With Every Curveball There’s a Blessing

In this new chapter of being pregnant with twins, we are encountering quite a few curveballs. It’s easy to allow panic to get the best of me. But no matter the challenge, we are seeing time and time again that with every curveball there is a blessing.

Curveball # 1: We’re having TWINS! Oh my word.
Blessing # 1: We’re having TWINS! (How could this not be a blessing?!)

Curveball # 2: Carrying two little active boys means I get tired easily and bigger faster. I’m on my feet all day in my retail job, and some nights I come home to lots of writing work with my government job. One day I had to leave work early because of the pain in my legs, back, uterus, and pelvis, I couldn’t stand any longer. How am I going to do this until Christmas?
Blessing # 2: At the end of October my employers (who are small business owners and have always been incredibly gracious towards me for my almost two years there) sat me down and told me that come November they were releasing me…with pay. “Go and be healthy! Make those babies stay in there as long as possible!” Wow. Who does that? Not only can I rest easy at home but I can also pick up extra writing assignments. What a huge physical and financial blessing!

Curveball # 3: While looking for car seats on Wednesday we encountered an issue. My husband is tall (6’3″) and our vehicle isn’t tiny but I suppose Lancers aren’t all that big either. Problem: None of the car seats could fit behind Simon so that he could drive or even be a passenger safely. So at the end of our first day on the hunt when the staff at the baby store told us to buy a new car, I freaked. We have two months!! Buy a new car now!? That’s crazy.

We went home and armed ourselves with information about tall husbands, small cars, and twins, and set back out again the next day. And finally, we came down to one, yes, just one car seat out of many car seats in existence, that would fit in our vehicle. It just so happens to be the most expensive one at $300 (that’s $300 x 2). But it’s better than a new car, right?

Blessing # 3: Our car seats were meant to be gifts from Simon’s parents (who were also going to get us a crib mattress) and my brother and sister-in-law, but we naturally considered the fact that neither party likely had $300 in mind for a budget when they made their offer. I started doing some online research for “best price Peg Perego Canada” and came up with some stores in Quebec where they were selling it for $250. Thankfully there’s one just right across the border in Gatineau. I called them up. They have TWO left, just TWO. I said I couldn’t make it in because I’m going away for the weekend. They said they’d gladly hold them for a week without a deposit. Two beautiful Italian Denim car seats available just for us!

peg

But more blessings abound with this story! The car seat adapter (which will allow the seat to fit on the double stroller) usually runs for $80 (x2)! At this store it’s only $60 regular price. Not only that, this store gives discounts to members of the Multiples Association, which we happened to join upon learning about the twins. So now we get even bigger discounts!

And to top it all off, yesterday my mom’s friend offered her two cribs and two crib mattresses to us. She has twin grandsons and bought them for when they visited – for one week. We are planning to have the boys share a crib but we know that this might not work for as long as we hope, or it might not work at all.

I’m sure there are many more blessing I’m forgetting, with or without curveballs. But I guess I just want to say that no matter how overwhelmed I may feel at times, or wonder how on earth we are going to do this, there is always a blessing from God that reminds me that despite the difficulties we encounter, we are going to be just fine.

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One + One = Four

I awoke from an interesting dream on Thursday, September 12.

“Hey Simon, I just dreamt that we went to our ultrasound and it was twins!”

And then we started joking about what that would be like. “A double stroller, two of everything, a baby on each boob! Twins would be a crazy life!”

But it was just a dream.

That morning just happened to be the morning of our first ultrasound at 19 weeks. We walked into the dark room and told the technician that yes, we wanted a picture, and no, we didn’t want to know the gender.

I reclined on the bed and wiggled my pants past my hips as the tech started rubbing cold gel on my belly.

She turned on the machine and moved the wand back and forth, spreading the gel.

“Your baby is sleeping right here,” she said, showing us the image of our baby snuggled comfortably on my pelvis on my right side.

She moved the wand toward my belly button, “And your baby is very active over here,” she continued.

For a split second I was confused. Did the baby suddenly wake up and jump from one side of my belly to the other?

And then it dawned on me…

Simon shot out of his chair as we cried “WHAT?!” in unison. Surely they heard us in reception.

