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.

community post.

What happens when you join forces with some of the best bloggers around? This post! A few months ago I was reading some of my favorite blogs and felt selfish keeping their words, perspectives and stories to myself. So instead of just sharing their links, I decided to invite them over to my page and team up to create a post. Lucky for me (and you!) they said yes!

Anyone going through life knows about the difficulties of mental attacks and the way that lies can be so easy to believe at times. This fact got us thinking, as women who have struggled or are struggling with infertility, what are some of the lies that we have faced on this journey? And how are we dealing with them? Believing lies and feeding those negative thoughts are one way that we stumble, pick our scabs and dig ourselves into an even deeper hole that can be tough to get out of. Some days it’s simply recognizing that what we are bemoaning is a lie – other days it’s just finding the strength to keep fighting what we know isn’t true. I’ve asked these ladies to share with you today one of the great lies that they have defeated (or continue to battle) and I hope and pray that these encourage you as much as they have me. These women are in all different phases of their TTC journey – some pregnant, some adopting, some still trying to conceive – yet I believe that their stories will bless each of you. Be sure to give them some love too and check out their blogs (linked throughout) and walk along with them. So without further adore, please enjoy reading the words of my amazing friends!

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1. “The lie that I am broken.” By Chelsea (me!) at Starbucks, Peace and the Pursuit of a Baby

Recently I was asked in a study to list out words that I associate with myself – labels that define me. I was surprised at how quickly the first word came – broken. If you read my last post on PCOS and what I deal with, you may understand how I got to that word. It came so quickly that it seemed like my subconscious had been stewing on it for a while. And as I scribbled in my notebook, the word broken just made so much sense. My body doesn’t work right. It doesn’t do what is supposed to be natural for so many women. Verses in the Bible about how we (women) are supposed to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ make me want to cry. “I can’t! I’m trying!” I fight shame constantly over the fact that my body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s broken.

But then I remembered these simple verses – and it changes everything: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it… How precious are your thoughts about me, O God…” (Psalm 139:13, 14, 17a).

These verses reminded me of these truths – one, He made me. Insulting my body is insulting His work. Does anyone remember that old bumper sticker from the 90’s that said “God doesn’t make junk!” It’s true! Two, we are complex – wonderfully complex. There are so many moving parts in our bodies and just because something isn’t working correctly doesn’t mean the product is broken. It doesn’t define me – I am not broken. Third, His workmanship is marvelous, therefore I am marvelous. (I will withhold from inserting a picture of me in a princess crown, pretending to be marvelous.) But all joking aside, I am not anything less than His perfect daughter, created in His image and crafted to be me. Insulting His creation is insulting Him. Lastly, He thinks precious, beautiful thoughts about me – a Creator who is proud of His creation, not ashamed.

2. “The lie that I am not worthy.” By Wynne at Gloriously Ruined – Living His Story

The past five years have been quite the journey of ups and downs with our struggle with infertility.  At times, I am on top of the world knowing and believing the truth that God is good, and He is trustworthy and He is able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.  Then there are times I doubt my healing and restoration will ever come.  I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago actually, that I didn’t feel worthy of healing or good gifts from God.

How could that be?  The Bible says, that “every good and perfect gift is from above” and I know that God is the giver of good gifts.  He loves me, and He is working all things together for my good and His glory.  I believed this lie that because of sins in my past, that I wasn’t “good enough” to receive good gifts from God.  I have been praying and believing that God is ABLE to heal me, but I don’t think I’ve really believed He will.  The Word also says, “nothing is impossible with God”, and “God is ABLE to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine”.

God is the great physician, and in this season I feel He’s asking me to stop my striving, and know that HE is God.  While I can’t expect God to respond in a certain way to my faith, knowing there is no “formula” for healing and restoration, I can chose to believe that God is who He says He is, and He is GOOD!  He is about the ultimate good and glory of His name and His story.  He doesn’t have to prove that He’s good by doing what we want Him to – we just chose to believe He is trustworthy!  He is the giver of all good gifts, and I am enough [so are you!].

