Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

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I wonder if they’ll know…

I wonder if they’ll know…

That they are the reason people call me brave. Without them, I would not have gotten out of bed sometimes. Getting them ready for school meant getting up and moving when I’d rather stay in bed. Taking care of them while at my lowest, meant living.

That finding people to help with them has brought me closer to certain friends and has given me the gift of watching others love on my kids. Hearing people offer to help take them places has meant seeing light shine brightly from others.

That everytime someone has sent them a gift or a card it has made my heart fuller than gifts for myself. The first cards that came in the mail for them, from other siblings whose mom had been through cancer, remain two of the most cherished pieces of paper in our home.

That watching them sleep brings a sense of peace that is indescribable- it has been that way since they were babies.

How their giggles strike a chord deep inside of me- more beautiful than all the music I could ever listen to. Hearing them laugh with each other brings its own special peace in my soul- as I know they’re growing a special bond as sisters that no one else in the world will be able to relate to. And they’ll have each other long after Rob and I aren’t here.

That my biggest fear has not been for me leaving them. It’s that they would have to go through the grief of losing their mom.

That I worry more about how they are getting through this than how I am.

That I’m beyond proud of their resilience and sweet souls as we navigate these waters without guidance. What to say? How much to share? How to calm their worries. What is normal now? Should I tell them I’m scared? Should I let them see my scars? What does this mean for their futures? What if? What if not? My worries for them go far beyond anything for myself.

That caring for them, raising them, has been such a beautiful gift- given to us and wholly appreciated- now more than ever. We’ve been graciously given the task of raising these two beautiful, sweet, hilarious, emotional, loving souls. But they are not ours… they are His. Our Creator who made us, who knows them, who holds them through me. I am so thankful that they were created in my womb. The most miraculous feelings this body has ever known was growing those two inside of it. Though my body feels like it’s failing me now, it certainly didn’t then. The breasts that have recently caused such sorrow did their job to feed those two. These hormones that “fed” cancer also did their part to create life a decade ago. And I can be nothing but grateful for that.  

You know, chemo didn’t just make me feel bad- it made me feel like a different person. My best identity change was when I became a mother to my girls. It was planned, welcomed, expected. This year my identity changed- unplanned, unwelcomed, unexpected- so much that I couldn’t recognize myself. I was no longer strong, healthy, happy, easy going. Physical changes forced me to be ok with a body I couldn’t control. Emotional changes forced me to feel differently than ever before. That was an intentional “ly”. My emotional responses and interactions with others were so unlike anything I was used to. And one of the most noticeable struggles was how hard it was to laugh. It’s just so hard to do when your body is not well. But you know the two people who could make me laugh no matter what- those two beauties I have the privilege of calling my daughters. They are precious souls who show love just as often as they fight with each other. Thank you to everyone holding space with me who have loved on them. And to those of you who haven’t met them yet- you’re missing out. I think they’re a couple of the best humans I know. Watch for them to change your world…. just like they’ve changed mine.


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“Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm”

There was a night over the weekend that the girls both fell asleep in our bed. After they were both asleep, I was ready and shimmied in between them to take my spot for the night. No sooner could I let out the sigh that comes when you’ve settled under the sheets after a long day, the girls simultaneously rolled in toward me and each put their arm around me. It was a perfect moment, and I couldn’t help but immediately say a prayer thanking God for them in my life. I couldn’t have held back the prayer if I tried… it was such a natural response to feeling my babies on either side of me in their peaceful rest. The moment stood out to me so much because, honestly, it’s been hard to pray sometimes through this (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but don’t want to read through old posts to check). I can’t explain it, but I can say that I’ve shared it with some people in similar situations who say they’ve experienced the same thing. And I know I have so many people who have been praying for me and carrying that for me, that it’s ok when I don’t. I’ve tried to figure out why this is, along with a lot of things through this experience. Two things stand out- the first is the amount of love God has surrounded me with- probably in preparation to get me through this. I’ve heard the song “In the Eye of the Storm” many times, but the other day I had a realization. There’s a part in the chorus that says “You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn. Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.” Every time I’ve heard this in the past, I’ve pictured God surrounding a worn, broken boat in the middle of the sea with some imagery of protection like a force field around the boat and God looking down making it happen (don’t laugh). You know what I pictured for the first time the other day- all of you! I actually pictured me sitting on that boat with the faces and bodies of all of you being the “love surrounding me”. Like hundreds of people I love around me, standing on the water (not sure how that would happen), with arms out like a giant group hug just waiting for me and keeping me safe! It was a beautiful picture that I wish I could paint or put on paper somehow. YOU all are the LOVE that God has talked about. You have been in my life in part because He knew His love would be shown to me through you… and He knew I would need it to get through this. A specific example of that is your willingness to lift me in prayer when I just can’t do it on my own. Someday when I’m healthy again, I hope to show you all that same love and surround you when you need it most.
And now that I read how long this became, I’m going say this is part 1 of 2. Part 2 to come tomorrow. Because it’s another long one and I don’t want to bore you too much.  But I’ll also add the link to that song just in case you haven’t heard it.