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

jaws.

animals-BlacktipReefShark-header-web For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a healthy fear of sharks. And by healthy, I mean I am worried about sharks attacking me in swimming pools, around water vents, in lakes or rivers, most definitely in the ocean regardless of the water height, and yes, understanding that even fake sharks could become dangerous and deadly.

I believe an early viewing of the movie Jaws may have had something to do with it, although like all good parents, mine fast forwarded through so much of the tv-version movie that I had just enough to worry about in an excitingly obsessive way. (And also had a total meltdown the first time I saw the non-fast forwarded through version). Sharks have always intrigued me and I have written many papers for school, collected shark teeth and can give you detailed run-downs of all 4 Jaws movies. (skip Jaws 2 and never waste your time on Jaws: The Revenge.)

Riding the Jaws ride at Universal Studio in Florida when I was in elementary school was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, but one I was determined to overcome. (I did say my goodbyes beforehand though. One kid at school told me someone got thrown off the boat by mistake and the fake Jaws munched her up before they could retrieve her. I was certain my death was near.) But thankfully, despite some hysterical sobs and an offer to stop the ride, I did make it through.

All of this being said, last week Josh and I ventured down to sunny Florida and spent the day at Universal for our anniversary. I knew the Jaws ride had closed much to my dismay. However, I wasn’t anticipating him to be hanging by the Universal “lake”. As a nearly 30-year old adult, walking close to him was terrifying. I likely sounded like a shrieking dying varmint. Thankfully our walk by him was early and the park area was nearly empty.

Take a picture with him!

Josh and the park photo attendant cheered.

No thanks!

My football field length viewing of him was more than close enough and I was sweating more than I should have been for 9:00 am.

Honey, just get a little closer, you can do it!

Josh kept cheering, standing on the other side of the big killer while I would take one step forward and run 3 steps backwards. I was painfully aware that this made no sense at all. I could see the confusion on the park attendants face as she watched me do an awkward side dance between the plastic Jaws and the freedom that the street 100 yards away was bringing.

You got this, just get a little closer. He’s not gonna get you. Come on babe!

Josh was giddy at the thought of me overcoming this fear. I wanted to throw up in my mouth. (Disgusting I know. Fear will do that to you, right?) Finally, after 100 mini mental pep talks and Josh chanting in the background, I made it to the beast. I stood about 5 feet away and smiled prettily for the camera. Except neither Josh nor the attendant would take the picture.

Um, move in closer.

I can’t.

You can. Just don’t look at its really sharp teeth. (Park attendant – not helpful.)

(me wheezing)

Finally I got close. I mean, really close. I don’t think I was breathing and I was certain at any time 1) another shark would jump out of the water behind me and pull me in; 2) that this plastic Jaws was mysteriously animated somehow and would lurch at me, accidentally catching my hair in its teeth and kill me; 3) it would fall off the hinges and crush me. An unexpected way to die by shark but very possible in my world.

Now touch it!! Go on honey! Just put your hand up and touch it!

Josh was shrieking out encouragement and hysterical watching this entire thing take place. Again, can I just mention how thankful I was that no one else was around? Except that park attendant who had nothing helpful to say.

Whooooa, be careful! He’s looking at you!

I couldn’t touch him until said unhelpful park attendant shouted out three insanely helpful words.

Close your eyes!

My hands flew up to my face. I was wearing sunglasses! No one would ever be able to tell if my eyes weren’t open! And with that, my eyes quickly closed and I was mentally moved away from the situation that I was about to touch Jaws. My hand came up and rested on his cold, clammy, killery cheek and the camera’s clicked.

Boom.

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I walked away with a pride. I did it! I overcame my fear! I was still alive! And I had proof! Of course Josh walked up to him and made a visit to Jaws seem like he was saying hi to a minion, but I was on a high. In fact, they even talked me into another picture, this time with Josh, and I fell naturally into a runners stance. HA!

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All of this being said, I learned an important lesson about fear. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and do it. That thing that you are certain you can’t overcome – the move, the doctor’s appointment, the battle towards weight loss, the reconciliation phone call – just close your eyes and do it. When we stare the problem in the face for too long, it grows and with it, the fears grow. The “what if’s” become so long, engulfing us in worries and anxieties and almost always, the thoughts of failure. So let’s eliminate those from our peripheral vision. Let’s only lay our eyes on the prize – what do we need to do to overcome it? Is it making a phone call? Is it saying “yes” to something that scares you, yet you know you need to do? Is it finally scheduling an appointment to get that mole checked out or looking up the lab results the doctor’s office posted?

Isaiah 41:10 (GWT) beautifully reminds us: “Don’t be afraid, because I am with you. Don’t be intimidated; I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with my victorious right hand.” We don’t have to be afraid because He is next to us, supporting us, strengthen us and walking with us. Close your eyes today and feel Him. He is there! Slow down your mind long enough to realize His hand has never left you and never will. The thing you fear may not be easy. All things considering, my visit to Jaws is minor in comparison to real fears – fears of diagnosis’s, miscarriages, lost jobs, divorce battles, dying parents, difficult bosses. If you are at one of those draining crossroads today, be encouraged that you can go forward. It may be by closing your eyes but don’t stand still and soak in the terror. Grab His hand, listen to His encouraging words and move closer to that Thing. He will protect you in all your ways!