3. “The lie that I was all alone in this struggle.” By Jessah at Dreaming of Dimples

In my first few years of infertility, I believed that I was alone. I believed that I was surrounded by pregnant women who got knocked up easily. But it wasn’t true. It was a lie that I was telling myself. There are so many of us who are suffering or have suffered varying degrees of heartbreak on the road to parenthood. Some silently and some wearing it all on their sleeves. If 1 in 6 couples have trouble growing their families, we are really never alone on this journey.

Now that I am finally pregnant, I realized something that I will never forget and remind myself often using the phrase “you don’t know her story”. What do I mean by that? Well, a woman in the depths of infertility despair could look at my growing baby bump and think negative thoughts about how she is the only one in the world who can’t get pregnant. That everyone around her can have a baby with such little effort yet it’s so hard for her.

But she doesn’t know my story.

That woman would have no way of knowing that I am just like her. That this pregnancy didn’t come easily or without a fight. That I shed my share of tears. That I tried to conceive for almost 6 years before finally seeing a BFP. That I had to endure three failed IUIs and three failed IVF attempts before finally using an egg donor to conceive my miracle baby.

This woman could feel pain and alienation. But she just doesn’t know my story. I wonder how many pregnant women I saw when I was trying to conceive that made me feel sad. How would I have felt if I had known that they had just got done fighting their own hard battles? Would I have felt connectedness? Camaraderie? Compassion?  Hope? If I had just reminded myself that I am not alone and that I don’t know her story.

4. “The lie that God is punishing me for something I have done.” By Caroline at In Due Time

How many times have you heard someone say that they feel God is punishing them for something they have done? Many people have the thought that the reason they are going through a trial or suffering is because of something they did to cause it and therefore Jesus is punishing them.

That is a lie.

Are there consequences to our actions? Absolutely. Often times when we suffer, it’s because of our own mistakes. However, God does not punish us. God loves us. When you feel like you are being punished, recognize that your punishment was already bought. Romans 5:8 – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus already paid for our sins. HE is the one who was punished for our sins, not us. HE is the one who received the repercussions, not us. He doesn’t give you what you deserve (punishment and death), because He already paid the price. “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.” Psalm 103:10

We know God doesn’t punish us, but does He discipline us? Yes. Just as a parent disciplines their child to correct and train them to be more mature, that is what our father does with us. He does it out of love. He does it because He cares for us.

If you ever think that you are being punished, I encourage you to reflect on God’s character. When you have fresh revelations of who He is, you will never doubt that all of His actions towards you are out of love.

5. “The lie that adoption is ‘Plan B’.” By Kailey at Cheers to Plan A

The lie that adoption is ‘plan b’ is a lie that I’ve continually had to lay at Jesus’ feet. It is very easy for me to think, “Oh because we couldn’t get pregnant, adoption is what we had to do so we could become parents.” The truth is that my God is not surprised by our journey to adoption, which was His best plan all along. THAT eases my soul. It gives me peace and allows me to praise Him because His plan is far better than I could ever imagine.

My husband and I have played this silly game called “what is the truth?” I will tell him all these things that are going on in my head from the enemy and he will call it a truth or lie. It sounds super silly, but it works. It helps me match up my thoughts with the Word of God.

The truth is that infertility is how we got to adoption. It is OUR story. And I accept that with joy in my heart. I have no idea what our future looks like, but I know the Heart of my Savior. His heart is turned towards His children and He wants nothing but the very best for you and for me.

I hope that this has encouraged you to make your journey, just that, YOURS. No one else has it. Take ownership, be thankful. It is a privilege to have your own story and live it out. Much love to each of you and know that “Plan A” is what God has had planned for you since the beginning of time AND it is the absolute best!

6. “The lie that I am not healed … at least not yet.” By Elisha at Waiting for Baby Bird

I sat on the edge of my bed taking my blood pressure and as I waited for the reading, I remember thinking to myself that if it is within normal range than I am finally healed of this symptom resulting from PCOS. However as the numbers appeared and I saw 160/92, I heard a whisper that said, “Not healed yet.” Each morning when I would pluck out 15 dark coarse hairs from my chin, I would hear the same voice whispering, “Not healed today.” As my menstrual cycle would go past 50 days for the fourth time in a row, I could hear it again quietly reminding me that I was still not healed.

