shoulders.

Oh hello April, when did you arrive?

It feels a little foreign sitting down to write a post again, although I have already written a million of them in my head over the last few weeks. How do I compact some of the toughest, yet most comforting 2 weeks of my life in one blog post? Well, I don’t. I don’t know that I am ready to write and share all I have been learning quite yet and want to allow the scabs to heal a bit more before opening them back up. That being said, I do imagine starting to peel back these lessons and emotions with you, slowly, like a stinky layered onion, because I know many of you can and will relate.

We spent the last week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We had a spring break trip planned with Josh’s family for a while and it hung out there as a tentative trip as we went through our IUI, got pregnant, lost the pregnancy and then waited to see what my beta numbers would do and if our doctor would clear me to go. Thankfully 2 days before take off, we got the okay to pack our bags and boy, was it a perfectly timed and needed trip.

Airport Starbucks ... Check!

Airport Starbucks … Check!

Two cute travel nieces ... check!

Two cute travel nieces … check!

Delicious ceviche!

Delicious ceviche!

Gorgeous sunsets.

Gorgeous sunsets.

A fun adventure parasailing.

A fun adventure parasailing.

A beautiful ocean hut we occupied daily.

A beautiful ocean hut we occupied daily.

Lots and lots of sunglasses and smiles. <3

Lots and lots of sunglasses and smiles. <3

Date nights.

Date nights.

Celebrating my MIL's birthday.

Celebrating my MIL’s birthday.

Boardwalk nights with my man.

Boardwalk nights with my man.

I spent most of my days floating in the pool, reading books and observing the world going on around me. One afternoon, two young boys, likely about 10 or 11, joined me by the island where I was lazily resting my legs by the wall as I floated. They were about 4 feet to my left, swimming back and forth from under the waterfall to the island, when they decided their next activity would be diving.

The one boy, we can call him Brad for the sake of the story, swam up to the side of the pool and using his arms to pull himself up, shot out of the pool and up onto the cement. His friend Kyle behind him, a little less athletic looking, casually attempted to do the same, without much success. Brad called to him as he stood above him –

B: Just use your arms, pull yourself up!

K: I’m trying.

B: Duck back under the water and then kick up against the wall, then pull yourself up!

K: attempts to do such, very unsuccessfully. It was almost painful to watch.

B: jumps back into the pool Watch, like this. Effortlessly rockets himself up onto the top of the pool.

K: an embarrassed tenth attempt Um, I just can’t.

Sidenote: I was empathizing so much with Kyle at this point. I am the kid that can’t get out of the pool without a ladder, my arm muscles failing me and I never can seem to do the athletic things other kids can do so easily. I’m certain the look on my face reflected the pain I felt for him.

Then, without another hesitation, Brad jumps back into the pool while Kyle tries to unsnag his t-shirt from the rocky pool wall. I floated a little closer as I listened to what Brad was telling Kyle.

B: Hey, okay, now I will go down and just stand on my shoulders and pull yourself up.

And just like that, Brad ducked under the water and his friend Kyle clumsily stood on his shoulders and as Brad stood up, Kyle had just enough height and momentum to lift him up over that pool lip and allow him to roll onto the cement. By the time he uprighted himself, Brad was back up on the island and giving the diving contest instructions.

Whoooooosh.

Both boys dived in next to me, Brad with a grace that made me wonder if he is on a swim team somewhere and Kyle with the kind of un-athleticism I tend to show. And then the two boys swam back to the wall.

B: Ready? Ducks under the water, again, allowing Kyle to stand on his shoulders and hurdles him up and out of the pool.

This happened over and over again. Brad quietly and without hesitation, helping his friend out of the water, even though his friend was a little embarrassed that he needed the help and even though it maybe seemed like Kyle shouldn’t need the help. But Brad just did it, like it was second nature.

Eventually the boys moved on to a new activity and I didn’t see them for the rest of the trip, but as they swam away, my sunglass covered eyes filled with tears because I realized that you guys have been my Brad these last few weeks.

