We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.
Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!
Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.
With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.
I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.
For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.
Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.
Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.
I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.
Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.
The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:
Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden
This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.
I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.
My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)
As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show. They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.
I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.
Since moving back to Washington and getting settled I have found the pace of life here starkly different to that of Northern Ireland. I knew this before we even arrived but nothing could really prepare me for it. Yet part of me knows it’s not only the location of this busy professional environment that I find myself in. It is also this season of life with small children. Tasks never get crossed off your to-do list and when they do, the item is added back to the list the next day. Cleaning and laundry seem like complete wastes of time yet add a nurturing feel to our home that I love. (Just so you know it happens less frequently these days and the laundry sometimes doesn’t get folded, just picked through if it’s clean!)
I speak of being intentional often and yet rarely apply my intentions. I find I am tired so the boys watch another show. Life is rich, full and good but this also means that we are juggling schedules, the boys, sickness at times, the weather dependent activities and the growing personalities of our two gifts. All of which Bryan handles with such grace and a growing capacity that astounds me.
Our boys are changing rapidly and growing so quickly it’s hard to keep up! They add words to their vocabulary daily and seem to be mastering new skills often without our assistance. Having two at the same time has been incredible!! So difficult at times but at this stage all I can really see is the unique and lifelong friendship that is being cultivated between these two very different little humans.
Kidran is sensitive, observant to the tiniest details, loves to roughhouse and throw things (anything really!) He is also more sensitive and his feelings get hurt deeply, he will linger when we cuddle and I will soak it up! He enjoys being around people but will usually take time away from the crowd on his own and have a little chat to himself or sing a song. Cohen is our social butterfly. Anxious to meet people and every experience life throws at him. Cohen is a people pleaser but also has some big emotions. I often say that he is Italian!! Cohen loves being chased right now and is all about cars. He also loves to resolve problems for others, especially his brother. Their favourite book is The Three Little Pigs. They love reading along and saying ‘Oh no!’ when the wolf enters the story. They prefer outside play if it’s offered but will settle for jumping on beds and hide and seek when the weather isn’t cooperating. They play so well together and annoy each other but make up quickly and laugh often with and at each other. They make each other laugh harder than anyone can, aside from Bryan.
Yesterday we had an unexpected nice spell of sunny weather. So while still in their PJ’s I let them loose outside. They dumped dirt on each other, slid down our little hill on their bums, chased each other, drew on the sidewalk and got dirty. When they came inside they began sliding off our bed with their dirty little faces. The light was streaming in and I quickly ran to get the camera. I so rarely take ‘real’ photos anymore but love it when I do. These pics of Kiki caught the light just right and Cohen’s cheesy smile and crystal blue eyes melt my heart! I find when I stop the busyness long enough to really take them in I find they take my breath away! They are so beautiful inside and out!
Despite the different pace of life I have began hanging out with some old and new friends. I keep meeting other Moms in parks and end up meeting eventually. We have had a couple of magical evenings the past few weeks and I am so incredibly thankful for these blossoming friendships that are coming from many areas of life.
Yet one area of life I would truly value some prayers in. So I have written a book about our long journey through infertility mainly from my perspective with the help of some other friends and family too. With our schedules it is the last thing I get to. I have sent a proposal to one publishing company and am waiting to hear back. Yet I also wonder if I should print the book myself through Blurb.com ( a book-making website). I find myself stuck at this point. Not knowing the next step to take or how to take it. Doing it myself feels overwhelming yet possibly necessary as actually getting published seems nearly impossible. So for those of you who knew I had written the book, I haven’t forgotten about it. It’s still in process and I believe so strongly there is a place for it amongst other infertility books. I have shared parts of it with close friends who are also struggling and it has resonated so strongly with them which has felt like confirmation that I still must print/publish it. If you think of it, please send your prayers and thoughts my way for this project. I desperately want to complete it in the next few months. Watch this space!
Thanks for reading and I hope the sun is shining wherever you find yourself today!!
This picture is of our old nursery, our boys first bedroom. The nursery has so much significance as you prepare for the arrival of your first child/children. You imagine your child sleeping here, waking here, playing here. You carefully choose the colour of the walls, the type of crib you want your baby to sleep in, the changing table you will use more times than you could ever have imagined. You wash their tiny, little clothes and place them on hangers or in drawers. You place their teddies and blankets in the crib/s and anxiously wait for their arrival. You prepare space in your life for this new little human being about to join your family.
