Holiday Bucket List – Part 2

The Bucket List is complete! Hurray! What a fun project it’s been this holiday season – definitely something that I will do each year. It motivated me to do things I may not have done otherwise and created a lot of smiles. Let’s see, where did we leave off …

Well, I had to drop off my Toys for Tots donation. The collection boxes near our house said they were collecting them through the 21st. Unfortunately when I went there the evening of the 21st, it had already been picked up. Josh and I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and called around to a few more drop off locations only to find no one still had their box out. Bummer! So instead, we just made an online donation. I’m counting that!

Okay, we still had to Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Home Alone 2 and we got both of those done. Josh and I snuggled up one chilly evening and laughed our way through Jim Carrey’s version (I always watch the cartoon one while wrapping gifts) and then my sister joined us for Home Alone 2 last Friday night. Check and check!

All movies - watched!

All movies – watched!

Now, the one item on the list I was panicking over the most was recruiting my sister to reenact a childhood Christmas photo. My parents had my grandparents staying with them over the holidays and I knew digging out the old albums and locating a picture that was doable to react would be a little tough. But one text to my mom and she quickly sent over this one of my sister and I. (Although she seemed to crop herself out – come on Mom! Early 90’s hair is hot!)

Look at those sweet faces! Ha!

Look at those sweet faces! Ha!

So Courtney and I decided to hit up Goodwill in hopes to find the perfect shirt and jewelry to match. I was relieved that we found two shirts so similar (and the red beads too!). Instead of buying the shirts that we would never wear again, we jumped into a dressing room and giggled our way through a photo shoot. The only thing better than trying to recreate it was having to throw up lines as we pretended we were trying on clothes. “Oh, I like that one on you.” “Do you think this one hits me at the wrong spot on my hips?” “Ohhh, I don’t think that is your color.” Afterwards, we realized anyone watching from the outside would have noticed our feet barely moved as we “tried clothes on”. HAHA! But I think it was a valiant effort …. and one that will likely never appear on my to-do again. (Huge thanks to my sister for helping me with this!!! I personally think you look awesome with the multiple chins.)

Well .... we tried.

Well …. we tried.

Next up –  Go sledding! I don’t think I have been sledding since high school, when I flew off my sled and smashed my head into a metal garbage can. (Before they realized putting metal cans at the bottom of an icy sledding hill was a bad idea.) My father-in-law created a fun tubing hill in his backyard and I had a blast running down the twisty hill over and over again. Cali, of course, wanted to be part of the fun and would follow me up the hill, hop on my lap and wait to go down. I secretly think she loved passing Bella, their yellow lab, and boasting in the fact that she was getting a free ride. So much fun!

Down we go!!!

Down we go!!!

Check this one off the list too!

Check this one off the list too!

Building a snowman seemed like an easy to-do item, especially being that we live in snowy Minnesota. However our problem has been that the snow we have is the powdery kind, not at all the good packing snow that would make for a durable snowman. So Josh and I had to be creative and that resulted in a Cali sized snowman, complete with a homemade scarf, a Dove chocolate wrapper hat and some button eyes made of coal crumbled leaves. I think Cali had fun visiting her new little friend before some Christmas Eve snow took him out!

Hysterically small.

Hysterically small.

I figured as long as I was bundled up for the snowman building, I should just jump in the snow and make a snow angel. I couldn’t stop laughing and treated my family to a great Randy reenactment video from the Christmas Story as I attempted to get up afterwards. I am nearly certain Josh got some good blackmail video on me as I attempted to just “fall back” into the snow. It was worth the laugh.

Hahahaha!

Hahahaha!

I had quite a few people suggest that I buy new pajamas for Christmas morning (extra points if I match my sister) and I am so glad it made the list! Courtney and I rocked some comfy new jammies Christmas morning and it was worth the purchase.

Matching pajamas ... check!

Matching pajamas … check!

