Stop! Before you think that this is a political post, it is not. I watched the State of the Union Address last night like a lot of people but I will not share any opinions I have here. I simply do not have enough information or understanding of the complexities that surround us on every side, nor will I claim to.
I do however, have an inside view into my own life and heart which is what I will share here. It’s not that I don’t care about what is happening outside of my home because I do. I care very much. Yet so much of what is happening on a larger, global scale feels outside of my control. Whereas what is going on in my little corner of the world seems reachable. In the words of Mother Teresa, one of the most revolutionary women to have lived:
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
This quote is beautiful. So simple right? Go home and love your family. Well, yes, but it’s not always simple or easy. We are on our third snow day here in the stunning Pacific Northwest. We have lots of hills here and snow wreaks havoc on our otherwise stable little existence. In our normal day to day life, we have created spaces for each of us to move, breathe, connect with what we love, nap, take space, and overall keep the peace within our home. We have recently found a lovely rhythm, thank the Lord!
When the snow hits, that changes things. The normal patterns and rhythms shift as well. Space becomes less available. Productivity goes down. A need for creativity goes up. Overall, snow days are very different than normal days.
Of course we are embracing the snow and the gift of rest that accompanies it, each in our own way. My husband, for example, went skiing down our steep street to practice his urban skiing skills. Yes, I mean, a city street, with intersections that we had to be sure were clear before he took off downhill into Lake Washington. We made crepes, drank multiple cups of coffee, threw snow balls, and consumed homemade confetti cake. That was all in the first day.
Day two was a little more civilized. Bryan went to work for awhile and I left the house for an appointment but I was anxious to return as the temps were threatening to drop. We are lucky to have a few shops within walking distance from us so we stopped in at our local Starbucks for cakepops and then hit the grocery story to replenish our dwindling supplies. Only enough items that we could carry back to our house though, nothing major.
Day three has us all a little stir crazy though. The boys are watching a movie while I steal these few minutes to craft words to share. Here’s to hoping we may actually be able to leave our house later to get a proper grocery shop done. I am nearly down to my last few creative dinner meal options. Now back to that quote.
Being home and loving my family is a privilege I have. I am so thankful that after many years of heartache and trying, we finally were given two miracles to call our own. That fact is never wasted on me. I find myself staring at them longer than normal these days. I am taking pictures of them sleeping as I feel them changing so rapidly before my eyes and I long to stop time.
The boys are four and a half now and are little sponges. From watching Cohen mimic my sayings and faces, to Kidran singing along to songs in perfect pitch and writing his name. Their surroundings are informing them daily about who they are and what they will become. This is where it becomes vitally important that I know what My State of the Union is.
Our home is the first place our boys will see, learn, and experience true, unconditional love. That means I must practice unconditional love. Sounds simple but daily I have to practice a patient way of loving these two very different boys that sometimes challenge and try me. They are showing me so much about myself that I want to change and it motivates me to let them see me grow, evolve, and become a better version of who I am daily. We are all still learning at the end of the day.
As much as I have chosen the word “enough” for this year, it’s also what I have chosen for our family. Our boys are enough, as they are, where they are. My husband is enough, as he is, where he is. I am enough, as I am, where I am. Our home is the place where I hope that this truth and feeling is communicated in thousands of little ways. From the good morning kisses, to the times of art and creating, reading stories, sharing our days with each other, meals as a family, bath time, and bed time. I pray the love we have for each other will be visible, felt, and unending.
This also means that I must steal minutes away when they present themselves to do this…to write. Part of me being able to love my family in my home is loving myself in my home. I do that right now through writing. It’s my one thing for the year. I have stories to tell, things to say. They may not be important enough for the world to read but that is never the point of art or creating. I write because I must. When I write I come alive and that is reason enough. Do you have something that brings you to life too? Please, please, please, make time for it. As Emily P. Freeman said yesterday in her amazing podcast, The Next Right Thing, tell someone too. Tell your husband, tell your children, tell your closest friends, maybe even tell the world of social media. Sharing our deepest desires with those whom we share our life with is such an important part of building deep, meaningful relationships. For me that means sharing my writing with my family by showing them what it looks like when momma comes alive in this way. I want to model this for them so that when it happens in their life they are already familiar with it.
So on day 3 of our mini snowpacalypse, I have stolen these minutes to work in the cracks of life. I am working on my craft. But first I made coffee for my husband and me, I made breakfast for us, I tended to that which has been entrusted to me with love. Then I chose to love myself as well.
That is my simple State of the Union, to “go home and love my family.” What is yours? Do you know? If not, give it a few minutes today. As my good friend Kelly talks about in her new book Dream Catcher, in order to live a life of intentionality you must be intentional. (I also hope you enjoy these sweet pics of some of our daily moments!)