I’ve been stuck in the pool and I am clawing my way up the wall, unsuccessfully attempting to do everything I know to get out of the sadness, the grief, the wonderment. And like its second nature, so many of you have dove into the pool with me and simply said Stand on my shoulders, I will help you out. And you have – you’ve sent texts, emails, cards, gift cards, packages filled with goodies to make me smile like pens, Starbucks mugs, massage gift cards, flowers. You have listened to me verbally vomit while sitting in a restaurant or while driving. You haven’t gotten exasperated, expecting me to get your instructions faster, you simply have jumped in and offered me your shoulders, over and over and over again.

Thank you.

Thank you for everything. Thank you for the grace you have extended as I clumsily try to climb onboard. Thank you for the patience as I repeat myself days in a row and the understanding that writing back to an email might just be overwhelming at the moment. I couldn’t do it without you.

Here’s the thing, we all need someone to offer us their shoulders and we also have times in our lives when we get to offer someone our shoulders. Choose your people wisely. There’s no way that Brad could have lifted up everyone in the pool, but his friend, his friend was a no-brainer, worth investing his energy in.

Over the last week, I have been reading a fantastic book called Finding Faith in the Dark: When the Story of Your Life Takes a Turn You Didn’t Plan (by Laurie Short) and I know that I will be referring to it often throughout the next several posts of mine. There’s one quote that has stuck with me. “Pain came into my life as an uninvited guest, and after trying to wish it away, I followed it. It turns out God was in the darkness of my pain. It didn’t change my circumstances. But it changed me.” I am continuing to learn that when these really yucky, crappy, sucky seasons of pain come into our life, we can get bitter or we can follow it and find God in it. I love how Jesus Calling said it yesterday, “The more intimately you experience Me, the more convinced you become of my goodness.”

God has surrounded me intimately in my pain and as a result, I have been able to see His hand of goodness even in the midst of this tough battle. I still have questions, I still wonder a lot of things and I still feel angry and sad at times, but I am learning to widen my gaze so that I can find Him in this.

So with that, I’m back. It might take a few days or weeks to regather my momentum, but I’m back and I am so thankful for you.

Q & A part 2

First of all, is anyone watching the Bachelor? After 5 hours of Chris Soules + ladies this week, I feel like I need a major girl-chat to process everything that went on. Comment below if you watch and what you think! No spoilers please!

In other news, this week is part 2 of the Q&A Series! Thanks again to everyone who has sent in questions. Today we are featuring another giveaway, this time from Fertile Gems, (see more below), and then next week we will wrap this series up with part 3 and onet final giveaway. How fun has February been!? Love it!

OK, let’s dive into some more questions!

Q: Have you ever questioned blogging or had concerns with sharing private things with your work, friends, family, and church home?

A: Great question! Blogging scares me regularly. Every time I press “post”, I kind of feel like I have stripped down and am running naked through the neighborhood. I would rather strangers read my posts than people I know. It’s such a vulnerable thing, writing, and there are times I hold back thoughts or situations to protect the emotions of those closest to me as well. So yes, there are times I question blogging, but not in a way that makes me stop. It puts a good reminder in my heart and mind to be cautious not to hurt anyone with my words and also, to share in a way that’s helpful to others but (hopefully) won’t damage my reputation either, like in a working situation. I always try to write with the mindset that anyone I know may read this, including the person I may be giving a story about. It helps direct my words and mentality, while still remaining authentic and vulnerable. It’s a tango!

Regarding actual privacy, I try my best to keep identities protected and actual locations hidden if people don’t want that shared. If children are being posted on or about, I run it past Mom or Dad. I also try to make sure that when I am telling stories, I am telling my stories, not someone else’s story. Those stories are for them to share and I don’t want to encroach into their story. It can be hard to untangle experiences and emotions at times, but I want to protect the people in my life too. If I am telling a story about Josh, I run it past him first to make sure he is okay with it. I don’t ever want my blogging to cause others to concern their privacy either.

Q: What are your thoughts about acupuncture?

Ha! Remember the first time I went to acupuncture? Rethinking this experience is making me giggle. Acupuncture is something that I have been doing on and off for almost 2 years now and have to say, am still totally neutral on my opinion. I know some people LOVE IT and others HATE IT. I tend to be pretty undecided. That being said, I found cupping to be an extremely valuable part of my healing process when I had significant hormone-related back pain. I also found acupuncture to help my headaches while on Lupron and stimming during IVF cycles. When I was not on medicated cycles however, I didn’t find it to be hugely successful in helping me ovulate/cycle.

