New Beginnings

This still feels very surreal to write. We bought a house. Actually…God provided a house and then provided the means for us to purchase it. Opening absolutely EVERY door. We weren’t in the market. In fact, if it was up to me and my timeline we wouldn’t be in the market for several years. Jonathan and I were just beginning to have an idea of what stability in our marriage could maybe, possibly look like…and the pain of the past was nowhere close to fully healed. We were still neck deep in the muck slogging it out with a counselor. Making progress but definitely not ready for home shopping. The mere thought of entering the house hunt in Seattle made me want to curl up in my cozy little rental, bury my face in my Netflix queue and forget about it. Until God showed up.

I am careful to not over spiritualize these things because undoubtedly there will be people who read this and are fervently praying for their own home and waiting on God for the right property and moment. I also do not want to discount the very practical way that God intervenes and provides in our lives. It is a tension we live in as Christians since we do not have the full understanding of God’s ways. But for us, this was clearly from God.

How do I know? We were not looking for a house. We were out to lunch sharing our story. Our journey is mired with pain and darkness but there is an undeniable redemptive arc that has played through it all. Our situation, in all practical ways, seemed beyond hope and restoration but we have lived (and are living) an absolute miracle. It has been a difficult journey but we know God will use our testimony to speak His hope into many more lives. We don’t yet know how this will fully play out but God had given Jonathan a specific vision.

The home we establish will be a sanctuary. A sanctuary for people whose lives/marriages are in the initial stages of trauma recovery and they need a safe space to stay. To breathe. To catch glimpses of hope even though it feels beyond what is possible. It was to be called “The Haven”. Wow, right? He’d had this vision several times. I like my space and if I’m totally honest the entire concept overwhelmed me. I’m fine connecting with people on my terms but to have them in our home?…our space?…yikes. WAY outside my comfort zone. Good thing we live in the red hot Seattle housing market where it is difficult to afford a normal family home let alone a space that can accommodate this…right God? Right? Forget getting into the housing market this particular vision felt like MANY years down the road. And I was OK with that.🙂

PS - I love the images from the WORD+design Etsy shop. Check them out.

PS – I love the images from the WORD+design Etsy shop. Check them out.

Until it wasn’t. Until our friends, after hearing the vision, mentioned that they were looking to put a home on the market that matched what Jonathan described. A home we could occupy NOW that makes this vision not only possible but sustainable. And not just the vision of ministry but my own personal vision of the house I would love to make a home. Down to the smallest details. Details I thought I would need to settle on but he provided abundantly more. I have shed many tears reflecting on how well God knows me and how much He loves me. I have also reflected on how he gently molds me because the only way this home is financially sustainable is if there are people living in it with us. OK deep breath…time to let go of some control and sacrifice some personal space.🙂

It was still an overwhelming decision. Buying a home is overwhelming in its own right because it’s a huge amount of money and responsibility but it was also overwhelming because we weren’t ready. Personally, this was doubling down on a process that was still…IN PROCESS. It forced us to decide and act based on how committed we were to seeing this through. Sounds easy? In reality…not so easy. But through personal prayer and engaging our community it was clear this was the right move. So we moved into the uncertainty…trusting that He WILL work our healing and restoration out to completion.

I could take photos and create my own Pinterest worthy montage of images but that feels too intimate for the blog. This home. This space feels like a love letter to us. A way for God to establish a new beginning. A Haven for us and for those who are clinging to hope. I am humbled and in awe He has blessed us in this way and I am preparing my heart for what the future will hold. In whatever timeline God has because goodness knows I am unable to predict.🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

Seven years

Well hello there…what do you know another anniversary.🙂 This one is my 7th wedding anniversary and if my Facebook feed is any indication there are many people in my life that share a similar anniversary. I see a smiling photo or a throw back from the wedding day with a caption stating something along the lines of:

___ years ago I married the love of my life, I am so thankful for the many wonderful years. You are my best friend, my confidant, my rock. You are humble, incredible, amazing and I look forward to the rest of our life together.

They are obviously not all the same but you get the idea of the sentiment.

I am glad there are marriages out there that can make this claim. I can’t in good conscious write those words because it would not be true. We haven’t lived 7 blissful years. In fact at times it’s been a down right struggle. If I’m brutally honest with myself I know part of me got married because I was afraid of being alone (I find this incredibly ironic now). I was afraid I would never be loved. Jonathan had similar fears around being fully known and rejected. We were both operating from a very wounded place and these fears orchestrated a dance between us of control and escapism. We had good moments and a many fun adventures but for a long time our marriage didn’t bring life to either one of us. In fact it brought more loneliness, frustration and pain.