And last but not least, looking at stars with Josh on a cold, snowy night. The sky up here was so clear one night and the star were shining so bright. It was fun and special to stop for a moment and take in the winter sky with him. I wish I had a picture to show you of how beautiful the sky was that night, but it just looks like a black photo. Darn!

I can’t believe it’s completed. It was the perfect amount of items to make it do-able, yet challenging. I am already brainstorming what’s going to be on it next year. Thanks for joining me on this fun adventure!

On a different note, we made it safely and peacefully through Christmas and the anniversary of our first miscarriage. I am so thankful for the stillness that filled my heart as the days went by and know that it was nothing short of your prayers and His presence that made the joy possible. We kept busy and the distraction was a good thing. I did find the nights leading up to it be to a little harder than I expected. Something about the silence of the night, the sleepiness of the body and the ability for the mind to race caused some tears to be shed, but they were cathartic tears and ones shed more in memory of our little ones than out of sadness.

Pinterest, Instagram and Social Media are filled with posts about people being ready for 2013 to be over with. Yes, 2013 was a tough year. But without it, I wouldn’t be who I am at the end of 2013. I wouldn’t know what I was capable of and I would have missed out on many laughs and special moments. I know the new year brings people new hope – hope of a better year, perhaps a new relationship or a pregnancy, maybe it’s a new job or a fresh start at something – but the truth is, you don’t need a digit to change on the calendar for that to happen. As these last 3 days of 2013 play out, I wonder how we would each live today if we were told we would never live a day in 2014. I guarantee these next 3 days would be days of accomplishments and heartfelt conversations, days of joy and fulfillment. Not days spent wanting to fast forward. We have the opportunity each day to wake up with renewed hope, joy and a fresh start. To make today count. To make it matter to someone other than ourselves. Every new morning gives us a chance to smile at a stranger. To compliment a co-worker who seems to be having a hard day. To pay for the coffee of someone behind us in line or spend some extra time on the phone with Grandma, listening to her stories. Don’t try to rush these last few days of 2013, because I can promise you this, 2014 will have its own trials as well. All we can do is live in this moment, because our future is not guaranteed. Our relationships will change and if we don’t have our prioritized set correctly, we will somehow blaze through another year feeling unfilled and empty.

I do love how each year seems to hold a new lesson for me. 2012 was a year spent learning about gratitude – applying Philippians 4:6-7 to my life and praying with thanksgiving. 2013 was spent learning more about hope and being reminded that “my only Hope is in Him.” (Psalm 39:7b). So what will 2014 be about? Joy. I can already feel the Lord beginning to teach me on a deeper level that my joy needs to come solely from Him. Not from circumstances or earthy things, but simply rooted in Him. I can’t wait to explore this even more in 2014!

So friends, let’s savor these last few moments of this year. We will never again have another December 29, 30 and 31st of 2013. Let’s make new memories and make today count. Cheers!

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Christmas.

Apparently I was not the only one who thought running to Target on Sunday evening was a good idea. I am not sure if it was the extra 10% off that caused the excess crowds or if it was the fact that it was a few days before Christmas, but whatever it was, Target was a zoo.

I mean it. I saw two ladies ram carts to get to the last bag of hanging cheddar cheese. I saw a small child nearly rolled over with a cart as a man tried to maneuver something in the way back on the bottom shelf. I myself even had to use a throat cleaning technique or two as I tried to pass through the bakery scene. People were abandoning their carts and running for the items they needed. It reminded me of a scene from a store the day before Y2K. (Remember that? We all thought the world was going to end? What was going to happen to the computers!?!?)

An item on my list was bacon and I knew this would be a congested spot. I pulled up to the section and stood back quietly to watch the animals shoppers fight. As I stood aside waiting for the perfect opportunity to dart in and grab what I needed, I couldn’t help but notice an adorable little girl, about 4, standing with her mom and baby brother next to me. I smiled at her as she noticed me watching and then it came.

