i’m thankful for …

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the USA and Happy Thursday to my friends around the world. : ) There is something so fun about today. I love gratitude and having a whole day where the entire country is focused on it is pretty neat. Some favorite holiday traditions of mine include watching the Macy’s day parade, listening my husband riffle through the Black Friday newspaper and sharing every good deal in it with me (“No, really though, isn’t that a great deal? I wish we needed a scooter.”), and of course, all the food to be feasted on. My doctor told me yesterday to enjoy the day with responsible portions of carbs and sugars. “It’s only one meal Chelsea. It’s okay. Just don’t take home leftovers and don’t go crazy.” I gotta admit, that made me happy! I am slightly terrified of undoing my hard work but even just one bite of mashed potatoes will make me thrilled. And of course, the relaxing time with the family, creating new memories and enjoying laughter is great too.

But one thing I wanted to share with you all today is this simple fact: I am thankful for my infertility.

No that wasn’t a typo. This Thanksgiving I’ve decided to forgo the traditional gratitude list (all of which are valid and are things I really am thankful for) and instead, share with you this reality.

I am thankful for my infertility.

Dealing with infertility has taught me so many things and given me so much. It has been difficult. There has been tremendous heartache. Many tears. Physical suffering and emotional agony. Moments of desperation and periods of heavy sadness and grief. Yet I wouldn’t trade this journey in for anything.

Infertility has taught me to learn how to choose joy in tough situations. It has changed my heart to be one that sees the glass as half full instead of half empty. It has made my “joy muscles” work out and as a result, there are days I feel like I could bench press a truck. And admittedly, days I ignore the joy gym, but at least I still feel convicted about it. It has reminded me that we are to give thanks in EVERY situation, not just the ones that make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Infertility has strengthened my marriage. I truly can’t imagine walking down this path with anyone other than Josh.  It has brought us to our knees in prayer, together as a unit. It has made us realize what God meant when He said we will cleave to our spouse. It has made me appreciate his optimism and positivity more than ever. It has given us reasons to laugh together, cry together, and learn to love deeply and unconditionally. It has made us depend on one another in unique ways and Josh’s example has taught me what it is like to have a servants heart.

Infertility has brought me closer to friends, family and strangers. It has caused me to seek support from unlikely places and communicate in ways I hadn’t imagined. Because of it, my heart has swelled and overflowed due to the incredible kindness of others. I have made new friends thanks to Instagram and this blog – friendships that I don’t doubt will last a lifetime. It has made me more vulnerable with my family and friends – people I see in real life, that have been given an insiders pass to my heart and emotions. It has resulted in beautiful conversations, meaningful prayers prayed, and many tears and hugs given.

Infertility has helped me to look past my own situation and into the lives of others. It has made me more aware that everyone is suffering from a Thing. It has helped me to assume the best about people’s dispositions and taught me to extend grace since I have no idea what path others are walking on. It has sharpened my spiritual gift of encouragement and made me fine tune reading people’s hearts and needs, and prayerfully, helping to say the right words at the right times.

Infertility has made me stronger than I ever imagined possible.  It has forced me to deal with difficult tasks – whether it’s giving myself shots or learning patience during a two week wait. It has given me reasons to be sad, cry and learn how to lean on a strength that’s not my own. It has made me pick myself up off the ground, brush the dirt off my shoulders, and keep walking forward. It has taught me the fine art of persistence. It has reminded me that we are to “ask, seek, and knock.” (Matthew 7:7-8). It has taught me to keep knocking and to trust that the door will be opened.

Infertility has taught me that God will equip me where He calls me. Never did I ever imagine having a blog. Never did I imagine writing routinely. Never did I imagine sharing our small story with all of you. Yet each time I sit down, He fills my heart with words and allows my fingers to type in a way that, thankfully, many of you understand. I am not a writer – yet somehow, I write.

Infertility has taught me that I don’t always know best. I have recited Proverbs 3:5 to myself more times in the last few years than any other verse in the Bible. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” It has reminded me that my own logic, my own decisions, my own will and my own knowledge are nothing compared to His will and plans. It has resulted in me trusting where He leads us more than what makes sense in my head. (For the math folks out there, that means His plan > My understanding.)

Infertility will make me a more graceful pregnant woman and hopefully, a better mother. It will allow me to experience pregnancy (God willing) with a spirit of thanksgiving, knowing what a wonderful gift I will be given. (Or at least teach me to know my audience on tough days.) It will allow me to embrace the challenges, remembering how strongly I desired them. It has allowed me to pray for my children and their lives many years in advance. I don’t think I would have been a lucrative mother, but it sure has given me time to prepare my heart as much as possible for what may be ahead.

