scabs.

When I was younger my mom always told me not to pick my scabs. “They are going to scar if you pick them. Then you will have them your whole life.” I remember always looking at my scrapped knee or my skinned elbow and wondered if that was really true. Would I have a permanent scar? Why couldn’t I just pick them a little? The only thing I knew about scars was from my chicken pox marks dabbled around my legs, because apparently I couldn’t keep my little fingers away from them. But the unknowns about this for the rest of your life scar threat would be enough to hold me off from picking the scab, at least for a few days.

But I could never resist. I never would pick the whole scab at once. First it would just start with a little corner. A small chunk stuck under my fingernail and of course, I would start bleeding. I was always nervous I would be caught. But I would only pick that one tiny spot. No one would notice. I actually remember having the words “It just fell off” ready to go if I was asked.

But I never could stop with just one part of the scab. Once I started, I had an invitation to start picking more of it. Before I knew it, the whole scab was ripped off, my knee was all bloody and I was frantically trying to hide it as to avoid another scarring lecture.

My willpower to resist was never really good. I didn’t want to want to pick the scab, but when tempted with its crusty covering, I rarely said no. I know some of you are cringing right now and you were probably the kid who didn’t find immense satisfaction in picking their scabs. I salute you.

You may be wondering why I am talking about this. Well, I had a bad day the other day. It was the end of the week, one of those weeks that had far too many pregnancy announcements smushed within a short period of time. They flew in like hot cakes, one on top of the other, stacking higher and higher. A phone call, a facebook message, a newsfeed announcement, a text … each one caught me off guard. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely happy for each one of them. They have to opportunity to start or expand their family, have made it through the scary first trimester and are able to begin celebrating with others. As someone on this side of things, I am grateful for the pain they don’t have to endure as a result of wanting to be pregnant and not being able to be. But with every announcement and joy filled response, I allowed self pity to seep into my spirit. The recipe for my poor attitude is as follows:

Mix 1 part complaining pregnant friends with 2 parts of poor sleep. Add in 1 caffeine headache and combine with another pregnancy announcement. Add a dash of gray skies and take away any signs of sunshine. Top it off with a sprinkle of feeling sorry for yourself and you have the perfect recipe for a blah day!

I laid in bed the other night, fully acknowledging my funk. I was a little mad that Josh wasn’t validating my cranky attitude and followed up my miserable comments with reminders about contentment and gratitude. The hard part was that I knew he was right. It isn’t like me to get so down and I truthfully am blaming some of it on the depressing Minnesota winter. (I need sunshine!!!). But here’s what happened. I started to pick the scab on my heart.

As soon as I started with the “woe is me, it will never be me” thoughts, I picked the corner of the scab that was covering my heart. I actually remember thinking “Don’t do this. Don’t go there. Don’t sit in this funk. You know better. You are stronger than this. Stop! Stop! Stop!”  But the devil on my shoulder, the one that knew to attack me at 11:00 pm after a long week whispered the words “Go big or go home. Pick it. Pick the scab.”

And I hate to say it, but I picked.

I realize how stupid this sounds, but I intentionally laid there thinking about everything I was sad about.

My January 27th due date. Next week. I should be 39 weeks pregnant right now. I should be getting ready to go into labor.

My last due date – September 2. I should have a 4 and a half month old.

How grateful I would be to have any baby I was blessed enough to carry.

Words said that were not meant to be hurtful, but hurt. Stewing over the pain the words caused.

(I won’t continue because I don’t need to go there again – you get the picture.)

So I laid there, miserable and of course crying, and I kept thinking STOP PICKING THE SCAB. One side of my brain begin to list all the blessings I had, which are an enormous amount, and the bully side said “Do that tomorrow. Let’s keep thinking of things we are sad about.”

Our scabs are meant to be protective coverings over wounds. Coverings created so that our body can heal. But on this night, I didn’t want to be healing. I wanted to sit and stare at my bloody heart and recall the pain I was in.

It was so stupid. No one should ever intentionally try to inflict pain on themselves. I look back now and regret it, because it set my heart backwards. My heart now is trying to rebuild the scab and the words of pain, discouragement and frustration will now find it easier to penetrate as that protective covering is thinner.

Here’s the lesson I learned though – we have to let the scab heal. We can’t pick it daily. We can’t fill our day with negative thoughts, replaying hurtful comments, and spend time feeling sorry for ourselves. Because if we do that, we will never get to the point where our scab heals and our wounds are strong enough to resist picking. If we continue to pick away at our hearts, they will scar. We will turn into bitter people, people who can only see the glass as half empty and spend far too much time feeling sorry for ourselves.

