TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

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It’s time for our 2016 TTC Mug Exchange! Wooohooooo! Last time we had nearly 800 ladies participate and it was a BLAST! All women in all phases of infertility (trying to conceive, pregnant, adopting, new moms, 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 Mug Exchanges have been doubling rapidly. Back in 2013, we had about 30 women, n 2014, we had over 400. Last year, we had nearly 800!  I am excited to see what this year brings!

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-2016/

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

You will need to sign up no later than end of day Tuesday, September 20th. That’s a good 2 weeks of time to sign up, spread the message and start brainstorming. You will then receive your exchange partner from me via email on either September 28 or 29. (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, October 15th 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 #TTCMugExchange2016 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:

http://tinyurl.com/jbsvye3

You will be routed to a Google Form. If for some reason, you have an extremely difficult time getting this form to work (it’s only happened 1-2 out of hundreds), you can email me at TTCExchange@gmail.com. (Please allow 24 hour for reply.)

I will close the exchange at midnight on September 20th (CST) 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.

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 #TTCMugExchange2016 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!

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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wish lists.

This post was written en route to Hawaii – I am now back home but just getting to posting it. Also, an updated fertility note and prayer request is at the end. Enjoy!

As I type this, I am sitting a trillion miles about the ground. Okay, not really a trillion but the clouds make me feel pretty high off the ground. It’s 11:18 pm and the outside world is pitch black. The inside of the plane glows with a few lights but the majority of the people are sleeping. Me on the other hand, well, I’m not sleeping. I just read a great quote in Finding Faith in the Dark and it got me thinking.

It said: “In the happiest days and in the hardest days, (we) learn that the present is where God lives and He doesn’t want to be anywhere else.”

If you are anything like me, I seem to love to live in the future, especially more recently. Perhaps it’s because the last few months have been tougher or perhaps it’s because I so badly want the future to hold miracles, sparkles, baby bumps and miraculous celebrations, but this statement made me freeze in my 26C seat.  Reality is that there’s a complete lack of control over the future so truthfully, where else can I be living, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t try. I feel like I have spent a significant amount of the last 6 years doing everything last minute, “Well I can’t commit to this visit because I don’t know where I will be in my cycle.” “Well, I would love to say I will be at this wedding but who knows, I could be pregnant and on bed rest.” “Well, I would love to buy a plane ticket to visit you in November, but who knows what that will look like if we do IVF again.” In fact, the only reason my Hawaii trip worked out was because it was SO last minute and I knew with my post-miscarriage cycle that I would be on birth control with no options. But let me tell you, that rarely happens.

So where does that lead me? It leads me to end up living in this half present-half future world. And I lose so much of ME as a result.

In the book, Laurie Short continues by saying “Our response to our circumstances encourage us to be present in our own lives, even when we face sorrow. And we should never stop looking for joy.”

I was floored by her ability to talk about great sorrow and searching for joy in the same sentence but as I unpacked those words, I realized how true and valid it is.Why is it so easy as Christians and as humans that we can get caught up in living in a world where our emotions, joy, happiness and contentment are so linked to our circumstances? I get it. We are humans, many of us reading women, people directed by emotions and powerful reactions to what is going on around us.

I think Jeremiah 29:11 is a common verse for many of us. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Those going through struggles, whatever they are – infertility, financial worries, difficult children, depression, loneliness, painful circumstances – are encouraged by these words. He plans to give us a future and a hope! We can do this! But today in processing these words, I read all of the verses surrounding this powerful this verse.

I connected immediately with the Message translation, even though all of the translations speak the verses beautifully, and I think you will appreciate the powerful words in whatever you are going through as well: “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and will bring you back home. I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you aren’t disappointed. God’s Decree: I’ll turn things around for you …. You can count on it.”

There are SO many powerful promises packed in these verses and the one that struck me the most was “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else…”

How many of you, like me, have been tempted to turn to God in prayer because you really want something? Something so deeply and passionately that you turn to what you hope is the magic genie of answered prayers to ask for it. Well, He said that when we pray, He will listen, which should automatically mean that my prayer request gets answered immediately. But man, how convicting is it that we need to come looking for Him and want Him more than ANYTHING ELSE?

