the beauty in the hard.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Today’s entry is an edited repost of one I wrote back in 2013. While we have gone through so much between then and now, every word still rings true. So, regardless of your own season of wait or hardship, I pray that today you can soak in the highlights, the blessings, and the beautiful parts of the pain. Crazy, I know, but read on to see what I’m talking about … (then get offline and go enjoy your Thanksgiving, hehe!).


 

(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. 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 in 2012 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 ispossible 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!!!

listening.

You know what’s hard for a talkative gal like myself? Listening. Shutting up. Not being so excited to share what my thoughts are on the topic and just listening. While I continue to work on this in my friendships (and thank God for friends with so much grace), I’ve been even more challenged with it lately in my relationship with God.

This time of year tends to be filled with lots of to-do lists and hustling. I try to make my daily quiet time more than just a check list item. I try to intentionally invest in quality time set apart from the craziness of what the day holds. But more often than I would care to admit, by the time I close out that time with prayer, this is what happens:

Dear God, thank you for this time together today. I am not sure next with (FILL IN A SEASON OF UNCERTAINTY). Make your path known to me. Please make the roads clear. Help me hear you. Amen

Then, I immediately jump up, tuck away my devotional items and move on to the next activity.

The other night I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep but it wasn’t happening. Typically in those moments I pray but for some reason that night I thought “Well, He already knows what’s in my mind and on my heart so I don’t really need to do that right now.”

Then this next thought popped into my head so fast that my eyes widened in deep conviction:

Yes daughter, but you didn’t know what I had to say in response to what’s on your heart, nor are you giving us a chance to grow the intimacy of our relationship. I want the chance to engage with you. Talk to me so that you can listen to me. And be cautious not to filter the answers I am giving you with the answers you want to hear.

Whoa.

I sat with those thoughts for a long time and have continued to think about them a lot over the last week. Can I process my takeaways with you today?

God doesn’t call us to have an unbalanced relationship with Him. Relationships aren’t meant to be one-sided conversations. If we aren’t spending time being quiet, how are we supposed to give Him a chance to reply? When He’s not whispering thoughts that aren’t mine into my head at midnight , I usually grab a pen and journal and just start to write the words that fill my head from Him. It’s not a big booming voice; it’s just my voice in my head with words and a tone that aren’t my own. And it usually only flows well when I am truly being quiet.

Secondly, we need to stop asking for answers while only looking for affirmations that are in line with what we want. Gulp. If I am going to tell Him I am open to whatever the future holds, I need to stop dismissing answers I don’t want to hear. And I need to stop funneling everything through my will instead of His.

The next day this image from Lysa Terkeurst popped up on social media. So good right?

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Today, I am passing along this challenge – will you join me in paying attention to Him? Join me in prioritizing time with Him that includes doing nothing but listening. Let’s calm our hearts, giving Him a chance to share His heart with us, a chance to engage back. Don’t get caught up in the excuse, as I did, that “He already knows so I don’t need to share it”; remember that relationships go both ways. Grab your Bible, read His Word, engage in a book or devotional that helps you connect with His truths, and journal out your prayers (if it helps you stay on track). Be curious about what a 2-way relationship looks like to Him.

Let’s walk into these busy weeks ahead with a softened heart willing to hear Him no matter what the reply is. Who’s with me???

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november crushes.

Happy Wednesday friends! Time for a fun little post on some of the things that I am loving this month. (Think Friday Favorites but toned down a bit!) It’ll be fun to check in each month and share my top 5’s with you! So, let’s kick off Novembers without delay!

1 – Hallmark Christmas Movies

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Now don’t get all crazy on me here and start shouting out things about Thanksgiving being first and ‘tsking’ me for loving to watch predictable, G-rated sappy movies. I can fully embrace both seasons for all they are worth with equal love. :) That being said, here is the link for all of the new Hallmark movies playing in the next 6ish weeks! Spend a few minutes with your DVR and record these corny gems!

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/christmas/schedule

2 – Mended

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My sister has been telling me about the book Mended by Angie Smith for ages and last weekend, she surprised me with a copy! I am in the middle of reading it and LOVING it so far.