We were never created to live life like that.

We are called to be people filled with joy. Filled with kindness. We are called to be thankful to our Father for everything He has blessed us with and stop looking at everything we want differently. What an insult it is to our Creator when we constantly tell Him the plan that He artfully created for our life isn’t good enough. We want THEIR plan!!! Wahhh! And little do we know, but those people are crying Wahhh, we want THEIR plan! It’s a domino effect of wanting when we lose contentment with what we have. Sure, we may have suffered losses – the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a child, the loss of a dream or reality we wished for – but I think we far too often equate contentment with happiness. Because the truth is, we will never be fulfilled with the earthly things we desire. A baby ISN’T going to make my life more joyfilled. Sure, I may feel it will fill a hole of longing, but I know with it will come more needs, wants, worries …. The secret to life is being content in HIM.

I think true contentment is the bandaid to the heart. It is what will stop the temptation from picking the scab and it’s what will allow us to heal.

I love the Message translation of Philippians 4:11-13. It says:

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

What powerful words! The incredible thing about this passage is that Paul was writing this letter from prison. Midst the many trials in his life, many so extreme that we will never face, he knew that he could be content only with Christ.

As my heart scab begins to mend, I am thankful to be reminded that the source of my satisfaction, my strength, my hope, and my joy is in Him alone. All the things we desire may be good things, but only Jesus can satisfy.

Don’t pick your scab today. I wish I had been strong enough that night to resist the temptation to rip it off. Sitting in misery does NOTHING for your joy and will only set yourself backwards. Next time I am tempted, I will pick up my phone and scroll through the verses I have bookmarked in my YouVersion Bible app and find strength in HIM.

There you go. That’s enough scab talk for the day. Just be thankful I didn’t include any scab visuals. Ewwwwww.

Now the time you have all been waiting for …. The winner of my first Blog Giveaway! I loved how many people participated – we had over a few hundred entries! But without further ado, congratulations to my dear friend and follower Amie F. on being the randomly selected winner! I will contact you shortly to finalize the mailing.

winner

Now, let’s get out there and have a good day! Stop right now and think of 5 things you are thankful for. If you need accountability to do this, list them in the comment section. Five things. Let’s stew in gratitude today. We are so blessed.

spoil

persistence and a blog giveaway.

Ding dong the polar vortex is gone! Wicked old witch she was. It’s 28º outside right now and yesterday at church I actually heard people describing the weather as “balmy”. I won’t pull out my shorts quite yet (although a few people shopping at Target don’t share my opinion) but I will enjoy a few less layers when I run to the grocery store later. Cali keeps begging to go outside and I just noticed she was sitting on the driveway, eyes closed, facing the sun, taking full advantage of her brief 5 minutes of fresh air. I suppose a 60 degree swing in temperature over a week will do that!

This last week has been one of those where I was surrounded by extreme praises and extreme sorrows. One text message shares that a family member’s tests results came back cancer free, another message shares that close friends received unexpected health news about their unborn baby. It was a week where I was rejoicing in answered prayer requests one moment – a new job for a friends spouse, a successful egg retrieval for another, news of a potential birth mom considering a well-deserving family and then the coin flips. A job opportunity for my sister slips away. Hearing news of a friend’s miscarriage. Feeling helpless as I watch someone sink deeper into a depressive state.

I wrote in my journal a few days ago “There seems to be so much around me right now – things capable of praises and things capable of gut wrenching sorrow. Life just seems too cruel and painful some moments and others, filled with unimaginable joy. I was reminded today that that we will “never learn faith in comfortable surroundings”, yet to live life uncomfortable is so hard. It’s days like this where I am reminded that HE is the only one who can help. He is between us and our difficulties. He is the one fighting our battles. And above it all, He still reigns.”

Isaiah 43: 1b, 2 has been appearing EVERYWHERE for me this week. It has been on the cards I have picked up, random flyers, in multiple devotionals, and I am pretty sure Shia LaBeouf even hired a skywriter to etch it above my house. It reads:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

The word when stuck out to me. It doesn’t say if. It is inevitable that in this life, we will go through hard times.  There is suffering on this earth because it is a broken world of sin. Even Jesus had to suffer through life-claiming trials. When. When we suffer, we will not drown. When we suffer, we will not be consumed by the flame. These trials may feel like they only happen to you. But while you struggle with infertility, someone else struggles with painful financial struggles. While you struggle with the declining health of someone you care about, someone else is struggling with a broken marriage. Everyone has their Thing. You are not alone in living life with a struggle simply because everyone else around you has a baby/is thin and healthy/has a flourishing marriage/has decent salaries/has that house you always wanted/etc.