“Hi. Where’s your baby?”

All my mind could think was “Is this a joke?”, yet I managed to smile (as I assumed tears and a pained cry might frighten her and everyone around me) as I gritted back “Oh hi, I don’t have a baby.”

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My heart was racing. Just a few minutes earlier as I was walking through the produce, I was struggling with sadness as I remembered just last year on this day, I knew I was pregnant. Memories of surprise onsies and telling-the-parents videos had been creeping up my throat as I was shopping the aisles and the question asked was like a dagger to my heart.

But why don’t you have a baby?”

Thankfully at this point the mom became aware of the conversation and stepped in. “Honey, not everyone has a baby.” Then trying to change the subject, she turned to me and asked which brand of bacon was on the Cartwheel this week. (Answer: the sold out one). But instead of being able to answer, the little girls voice chimed in again.

But why? Why don’t you have a baby too?”

Her persistence was admirable. She wanted an answer. I now was looking a little like this:

giphy

She must have sensed that a response was not coming. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to sit her down and say “Well, sometimes people have a hard time making a baby. And then you need shots and pills and surgeries. And then sometimes you get a baby in your tummy and then that baby dies. Merry Christmas.” So in order to avoid any appalled looks from her Mom, I choose to stay silent, my eyes darting around trying to locate ANY bacon at this point so I could make a run for it.

Well, you should have a baby.”

Her last words were said so sweetly and with them, I grabbed some weird off brand bacon, nothing like the kind I wanted, spurt out a “bye” and ran away. (And by ran, I mean made it a foot with my cart before crashing into people waiting to get down aisles.)

My, what a year will do. For me, it’s been a tough couple days remembering this time last year. I am trying not to dwell on it, as I know it won’t change things, but still am working to acknowledge my sadness and process through it as it pops up.

This time last year, our home was filled with special memories like our first positive test, first baby bump pictures, and excited cries as we told our families. After I miscarried I thought that there would be no way that I wouldn’t be pregnant by the holidays this year because we would do whatever it took for that to happen. Well, we did whatever we could and I still sit here with the emptiness I never wanted to feel at Christmas.

Infertility at Christmas can bring out tough emotions. There seems to be something about holidays that grows an entirely new set of “what if” and “when will I” thoughts and memories. We see cousins growing up and it makes our hearts sad that the cousin won’t be close in age. We see parents, grandparents and great grandparents getting and acting older and our brains start to panic, worrying that our children will never know “this version” of them. We receive the announcement Christmas cards in the mail and we reflect back to the fact that if this or that cycle had worked, we would have been {insert number here} weeks along and sending out a similar card. We fill up our carts with gifts for nieces, nephews, and adopted families in need and wonder if we will ever be able to wrap a gift for our own child. As we sit around the Christmas tree, it stings as we realize another season is passing by in brilliant colors around us, while our colors feel a little muted and dull. The ache and longing feels like a gigantic gapping, bleeding hole and the smiles plastered on can feel so brittle that one wrong question asked and you might just crack.

Truth is, I didn’t expect to be spending Christmas this way. And I know that for many of those reading this, you weren’t expecting it for yourself either. But, I have good news… God is a God of impossibles.

Perhaps this journey has pushed you back further and you think “well if God really loved me, He would have given me a baby by now.” Don’t you wish that God was a magic genie that would just make every dream and desire come true exactly when we asked? I imagine Heaven is a mixture of praises and answered prayers, but on earth here today we are stumbling through a sinful world of imperfect people and bodies. There isn’t a “That Was Easy” button on every prayer prayed and our challenge today is to learn to be grateful and view TODAY, with your present circumstances and situation, as a day given to you out of love from our Father. May we be filled with hope that with His grace and goodness, there will be another tomorrow and with that comes the patient expectation of answered prayers and miracles worked.