It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror one day, wondering when I would be healed of this dreaded illness that consumes my entire being, that I heard a different voice…a different whisper. This one said, “By His wounds you ARE healed.” I laughed! If I am healed, then why do I still see the evidence of PCOS? Why do I still have high blood pressure, excess facial hair, insulin resistance, lack of ovulation and long cycles? I am not healed…at least not yet. It wasn’t long after thinking those thoughts that I realized the voice I had been listening to…the one telling me I wasn’t healed yet, was the enemy. He was feeding me the lie that my healing of PCOS was a work to be completed rather than already finished. Isaiah 53:5 says that by His wounds we ARE healed. It doesn’t say we might be…will be…could be…but ARE. God wants you and me to know that what we desperately need Him to do for us has already been done.

Jesus’ finished work at the cross satisfied the Father’s heart that from heaven’s throne came the pronouncement, “It is done!” in response to Jesus’ cry, “It is finished!” on earth. I no longer worry about what I see or feel, or the presence of contradicting reports. These are just lies from the enemy and though they are very real, I know that they are temporal and not the truth. God’s Word is the truth and when you start believing that only what God’s Word says about your situation is true, all the lying symptoms will eventually have to line up with His Word. I am living proof as I can testify that once I began ignoring the voice of the enemy and believing the truth that by His stripes I am already healed, my cycles suddenly became much shorter and ovulation started occurring naturally. I give all the honor, glory and praise to God.

My question to you today is what do you see when it comes to your healing? Do you see a finished work or a work that is yet to be completed? God the Father says, “It is done!” Jesus says, “It is finished!” What do you say?

7. “The lie that God’s gift is actually a curse.” By Charity at The Word of a Nerd

Sixteen weeks along – this milestone was filled with excitement – if we chose to, we could know the sexes of our babies, see how big they’d gotten, and watch them squirm on the ultrasound screen. Instead I laid down for what seemed like hours as the ultrasound technician scanned over and over on my belly. Her excitement waned and she was no longer as chatty as before. I wasn’t worried until she brought the doctor in – a doctor who couldn’t be any worst at delivering bad news. The news about one of my baby’s health was accompanied by the fiery arrows of the devil. They pierced into me and I began to question all of what I thought I knew.

My babies are a miracle! GOD himself directed our path to pregnancy, He orchestrated every single step and I knew that. In that moment I wasn’t sure I knew anything and I was positive that I didn’t hear God correctly. I was sure that I had been disobedient and that God was punishing me by stunting the growth of my baby.

Since then my mind has drastically changed. I am not allowing the words of death to penetrate my heart or my womb. I am reminded that I am loved deeply by the GOD who sent His Son to die for my sins. I am reminded that GOD knew my babies before I did and He loves them much more than I can. His love is what I have hope in and His ability to heal is where my faith lies – not in doctors and not in a diagnosis. The enemy seeks to take the joy that God has given to me by making me believe his gift is a curse. I don’t believe it anymore, I know my God – He operates in love not fear. 1 John 4:18

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I hope this post has blessed you as much as it has blessed me! We love touching others as well, so feel free to share with your friends or readers! I’d love to hear what lie you are debunking and how you are doing it too, so please, join in the conversation and share your heart with us in the comments!

Until next time …  XOXO!

PS – For those regular readers of my blog, Friday Favorites will be postponed a few days — check back Monday or Tuesday for a special edition. :)

… in the land of the living.

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I loved this verse I read from Psalms 27:13-14 today: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Ahh, 6 simple words – “In the land of the living.” My prayers echo this, believing we will see answers to our prayers on this earth during our life. And so we wait. We pray. We remain strong by His might. We find courage in Him. On days of despair, when my heart is in shambles and the statistics shout against my hope, I will wait. I will believe. I WILL see His continued goodness. Breathe in and breathe out. Whatever you’re waiting for today, find Him first then lean into His gentle yet mighty strength.