Guys, there are many times I pray and think that I want Him more than anything else, but the selfish immature part of me wants Him more than anything else because if that happens, then for sure it means He will listen and answer my prayers. But this verse stuck me because it reminded me that I need to search for Him with all my heart with absolutely NO strings attached to the expectations of how He may (or may not) answer me. Yikes. Separating my really selfish heart between my wants for a child and my desire for Him is realllllllly hard.

So what does all of this mean? Well friends, I think it means that we need to start shaking off our ‘want list’ a bit and focus more on our true “Want List”, which simply is wanting Him more. More than our baby, more than the job promotion, more than the friends we hope to attain or the health that we hope to build back towards. Let me clarify, none of those things are wrong as long as we truly want Him more than any of those things. Because I promise you, nothing at all, ever, will be greater than the peace and serenity that Jesus Christ offers to us.

And what’s the end promise when our motives are pure and our heart is focused on the right things? God comes though. He turns things around. He doesn’t disappoint us. In fact, in His own words, “You can count on it.”

I think that deserves a big gigantic “amen”!

{Fertility Update/Prayer Request: I will be having an endometrial scratch done on Thursday morning. This is the first time I will be having one done and while I know they aren’t done often, feel confident that this is a positive step for us. The procedure itself is done by the doctor, in which he will go up into my uterus and gently “scratch” the lining with a thin catheter. Painful, yes, but I am certain that it will be short-felt.  The reason we are doing this is that there is research and evidence suggesting that scratching the uterine lining causes a ‘repair reaction’. This reaction is associated with increasing embryo implantation rates since there will be a little groove for the embryo to embed deeper into and the bodies healing process does increase blood flow and other positive side effects. While some clinics do this while the patient is sedated, my doctor doesn’t so if you could pray that it goes smoothly and is as pain-free as possible, that would be great. This procedure will usher in what we anticipate being our last IUI cycle which will begin in the next 2-ish weeks. I have been told to anticipate discomfort, cramps, and spotting in the days following so continued prayers for recovery would be great as well. If you have had any experience with an endometrial scratch, I’d love to hear it! Thanks friends!}

impact.

Every time we cycle I think “God, you have the platform to show everyone Your power!”. I wait expectantly for Him to show up, for Him to show that prayer does pay off, that He does hear us, that my faith isn’t resting in someone incapable. I often get discouraged afterwards, thinking “God!! You aren’t looking too good here! This was Your moment!” It isn’t a pride thing, I just genuinely want each and every person reading this to see the power of God at play, as well as the tender heart that He has.

That being said, with each failed cycle and with every miscarriage I wonder how it’s going to impact the people surrounding us. Is this going to cause someone to lose faith? Is this going to cause someone to doubt Him? I struggle with this battle of feeling pain from our own sadness but then also feeling like God is letting you down, those investing and trusting with us. I continue to pray that despite the failures and the pain that we are feeling, that you would still be comforted in whatever you are going through, that you stay hopeful that God can intercede in whatever your struggle is.

A week after we found out our March pregnancy wasn’t viable, I was doing some hardcore searching for how He was going to use this to impact others positively. That’s when I ran across a quote in a book that said “Looking back, my disappointment may have been the best gift I could have given (you). (You) need a God who is not just equated with blessings. (You) need a God who can walk with you in your pain.”

Reading that was like a healthy slap in the face. It was God’s way of saying Chelsea, the people around you don’t just need to see a God that always gives blessings, even though I can and do. These people around you right now need to see that I am also a God that walks with His children when they are hurting.

Friends, I ache for the day our prayers are answered and we can stand here and celebrate His incredible goodness, blessings and answered prayers. But I also am gripped to convey to you that until that day comes, and even if it never does, that our God is so much bigger than our unanswered prayer request. God is so faithful to meet us in our pain, our sorrow and our tears. I know how your heart is strangled with anxiety, with wondering if your time with ever come, if this painful season you are dealing with will ever go away. I understand that the thoughts that keep you up at night, whether they are about illness, finances, relationship struggles or job concerns, make you wonder why God is not stepping in. Why doesn’t He just make this all better? We are praying, aren’t we? We are doing everything we can to move in a positive direction and yet nothing is happening.

