tears and stillness.

Anyone else in shock that it’s Thanksgiving this week? Whoa! My plate has been a little fuller than normal, trying to balance in working full-time with my already busy calendar. I added in a high dose birth control pill a few weeks ago to prepare for our IUI cycle and wowza, there is definitely a learning curve getting back into the steady stream of hormones and reintroducing metformin to my system. EEEEEEK!

I wish I could tell you I was handling the to-do list’s and hormones like a champ, but the truth is that it’s gotten the best of me more often than not. I seasoned my salad on Sunday night with tears as I faced the possibility that I might not be able to do it all. The amount of pressure I put on myself to “KEEP UP!” and the acknowledgement that I might not be able to makes me feel like I am failing. I take pride in being able to get it all done, throw the party, drop off the meal, send that card, reply to that text, sneak in a coffee date, comment back to each loving comment left. And then this last week hit and it was like ….

stress

And a little of this:

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However, I have to note, today, I am more like this.

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So why am I telling you all this? Well, one, so you know I have the same rollercoasters as you do. Two, because I needed to vent that birth control pills and metformin sucks. Three, well, because I am learning a lot during all this.

My soul needs rest. In the midst of chaos and SO MANY LISTS, I have made the mistake of prioritizing everything else above my time with Him and then when the evening comes and my Bible stares at me, well, my eyes just can’t stay open. I need to learn the disciple of being still, of making HIM the priority instead of ensuring I have the green bean casserole made and the turkey purchased (okay, well those actually are two important things).

Psalm 46:10a reminds me “Be still, and know that I am God!”. The act of being still is one of the hardest things for me in this season, as I know it is for many of you too. Psalm 131 continues, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul…” Solitude, quiet time and rest in God is worth fighting for. It’s worth carving out, worth prioritizing, worth bumping all the way up to the most alert part of your day.

I know I need to work on slowing down and simply enjoying His presence, without asking for anything and without worrying about everything else to do. Simply being with Him. Pastor Craig Groeschel says “Stilling our heart doesn’t happen by accident” and this whole last week or two has been a gigantic validation of that statement. So with that, I ask that you offer me some grace as I perhaps write only once a week instead of twice over the next couple weeks, or take an extra day or two to reply to your comments (which I LOVE reading!!!!!), or skip a Friday Favorites (like I will this Friday to spend some Black Friday fun with the family.) I want to take the little extra time I have and savor it, stilling my heart so I can contemplate the goodness of our Great God.

A few last things to note and to be concise, bullet points it is!

  • Thanks to over 85 of you who purchased products through our fundraiser link, we were generously donated over $900 in commissions from our dear friends Annie and Jana. We are completely overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing generosity and sacrifice of so many of you who wanted to be a part of our journey in this way. Humbled doesn’t even begin to describe how grateful we feel. Thank you. So much. 
  • Our IUI cycle is set to start the first week of December if all goes as planned! We are still waiting for test results on the autoimmune testing I had done and I have a call scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to discuss all the fine tuned IUI details and hopefully will get those results then. I will be absolutely sure to keep you all in the detail loop as we move forward! YAHOO!
  • Starting next month, I will be writing for the website Fertility Authority and will be posting blogs with new content over there in addition to my posts here. (Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere!) Can I ask you all a favor in advance? I get paid by views so when I share a link, would you mind just taking a moment to click over and read? If you weren’t able to participate in the fundraiser, this is a great free way to support us! Another amazing thing is that I get to write about my faith on there too, which as you know is a huge part of who I am as a writer and person. I am pumped about this opportunity and honored that they would approach me with this opportunity. Stay tuned the first of week December and then click away!

That’s it! Hope all my USA readers have an amazing Thanksgiving and I will eat extra turkey and mashed potatoes keeping my international readers in mind XO!

eating

 

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!

beanie babies.

When I was younger, our family collected Ty Beanie Babies. And when I say we collected them, I mean we were slightly* obsessed with them. (*you can omit this word.)

My mom led the charge. Her love for completing a set of something shone through and we were fixated on finding them. Collectors stores. Gift shops. Parking lots. Hospitals. Florists. The back of the school bus. (Yes, I said the back of the school bus. I have a vivid memory of purchasing a retired Ty spider off of a classmate with a wad of crisp twenty dollar bills.)

Once I was made aware of these stuffed animals (which were adorable, let’s be honest), the hunt was on. I could spot a Ty tag a mile away. I could list stats about the editions, the text styles, their value. (The thought of not being able to get our hands on the limited Princess Di bear was unbearable to my 12 year old heart.)

As soon as we started looking for them, the animals were found faster than our change purses could keep up with. I ate more Happy Meals in 1996 than in my whole life put together in attempts to get all 10 Teenie Beanies. The more we looked for them, the more aware of them we became. The more we focused on finding them, the greater our abilities then became, often times finding them in spots others would overlook.