Verse 5 continues by saying … Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

Even in the midst of the rain, the flood, the fires – even when we are walking through hard times, there He is in the midst of it. WITH us. Not ahead of us or trailing behind. But walking right alongside us. But sometimes He is silent. I have walked that path of silence before. The words prayed seem to fall on deaf ears and the void seems vast. It is a time in my life that I look back on as one of the most frustrating spiritually, because no matter how hard I tried, it seemed like nothing could get His attention. I walked through that period for nearly a year. I look back at it, almost 4 years ago now, and am so thankful for my persistence. It almost became a challenge. Lord, I am going to keep coming to you, even though I don’t feel your presence right now. Truth is, what other option did I have? I believed in Him with my entire heart, I KNEW He was real. I thought back to those moments in my life that can only be labeled as “God Moments”, and so with determination I continued to seek Him. I took the words of Romans 12:12 to heart – Don’t quit in hard times. Pray all the harder. And so I prayed. And journaled. And blasted worship tunes. Begged and pleaded. Some days it simply felt like I was going through the motions. But I will never forget that day in March when He whispered back “I am here. I never left you.” Looking back now, I can see that was so true. He kept pushing me, never letting me be consumed by the waves but also, not pulling me out of them either. And because of that, what was one of the most frustrating seasons of my life had one of the most beautiful endings, which made it all worth it. The growth over that year was immeasurable. The brokenness real, but the healing, overwhelmingly eternal.

He never leaves us.

He has never left us.

He will always be with us.

My encouragement to you today is press into Him. Continue persisting. When it seems like the waters may overwhelm you and the fire may consume you, keep faithfully crying out to Him. I promise you – He is not ignoring you. In fact, I am willing to bet my life on it.

With that said, I am excited to share with you the news of my first EVER Blog Giveaway! I find so much joy in spreading love to others and who better to bless than those who are faithful in caring for me and following along on our journey with us.

GIVEAWAY

The giveaway includes many of my favorites: A journal, Jesus Calling and Jesus Today (hardcover), a box of one of my favorite herbal Starbucks teas, Burt’s Bees foot cream, EOS chapstick, a HOPE bracelet, a wooden GRACE decorative sign, a pair of lucky socks and a $10 Starbucks gift card. I am so excited to send this off to someone!

So how do you enter? It’s simple! Each of the below items you do will credit you with 1 entry for the drawing:

–        Like the Instagram post with the photo announcement and comment on it.

–        Share the Instagram post on your page. (If you do this and are listed as private,– simply comment here or on my IG page that you shared it with your followers. I believe in honesty!)

–        Like this blog post through the blogger page you are reading it on.

–        Comment on the blog.

–        Like the Facebook post with the photo announcement.

–        Comment on the Facebook post and make sure to say you want to be entered.

–        Share my blog on your Facebook page, being sure to let me know about it if you don’t tag me. It doesn’t have to be this post – feel free to share any of the post in the past that you have liked.

–        Share/Tag my blog on your blog and let your followers know about the giveaway as well.

–        Share my blog on Pinterest. (If you do this, email me at trialsbringjoy@gmail.com and let me know)

And YES! You can enter if I know you in real life or only through social media … everyone is welcome to enter!! I will be tallying all of the entries and will be doing the drawing on Wednesday the 22nd in the afternoon. Unfortunately I can only ship within the US and apologize to my overseas followers.

I’m excited! Cali is too. Good luck!

(Someone needs a hair cut!)

(Someone needs a hair cut!)

learning to say no.

Happy New Year! How many of you are trapped in the world of writing “2013” still and then ferociously scratching a 4 over the 3 and contemplating just starting over? I know I am! It always takes a while to get into the swing of the new year and the calm that follows the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Here in Minnesota we are still braving brutally cold temperatures and most schools were canceled the last day or two, which has extended some holiday breaks, but alas! It’s about to warm back up (aka above 0º) and we all will be fumbling our way back into our old routines.

As I begin 2014, I have been thinking a lot about the routines I tend to find myself in and what commitments are on my plate. If you know me, you know that I tend to be a “yes” person. Got something that needs to be done? I would LOVE to! (Shoot, I really don’t want to do that.) Oh you need this? Absolutely, I’m your girl! (Oh man, when am I going to fit that in?) It starts next week and you forgot to look for a leader? Of course I will lead that. (Nooooooooooo. I don’t have the time/ability/interest/desire/passion.) It actually is a really bad habit of mine, saying yes to everything I am asked to do,  because at the end of the day, I am left feeling depleted and unable to give my best to people who matter most – like my husband, family and friends.