However, one thing that I am hugely passionate about is having pre and post transfer acupuncture sessions in the doctor’s office if they allow it. My acupuncturist came into the clinic and I had the most relaxing sessions right before and immediately after our embryo(s) were transferred. It allows time to pray/meditate, breath, and relax. Plus, you are on valium so it’s like you are floating with glee in a magical PUPO cloud.

Otherwise though, do what you are comfortable with and find relaxing. If it relaxes you, great. If you find yourself unable to relax and over thinking whether its working or not, then maybe it’s not for you. I always suggest everyone gives it a try to decide for yourself.

Q: What are the last 5 movies you’ve seen that have rocked your world?

I wish I watched more movies that rocked my world! I actually tend to be a pretty shallow movie watcher. I feel like the “good”, award winner movies tend to be a little violent/profane/sorrow-filled for me. For example, I would love to see American Sniper if I felt my heart could take it, but sometimes emotions overwhelm me a bit and so I protect me heart and just skip it all together.

So I watch movies on the Hallmark Channel or drag my husband to see Night at the Museum 3 (I laughed … and cried) or Hunger Games or the Divergent series. I love me a good Harry Potter film and PG-13 chic flick too! I wish I had a better deeper answer for you!

Q: How do you feel embryos should be handled ethically?

A: We believe deeply that all embryos created have life. We value the fact that life starts at conception and so it’s been very important to us to ensure that all embryos created that develop and process through the viable stages are used. When Josh and I first started our IVF journey, we knew that it could open a door for our family to be larger than we anticipated, knowing that if we had extra embryos to freeze, that we would continue frozen cycles to give them all a chance at implanting and sustaining life.

Doctors offices will give you the choice to “dispose” of extra embryos, donate your embryos to another couple who can’t biologically create a child or have the desire to adopt an embryo, donate the embryo(s) to science, or freeze them for your own family, continuing to make annual payments to the frozen daycare center. We have always chosen and will continue to choose to freeze them regardless of their quality.

When we were embarking into our 4th cycle, we had 1 little Frostie left. You may remember from this post where our doctors suggested us skipping transferring Frostie because of his/her low quality and instead doing a new fresh cycle. It was important to Josh and I that Frostie got a chance, and so we moved forward with that frozen cycle and our little snowbaby. While that cycle wasn’t successful, I am SO glad that we transferred Frostie and I know that God provided us a lot of peace with our decision to do that, even though it didn’t result in a pregnancy.

If you have a similar mindset as we do and are concerned about the abundance of embryos that could be created in a cycle, please know that there are many options to work with your doctor to minimize the amount of embryos created. It may start with stimulating egg production at a slower rate and removing less eggs, therefore creating less embryos, but it is possible. There is always a chance that when that type of cycle occurs and less embryos are created, that you may have to do multiple cycles, but it is worth pursuing and discussing with your doctor as well. If you ever have more specific questions on this for me, feel free to email me.

All of this being said, these are our opinions that we reserve the right to have so if you view things differently or would make different decisions, I simply ask for mutual respect as these are personal and spiritual decisions each couple makes.

Q: Where do you suggest finding support? How have you been able to develop a good system of support on this journey?

A: This journey can feel really lonely when you are fighting it alone, when no one around you understands, and when you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to. One of the benefits about social media is that it gives you the chance to connect with people who are struggling in a similar way as you, while not necessarily having to live close to you. Instagram has been the number one way for me to connect with other women who are struggling. Did you know that you can also create an annoyomous instagram account, not linked to your Facebook, so that you can have a true TTC outlet? You can start simple, by searching for a hashtag! Phrases like #ivf, #iui, #infertiliy, #ttc, #pcos, #endo, #clomid will all give you a SLEW of women who are ready to share and connect. You would be so surprised at how many beautiful true friendships have formed out of a single hashtag!

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don't talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my "person"! Love you K.

Meet my friend Karen! We met over Instagram, started emailing and now not a day goes by where we don’t talk, text or skype date. She may live in FL but all that matters is that I have found my “person”! Love you K.