My sweet friend Molly told me about a podcast and now I will pass it on. It’s called The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. Everything about this podcast has been about timing. There are seasons of life where something comes into your life at just the right time, just the right season, and helps you put words to your feelings. This podcast has been that for me.
By nature I am an extroverted introvert, maybe even an ambivert. When I was growing up I didn’t know it but my life was set up in such a way that time by myself and quiet was built in everyday without me trying. I was the youngest by far in my family and had my own bedroom. I would have friends come and play but often I was left to play on my own and that suited my personality. I remember filling sketch pads with fashion designs or building Barbie houses out of cardboard boxes and tissue boxes. When I became a teenager and my social life was everything, I still had that downtime built in. I would get home from school or practice and go back to my bedroom for a bit before emerging for dinner, then onto my next social activity.
As I got older, my life changed. I had my first roommate at college at the age of 18. I didn’t realize it then but this would begin undoing my normal pattern. After my college years of roomies, I got married to the love of my life straight after graduation. I went from communal living to marriage. As anyone who is married knows, it’s wonderful! Yes, there are ups and downs, but at the end of the day I am beyond amazed at how well suited Bryan and I are to each other. This has especially become evident as we have entered into the world of parenthood. I see us balancing each other in ways I couldn’t have anticipated but am so thankful for.
Over the years as I discovered my more introverted nature, Bryan has been so helpful in helping me carve out space and time for me to be alone. We live a pretty social life and our hearts are continually expanding with love for our family and friends. So these times of alone have become vital for me to stay sane. That’s where my good friend Ems, as me and a few friends have affectionately named her, speaks to my deeper longings.
The aim of her podcast is to help people with decision fatigue determine what their next right thing is and then to do that thing in love. Brilliant right?! After a season of big moves, big changes, grief, and exhaustion this podcast came as water to my very thirsty soul. It continues to help shape my thoughts and decisions which are becoming clearer most days.
This past weekend my little family had the rare opportunity of going out to Lopez Island to visit friends. It’s one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state where I live. It was such a push to get there. We left Saturday evening once Bryan had finished work and didn’t arrive until after 10 p.m. Yet the next morning we awoke to a magical place. The island is the “slow” I have been craving. All around me people use the word “hustle” and it kind of makes me cringe. Mostly because the good things in my life have taken time and patience, they have taken the slower path and that word makes me feel rushed, out of breath.
We took our time sipping coffee in the morning, ate slowly, walked slowly, and took time for slow, meaningful conversations. Our second and sadly last morning there, I stepped outside, walked down the makeshift staircase to the beach below and stood on the rocky shore. Clams were squirting out water, coming up in tiny spouts. Seagulls were flying overhead, and the waves crashed calmly against the smooth stones. As I stood there I took five minutes to be silent. This was a practice that my friends and I took up on our recent trip to Northern Ireland.
It was only five minutes but my senses were overwhelmed with beauty, serenity, gratitude, and peace. The rest of the day was full of the slow kind of fun. We spent the day chasing one amazing creative scene after another, ending the day with a fire and s’mores under starlight with our friends and our four little boys. It was such a gift.
Now I am thinking of ways to carve out these five minute silent retreats on a daily basis. Five minutes is not that much time but it can pump the necessary life breath back into my lungs. It will help me breathe in the depth of this beautiful life I am living and help me sit back in admiration of the subtleties and creeping changes that are leading to personal growth. These moments in turn help me feel the satisfaction with my own pace, helping me not to run someone else’s race, only my own.
Can you take five minutes today? If so, do it. It may feel foreign or you may be distracted, but I promise, if you keep at it, you will reap the reward of beginning to hear your own voice in the silence.
When I was in high school, I liked English. My teacher however made it very clear to me, on more than one occasion, that English did not like me. She held my paper up, covered in red marks, in front of both classes, and announced that I made the most mistakes in both her classes. It was a defining moment. From that point on, I became pretty insecure about my ability to write throughout high school.
Imagine my surprise then, when I tested out of the basic English composition class to move onto the next level when I arrived at college! It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually write. Combine that spark with years of journaling, and I decided to ignore my high school teachers decision of my ability.
I did this when I started blogging for the community coffee shop I opened in Northern Ireland called The Press. I would share about the experiences in the coffee shop and announce our upcoming events. I LOVED IT! Writing had always been an outlet and at that point I started to find my own voice.