This doesn’t mean He isn’t in it. As hard as that is to believe, as hard as it is to understand, it doesn’t mean that He has abandoned you, me, us. Even when God isn’t doing exactly what we want Him to do, He is still God! It seems unfair, He seems silent, it feels hopeless. As I was driving away from the doctor’s office yesterday, I felt like an old truck with rusty, flat, crooked tires.

Kacha, kacha, thud, kacha. Rust falling off, age showing, no air to be found, thudding over and over and over again.

But it was then I realized that in order to see God sometimes, instead of just looking in the same place, we have to zoom out. We may feel worn, but then we have to pull back, widen our gaze, look for Him in the unexpected places, which is exactly where He was hidden to remind me that He is in this, if not simply for you. Maybe today He wants to remind YOU that He is in the hard moments and that while He can be a God of miracles, He also meets you in your pain, questions and sorrows.

In Finding Faith in the Dark, author Laurie Short writes “God not only shouts to us in our pain; He often shouts to others through it. In some mysterious way, pain moves through our lives to touch others.” 

This last week I have changed my prayer from that of “Let them see Your miraculous hand!” to one that prays “Let them find You in their pain.” I don’t want to be so focused on where I want God to be and how I want Him to act that I miss where He actually is. Today, this month, this week, He is waiting for me with arms of comfort, with a lap of peace and crawling next to me and reminding me to breathe.

He is faithful, even when He seems so unfaithful. I pray that our story, even in its hardships, refills your heart with the recognition that He is good, present, faithful and comforts us when we turn to Him. We can truly keep going, knowing that He has our backs.

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less of me.

When life gets busy, hormones get weird and my brain feels fuzzy, all my emotions seem a bit short circuited. I am a little more weepy, a little more reactive, a little less patient. Can anyone else relate? If I am being honest, an ugly version of me comes out. One that offers less grace, less mercy, and a whole lot less benefit of the doubt. I somehow feel privileged to feel that way (whatever it is) because I am tired/hormonal/hungry/busy/”working on it”.

Reasons I have cried in the last week:

Church was starting. My favorite coffee mug was clean. This video. Ellen gave away a hundred million things to her audience for 12-Days of Giveaways. Child actors did a great job at a play I saw. The 19-pound jar of pickles from Costco didn’t break when it fell from the fridge onto the floor. Getting tons of mail this week from friends, just because.

Okay, so having an extra dose of sappy tears added to my face isn’t the worst thing. But it’s the other side of the coin that I don’t like.

It’s the way I muttered “COME ON!” to the lady slowly merging into my lane on the highway. (Really though, at a snail’s pace.) It’s the way I gave an exasperated sigh to the child who kept cutting me off in the busy aisles of Target. It’s the way I nearly trampled a man to get to this coffee table I am sitting at now. Rushed. Busy. A lack of patience.

This season especially, if you are anything like me, you are finding yourself rushed and busy, hopping from place to place, commitment to commitment, trying to cram in time to stop at the mall to buy that one gift, wrap all the presents (cutely of course, because they may show up in a picture and they have to be Pinterest perfect), and cram packages in the mail for distant family. My brain is chalk full of DON’T FORGET!!!!!!’s, and as a result I am seeing people a lot less. Really seeing people. You know, the kind of seeing people that looks behind their physical presence and takes a minute to stop and make eye contact, smile. I was paused particularly long at a stop sign on the way over (Where are all these people coming from!?!) when I noticed a man caught in the mass of moving crosswalk people. He reminded me of my dad, an ordinary man in his 50’s, in his khaki pants with his button up shirt, work lanyard around his neck. He walked with purpose (likely to cross the street because he could feel my inpatient stop sign rage) and his eyes looked a million miles away.

What was his story?

I stopped at the stop sign a bit longer than needed, temporarily caught up in the realization that each of these pedestrians had delicately woven lives. They have financial burdens, maybe going through a death of a family member or the stress of dealing with a wild child. They may be facing a diagnosis or are worrying about what will happen if their furnace stops working before month’s end.  The thing is, every person we encounter is going through something. And yet, me with my self-absorbed head, just keeps running around completely oblivious that a little extra grace and patience might just be what this person needs.

Our worship leader at church prayed these words recently and they have stuck with me – “Let us show others unnecessary kindness.”