I also run TTC package exchanges every few months that several hundred women on this journey participate in and I have witnessed SO many awesome friendships form simply by being randomly paired up. You can search for things like #ttcexchanges on Instagram too if you want to get connected right away! There are Facebook groups as well. My own personal experience is that forums can be really aggressive and mean-spirited so I try to stay away from them. Some churches have small groups that form with women who are struggling, so checking with your local church is a great option too. Otherwise, use websites like RESOLVE to find other methods of support.

Oh and guess what, our next TTC Exchange, similar to the Mug Exchange, will be kicking off at the end of the month! Stay tuned!

Now it’s giveaway time!

My friend Crystal over at Fertile Gems sent me the most beautiful fertility necklace and we just HAVE to share one with a lucky winner! Fertile Gems creates handcrafted fertility jewelry that is meant to put a smile on your face, remind you to calm down, relax and HOPE. They also include the choice of a gemstone and each gemstone has different meanings.

The necklace we are giving away is similar to this one below – except yours will be in sterling silver and you will be able to pick your own gemstone. (The wishbone is known as a good luck symbol of life and fertility.) If you are interested in purchasing one, I know you won’t be disappointed. Check out her Etsy store today!

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This giveaway will last until Friday morning, and then the winner will be announced on Friday Favorites. Everyone ears 5 free entries just for fun! Just include your name / email so I can connect with you if you win. Good luck!

Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for sending in some great questions! Next week we wrap this up by talking about the ever-so-big questions about adoption, gluten-free diets, maintaining faith and hope and more!

keep dreaming.

Hi friends! First of all, thank you all for the support on my first blog post written on Fertility Authority last month! You guys poured out the love (and clicks) and I am SO appreciative. Just think, with every click you made over the last 30 days, you were able to take part in raising money towards our IUI cycles. Now that is pretty cool, right!? I think of you all as I swallow those pills and look lovingly at that trigger shot, hehe!

Well, the time has come for my next post! Same as before, would you guys be just as supportive and head over there  to click and read? It’s all about keeping the dreams we have alive despite disappointments. I would LOVE to continue to show them the amazing team I have behind me!

Okay, to read (and support) click this link: CLICK ME! CLICK ME! CLICK ME!

Or here’s the link for copying purposes: http://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/chelsea-ritchie/2015/1/07/keep-dreaming

As always, feel free to share in any and all ways possible. :) I hope that someone is blessed and encouraged by these words. While I love the self therapy of writing, I am also so grateful for the ability for God to speak to others through our experiences. To Him be the glory!

See you back on Friday for the first real edition of Friday Favorites 2015! Whoooo hoooooo!

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Did you miss my last blog post on Fertility Authority? No worries! Click here to read! 

new years giveaway.

Merry Day-After-Christmas! Hope has come and now we sit back and rest in His presence. I imagine today is the day Mary sat thinking about how much her life as changed as Jesus fussed and cried and needed to be fed. I love the fact that in His humanness, He was just as dependent on Mary as a baby as we are now on Him. I often feel disappointment once Christmas is over, but this year, I feel like the magic is sticking around a little longer.

 

Okay, and now the REALLY fun news! I am SO excited to be teaming up with some incredible friends for an amazing New Years Giveaway! As the New Year approaches, we realized what a blessing it would be to help others on their faith walk and journey with Jesus. I don’t know about you but there is something special about a new year, a new devotional or journal and a cup of coffee that screams productive quiet time! I just know the winners of this giveaway are going to be so blessed!  And instead of just having one winner, we thought it would be fun to have THREE, which means you have 3 chances to win some amazing prizes sponsored from the bloggers below! It’s SO easy to earn entries – simply click HERE Rafflecopter giveaway and earn drawing points by getting to know the sponsors better. There’s a free entry as well. It’s super easy – just use your name and email to sign up (so we know who is entering and how to contact you)! We all are praying that God blesses the winners in BIG ways with the goodies below! The contest is open to anyone which means you don’t need to be in any special season of life to enter. We really just want to bless others!