I believe”– the definition of “believe” is to accept something as truth and be sure of something. So when we say “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”, we are saying “I trust, without a doubt, without question and with completely certainty, that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The Message translation reads like this: “I’, sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”

It can be so hard to stay with God when you feel weary. But here’s where I have been challenged in the past – when I am feeling my weariest, I realize that I have not been staying with God. I have been trying to manage it all on my own and inviting God to walk along side me, I have not met Him first or sought Him first. I tend to make it about me and my “needs”. I’ll consult Him, when I have the time. His Bible, hey, it’s great to read when I am done with my prayer list. Quiet time to listen? Shoot, well, I have to catch up on the Real Desperate Housewife of Orange County finale …. It’s only in the moments when I put Him first that I truly and completely feel the wave of peace wash over me and the weariness lifted. Because it’s in THOSE moments, when God takes over, carries the load and the invites me to walk beside Him.(And more often then not, He ends up carrying me.)

It’s so worth it and yet it can be so hard. I love the control. I love the adrenaline of the challenge, but it’s so draining. This verse today has reminded me to believe without a doubt that God will grant our prayers on this earth and has increased my confidence and trust in waiting on Him.

discouragement and expectations.

My highlighter has run dry. I recently read a chapter in the book Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick that had my highlight moving at the speed of light. In fact, if you peered at my book at the moment, you would likely find more things NOT highlighted than highlighted. My underlining skills have much to be desired however there was so many great points packed in this chapter about expectations, discouragement and disappointment that I just couldn’t keep it to myself. So here’s my list of my favorite quotes – (and this won’t do the book justice so order a copy today*!):

1. “When the internal dialogue of discouragement starts in your heart, remember – the Enemy’s goal goes way beyond putting you in a bad mood temporarily. He’s trying to talk you out of trusting God’s plan for your life at a foundational level. And he’s not just trying to derail you. He aims to limit the impact God wants to make through you and beyond you.”

I know I am not alone when it comes to that internal dialogue that starts talking to me at night. You’ll never have a baby. You’ll never see an answer to these prayers. You are broken. You should just stop trying. Everyone else is meant to have a baby, look at you, being passed up again, and again, and again. You heard your calling wrong. The chatter in my head is insistent. But every word of the chatter is taking God out of the equation and causing me to doubt what I believe in the bottom of my heart that God has called me to be (a mom). When the devil starts churning that doubt in my head, it isn’t just a temporary stumble, it begins to root those lies in my heart and brain, affecting every aspect of my life. Time to put those lies aside and focus on the TRUTHS I have been given. Easier said than done, right? But like muscles, it just takes some training – continued training – and never giving up.

2. “The greatest source of discouragement for me is going through pain when I can’t see the purpose.”

Isn’t pain so much easier when you can see a domino effect of good that has come out of it? You work out every day and you see results. You give up soda and you lose a few pounds. You lose your job only to get a better job. There is a feeling of accomplishment and strength that keeps you motivated because you see the purpose, sometimes immediate and sometimes it takes a little while.

But what about when one of your parents passes away? Or you have a miscarriage? Or your son dies away shortly after he is born? Or your husband gets cancer? Then what? The pain and discouragement lingers and you don’t see a purpose, you can’t find any good in the situation and the discouragement gets heavier.

While I will never sit here and tell you that your child dying is a good thing, I do believe that good things can come from immense pain. My miscarriages were not good – they were so painful that there doesn’t seem to be accurate words to convey that pain – but out of that, good things have come. I became more relatable to many of you, forming friendships and being able to walk in faith along side of you. I have seen friends turn back to God after reading a post and I have met so many of you that I am able to pray for and with. Those are good things. The stories I hear, how you share with me about how God is working in your life despite your struggles, that gives purpose to my pain. It lessens my discouragement.