Infertility has made me enjoy this season of my life. The quiet. The calm. The ability to walk out of the door and run to Target when I want. The ability to have spontaneous date nights with Josh and the ability to go to bed at 8:30 if we so choose. I appreciate sleeping in, taking long baths and watching shows other than Nick Jr. I can’t wait for the time to come when all of that changes, but for this time, right now, I am grateful for what I can experience.

Infertility has taught me that life doesn’t always have to make sense for us to be content. It has helped me realize that if God answered every prayer we all prayed, we would be living in heaven. It has helped me remember that we live in a fallen world, with human bodies that are less than perfect. We are in a world of sadness and death, with more and more dysfunction every day. It certainly isn’t ideal but I serve a Lord that “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…” (Romans 8:28).

Infertility has made me realize that I don’t always need to come up with the right words to pray in order for Him to be near. “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…” (Romans 8:26-27a MSG) It has taught me a greater appreciation for His Spirit.

And lastly, and most importantly, infertility has caused me to fall deeper in love with my Father. It has caused me to seek Him with all of my heart. It has made me turn to Him for comfort and it has made me realize that nothing on this earth is more valuable than my relationship with Him. God, in return, has drawn intimately close to me and His daily presence in every moment of my life brings utter joy to the surface. It has taught me that denying myself and following Him (Luke 9:23) is to trust in His plan and walk with Him regardless of my own desires. It has made me dive deeper into His love letter to us, made me seek Him through podcasts and music, and transformed a stagnant prayer life into a daily conversation with Him. Infertility has taught me that my eternal Hope has already overcome it all. That this world, these moments, this life, is brief compared to what is ahead.

When I started this blog last year and was asked the gigantic task of creating a web address for the page, I chose “trials bring joy”.  It stemmed from James 1:2-4 which says: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” Oh Lord, I am finally getting it. It took a while – but reflecting on this trial placed in front of me, and all the lessons learned from it, I can’t help but understand the phrase “trials bring joy” even more so now. It is possible for our most difficult times in life to be an opportunity to bring great joy.

I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone. But I do wish that everyone had the opportunity to go through a challenge, a trial, a journey, which results in building endurance. For when we go through fiery times in life, like silver being melted and transformed, we WILL come out more refined and polished. And for that I am thankful. I am thankful for this time of fire. I am thankful for a God who never leaves my side. I am thankful for YOU – for caring as deeply as you do. For the prayers of many and for the joy that is to come. I am FAR from perfect. I have good days and bad days. But what I have learned thus far has made an everlasting impact on my life.

So on that note, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving (and/or Thursday). Enjoy the day!

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:18)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

it’s okay to grieve dreams.

As I sat down to blog today, I wasn’t really sure in what direction to go in. I could talk about my detox lifestyle change (minimal carbs and refined sugars) but I still am in that phase where I want to fling myself off a roof or lock myself in a closet with a baguette, so the topic might still be a little fresh. (Or concerning when you realize how truly in love with carbs and sugars I really am/was.) I could talk about my bucket list but, well, to be honest, I haven’t made any progress with it yet. We could talk Thanksgiving plans or about my latest song roulette attempts, but it’s all kind of low key. So instead, I walked away from the computer and picked up the book I am rereading (Hannah’s Hope) and found myself at the chapter on anguish and grief.

The chapter starts:

Her heart petitioned the name too holy to voice. Yahweh, will I ever have a labor story to share with the women at the city well? How I long for morning sickness! Will I know the joy of snuggling my child to my breast? Could it truly be that I may never watch my own chubby-legged infant attempt his first tottering steps? Will I ever cry as I send my son off to his first day of studying the Torah? Might I never be the mother of the bride? A lifetime of losses overwhelmed Hannah…”

This story, an interpretation of Hannah’s emotions based on 1 Samuel 1, struck a chord with me today. Recently, I have been talking to women who are in the stage of grieving over the sorrow of not having their dreams be what they imagined. So many people can brush such sorrow under the rug. It can be hard to mourn with someone over what they hoped for or thought might be. When you haven’t gone through their circumstances, validating someone’s ache can feel more gesture-y than genuine. “Oh, I’m sorry you are going through that. It will be okay. Just give it some time. Hey, do you want a mocha or latte?”