A month or so ago, God began to stir in my heart that He wanted me to fine tune the art of being prayerful to consider what was asked of me. It made me scrunch up my nose, because the thought of saying “no” and disappointing someone felt uncomfortable. But I took the bait. Okay God, I will bring you opportunities and consult with you before saying yes or no. Just make it clear.

Around the same time, I read these powerful words in a book: “I realized then, that while there are many things that need to be done, things I am capable of doing and want to do, I am not always the one to do them. Even if I have a burden for a certain need or project, my interest or concern is not a surefire sign that I need to be in charge. God may only be calling me to pray that the right person will rise up to accomplish it. What’s more, I may be stealing someone else’s blessing when I assume I must do it all… It is a costly mistake, for often, when the Holy Spirit does ask something of me, I’m either knee deep in another project or too exhausted from my latest exercise in futility to do what God wants of me.” (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World)

It was exactly what I needed to read to give myself permission to say no to things that I didn’t feel called to do. Steal someone’s blessing? Being too exhausted to actually do something that I should be doing when that time approaches? Totally convicted.

And wouldn’t you know it? I was tested nearly immediately with an invitation to serve in an area that I know I would be skilled at. However, instead of saying “yes, sure thing!” right away, I prayed about it. And felt strongly that this was not a venture I was supposed to take on and instead, simply needed to offer to pray for the right person to step up to the job.

Awkward.

I don’t do well saying “no”. I don’t think it was the response this person was hoping for and I know that obeying Him will likely cause more work for this person and I feel awful about that. But what outweighs that feeling and gives me peace is simply knowing that I am keeping myself open to whatever it is ahead where I am supposed to say “yes”. I will have the time, the passion, and the capability to take that on. OR, I will simply be able to focus with greater attention on what’s already on my plate. The team in our early childhood ministry at church that I direct, or the small group I lead, or the relationships I have built.  The lifestyle changes we are making to our diets and bodies.

As you step into 2014, I challenge you to look at what you have on your plate. Are you carrying things around simply to please others, but as a result, draining yourself of everything – like your joy? Are those activities or responsibilities keeping you from being open and available to things that do interest you? Are you able to put Him in the number one spot in your life or is He getting pushed aside as you work to please everyone around you? Here’s the thing – responsibilities are a good thing. We all need that structure and we all need to work hard at things – but not at the sake of our relationship with Him or our sanity. We can’t be consumed at keeping everything in the air because our focus will shift and we will find ourselves frantically missing the good opportunities. I even have to evaluate the small, fun things that add up. The coffee dates, the evenings meetings or movies with friends. How many yoga classes to commit to a week and how much running (figuratively, not literally, but I literally don’t run) I am packing into a day. All these things can easily deplete us if we don’t guard our calendars and time.

A new year. A new chance to look at our busy schedules and no longer allow Satan to use the hectic-ness and commitments, our worn out bodies and our exhausted emotions, to create barriers that push us away from what we are supposed to be doing. For some, what you are supposed to be doing is simply spending time with your family. Or maybe it’s taking on a weekend serving position at your church. Or perhaps its saying “yes” to joining a Bible Study or (gasp) leading one. Will you allow your energy and joy to be swallowed up in obligations that He has never called you to take on? Or will you join me at His feet waiting to find out what His will is for us before saying “yes”? And then faithfully taking the step of obedience towards the commitments we are called to do?

Here’s to a 2014 filled with the right callings. Filled with JOY. Filled with Him!

PS – Join me in the awkward celebration of having my shortest non-medicated natural cycle EVER! 63 days. (If you are wondering what I am talking about right now, let’s just safely assume you don’t need to know. You can stop reading now.) But seriously, my PCOS has prevented me from having natural cycles without the eventual use of Provera (a AF inducing medication) literally for years. It was an answer to my desperate prayers to God to show me that this new naturopathic route was actually doing something useful. Honestly, it has been really hard. I am not used to taking 80-million supplements a day and the anti-inflammatory drinks that I am temporarily drinking as we fight this internal infection has been testing every ounce of strength. The diet changes have felt a lot more natural now and I am getting pretty used to my new routines and lifestyle. But it’s slow. And while I *expected* that, I forgot what slow felt like. I have been missing the pace of IVF and western medicine. But He was faithful to hear my frustrations and discouragement and getting AF was a wonderful sign that *something* is starting to work again. And with that brings renewed hope that someday we may be able to celebrate a miracle baby. So thank you for continuing to faithfully pray for us in this slower time. It still is a battle, but we still have our boxing gloves on. :)

A favorite verse of mine! And a great anthem for January.

A favorite verse of mine! And a great anthem for January.