Isn’t that true about God and His goodness? I live a life that is remarkably laced with His blessings, faithfulness and trustworthiness, yet am guilty of overlooking it on a regular basis. But here’s the thing I’m learning – the more I become intentional to search for His hand in my life, well, much like the Ty Beanie Babies, the more I see Him everywhere. Our lives are woven with His promises of hope, of faithfulness, of presence. And just because I forget to look for His goodness doesn’t mean it’s not there. The Beanie Babies were always there but it wasn’t until we decided to collect them did we notice them.

He is not a God who is hard to find. Tragically I forget to seek Him, forget to collect the promises He has sprinkled all around me. I forget to look back at the “collector’s book” and learn all of the nuggets of information that it holds. He’s given me all the lessons, the facts and truth of His value. It’s in the Bible where I am reminded of this unarguable truth – He can be trusted.

To this day I can still spot a Beanie Baby a mile away. I can tell you exactly which ones the 25 cents bin holds during a garage sale drive-by and can sniff one out from a thrift store parking lot. And unlike the Beanie Babies, God’s value never plummets with time or upon mass production. His richness and worth increases every day in my life as I am tested, tried and make my best attempts of survival. All I need to do is look for Him, seek His goodness, and be intentional to collect as much of Him as possible, taking note of how much of His presence surrounds me each day. I want to be someone who can’t help but notice Him in the big and small moments of each day.

What’s it for you? What do you always see that others might miss? A stray paperclip? A dandelion in a field? The crazy amounts of Walgreen’s everywhere? (Or after 24 hours in Chicago, the amount of Starbucks drive thru’s everywhere? I am not kidding you, there is one on every corner. My mind is blown.) Let’s put something in our path each day that will remind us to look for Him because I guarantee it, once we start looking for His hand in our lives, we will see it everywhere and it will change us forever. (Pick up a Teenie Beanie Baby the next time you see one and slip it into your car. Use it as a reminder to seek Him each day!)

Oh, and yes, Cali has found a liking for Teenie Beanie Babies too. (That or her mom cannot leave a garage sale without providing them a new home.)

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(many not pictured because dad reads this blog too and, well, we don’t need to give away all our secrets.)

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.

the joy comes in the morning.

The summer before 11th grade, our youth group decided to take a camping trip to Tennessee. Being that I don’t like to camp and dislike all things “roughing it” in general, I thought it was a great idea to go.  (No, really, I have no clue why I thought this was a good idea.) Add in some friends, a chance to do something cool away from home and the opportunity to shop for some new outdoorsy clothes and I was on the list.

Now I had done the summer camp thing loads of times before. A warm cozy cabin set a few hundred feet away from a full bathroom, pool and snack shop? I’m game. My idea of roughing it was having to use a sleeping bag for a blanket and only being able to pack 2 pillows. I was certain that this couldn’t be too different. A tent sounded fun! I bet it was a cute one too. And it was called “Confrontation Point”. That couldn’t mean anything right?

Wrong.

We pulled up to the campgrounds, er, well, basically a forest. As we trotted our way through the weaves of the trails, our leader finally called out “We are here!”. Here? Wait what? Where were the cute tents? The bathrooms? I thought the whole ‘bring your bio-degradable shampoo’ thing was just a 2001-attempt to start a “go green” trend. Huh?

Before I knew it, everyone around me started dropping their backpacks on the ground (wait, I don’t want to get mine dirty!) and pulling out tarps. What is going on!?! I shouldn’t have talked and passed notes during all of the pre-trip meetings! Before I knew it, tarps were being tied to two close trees, with the bottom corners staked to the ground. Where were the tents? We were sleeping on a tarp on the ground with another tarp loosely tied overhead? I wanted to faint. What about the bugs?

Time out. For those of you who don’t know me well, you now need to know that I am terrified of spiders. Like, shriek, dance, shake and cry. The spotting of a spider across the house can typically cause the neighbors to be concerned. I shudder just writing the word spider. Ughhhh. (I have never even watched the Harry Potter scenes with any spiders. My eyes have always remained closed. Even fake spiders freak me out.)

Okay, time in. Campsite is set up, fire is built, everyone around me seems to be frolicking with joy about this whole nature thing, and I wanted to cry. No new clothes, time with friends, or summer adventure was worth being this outside my comfort zone.

Ugh, why did my hair keep tickling my arms? I kept brushing my shoulders off absent-mindedly. What was I going to do? Tickle, tickle. Again? As I glanced down to pull my hair back, I saw it. IT. A gigantic daddy-long legs spider that was about the size of a baseball, crawling up my arm. (Granted, my memory could be playing tricks on me but this is what I remember. HUGE HUGE spiders.)