Without further ado, the fabulous prizes will be …

 Package One: 1st Winner – $75 Value

  • Journaling Bible
  • Blessings for a Woman’s Heart Devotional
  • Max Lucado Calendar
  • Jesus Today Book
  • Scripture Cards

Package Two: 2nd Winner – $45 Value

  • 2 CD’s
  • Starbucks Gift Card
  • Notepad
  • Women’s Devotional

Package Three: 3rd Winner – $25 Value

  • Itunes Gift Card
  • Journal
  • Scarf

It's A New Year Giveaway

In Due Time  ♦  The Lady Okie  ♦  A Touch of Grace  ♦  Trials Bring Joy  ♦ Jessi’s Design

Sage the Blog  ♦  Run to Radiance   ♦  The Artsy Cajun   ♦  Viva Good   ♦   Amateur Nester

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A big thanks to my friend Caroline for hosting!! I love being able to share some love with my wonderful readers and friends. The contest is open from now until January 2nd (one week!), so don’t delay in entering today. You will be contacted if (when! I’m feeling hopeful for my readers!) you win and your package will be sent out no later than January 7th.

Whooo hoooo! Sending you wish dust and lots of love!

XO,

Chelsea

yay!

Who’s ready for some good news???

Hermione_-_hand_raise

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Yeah, I couldn’t pick just one. That’s how ready for good news I am.

I digress.

So, my appointment today. As you may remember, our news on Monday was a little disappointing. I went into today’s appointment completely prepared for our cycle to be cancelled and for more time to pass before getting a chance to try again.

I was pleasantly surprised.

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My lining made an impressive leap over the past few days and for that I was grateful. I have never struggled with thin lining before yet going from a 4 to an 8 in only a few days made me thrilled (triple-lined nonetheless!). We then checked one ovary, the one that had measuring follicles last time – nada. She tried to find a follicle, she really did and came up completely empty handed. Ouch. I wasn’t surprised. Let’s just get this news over with.

Then the other ovary …. What are those!!? Follicles! Nice big juicy (ew) follicles. I think both the ultrasound tech and I were shocked to see them. She was so excited, clicking away and measuring them, announcing that we have 4 follicles between a 15-18 today. YAY! Clearly their growth and development was a result of answered prayers. YAY GOD! Yay prayers! Yay follicles!

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I got some blood work done and began the wait for the call … and hopefully a plan!

Driving away from my appointment, I was in total shock. I walked in expecting the cycle to get cancelled and quickly realized that I don’t know how to process good news very well. My heart was still guarded, anticipating the lab results to change everything. I told a friend the other day if I didn’t set my expectations so high then I didn’t have as far to fall. (Isn’t that sad? I know, ye of little faith.) The words from a Jesus Calling post earlier this month echoed in my mind: “I am taking care of you. Every detail of your life in under My control. If you could only see how close I am to you and how constantly I work on your behalf, you would never again doubt that I am wonderfully caring for you. This is why you must life by faith and not by sight; trusting in My mysterious, majestic Presence.”

If we could only see how close He is to us.

I have been reminded this week that is He is so close to us. I continue to struggle with allowing myself to get my hopes up and I think that there is an aspect of hopeful expectation combined with a guarded heart. But today we get to simply celebrate so many answered prayers. We have a chance and God loves to work for His children.

The nurse called back and they hoped my estrogen would be above 150 and it was 75.6, so tomorrow I start estrogen pills three times a day which will HOPEFULLY last through a first trimester. (Lord, please!) (Sidenote: estrogen pills three times a day … yes, Josh deserves some prayers. Buy stock in Kleenex now if you know what’s good for you.) They would like to give the follicles one more day before triggering so TOMORROW NIGHT at 6:30 pm, I have a date with an HCG trigger shot and then Monday morning at 10:30 am we will have our IUI (inter-uterine insemination) done. Oh my word, this is happening.

I get a little emotional when I think about the timing of it all. Christmas 2012 is when we were able to celebrate with our families my first pregnancy, later miscarrying that day, and to think that this Christmas, 2 years later, I will have the hope that God will be creating new life in me again. The sentimental side knows that even though our babies are celebrating Christmas with Jesus, that perhaps He will be lovingly creating their sibling to join us next year. Cautious excitement and gentle reminders that He is constantly working on our behalf.

Send all the baby dust, prayers, positive vibes and fertile juices my way. I wholeheartedly believe He is in this …. YAY!

(Oh my, this post is painfully scattered but I just don’t have the brain capacity to edit it. Thanks for bearing with me when some days the sentences just don’t flow and my love for GIFs are on overdrive.)

