Thursday, April 23, 2015

the importance of AND & other things I'm learning in therapy

After my first counseling session I gave a quick forced smile to the woman reading a magazine in the waiting room and quickly pulled the front door open and bolted to the safety of my car. I made it to my minivan, rested my head on the steering wheel, and started weeping. Really ugly cry weeping with full snot effects is the only way to describe the emotion that spilled out of me.  
This has been a long time coming.  
After two really rough, exhausting, and depleting pregnancies I had put on my big girl pants and just kept on keepin' on. It helps that I like to stay busy so I can avoid thinking of all the hard and messy stuff and having small ones keeps me crazed and occupied most of the time.  But rather gaining distance from the pain and moving toward healing I was feeling crushed and slipping into anxiety, darkness, and fear. 

I have felt the need to bury the past and move on because we have restarted so many times and it felt as though I could leave behind those pieces of myself but if I am really honest this had a grip on my life that threatens to rob me of joy and ability to real live in the present. I always compare and feel pathetic because my hurt is not "real" hurt on a global scale when compared to the horrible atrocities in the world. And the shame isolates and builds walls to maintain distance from God and others. But the truth is that if I do not have the courage to face my fear and be brave is small ways I will have no emotional availability to help offer to healing and peace to others.Without pain how can we impart true compassion to others? I could convince myself it was no big deal.  I was pretty good at joking about my situation, pretending like it was no longer a part of my life, but I knew I was lying to myself and everyone else. I was really living each day terrified of when something would trigger me and my chest would tighten and I would feel my gag reflex and I would be right back in the darkness. Fearful that I would have to hide in the bathroom and cry or pretend that I was happy when people brought up pregnancy. It was such an exhausting lie. I finally realized I cannot just keep busy and outrun my pain. None of us can.  I need to feel this crap even if it hurts.     

But this is what I know for sure: God is relentless in His pursuit of us. Jesus came to bring healing and wholeness but we have to know we are sick and seek restoration. It is not forced on us.  I really believe He designs us to seek healing and the further we get away from that healing and the source of it the more our pain surfaces and the more we have to either go darker and deeper to bury it or allow the truth to emerge and look straight at it and beg for and welcome peace. This past few months have been a process of digging up the buried (but always hovering at the surface fear) pain, grief, anger, disappointment, and loneliness. 

I think in a deep, visceral, created way we crave wholeness and wellness and we either fight for it amidst the rubble and debris or we mask or numb our situation and circumstances to pretend it exists. I just do not have the energy for the later anymore.  My son and second daughter are blessings and gifts but the pregnancies that led to them joining our family have left deep wounds in me.  Because there was so much darkness. Darkness that threatened to overwhelm me on a little island with few medical options a world away and darkness then returned with a vengeance here in the states in ER visit after ER visit and the lightless room I spent months begging God for relief. For me, this therapy of allowing memories to resurface and process them has been so hard but so. so.   freeing.  The fear had more power over me than that reality of it all actually does. I am able to make peace with what God brought me through to have these precious children.  For so long I have equated my depression with even more guilt because I "should" not feel this way because they are here and healthy and amazing.  But the good and blessing of my beautiful children does not mean the bad and suffering of my pregnancies did not exist. It does not mean that it was not real or tragic.  And God was there with me.  It is not as easy as saying "BUT it was all worth it." Instead, I can say "my children are brilliant and blessings that I was blessed I was able to carry them and give birth to them AND the months and months of surviving HG were the darkest of my life." I am realizing the importance of AND.  "But" tries to invalidate everything that came before where "And" allows and accepts and includes and sits with. 

We cannot cancel out the difficult and only focus on the good because that is not a full picture of redemption.  We also cannot allow the bad to gain so much power in our souls that it forever colors the good.  It is all blessing if we ask for the eyes to see it but that requires bravery and honesty.  The good does not mean the bad did not precede it and the bad does not mean the good is any less amazing.  But they both exist, they hold hands, and are intimately intertwined in every great story.  Pain precedes glory so often in God's kingdom.  For so long I felt like I could not hold them both in my heart together.  I can.  And I am. And it is bringing me deep healing and a new appreciation for just how God wants and craves to sit with us through everything. All of it. Today I want to encourage anyone walking around with a burden you are not meant to carry alone to seek wholeness and peace.  It will cost you; your pride, maybe, the fear that is strangely familiar and comforting, definitely but you will see just how much you are cherished and loved.  And you are not alone even though the whisper in the darkness tries to convince you otherwise. I am a mess. But a mess that is closely held and being restored over and over again by my savior.  I am still in process but feel so much freedom that it wants to spill out because I can now say, even with shaky confidence that this pain will not dictate my future. Because God wants to heal us so that our radically broken and changed lives point to Him, so that we are better able to usher in peace in a world that is so hurting, so that we can be the women, daughters, mothers, wives, and friends that we were created to be. 
Healing & blessing friends, 

Monday, April 20, 2015

San Fran in pictures

J and I just returned from a quick weekend trip to San Fran and IT. WAS. FABULOUS.