Yet the nursery is also a way for the parents to mentally prepare their checklist of ‘Are we actually ready to bring this baby home from the hospital’? You may store your hospital bag in this room, you may have your cotton wool for cleaning up your baby’s dirty bum, you may keep an abundance of newborn nappies here. You try to prepare for something you have never experienced (if this is your first child). As you countdown the days to your due date you also countdown the projects left to finish in the nursery and possibly around the house. Many of which will be left untouched for years after that first babies arrival, this my friend is perfectly fine and acceptable.
As time went on and we organized our nursery, I realized it told so much of our story. On one wall was pictures of Bryan and I as babies with our own parents with the letters of our last name hung below representing the blending of our two lives to make one. In one corner you can see Bryan’s trophies from football over the years which in the beginning was one of our main instigators for moving to Northern Ireland. On another wall we hung a world map, hoping that our boys will love adventure and travel as much as their parents do and to remind them of the big, extravagant world that awaits their explorations. This map also had attached to it individual pieces of art representing each boys life that my mother-in-love painted for us.
We had two cribs in their nursery. Eventually they couldn’t sleep together because they needed more space to stretch and grow. One crib was borrowed from friends who were some of our closest Northern Irish family. Their two children both slept in that crib and now ours had too. The other crib is warmly referred to as The Box. This crib was loaned to us by a Dutch friend who we met through church. We always seemed to gravitate towards each other with an understanding of being a foreigner living in a different land. The final wall though was our most precious. It held a bright, lime green frame. Inside that frame were scans of our boys as embryos as well as in the womb at 20 weeks. It held pictures of our first family photoshoot with our tired eyes, contented smiles and my slightly swollen belly still present from carrying the boys for 35 weeks.
As we prepared our hearts to leave Northern Ireland, (which by the way I am not sure how you actually prepare to leave a place you love dearly), I would walk into their nursery often. I would stand and absorb the details, the smell, the light, the memories that room held for me. Nights of feeding my boys, naptimes, white noise shouting from behind a closed door, hearing the boys wake in the morning and going into get them up with their jammies and sleepy eyes. Even as I write this I pray I never forget those sweet, precious moments of the first bedroom they possessed. My eyes are welling up with tears and I have a lump in my throat as I vividly recount that time of our life.
Not only did we leave behind the boys first room, a house that we had finally filled with the sounds of our boys pitter patter running up and down the hallway. We left behind one of the most beautiful, challenging, fulfilling, heartbreaking seasons of our life together. I haven’t written about our move that much. The reason is because it is so painful to do so. Let me explain as best as I can.
We are loving this new life we have begun back in the states. In many ways it seems like our lives here are just extending from 2003 when we left Kirkland to begin our pursuit of moving to Northern Ireland. We still have many of the same friends and get to connect with them as often as we can, we are back in the same town we went to University in, Bryan loves his job and is thriving in it. The closeness to family is so special right now. I am so thankful to be staying with good friends while we wait for the little house we are going to rent to open up in December. We know we made the right move at the right time and are thankful to be here.
However, we still feel very much Northern Irish. We long for a cuppa with a bar of galaxy chocolate or a digestive biscuit. We long for a drive to the North Coast to visit friends and soak up the landscape of sea and cliffs. We long for the short drive to the Big Smoke(Belfast) to the Christmas Market with friends. We long for a curry from Bengal Spice on a Saturday night with our friends. We long for the closeness of community with people we had done so much life with over the years. We long for the Bush Road and Dungannon. We long for the slower pace of life. We long for the proximity to the rest of Europe making it possible to travel to places like Italy and France. We long for the people who carved themselves into our hearts, never to be forgotten. We long for it all.
We don’t know what the future holds and there is no point clinging to the past. The present is our home. So today, I reflect with a humble, thankful heart for the fullness of our life both there and here. The two look vastly different but both show me the goodness of God in the land of the living. I stand with my hands outstretched and open once again to all that God has in store.
Nearly 12 years ago Bryan and I boarded a plane to Northern Ireland not knowing what the future would hold. I remember so clearly getting ready to land and feeling a wave of panic crash over me. What on earth were we doing? Why were we moving? Why had we sold almost everything we owned and quit good paying jobs? Were we insane? The decision to move seemed risky and a bit silly in that moment but we were confident that we would see purpose in our move as time unfolded. At that point we had no idea what road lay ahead of us, especially the journey we would embark on to begin our family.
