mug exchange.

mug exchange

Since April 2013 I have been coordinating different quarterlyish package exchanges for the TTC (trying to conceive) Instagram community. We typically have a theme – lucky socks, stationary, ornaments, local love, nail polish, scarves, favorite things – and it’s SUCH a fun time to put together package for someone who knows about the season you are in. We don’t just cut if off to the people who are struggling to conceive, we welcome women for all phases of infertility (pregnant, adopting, new mom, etc… more details on this below!) I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

And guess what – it’s time for the next one! Typically I don’t use my blog to spread the word about this, but this time I want to invite bloggers, instagrammers and all of social media to participate (plus have a place to answer lots of questions in an easier forum than a tiny IG comment section). Our theme has been suggested to me from several past participants and I am SO excited for it. Drumroll please ….

The next exchange theme is A MUG EXCHANGE! Woooohooooooo!

Before I share how to sign up participate, let me answer a few commonly asked questions about these exchanges:

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 you may be given anyone to purchase for, not necessarily someone who is on the exact same journey as you. As this exchange grows, it has become increasingly more difficult to ensure that you get an equally appropriate match. 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 a box to someone and receive one from someone else!

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. Many will include a way for their person to get in touch with them – a twitter handle, blog or email address or IG account – it’s really helpful for me if you include your name so that my inbox isn’t inundated with “who should I thank!?” emails.

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.

So am I exchanging with the same person I am sending one to?

Nope! The fun part is that who you are sending to will be a completely different person than who you receive one from.

Does that mean I should keep my person a secret?

It certainly does make it fun when that happens but it’s not necessary. If you are too excited to hold it in, feel free to share. You will be getting their social media information so feel free to friend them, follow them or look them up!

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 purchased from a garage sale (just make sure it’s clean). 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?

The first exchange I coordinated started as 30 women putting together a package and has now grown to a couple hundred. And I have a feeling now that we are opening this up to more of the social media world, it’s just going to grow bigger and bigger! Yeah support team!!!!

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. They don’t need to be a follower of my blog or instagram account (chels819) to participate. Anyone in the infertility community is welcome to join in. We will be using the hashtag #TTCmugexchange2014 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-2014/

What are the dates I need to know in order to participate?

You will need to sign up no later than Monday, October 13th. That’s a FULL 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 October 16 or 17. (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 Friday, October 31st 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 #ttcmugexchange2014 so we can all peruse the pictures. Send a shout out to your person, blog about it, tweet about 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. Email me the following info to ttcexchange@gmail.com NO LATER THAN Monday, October 13th:

  • Your full name
  • Your full mailing address (please remember to include your zip code so I don’t have to google! Also if you are in the USA, please type your address on one line (ie: 123 Notebook Lane, Janesville, LA 45698. This makes it a lot easier for me with the system I use). If you are from outside the USA, you can use multiple lines.
  • Your blog/twitter handle/IG name (be specific which is which)
  • Your willingness to ship internationally (just write YES if you are willing and NO if you are not)

I will close the exchange at midnight on the 13th (central time) and will not be able to accept stragglers after that.

2. Wait to hear back from me! I WILL CONFIRM THAT I HAVE RECEIVED YOUR SIGN-UP EMAIL. If you do not hear from me within 24 hours, please check the email address you send it to and resend. (Also, check your spam filter to make sure my reply didn’t go there). If you have emailed and still haven’t heard back from me, leave a comment below with your email and I will connect with you.

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 #ttcmugexchange2014 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 and I am pumped to open this up outside of Instagram. YIPPEE!!!!

Ready, set, GO!

friday favorites – september 26.

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Happy Friday! Man, I didn’t post Friday Favorites last week due to the Community Post (which received so much awesome feedback – I am so glad you loved it too!) and now my Friday Favorite list is 16 pages long. Well, not really, but close. I will try to trim and be as succinct as possible. You know how well that works for me, HA!

Favorite Accomplishment and Proud Wife Moment: Josh and I, along with my sister and one of my best friends Jana signed up for a 10-week fitness challenge last July through a local workout center (FXB) and finished our 10-weeks this last Saturday. Not only did we all accomplish it and feel great about our results, but my hubby ended up WINNING the challenge for the men and took home the $1,000 prize and champ title! Way to go Josh! Between the two of us we lost 37 pounds, 36 inches in our chest, waist, hips, arms and legs and crushed our sit-up and push-up per-minute challenges. (This man did 73 push-ups in a minute! And somehow I went from 0 push-ups – yes, zero – to 45. I’ll take it!)  I managed to not only run a mile (twice) but shaved over 2 minutes off of my time. (Okay so it was 2 minutes and 2 seconds, but still …). Either way, I am super proud of Josh and us girls and am excited to continue the 6 days a week program and build on our results. So of course, let us take some selfies.

these are all post-workouts so ignore the sweat.

these are all post-workouts so ignore the sweat.

