. She loved the verse just as I did.
This morning, on Mother’s Day, one of my twins woke me up with his coughing. He came in and asked if I would wake up with him. He is currently sitting next to me. We all have had vicious coughs causing us all to lose sleep lately. At his request I got up and came out to my parents living room with him. He is watching a show while I quickly type, trying to get the words from inside my head and heart out and into this post.
As I pondered this verse and how to share it this is what I came up with. Instead of writing from the perspective of only mommas with littles, I wanted to broaden it. I want to focus on a few key words that bring us back to the truth of who God is and the truth of his character.
He gently leads.
More than focusing on the stage of life we are in, I want us to turn to the constant truth of these words. No matter where you find yourself, blissfully content with your lot in life or locked in a pattern of destructive behavior, the truth is that if you reach out your hand you will find a good shepherd who takes us by the hand and leads us gently. He is not an angry headmaster just waiting to correct our every wrong step. He comes close, ready to lead us through all of life’s dramatic changes and the subtle ones too with gentleness.
For those who do in fact have littles, he is gently leading you through this stage. For those who are empty nesters and miss those littles, he is gently leading you too. Some of you may be dreaming of marriage and babies, he is there too. Others may find themselves in the heartbreaking reality of an infertility journey they never planned on. He is with you, gently leading you through the pain, shadow land, and heartbreak of failed cycles, miscarriages, insensitive comments, and constant awareness of what you lack.
Through the ups and downs of life, the constant shifting and changing, God’s character remains true and solid. He gently leads.
There have been so many times when I have been in turmoil whether from things out of my control or circumstances of my own doing, where he has come alongside me, taken my hand, and gently led me to a new place, with a new landscape, and new hope. This pattern I am convinced will continue till the day I die. I will most likely always come upon situations in life where I feel frantic and will need the calming hand of Christ to lead me out of my own chaos into his wide open spaces where there is room to breathe and my soul can be settled.
Wherever you find yourself today: a recent college graduate, a grandparent, a husband trying to support your sleep deprived wife, stuck in a mid-life crisis, or contentedly sitting in retirement; this truth remains the same, he gently leads.
Let those words settle your wild heart and racing thoughts. Let them sooth, calm, and bring restoration to you today.
(Photo cred: Kirstie Walton. The other three kiddos are hers but I thought this picture represented this particular season of life pretty well.)
Can I tell you a little secret? I think I may have failed at Lent this year. Well, at least what I initially set out to achieve this season.
After a very meaningful Advent season and finding ways to connect my faith to my parenting, I was looking forward to more of the same. I started off strong with my daily readings, taking a few minutes to be silent, and then, I just stopped.
For some reason I wasn’t connecting with the readings. They felt long, tedious, wordy, and not very relevant to my daily life. If I’m honest I couldn’t relate to them. The days went by, our schedule felt busy. A few trips to Idaho thrown into the mix and my plan of making Lent come alive was left in the dust.
That’s where Lent began. Ash Wednesday. From dust to dust.
Gritty, dirty, dusty.
Now these were words that resonated deep within my soul.
On one of the trips back from Idaho I listened to a new podcast I found called The Desire Line. As the hosts spoke to their guest he shared about how there came a season where his old ways of connecting with God just didn’t seem to work.
My ears perked up.
I have experienced many different seasons and had felt this very thing on numerous occasions. As he went on talking he shared how he began walking and hiking in an attempt to begin communicating again with God in a way that meant something to him. I loved the idea and agreed with the concept. When I got back home to Kirkland and our rhythm of life, I decided to get up before everyone else and go for a walk. No music, no headphones, just Jesus, me, and my thoughts.
Those first few days it was like trying to tune into a fuzzy station to find the right channel. Things in my head felt noisy and distracted. After the third walk I could sense my mind starting to quiet and adjust to this new practice. I could start to hear God’s voice again. Speaking in single words. I could smell the fresh rainfall, hear the birds singing overhead, and appreciate the quiet of the morning. This little gritty path laying before me, letting me walk upon it while I listened, was teaching me.
Then one day I decided to take the boys for a hike on a random Tuesday. We had nothing planned except to burn off some energy. I packed up our lunch, snacks, and away we went. As we walked the easy hiking path I could feel the solid ground beneath my feet. My eyes drawn upward towards the budding branches, brown mingled with shots of brilliant green. Spring fully underway.
The boys chatted non-stop, shouting with delight at each discovery nature had hidden and I didn’t shush them. The woods were strong enough to absorb their loud way of living a four year old existence. We played Star Wars games, skipped rocks, and ran through the forest together. The rest of the day felt easier and the dirt stuck to the tread of my shoes as a reminder of why.
As the evenings have slowly gotten brighter and the weather occasionally cooperating into a mild night, I decided to start weeding the other night. The boys played in the garden as I, on hands and knees, dug up little shoots and roots, pulling them out. As each one came out I could see the remnants of last years gardening project peeking through. The bark from last year was still there and made the area look clean, tidy, and cared for. While I slowly pulled weeds I could feel my breath settle. I could feel my mind focusing on the one task at hand. My shoulders relaxed and so did I. The boys even got excited to help me weed and would take each weed as I pulled it from my hand and place it into the bin. The next morning I washed out the remainder of the dirt from under my finger nails, hinting at the calm it had ushered in.