Maybe that sales lady at Gap didn’t mean to give me a look and even if she did, the returned look back isn’t going to help matters. A smile in return may be just what she needs. (And sometimes even if kind gestures backfire, I can’t say I didn’t try.) Perhaps the slow-merging driver is just a nervous driver or distracted by the racing thoughts of her mind. Slowing down long enough to let her over and then not trying to prove a point with a dramatic slowdown isn’t really going to impact my day significantly. In fact, it’s showing a lot less of His love and only steals my joy as I let circumstances dictate my emotions.

I want my eyes to be open to others this Christmas season. I don’t want to find excuses for my attitude or the busyness. I want to move more in slow motion and less in fast forward, even if it means embracing the random tears and exuding more patience that I feel.

Right before I began typing this post, I scribbled these words in my prayer journal (not with the intention to share so ignore my messy handwriting, hehe):

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Less of me. More of Him. Less busy, more intentionality. We can do this. 15 days till Christmas, let’s enjoy them.

PS – Day 3 of letrozole today! Oh come on Lord … do your thing! Next appointment to check in on things is Monday the 15th. Keep us in your prayers. 

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PPS – Have you had the time to check out my post on Fertility Authority yet? If not, help me out by clicking and reading today! Every click helps me reach my monthly goals :) Thanks!

 

friendship.

You know what is beautiful? Friendship. Community. People. More and more each day I become keenly aware of the gift I have been given of those that surround me. There is something special about being able to pick up the phone and call a friend, just to chat about the day or pass along a funny story. There is something beautiful about sitting over a cup of coffee in a living room or coffee shop and laughing (or crying) as you share what’s on your heart. Friendship takes time. It takes real investment, open hearts and the willingness to let others in.

Friendship takes vulnerability. It requires raw conversation with the ability to “go there” without doing permanent damage, which requires a deep trust. That trust is built over time, each trial and opportunity building another level to the foundation of friendship.

True friendship is sinking down into the depths of who we really are. Have you ever seen that quote that says “You, too? I thought I was the only one.” True friendship is giving someone something in which they can say that back to you. It’s opening up and being vulnerable, a word that is so hard to whisper these days since we aren’t sure what the response will be.

Shauna Niequist writes “We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk.”

The thing about friendships though is that they aren’t one way. Many of us have been stung by someone we thought was a friend, that we shared with or supported in their own time of need, but left us abandoned and alone when we needed them. Or perhaps we put ourselves out there, shared that emotional vulnerable story, only to be met with silence, a little awkwardness and a significant absence of phone calls and texts returned. It burns. But it doesn’t mean we give up. Sure, when a “friend” begins to let you down routinely and consistently, with no remorse or causes you pain and makes you feel inferior, there is a time to leave that friendship alone and stop the pursuit. That is necessary because we need to have heart boundaries. However keep in mind that there are seasons where one will give more than they receive and vice versa. I call it the teeter tauter of friendship. We give support, we watch one rise, we cheer them on and help them when they are in need, and when the roles change and the weight of life shifts, the other gets to step up and lend a hand, provide more listening than talking, and stepping up as you did for them. It’s not about receiving all you give, but it’s about balance.

Community is a precious thing, one never to be taken for granted. Know who your people are. Invest in them, both ways, in the good times and in the bad. We can’t do it all and be it all to everyone, this lesson I am painfully learning. But with true friends, the walls fall down, the shyness fades, the conversation about REAL life happens and we talk through the hidden places.

Give it time. Take the risk. Give up the control of being perceived as perfectly as you have crafted. Make it a priority to let your people know how much they mean to you. “The closer you get to someone, the more that friendship gives you and the more force and power it has to make your life bigger and richer.” (Shauna Niequest)

I want my life to be rich. I want others to know how much I care about them in a tangible, heart-warming, comforting way.

My community around me has blessed me so significantly more than I can communicate. Between dropping off meals while I have been on bed-rest after treatments or surgeries, to covering my volunteer shifts at church, to placing an order through the fundraiser – to THROWING the fundraiser, to sending more cards and packages than my little heart can handle, to dropping off a coffee, making a phone call, liking a status … It’s helped me continue to open up, be vulnerable, and give me the strength to help reach others and remind them that God is there. Because of the support of my people, my friends, my world, I can keep pushing forward each day.