This type of grief can be with many things. Maybe it’s the boyfriend you don’t have. You sit and wonder if you will ever have the chance to share an engagement story or make a bucket list with your spouse. The future of those hopes and dreams of being a bride and a wife seem so far away and at times, you feel hopeless. Or perhaps it’s a job that is in line with your passions. You feel trapped and wonder if you will ever wake up on a Monday and enjoy going into the office. You never imagined yourself so miserable in your career. Or it could be that you are losing hope that your spouse will ever come to know Christ, and you keep waiting and waiting and waiting for that day to come when you can share in the same Hope. It’s all grieving the could-be’s and potential losses.

Guess what. We are made in God’s image and our emotions, our humanness, come from Him. Grief is a normal emotion to have. But here’s the thing many of us can forget – we are not told not to grieve in the Bible – but we ARE told not to grieve as those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) So guard your heart and hang onto that hope … which I have talked about many times throughout the blog.

So this Thanksgiving, as you sit around with friends and family, some of whom might be going through tough times, here are a few suggestions of how to handle them/us.

  • Give them the opportunity to talk about it. Ask open ended questions about how they are doing or feeling. Let them be sad if they are sad. Don’t try to put an “it will all be okay” bandaid over their sorrow. Affirm their emotions as they struggle with their current situation and don’t downplay their frustrations or emotions.
  • Give them the opportunity to not talk about it.  Use your common sense to evaluate someone’s non-verbal’s. If you ask someone how they are doing since their separation and they change the subject to quickly talk about the stuffing, let them change the subject. There are many times people don’t want to dwell on their hurt. You have simply let them know you care and that you are available to talk to if and when they are ready.
  • Help create new memories. This world has so many opportunities for laughter and joy. Take advantage of being a distraction from the pain someone is going through. I read today “We cannot too often dwell on the past, not so as to erase it, but rather to augment our life with a salting of the good in this world.” Make a plan, take them to a coffee shop or partner up and tackle a corny gingerbread house kit. The distraction is so nice.
  • Remember your words are powerful. A simple word of encouragement goes a long way. Remember that we are sent here to “watch and pray”. Not to “watch and criticize” or “watch and judge” or “watch and vent about all our frustrations in the area that someone may be sensitive about”. Use your words to lift someone up. Know your audience. And don’t mutter the words “you really should be over it by now” or “perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.”
  • Share hope with them. Don’t just assume someone KNOWS you support them. Say it. Send a card or a Facebook message. Text them an encouraging verse or simply a “Have a great day!” message. Let them know you are there. It’s amazing how blessed someone feels when you reach out to them and let them know you care and are hoping for the best. It reminds us we are not alone in our fight.

So whatever it is that you are facing – infertility, the loss of a spouse due to death or divorce, money troubles, singleness, memories of a lost child, the ache of a child who has gone astray, health issues, homesickness, difficult family dynamics … just know you aren’t alone. And the feelings you have of anguish are normal to feel.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). Notice that it doesn’t say rushed. Don’t feel the need to rush those as they grieve. Encourage them, listen to them, give them a safe space to process, help distract them when needed and above all, pray for them. For there is a day and time when we will be able to be able to rejoice over answered prayers or celebrate being at peace with a new normal.

With all that said, it’s probably time to go prep some vegetables for snacks (Yum. No sarcasm here. *cough*) and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. (Ahhh, there is something so cheesily wonderful about knowing exactly what is going to happen.) I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving if I don’t get on here before then! Please, eat an extra bite of stuffing in my honor … just don’t send me a picture of it. Gobble gobble!

the list. and more.

I have a confession to make. I am not a good singer. In fact, if there was any talent I wish I had, it would be to be a good singer. BUT, there is something about Baby, It’s Cold Outside that turns me into a professional singer. My voice becomes that of an angel and I am certain that if Cali could sing, she would join me in the duet so that I didn’t have to attempt to sing both the male and female parts. All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey is a close second for my angelic voice trophy but I am still working on one note. But you will be the first to hear about my victory when that miracle happens.

I had SO much fun reading so many amazing ideas for my holiday bucket list. In fact my first draft of the bucket list included about 43 items which ended up seeming a little extreme, especially for a first attempt at a bucket list (and given that Christmas is, um, well, just a little over a month away.) So I have narrowed it down and am excited to debut its final version:

  • Put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
  • Volunteer at an organization over the holidays
  • Intentionally acknowledge bell ringers outside of stores instead of avoiding eye contact
  • Drive around aimlessly for at least 30 minutes looking at holiday lights
  • Recruit my sister to reenact a childhood Christmas photo
  • Try eggnog
  • Watch Elf, Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Josh
  • Go sledding
  • Build a snowman. Perhaps a Cali sized one.
  • Make a snow angel
  • Go ice skating at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis
  • Attend a Christmas concert of some sort, whether its at a local church or in a stadium
  • Buy new pajamas for Christmas morning. (Extra points if I match my sister)
  • Pay for someone’s meal/drink behind me in a drive thru
  • Look at stars with Josh on a cold, snowy night
  • Visit a live nativity scene
  • Visit a house that has a live music/light show
  • Try a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks

