Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Pics and Deep Thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I traded some pictures for some pillows. My talented friend Kristen delivered and it was more than a trade, it was a gift. I wanted so badly to have our family pictures taken in the city. I wanted to capture the beauty of the city that I loved so much and document my family during this crazy time in our lives. 

Leaving our life, that was ten years in the making, was the hardest thing I have ever done. Walking away from the loving arms of people that had become family after sharing a decade worth of life all because we felt that Heavenly Father had another plan for us, was and still is, brutal. A plan that came out of nowhere, a plan that required more faith and trust than I had/have. A plan that has driven me to depths in my soul that I didn't even know existed. Even though I am still in the thick of this trial of my faith, I feel blessed to be able to look back on Boston with a heart full of love and gratitude for the lessons learned, the love felt, the relationships created and the strength gained from having followed the prompting to go there.

As we go through these pictures I have decided to document some of the tender mercies and experiences we had that I don't ever want to forget...I know that there are many people who have much more difficult trials than I have been asked to endure, but this is my way of documenting what my family has experienced and how our trials no matter how big or small, are part of this life and how we choose to deal with them makes all the difference. I want this documented for my posterity so that one day it might help them...

( I had this idea to take pictures next to house numbers that represented their ages while we were living there. One of my coolest ideas ever!)

My twelve year old Maya

I had some of the hardest moments as a parent while living in Boston. Having to watch my children grieve the loss of their grandma was the hardest thing ever and we still were dealing with that pain when we moved. That kind of suffering takes some time to process. So having to watch Maya suffer such intense emotional pain from losing GK and then having to leave the only life she had ever known was beyond anything I have ever experienced in my 12 year career as a mom. Night after night she would cry herself to sleep. I could not comfort her. All I could do was cry with her. Sadly her pain didn't leave when we left Boston. We have endured it this entire time we have been in Utah...but that is another post.

What I learned while trying to parent this broken hearted child of mine, and watch her courageously face what was being asked of her, is that she needed this experience. This made her resilient in a way I couldn't have taught her. It gave me daily teaching moments. She learned how to rely on the Lord, and trust him. She had her own confirmation by the Holy Ghost that this is where God wanted her to be and He knew how hard this was for her. She learned that she needed to turn to Christ for comfort and strength. She did and continues to do so. It made me get a real sense of how our loving Heavenly Father feels about us as we go through trials that are necessary for our growth.

I am in awe of this young woman. Having to start seventh grade twice in two very different and strange places required courage that I know I didn't have at her age. She had to share a 8ft x 8ft room with her nine year old sister and four year old brother. She had to sleep on the floor on an air mattress for five months and share one bathroom with the entire family. She never complained. Not even once! My girl grew up right before my eyes. Even though she struggled every day, she still managed to find joy and made some incredible memories. She told me the other day that she misses Boston so much and that she wishes we could go too Maya, me too.

Nine year old Eden

Watching Eden through this entire journey has been incredible. I have never seen a more adaptable child. From the moment she found out about our life change she embraced it. Both arms wrapped tightly around it. She was so brave meeting new people and jumping into whatever situation she was put in. As she watched Maya struggle she had so much compassion for her. One day I pulled Eden aside and apologized for having not spent much "one on one" time with her. I explained that Maya was having such a hard time that she needed me in a way that Eden didn't. Eden totally understood and said, "It's okay mom, I know Maya needs you more right now." This is still true in our life here in Utah, and Eden still manages to be understanding. I know I wouldn't have been at her age.

Eden truly loved everything about our life in Boston, even our tiny apartment. In her eyes it was cool. She soaked in every sight, sound and smell that the city had to offer. She was up for anything and made our outings memorable with all her questions and observations. I hope her memories will be vivid, I pray that they have been deeply cemented into her mind and that she will always remember with great fondness our time in Boston. She is still pretty young and I don't want her to forget. I know she fell head over heels in love with the city just like I did and I can't wait to take her back someday and revisit all of our favorite places.

Camden, age four.