Are you in a place where your world feels empty and such community feels foreign to you? I invite you to begin the simple prayer of praying that the Lord brings someone into your life to fill that hole. I am a strong advocate of getting connected in a small group or Bible study as a first step! But I know personally how hard it can be to go through seasons of life without anyone there. I can remember times in my life when I was just praying for someone to connect with, who got me, who I could be ME with. And boy, has God answered those prayers through time and vulnerability. Perhaps you can begin praying over friendships that have slipped away due to negligence or pride. I know that God doesn’t want you to be alone and wants to offer you the richness that comes with friendship. If I can join you in praying for this, I would love to. Please comment below or send in a private email and I promise to be lifting you up in prayer this week.

Lastly, can I share a beautiful act of kindness that was bestowed to me a few weeks ago? I was meeting over coffee with Julie, a sweet friend of mine who I met through a high school friend (and connected with on Instagram – love that). She leaned over and handed me a small box. I carefully began opening its tender corners as she excitedly explained this gift and why she was passing it on to me. (I have to admit I was so touched and overwhelmed that I forgot to listen to it and had to have her email me details again, haha!).

She shared that a few years back, a dental patient of hers had found out that Julie and her husband were struggling with infertility and were trying to have a baby through surrogacy.  4 months later, this patient returned with the box that was now in my hands. The patient, L, told Julie she went back to China to visit her family and brought her back this baby gift, for the baby she was going to have eventually. L gifted Julie with these Chinese fertility statues which were made to help keep “the house full”. She had taken them from her Grandmother’s home while visiting, and that Grandmother had them for over 50 years. L passed these onto Julie, who a short 4 months later found out her surrogate was expecting their little son, Ethan, who is now 1, and Julie tucked them away in Ethan’s room, grateful for the kind gesture of L.

Julie handed these dolls over to me, sharing that while neither of us believes in the superstition behind the fertility dolls, the gesture and the thoughtfulness that rests in passing these down from woman to woman who struggles, is one of the sweetest things. These little statutes now sit out and remind me of the value of friends, hope, and prayers that one day, “our house will be full.” I love them.

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And as Josh Garrels so beautifully sings “Weave your heart into mine, my friend.”

XOXO!

Chelsea

the aftermath.

My heart is so full. This last week in Chicago was so wonderful. The time spent with friends and family was so special and the Storyline Conference gave me an opportunity to explore what’s inside of me. I never would have labeled myself a creative person but after sitting in a room with some amazing people, I realized how much I have inside me that I want to get out and share. Sometimes I have these ideas, thoughts, stories, and emotions trapped inside my chest, churning to get out and trying to find the right words to express what I am feeling. Sometimes they escape and other times they remain bottled up inside, waiting for the right time to spring forth.

I don’t know where to start or if I will ever all get it all out. Truthfully, I battle with wondering if anyone even cares – not in a pessimistic “wah, no one cares about me” way because I feel quite the opposite – super loved and cared for. No, I mean it more in a “why would people want to read the random babblings of my brain?” And questioning, am I too out there? Are people just being nosey or do they actually care about what I am learning or this journey we are on?

Writing is one of the most vulnerable things I have ever done. Or as Shauna Niequist eloquently puts it, “Writing for me feels like getting naked in public.” It rips me open and often times I press “pubish” and have immediate regret. Do they understand what I was trying to say? Did I share too much? Did I offend someone? Will people look at me differently? Are people going to understand …. me?

What do I want? I don’t know truthfully. I have so many dreams flying around my head and this conference has only made it more real to me that I have a story that needs to be told – that I want to tell. The story isn’t important because of what we have gone through with infertility, the story is important because stories are what connects us to one another. The highs and lows that we share as a community are beautiful things and I pray that in the end, my story brings Him immense glory. Sharing our stories with one another, as muddled and beautiful as they are, is what creates a presence in one another’s lives. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Goodness, it would be far too painful and lonely.

There is something sacred when vulnerable words are shared but there is a fear as well. When I share my story with you, I try to be as authentic and unedited as possible. But then there are these tiny things that sneak up and whisper to me that it’s not enough. That this post isn’t good. That my stories don’t make sense. That people are whispering behind my back. How do I cope with that reality? I think the only way to do that is to keep writing. To keep stretching myself and to keep putting my heart out on this page. My blog isn’t fancy. It doesn’t have a web designer and there aren’t fancy visuals to click on. There are no sponsors, but it has you – my readers. People who jump in and share their hearts with me. Who read my writing and somehow, in the strings of words I have to offer, understand me.