Okay, now back to Shark Week …

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you are not alone.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week – a week focused on creating awareness that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. You guys, that’s a lot. And I have to say, I am proud at how far we have come in the last few years. “Infertility” seems a little more talked about, people are responding with a lot more grace than discomfort, and more often than not, it invites others to say “me too”.

This year, RESOLVE is urging the infertility community to help spread the message “You are not alone.” Dealing with infertility can be isolating. So many people who struggle wonder why. We feel broken as we see our Newsfeed filling up with pregnancy announcements, gender reveal pictures, photo after photo of child-filled outings. The thing is though, there are others who understand how you are feeling. No one should have to walk through this alone.

If you are reading this today and are struggling, let me assure you of the fact that you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have never seen 2 pinks lines.

You are not alone if you have seen two pink lines but your arms are still empty.

You are not alone if you have to give yourself shots.

You are not alone if going to see the doctor (again) drains you of all your energy.

You are not alone if you are hopeful during a 2 week wait.

You are not alone if the thought of another 2 week wait makes your heart anxious.

You are not alone if you have ever laid in bed crying and wondering When? and Why?

You are not alone if you have felt like the only one who really feels like this.

You are not alone if you feel like you just can’t act like you have it all together one more day.

You are not alone if you are scared and confused.

You are not alone if you are questioning everything from trying to have your own child to learning about surrogates and gestational carriers.

You are not alone if you have heard that you are dealing with bad eggs.

You are not alone if you have heard that your partner has male infertility factors.

You are not alone if you are just giving it one more month.

You are not alone if you are afraid to say something to anyone because you anticipate a hurtful comment.

You are not alone if you need to seek a support group, find a counselor, take a break.

You are not alone if you engage in social media for support. (Instagram is the BEST group of ladies out there!)

You are not alone if you can’t remember the “pre-trying to conceive” you.

You are not alone if you aren’t sure when to seek help or talk to a specialist.

You are not alone if you are dealing with secondary infertility.

You are not alone if you are lead down a path to adoption.

You are not alone if you need to use donor eggs or donor sperm.

You are not alone if you feel like you can’t plan your life because you don’t know what the next 4 weeks will look like.

You are not alone if you have cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, red meat, vegetables that rhyme with “bale”, caffeine, anything with red dye …. all in hopes that this could be the thing that helps you get pregnant.

I could go on and on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. There are others out there with a similar story as you, feeling similar emotions, running down similar paths and wondering the same questions. Can I encourage you today to share your story? No, maybe it’s not going to be “coming out” on Facebook, but perhaps it’s telling a friend or a family member. Perhaps it’s starting the conversation with something like “What I am about to tell you is really hard for me because this is such a vulnerable and sensitive subject and I am just asking you to listen and be supportive …” I have a feeling that there will be many domino effects created as a result of your bravery to break the silence surrounding infertility.

Can I share one more thing?

I think that the greatest thing in the message You Are Not Alone is that you really aren’t ever alone because there is a God who loves you so much who is on the road with you, day in and day out. There are times and seasons where He seems so quiet. The silence of God is only temporary and I find it’s in the seasons of silence where I learn the most about Him and about myself. But apart from the seasons of silence, there are seasons of rich fellowship and community that is built by bringing our requests to His feet and trusting Him to walk with us down a path that is so hard, a path where we feel so weary.

God doesn’t always do exactly what we want Him to do, when we want Him to do it. I do believe though that even in the waiting and in the struggle of infertility, He is with us and because of that, we are never ever alone. We are never alone in the wee small hours of the morning when you’re hunched on the bathroom floor staring at another blank test. We are never alone when the ultrasound tech whispers “I am so sorry … let me get the doctor.” We are never alone when the emotions are bubbling.

I pray that during this week of Infertility Awareness, that others find deep, meaningful, rich relationships with other who are struggling so that they are reminded that they are not the outcasts, and even more so, I pray that others find the precious, peace-giving life that God has to offer in the midst of this battle.

Keep your chins up ladies, infertility does NOT get to beat us. We are not alone.

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Here are some resources for those wanting to learn a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, for those who want to learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, or that wants to read more facts from my NIAW blog last year or the year before.

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impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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friday favorites – april 3.

FRIDAY FAVORITES! Oh goodness, it seems like it’s been ages since I have done this! Let’s not wait, here we go!

Favorite Devotional Reminder: Today is Good Friday, a day that overwhelms me with its meaning and reminds me deeply of my need for Him. Last year I wrote this post and can’t try to do today justice with words, but I do want to share this one reminder that I read this week. Proverbs 31 Ministries had a special devotional this week called ‘Moving from Grief to Grace’ and reading it just tore through my heart is such a good way. This part in particular was that major ah-ha moment:

At one of my lowest moments, realization and remembrance flooded my heart and mind: God lost His Son too, His only Son. The Father knew my loss, pain and brokenness oh so well.