The technician continued speaking but I was barely listening. I draped my right hand over my forehead and tried to absorb this new information.

I know what’s going on. I’m still in my dream. I’m in my dream from this morning. This isn’t real. This is a dream.

The tech spoke again, “Your twins are fraternal. There are two sacs, and two sets of placenta.”

She went on and on, as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing on the screen. And I wasn’t waking up. As hard as I was squeezing Simon’s hand and he was squeezing mine, there was no rousing from this slumber.

This is real.

And then I thought back to the last 4 months…

The intense morning sickness that finally tapered off at 16 weeks, managed only by Diclectin.

The way my uterus underwent a growth spurt that even had my midwife saying, “You’re definitely measuring more than 17 weeks…”

And all the kicks and punches I felt and movements I could see all over my belly at just 18 weeks.

Despite the shock of learning that we were having twins, we cannot contain our joy! We’ll never forget the moment when the technician casually commented on the activity of Twin B. It was so special to learn that there are two in there.

Ultrasound Surprise

And even though we know we are in for quite the challenge, we are simply in awe that God would entrust us with two babies. That’s not something we could plan or even control (there are no twins in the family!), and that fact alone gives us the assurance that he will continue to be faithful.

What’s Your Story?

“My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

Simon and I were sitting on the couch, browsing www.michaelhyatt.com and watching an interview with Don Miller on his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

After achieving his dream of living in Portland, Oregon and becoming a best-selling author with Blue Like Jazz, his ambition was gone. He woke up one day to realize that he didn’t know what he wanted anymore.

“That’s me,” I told Simon. “I don’t have a story anymore.”

*****

Jesus, My Father, the CIA…and Me,” Simon read aloud as he scanned the books on my bookshelf. “What’s that one?”

“That’s the one the publishing company sent me,” I told him.

“Oh yeah,” he replied. “I never understood how you took that so lightly.”

Rewind to July 2011. I had just returned from Thailand and there and was an email in my inbox. It was from Thomas Nelson Publishers

…and no, they didn’t want to turn Living With My Parents into a book (darn!) but they did come across my blog, and they liked it. They asked if I would be interested in writing a book review for a new author, Ian Morgan Cron. I said yes. They sent me two copies (one for me and one for a giveaway), and 1.5 years later, I still haven’t done anything.

Simon pressed me about this skipped opportunity; a connection that I failed to pursue.

“Have you ever gone after anything aggressively?” he asked.

“Of course I have!” I answered, somewhat offended. My life post-university until Thailand is filled with stories of me chasing one dream after the next.

So what happened?

Like Don said, “My ambition was gone. My story was over.”

What’s a Story?

A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict in order to get it. Because the want is so huge the conflict makes sense; it’s worth enduring.

When I created this blog 2.5 years ago I was wading through resistance, trying to of figure out what’s next? I had seen some pretty remarkable stories come to fruition in my life, and then there I was, at 26 years old, living with my parents. I needed to want something again. It was time to create a new ambition.

And I did. I went to Thailand for 6 months. And this wasn’t just any ambition; I fulfilled a 6 year dream of living in Bangkok and working to end child sex trafficking. And then in July 2011 I came home, and I was depressed.

If I wasn’t going to go back to Thailand then I was going to get married. That was my next ambition. And lo and behold, here I am less than 2 years later – a newly married woman.

As I recount the details of the past decade I begin to notice a trend: the things that I long for, the ambitions that I chase, and the conflicts I have overcome have all amounted to beautifully written stories. One after the next. I have a long list of fulfilled dreams.

I don’t want to live my life just letting it happen; letting others write a story for me because I don’t write one for myself. And that’s essentially what takes place when we don’t know what we want.

Suffice it to say, my ambition has returned. It’s time to get out my pen and paper and write a new story.

How about you?

Growing Deeper Roots

Friends, Where Art Thou?

I have struggled a lot to make friends here. I don’t know what it is about Ottawa. Maybe because with every other move I made, there was purpose in it (ie – school, work) so I automatically had community.

It’s been incredibly difficult to move from a place where people are very  connected – by way of culture, commonalities, and even public transportation. In Bangkok, if I wanted to see a friend all I had to do was hop on the sky train – a 3 minute walk from my apartment – and I could be anywhere in approximately 20 minutes.