You see, Christmas is one of the most beautiful reminders to me that God can do anything. Now struggling with infertility, I feel like I have a deeper significance of appreciation for the words “behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son … It doesn’t make sense. In fact, it is IMPOSSIBLE. Yet, it happened. So often I forget the wait that was involved prior to Mary’s pregnancy by God’s people as they waited and waited for the King to arrive. But alas, at the right time, to the right set of parents, that miracle was performed.  

The rest of the verse above (Matthew 1:23) goes on to say “…, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means, God with us.” The great news is that God is with us. We never have to fight this battle alone. Whatever battle you are facing today, whether it’s infertility like us, or something else, we have the presence of an Almighty God standing with us.

Friends, Christmas is upon us. It may look different than what we hoped, but let us celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth, knowing that “with God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37) And let us bring our sadness humbly to His feet and walk away with renewed hope in the year that is to come and with gratitude for the day He has given us in today. Keep believing, keep fighting and keep praying. I hope you all have a WONDERFUL Christmas.  

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Holiday Bucket List – Part 1

Oh this Bucket List has been so much fun to work on over this holiday season! Truly, the holidays can be a painful reminder of the children we don’t have to set on Santa’s lap, so the distraction has not only been greatly appreciated, but it’s prompted us to create many new memories and I love that! Here’s a quick update on how we are doing:

Well … my first Holiday Bucket List (HBL) item was to Put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. I sat down after Thanksgiving to get the checklist from the website and find the nearest drop-off location only to find that the boxes are due before Thanksgiving and I missed the whole thing already. That would figure right? Way to start off on a great foot, haha! So instead, I decided to take my HBL item of Volunteer at an organization over the holidays and volunteer AT Operation Christmas Child. And then add a Toys for Tots donation to the list in lieu of the shoebox. Phew. So with that note, I have yet to drop off my tots gift (I have till the 21st) but did embark down to Bloomington, MN with my sister last week to volunteer at Operation Christmas Child! What an amazing experience it was! My job on the line was to remove contraband (glass, military/weapons toys, liquids, etc) and add fillers to the box if it was a little empty (things like soap, stickers, stuffed animals, etc). All I can say is that opening those shoeboxes and seeing the care people put into making them was amazing. And it was incredibly touching to realize that this small $1 yoyo and sheet of glittery star stickers would be the only Christmas gifts these children would received. I LOVED seeing the boxes that were clearly crafted by a child. They would include their school picture and adorable notes on the top of the shoebox, explaining the items or introducing themselves. It was a beautiful reminder in this season of how BLESSED we are for all that we have. I loved every minute of it and it will absolutely be an annual event going forward.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

I have had an uncomfortable, yet awesome time of Intentionally acknowledge bell ringers outside of stores instead of avoiding eye contact. I am always impressed with their ability to stand still outside in the cold single digit temps, shaking their bell and attempting to sing. I have enjoyed tossing my change in there and saying Merry Christmas, leaving with a smile. (And have no picture to prove that this has been taking place so take my word for it.)

This last Saturday evening we crossed off three more items. Drive around aimlessly for at least 30 minutes looking at holiday lights, Visit a house that has a live music/light show and Visit a live nativity scene. First of all, can I just say “thank you” to all of those people who work so hard to put up outdoor Christmas lights? I remember as a child visiting a neighborhood in Westchester, IL that we called “Candy Cane Lane” where the majority of the neighborhood put out beautiful lights. The subdivision would turn into a slow crawl as cars would pull in and out of the streets, creeping by each house as our eyes tried to take it all in. It has always been a favorite childhood memory of mine and Saturday evening reminded me of those special memories. We started off the evening at the live nativity, which was truly, just beautiful. If you have never been to a live nativity, I highly recommend finding one in your area. I am so thankful for the hosting church and the volunteers who put it on. It was a “drive thru” one, meaning we simply drove around a loop, stopping at each scene, where a verse was posted about the Christmas story and volunteers stood still, acting out the verse. Between the people, live sheep and camels and powerful verses, it suddenly brings to life what Christmas really means. Josh narrated and read the verses outloud as we drove past, while I unsuccessfully choked back tears. One of my favorite memories from the bucket list thus far!

