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.
I have lost track of how many times I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Alaska. I almost feel guilty about it if I’m honest. I know it’s a place on the bucket list for many. I just happen to be married to a man who is from there and where the rest of the Chud clan currently reside.
This summer we took the boys back. Even though they had been there once before, we think this will be the trip that they are old enough to remember. It started with separate flights for our twin sons. These two had never spent a full 24 hours apart. That is, until we intentionally booked separate flights which we then completely forgot about booking. We knew we were all going but somewhere in the recesses of our minds neither of us could recall making this decision until we saw the itinerary come through, separately.
It’s always interesting to watch Kidran and Cohen take strides by themselves. Most of the time they are together and in some ways rely on each other for a certain degree of comfort and stability. So when opportunities arise for them to shine individually we soak it up. This little slip up on our part did just that and made us make a mental note for the necessity of time apart in the future.
So…back to Alaska.
Alaska is Alaska.
In your face.
It has the ability to stop you in your tracks simply with it’s natural grandeur.
For us however, it holds some of the people closest and dearest to our hearts. It provides opportunities for us to show our children what we love about the Last Frontier and this wild, untamable land. It also gives us the chance to share Grandpa J, Bryan’s late father, with our boys as there is a small plaque on a rock up in Hatchers Pass where his ashes were sprinkled years ago. We had many moments of chatting, sharing our hearts, catching up about life and everything in between. So many sweet times shared that my heart still feels full.
This trip also gave myself and one of my sister-in-laws the chance to experience a first of our own, this meant jumping into our first glacial lake! (Very glad I made the leap!)
The trip also encompassed a deeper meaning. Our incredible Amma Chud will be celebrating her 70th birthday next week. We decided that while so many of us were there that we would have a celebration of her life. It was one of those nights that felt surreal, magical, and like time may have just stopped. I have always been thankful for my side of the family. When I married into the Chud family I became equally thankful for the heritage and legacy I stepped into by marrying Bryan. Our boys now reap the benefits of both sides and this truth still stuns me.
The party was exactly what I hoped and envisioned it to be. Certain family members (namely the littlest brother, aka Nate Chud) outdid himself and had interviewed Lynda about each decade of her life. He then condensed the interview into 40 minutes for us all to watch. Those 40 minutes will be something I revisit for sure. So much life to unpack, wisdom to learn, and lessons to pass on.
After many days and evenings together I sought out time alone on our last day there. I chose to take my Bible and journal up to the A-Frame restaurant. It’s been around for ages, has changed very little, and feels nostalgic while full of new possibilities.
As I sat there on my last day, I stared out the vast windows. I reflected on my life and the many times I had sat in that very place in the past. I had been on this path before, it was well worn to me. I then thanked God for my family and wrote private words in my journal that the world will never see but God will always know.
Now that I am home, I look back at this picture and see something else. Looking through those windows in that old A-frame lodge I see the landscape of my soul. Plush, green with growth, and vast. Yet untamed, dangerous, and unchartered. The trip marked a changing of seasons for me. Not within the physical world so much as the spiritual world. I can see now that I am being transformed from glory to glory, much like that view.
“Just because the move was sloppy doesn’t mean the time was wrong.” —Emily P. Freeman.
As I listened to her gentle voice deliver these words, my soul paused. The phrase and it’s intent trickled slowly down from my attentive ears to the well of my heart that had been unknowingly waiting for this generous gift of insight.
We have no way of knowing what our artistic contributions to the world will do and I guarantee Emily did not know that she had been walking me through a very complex season of my life. I have been listening to The Next Right Thing Podcast for awhile. It’s been extremely helpful for my energizer bunny brain that often needs to slow down and just do my next right thing in love. It has also been helping me quiet my head to be able to hear my heart.
Now I hope you will indulge me just a bit and come down the rabbit trail of thought that I’m about to take you on. Let’s begin shall we?
For nine years my husband and I tried to have a family. In our last ditch attempt at having children that bore our physical DNA we miraculously got pregnant. Fast forward to September 1st, 2014 when we welcomed the safe arrival of our two incredible sons, Kidran J. Caleb and Cohen V. Ryan. We had been so fortunate that our treatment had been successful, so successful in fact we had 11 remaining embryos on ice.
Around the time the boys turned one my thoughts would often turn to those little embryos. Were we ready to have another child or at least try? No, the timing wasn’t right. We were heading back for a stint in the States for six months and that was enough upheaval for now. Then the boys turned two and by that time we had moved back to the States completely. It was a big adjustment being back and only a few short months into our resettling my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t a good time to think of having another baby.
Then October 2017 arrived and my sweet Papa turned 80 on the 1st. On the 2nd, the day after his birthday, he breathed his last breath and went to be with Jesus. Two weeks prior to that Bryan’s mom was diagnosed with Lymphoma. All of the emotions compiled together and my heart felt crushed under the weight of it more times than I can recount.