This conference is helping me flush out what I want. “What do you want to do with your story?” And as I process this, and again it’s still very new, the thing that rests so heavily on my heart is the word encouragement. And I don’t quite know what to do with that yet. I know that I personally love to encourage others and am deeply touched by words of encouragement. Words have a richness that can fill you up. After sitting down with many wonderful friends this past week and sharing real life, encouraging talks, I’m walking around feeling full to my brim.  My heart feels like it’s literally pushing against the skin of my chest and my fingertips feel tight and heavy and beautiful. Words, friendships, encouragement, questions, messiness, resolutions to be made, forgiveness that needs to be accomplished and the grace needed to keep pushing forward is beautiful.

So where does that leave me? What do I do with this word encouragement that’s on my heart? Part of me wants to run around and encourage everyone to embrace where they are at right now. To help others find the beauty that’s in the present moment. I want to help others sift through the tears, the sorrow, the frustration, the anger, the bitterness, and to somehow find the goodness, richness and beauty that is in the now. We can’t live a life trying to get from here to there, because when you get there, you are just simply in your new here. I truly don’t believe that any one thing in life will ever truly fulfill us because I don’t know that our humanness is capable of contentment outside of Him. Nothing we obtain will change your heart to value how special being here is.

We have a special gift where we can turn our sorrow and pain into pieces of our puzzle that come together to make something full, complete and rich with detail.  I believe that somehow my story, my messiness, my longing for a family, the children we have lost, the endurance I have had to put forth, is all molding me and crafting me to be a better person here in this moment right now.

I am so grateful that we have woken up this morning and are given a chance to even try to make a difference. That we are able to be in our here. I don’t know what my life will look like in 2, 3, 5, 10 years. But what I do know is that I want to be a person who didn’t waste these days of waiting. I wholeheartedly ache to comfort every reader with His love. I wish so badly that you all could take a piece of my fullness right now. I am thankful for the friends I got to visit with while in Chicago, grateful for the words that God used from their mouths to touch my heart and fill me. The value of community and friendships should never go unrecognized.

Thank you all for your prayers as I attended this conference. Now I get to wrestle with what’s next. I think beautiful things are ahead, even if they are smudged with dirt and ashes and have broken edges at times. I pray that God’s richness falls over our lives, a richness that doesn’t come with answered prayers or things, but that comes with His presence in our lives, His peace, His comfort and the ability to rest in that.

(And of course, we can’t end without a few photo’s from the week!)

Yes, I got to meet, talk to, cry with/on and hug Shauna Niequist who you all know is an author I so greatly admire!

Yes, I got to meet, talk to, cry with/on and hug Shauna Niequist who you all know is an author I so greatly admire!

Lauren <3

Lauren <3

My cousin Brittany and my Nana ... Grandpa Tedd and Brad, I know you are sad you missed out on the photo shoot. :) Love my family!

My cousin Brittany and my Nana … Grandpa Tedd and Brad, I know you are sad you missed out on the photo shoot. :) Love my family!

Candice <3

Candice <3

Carolyn and her two littles. I'm certain they adored being dressed like reindeers for our amusement. :)

Carolyn and her two littles. I’m certain they adored being dressed like reindeers for our amusement. :)

My Uncle Chuckie who's heart, kindness and outlook on life is so special.  <3

My Uncle Chuckie whose heart, kindness and outlook on life is so special. <3

Julie, Jenny and their kiddos. <3

Julie, Jenny and their kiddos. <3

(Katie — how did we not get a picture together? Apparently closing down a restaurant omits photo time. Boo! Auntie Pammy, Uncle Jimmy, James and Nick, thanks for opening up your home to me. I love spending time with you all and love you guys so much more than words can say! And thanks for sharing your neighborhood squirrel with me too.)

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PS – Did you miss my previous post on the lessons to be learned from beanie babies? Click here to check it out!

PPS – Coming on Sunday …. an update to our infertility story including a new plan of action and exciting way for you to get involved!