Well, you can only imagine the scene from there. I was horrified, terrified, crying, screaming, you name it. And that’s when a few other people commented that they had spiders on them too. No one seemed to be hyperventilating like me though. “Oh don’t worry about those! They are completely harmless.” Our guide told me, “They actually just live in the trees and fall out of them. Just brush them off.”

I actually don’t think a paragraph is needed to try to articulate my horrified reaction. The next thing I know, I am talking (okay, sobbing) to our youth group leader that I need to find a payphone. I ran back up the trails to the shelter and with shakey hands, found my 35 cents to call my mom.

Chelsea (me): (wailing) “Mom, you have to come and get meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”

Mom: What are you saying honey?

C: Youuuuuu hhhaaaaavveeeeeeee to come and get meeeeeeeeee. Spiidddeeerrrrrrssssssss.

M: Take a deep breath, I can’t understand you.

Well, it took some time and another 50 cents but I eventually was able to explain to her the horror that was my youth group “retreat” and the urgent need for her to drive from Chicago to Tennessee to pick me up. Imagine my surprise when she lovingly said that wasn’t possible.

Plan B. Find a hotel.

Well, my youth group leader didn’t agree with that idea OR with my idea to let me sleep in the van the whole time. Yada yada yada, not safe to be alone in the van a few miles from the campgrounds. Either way, it was clear and evident that this would be my week to die. Confrontation Point had to do with confronting your fears? Oh boy ….

To be honest, it’s hard for me to explain how truly terrified I was that first night sleeping on the ground knowing that the tiny tinks I was hearing on the tarp above was likely light, fluttery, can’t-really-feel-them spiders falling down on me. Someone from my group gave me a little stuffed animal, a Junior Asparagus Veggie Tales toy, that when you squeezed him would sing “God is bigger than the boogey man, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV, Oh God is bigger than the boogey man and He’s watching out for you and me. So are you frightened (no not really), are you worried (not a bit!). I know whatever’s gonna happen, that God can handle it …” Squeeze. Repeat. Squeeze. Repeat. I am certain that the entire group heard that song over and over and over again all night long, along with my muffled sobs.

But then the next day came and we were off to our next adventure. White water rafting, repelling, hiking, there was enough distractions until dusk set in. Then the fear kicked in and the long, long nights.

I just went and pulled out my old journals that I had on that trip and found several entries scribbled in there – this one kind of made me giggle.

(Dated August 6, 2001 – age 16)

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(At least I apologized for disliking His creation, HA!)

Every time morning would come, I would repeat this verse in my head.

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(Apparently I brought markers with to this camp.)

Now hear me out – how many times in life have we been faced with something we just don’t want to go through? A situation where you need to confront someone else? A trial with a boss or friend? Facing your fears with something or carrying the heaviness of something like infertility, a broken marriage, looming debt, the death of someone we loved, a terrifying diagnosis or an addiction? The weight of the night rests on us and we just want out.

God, please, take this away from me. Can you come pick me up? I don’t want to face this. No? Then can I have an easy way out? Sleep in the van? Find a hotel? Do anything but face my fears?

The night seems to never end.

But at some point my friends, it ends. The sun rises. And perhaps it only rises briefly. Maybe there is another night you have to spend in the tent, facing your fears, fighting your obstacles, crying as you pray. But then there is a break – and the joy comes in the morning.

You know what? That week in Tennessee was really hard for me. I can’t tell you how many times the words “SPIDERS” appeared in my journal, how many times I squeezed Junior Asparagus and how many times I slapped my body, certain there was a spider crawling on me. But somehow, somehow, I made it through that trip. And you know what I wrote in my journal at the end?

 

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“THIS IS AWESOME….it’s cool that .. I’m toughing it out.”

Pride. A sense of gratitude for His presence that went with me into what felt like the scariest and darkest of nights. A strength that I could get through my biggest fears and a spiritual growth that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been forced to stay.

Sometimes we have to stay through the nights. I beg, routinely, to be “picked up” from the infertility camp. And for some reason, I’m still here. But you know what, I am learning so much. About God, about myself, about my marriage and about compassion. I know one day, I will look back on all of it and say “THIS IS AWESOME.”, I really do believe that.

Oceans by Hillsong doesn’t say “Spirit lead me where I am comfortable. Let me walk upon the waters wherever its convenient…” How can we expect to gain trust without borders if we are constantly asking to stay in our little cabin, away from anything that would challenge us?

The joy comes with the morning … and so we patiently (and not-so-patiently) wait for morning to come. Because we are not alone, and because if we are willing, we have so much to learn during the nights.

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friday favorites – september 12.

As I type this it’s currently – wait for it – 55º outside with an overnight low of 37º. Wah wah. I am afraid summer ended pretty abruptly for us midwesterners. My allergies are looking forward to the near freeze but I feel like my open toed fall shoes are not going to get a good season in. I’m not complaining though. I do love that we get to experience all four seasons and fall is one of my favorites. So bring it on!