Oh this child...he was a turkey all right. It wouldn't have mattered if we had stayed in Liberty Lake or moved to Russia. He is full of life and that zest for life has kept me on my toes but also, has kept my zest from disappearing altogether when it very well could have. He was so happy to be in the same place as Aric again. I don't think a child needs their dad more than C does. He missed him so desperately while we apart for those six weeks Aric was in Boston without us.

Camden loved our tiny living space. I had bought a keyboard on craigslist so that the girls could keep up with their piano skills while we were apart from our piano. C loved the music settings and quickly learned which buttons to push to get the songs he liked (Livin' la Vida Loca was his favorite). There was a whole lot of break dancing going on. We lived on the second floor so I'm pretty sure the people below us hated us. He loved having such close living quarters with all of us. It's proven to be something that he has grown so accustomed to that he doesn't like living in a big house because he can't see everyone at all times. He is always near me...always.

C was such a good sport when it came to the many, MANY outings that we took. He walked everywhere with us...literally miles and miles. He rarely complained. As long as I had gum or a capri sun in my bag he was up for it. His favorite thing about Boston, besides Aunt Carolyn, was riding the train. We never really had to have a destination, he could have ridden it all day long. He loved people watching and pointing out very loudly the observations he had. I think the biggest observation he made was that he was black. The more people he saw that looked like him the more it dawned on him that he looked different from the rest of us. I loved it. I am so grateful that he had that opportunity to be around so many people that looked like him.

One of the hardest things about leaving our life was leaving our friends but what I realized while living without friends nearby, was how much time I was able to spend with my kids that I wouldn't have if we had stayed. We did EVERYTHING together. 

There were no play dates, no girls nights, no team sports. It was only us, all the time. I know now that I  need to have a better balance. I needed my girlfriends and my space, I still do. My kids need friends and play dates as well, but now I know that in order for me to be truly balanced I need more time with just them...although right now we are severely out of balance because Aric is gone all the time and we still don't have friends so we are still ALL we have...heaven help me! 

I got to experience how awesome my kids really are. I got to have some great conversations with them. There were times where they saw me struggle and they comforted me. They were the reason I got up everyday. My love for them made me pull myself out of my grief and put my stress aside so I could enjoy them.

Aric and I had always had a good relationship. But I had no idea how much closer we could become. I have never relied on him like I did while we were in Boston. I had never relied on anyone like that. No one else could possibly understand what we were going through. 

I had never felt so alone, that loneliness is still very present in my life which makes me even more grateful for him. There was no one to talk to, no one to run with. No one to meet at the park, or vent to about life. Aric became my rock in a way I never let him be before. I had moments that I was so weak but at the same time I knew Aric needed me to be his rock, his need for me made me strong and kept me from hiding in my darkness.

Every Sunday after church we would come home, change our clothes and then Aric and I would go the cemetery that was across the street from our apartment and talk. It was the only time the two of us were ever alone. We noticed after a few weeks that there was a pattern. One week it was me freaking out, the next it was him. We would take turns being the one crumbling and being the strong one. Those were sacred conversations that bonded us in a way that was so unexpected after 13 years of marriage.

I will always treasure our cemetery talks. I also loved the days the kids and I brought him lunch. We would walk up to his school and see him for a few minutes and visit with his friends and meet his teachers. Since we didn't see him often it was a treat to spend those moments with him. He would always bring us little snacks from the break room...oreos, granola bars, mints, chips and other random snacks. It was such a treat because we were on such a tight budget that those items were a luxury!

About half way through our time in Boston, I felt so forgotten and so alone that even Aric and the kids couldn't touch my pain. I went to the temple with Aric to try and find some answers and feel some comfort. I didn't get anything. I was so angry. I felt like that was my last resort to find some peace and gain some understanding...this was during a time when our house in LL was still sitting there after five long, financially painful months, our renters in AZ broke their lease and destroyed our house, and we still didn't have a job lined up after graduation. We had no income coming in and were watching our savings slip through our hands. I had given up so much to follow this prompting and yet everything was still going sideways. I just couldn't understand it. 