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Favorite Starbucks Drink: I miss lattes, wahhhhh. But that being said, I LOVE getting an unsweetened iced coffee and adding a splash of half and half and then tons of cinnamon. Yes, powdered cinnamon! (Don’t get this confused and ask for their cinnamon syrup, which is delicious, but defeats the point.) Powdered cinnamon doesn’t dissolve and beware, it does take a few minutes of stirring before you can get it to disperse throughout, but it adds a delicious flavor and has great health benefits. It regulates blood sugar, slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reduces LDL cholesterol, is highly anti-inflammatory and reduces cytokines linked to arthritic pain, reduces chronic inflammation linked with neurological disorders, reduces the proliferation of cancer cells, improves brain activity AND it contains a natural chemical called cinnamaldehyde, which studies show increases the hormone progesterone in woman. Oh goodness, I could continue but I won’t. But seriously, just adding a teaspoon to your drink is a great thing! Delicious!

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Favorite Quote: I was in a bit of a funk the other day and my friend Jana sent me this. So perfect.

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Favorite Dramatic Moment: For once it doesn’t involve me. HA! We have been having some strange weather here in Minnesota lately – 50 degrees one day and then this weekend, back to the 80’s. I flipped on my fireplace a week or two ago briefly and my dramatic dog wandered over to her bed and passed out. It made me laugh and goodness, doesn’t she look so comfy and cozy?

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Favorite TV Moment: Um, 2 of them. 1) DERRICK WINNING BIG BROTHER!! (And Frankie not placing in the top 3 for America’s Favorite Player) and 2) alllllll of the fall tv shows which are making their way back to my DVR box. Parenthood, Grey’s, Vampire Diaries? I’m a happy girl.

Favorite Selfies: Can I even have this section? Well, I am anyways. Here are some of my favorite pictures with my hubby and sister.

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Favorite Funnies: Here we go!!

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What happens on a humid day

What happens on a humid day

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Hope you have a fabulous weekend friends!

be all there.

 

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I read this quote the other day and was immediately convicted. How many of you are as guilty as I am at not being ‘all there’ sometimes? I gotta be real with you guys, I am so guilty.

I’m listening! (but really, I gotta quick answer this text.)

Uh huh! Yeah. (Oh, look at this great Instagram picture she posted.)

I’m sorry, what did you say? (Shoot, I was reading an email as you were telling me a story.)

We live in this world where we are so distracted by everything going on around us. And it’s not that I don’t want to be there with you, listening or hearing your story. It’s like my thumb takes over and before I even realize it, I am swiping a screen, pulling up a text reply or silently thumbing my way through Facebook. I am listening to you! I promise, well, sometimes. But the truth is, I am not always all there and don’t even realize it.

Many of us watched this video that went viral a few months ago and there seemed to be a steady stream of reposts and declarations to ‘look up’ for a while. I was on board. Putting my phone down!!  I declared. But let me take this picture first, answer this work email, send this Snap Chat. I know in my head that I am missing out on so much by not always being in the moment, but it is incredibly hard for me to break this bad habit.

When I was working full-time, we constantly brought our phones with us to every meeting. 8 members of a leadership team discussing important things while our phones dinged, emails came through and we all made sure we weren’t needed immediately. It’s silly really, if anyone needed us that badly they would be able to find us. But I became tied to having my phone face up, on the table, ready for the next distraction to come my way.

I don’t blame work. I am trying to get better at turning off notifications on my phone so that I am not so easily distracted by a lit up screen that is informing me that someone played me back in Words with Friends. I know how frustrating it can be when you are trying to talk to someone and they keep glancing at their phone as if they are waiting for something better to come along. Ahhh, I don’t want to be that person and I am afraid I have become that.

To my friends and family who have been subjected to my easily distracted ways, I am so sorry. It has NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with my extroverted, distracted self. I am working on it, I really am. I am trying to leave my phone in my purse, turn off the ringer or not check it unless someone calls 3 times in a row. The person who is texting me is not more important that you. Our time together and our relationships take priority, even if my actions don’t always echo the truth that’s in my heart.

And as embarrassing as it is, if you notice I am doing this to you, please call me out on it. Last night during a date with my sister, I realized that she had to tell me 3 times to watch something before I lifted my eyes from my screen. Not okay. My husband puts up with my downfall the most and I am learning that if I need to be on my phone while we are interacting, it’s helpful to explain what I am doing and how long it will take so that he knows. For example, if he comes in and starts talking to me, it minimizes his frustration when I say “Hun, I am in the middle of replying to a text message. I really want to hear your story; can you give me 1 minute to finish my thought so I can fully pay attention to you?” Or sometimes it’s evaluating the priority at that moment – does this text reply need to go out right now? Can it wait? Is someone in crisis or is this an opportunity to make sure my hubby knows that he is important to me?