Alright, let’s jump in to the Friday Favorite fun! (Triple F? FFF? F x 3? None of these? Ha!)

Favorite Moment: Josh and I got to have a fun date with my nieces Scarlett (3) and Kinsely (2) on Saturday and we had SUCH a wonderful time. These little girls are hysterical, so loving and funny and so well behaved – it’s evident their parents have done an amazing job raising them so far. (Shout out to Joe and Monica!) We packed the day full of activities – starting with a treasure hunt and hidden clues (leading to the final prize in the oven, which the girls thought was so funny), spent time on the driveway painting pictures, had a surprise stop from the ice cream man (which as an uncle and aunt, we couldn’t pass up), played water ball tag, made button picture frames (and they both picked out Cali as the photo they wanted featured which melted my little fur-mama heart), had a tea party and tickle fight, and then attempted to dance like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as we watched Alice in Wonderland. We were tired afterwards but goodness, our hearts were full!

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Favorite Recipe: We tried a great recipe this week, one that I found on a Whole30 page (IG @ Whole30Recipes). (But then I added parmesan cheese because I love cheese. Whoops!). It was delicious – give it a try!

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(I wasn’t planning on putting this picture on the blog so excuse it’s unedittedness and uncenteredness, ha. Real life here peeps)

Cashew-Almond Crusted Tilapia Salad with Lemon-Pepper Ranch

Tilapia Prep: In a food processor (or Magic Bullet!), blend until fine: – 3/4C cashews – 3/4C almonds – 1 tsp ea. of chili powder, paprika, salt & pepper. Transfer to a shallow dish. In another dish, whisk 1 egg and 2T water .Rinse and pat dry 4 tilapia fillets. (I think any white fish would be yummy!) Dip in egg and then crumb mixture. Transfer to baking dish or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. (Always check the doneness of your fish, it should be white and flakey. Thicker fillets may need a few extra minutes and I took a thinner one out at 20 minutes.)

Salad: – Bed of mixed greens (I love butter lettuce and Trader Joe’s now has it bagged!) – a Thinly sliced red onion (in the recipe but I didn’t have one handy) – Tomato chunks (hiding in this picture of mine apparently) – and tons of Mini Cucumber slices (and parmesan cheese if you don’t mind the little bit of dairy)

Dressing: Whisk: – 2T homemade mayo (I’ll be honest, I used Hellman’s while is not Whole30 compliant) – Juice of 1/2 lemon – 1 tsp EVOO – Dash of: cayenne, paprika & cracked pepper.

{note: I sliced the tilapia after it was baked.}

Favorite Picture: Hands down, this adorable one of my niece Scarlett on her first day of Pre-K. Her smile! Oh my word, my heart melted. She can’t possibly be preschool aged! Gulp!

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Favorite Thing I’m Looking Forward to: Damien Rice’s new album! He hasn’t had a new cd come out since 2006 and his new album that is supposed to drop on November 11th. Love his stuff.

Favorite Tradition: Every year, on the first fall-like day, my sister and I sneak away to Starbucks and celebrate the new season with our first Pumpkin Spice Latte. Now, I have been trying to watch carbs and sugars so this year I rang in the season with a kiddie sized, no whip breve PSL, however, I believe that diets are all about balance and that one kiddie sized PSL wasn’t going to kill me. Traditions and new memories are so special and I am glad I splurged. :) Cheers!

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Favorite Quote: “I am always available to you. Once you have trusted Me as your Savior, I never distance Myself from you. Sometimes you may feel distant from Me. Recognize that as feeling; do not confuse it with reality. The Bible is full of My promises to be with you always.” –Jesus Calling-

I loved this section from Jesus Calling this week. If you knew me at all, you know that I am a very feelings-based person. This was such a great reminder for me that even when I don’t FEEL like I am being heard, or He is present, that doesn’t mean I am not and He is not. It brings us back to basing our faith off of His Word and His character. I had an ah-ha moment last night at small group when I was sharing with my group how I just want some sort of feeling or affirmation that He is hearing us, and then I flipped to a page in my book that I highlighted (and clearly forgot), that said “Is it possible that when we are not getting the affirmation or confirmation that we desire, it’s because God doesn’t want our faith to rest in affirmation we can feel? In these times could it be that He’s at work on a deeper level, teaching us to rely on His character rather than our performance?”  (Steven Furtick) I felt immediately convicted that I need to spend less time analyzing my feelings and spend more time trusting His character and Word.

Favorite Funnies: Apparently I was hard to impress this week because hardly any funnies cracked me up! So there are only a few this week – as always, if you have something to share with me, send it over via email! (Check out the Contact page). Enjoy!

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As always, hope you have an awesome weekend. Thanks for reading today. :)

… 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.