Two traditions we have in our family will continue – Josh and I always buy each other an ornament every year and our family makes gingerbread houses together. Well, my sister and Josh have a creative house making contest while I take on the role of the Iron Chef Chairman (complete with secret ingredients), my mom becomes the commentator (complete with a paper towel role microphone) and my dad, well, he passively helps with scoring, even though both of them always get 10’s in every category. I am excited for these traditions to continue!

Ok, enough about Christmas. I do realize it’s still only November 20th. For those of you who are interested in an update on our fertility treatments, here you go.

So three weeks ago I visited a chiropractic doctor who also has strong naturopathic experience. Preliminary testing using Applied Kinesiology (which uses bioenergetic feedback through testing the strength of various muscles in the body … I know, big words) helped to assess my state of health.  What was scary and fascinating was that without me telling him what was “wrong with me”, was that my body showed him. I’m going to be honest, it creeped me out a little bit. I bought my paperwork in with me so I know he didn’t cheat and look ahead of time, and he basically asked right away if I had issues with estrogen based on a few indicators, both physically looking at my eyes and through this muscle testing. It seems SO weird that my body could tell him that without him knowing … but I left that appointment feeling encouraged that he seemed sane, educated and knowledgeable.

The next week I went back for urine, blood and saliva testing that would provide him with more information on what was going on in my body. I was able to look at my blood cells and compare them to books and charts – I saw my lab results and saw areas where the numbers were extremely out of range. Essentially what I learned is that my infection levels in my blood were extremely high. And my estrogen toxicity levels came back off the charts high. A long conversation made short, what he shared is that he felt (and what the data supported) is that I likely have a parasite (a strong bug not killed by antibiotics) in my body (intestines to be specific) that is pulling certain parts of my healthy estrogen hormones out, leaving it unbalanced and then as it gets reprocessed, turning it toxic. My own research has supported that this is indeed possible. And it makes sense. My estrogen levels have always been so weird (he shared this conclusion before he knew my history with my estrogen issues) and also, this toxic estrogen can cause a progesterone aid to become toxic as well. (Which also has been a big issue when I am pregnant, I can’t get my progesterone high enough to support the pregnancy.) Basically he said that if we can kill the parasite using herbs and a detox diet, we can begin to have my body reroute how my estrogen is processed and composed in my body. Hey, its worth a shot, right?

I know, it sounds a little “quackish”. I have to admit I was skeptical as well. It all sounded too good to be true. BUT, without sharing my hours of time with him and all my personal medical history and other “issues”, the diagnosis does make sense to me. And is worth trying. If anything, I become healthier and hopefully clear up this infection. So since I am more prone to having insulin resistance (a common issue with PCOS), I am currently on a no/low carb diet, continuing to be gluten free and extremely cautious about my sugar intake.

So how’s that going for me? Um, well, it kind of sucks. Changing my diet is extremely hard but is something I know will be good in the long run, regardless of whether it increases my fertility or not. I have to laugh, if I would have written this blog on Friday it would have sounded something like “I hate my life. I hate not eating carbs. I hate these herbs. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want a baby. I would rather jump off a cliff than do this one more day.” But thankfully the carb/sugar withdrawals are improving and I no longer feel as if I want to throw myself into a pit of lions when someone mentions bread. Baby steps right?

Its funny (sort of, in a non ha-ha sort of way) that this journey would lead me to a path that involves self discipline. Something I suck at. (Stink at. Sorry Mom.) I truly would rather give myself a million shots a day than pass up a french dip sandwich or order of French fries. (Ohhh, French fries. Dangit.) It’s SO hard for me to exert willpower with things I don’t like or want to do. The only thing keeping me going is trusting that God has put me on this path for a reason and remembering that I am more than capable of resisting the temptation of devouring a bag of potato chips or guzzling sweet tea. Any extra prayers you can send my way as I continue to battle myself and develop healthier habits would be great!

Self discipline ... I repeat this verse often. I HAVE this, I just have to develop this ....

Self discipline … I repeat this verse often. I HAVE this, I just have to develop this ….