I was ashamed of the reality of our marriage. I wanted it to be better and I felt like I was failing. It was a very hard place to accept because, generally, I work extremely hard to not fail. I went into our marriage knowing it was work…I was able and willing to work hard…but was it supposed to be this much work?? Was it supposed to be this hard?

3.5 years ago I found myself stuck in the Netherlands in a dead marriage with no good practical options to change my situation…but I was done. I didn’t necessarily want a divorce but I didn’t see any other options. I was apathetic, disengaged and ready to throw in the towel…it just wasn’t working and I felt like we both deserved better.

God was consistently working on my heart and renewed my HOPE that He was the other option. He was my only option. He could really could break into this “hopeless” situation and establish a NEW marriage. It wasn’t a lost cause but I couldn’t do it…He needed to. This is the HOPE I claimed to believe and it was now time to step out in faith. I tried really hard for a really long time and got nowhere.

So, I let go and trusted that God would show up. That He would move this mountain. And boy did He ever but it took cancer…and separation…and 3.5 years of extremely painful cleansing and healing. Facing demons and allowing grace to rebuild and restore. (Side note: it’s not in my theology that God GAVE me cancer…but boy did He use it as a tremendous refining season in my life)

And even though I have been married to the same man for 7 years, I have the beginnings of a new marriage. It feels strange to write that because there were many moments I didn’t think it was possible. I wasn’t sure if people and circumstances could really change. These are lies that keep us stuck. And God doesn’t want us stuck…he wants us free.

And, honestly, my heart is the most free it has ever been. And I am extremely thankful.

So here is my version of the anniversary Facebook post:

Jonathan, 7 years ago we had no idea what we were in for. We have hung on and fought through heart wrenching years where most people would have given up…clinging to fingernails of hope and faith that God can move mountains. I can honestly say I am more free and happy for it but it was (and still is at times) an extremely difficult season. While I don’t like where we started, I truly love the trajectory we are on now and hope it continues for the rest of our lives. Our marriage has the beginning of a new foundation built on faith, honesty and intimacy. I have complete respect for the man you are and are becoming. Your kindness and generosity towards others. Your humility in the healing process. And your perseverance in allowing God to bring greater levels of freedom in your heart and in our marriage. Your playfulness and silliness helps keep my heart young. I am extremely thankful we are still together and that God really does work miracles.  I am also thankful I can write these words from an honest heart place. Happy Anniversary, I love you, but sure would appreciate it if the next 7 years are a bit more peaceful.😉

Blessings,

Lynnea

Enjoying an afternoon in the park during this beautiful Seattle summer

Enjoying an afternoon in the park during this beautiful Seattle summer

Anniversary of a Tattoo

I know this blog is quiet at the moment. There are a few sporadic posts as major anniversaries or milestones roll by. I forget how quickly time is passing and am legitimately surprised that it is a third of the way through May already.

May 9th is a significant day for me.

May 9th, 2012 was an extremely dark day. I was in the middle of chemo and received more bad news that blew my heart to pieces. Cancer was difficult, but on some level I knew I could handle it.  I am tough enough and knew I was strong enough. It was only a matter of enduring the process. I was now driving deeper into territory that was WAY beyond my capacity. It was as if a bomb had a direct hit on my life with absolute and total destruction. I was lost and forced to surrender because I had no capacity for anything else. God’s grace met me there and carried me through the next 2 years…allowing me to cling to shreds and fingernails of hope along the way. I had victories and failures and for a season tried to abandon my hope altogether but God was consistent in his pursuit and helped me to cling to the promise that He would bring beauty from the ashes.

May 9th, 2014 was an extremely painful but AMAZING day. It was the day of my tattoo. (There is a more in depth account here)  I didn’t realize it was the same day when I booked the appointment. It was just the next available Friday appointment for my artist. I walked into the “Original Sin” tattoo shop in Antwerp and allowed Vicky D to transform my scar into a work of art. But the process of getting there was a substantial test of faith. Somehow, I knew it was supposed to be this artist on this day but even 20 hours earlier, when I was boarding the 4.5 hour train to go down, I did not have a design I liked. I also had absolutely no clue if I could even handle the pain of the process. There were so many reasons to turn around and cancel. But God gave me a vision for this tattoo and I trusted it would come together…even when it legitimately seemed like it wouldn’t. Obviously, it did.