Here I rely on OC Transpo: “the bus service that will make your blood boil.” That’s how I feel about it at least. I’m lucky if I won’t have to wait 20 minutes for a bus.

Last weekend Simon and I had a married couple from our church over for dinner, Josh and Johanne. We were discussing our goals for 2013, and I said I really only have 2: friends and work. First, to build some deep, meaningful friendships, and second, to expand my writing network and hopefully get more contracts.

Josh asked me what I meant by wanting deeper friendships. To put it plainly, I said, “I want to feel like I’d have a reason to stay here even if Simon wasn’t in my life.”

I’m sure if I would have come to Ottawa and remained single, I’d have had more of an opportunity to invest in good friendships. But then again, if I never met Simon, I can’t tell you that I would have stayed…

“Will you marry me?”

Johanne called me on Wednesday night when we were both walking home from work.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about what you were saying on Saturday, and I want you to know that you’re not in this alone. I have friends here, but I don’t have friends that would make me call Ottawa home….so….uh….I guess what I’m saying is…do you want to become better friends with me?”

My face starts getting hot. I’m blushing.

“Oh gosh!” she says, “I feel like I just proposed!”

“I accept your proposal,” I reply, feeling touched. “And I commit to becoming better friends with you.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one lacking good friends, not the only one feeling like I just can’t quite be myself, and not the only one longing for something deeper than chit-chat on a Sunday evening after church.

And it’s even nicer to know that I have been sought out in friendship. Pursued. I have confidence that I will grow deep, lasting roots here in Ottawa, even if it takes time. And that’s key.

After all, I’m growing an oak tree, not a mushroom.

What I Learned from 7 Weeks of Hibernation

It is January, and that means that “hibernation” is over. Simon and I are slowly emerging from our “cave” and reintegrating ourselves into social circles. But it’s different than it was pre-wedding.

This hibernation period was a suggestion made by our friends Kat and Jesse. Kat and I were roommates last year when I moved back to Ottawa. She and Jesse married December 30, 2011. One of the best pieces of advice they were given was to have no expectations of spending time with other people (save for family) right after their wedding. Take a month or so to just hang out, settle into marriage, establish routines, and enjoy one another’s company.

Simon and I talk nearly everyday about how much we loved our 7 weeks of hibernation. And our honeymoon established the foundation for this season.

Initially we dreamt of spending a week in a hot destination such as Cuba or Mexico, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized we needed rest. And how restful is it to wake up at 3am to drive to the airport and catch a flight after several emotionally charged weeks building up to a wedding? Not very. Besides, we didn’t need to start our marriage with an exciting and exotic honeymoon destination. Honeymoons are exciting and exotic on their own!

So we rented a cabin on the lake just 2 hours west of us. We were the only ones on the property besides the owners (who left midway through the week to go to Toronto and offered for us to stay longer for free. PLUS, they gave us unlimited use of the authentic Finnish sauna.) No cell phones, no computers. No people. We cooked meals, we built fires, we roasted marshmallows, we drank wine, we ate chocolate, we went for walks, we sat by the lake, we watched movies, we journalled, we talked, we prayed, and we slept – a lot! It was bliss.

Gorgeous November weather

Gorgeous November Weather

(You’re probably wondering how the heck we’re in bathing suits in November, in Canada. Well, it was a balmy 11 degrees celsius that day! AND…we just came out of a steamy sauna).

Hibernation has been amazing, because like our honeymoon, it has given us the chance to unplug.

When we removed expectations from the picture, it was easy to see how often we do things simply because we feel like we have to. Maybe we hang out with someone because we feel like we owe it to them. Or we serve somewhere just because we think we “should”. Or we say “Yes” to seemingly good opportunities when it would be far wiser to say “No”. For the last month and a half we have been justified in saying “No” to friends and activities because we just got married. They get it. But will they get it now?

Because that period is over, and “No” is winning. To clarify, we aren’t saying that we don’t want other relationships or responsibilities in our lives. We do. But we are discovering what our priorities are and not feeling bad if a person or an activity doesn’t fit into it. It’s not about “I should do this”; it’s not about cramming our schedules to prove our worth with busy, important lives; and it’s not about the fear of missing out on fun. It’s about freedom. Simon calls it “Freedom to Thrive.” And he writes an awesome blog about what that means to him right now here.