Fast forward a few years. Bryan and I decided to give IVF one last shot, no pun intended! I figured the easiest way to keep people informed of our progress was through my personal blog. I had only one or two entries at that point. I guess I also need to rewind and insert this little fact. Through the years that we struggled with infertility I also journaled. I used my writing as a way of processing my pain, as a way of praying, as a way of dealing with the grief I carried, but didn’t always want the world to know. I also didn’t want to consistently be “Debbie Downer” by always talking about the sadness I felt. This could be partly my personality or partly the lies we believe that people can’t handle our pain and suffering, I’m not really sure.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Years before the blog started, Bryan and I had made a special trip to London to see Phantom of the Opera with the London cast. It was one of my bucket list items. It happened around my 30th birthday along with our first failed round of IVF. As we sat having dinner in a little Italian restaurant across from the theater, we decided that someday, when our family had finally arrived, by whatever means it came, that we would share our story in a book.
That moment has arrived. The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants is our story from my personal perspective. I allow you to crack open pages of my own journals, private pictures, sketches and my honest response to the struggle of infertility. I really hold nothing back. I am not trying to shock people, but I am trying to wake people up. This issue is painful. Painful for those struggling and painful for those who are watching someone struggle. 1 out of every 8 couples will deal with infertility now, 1 out of 8!!! Next time you are around that many couples, just look around because I would bet my own money that someone you know really well is struggling. It’s that real friends.
This book took me almost two years to complete. Life happened in a not so kind way almost immediately after I had the full manuscript completed. My father was diagnosed with cancer. At times the book felt like a burden I couldn’t shake while dealing with the grief of watching my father deteriorate. Other times it felt like an escape and a lifeline. What definitely helped was writing. Writing has become a way of life for me. Thanks to authors like Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brene′ Brown, I began to believe in the power of my own voice. I also had my husband and amazing family and friends cheering me on too!
So the other night, March 12th at 7 p.m. I had my very first book launch! I was overwhelmed to see so many lovely faces come. Some I hadn’t seen in years, and some I have only recently become friends with. It was a beautiful collection of people and I am so grateful for each person taking the time to come and support me in such a tangible way.
Now I have the privilege of promoting this much needed book. I get to share my story again and again with people. Validating each time that what I went through, what we went through, and maybe what you are going through will not be wasted if we let it help and guide others. Our pain truly can bring comfort to someone else’s suffering, if we will let it. It means standing with our hands open instead of with clenched fists.
“I would describe infertility as a process of purification. You go through the fire, but at the end you come out your truest self.” p. 51 The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants
What have you experienced by way of pain in your life? Are you willing to open that area up to even just one person? If so, I think you will find there is healing there. There is purpose in your pain there. There is also forward momentum that helps you leave the past in the past and move towards your future with hope and joy. Please share your story, the world needs it!
I.LOVE.SUMMER!!!! The heat, the light evenings, the unstructured-take-it-as-it-comes schedule, the playing!
This summer is no exception. Our summer has been filled to the brim with fun, family and friendship. Time in Idaho, Northern Irish visitors and then a magical escape to Alaska have all been pretty epic if I do say so myself! We have pushed ourselves and the boys to keep going at breakneck speed and for the most part all of us have done okay.
Yet our first two days back in Washington, routine, normal bedtimes and familiar surroundings have shown me that maybe we went a bit too far. When your normally early rising toddlers aren’t getting up till 9am (thank you Jesus!) you know you went beyond your capacity. The cracks have been showing for the last week with the boys being a bit grumpy and us being just really tired. So the unraveling of some bad habits is happening and we are in one of those lovely adjustment periods. You know what I mean right? The times when you feel like your parenting skills are substandard and your children have developed super human powers to push all your buttons at once. Yeah, it’s one of those times.
Bedtime tonight was especially delightful. And yes, I am being sarcastic. I took all of the boys toys, comfort pieces and blankets. I even unscrewed the lightbulbs in their bedroom to discourage their war on sleep. The boys did not nap today which made them extra cranky tonight. The thinking that this would mean an earlier than normal bedtime was completely inaccurate. Ha! So many grand plans lay in wreck and ruin from toddlers who took over the world inside their home!!
Yet once again my boys melted my hardened heart towards their little revolt. Kidran would continually agree with me when I would reprimand them with his encouraging ‘Yawh!’ Somehow he has inherited this from me and I got it from my Mom! It’s so stinkin’ cute though! Then Cohen asked me to kiss all the places he hurt in his little mutiny in his bed. We finished by me kissing each finger tip and the not to be forgotten thumb.
It was in the sweetness of that moment that once again my heart turned towards my two little men. Tired and overstimulated from the experiences of so many trips and people in such a short space of time. Exhausted from the pace of life their little legs were not meant to keep up with. I also have noticed that they seem less enthused with their normal favourite spots to play. Alaska has gotten into their veins and the restriction of modern city life is cramping their ever-growing style. I find myself saying ‘no’ more often, ‘don’t do that’ a lot and that is okay. They will learn to appreciate the offerings of each place they land in the future. Right now it’s just hard to explain the feeling of being out of sorts to our little men.