That is how God and Faith works. We have to TRUST into the uncertainty.

The faith building process with the tattoo gave me the courage to face all the challenges involved with a transcontinental move home. God was faithful.

Reading some of the words I wrote a year ago are encouraging my current rebuilding process. I have absolutely no idea how everything in my life will come together and work out. But I have seen God move in mighty ways along this journey and will continue to step out in Faith/Trust that this is the path I am supposed to be on.

This pain will be temporary and I will have a piece of art to last a lifetime.

I believe in a God who will create beauty from ashes…that is moving mountains…that continues to give me HOPE even when I can’t see the path or the end. A God that is writing a redemption story in my life much bigger than this tattoo. I don’t want to go backwards. I am moving into a new future. Pushing into uncharted territory. And for me that journey involves covering my scar with a tattoo.

I still believe this.

There are many more thoughts stirring and I believe I will reinvigorate this space and start a new series in the coming months – “Moving Mountains”. If you are the praying sort, pray for vision, wisdom and courage because there is a much larger God story to this “cancer” blog and I feel that it should be shared…But it requires a level of vulnerability I’m not quite ready for.

Blessings,

Lynnea

3 years…and I wouldn’t go back

3 years. Has it ALREADY been 3 years? Has it really ONLY been 3 years? Trying to quantify the feeling of passing time is a strange exercise and one without a solid resolution.

It has been exactly 3 years since my world was turned upside down with a breast cancer diagnosis…and this year has been the strangest cancerversary yet. Everything just kind of felt wrong. It was strange being in Seattle. It was strange to not be in Groningen 9a49bdbf4ad87eeb1f18333b415ca942surrounded by the friends who were my support during the treatment and beyond. I have marked this anniversary the same way with the same people the last 2 years. We ate enchiladas…drank some wine…laughed…poked a little fun at cancer with boob cookies for dessert…it was fantastic.

It is my moment to remember what life was like before cancer and reflect on all the changes since. And there are many good changes to come out of this difficult season. I honestly wouldn’t go back to where my life was or the person I was before.

But I didn’t want the celebration itself to change. It was one step too far. Moving back to Seattle and starting a new job had already forced so much transition into my life that I was at my limit of letting go, grieving and embracing new things. Out of everything I wanted this significant event to FEEL the same.

It didn’t. I didn’t know who to invite…my network of friends and family here is much larger and a simple dinner quickly turns into a banquet. I was anxious because I didn’t have the energy to manage it all. Work has been crazy and the thought of pulling something together was overwhelming. I couldn’t find all the right ingredients to make everything the same as it was. It was all just wrong and made me miss life in Groningen.

I almost didn’t do anything because it seemed easier just to avoid it…but that felt wrong too.

So, I planned something small. Just a few friends for dinner last night. It wasn’t the same as past years but somehow seemed perfect for this year. All the pieces were there with a slightly different feel and in the end it just worked.

As I reflected today I realized that I was so focused on the details and the feelings being the same but there was a profound difference that would always shift things…Jonathan was there. It would never be the same and maybe that’s the point.

We are in the midst of a healing, rebuilding season and this week has required a significant amount of communication as we navigate difficult emotions and triggers. The 534f48031057a39370df47fd0fce75a1diagnosis was traumatic for both of us individually and since we were separated there are a lot of things we haven’t talked about. There were hurts and frustrations we didn’t even know we had…or we knew we had but didn’t know how or when to talk about them.

But we pushed through the difficulties, continued to communicate and eventually reached a really good place. As we were preparing for the dinner I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fit an hour run into my schedule beforehand. I had a long list of cooking and cleaning tasks swirling through my head. It might seem silly but the details of hosting dinners are still hard for me to let go of. I normally maintain a pretty tight control even for a small group. Jonathan had been very good with helping and told me not to worry that he would handle all the cleaning while I was gone. I just had to let go and trust that it would happen. So, I did. I went for a fantastic run in sunny, spring time conditions. And the house was clean when I got back.

A simple moment like this felt like new territory for us and seemed to show real progress.

So, I am thankful that this dinner wasn’t the same as it has been previously…it shouldn’t be the same because my life isn’t the same. It needed to evolve…and it makes me wonder what this cancerversary will be like next year.🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

Settling in to “home”

Soooo…how does it feel to be home?

In the past 3 months I have been asked this question countless times…you might expect I would have perfected my answer by now. But every time I stare back blank. Frozen. Like a deer in the headlights. How can I possibly summarize the myriad of emotions I experience on a daily basis?