J was there for work and I joined him for some exploring in the city. We had zero plans when I arrived in Oakland but it did not matter because the agenda was to spend time together, without the interruptions and commitments of our normal routine. I met an amazing woman; Huda on the flight there and although I spent no time reading my book we talked and shared for over 4 hours about faith, food, culture, children, and life. I love the reminder of why we travel: to meet people and hear parts of their stories and to see places and ask questions that make us richer in all the best ways. 
Checking out a greatly raved about coffee shop was obviously our first stop (and everyday after that)

I may be a bit obsessed with the street murals and graffiti everywhere. I seriously have a strong urge to tag the entire inside of our house.

My favorite part of our time was just people watching and walking miles and miles exploring the city with this guy. Oh, and the coffee...I might have mentioned that already.

But if you are in San Fran you NEED to check out Blue Bottle Coffee

One of the coolest things about San Fran is all the street life (ya know because you can actually enjoy being outside all year) and we hit the container coffee shop in the alley.

We might be a bit obsessed with our brew but it was seriously the best mocha I have ever had!!

We stopped in the California Academy of Science to see an old friend from Chicago and got VIP treatment! He had a lunch meeting cancel at the last minute and so we hit a gourmet Mexican joint and heard all about their life in SF.

Catching up with friends over Mexican food might rank as one of my all-time favorite activities ever!

We headed to school to pick up his daughter before allowing them to get back to their regularly scheduled Friday.

Of course we had to do the whole tourist cable car thing.

obligatory cable car selfie because we embrace our cheesy tourist tendencies.

It seemed very fitting that I finally finished this moving and insightful biography of the brilliant photographer Dorothea Lange on this trip as she spent so much time creating images on these same streets. She said of the cable car, "it is almost like an animal....They hop on and off as if it were a little pony saddled and ready to go." I spent one morning just wandering the streets making images and meeting people and while I cannot even touch Lange's gift I see why she was so intrigued with this place and her people. 

Kevin makes beautiful ink stamped prints on the streets each day. He carves old wood wine crate pieces and then uses ink to stamp the imprint on paper.

He took one art class many years ago and since then has taught himself and gathered supplies to make these prints one of which now proudly hangs in our living room.

San Francisco started collecting other city's street cars in the 1980's and 1990's and still runs these vintage street cars as part of their transit system and it is fascinating to see the different cities these cars are from. They are seriously about preserving this tradition.

No visit to San Fran would be complete without visiting the epicenter to the Hippie movement and subculture.

By far my favorite street scene....blaring police car lights pull up to these guys and before the officer writes the ticket for public consumption of alcohol the guy asks if he can just chug it first to which the cop says "sure." Gotta love Haight-Ashbury. I could seriously people watch all day.

We walked down to the wharf for some views of Alcatraz, some sourdough, and sea lion viewing.

If you look closely I am actually in this shot with J.

Then we met J's cousin Chloe after work for some serious stair climbing (Chicagoland is flat people...and these hills are NO JOKE!)

No complaints here because our walk took us through some beautiful secret gardens we would never have found on our own.  Sightseeing with locals is always best...Thanks Chloe! And we totally get why you love SF so much!

Um, also the view from her apartment roof...KILLER!

And after a full day of walking we ended the night catching up over sushi.

The next morning we got up early to beat the crowds (on recommendation of the locals) to hike in Muir Woods

And it is crazy beautiful.

Because we were both at one time hard core TGIF watchers we had to go see "the painted ladies" and views of the city.

We stopped off on the way back to the city for some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge

On our last night we may have stuffed ourselves silly at Dosa- amazing South Indian food. There was no walking after that so we used Lyft to get home. You meet awesome people from all over the world using Lfyt. We love it!

 I posted this picture after a serious windy drive (I may or may not have almost puked) to Stinson Beach. It was completely foggy except for this little patch of light on the beach spilling warmth and light on the sand.

I was trying to take a beach selfie and J kept making hilarious comments and burst mode on my iphone captured this one.  One of my favorites of the trip because it fit this time perfectly. I teared up telling J about how grateful I was for this time away (and grateful for my mom who wrangled the kids so we could invest in our marriage).  Marriage is so hard and requires so much compromise and openness,  We hurt each other and have to choose forgiveness a lot. In the daily we can forget that we were first best friends before we were partners and parents. I'm so grateful for these times to get away and explore together. I remembered why I treasure this man. Best decision I ever made when I was young and stupid. I'm so grateful for these times to get away and explore together. God is good. So good.

Hope all your wanderings are full of blessing,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Happy Easter friends! Hope your Easter was full of friends, family, celebration, and peace.

