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!
Before I share anything I want to thank everyone for your support, prayers and encouragement over the last wee while. My Dad went through his surgery with great ease, has not been in any pain following the operation and is planning on pursuing some alternative forms of cancer treatment first before any type of radiation or chemotherapy. Both my parents are in great spirits and feel a lot of peace about the direction they are heading. Again I am so very thankful to be close and able to support them face to face at times rather than over the internet or telephone. The week I spent in Idaho was a gift and I am very grateful for it.
Now back to the business of normal life and motherhood. Normal life is still a bit busy and chaotic at present. Bryan’s team made it to Nationals this year and are currently in Southern California and will play their first National game today. Nail biting stuff I tell you! The boys and I are so proud of his coaching, determination not to make this ‘just a building year’ for these ladies and his constant communication with his team to encourage and build them up. We are BIG fans of Coach Chud!!! Go Eagles! Talons up!!!!!
Once Bryan gets back we will celebrate Thanksgiving with Lynda, his Mom, and some of the Ambrose side of the family in Wenatchee, WA which is so special. Being closer to family and adding to the memory bank is always important to us. After that we will head back to the Eastside, I will start a part time job, we will move into our own place in Kirkland and Bryan will continue coaching, recruiting and getting ready for his next season (with some ski instructing thrown in there too!).
So this week while Bryan is away I decided to come visit some good friends again in Tacoma, the Olsens. They are some of our oldest and dearest friends whom we have grown up with over the years even with the distance between us physically. We love them so much!! One of the things that always seems to happen when we are here are dance parties. We turn on the music, pump it up loud and just cut loose! We dance around the kitchen and living room letting go of any inhibitions. Recently they have upped the dance stakes by buying a light up disco ball to project onto the ceiling and create an even more epic dance vibe. This is stellar I assure you!!!
We have had two dance parties already. At the end of the day, after dinner, when everyone is feeling a little tired and crazy but there’s still youthful energy to burn with the winter nights forcing us to stay indoors. So we have danced our backsides off!!! Samuel, their youngest, and I are two peas in a pod. The music hits and we just let ourselves go however we feel like moving. It is wonderful therapy for any calamity life may throw at you! I highly recommend it.
Our boys have very different approaches to dancing. Cohen right away starts bouncing, marching and waving his hands above his head to the music. Kidran sits back and watches or wants me to hold him close while I dance around with him on my hip, eyes wide in observation until he warms up to the notion of dancing by himself. The other night while we were dancing he raised his hands to be lifted. He snuggled in close, rested his head on my shoulder and I had a moment.
You know the ones. You flash forward twenty plus years to your baby’s wedding day. Your son is in his tuxedo or suit, looking the part of the handsome groom. You have a permanent lump in your throat as you and your husband discuss how fast it all went by. ‘Remember when we were taking them for walks in the woods, showing them how to tie their shoes, teaching them how to write their names?’ you say to one another. Then bam, you are in the middle of one of the most significant moments of your child’s life. They are no longer a child but a grown man who is becoming someone’s spouse. You go through the ceremony and make it to the reception. Then the music begins. Groom and bride take to the dance floor for their first dance. Everyone claps. The bride then finds her father and your son finds you. So, once again, son and mother dance, heads resting on each others shoulders now. His strength no longer requires your support or hip, but he will still lay his head on your shoulder in act of familiarity that takes your breath away. And there it is, the flashback to your friends living room and your slow dance with your hesitant, wide-eyed two year old, leaning in and clinging on to you because at that moment you were his comfort and world.
Good grief! I am bawling now imagining this scene in the future. I have no idea what the future holds for my children and whether or not this will ever play out even close to how my mind sees it. I know some people don’t like skipping ahead to the future, they say stay in the present and be here, now. I appreciate that but one of the best ways I know how to do this is by dreaming of what the future may look like. One thing I know for sure, it won’t look like today. For these moments with my sons are fleeting and fast even if somedays drag by marking each second and minute till finally bedtime arrives and I collapse on the couch. Looking forward makes me take in this moment, today, right now.
Life is the simplest it’s going to be. All I have to do with my boys most days is feed them, make sure they stay relatively clean and safe and sleep at the times they need to sleep. I can easily distract them when they cry, they laugh readily and want more cuddles than sometimes I have time for. It only gets more complicated from here on out and I recognize that. So today I celebrate the simple moments, the ones that help me look forward and then redirect my gaze to what lies before me right this very minute.