Most recently, we took a day trip to Alki beach outside of Seattle. We walked along the waters edge. The boys and I walked on ahead as Bryan and his brother Nate chatted. The boys and I collected beach glass, attempted to build a sandcastle with sand that was too dry, and used rocks as army guys who were fighting off Star Wars characters. Eventually the boys paused to play and I laid down in the warm sand. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, allowing my chest to rise and fall slowly, methodically. I relaxed my eyes, placed my arms behind my head and lay still. The feeling of the sand in my hair, the sound of the water rolling onto the sand close by, the boys voices bubbling out of them in excitement, it awakened my senses.
That’s when I started thinking about how different this Lenten season had been for me. Had I failed? I didn’t think so, or at least I didn’t want to. Then the thought came to me. This Lenten season had been more like a puzzle I was putting together. One piece buried in the mud on our hike, one piece buried in the soil under a weed, another piece lodged between the rocks that get stuck in my trainers after my walk, and then another piece covered by sand and seaweed.
Gritty, dirty, dusty.
That’s where I found Lent this year: in the grit, dirt, and dust. I found myself buried in these simple practices that invite quiet in. In these places I did not have to try to tame the wild of my boys. I did not have to try to keep the house tidy to find a semblance of peace. The grit, dirt, and dust of my life were welcome in these places and so were my boys. I could feel myself rising to the surface in these moments. Not the me that is rushed, stressed out, but the me that pauses, the me that takes in the beauty of the ordinary. These practices had a way of settling me and I was thankful for the discovery.
Maybe this Lenten season what God was resurrecting in me was me. Maybe I had to walk to hear His voice. Maybe I had to take my boys outdoors to be a more engaged mother. Maybe I had to pull weeds up one at a time to appreciate the length of time it will take to grow that which can never be uprooted in me. Maybe like the beach glass, that becomes smooth and polished after being pummeled, I am being made smooth and less abrasive. Just maybe.
So maybe I didn’t fail Lent this year, maybe I found it for the first time.
How have you practiced or observed Lent this year? Was it meaningful, rich, and full? Or did it feel stale and dry? Pay attention to the answer. It could be time to take a walk and quiet yourself too.
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!
So I am noticing this funny and spectacular thing happening. Since choosing a word for the year: enough, and choosing my one thing: writing; how I spend my time is changing. (I would also be doing a disservice if I didn’t thank The Nester and Marie Kondo for helping me clear clutter in my home meaning it’s easier to keep clean and tidy, being a large contributing factor to my desire to pursue “enough and writing” because my house is not requiring my attention the same way as before.)
As I write this I have dirty dishes on my counter and stovetop, I have a pile of clean clothes sitting in my laundry basket (let’s focus on the word “clean” here people). I decided however that my house was clean enough for right now. As a day full of free time presented itself, I chose to be okay with the house being clean enough for these first hours of the day. I also chose to dive head first into writing this morning. It is after all the thing I want to focus the most on in 2019. That doesn’t just happen by saying it either, I actually have to write words that turn into sentences. Sentences that turn into paragraphs and you get the idea.
Now that I have honored my words for the year, I can now sense my creative energy waning which means it’s the perfect time for me to stand up and clean up what’s left to be cleaned. I choose to believe that what I wrote today is enough for today. I will write more another day but today I was faithful in my craft for a few hours. All those hours are working towards my 10,000 and that doesn’t just happen overnight.
I am also noticing that when I’m with my boys I am more present and having a lot more fun because I feel like I have done enough even when there is more to do. It’s a choice to believe you are enough for today and tomorrow you will be enough too. I am also embracing these quiet days to myself, not wondering when the next one will appear, but believing that as I use the word “No” more, I will naturally begin creating space for my writing to happen in places it didn’t before. Thank you Kelly Welk and The Dream Catcher Community for helping me move towards living with intentionality.
P.S. It also helps knowing that my husband is sharing one of his greatest passions, skiing, with our sons on these days. He is doing something good for him and our boys while I do something good for me. I am so thankful we can see these days in this way.
Now let’s keep on keeping on!
The past two and a half years have held a great deal of change for my life. Leaving Northern Ireland, the land where I cut out part of my heart and planted it. My Papa being diagnosed with cancer to his passing from this earth. My mother-in-love being diagnosed with lymphoma and surviving in the most extraordinary way. To my most recent experience of an early miscarriage.
As Bryan and I chatted in bed one night, the tears filled my eyes. I explained to him that my heart had felt so heavy for so long. I reflected on everything that was bright, beautiful, and alive in my life. Then I described something else.
The grey thread.
For the past two and a half years I have carried around a heaviness. I can easily see the charms of my life. I have an incredible husband, two miracle sons, a job that has purpose, family that I love, friendships that go deep like a well. My life is rich and I know it.
Still, in all the richness, in all the vibrant yellows, reds, blues, and purples of life, there is a grey thread. It hides for awhile. Life feels normal, manageable. Then, I see it. The dull color, working it’s way to the surface again. Wrapping itself around the yellow, turning it a muted brown. It takes the other colors too, toning down their brilliance, creating a type of shadow land.
It feels like the opposite of putting on rose-colored glasses. This grey thread takes the shine out of almost everything. It cannot remove that which is solid, thank God. Yet it can change my view and perspective, making it harder to see clearly. It becomes like a fog, covering up the parts of my life that stir me to live.
Through time and effort, I can stand on the thread once again, regaining my life back. However, out of the corner of my eye, I see the end of the thread wriggling. Then I see it disappear beneath my life’s palate again. A sense of relief floods my body. It is gone for now. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wonder for how long?