Sunday, December 29, 2019

Becoming a Student (of life) Again & My Hardest Test Yet

This might be a new record for the last five years; I'm updating this blog TWICE in one year! The last time I wrote we were traveling full-time as a family - living in a new country each month, sometimes moving locations every two weeks and all five of us living out of four suitcases. It was a wild time in our lives, one that we look back on with so much fondness and nostalgia now. (Check out our videos here).

Just to recap, one year ago we left our home of five years in northern Utah, with our three little kids, ages barely five, three, and five and a half months. We flew to Florida where we said hello to some friends and spent a few days before settling into an Airbnb in Punta Leona, Costa Rica. After celebrating a sunny and very sandy Christmas we headed back to the runway and landed in LA for a few days. Then it was off to Hawaii for a month.  After celebrating Crew's fourth birthday and spending a month basking in aloha and cherishing ohana we skipped over the international dateline to time travel and flirt with Fiji for a month. It was our hardest month yet, but we fell fast in love with the people. After, settling into beautiful New Zealand was like bobbing to the surface after a storm. Our hearts were won over instantly. We split our time on the north and south island and dream almost on the daily of one day relocating there. After New Zealand it was Australia (Melbourne and Brisbane) that made us feel at home. Our time there passed too quick before it was time for another long redeye flight to Taiwan. Colby and I were delighted to be back after 11 years since I lived there and he came to visit. The owners of the school I taught at were so gracious to host us for half of our month there and the other half of the month we stumbled through the culture and Chinese. The next month we were happy to be back on US soil on the big island of Hawaii and soaked up the sun after a few weeks of being sick in Taiwan before heading home to Utah for a happy reunion with my little brother, affectionally known as Uncle Jake, who was returning from serving a two-year mission in Mexico.

We planned to continue exploring the world, hopping country to country, carried by the wind and following wherever our hearts pulled us, Colby working remotely and all of us constantly adapting to a new home with eyes full of wonder, but God seemed to have other plans when I was diagnosed with breast cancer just a week after our return to Utah. I had felt a mass in my breast change and grow during our travels (especially after our brutal month in Fiji where we all got fifth disease and parasites) and getting it checked upon our return was one of my first items of business. Our world came crashing down as we faced the unexpected and learned that life goes on even after a cancer diagnosis.

So what next? The question we have asked ourselves time and time again and are still asking. We have learned a few things through our travels and my diagnosis though. Here are 7.

1) Faith over Fear. Fear = What IF thinking. Faith = EVEN if thinking. Whatever country we're in, whatever path we're walking, whatever obstacles we face we want to choose to face them with faith!

2) Power is in the Present! The only thing we really have power to change this the very moment we're in. We can heal the past and learn from it and we can create the future but we do it all by living in THIS present moment! So we don't need to know what we'll do in one month, or three months, or six months. We just need to know what we're going to do today.

3) Our bodies are miraculous with amazing potential. Our minds are powerful tools. We dishonor both when we allow destructive, critical, thoughts to control us. Instead, we can choose to love ourselves and heal from shame, grief, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Loving ourselves will bring peace to our hearts and quicken healing.

4) Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves! Forgiveness is definitely a process and it's not something that can usually be achieved overnight, but even the desire to forgive will put us on the right path to actually forgiving.

5) Gratitude is transformative. Gratitude literally changes our brain and the way we think. It can heal our hearts and minds. Focus on the good in your life - are your eyes reading this for you right now? Is your heart pumping for you? Your lungs breathing? Do you have a roof over your head? Is your belly full? Is the sun shining? Do you have parents who love you? Children? A job? Talents? Friends? There is SO much to be grateful for!

6) Less is more. We lived out of 4 suitcases in small 2 bedroom rentals with just enough food in the fridge for our family. Living simply and intentionally showed us what we REALLY needed and helped eliminate the distraction of the things we didn't. We also found that the people we met who had the least seemed to be the happiest and the most generous.

7) God is in the Details. The more we look for evidence of his hand in our lives the more we see it. Seek and you shall find. God is still a God of miracles.

Writing is therapeutic and I do it for myself as much as I do it for anyone else. Truthfully I have no idea who will stumble across this blog, but I hope it can help whoever does in some way.

If you're interested in the latest updates find us on Instagram @lostbells or @tangledwithtinkering and read my more regular musings about my diagnosis and our travels on Medium or visit our website

Thank you for being here!!!

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