For all you Momma’s out there having one of ‘those’ days with your kiddos. Do whatever you need to do to find the joy in your kids and the joy in being a parent. You won’t regret it!!
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.
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.
We left the states on the 23rd February, had a 25 hour layover in Iceland for my birthday and landed back in Belfast, Northern Ireland at 4:20pm 25th February, 2014. When our plane landed it brought me back to 9 years ago when we first moved to Northern Ireland. We had very few contacts, no jobs, no church, nothing really that would make the transition smooth. What we did have was a belief that God had called us to Northern Ireland and that He would meet us there.
This time when we landed we came home, the place where we have invested the last 9 years of our life. One of our dear friends who is more family than friend, Julie, collected us at the airport. We had our lovely home to go back to. We had a bed, food in the cupboards and a few other friends had already been ahead of us and cleaned the house for us. We were coming back to a wonderful church family that we love and have missed so much while being away. We were coming back with a promise fulfilled and it felt strangely familiar to our first arrival yet so very different. Even though it was so difficult saying our goodbyes to our incredible families and friends in the states whom we love dearly, we knew we were coming to the right place. Our hope that God would meet us here 9 years ago has been physically displayed to us by all that we have come back to and all that has happened through the years.
As you can see in the picture above, we did not travel lightly. I collected many new clothes (including both maternity and baby) while away and Bryan aquired skis and boots. We both had our concerns about how the journey home would be. Traveling with that much luggage is not easy, especially when one of you is not allowed to lift anything heavy. From our first port in Seattle our trip was smooth sailing. We had help from Pete and Molly getting everything sorted in Seattle. When we arrived in Iceland all our bags were there as were trolleys for us to push our heavy bags with. We were able to collect our rental car no problem and they extended our rental till the morning we left. All our bags fit in this tiny car like puzzle pieces perfectly cut. Our bags then arrived in Gatwick and were checked into Easyjet with only one bag being additionally charged. The whole journey was so smooth and easy. Thank you God!!!
As we reflected on the journey both Bryan and I felt God’s hand had been with us. I am not trying to over-spiritualize traveling and our luggage but we both could see it. In many ways it felt like a confirmation that we were headed to the right place. It felt like a reminder of God’s faithfulness. It also spoke to us of God’s ability and desire to show up when His children do.
Our journey back to the states to invest in our families did not seem like the logical think to do. We had finally arrived at the point where both of us had full time employment and life felt comfortable. In our history when life feels comfortable that is usually when God begins stirring us to do something unique. I am not saying this is a recipe that every person should adhere to but this seems to be the way God speaks and moves in our lives. Going back to the states was a gamble and a risk financially. Yet God provided for us every step of the way after what we had saved was gone. Family and friends dug very deep at times to take care of us. Thank you family and friends for doing so. We watched you be the church and God’s hands and feet to us during our time in the US. Without your extreme and outrageous generosity we would not be pregnant today.
When we went back to the states we also left with no intention of going through fertility treatment again. Now look at us, pregnant with twins! We thought we were merely going back to invest into our own families while God could see that we would be investing in the future of our own as well. Wow!!! What a beautiful experience to have gone through it all with our families standing by our sides!
Now we are back in our lovely home living normal life. Looking for jobs, cars, making plans for the next year and settling in again, but oh it feels so good. Daily I feel God gently reminding me that He is aware of our biggest and smallest needs. Once again we are seeing miracles daily in God’s ability to provide for our needs better than we can provide for ourselves. Our past has been a continual reminder that when we are proactive and take a few risks that God tends to show up in the gap that we could not fill. Our past is also occurring in our present and I am confident that it will be the same in the future.
Abba, thank you for bringing us back to this place that represents your promises fulfilled in so many areas of our lives. Thank you for allowing us to have a home over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and even sunshine today. Thank you for preparing the way when we cannot even see a path. Thank you for my husband and his support in my life. Thank you for our expanding family and showing yourself faithful to us this way. Thank you for our family and friends who are still loving and supporting us from a distance and for our friends who are doing it up close. We give back to you these little lives that you have given us. We dedicate them to you. We will love them to the best of our ability and be thankful that you will always fill in the gaps. Simply put… thank you Jesus! Our hearts are full as are our lives!