One line that has stuck out with me the last week is “God has a way of redefining our expectations.” It’s been thought provoking to flush out what expectations I have had for my life and how He has redefined them – and even more so, the good that has come from it.

Looking for a little idea of what the book is about? Here you go!

“We love to cheer for the underdog and believe to our core that every life makes a difference. And we are right. There is no one God can’t use and no one whose brokenness is too broken for God. We know this is true for our friends when we want to encourage them. Yet, when it comes to the places of our innermost sense of shame and regret, we often wonder if it is really true that God can work all things together for good for those who love Him.”

3 – My TTC Crate

This awesome TTC care package was delivered right to my front door from my friends over at TTC Crates! This month, my box was filled with these goodies:

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My two favorite things are the coffee sleeve (the heart is gold and sparkly! Drool!) and the earrings. They are just the perfect amount of bling! Every time I wear them, I get compliments. I am so pumped to try the tea, which I haven’t yet, but it smells amazing! I love how TTC Crates incorporates practical things like ovulation tests with fun things like tea and jewelry. If you are interested in sending or receiving your own TTC Crate, check out their website. They offer a variety of sizes (mini, regular and deluxe) and this month only while boxes are in stock, use “trialsbringjoy” at checkout and get 10% off! I know their November crates are almost sold out, so don’t delay!

4 – Sinking Deep (acoustic) by Hillsong Young & Free

This song gets me every. single. time. God’s grace has been heavy in my mind and heart lately. I absolutely love closing my eyes and feeling His love wash over me. Check it out – I am including the acoustic version below because, well, acoustic music is my jam.

“Your love so deep, is washing over me. Your face is all I seek, You are my everything, Jesus Christ, You are my one desire, Lord hear my only cry, to know you all my life.”

Crank it, worship to it, and let His love wash over you too.

5 – Gratitude Lists

logo‘Tis the season! But seriously, gratitude lists are one of my favorite things ever. If you don’t have a notebook or journal you keep, check out this free printable download from Day Designer. I printed out a handful of them and keep them on a cute clipboard (Target $1 Spot!) in my kitchen. It only takes a brief minute each day to reflect on the beautiful, good blessings in your life. Stop what you are doing and go grab it!

Click here to Download

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Alright friends, that’s it! Who wants to help me come up with a clever, creative name for this monthly top 5 list? Comment below and I will pick my favorite! (And maybe you will even get a little surprise in the mail!)

Oh, and because we still need funnies, here are a few of the ones that got me this month!

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And lastly, to our veterans (and their sacrificial families), thank you. Thank you for your courage to stand for our freedom and for bravely believing this country is worth fighting for. I admire you so much and my gratitude can’t be put into words.

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Looking for the TTC Mug Exchange Sign-Up? Click here to submit your information by November 15th!

think positive.

Last week I was distractedly drying my hair, my phone propped up and one hand slowly scrolling through daily happenings of my friend’s lives, when my eye caught this image someone shared:

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The “Positivity” side of me cheered. I love this thinking! Stay positive and good things will happen! Hurray!

But then as I began working my brush through my tangled strands, I thought a little deeper.

Wait a second …. 

I think positive. I pray positive. I write in my gratitude journal, I preach His Words out loud to myself, I surround myself with positive people and books. So … why weren’t my big prayers being answered? Why weren’t my positive things happening?

The more I thought about this quote, the more restless I got.

IT’S A LIE!

You can’t simply think positive and have good things happen. Positive thinking doesn’t always equal positive outcomes.

What happens when you think positive and you don’t get the job you really wanted?

What happens when you think positive and your IVF cycle results in a negative?

What happens when you think positive and the miscarriage still occurs?

What happens when you think positive and the test doesn’t go well, your product line isn’t selling, your son is still addicted to drugs?

What then?

I think for many of us, it leaves us feeling like a failure, or even worse, like God has failed you.

You did all the right things. You believed, you had faith, you were positive! The quote told you positive things would happen! Which then leaves you to ponder, what happens when the prayers aren’t answered?

