Twins

Why do I write?

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We all write for specific reasons. Some people write to speak out, persuade or promote. I write to help me process the seasons of life I find myself in. (I am slightly more introverted and get stuck in my head A LOT). I am not writing to try to tell you how to live your life or persuade you to follow me or share my blog. All of those things are good and fine, and if you want to by all means please do, especially if it will help someone else! But those reasons are not my motivation. So today, if you are going to read my blog I would encourage you to grab a cup of your favourite beverage and get comfortable. This is going to be a winding road.

Today I write to help me release my tears, my heavy heart, the unknowns of the future and help me to live in the present. When I write I reflect, stand back and absorb all that my sweet, simple life encompasses. And right now I am reflecting on my Father, laying in a hospital bed in Utah because he is battling cancer. I want to be there, with him and my Mom, holding their hands. But I am here in Idaho because my reality is being a Mum to twin toddler boys who will soon be three. A whole different post will be for that fact!

Let me back up a bit for those just starting this journey with me. Last July Bryan, my husband and our twin sons moved back to Kirkland, WA. My husband received a job opportunity at our old university and we felt it was the right time to take it. Fast forward a few months of being back and my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Over the coming months he went through his first surgery removing tumors on his neck which then came back within three weeks (not six months as the doctors suggested). He then went through six weeks of radiation five days a week. Unfortunately this did not work. Surgery number two was completed I think around May. Still they were not able to get all the cancer. It was at that point that my amazing and supportive brothers strongly encouraged a second opinion which I agreed with too. It was time.

With the second opinion came more options which we have been so thankful for. The doctors started immunotherapy about three weeks ago and were hopeful that it would kick in and start building up the strong cells to help them fight off the cancer. So Tuesday my Mom, Dad and sister in law left for Utah. When they arrived at his appointment Wednesday morning they admitted him to the hospital at the Cancer Clinic because his blood sugar was dangerously high. Since then we have been living through text messages, phone calls, waiting on CT scan reports, etc. All the processes you go through with cancer treatment. It’s not smooth sailing for sure but more a knot-in-the-stomach-producing kind of thing. Through yesterday and today we have found out that they will most likely skip immunotherapy and move to chemo. My Dad also has a blood clot in his neck and they are struggling to keep his blood sugar under control. All of this means that my parents will be staying in Utah till at least Sunday. Of course I wish they were here but again I am so thankful for the team of specialists who are attacking this from all sides and working so hard to heal him.

I feel like I need to say it publicly too that I am believing for a miracle for my Papa. The kind that means we will have him around for many years to come. That he will be here for birthdays, Christmas, summer trips to the Oregon Coast or the mountains of McCall. Yet right now I am in the waiting. The waiting is where I write. The waiting is where I fall back on my ways of finding comfort.

For so many years the place I found peace and comfort dealing with life was on the North Coast of Ireland.

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Here is one of the many coastlines that we frequented when we lived there. This picture was sent to me by a good friend in NI (that is her husband, another dear friend). She sent it to me to bring me comfort and it did just that. It reminded me of the times that I cried out to God about our desire to have a family. I cried more times than I can remember up on that coast. I did deep soul work on those beaches and rocks, the kind that cannot be shaken or shifted. That work is still there, rooted in me. I still long for those shores on a daily basis and even more now when life feels uncertain and foggy. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond thankful that we are here for this season. Being in NI while this is going on would have been more like torture. So in God’s good grace he allowed us to be close, so very close and for that I am thankful. I have traveled to Idaho six times since we moved back. Yet my soul wants the air, the rolling hills and the cliffs to ponder on. Just for a day. To cry out to God once more in the place that feels familiar. A place where I fought off my own doubts and found a new kind of faith.

Another way I find help is by connection. I have done this by sending out more texts than I can recall asking for prayer and support as my family is walking this road. Earlier today I was listening to a podcast by Jen Hatmaker with Brene′ Brown and one of the very first things Brene′ says is that we are hardwired for connection.

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I wholeheartedly agree with that statement! Hence why I have been burning up my phone updating friends on what’s going on and asking for more prayer. The connection to my husband, family and friends has been so important not only for me but for my Dad and Mom too. They have been bolstered up by the support they are receiving from people who care so deeply for them.

Music is also healing for me. Before we left Northern Ireland last year, a good friend gave us this album by Foy Vance.