 3. “Let me offer a working definition of disappointment: disappointment is the gap between what I expect and what I experience. And the chatterbox (that voice in our head) looks for ways to exploit your disappointment by filling that gap with doubts about the goodness of God.”

I have continued to learn that there’s a central thread that runs through expectations and that is communication. There have been nights that I have been out for the evening and hope that Josh magically reads my mind to unload the dishwasher while I am gone. When I get home and the dishwasher is still full, I am disappointed – what I experience is not what I expected. I could be mad at him, frustrated for his lack of mind-reading capabilities or I could communicate with him what I was hoping for and let it go. Or even better, I could communicate my expectations before going out so that he knew what I hoped to experience when I returned. How many times have we been mad at God for not answering something we never prayed to Him about? Or held an unanswered request against Him, even and especially when its something we have prayed and pleaded with Him about? One question I ask myself regularly when I am disappointed is “Was his/her intentions to hurt me?” Josh would never intend to make me frustrated on purpose and God doesn’t intend to cause us pain either. He does expect us to trust in His goodness however which builds our faith as we navigate disappointments.

 4. Disappointed expectations, when full-grown, give birth to chronic discouragement. If you allow this discouragement to run rampant in your life, you’ll lose your hope.”

We can’t be people that constantly focus on what we are lacking or where our expectations have fallen short. That focus is what guts our faith and drains us of our joy, purpose and hope. I am been a victim of falling into the cycle of chronic disappointment and losing my hope – the good news is it’s possible to regain but it takes time spent with God, a commitment to seek Him above your prayer request list and the faith to say even if my request isn’t answered, You are still good.

 5. “If God always met our expectations, He’d never be able to exceed them. Sometimes God takes us to another level by building higher. Sometimes He does it by digging deeper.”

The first time I read this quote I starred it, highlighted it, underlined it, shouted a mental ‘amen’ in my head …. then a few hours later as I washed my hair in the shower, I thought about it some more. And it irritated me. God, I am not even asking you to exceed my expectations, I am perfectly fine with you just meeting them. I would be thrilled with just getting an answer, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just something, anything, please …. I have to admit, I am still sorting through my thoughts on this one but I like where it is going. (But really God, I’ll take 3rd place, just let me be on the podium …)

(The story I shared of Lazarus in this blog post from September talks a lot more about failed expectations and the richness that can be found in Him exceeding what we ask.)

 6. “Don’t let what you expected keep you from what God wants you to experience.”

We are living in the present moment and as much as we hope for _________ (a baby/a new job/a bigger paycheck/a healed spouse/a repaired marriage/student loans to be paid off), we have to live in today. That means experiencing everything that God has given us right here, right now. I believe that some of the richest blessings in life come from acknowledging that what we are experiencing, as imperfect and difficult as it may be, is something that is molding us for even greater days. These are precious moments.

7. “Believing God means assuming that He is always working, even when our faith and prayers and love doesn’t seem to be working at all. Realizing this opens our hearts to accept what God has allowed in each season of our lives without being overtaken by discouragement.”

This is where faith is tested. Faith is tested in the season of silence, in the season of unanswered prayers, in the season where sorrow and disappointments swirl around us like a frigid winter snow. It’s also the time where we can be strengthened if we allow God to meet us where we are and walk with Him during the storm. Disappointment sucks, but there IS a future ahead, where disappointments fade away and peace is given. It’s exhausting but completely worth it.

Good stuff right!? Should I do a similar post on the chapter about gratitude later this month? Weigh in on the comments and let me know! Until next time …

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Oh and a random PS – you know what’s crazy – that if my first IVF cycle had not resulted in a miscarriage, today would have been our child’s 1st birthday (assuming the due date was spot on). I am not sure where time went and that makes this journey feel even longer than ever. Happy first birthday little Boone and Crockett. Sorry Dad nicknamed you such silly names – we love you!

* – I don’t get anything for recommending this book or link, it’s simply to make your purchase easier. :)

 

lessons from robin williams’ death.