Can I tell you today that it doesn’t mean you failed? That you weren’t positive enough? That you aren’t enough?

Friends, when what we pray for doesn’t happen, fight the urge to get discouraged. Fight the urge to become bitter and give up. Lately, God has been stretching my heart and mind on prayer. He’s been smacking me with reminders of His desire for me to have wholehearted conversations with Him, to share the positive and not-so-positive thoughts on my mind. He’s been breathing the truth that no amount of positive thinking will alter the amount of influence He has in the outcomes of my life.

Now yes, I firmly believe that having a grateful, kind, positive heart will alter the attitude you carry with you each day. It will increase your joy, your ability to praise Him and help you see His hand a little bit more clearly. It’s demonstrating obedience to what He has commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT): “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. But it doesn’t mean that God will grant you extraordinary genie-like access to His power.

God loves us, so much. He is interested in every detail of our lives. He hears every prayer we pray. He never abandons us. Even when we don’t feel like our prayers aren’t being answered.

Here is what I think the quote should say:

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God-things are so much better than good things. God-things result in Him being glorified, our faith being strengthened, and our prayers really being answered. Timothy Keller says ““God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows.” Friends, HE KNOWS! Be reassured that He sees the big picture!

I finished blow drying my hair that day and was thankful for the chance to ponder the trust we have in Him. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? And friends, trust isn’t a single day thing – it’s an every day, eat-sleep-drink-repeat, sort of thing. He’s got this and because of that, we’ve got this.

Have you signed up yet for the TTC Mug Exchange? If not, click here by November 15th to join the fun! 

ttc mug exchange 2015.

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It’s time for our 2015 TTC Mug Exchange! Wooohooooo! Last time we had over 400+ ladies participate and it was a BLAST! All women in all phases of infertility (trying to conceive, pregnant, adopting, new mom, etc… more details on this below!) are invited to participate.I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

Before I share how to sign up participate, let me answer a few commonly asked questions about these exchanges: (even if you have done this before, I still suggest skimming this as things always change a bit!)

Who can participate?

Anyone who is currently trying to get pregnant, including those suffering from secondary infertility; those who have recently adopted, are in the process of adopting or searching for their new family member; anyone who is currently pregnant after dealing with infertility or recently having had a baby after a struggle and lastly, anyone who is using a gestational carrier, egg donor, sperm donor or surrogate.

Please note that while I will do my best to partner you with someone in a similar stage, you may be given anyone to purchase for. As this exchange grows, it has become increasingly more difficult to ensure that you get an equally appropriate match. My very best efforts are given! Just try to remember that you are encouraging another TTC sister no matter what their story is!

How does it work?

Once you sign up and get the name of the person you are sending to (more details below), you will work to put together an exchange box for them, including a coffee/tea cup/mug. You will be given a “send-by” date and I ask that you respect that date unless there are extreme circumstances. You will send and receive a box to the same person.

How much is this going to cost me?

Typically the suggested amount per box is $20 plus shipping. I don’t advise that you spend more than $20 but we definitely do have some generous women who put together a box worth more. Since not all mugs cost $20, you are able to fill the package with ANYTHING else that might make someone smile! Lucky socks, a special treat, a fun lipgloss or nail polish …. You can’t go wrong (unless you break the law) – this is definitely a situation where it’s the thought that counts.

I do ask that you invest in a lot of bubble wrap and a good box. It helps tremendously to ship it US Priority and get a tracking number just in case anything should happen during transit. (Plus it comes with $50 insurance!) No one wants to receive a shattered mug due to poor packaging!

Besides a mug, is there anything else I HAVE to include?

A note! Please include a card inside with a special word of encouragement for your new friend.

I live in the US/Canada/UK/Australia/etc, can I participate?

Yep! We always have women from all over the world participate and I think that is what makes it so much fun! HOWEVER, you will only be assigned an overseas person if you agree to be open to shipping internationally. (More about that below). I do ask that if you live outside of the US, that you be open to shipping internationally, as many of the participants are located in the United States, however I know that sometimes that’s not an option and that’s okay too. If I cannot find you a partner I will let you know.

What kind of mug do I need to send?