XOXO!

fertility authority.

Happy Wednesday! I am SO excited to share with you my first post over at FertilityAuthority which goes live today. YAY! I am thrilled about this opportunity to write for this website, which for those who don’t know, is an online source for fertility information. They offer some great tools and resources for those being diagnosed and going through treatment and one of the ways they offer support is through a handful of bloggers. Yes, yours truly is one of them starting today!

So here’s what you can do – simply click here and read! Without further ado … here you go!

http://www.fertilityauthority.com/blog/chelsea-ritchie/2014/12/02/i-have-infertility-i-am-just-you

I love being able to write and share my heart with a new group of readers, however know that this commitment won’t interfere with my writing here in any way. It’s simply another opportunity to connect with me (and me with you!)

And can I beg? Even if you aren’t in need of this website, I would GREATLY appreciate your click and support. I would love to come out of the gates with my community strongly behind me (and yes, I do have a minimum requirement of hits that I need to get) so your click does mean a lot! Thank you in advance for the read, shares and comments! :)

Secondly, we heard back about my blood work results last week and while we weren’t really sure what we were hoping for, we did get some answers. My results came back showing a severe Factor V Leiden mutation which essentially is a rare (less than 3%) mutation where my blood develops abnormal blood clots and is known to cause reoccurring pregnancy loss and late pregnancy miscarriages. The good news is we finally have an answer which is a gigantic answer to prayer. While this mutation can’t be “fixed”, it can be treated with twice daily injections to thin the blood, therefore lessening the chances of blood clots, particularly to the uterus while pregnant.

I was a little overwhelmed when the clinic first called with these results but was quickly reminded by my amazing support team that this answer is a blessing and the success stories once diagnosed are impressive. Even more so, I was reminded that God eats odds for breakfast and that who we serve has abilities far greater than this mutation. In fact, I am fearfully and wonderfully made and this diagnosis doesn’t come as a surprise to Him! So with that, we are stepping forward with faith that this answer is the key to unlocking a miracle.

My last day on active birth control pills was LAST NIGHT (arghhhh!) which means we will likely be starting our IUI cycle in the next few days. CRAZY! Can’t wait to keep you all posted on the exciting happenings as we walk with God back into this treatment pool and await His perfect timing. Join us in prayer, will you? Pray then click the link above. :)

Thanks my friends, for your faithfulness to our journey. We adore you guys and are so thankful for all the ways you partner with us.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

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 new plan and how you can help.

There has been 387 days between the date of our last transfer and today. 387 long days. I remember typing this post about our 4th cycle failure like it was yesterday. I remember sharing with you all that we were being called into a season of putting a hold on fertility treatments and let me tell you, it’s been a long year. Between last October and today, I have seen a naturopathic doctor, an acupuncturist, had a laparoscopy surgery done and many tests run, drunk teas, sucked down pills and above all, prayed for wisdom, guidance and direction. This wait has been LONG. And yet even though it has felt unproductive compared to years past, both Josh and I felt incredible peace that this was exactly where we were supposed to be, even though it wasn’t easy.

Then a month or so ago both of our hearts started stirring, feeling like we were supposed to restart up treatments. I don’t think either of us were prepared to start thinking about it again and the thought of jumping back into things caught me a little off guard. We began to talk and pray and felt that gentle nudging to make some calls.

I reached out to 2 new clinics in the area. One thing Josh and I felt strongly about was the need for a second opinion, a new set of eyes, a fresh space. Doctor consults can often be booked out 6-8 weeks so I made a call, thinking that we would sit down with them towards the end of the year. Imagine my surprise when one of them shared that they had a cancellation just open up – for 3 days later. (The other being consistent with the longer timeline we were expecting.) With a swiftness that could only be God, charts were exchanged, papers were filled out, and there we were, walking into a new RE, waiting to hear his thoughts on our case. I instantly felt relief when he said that he still has hope for our case, even though I know that our hope is found in God. Still it was reassuring that he felt so positive for us. The hour we spent with him was incredibly educational and we loved how he explained his thoughts and our options.

