And, Not But

Back to back days I was reminded of what life was like three years ago.

First, our pregnancy announcement.

Next, my last post of “normal” on social media before our world fell apart.

Gosh, I remember being so annoyed that day at how hot it was. I’m laughing at the fact that I had a flannel around my waist – shows the lengths I’ll go to for that full fall experience!

Took me to year three but I actually went back and read every comment for the first time on our pregnancy announcement. It struck me hard, how much joy overflowed from comment to comment. Social media is flawed in so many ways, the unrealistic highlight reel it is a majority of the time, but it is so wonderful too, being able to share life’s milestones like that. So much happiness shared, well wishes for our child, anticipation for boy or girl, high fives for us! I was sort of frozen in time for a little bit, staring at it all. These were the moments that marked the absolute peak of our lives. I truly long for the insanely blissful happiness that that was.

I caught myself wondering for the millionth time about the what ifs. I caught myself desperately wishing for the millionth time that just one thing would’ve gone our way. Just one. I felt that deep ache a little deeper knowing Hallie would’ve been 2.5 now, undoubtedly ruling our home with a fiercely passionate personality and a sense of humor second to none. That inevitable feeling that I always get quickly took over every space of my body, this is all just so unfair.

Then, that impossible emotion to reconcile that I knew we would be up against now took over fast – if we had that, then we wouldn’t have this. This meaning the perfect little buddy of ours, Kelly, who at just 3.5 months fills our home with that same fiercely passionate personality (seriously, you should’ve seen him last night when we tried to put him down during the Bears game, “No way guys, I’m watching with you!” …can’t blame him!) I know Hallie would’ve had & that same sense of humor that fills our home with so many smiles, laughs and our phones with far too many photos and videos. If one thing would’ve gone on our way and Hallie survived, we wouldn’t know this love for Kelly. Now I don’t know what I would do without him! Just another layer of …hard.

This is the time of year that is the impossible stretch of our lives as you all know by now. The days and months that are filled with every anniversary that takes us right back to square one of the circumstances that did everything they could to try and break us. Year two was so much harder than year one, thank God no one told me that though. Year three loomed darkly and then our world changed, for the GOOD, on 5/30 when Kelly was born. I had no idea what to expect in how that would impact the anniversaries, I still have no idea what to expect.

I do know though that a very dear friend and treasured mentor of mine once told me that anytime I want to say but, replace it with and. It doesn’t need to be either, or and matter of factly, it isn’t either, or. It is and, and you have to grant yourself the grace to learn to live in that impossible world of ‘and’ because the world of ‘but’ will break you. What does that look like?

When I start to feel how sad this all is but I can’t because we now have Kelly, I instead say, “I am so sad not to have Hallie and so thankful to have Kelly.” Because both are true.

When I need to spend time in the emotions of how unfairly all of this all played out and am tempted to push it always because, “but your home is so full of joy now,” I instead say, “I would give anything to have Hallie here and I thank God every minute of the day that He created Kelly for us.” Because they are also both true. And tell me God didn’t have a hand in this all as I stare into Kelly’s blue eyes & his strawberry blonde hair. The very combo I know in my heart our little Hallie would’ve had.

When I want to scream and yell at how much I hate cancer but am tempted to talk myself out of doing so because look at what has come of it, I can instead say, “Cancer is the %*!/&: worst thing in the world and I hate it with every fiber of my being and because I know that, I can now use that to join people in their darkest days, which helps my pain, if just a bit.” Because those are both true. And I’m finding more and more there is so much purpose created of your own trials when you jump into others.

I could go on and on.

And, not but. My survival guide to navigating the coming months, yet again, but this time with our son in my arms. We love this little boy with all of our hearts and souls and we would give anything for a Hallie hug this morning and every morning. Cancer is the worst, there are many days I still can’t believe this is our story and I am so grateful for redemption in the form of adoption and our foundation. I hate everything cancer stole from us and how it seemingly made every facet of life, every relationship, every holiday hard and I can start to see how it pulled us into bigger and better things in life, stronger relationships, better priorities. I am angry and I am so, so thankful.

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