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The album washed over my broken heart as we packed up our sweet home and traveled the North coast of Ireland one final time before moving stateside. Since returning it has been a balm to my heart on many occasions. It is no different right now. One of the songs Foy sings is called Burden and it says this:

Come to me, my brother, and I will sit with you a while
Pretty soon I’ll see you smile and you know you will
No matter how much you’re hurting right now
You know that everything will change in time
So let me carry your burden

This song makes me weep right now. What our family is carrying is a burden. We are hurting. But the promise is that everything will change in time. I find comfort in knowing that this is not forever. I am hopeful and believing this for my Dad. That he will not be sick, that he will be well. That he will feel like himself again and smiles will come easy and last long. But I am so thankful for songs like this that speak to me at such a core level.

I am also finding peace by grabbing the moments that I can (as limited as I feel) and be in the present.

My Dad hasn’t liked having his picture taken for awhile but I have been taking pics of him anyway. Us in our sunglasses with our sweet smiles, love it! My Dad and the boys in their adorable little boy underwear, pure Mommy love! The boys celebrating their third birthday a little early on the deck at my parents with my Mom, eldest brother and his wife, such a sweet evening! The boys exploring every inch of my younger brothers property usually in just their nappy or pajamas, I can’t get enough! These are the moments that help to keep me here and now, in the sweetness of life while still tasting the bitter. (Thanks again Shauna Niequist for that wonderful book Bittersweet!)

As I sit here and finish writing this blog, the boys are awake from their nap and now are watching another show.  They have had way too many treats and late bedtimes. But this is the last way I am processing. By being gracious towards myself. This weird in-between is not forever. Soon enough we will be back in our home, in our routine. Bedtimes will get earlier, treats will be fewer as will shows. Yet for today, I am smothering myself in tons of grace. And sometimes that grace looks like bending the rules for all of us.

I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who are praying for my Dad and our family. It means to much to us all. Please continue! And to the different artists/authors who have contributed unknowingly to my life, thank you for what you have brought to the table. It is helping more people than you can possibly imagine, including me.

 

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Come close…

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One of the boys favourite little games we play right now is fee-fi-fo-fum. They run down the hall, jump into our bed and ‘hide-hide-hide’ under the covers until I stomp down the hall pretending to be a giant shouting for them. Recently I have been invited into the game in a new role. They take turns playing the giant and want me to hide under the covers with them. Some days I don’t want to play these little games that feel like ground hog day and there’s a pile of laundry flooding out of the next room. But then there are these moments. The kind that cause me to stop breathing. The kind that make me realize how short life is. How short this time with the boys being little is. The moments that I am pretty sure are going to replay in my mind when I watch them ride a bike for the first time, drive for the first time, graduate, get married, etc.

When we are playing this sweet game and we are hiding under the covers, they come in close. Each of them. They whisper to me to be quiet, that we are hiding. I get to have their faces inches from mine. I get to study their different and distinctly blue eyes, their mouths with ruby lips, their wild blonde curls. I get to smell their hot little boy breath that doesn’t stink yet but smells warm and sweet. Sometimes they will grab my hand or snuggle in close for only a second. One. Little. Second.

These seconds are precious and so tiny I almost miss them some days. Because as the other little man stomps down the hall, the anticipation builds. The door bursts open with a squeal of delight and we are all joining in! The noise is astounding as is the untamed excitement. We all end up on the bed laughing and wrestling as that’s what most things turn into when you are a mom of little boys.

This little glimpse is teaching me a lot about my own life. I struggle to live in the present on a daily basis. I am a future kind of girl. Always thinking, dreaming and planning for the next step. That is useful and helpful at times but also can steal joy in the present, very real and beautiful moments of my day to day life. I am working on being more mindful. Breathing more deeply. Not pushing myself to run on fumes. To learn what real rest looks like for me and be okay with taking that rest when I need it. Thankfully I am married to an incredible man who sees me so clearly and knows what I need often before I do.

This ‘living in the present’ struggle also runs into many other areas of my life. But now more than ever I see the desperate need to live in the here and now. To look people in the eye and tell them I love them. To truly listen when someone shares what they are going through. To find connection in even the briefest of moments because I am really seeing the person I am with, not moving on to the next time we get together.

So what I am hoping for is a few more seconds…

 

The aftermath…

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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!

The sweetness of motherhood…

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Lately I have been feeling extra tired. This is from lack of self-care with one of my biggest needs…sleep. I am not one of those people who can run on six hours of sleep for weeks on end. That is a recipe for emotional and physical breakdown for me. Yet somehow it often happens. The boys sleep great through the night most of the time but they have been pushing their bedtime back farther and farther each day and consistently waking up around 6am. You do the math and it makes sense that I am probably not getting the recommended amount of sleep needed per night nor is Bryan. We know it’s a season and it will pass but it still means we are tired a lot of the time.