I, like many of you, was shocked and saddened to hear about the news of Robin Willliams’ death on Monday. Sudden deaths to me always feel surreal and being an empathetic, emotional person, losses are always accompanied with tears whether I “know” the person or not. I cry for the family, for the person, for those touched near and far. Death is never easy to deal with and in this case, it’s brought a few lessons to light for me this week.

1. Live a life that impacts those around you. As tweets, posts, statements and pictures flooded in, it was obvious that the world felt Robin’s loss heavily. In instances like this, I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact it would make on the world if I passed away. No, I don’t expect or want a worldwide hashtag trending, but I do hope to live a life where my absence would affect others in a meaningful way.

We had a close family friend pass away suddenly in April and as I attended his wake and read the steady flow of Facebook comments flood his page, it was obvious that people knew what kind of person he was, what he stood for, and who he believed in. His laughter was infectious, his smile was warm and his hugs were among the best. I remember telling one of his kids how blessed they were to have a father who left such a legacy. We have the chance every day to affect those around us in a positive way. We can choose to show grace and mercy to those who maybe don’t “deserve” it in our opinion. We can genuinely smile at someone who looks to be having a rough day. We can go out of our way to show kindness to those around us – encouraging them, bringing them meals in tough times, and offering hugs when there are no words. And most importantly, we can make it obvious who our Father is and allow Him to seep out of our pores, making it impossible for those around us to question His existence and presence in our lives.

2. Live life as if today is your last day, your last week, your last month, your last year. I hope and pray that you have a long, rich life full of laughter and memories and blessings. I hope and pray that if your life ends sooner than it should, that it is never at your own hand. I hope and pray that NONE of life’s circumstances alter the joy that you carry with you every day. But we know that a long happy and healthy life isn’t always realistic in a broken world and we are surrounded by sudden deaths daily.

At times I wish that I could just have a straightforward answer at what the rest of my life would look like. “You will have 1 child at age 34.” Or “You will never have children.” I feel like there could be so much freedom in simply being able to stop living life wondering what was ahead. But then I realize that NONE of my circumstances should affect my joy. So what if you found out today that you weren’t going to get a different job? You weren’t going to be able to sell your house for 2 more years and the budget would be tight for a little while longer? Wouldn’t there be joy and freedom in simply knowing that you don’t have to worry about it? Well guess what – we DON’T have to worry about it. We do what we can and then we let God handle the rest. His timing, not ours. He carries our burdens, but only when we have the ability to unclench our fists and allow Him to grab them from us. I’ve been guilty of crying out “God, take this burden from me, but let me hold on onto it so I maintain the control please.” So counterproductive.

So let’s embrace the mantra ‘Carpe diem’, seize the day. George Harrison says it best, ““It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

3. Mental Illness is real and like any other illness, it has to be dealt with. Anytime there is a suicide, it reminds me of how cruel mental illness is. While cancer might infect your bones or liver, mental illness infects your brain and the way you think and handle life. The good news is that with the help of modern day medicine, psychiatrists, and therapists, help is available and the use of medication can assist with the balance of the chemicals in your brain. Mental illness IS possible to treat. The sad thing is that there is such a stigma around it which prevents many people from ever getting help. But know that you are not alone in your struggle. If you are ever battling depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please tell someone, even if the thought of that seems exhausting. While spirituality is a component in healing, it is not the only component. God is our Healer and He has given us amazing medical resources to help with healing, including medications. Please don’t ever feel like you are a bad Christian because of your struggle or ignore your battle hoping to pray it away. Mental illness is not your identity, just like infertility isn’t my identity. It may be something we struggle with but it does not define who we are. Seek help because life doesn’t have to end by your hands. You are too loved to let that happen.

4. Be kind and loving, you never know the battle someone else is facing. Hardships are real and we are in no place to judge or make assumptions about why someone is the way they are. I have never heard someone say at a funeral “Well, I was too kind to him.”, instead, people wish they had been kinder and softer with people. Take the time to lift others up, not tear them down. Life is too short and we never know what the other person’s day is like. Instead of trying to teach someone a lesson about driving too slow or serving your table at a snail’s pace, think that maybe, just maybe, the lesson you are meant to “teach” them is one of undeserved grace. I have a hard time believing that a dirty look, a minimal tip or hands being thrown up in the air is going to make any sort of positive impact on their life.

