a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The following was written aboard JetBlue flight 405 en route to Long Beach from Boston, on the evening of June 24th.

I sat on a park bench, next to the pond in the public gardens. The sounds of the city rang out around me, families walking through the park, cars honking at each other, the swan boats slowly making their way across the water. I sat on this bench, sipping an iced coffee and taking it in. The sights, the sounds, the way life seemed to move fluidly as I sat there watching it. I took a deep breath. It felt so good to be back.

It was almost exactly two years I sat on a plane writing a blog post called “The Mountains We Climb,” reflecting on my summer. I was flying home after three months spent living in Boston with my brother. I worked in a fancy restaurant, and spent hours outside of work exploring a city that felt unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. I drank really good beer, ate really good food, and made really good friends, some of whom I was blessed to see during my trip this summer. All in all, those three months ended up being something I really needed, coming off a difficult season of life and just itching for something new, something unfamiliar, something that would fill a space that felt so incredibly empty. It was a breath of fresh air, and it was beautiful in every sense of the word.

I’m sitting on another plane now, another flight home, another farewell to a city that has carved a special place into my heart. I just spent a week of my summer vacation in Boston, visiting my brother, Jared, and his wife, Sally, drinking good beer and eating good food once again. We laughed together reminiscing on the last time I was in the city, how things have changed in all of our lives, and sat amazed at how quickly the past two years have gone by. The night I flew in, we made our way from the airport immediately to a bar where we drank local craft brews and cheers’d to all of us being in Boston together again.

This week has been a well-needed breath of fresh air.

Life has been stale recently. Maybe it’s been the few weeks I’ve been back in Dinuba, trying to get my life organized, preparing for the upcoming year, and trying to rest. Somewhere between lazy days spent binge-watching Netflix and organizing paperwork from my undergrad classes, I felt a staleness settling into my day-to-day routine. I felt tired, and then I felt tired of always feeling tired. I felt frustrated with the lack of things to do, I missed the adventures life in Los Angeles held, and I needed a change of scenery so badly. I was worrying about this constant stale feeling, I felt boxed in somewhere I didn’t want to be. Paul went through his third chemo infusion back in LA, and I felt myself not only missing him, but worried more and more about how he was doing. I didn’t feel like myself, and it haunted me up until my flight departed for the East Coast.

And then suddenly things began to change.

Walking through the airport, just another face in the crowd. Watching the bright city skyline from 20,000 feet as our plane began descending into the city of Boston. Seeing a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Boston BeerWorks in the airport, greeting Jared and Sally and then driving through the city I used to call home. I sat on that park bench in the public gardens on my first day in the city, and everything felt so right. Breath after breath of fresh air filled my lungs, and I couldn’t help smiling because I felt like my old self again. I sat on that park bench and wrote in my journal. Words filling a page I had tried to fill days before, unable to write because I felt so stale. I continued reading Cold Tangerines, my summer reading of choice, and Shauna’s words filled my soul and reminded me of God’s goodness in our lives, even when things feel stale. The rest of the week was adventurous and beautiful, seeing old friends and visiting my favorite places to eat and drink in the city. It felt like coming home, seeing how things have changed, but also how things have stayed exactly the way you remember them.

Paul flew out for the weekend to spend some time with Jared, Sally, and me. Being in Boston was wonderful, but it was even more wonderful to share the city I love, with someone I love. When we found out he was cleared to travel this summer, we both knew this trip would be such a great opportunity to get away from California for a few days and spend some much-needed time together. So we drank beer with friends, and spent hours eating dinner because the company and conversation and food was too good to try to rush through. We stayed up too late and slept in and let ourselves relax. We laughed with Jared and Sally, re-telling stories from our childhood and sharing memories of high school. I loved the way our days planned themselves almost spontaneously, and each day brought a new adventure. Tasting menus at Craigie, road trips to New Hampshire to taste new craft beer, taking the ferry across the harbor, tossing a frisbee around as the sun set. Days were full, time felt slow, and life was easy.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” was written almost three months ago. I was overwhelmed by the response of so many family, friends, and faithful followers of my blog. To this day, that post is the most-read entry on my blog, with over 400 views from all over the world. As I shared Paul’s story with so many of you, I received messages of encouragement, prayers, and was able to let others into an area of my life I honestly have tried to keep to myself and handle on my own. Unfortunately, trying to do things yourself doesn’t work too well, and we both feel so incredibly blessed to have support systems for each of us individually and together. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your prayers and encouragement and time spent to check-in on how we are doing. It means more than you will every know.

In that post, I wrote about the unknowns concerning Paul’s journey. Cancer is unfamiliar even if you’ve faced it before, it’s different in every one and in every case. The past few months have been unusual and unfamiliar. I’ve sat with Paul through chemo sessions, some of which have been easy and some of which have been hard. When people ask about how he is, or how we are, I always come back to just saying that there are good days and there are bad days. There are days when hope feels so strong, the light at the end of the tunnel feels so close, and spirits are lifted to continue doing whatever needs to get done to be better. And there are days when that isn’t the case. When I still worry, when I still wonder, and when pain is manifested in different ways. Physical body cramps, headaches, tiredness. Mental pain in overthinking and overanalyzing and over planning. God is good even when we can’t see it, and some days it has been very hard to see the goodness of God.

But these past few days have reminded me that God rejoices in us and in our relationship. That he smiles as we laugh together walking down the streets of Boston, that he looks at us with joy as we enjoy time with family and friends. He is in the breaths of fresh air we both inhaled this weekend, reminding ourselves that there are so many beautiful reasons to be thankful amidst the unfamiliarity in the months ahead. It is His love that fills my soul when I think of how much I love this man, and Paul and I remember our ability to love each other only comes from the way the Lord has loved us each first. And I will never be able to forget this feeling. I will never be able to say that the Lord was not in and around us this weekend, refilling empty spirits and making us new. Of course, He has been here all along, it is just now that I come to see the way the Holy Spirit has been so present in our lives.


Paul received his last chemotherapy infusion today. In the coming weeks he will begin preparation for his stem cell transplant, the final piece of treatment. After testing and harvesting of healthy stem cells, he will receive a few days of in-patient chemotherapy before the transplant is delivered. After that, recovery begins. Although we can plan for what life will look like from here on out, the truth is there are still so many unknowns on this path. But maybe the unknowns are not as frightening as they once seemed. Maybe it can be the way God chooses to work. And maybe it won’t be as scary as I think it is, when I try to fall asleep staring at the ceiling, worrying and wondering and worrying some more. Maybe everything will be just fine.

Maybe unfamiliarity can be a breath of fresh air.
And a breath of fresh air ended up being exactly what I needed.

Respectfully submitted,
Leah

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