Over the years Bryan and I had discussed these sweet potential lives many times. I had spent many nights tossing and turning thinking of the impossibility of what to do with them. I remember so clearly laying in my old bed at my parents house, tears streaming down my cheeks one night in the early hours of the morning. All I could think about were these precious embryos that were under our safe keeping. We were so happy and content with our family yet God had given us these embryos so were we meant to have them all or at least try? We were content yet also felt maxed out at times with the pace of life and keeping up with the energy of our active sons.
Fast forward to the Autumn of 2018. Our sons were four and our embryos were still frozen. In the lead up to that Autumn, I had grown accustomed to listening to The Next Right Thing podcast and had found it to be a helpful resource on so many levels. Many of the episodes felt timely, like they were directly for my season and stage of life. I know I’m not the only one who felt that way, as a few of my close friends also listen regularly and experienced the same kind of connection to the topics.
Somewhere along the way Emily had talked about naming things properly and knowing what you want and in October these concepts culminated in me deciding that I wanted us to try for a third baby. At the beginning of November I packed our boys up and we drove to Idaho to move in with my mom while Bryan stayed behind in Washington to work. We moved in and I began my appointments at our clinic. There are many details that I won’t include here but let me tell you, it felt like all the signs were pointing to this being the right thing at the right time. I knew better than to feel sure but I did feel hopeful.
November came and went and we missed our window for transferring an embryo by about a day or two due to Thanksgiving day closures at the clinic. So we began it all over again. The blood draws, the ultrasounds, to see if everything was lining up for a December transfer. By some chance of a miracle it all lined up. My body was doing what it needed to do naturally, Bryan was going to be able to arrive in time to be with me for the transfer, and my mom could watch the boys during the appointment. I had listened to Episode 63 and believed that we were doing just what the title said, making room. Episode 64? Well it was all about acknowledging your soul and babies. Again, we knew this would not be easy to start over and begin with a newborn but we also knew some things weren’t meant for us to understand fully.
The transfer took place a few days before Christmas so then we had to wait ten days. The rollercoaster of emotions began. Yet this time the boys were a welcome distraction and also a great reminder of how blessed we already were to be parents and have a family. We spent the remaining part of the Christmas holiday with my family, went to the mountains, had bloods taken that indicated numbers lower than expected, so after New Year’s, we made the decision to head back to Washington.
The night we arrived home, I began to bleed and I knew I was miscarrying. In all of our years of struggling we had never experienced a miscarriage and I was so thankful we hadn’t. Now, to add insult to injury, we had added this additional loss. Episode 65 Emily talked about taking off your crown and let me tell you, I knew I was not in charge at this point. No matter how much I felt it was the right thing to do, it was not in my control.
Later in January Emily shared her own sorrow at losing a very special family member. As she talked and told sweet stories, I washed dishes with tears in my eyes. She was challenging us, her faithful listeners, not to let the ending define the whole story. As hard as this was to hear, I knew she was right. This miscarriage was only part of the story, not the whole story. It was the ending of a chapter, not the end of the book.
With that in mind I reminded myself of the sweet moments when we first found out we had fertilized embryos, then when we found out we were pregnant, and then hearing two heartbeats, knowing both embryos had taken. There was so much joy in our story. I didn’t want to let this present sorrow steal the past or future joy to come.
As I continued to process the loss, questioning my own heart and motives, if I had heard God correctly, I listened to Episode 67: Wait Now Go. Once again, Emily had read my mail. Everything about trying for this third baby had felt fast, sloppy, even outrageous, and outlandish at points. Yet hearing the words that “just because the move was sloppy didn’t mean it was wrong” felt like a light bulb moment. You see, I have an overactive imagination to put it mildly. My mind would have tortured me with what if’s had we not tried for a third baby. I would have always wondered and I believe always regretted not at least trying. The action was what I had to live with, the outcome is what we had trusted God with. We cannot see the future nor do we need to. I did know though that I needed to trust God with the rest of our family while doing what I could do to bring peace to my mind.
After a few months my heart and mind started to quiet down again. Emily launched her lovely book that came from the podcast and she interviewed her sister as a result. In that interview something struck me. Myquillyn shared one of her current mantras: Do what you know. Finish what you started. Use what you have. As I chewed on these three thoughts I knew it was time. Time to make a decision about our remaining embryos and what we were going to do with them.
I can say it no other way than God intervened and what had felt so heavy and hard, like a huge bridge to cross, God plucked me up and dropped me on the other side. I had the privilege of helping out at a women’s conference where I met a woman who runs an embryo adoption agency. Within a few weeks we had the paperwork filled out and our application was accepted.
Now we are in the matching phase of the adoption. We are waiting once again to see what will happen with the remaining nine miracle embryos. As Emily talks about in Episode 82, we are finding the beginning in the ending. We have come to terms with our family being complete. It is the end to a very specific season of our lives, yet it is the beginning for some other fortunate couple who like us has been waiting, longing, and trying for so long to start their own family.