I was nearly in tears earlier today as I read Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 26. “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” I tend to pray often “Let this cup of suffering be taken from me! Answer our prayers. Hear my cries. Bless us with a child.” But it is SO hard to pray the last part of Jesus’ prayer … “Yet I want your will to be done … not mine.” The Message version of the Bible says He prayed ““My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do You want?” I pray that God gives me the strength to pray Lord, what do YOU want? The great blessing in this prayer is that regardless of what He answers, we can trust His character, His goodness, His love. I may not always understand His methods or reasonings, but I can always trust that He is acting with purpose. Even when it hurts. I wish He moved according to my schedule and my plan. But when He doesn’t (and I find He rarely does), its our ability to tap into His strength that keeps us going. And when He finally does answer a request, I am always astonished and amazed at how much better His answer was then the one I was asking for.

Though Jesus knows our triumphant outcomes, though He sees the joyful ending just around the bend, He still gets down in the middle of our sorrows and holds us close, mingling His tears with our own.” There is an ending to our story. And we trust that He is working even when the journey seems long. I am putting all my trust in the fact that He WILL provide us with a triumphant outcome and that He will be glorified in the end. My story is not my own.

So as I moved forward with this new path, combing his herbs to cleanse and detox with my own researched herbs to attempt to help my body ovulate (Maca Root, Royal Jelly, and Vitex fruit for my TTC interested friends …), I am trusting that this is all part of His will. Even if it’s realllllly hard right now.

Some of the vitamins I am taking ... I am supposed to get through all of these in ONE month. Gulp! Literally ... I feel like I am taking pills and drinking water alllll the time.

Some of the vitamins I am taking … I am supposed to get through all of these in ONE month. Gulp! Literally … I feel like I am taking pills and drinking water alllll the time.

Oh! And good news! Knowing the cleanse was approaching, I dove into my bucket list a little early and enjoyed a Peppermint Mocha with my sister. And man, it was delicious. So I have one item off my bucket list!

Try a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks

Trying a Peppermint Mocha .... CHECK!

Trying a Peppermint Mocha …. CHECK!

I will keep you guys updated with pictures and stories on how things are going with that. As always, I am so thankful for your support, prayers and shared hope for us and what is to come.

Never give up!

Never give up!

thanksgiving BEFORE christmas!?!!?

Which came first?

The chicken or the egg?

The phoenix or the flame? (any HP friends of mine get that reference?)

Thanksgiving or Christmas?

I can’t help but chuckle at the very opinionated posts I am seeing all over social media these days. You know the ones …

“Why is Target playing Christmas music!?! It’s only November!”

“People, there is a holiday between now and Christmas!”

“I don’t care what you think, my tree is going up tonight!”

“I’ve been listening to Christmas music since November 1st.”

Oh I could go on and on. And I will just assume since you are reading this, that you care what I think about all of this. (Okay, maybe I am giving myself too much credit and your browser is simply frozen.) But I will continue.

Thanksgiving OR Christmas?

Well, it’s easy … why not both!? (*insert a select audience cringing here*) Let me explain …

Okay, so way back in 1789, Thanksgiving was declared a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer”. Sure, now a days we throw in yummy things like turkey and mashed potatoes and jellied cranberry sauce, but the point of Thanksgiving is focused on prayer and gratitude. Duh. Not sharing anything new here.

Christmas on the other hand is a time to celebrate God’s great love for us – celebrating the birth of Christ and the fact that because of that, we all have the chance to live with renewed strength and joy knowing God has conquered all. (Okay, the ending of that sentence fast forwarded to Easter, but the birth was the start of such a beautiful love story for us.)

So when people get all up in arms about keeping these two separate, I don’t get it. First of all gratitude is something we need to have ALL year round, not just during November or on Thanksgiving. One of my favorite verse in the Bible is Philippians 4:6-7:  “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Did you catch that? Every prayer we pray should have gratitude included. Thank Him for all that He has done. So the spirit of Thanksgiving truly is one that we should have all year round.

Those of you who are Facebook friends with me know I have a Thankful album where I upload a photo each day of something I am thankful for. Hi, I am Chelsea and yes, I am guilty of flooding newsfeeds daily for almost 2 years now. But the reason for it all stems from this verse. Life is tough. It actually can suck sometimes. We are surrounded by things we don’t understand. Physical pain. Death. Divorce. Lost limbs and broken friendships. Miscarriages. Flippant words said to us from those we care about. Spilt milk. (Seemed appropriate, no?) When our hearts focus solely on what hurts, it sure is easy to dwell on the sadness of this broken world. (Trust me, uploading a “thankful” picture on a day when I just found out I am miscarrying, or after a call telling me my pregnancy isn’t viable, or I need surgery … well, it isn’t easy. But it makes me think about my blessings and it helps.)