Recently I was at a Moms group and we were talking about Self-Care. It was a great reminder that not only does my mind, heart and spirit need tending but my body as well. Grace and kindness applied to myself in lavish doses is what is required. Is this what you need to? Do you find yourself tired, functioning in a not so ‘present’ way with your spouse and children? Can you make time for more sleep/rest in the days and weeks to come? If so, do it!!! You will not regret it!!

Yet I also want to thank lack of sleep for a sweet moment I had with both my boys this morning. Cohen ended up coming and sleeping in bed with me at 4am (which never happens as I sleep even less with little bodies next to me) and by 5:30am both Cohen and Kidran were in bed with me, wide awake. Cohen was sitting up in our bed, jabbering/talking away poking at my eyes, nose and teeth while Kidran lay on the other side of me softly stroking my arm. I know there will come a day when they are grown up that I would give anything to capture one of these moments again and hold onto it for just a little bit longer which is why I am writing about it today. I will look back and long for my little boys to be 2 1/2, in bed with me in all their cuteness, snuggling, no boundaries, no concerns, just being present with their Momma whom they show generous love to daily. Yes, I will remember this morning in the coming years.

Staying connected…

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Last night Bryan and I had a date night of sorts thanks to two of his players! We said goodbye to the girls, hopped into the car and drove to downtown Kirkland and picked a coffee shop out of the plethora of choices that we have. (This feels just a little bit different than making this choice in Dungannon!)

This date happened because before I left for work I told Bryan my head was spinning with loads of ‘life’ conversations that we haven’t been able to have lately. So what did he promptly do? Got the girls to watch the boys so we could go and connect and chat through many of the topics we had been avoiding because we haven’t had the proper space and time to chat through them from start to finish.

My husband is amazing for so many reasons! The way he responds to my needs when voiced is just one of those reasons. The pictures above are snaps that he has sent me when I am at work. He loves the times he gets with the boys and it shows! I love how involved he is in every aspect of their lives and it still blows me away that he is my husband!!! I am thankful beyond words!! His capacity is far greater than mine and he is always watching out for the boys and me, making sure we are doing okay. His heart is so big!!! Thank you Bryan for being everything to the boys and me! You are a wonderful father and an amazing husband and I am thankful for you!!!

As I reflected on our date night and how little time it takes to reconnect (thankfully) in this mildly manic season of life, my mind went to other areas of my life. Over Lent I read a brief devotional each day that helped me feel more connected to God than I have in quite awhile. Again I was thankful for the little time it took to reconnect my soul to God. As I thought about Lent, I also began thinking of the many years where being a Christian and the promise of resurrection felt like a slap across the face.

For so many years I wanted, prayed, asked and begged for resurrection in one specific area of our life…that of infertility. I asked for my womb to be resurrected. I asked for our situation to change. I am still so closely connected to those feelings of waiting, of longing and this year they surfaced again as a distant but burning memory.

Lately I have been looking at my resurrection, my boys. The life they bring and represent, the promises fulfilled, the hope seen in a tangible way and I am overwhelmed. Four years ago I could not have imagined my life looking like it does right now.  On Easter Sunday my heart ached, wounds re-opened and I felt some of those old feelings all over again. Not for myself this time but for many friends who are still waiting for their own resurrection. Some are waiting for it in their own journey through infertility and that especially tugs on my heart strings. Others are waiting for a relationship, a job change, a family member to come home or be healed and the list goes on.

Staying connected to the old feelings and memories of waiting and hoping has been hard at times. There have been moments where I have wanted to forget all of the painful parts yet it’s been in those parts that others have been encouraged by our story. We walked through the pain and came out the other side. I know that we eventually had our two incredible miracles and so it seems easy and shallow maybe that we would feel okay remembering the past. But I never want to forget it. I want other people to know that no matter where they are right now, it’s not the end. The thing they desire most they may receive, or they may not but where they are will not be forever.

Awhile back Bryan and I fell in love with one of Zach Braff’s films and in it the father figure says a profound statement: ‘We have to keep moving forward, it’s the only direction God gave us to go.’ So today I would encourage you to keep moving forward. Stay connected to yourself, to your spouse, friends and family. This too shall pass. I cannot say the other side will be more beautiful, that you will have everything you have been waiting for but what I can say is that in four years from now, you may not recognize the life you are living and you will be thankful you kept moving forward.

Irreverent reverence…

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Last Sunday night I went to St. Mark’s on Capital Hill with a friend to listen to the Monks chant. This is something that I used to do on my own as well as with Bryan during university. Since moving back I have wanted to go again and experience the peace and calmness that this environment produces. In this massive church you have bodies sitting upright in pews, other sprinkled in the exterior benches and some laying down on the floor on the blanket they brought for the occasion. It is holy and unconventional. Reverent in it’s irreverence. People from all walks of life come, in silence, contemplation and respect of each other. God is clearly sang about and praised yet I imagine not everyone who attends proclaims to be a follower of Jesus. Yet when they enter this space they, in what some may consider irreverence, join in the reverence and stand, sit and lay in awe. They pause and marvel. Both those who are convinced and those still searching. It’s a beautiful illustration of the inclusiveness of Christ. He was not offended by those who did not profess him to be the Christ nor should we be offended.