Our honeymoon was a retreat. It was a chance to hit “reset” and focus in on how we want to live our lives. It was an opportunity to dream together and write those dreams down on a list, believing in faith that they will come to pass. With this kind of clarity it’s a lot easier to begin building – to make decisions about how we invest our time based on wisdom.  (More on how that looks for each of us later).

I love what Jon Acuff writes in this post: “‘No’ is complete sentence.” We don’t have to say “No” to something and then give a long list of reasons as to why we said no. We have the freedom to just say no, because “No” is a complete sentence.

Thank you, Kat and Jesse, for passing our your best piece of advice. With it we’re learning weight of the words “Yes” and “No” and the freedom they bring when executed from a place of trust.

What I Long For

While I lived in Thailand some days I would head to a slum community in the Prawat District outside of Bangkok. I would greet P’Noi at the Ruth Center and she would give me some work to do, like making stencils or cutting pieces of fabric for the Dream Project.

In the afternoon we would walk through the slums, play with the children, and speak with the elderly, many of whom are sick and depressed.

When the day was done I would walk the long, dusty road back to town to catch the bus, to avoid cramming onto a songthaew weighed down with school children.

By the time I got to the bus stop I was drenched in sweat and my calves were caked with dirt, but I never felt so beautiful. By then we had hit rush hour, so it would usually take 1.5 hours to get back into the city. But I didn’t mind. It was time well spent.

There is something about sharing in the sufferings of the poor in spirit that allows you to become one with the Kingdom of God. I can’t say that I have ever experienced the Kingdom to the extent that I did when I was in Thailand. I longed for Jesus more than anything else.

When I came back to Canada I hated the way that we did life here. I hated the materialism. I hated the way our culture told us to want “stuff” and we just listened. And then I hated the way I started wanting stuff too. But then it became normal. And now I have trouble remembering what the Kingdom feels like. And I have trouble longing for Jesus.

The reality is that I don’t have to go back to Thailand to experience it again. I can experience it right here in my own neighbourhood. But first I have to get back to the place where I die to myself, and I die to my own desires, and I die to all those things that I want to own and experience to make my kingdom come, and I learnthat’s when I’ll come alive, and that’s when I’ll get to experience God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Having tasted and seen, I know that there’s nothing better. That’s what I long for.

Back in the Habit

I’ve decided that I should start blogging again but I’m not really sure about what.

When I started this blog I was 26, jobless, had little direction and a lot of confusion regarding my future. To top it off, I was living with my parents (duh).

I like to think I’ve evolved a little. I mean, I’m 28 now, I have 2 jobs*, I know what I’d like to do with my life** (becoming a wife simplified that) and thank God my husband and I aren’t living in my parents’ basement.

When I started this blog I was stuck. “Every wall is a door” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) was my mantra. Learning to have joy was my goal.  A lot of what I’ve written throughout Chapters 1-3 was characterized by learning ever-so-sloooowly to become unstuck, which is why livingwithmyparents seemed to fit, even after moving out. Now? I’m not so sure. I still need those life lessons, of course, but I don’t want to think of myself as stuck. I’m not. I’m free!

But until I figure it out, I’ll keep writing here. Heck, maybe I’ll never stop.

Perhaps I can write about all those new and exciting things I’m learning everyday about my spouse. Like the “concentration face” he makes when he’s washing his hair (so endearing!) or his stages of falling asleep.

Stage 1: breathing becomes heavy. Stage 2: teeth begin to chatter (so weird!). Stage 3: a large twitch, which usually results in me getting a chest thump. And Stage 4: snoring. That’s when I put in the ear plugs and roll over.

Joking aside, I love going to sleep with Simon and waking up with him. We’ve only been married for 2 weeks but so far my best friend and I have become even tighter. He’s the greatest:)

That’s all.

*In addition to working at the map store I’m also on a writing contract with the government. I get to work from home baby! Speaking of babies…(no not yet!) this ties in with **what I want to do with my life: once the babies come I’d like to be a stay at home mom, but also earn an income by writing from home. My hope is that this opportunity will lead to many more!