But….when we flip the way we view things and see things through the eyes of gratitude, it becomes more bearable. It really does.

I read this powerful paragraph a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me: “Gratitude is important because it has the power to change our attitude. When we are willing to give thanks to God in all things, not just some things – to consciously thank Him even when we don’t feel very grateful – something in us begins to shift. We begin to see life as Christ sees it – full of opportunities rather than obstacles.”

It continues to say “If we aren’t grateful for what God has done in the past and in the present, we won’t have the faith to believe God for things in the future.”

I think about times when I have gifted someone something or extended kindness over and over again to never be thanked. Not that I do anything for a thank you, but my human mind goes “Really!?! Not even a text?!” It means something in this world to acknowledge someone’s kindness. It’s a good thing God doesn’t have the same kind of reaction as I do at times because He would be like “REALLY PEOPLE!!?!? I GAVE YOU BREATH THIS MORNING! YOU WOKE UP! IN A HOUSE! WITH FOOD! AND THE ABILITY TO SPEAK. AND YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO THANK ME FOR THIS!?!?”

Yikes. I just made an awkwardly convicted face at the coffee shop just writing that. Because there is SO much I don’t thank God for that I have.

Where am I going with all this? Oh yes …. Celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving.

I think that if you have the heart of gratitude firmly rooted in your heart, its perfectly fine to set up your tree or listen to Madonna sing Santa Baby before the turkey has been served. Because gratitude is not about the day. It’s about the spirit.

And for some people, the holidays can be really hard. It may remind them of someone who won’t be at their Thanksgiving table this year. Or a reminder of the job they still don’t have and presents they still can’t afford. It may bring back painful memories of years past and they may carry sorrow for things they still ache for. And for some, the sight of a Christmas tree sitting in their house on November 14th may just make them smile and act as a reminder of the good memories. Or perhaps seeing the stocking hung by the chimney with care will bring out a spirit of even MORE gratitude as they reflect on how blessed they have to have stockings to hang.

So before we all go around judging one another’s reason for putting up the tree earlier or not listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, let’s all stop and reflect on OURSELVES. Because quite frankly it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is in OUR hearts, not on others radios or in their homes.

Are you gracious – year round? Are you celebrating the joyous reminder that Christ was born a baby, in flesh, and came to save? Maybe just the tune of Jingle Bells or White Christmas makes your heart happy and reflect on your own joy. Whatever it is – let them celebrate. I promise, it will all be all right in the end. Granted, we may be a little tired of hearing “…there wont be snow in Africa this Christmas time …” in a few weeks but big picture, it’s okay. We are blessed. We are saved. Life goes on.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, I am making my very first bucket list. I figure this holiday season I don’t have to worry about things like shots and appointments and that feels very freeing! And I know that there will still be waves of emotion that ebb and flow so its my goal to focus on the good, the new, the laughs and the new memories to be created. So help me in creating my bucket list! Post a comment here, or on the post where you saw the link at (Facebook, Instagram, etc) and let me know something Josh and/or I should do this holiday season. Here is what I have come up with so far:

  • Try a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks (I have never had a hot peppermint anything before!)
  • Put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
  • Intentionally acknowledge bell ringers outside of stores instead of avoiding eye contact
  • Drive around aimlessly for at least 30 minutes looking at holiday lights
  • Recruit my sister to reenact a childhood Christmas photo
  • Try eggnog
  • Watch Elf, Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Josh
  • Go sledding (Its been YEARS)
  • Build a snowman. Perhaps a Cali sized one. I’m certain she would adore that.

I am missing a lot! So join in the fun in helping me set up a list, then follow along the next 6 weeks as I work to check things off!

I don’t have too much of a fertility update other than I am meeting with the naturopathic doctor tomorrow to get a game plan. I will be sure to include more on that appointment next time. Thanks for still including us in your prayers as we navigate this totally new road. So far the only change made has been going gluten free and its been going really well over the last few weeks. More changes to come I am sure, but it’s a start!

Now, go spread some cheer and share in the spirit of gratitude today! Merry Thanksgiving!

(Now that I have typed all this, I am a little anxious about opinionated reactions. Please remember to be kind and we each have the right to our own opinion. My personal blog is simply sharing my own. :))

it’s as simple as hope.

Last Monday truly was such a difficult day for Josh and I. I think for the first time in a long time, we felt utterly hopeless. We expected our IVF journey to end much differently than it did. Throughout the last 10 months, we saw these tiny glimpses of hope and imagined this wonderful grand finale. And when that didn’t happen, our hearts felt crushed.