Wherever you are, be all there.” This may mean my text responses are not immediate or the emails not replied to on the spot. It could mean I need to schedule more face to face (or ear to ear) time with you so I can chat with my phone away and without distractions. I want to be someone whom others recognize as being “all there” and making them feel cared for and important in that moment. I need to let go of the expectations I have for myself to stay on top of everything, because as a result, moments are slipping away with those who matter most. The fact is I CAN go through life without my phone glued to my hand – we all did so not that long ago.

Now yes, I will likely have my camera nearby still, ready to snap a picture of us together or capturing a beautiful moment. I love reflecting back on these memories, it’s me. But I need to remember to tell you what I am doing and wait for an appropriate time before I distractedly walk towards a cool looking flower on a bush. (Wahhh, I really am that person.)

Keep me accountable okay? Recognize how humbling it is to realize how bad I am about this so please don’t call me out in a way that makes me feel worse about it. A subtle ‘hey’ will bring me back to the moment. You ARE important to me and I want to live a life where I am all there, in every moment.

So here’s to putting my phone down and giving it my best to be all there.

See you guys tomorrow for Friday Favorites and lots of funnies! :)  XOXO!

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. :)

pcos awareness.

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September is PCOS Awareness month and I can’t let it slip away without bringing attention to the disease I suffer from – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Now if medical-related blogs aren’t really your thing, which is TOTALLY okay, now would be a great time to say ‘peace out’ for today. But for others who are interested, I would love to share with you a little bit more about what PCOS is and how it affects the body, how its controlled, how to treat it and then share some great resources with you.

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What is PCOS? Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS for short) is the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women. Most women with PCOS (but not all) grow many small cysts on their ovaries. We are who lucky enough to have said cysts (insert sarcastic tone here) typically call these cysts a “pearl necklace”. No, this isn’t the pretty kind of jewelry Audrey Hepburn wears around her neck, instead they are tiny cysts strung in a row around the lining of our ovaries (seen on an ultrasound). These cysts aren’t typically harmful and will mainly cause hormone imbalances (unless they burst, which is very serious unless treated immediately.)

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What are the symptoms of PCOS? PCOS can be so tricky to diagnose because there are a wide variety of signs and symptoms that a woman might experience. Unfortunately there isn’t one stand-alone test that can be done.  Most of the time it is a combination of tests that will lead your physician to diagnose you with PCOS. Sometimes women only have a few of these symptoms that may be mild or severe or perhaps many of the symptoms are non-existent. Common symptoms are listed below with the percentage of women with PCOS who are affected with said issue:

  • Irregular periods (75-80%) (in fact 25% of women with PCOS have regular cycles)
  • Excessive hair growth on the face and body (60-80%)
  • Thinning hair (40-70%)
  • Acne (40-60%)
  • Excess weight, sugar cravings and the inability to lose weight (75-80%)
  • Insulin resistance (55-80%)
  • Abnormal blood lipid levels and a tendency to have an apple shape (55-80%)
  • Darkening of skin areas, particularly on the nape of the neck (known as acanthosis nigricans) (10%)
  • Skin tags (unknown %)
  • Gray-white breast discharge (8-10%)
  • Sleep apnea and sleep disturbances (8%)
  • Pelvic pain (unknown %)
  • Depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders (unknown %)

Unfortunately PCOS does tend to run in families, so there is an increase in diagnosis if women in your family have PCOS, symptoms of excess male hormones, weight problems, irregular periods and/or infertility.

One of the significant symptoms that I struggle with is insulin resistance, leading to weight issues as well as increased male hormones. Because I, like many women, are insulin resistant, it puts us in a category of being “pre-diabetic” and more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes down the line if not properly managed.

How is PCOS controlled? Simply put, one of the easiest ways to control PCOS is through diet and exercise. I read it that ”put very simply”, this is how it works:

Weight loss –> Reduced Insulin resistance –> Lowered insulin blood levels –> lessened secretion of male hormones by ovaries

Guys, I wish I could convey to you how difficult it is for women with PCOS to lose weight though if being overweight is a struggle. (And not all women with PCOS are overweight.) It can be extremely tough but not impossible. Managing PCOS with diet means having to follow a low-glycemic and low-carbohydrate plan. Food plays a crucial part in minimizing PCOS symptoms and even when someone is nearly perfect on their diet, they can see little to no changes in weight. It can be incredibly frustrating and women with PCOS can also gain weight at a rapid rate due to the hormones imbalances and insulin resistance. Our blood levels constantly fluctuate which leads to storing our calories as fat and then hanging on to it tightly. However, weight management is known to be one of the most powerful ways to control PCOS. In fact, one of the books I read claims that “losing 7-10% of your body weight causes more than two-thirds of women to resume ovulating, even with some long histories of infertility”. (Annnnnd unfortunately for me, I was not one of those two-thirds ladies, oh boo.)