That revelation was like supernatural glue applied to bind my wounded soul. The lost, dark, broken part receded as God proceeded to heal my broken heart with His love and light.

How about your lost plans, hopes and dreams? Are you bitter? Do you want to be better?

Are you ready to lay your heavy cares at the foot of the cross … and leave that burden there, so you can step into God’s plans for you? Jesus promised, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” (Matthew 11:30, NKJV).

God’s plan for His Son was not what the people hoped for and expected as they celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, then experienced His death on the cross by week’s end. They did not know Easter Sunday — His Son’s day — was coming.

Remember, friend … Sunday’s coming! Jesus arose from the grave by the grace of God to save and redeem us. He has plans for us that include a hope and a future, even when our plans are dashed and we can’t see beyond the overwhelming loss of now.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

When I ache for my babies, this week especially, I will cling to the fact that God lost His Son too. God understands what grief feels like, what brokenness looks like, the intense feeling of agony. He also knows that Sunday comes … and I believe that Sunday WILL come for each of us in its own way. It may be how we think it will look or perhaps so much more than we could imagine.

This Easter let’s be comforted by the fact that He is in control and that His burden is light. Oh thank you Jesus.

Favorite Robe: I know this seems like a silly one, but I have always searched for the perfect robe. Not too long, not too short, not to bulky, not to thin. And, sound the alarm, I found it! I actually bought it several months ago at the Gap Outlet and tucked it away and completely forgot about it until a few weeks ago. Now that I have pulled it out, I am completely attached. If it was appropriate and acceptable to wear a robe in public, I would. The fabric is SO soft, it’s the perfect length and a great get-ready robe.

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Favorite Surprise: Remember how I told you guys about my Shoulders on Wednesday? Well, my amazing instagram friends put together the best surprise package for me that arrived yesterday and totally blew my socks off. It was filled with notes and spring goodies, insanely generous gift cards and so many treats for Cali (which she adored!!!), candies and things I love. They even thought of including some fun things for me to do with my nieces. I mean seriously, how amazing are they!? Gestures like this BLOW ME AWAY. I am so humbled to be a recipient of goodness and feel so much love. I just want to burst.

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Favorite Ministry: My friend Lynn from Sweet Birdie Blessings sent me this gorgeous necklace a month or two ago from her Etsy store and not only do I love the message it says, I love the ministry she has created! Her mission is supporting mom’s who have lost their baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth. She sends them a comfort package that contains tangible items to help them in the grieving processing as well as items to honor the loss of their child. She is in the beginning stages of creating these and sends them out as fast as she gets the items in. If you have any interest in donating any items, I know she would love it. (Items like Kleenex packs/travel tissues, lidded glass candles, pens, journals, ornaments, etc.). If you are interested in learning more, you can contact her at georgiaoates4 (at) gmail (dot) com. Her goal is to stock local OB offices with a container of these packages since many women learn about their loss at the doctor’s office. How wonderful is she!? Plus, this necklace is just such a blessing.

Favorite Night Out: My girlfriends Julie, Jana and myself checked out a new local restaurant, Bricks, this week and it was DELICIOUS! One thing I loved – everything on the menu can be made gluten free at no additional charge. Winning! Also, the fries are heavenly. Of course the best part was the conversation and the laughs that arose. So thankful for my girlfriends!

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Favorite Bracelet: My friend Abby sent me the sweetest gift this week – this Alex and Ani ‘scared dove’ bracelet (along with the softest pair of socks ever!!!). I absolutely love these bracelets and never justify buying them myself, so this blessed me in a big way! Thanks so much Abby for your thoughtfulness. I will always think of you when I see it, as well as the reminders of peace and faith.

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Favorite Thing I am Looking Forward to: My grandparents are coming up to Minnesota from Illinois next week and we are excited to spend some time with them! We will get the chance to celebrate my Nana’s birthday and play games, watch the Masters (okay, I might inadvertently nap) and enjoy their company. Watch out Minnesota, Nana and Grandpa Tedd are coming soon! :)

Favorite Devotional: I know I have shared this already on my Facebook and Instagram accounts but if you are looking for a new devotional, you have to check out Savor by Shauna Niequist. It’s a small page a day and offers a verse and portions of her previous books + new material. Worth checking out if you are looking for a quick daily read!

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Favorite Funnies:

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Oh and guess what else came this week!?! My #TTCLuckySocks exchange! My amazing partner Nikol went above and beyond and showered me with such amazing goodies! She blogs over at www.notjustabeautyblogger.com and just went through her 2nd failed IVF cycle. If you could, send some thoughts and prayers her way. She’s such a positive gal and gearing up for a SUCCESSFUL 3rd cycle. I know it’ll happen! She has been a total blast to get to know through this exchange and I just adore this whole box. Thanks new friend!

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I hope you all have a wonderful and BLESSED Easter! We are excited to celebrate with two brunches this year (wish our bellies luck!) and enjoy time with both of our families. I will see you next week for another post! XO!

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.