I think I can speak for us both when I say Monday and Tuesday were a depressing daze. We sat at the dinner table Monday looking at each other and for the first time Josh muttered the words “I just question if we ever are meant to have kids. Maybe we just need to move on and accept this.” My heart begged him and God for peace to try IVF just “one more time” and Josh shared that He didn’t feel it’s the path we should take. I prayed for the peace that it is what God wanted us to do, so I could trump Josh’s card with a “God says” one … and yet I felt the complete opposite of peace. I felt unsettled whenever I thought about starting over with another round, which was a 180 from where we were a few weeks prior.

Tuesday brought an immense grief that is difficult even now to reflect back on. I laid in bed weeping those tears that actually physically hurt because you can’t catch your breath and your body hurts from being grasped by sobs. The amount of grief I felt was overwhelming, as it had been stronger than what we had experienced in the past.

“Why am I so sad!?” I literally cried this out in my empty bedroom. (Cali gave me her signature head tilt like she was trying to understand so she could provide me an answer.) “Why does this hurt so badly? It actually feels like someone died.”  It’s true. I hadn’t even cried that hard at funeral or deaths.

Then the answer came to my head softly.

You are grieving a part of you that has died – the part of you that had hope.”

Once those words entered my head, I knew it was true. Throughout all of this, I have always had hope. Hope for a happy ending. Hope for a pregnancy, hope for a child. Hope for God to be glorified and hope that our story would end in praises, not tears.

I was grieving my loss of hope.

As I laid there, I realized I felt like a shell of who I once was. The last 24 hours of pain took a toll on my heart and mind. Instead of accepting this outcome of this one cycle, I transformed it into the fact that we would NEVER have a child. That God would NEVER answer our prayers. That we were NEVER heard. That we had to accept this final answer.

But then I realized this didn’t have to be the final answer. And that we serve a God of eternal Hope. A God that surprises everyone when logic, reasoning, statistics and odds aren’t in their favor. Yes, we may feel like David facing the giant Goliath of infertility, but God is a God of beating the odds.

Within minutes, it felt like I had an optimistic breath breathed back into my soul – I literally envision hope-filled air bring breathed back into my empty lungs. I felt like I could breathe again.

Here’s the thing – Josh and I still feel strongly that God is saying that our IVF journey is over. And that’s been hard to accept because we have had our best odds and chances with IVF. We have tasted success and experiences more hope in a cycle doing IVF than we have in the 4 years prior. But its pretty clear to us both that’s not where we are being called. Perhaps we found too much peace in the statistics and the hope that the doctors brought us. Perhaps we felt secure knowing we had an embryo or two transferred and that this would be an easy miracle for God to work. But again, God is a God of miracles despite what circumstances or odds we alter for Him. Do I doubt for a minute that the 4 previous cycles where not where we were called? Not for a minute. I am certain that is where God wanted us. (I asked Him “why?” to this too and the words that were breathed into my ear were simply “I was making you relate-able.” How powerful is that?)

And in perfect God-timing, just as I was starting to realize no matter what, we still had God to hope in,  a friend texted me these words: The enemy wants you to lose hope…Let Gods light shine through this time and destroy the evil beings that want to kick you when you’re down. Send them running!!! It’s impossible for anything God touches to not be good. He has His hand on the both of you.

How powerful that was. It immediately made me realize how the devil had tricked us into believing that our hope was in IVF. Without it, we have nothing!  Our hearts cried. We will never have children! Woe is us! But isn’t that exactly what the devil wanted us to feel. He removed the verses from our hearts that said:

“So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!” Psalm 31:24

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”  Psalm 33:20-22

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

“You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope. Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed.” Psalm 119:114, 116

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 11-13

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” Romans 8:24

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Need I continue? It’s OBVIOUS that our hope needs to be FIRMLY planted in HIM and not in anything else. And perhaps being completely stripped of the material treatments, medications, and plans will be exactly what He needs to get our attention 110% and whisper “Hope in ME.”

I of course still have the same diagnosis as earlier (PCOS) and know that in our human minds, getting pregnant naturally will be very difficult based on the one small factor of having extremely messed up hormones and, oh yea, that little problem of never ovulating. So Josh and I are open to trying some natural methods to try to get my body cleansed and perhaps use natural supplements and vitamins to increase our odds. We feel a lot of peace in our hearts that this is the route that we are meant to walk on at this time. And it’s tough! I don’t have an idea of what the future may hold.