This evening as I played with the boys and gave them their bath I began to think of all the areas of irreverent reverence my life encompasses, especially when it comes to my boys. So much of motherhood is finding the sacred in the ordinary. It’s finding the reverence and worship in changing the poopy nappy or wiping a dirty little face clean of food. It’s tidying up the messes that these little people create everywhere they go with a patient attitude considering it all as acts of worship. My life is full of activities that are irreverent or could be considered so, except I don’t. I choose to worship with play, with dirt, with slides and dirty hands. I worship with a tired and exhausted body that falls into bed muttering a prayer asking for a full night of uninterrupted sleep. (yes, I still pray that prayer.)

I love the pictures I have shared in this post. The bath scene is one of my favourites. My boys, initiated by Kidran, exit the bath and run into my arms. They dry off the front of their wet bodies with my clothes and I let them. They nestle in close and I hum in their ears. These are holy moments. Yes Lord, they are. When we wrestle or get ready in the morning we are together. Sometimes they pound down the door until I open it when I am doing my hair and makeup. They just want to be where I am. That is where I am moving towards with my Father. I just want to be where He is. I am asking Him to help me see the reverence in all the irreverent areas of my life. Would you consider doing the same? I would love to hear how you approach this new way of thinking and living. How do you do it? How does it change your view of your precious life? I look forward to hearing from you!

Amma is here!

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I am so thankful for our parents! Yes, that is a massive understatement as there will never be enough words or pages to truly explain all the ways they have been there for us. They supported us through the long painful years of infertility and celebrated more than anyone else when we finally got pregnant. I remember crying with Lynda over the phone as we shared our significant news and I will never forget my Mom standing up in Mancino’s restaurant shouting ‘Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!’ While my Dad’s face beamed with a mixture of tears and elation as he expressed his delight quietly.

Since the moment our boys arrived our parents have been there. My parents came and stayed with us in Northern Ireland for six weeks and Lynda stayed for three and a half months. They have visited us wherever we have been and let us come crash into their lives by ourselves and now with our boys. Their generosity is humbling and their kindness inspiring.

It has been with great joy and contentment that we have had the pleasure of Lynda visiting us here in Kirkland the past few days. Amma Chud has had so many special moments with our boys this trip and they have embraced her with open arms!! It has made my heart swell seeing our boys connect with their Amma as it does when they are with any of our family members but grandparent connections are about the sweetest.

Since Amma Chud arrived we have enjoyed some wonderful weather and have taken advantage of it fully. We have visited parks, downtown Seattle, watched Bryan’s team play their first spring season game and simply soaked up some much needed Vitamin D. We all sit back and watch the boys with joy and pride. They provide constant entertainment for us and anyone who happens to be in their vicinity.

The picture above says it all. The boys love their Amma! They have matching curls and it’s adorable!!! Plus the picture of Bryan and I on our wedding day in the background speaks to me of the legacy our two families are creating within these little boys lives. Seeing her read to them as they sit on her lap and listen, engaging with the story and read along brings me to tears.

I find myself taking so many mental snapshots right now. I am trying to let these days, even the not so fun ones, really imprint themselves on my heart and mind. It will be ten years from now in the not so distant future and I will look back at these times with our boys and cry. Cry for what has happened, for what we didn’t capture and for the future that is coming all too quickly. Yet I will also smile and ponder these things in my heart, recounting the ways Cohen always embraced life and every adventure. I will replay the nature walks with Kidran that took three times as long because he noticed every little detail and every bug, stopping to fully take in these tiny forgotten fragments in the array of large life. I will remember Cohen’s consistent greeting of ‘Hi Momma, hi Dadda!’ with his dummy in his mouth, holding both toy bears, as if it was the first time he had seen you in ages! I will reminisce about the way Kidran always used my clothes as his towel when getting out of the bath while clinging to me, cuddling in till I put his fresh PJ’s on.

So tonight, as you tuck your own children into bed or say goodnight, whatever their age, remind them of what they were like when they were little. What did you love about them at age two? Age five? What did they do then that they do now? Tell them the silly things they did or the sweet things. Share the joy their lives bring to you with them and create some more memories!!!

Then if you want a really good cry, go watch this Ed Sheeran video! It’s absolutely one of my favourites!!