Over those 12 years we saw amazing things happen in our town and church. We grew individually, as a couple and eventually as a family. We traveled a ton and we dug deep into relationships with people here. Many of those people became our Northern Irish family. The Archers for instance. I can’t recall how many Christmases we spent with their family because they adopted us that very first year and began a new tradition for us. Our lives were full and busy. Bryan’s job as a youth pastor became so fulfilling and we walked alongside so many young people at very poignant times in their lives. I remember quite a few teens asking us ‘Do you think God kept you from having kids for so long so that you could help the teens in Dungannon?’ We don’t know the answer to that but we have loved our life here. Not every day was blissful or easy but the total of pretty outstanding days far outweighs the hard days. Northern Ireland became part of our tapestry, woven into us in so many unexpected ways and we will never truly be gone or leave this place, no matter the physical miles.
In a few short months we will board a plane again, a plane carrying us back to America because opportunity has presented itself. Bryan has been hired as the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at our old college Northwest University. It is an incredible position and we feel so honoured to have Bryan take the post. Come mid July we will be flying back ‘home’. The problem is that Northern Ireland has become home for us and our boys.
After such a long period of time here we feel Northern Irish in many ways. How we view life, culture and family is through a Northern Irish lens. There are so many things that we love about living here. The list of pros is much longer than the cons. Yet by moving back to the states we will have the privilege of living much closer to family which is a huge blessing. Still, as much as we know this is the right move at the right time, our hearts are still aching at the thought of the goodbyes to come.
Last week we had a memorable week with Bryan’s youngest brother Nathan, his wife Marisa and their 21 month old son Lincoln. The time was spent letting our boys play together, trips to Dublin, Belfast, the North Coast and the Argory, sharing about life and getting properly caught up as Nathan and Marisa recently uprooted themselves from the last frontier of Alaska and moved to Lebanon. The day before they were due to leave our electric wok came up. Long story short, the plugs in Lebanon are the same as in the UK so I sent our electric wok with them, back to their new home.
I know it’s just a wok, but it is also something more. That wok was a gift to me from my very dear friends Paul and Hilary. I had the joy of nannying their twins for nearly two years. When I used it and I did often, I thought of them. I would make family style meals in it. One of my favourites became a yummy risotto recipe from Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. Another good friend, Julie, introduced me to Shauna’s writing by giving me my first Shauna Niequist book called Bittersweet. This came at a time when I was going through the throws of infertility. I was also running a small coffee shop called The Press Coffee Shop. The name came from a trip I made to Belfast with my friend Carol. We talked about the coffee shop and it’s aims. I wanted it to be a place where those who were feeling pressed by life could come and be cared for. Infertility had been pressing me for many years and the name seemed fitting. These types of examples and stories of friendship could go on and on. Everything about everything feels connected to this place and the last 12 years and I don’t know how yet to connect our life here to our life there.
Believe it or not, I feel my heart had been gently and kindly prepared for this decision from the moment we arrived back home in January. As we settled back into life we went through a major declutter. I got rid of so much stuff as did Bryan. I hung pictures on the walls that I had meant to hang for the past two years. As I was hanging the pictures one day I felt in my spirit that I should ‘Hold it loosely’. When I heard it my subconscious knew that change was ahead but I also set it on a shelf in a room away from my everyday life and closed the door.
I know that this is the right move for us. I know that with my head but my heart has not caught up yet. I kinda want to know when it will catch up. Time is usually the thing that helps connect the two and I have a feeling it will work in this case. Yet these are just a few of the things that are causing me to shed tears and weep a little nearly everyday so far.
Our boys won’t have the Northern Irish twang that we have grown to love.
We won’t be able to drive through the green, rolling hills to the North Coast.
We will miss our neighbours, the McCammon’s, who we have done so much life with like our Sunday lunches, holidays and our frequent evening gatherings.
We will leave behind our boys first bedroom, the room I cradled them in so many nights.
We will leave behind our church family that has taught us how to live in community.
The list could go on and on but I will stop there as my eyes are filling with tears as I type this. Please heart, catch up with my head soon. I want to love these last few months here in our home and I don’t want to cry everyday. Speak to me God, of the promises of a good future, good plans and good purposes for pulling up our roots and planting them somewhere else. I choose to trust You. Thank you for the gift of the last 12 years.