You may read through all this and think that I am a bit extreme or a little crazy and you would be right. I, however, see the grace of God to bring me a helping hand during a season of life when I needed it so much. Having found The Next Right Thing has been like finding a life counselor who understands how I think and function. It’s been a grace gift that I have received with open hands and a welcoming heart. Not only has it brought me encouragement in the form of wisdom, counsel, and revelation; it has also challenged me to keep sharing my own writing. To tell my story with truth and integrity even when it feels hard, or like I am exposing my raw heart. Sometimes we have to take the bandages off of our wounds to let the air and light in that bring healing. This means that those around us can see the pain we have been through and also watch as we allow ourselves to heal fully.
To end, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Emily P. Freeman. Your work is valuable, your perspective needed, and just plain beautiful.
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.
I am a 4 on the Enneagram, the Individualist. One of the deepest rooted desires for 4’s is to be authentic and feeling special while being uniquely flawed. I don’t mind the first part of that because I value authenticity. The second part, the being special part and feeling out of place, well hmmm.
I recently listened to a pastor talk about 4’s and our need to be seen as special while at the same time feeling like we don’t really fit in. (Insert the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, his crazy dreams and yep, there you have it, a 4 in the Bible!) He spoke about how we most likely always have felt different or special. As I listened I cringed. This was me. Growing up I lived with a sense, or a weird awareness that I was special. Even as I type that I’m slightly embarrassed. Yes, I did feel special growing up but I thought that was partly because my parents did a great job at making me feel loved and yes, special. Along with feeling special, 4’s often feel fatally flawed. We feel like something is wrong with us and once again, I identify with that too.
Now that I’m older, I haven’t been able to shake the “special” feeling or the “flawed” feeling. It feels strange to admit this and uncomfortably honest. As a 4 I can often struggle with feelings of being misunderstood. By me admitting to this nagging special feeling means I will most likely be misunderstood. There in lies the dilemma.
However, as I have done a tiny bit of reading and looking into my type partnered with age and experience, I am coming to accept the special part of me as a gift along with the flawed part. By acknowledging these feelings, which let me clarify are simply that, feelings, I am not saying I am in any way more special, or more flawed than anyone else. Heavens knows that’s the farthest thing from the truth. What I am coming to terms with is that feeling special isn’t bad and feeling out of place isn’t either. These opposing feelings make me long to share my special or unique perspective with the world while also motivate me to keep trying to find the places I do fit. They are my yin and yang. By experiencing these polar opposite feelings, I long to identify with others in ways that only I can so that hopefully they feel more understood, seen if you will. I also let people know how screwed up I can feel at times, regardless of it’s truth or not, it can feel true and make a person feel isolated. These two traits are my shadow and light.
As I have learned more about my enneagram type, I see it’s impact in so many areas of my life. The other night I was hit with the reality of how our personality type can especially influence our parenting. I had been working from the afternoon through to the evening and had missed dinner and getting the boys to bed. The flawed part of me felt like I had really let my boys down by being at work, not being the one to feed them and get them to bed (the lie I told myself). When I arrived home Bryan had put the boys to bed but said they were waiting for me to come say goodnight. I walked back to their room still in my fancy work clothes (let’s be honest, I play at parks and slide down slides most days), opened their door, and I became immediately intoxicated with my two blonde headed bundles snuggled up in their Star Wars blankets.
I went to Kidran first, as he sleeps on the bottom bunk these days. He was laying face out and was already sleeping. He has been pretty sick these past few days and I could see the exhaustion on his face. I kissed his warm cheek, stared at him for a few seconds, brushed his hair away from his closed eyes, and swooned. Cohen however, popped straight up and gave me a huge excited grin. His sparkling eyes met mine and the way he looked at me made my heart explode. He could barely contain his infectious excitement about the fact that our bodies have bones in them and had to tell me all about it. Then he pointed to his ribs and told me to feel them. I obliged and he said “See momma, I told you.” As he finished telling me about the rest of his day I told him I loved him and he said he loved me too. He leaned over the edge of the top bunk for a goodnight kiss and then laid back down. As I walked out of their room and shut the door, I was overcome with emotion. In that moment I felt like the most special person in the world.
You see, one of the greatest gifts of being a mother has been getting to know these two humans who are my sons and allowing them to get to know me. They see all aspects of me daily. They see the good, the bad, the ugly. They see but don’t seem to notice the oily hair days, the days when I am grumpy or emotional, or the days I don’t want to play as much with them. Still I know that they see within me something special and they respond to that with the most unconditional love. They also see my very real flaws and accept those too, in turn helping me accept them. This is truly one of the greatest gifts of my motherhood so far.
Lately Kidran has told me on a few occasions that I am his “sweetheart” and I will take it. I am his person for now. For how long I don’t know but I will soak in that reality for as long as it remains true. Bryan is Cohen’s person but man that boy knows how to look at me in a way that already breaks down any inkling of feeling out of place. These boys help me see that I am special and flawed, but that both are acceptable and equal parts beautiful. To them, I am “their” special momma, I am “their” flawed momma and that’s what matters.
Who are you special to? Who’s eyes do you make light up? Take time today to value your own specialness. Soak in all that makes you who you are. Also take time to value the shadows of your own personality, the parts that don’t feel as acceptable for we need both to make them work.
*If you haven’t taken the Enneagram free test yet, I highly recommend it!
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!