The live nativity ... and left with a powerful message on the last sign!

The live nativity … and left with a powerful message on the last sign!

And then we visited a house that has a light show set to music on a private radio station and that was so fun to visit. (We still have one more house that does this that we would like to get to this year!). And then we drove around, looking up houses to visit that are known for their lights. There were many beautiful ones … and then this lovely one as pictured below that took blow-ups in the yard to an extreme. Hahah, we loved it!

A shot of the house whose lights were coordinated to the music.

A shot of the house whose lights were coordinated to the music.

How's this for having the front yard decorated?

How’s this for having the front yard decorated?

Alright, next on the list was to try eggnogg. I knew I couldn’t consume a lot of sugar and didn’t have the interest in making homemade eggnog knowing I could only have a sip so I took the recommendation of the nice lady in Cub Foods and bought a container. And with Josh and my sister Courtney on my side, we tried it. And all I can say is I have a nearly full container of eggnog in my fridge if anyone is interested! :)

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We had good intentions to like this!

We had good intentions to like this!

Next on the list was to Go ice skating at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis. I recruited my sister and her boyfriend to join me on this one and we spent a lovely Friday morning relearning to ice skate. It must have been 10 years since I had ice skated last and I have gained an entirely new appreciation for those who make this look simple. It was a challenge, but a fun one, and I am thankful we ventured out on the ice.

Skating fun!

Skating fun!

Josh and I have been working our way through our Christmas Movie list on free evenings. So far we have watched Elf, Christmas Story, and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Josh added an “honorary” movie to the list, so we have also watched Home Alone and will also try to get Home Alone 2 in there too. So two more movies left to watch and we still have a week left. I think we can do it!

Four classics!

Four classics!

I had so many awesome invitations from others to help complete my Attend a Christmas concert of some sort item. I couldn’t help but excitedly accept the invitation to 3-year old Mallory’s Christmas concert. Let me tell you, you haven’t been to a Christmas concert until you have been to one that has tons of tiny children sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It truly blessed my heart. Plus I got to see one of the cutest stable piggies ever too! So special!

How adorable is she!?

How adorable is she!?

The last item I have completed thus far is Paying for someone’s meal/drink behind me in a drive thru. This was a fun one that I did while grabbing an iced tea from McDonalds. It was fun to bless the minivan behind me and hopefully they enjoyed their lunch.

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Alright, that leaves about a week to accomplish a few more … I think I can do it. Thanks for following along!!

  • Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Home Alone 2
  • Recruit my sister to reenact a childhood Christmas photo
  • Go sledding
  • Build a snowman. Perhaps a Cali sized one.
  • Make a snow angel
  • Buy new pajamas for Christmas morning. (Extra points if I match my sister)
  • Look at stars with Josh on a cold, snowy night

I have so much more to update y’all with …. and plan to soon. In summary, the naturopathic route has been going well all things considered. I knew the detox and adjusting to this much slower way of cycling would take a lot of time to get used to and it has. But I am continuing to try to keep moving forward with a good attitude and a hopeful expectation of the answers to prayer to come. Oh and I have also started doing heat yoga, which is TOTALLY new for me and will have to share some fun stories in the posts to come. Good news so far is I haven’t passed out!

Lastly, I want to wish my friend Charity over at The Word of a Nerd a Happy First Blogiversary!! She has invited to me help her celebrate and is an amazing Christian lifestyle blogger. Check our her blog today and also, have a chance to win some awesome giveaways!

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Alright all, hope you have a wonderful rest of your week and are enjoying the season we are in. Try your best not to let your expectations of the holidays overshadow what this time is all about! XOXO!