Most often I am truly glad to be back but at this point the reverse culture shock has hit hard. The first weeks are always a whirlwind of seeing people and getting my fix of everything I’ve missed from Seattle. A bit euphoric. I visited friends. I bought theater tickets. I ate at A LOT of fantastic restaurants. I had coffee and soaked up the skyline and mountain ranges at sunset. I unpacked and settled…trying to make my new space home. Everything felt like it was in constant motion humming along.

I didn’t really stop. I didn’t really process. There was too much to do. Slowly the task list IMG_2876decreased, the excitement wore off and I began to settle in to a more predictable routine…but it just doesn’t feel right. In 5 years as an expat I have adapted to European life and now as a repat my “home” feels foreign. I knew to expect this culture shock moving back…but expecting is different than experiencing. The holidays have been the most confronting for me.

It is a time of year I absolutely love. I love decorating my home and creating a cozy atmosphere. I curl up with a book next to my tree to enjoy the soft glow of the lights. I love advent and preparing to celebrate the hope that came into the world at Chrismas. My music playlist is full of the classics and some modern day crooners. There are few songs that move me as much as O Holy Night and Ave Maria. I appreciate the peacefulness of the season. And I fit really well into the Dutch Christmas culture. It is more simple…less frenzied. I belonged there. It was natural.

This Christmas (I’m sorry…Holiday) season in Seattle has been extremely difficult. A place that is supposed to be “home” in a season I love so much feels overwhelming. home for christmas cropAngry. Aggressive. Disorienting. Competitive.

We had a holiday decorating COMPETITION at work that was so intense it threatened to kill my Christmas spirit completely. People were constantly talking about it and trash talking with other groups. It took a decorating process I normally embrace whole heartedly and pulled the soul out of it. The expectations were high and participation was compulsory “voluntary”. Many hours, forced participation plus a 2 page rule list we needed to follow. I tried to keep my perspective and not get so wrapped up (heh – pun intended, at least I still have my sense of humor right?🙂 ) but it was difficult…and being new you feel an extra motivation to participate and be part of the team.

Add to that “volunteer” events with a consequence if you don’t participate, plus a constant barrage of petitions for money and donations. Add to that family functions and shin digs with friends. Everything turns into a whirlwind of pressure and expectations in a hurry. Individually, these things are great but having them piled on top of one another has given me a holly jolly disorder.

I know that this will pass and I am more sensitive since I am in the midst of such a major transition. But, seriously, Christmas here in the states is crazy. It’s not the liberals that have a war on Christmas but the entire consumer centered culture and ever increasing expectations. Hopefully I will be better prepared to resist next year.

Soooo…how does it feel to be home? I’ll let you know in January. For now, I will just take a deep breath and curl up under my tree. I will try to enjoy the special moments/memories and block out the chaos. I will enjoy family and focus on the true reason for the season…the hope Christ offers to all of us. The hope for healing. The hope for restoration. The hope for transformation.

Blessings and have a fantastic Christmas,

Lynnea

A God that provides

I will confess upfront that I don’t know how to begin or write this blog post. So many things changed so quickly that every time I thought about writing I stopped…overwhelmed at the thought of attempting to summarize even a portion of what I was experiencing. The longer I waited…the longer the list got…the more daunting it felt…and then it was easier to just avoid. I’m breaking the cycle now and going for it.

I have spent these last few months in awe of the way God has shown up in this transition 27cebb510da807eaa58fdd5462145c4bprocess and how it has been confirmed over and over that Seattle is the place for me right now. Things I needed were abundantly provided for and (at times) it has actually been difficult to believe and recieve. I found myself holding my breath afraid that the slightest disruption would cause everything to unravel.

I don’t know if you remember this post from the summer about stepping into the unknown (It’s been a long time, I understand🙂 ) but I’ll recap. I had been drawn back to Seattle since the spring of 2013 but due to some large obstacles, uncertainties and things I didn’t want to let go of I stayed in the Netherlands. I told God that “If He wanted me back in Seattle…HE needed to move me back”.  And boy did He ever…but it took me stepping out in faith and making a bold decision to move before I knew where all the pieces were going to land.