On the way home I just lost it and started to cry and in that moment I started having an angry conversation with Heavenly Father. In my mind I was bitterly expressing my anger and pain, and before I could get to far into my rant, these words came sharply into my mind, "This is a gift." They were crystal clear just as we drove across the Charles River into the city. Again words came into my mind "Jessica, I've given you this gift, don't you see it?" I realized right then that I was letting myself get so caught up in the things that I couldn't control and instead of trusting Him, I was letting myself get so overwhelmed that I couldn't see the gift that He had given me. Living in Boston and being able to share it with Aric and my kids was a gift! A gift to me from my loving Heavenly Father.

After that conversation, I felt so stupid for not recognizing the gift that had been given to me, to us. Of all the places that we could have been sent to for Aric to go to school, God sent us to Boston. A place that I loved so dearly. A place that had family that we could reconnect with. A place full of history and exciting things to do and see. A place with people who He had prepared for us to meet.

Even though we had some of our darkest hours in Boston, we also had some of our greatest experiences that we count among some of our greatest blessings. We each had our own individual experiences that changed us for the better. None of us will ever be the same and for that I am so grateful. As a family we learned how to get through something hard together. On the heels of losing GK, we were all still emotionally fragile and we learned how to grieve together and help each other heal and become stronger people. 

Speaking of of the girls I met had a baby while I was there. I brought her dinner one night and she handed me her newborn to hold. It was the first time that I had held a baby and didn't have my heart hurt because it was a reminder of my infertility and the plan I had that didn't come to pass. My heart was still, it was only moved by the joy of holding such a fresh spirit who still had the smell of heaven in her hair. It felt amazing.

As a family we also learned how to have more trust in each other and most importantly, how to have more trust in the Lord and recognize his tender mercies. I am forever grateful for the gift I was given to live in Boston and have so many amazing, life changing experiences. As a family we will treasure every moment, even the dark ones, because those are the ones that brought us closer to Christ, and closer as a family.

I know that God has a plan for each of us. I thought I had a testimony of that before but I know it with all my heart now. His hand has brought us this far and he has continued to open doors and provide miracles on our behalf. Although the Boston leg of this journey is over, we are still not quite at the end of this adventure. I am still coming to terms with where we have landed. In the meantime, I will hold onto the lessons learned in Boston, hoping that they will see us through our difficult days here.

Thank You Boston for being my gift and giving me such joy in the midst of so much sorrow. Once again, God sent me to you to help heal me.

Doctrine and Covenants 122:7

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and if the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens father blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."


Jessica said...

What a sweet post. I know most of this but still enjoyed reading it and hearing how HF turns darkness to light, if we will look for it.

I LOVE the pictures. You look so pretty. Camden looks too big. Love that you documented your Boston adventure.

Lindsey said...

love,love,love. You will love looking back and reading this when it doesn't hurt so much. Excellent. Loved every word.

Melissa-Mc said...

Thanks for sharing. This post reminded me of Elder Holland's talk today. You may not have had a sure knowledge that everything would turn out, but you had more faith than you thought and a desire to believe. You will probably never forget how hard it was, but I hope over time the pain will gradually lessen. Your family pictures are so cute!

Lauren in GA said...

What an incredible post, Jessica. I savored every word. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. So sacred and amazing.

I love the pictures and I love your idea of taking their pictures by the numbers of their ages.

I love that you and Aric are even closer now. When I vent to my Mike and he vents to me it makes my heart so much lighter.

Again, thank you for sharing your story of your gift from Heavenly Father.

kthom said...

I've (hopefully just temporarily) lost my zeal for blogging. I still do however check on my favorite blogs from time to time...yours being one. I've thought about you, isn't that funny...we've never met...but I honestly wondered about how you were doing with such a big life change. Your post was so honest and lovely at the same time. I'm so impressed with your attitude and thoroughly wish you could move into my neighborhood.