As I pondered the way Kidran and Cohen had dealt with the transitions of the summer I felt a new grace applied to my heart and soul. The 17th of July marked our first full year back in the states after our 12 year planting/rooting in Northern Ireland. The year has been incredible in so many ways. Reconnecting with old, dear friends, starting new and exciting jobs, being closer to family, being surrounded by mountains again, the list could go on. It doesn’t feel that long ago that we left this place because it is so familiar.
Still when I think of home my heart sees Northern Ireland. The green, the sea, the people, the growing up and growing together that was done. At first I would try to push these thoughts and feelings away. Not anymore. I welcome them. I sit with them. I treasure them. They are an intricate part of my story now. A part that is filled with love, depth and peace that came from pressing into a place. Often times people talk about growing where you are planted. I remember releasing myself to that way of thinking in Northern Ireland at times when I didn’t feel settled, when it felt foreign and not like home. So I am comforted that right now I am back to working at growing right here, right now, where I am.
Are you growing right where you are? What would help you to do that easier, with more grace for yourself and others? I would love to hear your thoughts!
It is raining here in Lake Stevens, unrelenting raindrops that will keep us indoors for the day. The boys have just gone down for their morning nap and I have a cup of hot chocolate to make my way through. To be honest though, my mind is miles away in Idaho and my heart is caving in from the weight of so many emotions. My Papa, my Father, the man whose hands have always cradled mine in his, whose eyes are filled with kindness, the man who walked me down the aisle and is loved by many, is having a PET Scan. He was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. It appeared in a lump on his neck and grew quite quickly over a three week period. We will know more after today but my whole being wants to be there to support him and my Mom. To hug him tightly, to hold his rough, strong hands that I love so much. I want to be with my family as we all rally around him and my Mom during this time.
So tomorrow the boys and I will drop Bryan off at work and make the eight hour drive to Idaho. It’s a long drive but I am so thankful we are close enough to make that now. Many of you are praying and will continue to do so and I appreciate it!!! We are hoping, praying and believing along with many others for a positive outcome from the scan. Depending on the results he will possibly go in for surgery on Thursday so please keep thinking of and praying for him!
While this is happening, my head is spinning with other things. I have an interview for a job when I get back, I still haven’t properly finished my book, I miss Northern Ireland, I don’t feel like I have been kind to my boys the past few days, my back is sore making sleep not so great, and the list goes on. I am not looking for a pity party. I am aware and know how wonderful my life is. I have an incredible husband, two wonderful sons who are gracious, forgiving and always ready for fun. We have a roof over our heads during this period of transition from the UK. We are surrounded by wonderful people who are invested into our lives. Our families are closer than they have been for years. So no, I am not looking or asking for pity. This is me processing and being vulnerable when I feel my life is spiraling out of control and I can do nothing to stop it. This is me saying there are too many emotions, too many BIG things going on all at once. I am sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes life presents multiple paradigm shifts at the same time. And whilst you could possibly adjust to one or two, the other three or four are just too much. That’s where I am at. Feeling overwhelmed with the depth of this thing called life. The hardest and most shallow trials can hit at the same time creating the perfect storm of emotional turmoil. I am clinging to the quote that ‘this too shall pass’ for I know it to be true. So what will I do?
What I will do is this. I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself to cry as much as I need to. I will not beat myself up if I shout at my boys when they misbehave. I will breathe. I will sit still when I can. I will open my heart to my heavenly Father and ask for His grace to fill in the gaps and fill my heart. I will sit some more. I will hold my boys, hug them, kiss them. I will cry on Bryan’s shoulder when he gets home from work. I will pack what is needed for our journey. I will take one step at a time. I will not rush. I will be.
I know the picture above is not the best quality, yet I love it. It captures the essence of my sweet, kind, gentle-giant loving Papa. My boys love him. When we stay with my Papa and Mom the boys love sitting on his lap, reading, chatting or watching cartoons with him (he’s a big kid at heart!). My boys are not alone in loving my Papa though, all the grandkids do and we are so very thankful as his children to have him and my Mom. My Papa has always been such a great earthly representation of my heavenly Father and I thank him for making that relationship easier than most. I am excited to get there tomorrow and throw my arms around him in an extravagant gesture of love!
I would ask you to please keep praying for him and our family though. I know it makes all the difference. For those of you who like me, find yourself in a similar season, what do you need to do today to be kind to yourself? If you can, do it. Ask for help, cry, read, walk, sleep. Do whatever it is that will ease your mind and soul. You have my permission and most likely the permission from all those around you too.
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.