So, I booked my ticket and took a deep breath…apprehensively ready to face the checklist involved with in an intercontinental move. The big ones:

  1. Moving: Packing, Selling, organizing and shipping my stuff – UGH
  2. Job hunting from abroad: Updating my resume, searching for positions and with any luck interviews – DOUBLE UGH

I will be honest and say that I had resigned myself to the fact that I might find some job prospects from Europe and maybe even have some phone interviews…but practically speaking it would be difficult to actually land a job before I was physically present in Seattle. I did trust that God would provide the right place in the right timing, I guess I just assumed some practical boundaries on that timing. Silly me.

In preparation for the impending job search I dusted off my LinkedIn profile and began reaching out to old connections. I searched Craigslist and other job sites. I was internally connected to a few positions at Philips in Seattle but roles that didn’t seem like the perfect fit. LinkedIn, in its helpfulness, would send me opportunities I might be interested in…in China…and California…and a few in Seattle but again nothing very inspiring. One day there was a banner ad for an engineering position at Starbucks. Really? Why does Starbucks need engineers? It was something that seemed more like a click generator rather than an actual position.

My curiosity was piqued and through a little internet hunting I was able to find the original job position on the actual Starbucks website. Hmmm…this could be a legit job posting. I guess Starbucks needs engineers? Strange.

So, I tuned my resume and submitted all my info into their web based hiring portal – also known as the black hole of time and energy since the response rate from these things is abysmal.

To my surprise they contacted me. I guess someone does read these submissions.🙂 After MANY Skype interviews over a few weeks…they made an offer for a role as a Senior Equipment Development…and I accepted…5 weeks before I was scheduled to leave the Netherlands.

It all moved so quickly but I felt complete peace about the role. I just didn’t really believe it was real.

This position is a fantastic fit for me…technical and relational. Starbucks is a very dynamic environment and, from my experience so far, they really do care for their employees. And it turns out, they need engineers…DESPERATELY. Next time you stand at the counter look beyond the barista and your foamy beverage…they touch a tremendous amount of technical equipment. And now one of the people developing that equipment is ME.

Coming home with a job was already a HUGE provision but this is where God blew me away. Do you remember me telling God that if He wanted me back in Seattle He needed to move me back? In making that statement I felt stubborn and selfish but I was also exhausted. Life had just knocked me out with a 1, 2, 3 combination and I didn’t have the energy (or desire) to make that step on my own. If this was a direction He wanted me to move I needed the door opened…I needed something.

Well…my new position at Starbucks included a relocation package that took care of EVERYTHING. Packing in the Netherlands, moving, unpacking in Seattle, flying, translating my medical documents. EVERYTHING. I was honest with them. They knew I was coming home either way but they wanted to do whatever they could to make my experience working here as positive as possible. Crazy.

God not only opened the door, He kicked it in off its hinges.

OK…I guess Seattle is where I need to be.

I never would have found this position if I hadn’t already made the decision to move back to Seattle.

I RISKED into uncertainty first and took a step. The initial 2 months after I bought my ticket were extremely difficult. But I trusted and it felt as if God was encouraging my faith and trust by completely blowing me away in this move.

I am going to end this by saying that God ALWAYS provides. Not always in the way or the time we want  but ALWAYS in the way and in the moment we need. In this phase of my story the provision was exactly what I wanted and needed. It doesn’t always happen like this. I have other parts of my story that were definitely NOT what I wanted but I recognize in hindsight were what I needed. Or years of praying the same prayer that never seems to be answered…where God seems silent.

But I wanted to share an update and testimony on my journey back to Seattle. I know that my faith is encouraged by hearing how God works in people’s lives and my prayer is that this does the same.

Blessings,

Lynnea

The Blessing of a Difficult Good Bye

These past few weeks have been difficult as I navigate the stream of good byes andHow-Lucky-I-am-Winnie-the-Pooh-670x1024 “lasts”. I have a hope and expectation for the next season but closing this one takes a significant amount of energy…there is a grief to it. A sadness that things are about to change completely. A pain that I won’t be able to continue the relationships in the same capacity. It is hard.

But this process is showing me how truly blessed I am.

I have invested my heart in relationships and have been surrounded by extraordinary people. My circumstances forced me into a more vulnerable place…a place where I needed to reach out and rely on so many in my community. But that vulnerability forged a depth to my friendships that make this move VERY hard. And for that I am extremely thankful.

Somehow, I think it would be more sad if I could just pack up and leave without difficulty. CS Lewis said it best:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis, The Four Loves

There have been many tears and long hugs. Laughter as we reminisce or enjoy a meal. My heart is a bit weary but full of gratitude. I will never have appropriate words to describe this season or how much people mean to me…even though it’s hard I am thankful I invested.

Blessings,

Lynnea