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!

house for sale.

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I was stirring my coffee when my friend asked the question: “So how are you really right now?”

With the buzz of steaming milk and brewing espresso around me, I admitted my heart’s been a little weary. I touched on how 7 pregnancy announcements from good friends in 3 days drained me a bit. I tried to explain that while my heart was overjoyed for them, it made me a bit reflective of my own journey, which can be a hard, emotional path for me to walk down sometimes.

I could see in her eyes, as someone who doesn’t struggle with infertility, that she couldn’t quite grasp how someone could be happy for someone else but sad for themselves.

And that’s when this example hit me.

Let’s pretend that you and your spouse have decided it’s time to move from your small apartment. It’s time to expand! It’s not necessarily that you don’t like your current place, but you feel ready to embark into a new neighborhood, have the chance to mow a lawn, use a driveway, and have a little more space.

So you celebrate this big decision! You are going to sell your house! You tell your friends, you have a celebratory glass of champagne and list it. It’s time to sell!

Hmmmm. A few days, weeks, months pass. Why isn’t your house selling? You try to stay positive. Oh it takes time! You just have to wait for the perfect buyer! It can take couples almost a year before their house sells! Take a vacation – then it might sell!

In the meantime, friends around you decide they too want to sell their house and move. And you watch and celebrate as they immediately find buyers. It was our first showing! We hadn’t even listed it yet! A friend of a friend asked to buy our house! In fact, some of your friends who didn’t even take care of their apartment sell it right away. Huh?

What is going on, you asked yourselves. You paint the walls, freshen up the tile, and replace the old floors. And yet, months pass by and still, no buyers. Multiple showings, the promise of hope with each one, but a firm and audible NO after every one.

In the meantime, you’re invited to house warming party after house warming party to celebrate your friend’s new home. You are thrilled for them! What a beautiful new kitchen! Lawn! Bathroom! Is that a walk-in closet?? And you wonder what is wrong with our apartment??? You bring the wine, send the congratulations card, help move the boxes, all while dusting off your “for sale” sign. You pack away the towels you bought for a new bathroom. It hurts too much to look at them each day.

Do we try to get used to staying here forever? You begin to ask yourselves how you should approach this limbo. What does the future look like? Do you apply for that new position knowing it would be across town, near the city you want to move to? Do you redecorate the space and plan to stay there? Oh how your hearts yearn to be in a new place – and yet still, all the showings result in nothing. No. No. No. No. No. No.

So you hire a new realtor. The one who sold your friends house in just 1 day! And your heart breaks as he tells you that you may never sell your home. You see, because there’s this one part of the inside of a wall that is damaged. It’s not really your fault, but it’s your home and because of it, it may be a little harder to sell it.

How did I not know? What can we do to improve our chances?! He provides you with a list of things to do and you eagerly dive into them. You replace the trim, sweat over refinishing your floors; exhaust yourself with tearing out the old carpet. Still – nothing.

Meanwhile, you get the calls from your friends, We’re moving! We sold our house! It’s our 4th home in 3 years! And your feelings get hurt as some of your friends pull back from you as they are afraid to tell you they sold their house too. You find out when you get their Christmas card in the mailing with a preprinted announcement. Why didn’t they tell us? And yet still, you celebrate their new adventure, move the boxes, ‘like’ the Facebook announcement and wonder if you should take your house off the market. After all, it’s been 3 years.

Then 4 years. More announcements, more moves.

Then it’s been 5 years. You find some friends who too have a hard time selling their house, are stuck in limbo desiring a neighborhood, a closet, a stove with more than 2 burners, a chance to feel at home where they feel called. You relate to one another’s questions and empathize when yet another potential buyer decides to pass. Another lost chance, I am so sorry.

Then those friends who once understood, begin to sell their houses. More celebrations! And the conversations shift from questioning why your house can’t sell, to the frustrations of picking out paint colors for the new living room or the cost of the movers. They forgot what it’s like, you think. Then you no longer get together. I am sorry, I have a house now. There’s so much to do! More dusting, a garden to tend to, bathrooms to clean. Maybe when the house gets a little older.

And still every single morning you wake up, make your bed, clean the house, waiting for the moment you get a call about a showing. You can’t escape the fact that your house is for sale. It’s part of your daily life, reminders everywhere. The lockbox, the sign, the calls. Every day you are faced with the desires to hear the words “you’ve sold your house!”.

6 years pass. You switch realtors again, are given a dash of hope that this is the one! In fact, by this point you’ve had 7 offers on your home, but all of them have fallen through. It’s just been bad luck. This happens to many couples. There must have been a bank loan defect. Unpack your boxes, not this time. Don’t lose the faith!

More moving announcements from friends. We weren’t even thinking about moving but someone came to our door and offered us over market price for our house. And then we got an amazing deal on a new house – in the last lot of the neighborhood you were looking at! What are the chances? We were so surprised!

Housewarming party. Wine. Feelings of defeat. Questions. Did we misunderstand our calling to move? Everyone else thinks we are crazy, yet we continue to feel led is to sell this house. What do we do?