You can get ANY kind of mug. Travel, big, small, delicate, clunky. It could be a cute mug from your local coffee shop, something you ordered on Etsy, bought at Walmart, or ordered off Amazon. There are SO many adorable mugs out there – be creative! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – this can be a mug that you adore or that you think someone else would love.

Because shipping a mug can be tricky, there may be some women who just want to order a mug online and have it shipped directly to their person and then they can send a separate little box of surprises if they didn’t spend $20. (If you do this, take advantage of the “gift card” section in a order to let them know that’s what you are doing).

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

Our 2014 mug exchange had over 400 participants! It has certainly grown from it’s 30-person stage back in 2013. :)

What happens if I send a package but never get one back?

Ugh, guys, it does happen, I have to be honest. It doesn’t happen often but there are definitely a small handful of women each exchange that are subjected to a lost box, a flakey partner, or some other sort of weird circumstance. I will do my best to reach out to your sender once or twice but sometimes due to the sheer volume of participants, it just becomes impossible to make sure everything gets straightened out. From the very beginning of the exchanges I have warned participants that you have to come into this exchange with the understanding that you may not get a box. It stinks that there are some people that might taint this experience but I do promise that it is far and few between. I am a firm believer that it is a blessing to give and if you are one of the few unfortunate few that receives a shattered mug or nothing at all, just know that your gift has blessed someone else. So please understand the risks involved but know that you likely won’t have a problem! In exchange for my time coordinating this, I just ask that you follow through with your commitment to send a package, sound good? :)

Can I share this on my blog/with my instagram followers/on facebook/twitter/etc?

Of course! We LOVE new participants and their friends. Anyone in the infertility community is welcome to join in. We will be using the hashtag #TTCMugExchange2015 so feel free to share and let’s spread the love! (Also, if you want a live link, you can send them to this one: https://trialsbringjoy.com/mug-exchange-2015/

What are the dates I need to know in order to participate?

You will need to sign up no later than end of day Sunday, November 15th. That’s a good 10 days of time to sign up, spread the message and start brainstorming. You will then receive your exchange partner from me via email on either November 17 or 18 . (Because of the hours it takes to coordinate, I am not always able to get ALL the emails out on the same day. So if you see someone post that they got their person and you have not yet heard from me, it’s likely due to the amount of time it’s taking me to email everyone back individually. Do not panic!) Once you receive your person, you will have until Saturday, December 5th to put together your package and mail it out. Please make sure if you sign up that you are able to get your box out on time.

What happens when I get my package?

This is the fun part! I LOVE seeing all of the posts where people show off their package! Post your mug to social media and tag it with #TTCMugExchange2015 so we can all peruse the pictures. Send a shout out to your person, blog about it, Instagram it, do whatever you want to celebrate this fun exchange! I do understand too that there are many women who are not publicly sharing their infertility journey with others so know that you don’t have to share it publicly in order to participate. The key thing is that we offer encouragement and support to one another, even if that circle stays small.

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Click here to complete the form: **The Mug Exchange is now closed. Please join us in 2016 for another!**

I will close the exchange at midnight on the 15th (central time) and will not be able to accept stragglers after that.

2. Make sure you receive a confirmation page! This will verify that your entry has been received. If you need to make changes after it has been sent, please email me at ttcexchange @ gmail (dot) com.

3. Share! Let your friends know about the exchange! You can share my blog or instagram account so that they can find out more information. I feel awful when someone finds out “too late” and can’t participate so help me make sure no one gets left out. Again, use #TTCMugExchange2015 to share – the more the merrier!

4. Shop, write, smile and sip! Once assignments go out, shop and send out your package with an encouraging note. Then wait patiently and enjoy your mug once it arrives. Share the thoughtfulness of your new friend! I have seen so many amazing friendships form as a result of this exchange. Cell numbers are swapped, emails are exchanged – I have even seen friends plan trips to visit one another due to the friendship formed over a simple package! I LOVE THIS PART!

That’s it guys! I am so excited for this. These exchanges are among the highlight of my year. YIPPEE!!!!

Ready, set, GO!