So Robin, know that your life has affected others around you. I am taking the time to reconsider how I am living my life as a result of your death. Your talent was beautiful to observe. Jumanji scared the heck out of me, Blubber made me laugh, Dead Poet’s Society made me think, Good Will Hunting challenged me, Mrs. Doubtfire made me giggle (and was the first movie my sister and I watched in my parent’s bed, which always made it extra special), Aladdin made me contemplate my life’s wishes and the list could continue. While I will never be in a movie, I hope to use my gifts to impact others positively as you did with yours. I’m so sorry you didn’t find the peace in this life that you were searching for.

Friends, let’s not let another death go by without using it to better our lives. Life is short and a gift, let’s embrace it for all it’s worth.

perseverance.

Perseverance.

This has been the word of the month. I am constantly amazed when something gets whispered to me and then God continues to affirm it over and over and over again. I feel like every book I pick up talks about perseverance. Pretty Pinterest quotes sent to me display the word. It shows up in my Bible studies, my leisurely reading, the radio, my podcasts …  the word is everywhere. Chelsea, keep persevering.

What does that even mean?

The word first came to me in a study that said – “Between any trial and that blessing that comes from that trial, there is a pathway I must walk – that pathway is perseverance.” The book continued by saying “Perseverance means having an urgency, firmness, resolve and consistency.”

I felt like that definition wasn’t strong enough, so I turned to my good friend, Mr. Dictionary, and dove in for a richer meaning.

Perseverance: Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.

We are all faced with difficulties, obstacles and discouragement. Maybe you share in our struggle of infertility, facing a miscarriage or another negative cycle. Or maybe you carry the struggle of finding a job and wanting to provide for your family, but continue to be told “no thank you” … maybe it’s striving for a better diet and exercise routine, wanting to push past unhealthy habits and begin a lifestyle as a healthier you. There are so many obstacles in life, too many to list. And more often than not, just when we feeling like we are getting ahead, something strikes us back down. A bad day, a curt word, another failure, seeing someone else succeed … and you just want to give up. Don’t.

Storms suck. Some days they never seem like they are going to end. I get mad that God isn’t a genie who magically answers all my prayers in my timing. It’s so frustrating when you are waiting and discouraged and nothing seems to change. What do we do?

Pastor Craig Groeschel gave a sermon back in April about being in the storm and the importance of persevering. He shared this verse in James that I love –

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Here’s the thing – it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to give into the voices believing that it will never happen, you are not good enough, you don’t have that strength, you can’t. What’s harder is pushing through the doubt, the struggle, the exhaustion and remaining persistent despite what “logic” says.

I believe that what God has placed on your heart – whether it’s a dream, a calling, a passion, or a purpose – He will be faithful to provide it. It may not be in our timing (in fact, it often isn’t in our timing), but it will be perfect when it comes. We don’t always feel like believing that but as Charles Parkhurst says “We have taken a great step towards maturity when we trust God without relying on our feelings.”

Perseverance persists when it doesn’t make sense. Perseverance continues to push forward when circumstances and past failures shout that you can’t. Perseverance doesn’t stop trying, doesn’t stop hoping, and doesn’t stop acting. Perseverance is lifting up the same prayer request day in and day out and pleading for an answer – maybe for one week, six months, 2 years, or 15 years. Perseverance sets your faith as your foundation and pursues your heart’s calling no matter how many times you feel struck down and defeated.

So how do we persevere when we have hardly anything left in us? Charles Spurgeon says “Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when you wake in the morning look to Him; when thou lie down at night look to Him. Oh! Let not your hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.”

And so, we persist. We remind ourselves that we are capable and able of pushing forward, trying one more time, hoping in what we do not see and believing that with God, ALL things are possible.

“Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God.” (Colossians 4:2 GNT)

(And of course some cute Pinterest images, because, well, they are pretty and inspirational.)

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