How do you diagnose PCOS? This is pretty tricky but the doctor will take into consideration a number of factors, including two common symptoms, irregular periods and a lack of ovulation. They will also run several labs tests, for example checking your levels of male hormones, your luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH). Many but not all doctors will do an ultrasound to look at your ovaries to see if there are multiple cysts evident and then lastly, they will rule out any other issues that may lead to similar symptoms, like thyroid issues. PCOS affects 5-10% of the female population.

How is PCOS treated? Like I mentioned above, diet is a key component to managing PCOS, however, there are times when that just isn’t enough. In women who are not actively trying to conceive, an oral contraceptive is typically one of the first things that a doctor will try, simply because it helps to steady your hormones levels. However obviously with women who are trying to start a family, being on birth control is, well, counterproductive. J  Many women are started on a drug called Metformin which is commonly used in the management of type 2 diabetes. (It lowers your blood sugar levels which can reduce your insulin resistance.) Its works for many patients, but unfortunately not everyone. (Again, like me, hmmm, apparently I stick out like a bad statistic.)  Many women just live with the symptoms of PCOS and treat them best they can, perhaps using an acne medicine for their acne or sleeping pills for sleep disorders or waxing for excess hair growth.

What are other conditions that may go with PCOS? There are some other diseases and conditions that are increased in women with PCOS and I don’t share any of this to make you nervous if you have PCOS yourself, but instead, share it so that you can be aware and proactive to minimize the risks. Some of these diseases are: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease due to imbalanced cholesterol levels (another symptom), heart disease, endometrial hyperplasia and uterine cancer. Unfortunately women with PCOS are several times more likely than other women to develop uterine cancer due to the increased level of hormones and a lack of ovulation. (Since we don’t ovulate as often, our uterine lining doesn’t shed as often, which then affects our endometrium. If you have prolonged absences in your menstrual cycles (90+ days) work with your physician, as there are drugs that can trigger a period, such as Provera or a natural progesterone cream.)

Also, unfortunately staying pregnant is tougher for women with PCOS. Data shares that sadly, women with PCOS have three times the normal risk for miscarriage (which is 10-15% in normal women). Four out of five women with repeated miscarriages have been reported to have PCOS. There are ways to prevent this and drugs that help significantly reduce the miscarriage rate however, so again, make sure you are working closely with your doctor. There are MANY MANY MANY healthy babies born from a mommy with PCOS.

But I wanna have a baby!!!! Finally, some good news! The likelihood of having a baby with PCOS is great. PCOS is complex, yes, and perhaps I am not the best person to be writing about how pregnancy and deliveries are possible, but data shows that they are. Whenever possible, weight loss is the best place to start, but from there, there are many prescribed fertility drugs that can assist. While PCOS can never be cured, it can be controlled and that’s what we are aiming to do. ;)

Whoa! I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too much info! PCOS certainly doesn’t make life more fun, however, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t just about me or you. There are many people around us who are struggling with a disease or condition. Like many diseases, education is an important tool and I hope that in reading this, you understand a little bit more about the disease you have been diagnosed with or someone you care about has. Due to its complexity, the associated hormonal imbalances, and the pure frustration of not being able to do what seems so natural to many, depression and anxiety are common in women with PCOS. It’s important to seek help when managing it on your own becomes too overwhelming. (A depressed mood, sleep disturbances, a loss of interest in things that you used to enjoy, feeling hopeless, constantly fatigued, changes in your appetite and/or suicidal thinking are all signs that it’s time to seek help.) Support groups can help tremendously. And always remember that seeking help does not mean that you are weak or less than others – professional help is there to help you cope with the hardships. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that.

If you have made it to the end – congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope that I have been able to shed some light on PCOS. If you are a fellow believer, always, always, always remember that we serve a God much greater than PCOS, much more powerful than its symptoms and able to do much more than we can ask or imagine.

Reading Resources: There are two books I highly recommend if you are struggling with PCOS. The first is A Patient’s Guide to PCOS: Understanding and Reversing Polycistyc Ovary Syndrome by Walter Futterweit, M.D. with George Ryan and the second is The Ultimate PCOS Handbook: Lose Weight, Boost Fertility, Clear Skin and Restore Self Esteem by Collete Harris and Theresa Cheung. (Both books are linked here to Amazon, however, I do not receive compensation for these links. These links will simply provide you with more information on the books.)

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Please note, this post is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about PCOS or any other health concern.

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.