For the sake of brevity, the plan he proposed is that we do a few IUI (artificial insemination) cycles using Femara and a trigger shot, which I have responded to well in the past, combined with estrogen and progesterone supplementation.. He also wants to put me back on Metformin to improve my egg quality and felt strongly about completing some more blood test to ensure that my reoccurring miscarriages haven’t been caused by any autoimmune disorders. We have done a few of these tests in the past and I am in full agreement that we need to complete the panels. Regardless of how the results come back, we will add in Lovenox injections which are useful for a whole slew of things. If this doesn’t work, the next step would be to do another IVF cycle. This clinic in particular only does cycles 4 times a year,  making the next one we would be eligible for at the end of March. After our appointment, we continued to pray. My prayers were that God would make it abundantly obvious if we were supposed to move forward. The nudging in our hearts that it was time to step out again seemed so clear, but still, I kept praying for two things – 1) that God would make it very evident that moving forward with IUI/IVF was His plan and 2) that the financial part of these medicated cycles would be provided for.

Within a DAY, and I mean a DAY, God answered both of these requests clearly. The first answer occurred while I was sitting in my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) meeting the next morning, where we were talking about Moses, specifically Exodus 14. Our lecturer was talking about how the Israelites were standing in front of the Red Sea while the Egyptians were chasing after them. My lesson picks up here:

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

What God spoke to me was that sometimes He brings us to the point where we are supposed to be waiting. (Like the Israelites did for 400+ years.) But then other times He brings us right before our answer to prayer and says “Why are you still standing still?? Stop talking. It’s time to move forward.” Had Moses not acted and lifted up his staff, had the Israelites not taken those scary steps into the parted Red Sea, the story would have ended there. But instead, it was time to move forward in faith. That day God affirmed “I will fight for you – it’s time to move forward.” Message heard, loud and clear. (This is one of many affirmations that have come my way since offering up that prayer!)

He then answered the financial part in a variety of ways. At the start of the week I was committed to a job share position, which ended up changing into a short-term, full-coverage opportunity, giving me more hours. I then was contacted by an Editor in Chief at a large online fertility resource website, who asked ME, little old me, to become a paid blogger for them starting in December. (I never reached out to them, this was completely God-initiated. And I said yes so more on that to come in another post!) And then I had 2 friends, within a few days of each other, reach out to me, offering to use their online businesses to throw a fundraising product party, both offering to donate 100% of the commission earned to our medical treatments, without any conversation about our future direction. Wow. God, you are so good!

So let me summarize – we are doing this again!!!! 

The plan is to get some blood work done this Friday and then start 28 days on birth control to reset things. Then after that, we are going to move forward with a Femara+trigger shot IUI cycle. I could see how to some of you, it feels like we are stepping backwards, since my IUI days are years behind me, however there is SO MUCH PEACE in this new plan and we are GIDDY to get things going. And of course, excited to see how God will act. We can’t do this without the prayers and support of those around us, so THANK YOU!

With all that said – now how can you help!?

  1. Continue to pray for us. This is the biggest way. Prayers, vibes, energy, whatever you can throw , we will take it. I know those prayers go from your mouth to His ears.
  2. Another way is to shop! For the next 10 days, there are 2 online parties being thrown by two generous friends to assist with the medical costs involved. Please do not feel ANY pressure to make a purchase, but if you are looking for any Norwex or Younique products, I would love and appreciate you using these parties to make your purchase! Being able to receive some assistance through these amazing women’s commission is nothing short of an answer to prayer.
  3. Feel free to share the event link with your friends/family. There will be an entirely separate link (www.trialsbringjoy.com/fundraiser/) that will give you information on where you can do this online shopping, complete with details on purchasing and without boring anyone with all these details above.
  4. Lastly, I ask that you pray a special blessing over the lives of Annie and Jana, both of the women who has made this offer and are allowing Him to answer our prayers through their generous kindness. God knows exactly what prayers are on their hearts and so I simply ask that you lift up a prayer of gratitude and blessing over them.

These online parties will run from today (November 9th) until November 18th (next Tuesday). Again, if you are not in a place to make a purchase, please don’t feel any pressure. But if you are and are looking to support these next steps of ours, Josh and I both would appreciate it more than you know. Plus YOU get some fun products from 2 great companies! I call that a win-win!

Thank you again for all of the prayers for wisdom and guidance over these last years. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 6 years of trying and waiting, but I am trusting that GREAT things are ahead! XOXO!