As I was contemplating how I could perhaps talk with a natural doctor about what their thoughts were on my diagnosis and issues, I received an email from someone (a Godly mom of a coworker of a friend of ours … how’s that for a network coincidence?) who felt led to email us after reading our blog about a natural doctor that her family has seen and if we were willing to give it a try, would love to donate $1,000 to the treatment there.

Wow. Hello God, I am hearing you LOUD and CLEAR. And of course, because He is a God who we confirms our hearts, we began to receive many more messages that this was the path He was ordaining us to take without anyone knowing that was the direction He was placing.

Isn’t it amazing how He works? So we simply are going to step back and redirect our paths to simply allow God to work. We still feel like we are engaging interactively to do what we can to allow Him to work (natural supplements, diet adjustments, etc). and feel that He is blessing these steps we are taking. We know that this route may take us many more months or years but the peace He is providing is priceless.

I realize this is all getting long winded but a couple things before I close:

1) I am so thankful for the outpour of love, support and care we received this last week. Your texts, shared verses, and generous love meant a lot and spoke to us in ways I can’t even begin to share. So thank you.

2) Physically I am feeling okay. These last few days have been cramp-filled and physically brutal but I am having a good day and am thankful for Tylenol and heating pads. Each day from here should get easier.

3) I truly love engaging with my readers. I routinely get emails and messages from those of you joining in our story and love hearing more about you and your heart. I wanted to pause and take a moment to answer a question I received a few days ago from a follower, C. C shared her own person battle with infertility and shared how my blog has influenced her, but closed with a question I get often:

“I do have one question for you though that has been on my mind throughout this whole journey : How does one keep the faith in God? … I can’t help but ask myself every day why God is putting me through this. Doesn’t He see that I have more than enough on my plate? Doesn’t He see that I need a break, instead more and more keeps happening to me and my husband? I can’t seem to understand why He is doing this to me.”

I asked C if I could share and answer my thoughts to these questions on here and she kindly obliged.

My brain is complexly spinning trying to come up with the “right” words to say. I wrote a blog posting once about the greater purpose of waiting (which you can read here), but I don’t know that it will answer C’s question fully. But instead of trying to come up with the right answer, I can only share my heart.

The truth is C, that I simply don’t know every reason why God is allowing you (or any of us) to suffer with what you’re dealing with. This world we live in is a world marked with sin, evil and hardship. Throughout every single day we are all faced with disappointments, discouragements and pain as a result. But I do believe that despite that, God brings good out of these situations. I am learning that instead of focusing on the WHY, I should be pursing His heart and asking WHAT He wants to teach me through this.

How do I keep my faith in God? For me it’s simple. He has never left me. He has used my pain in ways that I would never imagine simply because I have given it over to Him with faith and trust that His ways are better than my ways. I had another reader send me the quote “”His rejection can be His protection.” I choose to believe that He isn’t taunting me or causing me pain for fun. In fact, it’s in these tough times that I feel Him closer to me, more than I have ever felt.

Sometimes I feel like He fills up our plate simply to bring us to the point where we shout out “I can’t carry this all anymore! I can’t handle this death. I can’t handle this failed cycle. I can’t handle this argument with my friend and this conflict at work!” And instead of turning to God and pointing the finger and saying “YOU DID THIS TO ME!”, He wants to say to you: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mathew 11:28)

Why is He “doing” this to us? I don’t know exactly, but I do know He doesn’t want us to carry it alone. He wants to teach us to lean into Him. He wants to use our stories. He wants us to reflect and ask what we are learning as a result of this. Could I learn patience as a result of this dealing with infertility? Could this suffering motivate me to look at all I have and express gratitude for what I have been given, instead of what I haven’t? Am I able to develop compassion for others that I may not have seen or had a heart for before?

I am constantly asking God to show me ways that He wants to work in my sufferings. And I find that when I chose to respond to my pain with peace in Him as I trust Him, He fills my heart with even more of Him and gives me a purpose for my pain. The simple fact that we are able to have this conversation – that perhaps you are able to see more of Him in your hurt – makes my suffering and experiences worth it. Truly.

I could go on and on but I encourage each of you to look at your suffering and struggles as a way to see Him more clear. He’s there, waiting to show you more of Himself.

On that note I shall end. I have so much more in my heart to share but shall wait for another post. I will still of course keep up with my blog even though it will steer away from medical treatments and focus more on the next quieter phase of our journey. I hope you will still join me for what’s to come! I promise less sadness, more humorous stories and a few pictures of Cali. Ohhhh, I know you just can’t wait. Hehe!