And now here you sit – with 7 more offers sitting on your home and you think this could be it and you are terrified. Everyone around is asking you aren’t you so excited? And while, yes, you are, the truth is you’ve been here before. You’ve had the offers and they’ve all fallen through. You’re hesitant to get your hopes up based on these new offers, knowing what happened last time. And so you smile, nod, and pray harder than ever that one of these offers takes. Because you don’t know if your heart can handle any more. Most days you want to rip down the ‘For Sale’ sign, ignore the aches in your heart, and chuck the lockbox in a volcano. You are now known as the couple who has always had their house up for sale.

Just be thankful you have a house to live in! Everyone around you, many who just sold their house, says to you, as if you aren’t thankful for your apartment. You want shout back that you are thankful, you just hate living in limbo, are struggling to figure out what your future looks like, and that you can’t ignore that nagging longing to become new-home owners.

And still you wait, feeling foolish about the day you drank champagne and told everyone you were going to sell your house. You never expected this.

You get the picture. And while this example may seem silly, can you only imagine having your house for sale for YEARS? I get exhausted just thinking about it. And, oh friends, if only infertility were this kind of exhausting.

With infertility, you take these exhausted, confused emotions and add in the immense deep rooted desire to be parents – moms and dads– and combine it with mind altering hormones, emotions, surgeries, and real life dollars. Every month offers hope that everything might change and when it doesn’t, you have to reprocess what you’re going to do next. Did you hear God right? Why isn’t He moving?

So while your heart is so thrilled for the others in your life who move onto the next stage – first, second, third pregnancies – it’s still very real there will be emotional struggles involved. With every announcement, pregnancy related conversation, baby shower and tiny babies around, it reminds you of the current state of limbo you are in. And with God-given strength, you celebrate the answered prayers, clinging to the hope that next time it might be you, and rejoice that God gave them a miracle. And it’s okay if you still wonder why not me?

Friends, I don’t know why your baby hasn’t come yet. I don’t understand why a 15-year old accidentally becomes pregnant and you can’t get a positive test to save your life. I wish I understood all the specifics. But here’s what I do know – God knows why. And while that can be hard to understand most days, it offers reassurance that we don’t have to be the ones understanding the ‘whys’. We just have to continue to trust the One who does.

I wrote these words in In the Wait and needed to be reminded of them today: “God is not early or late with His timing. Instead, He is right on cue, creating “Ah-ha!” moments when the answers prayers finally come. Yes, it may look different than we expect it to, but we know He will pull through. Scripture reminds us that we can trust Him to stay true to His Word, character and promises. His love is always present. Breathe out a deep sigh with me today and rest assured knowing He is at work, even when we don’t see it.”

I know it’s tiring my sweet friend. But make that bed one more day, accept one more showing, and continue to communicate with the Lord. You never know when you are going to wake up and have your whole life change in one moment. That day of answered prayer is worth the fight.

Lord, I pray for each woman reading this today who understand what it’s like to be stuck waiting. I pray that you renew our strength, our minds, and replenish our weary souls as we wait. We trust that you have the perfect plan for our lives and we ask that you would help strengthen us to continue to celebrate the victories and answers to prayer that you are providing to those around us. Jesus, we simply need more of you to help lead us into the perfect path for our lives. Amen

*photo from weheartit.com

send ’em over.

I frequently get emails with some awesome questions from readers – everything from “what books to do you recommend?” to “what words do you have for someone going through a miscarriage?” The questions are all SO good and I love interacting with each of you as you pepper me with some thoughtful questions. They cause me to pause and think and that’s a good thing!

My inbox has been especially filled lately (I LOVE IT!) and it has inspired me with an idea for a series of posts – a Question and Answer series! That’s right, all those questions you have been emailing me over the last few years, send them my way via comment or email and I will work my way through them. Don’t make them all serious – send me over some fun, random ones too! :) I can’t wait to address some of the most common questions to specifics about our journey. Faith, treatment, personal life – nothing is off limits!

My email is listed here, you can write it below, or comment on an Instagram post. If you would like your blog tagged back and your name identified, just leave it in the comments (From NAME at XXXX) and I will credit your question to you. However, if you want to be anonymous, that is completely fine as well, just let me know. (First names only will be used.) The question window is open till the end of the month so send them over. I’m really looking forward to this!

Oh and due to a crazy week, Friday Favorites may not be posted until Saturday … just pretend like it’s Friday when you read them. Hehe!

I’ll leave you today with a great message I read a few weeks ago that has been stewing in my brain: “The mention of a journey implies an arrival. If God guides us, however we may dislike it, it means there is a goal to our journey. Because it is God’s will for us to reach that goal, we can be certain we will reach it. We start and stop and change our minds. People disappoint us; we disappoint ourselves and may give up. Not God! He always finishes what He begins.” Rest in the fact that regardless of our outcome, there is an end to this journey and a destination. Chances are it may be nothing like we imagine or plan it to be, but it’s there and it’s going to be glorious. Have a great rest of the week friends!

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! 

yay!

Who’s ready for some good news???

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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