Hello everyone. So much has happened the last few months and it has left me in deep gratitude for LIFE. For this messy, trying, full experience of joy and sorrow that we know as life.
Voila updates on everyone in our family, and everything happening to us!
We are still in our tiny town in South Carolina. The summer has been gorgeous here and 4 out of 7 days we are swimming. Usually in the lake, sometimes the pool, occasionally in a waterfall or river. South Carolina is full of waterfalls!
Kate has always loved swimming, but had her reservations about going underwater. She used to scream in the tub when it was time to wash her hair, making us PROMISE no water would touch her eyes. That same girl (now almost 4 years old!) is now jumping off the sides of the pool and loving it. She has conquered her fear and is now determined to make up for lost time. She will do it a hundred times a day. Something that warms my heart is that she does it alone, for herself. Not with friends or to impress Zach and I. For anyone who knows a toddler, the words "watch this!" ring in your ears long after bedtime. All day long, everyday acts need to be observed to be validated. Kate is usually like this, but this fear of going underwater she has conquered makes her uncharacteristically content with being alone. She doesn't need me to watch her accomplish everything. That is a beautiful thing for a mother, to watch a child develop inner confidence. She will need it in this world she is growing up in.
Jack is a fish. He is definitely a kid who has grown up on water. He's 18 months old now and has no fear swimming with his puddle-jumper as far as I will let him out into the lake. Jumps off the sides of the pool and loves it. He's an interesting mix of courage and fear. He won't walk off a sidewalk curb without my hand, but he will walk straight into the lake with no life jacket and somehow not register he can't breathe underwater. And yes that freaks me out. We have really fallen in love with our lake life. The lifestyle is slower and quieter than Atlanta, providing a lot of reflection time. Its fun living in the woods, with nothing but green when you look out the windows. I've never lived where I didn't see the side of someone else's house out the window, so this privacy is pretty awesome. I keep explaining to the kids this isn't normal life, but enjoy it to the fullest. It will be a hard transition for them when we move back to a city and they can't run out into the big yard or the lake on a whim. We have all really fallen in love with South Carolina. We have found wonderful friends and been able to host so many here. Fred gets home from his mission next summer and will move back, and we have no idea where we will be after that. It is a big exciting scary question mark on 2016.
Zach's plans are in the midst of change. He had planned on taking the *blasted* GMAT mid August and then applying to graduate schools for next fall. His sights are set high and after some practice test scores I would have been thrilled with, he decided to postpone his test date for January. So now- we really don't know when we will be using that test or exactly what for. He will continue working as an investment banker and we will see where our hearts pull us to next.
Alright, the health update. So while I was visiting my parents in Colorado in May, I found a lump on my throat. Like half a golf ball poking out. After the lovely parade of tests and waiting and tests and waiting that many of you can commiserate with, we saw it looked like thyroid cancer. So- thyroid cancer is actually the most treatable cancer and the least scary. However, the word cancer ignites a strange journey in one's mind. Everyone reacts differently, even within a couple. The mind has hidden corners of fear and uncertainty I had previously left to gather cobwebs, assuming I would never have to visit them. Those weeks between the *possible* diagnosis and the surgery to remove it, I spent some time in those corners. Prayer, fasting, not much sleep, a priesthood blessing, and a lot of support from friends and family allowed me to access the atonement for something I'd never understood it could heal. Fear. It had never occurred to me that the Savior perfectly understands FEAR. I knew he understood pain, and forgiveness, and loneliness. From these weeks, I felt his perfect understanding of my fear. Anyway, the surgery went really well and I now only have a small inch-long scar to show for it. I found this great doctor who is an ENT surgeon AND plastic surgeon. That is a combo as magical as milk and cookies. They removed the right half of my thyroid which turned out to have two golf ball-y tumors and the pathology tests came back negative. So it was either a lot of fuss about two benign tumors or a testimony that fasting and prayer are powerful and can alter some outcomes in life. God is good. I know sometimes he doesn't spare us long and painful health challenges, and I'm sure this will not be our last experience like this, but going through this made me grateful for things we all take for granted. Singing and talking is one of those things. The surgery involved careful procedures around my vocal chords. There was a chance they would be injured because they're kinda stuck to the thyroid. I sing Kate and Jack to sleep every night, so that was no fun to hear. I thought in the days prior to surgery what our lives would be like if I was silent. That wouldn't be all bad :P but I would really miss singing to them. I recorded their lullabies just in case, and had to use them those first few weeks waiting to see if my voice was okay. It was pretty emotional for me when I got to sing Kate to sleep a few weeks later. My voice has come in handy again for my Mom.
My mom came out and took very good care of the kids and I while I recovered. 10 days after she left our house, she was in a near fatal ATV accident. She was racing her brother on a gravel parking lot and hit a bump. She flew and the ATV flipped onto her. She was life flighted and lived. She has a severe concussion and her body is obviously a mess. She survived after slipping away a few times. This was three weeks ago. She has no recollection of the accident (mercifully). In the first few days at the hospital, she was in a deep fog of pain and confusion, as she kept waking up not knowing why she was in the hospital. I was able to sing to her over the phone. For some reason, that really symbolized mercy to me. Mercy for me, mercy for her. Stuff that we couldn't control (a voice, an accident, healing) and God was just giving us. Her life, my life.
All of this has taught me some things about God, and about life.
God wants a relationship with us. A real one, not a distant silent on-one-end one. Every parent wants a relationship with their child. God knows not all of his kids are going to do what he says all the time. He still wants a really strong relationship. He really loves us a lot.
God doesn't make bad investments. Think about what he has invested in you.
I learned that as humans we seek validation (aka "understanding"). I don't know if men need that as much, but women seem. Our lesson is to get it from the right source. Asking our friends and family, even our spouse, to validate all our feelings is exhausting for them and silly for us. Only God can really fulfill that need. That's what that need was built for, to turn us to him.
Live life like you were dying. (Thank you Tim McGraw!) You will see more in your ordinary life, be more grateful for ordinary moments with family and friends, and do more stuff you've been holding back from. Like jumping off a 20ft rock (Janessa!!!!)
There are quite a few more lessons, but children are waking and it's time to start the day. Here's the final lesson to splurt out before they need breakfast.
We will all die. We can't change that, even if we fiercely cling to our life or someone else's. We can't pray that away. It's just not our call to make. This life is only one piece of a really beautiful plan. If we could see what lay beyond death, it would make the trials and hard decisions of this life (even swallowing pride) a joy to live and make, instead of a devastating basket of burdens. But mortals don't often see it. We have to go on faith, for the most part. You know how when you're "seeing" how God sees, it's usually NOT with your eyes? Well I think those feelings of peace and powerful stillness are us "seeing" beyond, into the eternal thing we are all a part of. Go look up at the stars. Let your mind wander up there.