We started our weekend with an egg hunt at Cantigny and Abishai was a first timer but caught on right away.

And there was climbing tanks in fancy dresses. Obviously.

Abishai was totally feeling my suggestion for a picture in their cute outfits. Sigh.

A bit better.

But seriously could not get enough of this man looking more like a little boy than a baby.

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner prepared by my mom. She always goes to so much effort to make it a special family time and we appreciate it!! And this picture...that Evy- spicy and sneaky I tell you.

And there are always extra guests and lucky for them Abishai loves sharing.

There were Easter morning goodies before heading to church.

celebrate!! He is risen!!

It was a great morning of baptisms and Annikah read her story of faith.

Thankful for friends and neighbors who joined us for a delicious feast.

"I will tolerate your constant picture taking as long as you do not touch my car."

These boys in matching chucks. I'm dying.

He freed us from having to live in the fear and death of the old kingdom. He hates the pain and suffering in the world and He came to change it. Forever. "It is finished." That changes everything. May I live differently this day and each day in the light of His kingdom.

Monday, April 6, 2015

spring breakin' to the mountains

We had such a blast in Tennessee with the "shoe fam."  It was sort of a last minute adventure but worked out perfectly and we were so grateful to get away as a family (the warmer weather and mountains helped too).  Vacay with others who understand the tribulations and the joys of small ones and are also heard muttering "we got to get home for nap time" just makes everything so easy. It helps that we also adore them and they are family.

Our first stop in Tennessee was to see dear friends who we met on a small island far, far away. They are back in the U.S. too and we had to see them. The kids have all gotten so big while we lived on different continents but everything fit together perfectly and we cherished this time with our tribe..

a little chilly our first day in TN but Evy does not let that stop her from charming her way into other's clothes.

We had to hit some touristy stuff and go-karts was on the top of the list

but some little boys were not allowed....

as you can see Abishai took that news well.

Evy asked Auntie to take a "selfer" with her.....adorbs.

Because of aforementioned nap times we actually spent most afternoons just hanging around the cabin and this was NO hardship because of the copious amounts of snacks, hot tub, and mountain views. There was tons of cousin hang out time.

which at times was a little wild

um, also movies everyday and popcorn in bed because VACAY!!

Everyone got in on the hot tubbin' too.

And these girls finished an entire book in 2 days. That is what vacay is all about.

these boys...I mean...seriously how cute are they?

This photo also serves as proof that in addition to Frozen marshmellow cereal and Doritoes we did eat some fruit this week.

We headed into Gatlinburg a few times and you know what is open before any of the other shops? The fresh donut shop...I think it was a sign.

just cuzzies sharing a donut

We each allowed our girls to have 10$ to spend on anything they wanted that week and Emma decided to buy candy for everyone. SO sweet!!

and...the best stank face award goes to..... Claire (far right!) These girls. I die.

We also did a morning hike to Laurel Falls. And after a few initial grumblings the kids all did great. Cannot wait until more hiking is possible!

A huge highlight was that we alternated days to take date days! When we had the kids we had a dance party (obvious choice) with a custom Party-Hut What What playlist. There also exists a video including Jason getting in on the dance party that I have promised to deny all knowledge of (hereafter obviously) and never post on social media. I was laughing so hard watch the cousin enjoy their time together so much.  It is a blessing to be closer to family for this time.

For our date we drove through the mountains, listened to podcasts with no one screaming or throwing fruit snacks at my head (I highly recommend this), and took in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.

And dipping your toes in rushing mountain water is as awesome as it sounds.

Then we hit the town for moonshine tasting, music, hot sauce pepper tasting, dinner, and lazy walking and talking.

But all vacations come to an end.

This life of ours is pretty great. Even on the hard days. Grateful for a chance to get away together and just enjoy each other and creation. These times are a special gift and I'm grateful. Hope your spring break was amazing,

Friday, April 3, 2015

a road trip in pictures

We just returned from a fabulous five days in Tennessee. We saw dear friends from a little island that only a handful of people know, breathed deep the mountain air, played with cousins everyday, and took a break from the daily norm. It was so recharging and special and a gift. A dear gift. Our hearts are full. We are grateful.

Tons of photos to edit but for now I just had to post the road trip pictures because 10+ hours in a minivan with our 3 children made us a bit delirious.  Driving with Abishai is not for the faint of heart. But we made it back and I'm knee deep in laundry and need to remember how to cook but let's be honest I am just not feeling reality so instead I will stay up late and look at these images and remind myself that I am blessed.

and because of this....

there were lollipops before 9am. Abishai:1, parents:0. Whatever is takes man.

We are back and reflecting this Good Friday on Jesus' sacrifice.  We had family time and lit candles and read The Word and the girls' both cried thinking of what Jesus had to endure.
It is finished.  We eagerly await Easter morning.
More on Tennessee soon,