CLICK HERE FOR ALL FUNDRAISING DETAILS! 

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!

the commitment to hope.

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I was struck by the beauty of these words today. “Hope always feels impossible before we commit to it.” To commit means that we are dedicated to it, steadfast in it, unwavering. I falter, all the time. Hot and cold, trying to survive on my own, stubborn and desperate and stumbling. Then I drink in these words “…God can’t break His word. And because His word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline…” (Hebrews 6:17b-18a MSG)

Hope is a painful thing to work to attain. I am constantly reminded that I can not hope in myself, in my body, in my own strength or wisdom. All of that will (and does) fail me. What I can hope in is the promises that God has made. Charles Stanley has beautifully put together a list of promises that we can claim as believers. For ease of reading, I am posting them below but you can find the website here to read the entire thing. When I remember the promises He has given, my hope gets refilled. Not because I know that it is a guarantee for us having children, but because at the end of the day, we have everything that we need in Him.

God’s Precious Promises:

A. The Lord brought you into relationship with Him (Rom. 5:6-11). When you trusted Jesus as your Savior, you became a child of God. This is the foundation of your heritage because all other promises flow from a relationship with Him.

B. You can have daily cleansing (1 John 1:9). As His child, you now have the privilege to come to Him, confess your sins, and receive His forgiveness to grow in unhindered fellowship with Him.

C. God’s presence is continually with you (Heb. 13:5). You have a traveling companion in the person of Christ who’s promised to never leave nor forsake you.

D. You have the Holy Spirit who is your Helper (John 14:16). Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He promised to send a Helper. You now have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

E. You have the assurance of God’s strength (Isa. 41:10). When you’re weak, you can rely upon the Sovereign Ruler of the universe to strengthen you.

F. God Himself will supply all your needs (Matt. 6:31-32). He knows exactly what you need and has committed Himself to provide it.

G. He answers your prayers (1 John 5:14-15). When you pray according to God’s will, He answers.

H. God is always ready to give you His best (Ps. 84:11). If you’re living a godly life, the Lord will never withhold any good thing from you.

I. He daily bears your burdens (Ps. 68:19). There is no reason to wake up each morning hindered by trials and heartaches. Instead, lay your concerns down before God.

J. He comforts you in times of trouble (2 Cor. 1:3-4). No matter what the difficulty is, God knows about it and will provide comfort and encouragement.

K. The Lord sets limits on your trials and temptations (1 Cor. 10:13). He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to endure.

L. He grants wisdom (James 1:5). In every decision you face, God offers wisdom to see life from His perspective if you ask in faith and without doubt. However, sin can keep you from claiming this promise because it crowds out truth and creates uncertainty.

M. The Lord provides rest for your soul (Matt. 11:28-29). When your heart is burdened, Jesus offers rest to those who come to Him.

N. God gives His peace (Phil. 4:6-7). Whenever you bring your anxieties to God in prayer, He provides His peace and creates an impenetrable wall separating you from worry.

O. You can be strong and fruitful in old age (Ps. 92:12-15). Retirement can be one of the most spiritually productive times of your life if you remain strongly planted in the Lord.

P. The Lord will give you the desires of your heart when you delight in Him (Ps. 37:4). If God is more important to you than anyone or anything else, He will grant your desires.

Q. He is a very present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1-3). The Lord is your refuge and help in times of uncertainty and danger.

R. God gives you direction for life (Ps. 32:8). He knows the pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead and will teach you which way to go.

S. He heals in times of sickness (Ps. 103:1-3). Since God never changes, you can come to Him for healing just as people did in biblical times.

T. Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39). His unconditional love is a possession no one can take from you.

U. Jesus provides the gift of eternal security (John 10:27-30). Christ promised eternal life to His followers, so when you die, you’ll instantly be with Him.

V. You have a home in heaven (John 14:1-3). Before Jesus died and rose again, He told His disciples He was going away to prepare a place for them and would one day return and take them there.

Now it’s up to me to claim these promises. To commit to the hope that He offers and to believe the promises that He makes. I am not perfect and at times I feel painfully weak. But this is a hope I amwilling to commit to, to bet my life on, to life for. Lord, help me.