TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

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It’s time for our 2016 TTC Mug Exchange! Wooohooooo! Last time we had nearly 800 ladies participate and it was a BLAST! All women in all phases of infertility (trying to conceive, pregnant, adopting, new moms, etc… more details on this below!) are invited to participate.I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

Before I share how to sign up participate, let me answer a few commonly asked questions about these exchanges: (even if you have done this before, I still suggest skimming this as things always change a bit!)

Who can participate?

Anyone who is currently trying to get pregnant, including those suffering from secondary infertility; those who have recently adopted, are in the process of adopting or searching for their new family member; anyone who is currently pregnant after dealing with infertility or recently having had a baby after a struggle and lastly, anyone who is using a gestational carrier, egg donor, sperm donor or surrogate.

Please note that while I will do my best to partner you with someone in a similar stage, you may be given anyone to purchase for. As this exchange grows, it has become increasingly more difficult to ensure that you get an equally appropriate match. My very best efforts are given! Just try to remember that you are encouraging another TTC sister no matter what their story is!

How does it work?

Once you sign up and get the name of the person you are sending to (more details below), you will work to put together an exchange box for them, including a coffee/tea cup/mug. You will be given a “send-by” date and I ask that you respect that date unless there are extreme circumstances. You will send and receive a box to the same person.

How much is this going to cost me?

Typically the suggested amount per box is $20 plus shipping. I don’t advise that you spend more than $20 but we definitely do have some generous women who put together a box worth more. Since not all mugs cost $20, you are able to fill the package with ANYTHING else that might make someone smile! Lucky socks, a special treat, a fun lipgloss or nail polish …. You can’t go wrong (unless you break the law) – this is definitely a situation where it’s the thought that counts.

I do ask that you invest in a lot of bubble wrap and a good box. It helps tremendously to ship it US Priority and get a tracking number just in case anything should happen during transit. (Plus it comes with $50 insurance!) No one wants to receive a shattered mug due to poor packaging!

Besides a mug, is there anything else I HAVE to include?

A note! Please include a card inside with a special word of encouragement for your new friend.

I live in the US/Canada/UK/Australia/etc, can I participate?

Yep! We always have women from all over the world participate and I think that is what makes it so much fun! HOWEVER, you will only be assigned an overseas person if you agree to be open to shipping internationally. (More about that below). I do ask that if you live outside of the US, that you be open to shipping internationally, as many of the participants are located in the United States, however I know that sometimes that’s not an option and that’s okay too. If I cannot find you a partner I will let you know.

What kind of mug do I need to send?

You can get ANY kind of mug. Travel, big, small, delicate, clunky. It could be a cute mug from your local coffee shop, something you ordered on Etsy, bought at Walmart, or ordered off Amazon. There are SO many adorable mugs out there – be creative! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – this can be a mug that you adore or that you think someone else would love.

Because shipping a mug can be tricky, there may be some women who just want to order a mug online and have it shipped directly to their person and then they can send a separate little box of surprises if they didn’t spend $20. (If you do this, take advantage of the “gift card” section in a order to let them know that’s what you are doing).

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

Our Mug Exchanges have been doubling rapidly. Back in 2013, we had about 30 women, n 2014, we had over 400. Last year, we had nearly 800!  I am excited to see what this year brings!

What happens if I send a package but never get one back?

Ugh, guys, it does happen, I have to be honest. It doesn’t happen often but there are definitely a small handful of women each exchange that are subjected to a lost box, a flakey partner, or some other sort of weird circumstance. I will do my best to reach out to your sender once or twice but sometimes due to the sheer volume of participants, it just becomes impossible to make sure everything gets straightened out. From the very beginning of the exchanges I have warned participants that you have to come into this exchange with the understanding that you may not get a box. It stinks that there are some people that might taint this experience but I do promise that it is far and few between. I am a firm believer that it is a blessing to give and if you are one of the few unfortunate few that receives a shattered mug or nothing at all, just know that your gift has blessed someone else. So please understand the risks involved but know that you likely won’t have a problem! In exchange for my time coordinating this, I just ask that you follow through with your commitment to send a package, sound good? :)

Can I share this on my blog/with my instagram followers/on facebook/twitter/etc?

Of course! We LOVE new participants and their friends. Anyone in the infertility community is welcome to join in. We will be using the hashtag #TTCMugExchange2015 so feel free to share and let’s spread the love! (Also, if you want a live link, you can send them to this one: https://trialsbringjoy.com/mug-exchange-2016/

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

You will need to sign up no later than end of day Tuesday, September 20th. That’s a good 2 weeks of time to sign up, spread the message and start brainstorming. You will then receive your exchange partner from me via email on either September 28 or 29. (Because of the hours it takes to coordinate, I am not always able to get ALL the emails out on the same day. So if you see someone post that they got their person and you have not yet heard from me, it’s likely due to the amount of time it’s taking me to email everyone back individually. Do not panic!) Once you receive your person, you will have until Saturday, October 15th to put together your package and mail it out. Please make sure if you sign up that you are able to get your box out on time.

What happens when I get my package?

This is the fun part! I LOVE seeing all of the posts where people show off their package! Post your mug to social media and tag it with #TTCMugExchange2016 so we can all peruse the pictures. Send a shout out to your person, blog about it, Instagram it, do whatever you want to celebrate this fun exchange! I do understand too that there are many women who are not publicly sharing their infertility journey with others so know that you don’t have to share it publicly in order to participate. The key thing is that we offer encouragement and support to one another, even if that circle stays small.

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Click here to complete the form:

http://tinyurl.com/jbsvye3

You will be routed to a Google Form. If for some reason, you have an extremely difficult time getting this form to work (it’s only happened 1-2 out of hundreds), you can email me at TTCExchange@gmail.com. (Please allow 24 hour for reply.)

I will close the exchange at midnight on September 20th (CST) and will not be able to accept stragglers after that.

2. Make sure you receive a confirmation page! This will verify that your entry has been received.

3. Share! Let your friends know about the exchange! You can share my blog or instagram account so that they can find out more information. I feel awful when someone finds out “too late” and can’t participate so help me make sure no one gets left out. Again, use #TTCMugExchange2016 to share – the more the merrier!

4. Shop, write, smile and sip! Once assignments go out, shop and send out your package with an encouraging note. Then wait patiently and enjoy your mug once it arrives. Share the thoughtfulness of your new friend! I have seen so many amazing friendships form as a result of this exchange. Cell numbers are swapped, emails are exchanged – I have even seen friends plan trips to visit one another due to the friendship formed over a simple package! I LOVE THIS PART!

That’s it guys! I am so excited for this. These exchanges are among the highlight of my year. YIPPEE!!!!

Ready, set, GO!

the beauty in the hard.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Today’s entry is an edited repost of one I wrote back in 2013. While we have gone through so much between then and now, every word still rings true. So, regardless of your own season of wait or hardship, I pray that today you can soak in the highlights, the blessings, and the beautiful parts of the pain. Crazy, I know, but read on to see what I’m talking about … (then get offline and go enjoy your Thanksgiving, hehe!).


 

(i’m thankful for …) 

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the USA and Happy Thursday to my friends around the world. : ) There is something so fun about today. I love gratitude and having a whole day where the entire country is focused on it is pretty neat. Some favorite holiday traditions of mine include watching the Macy’s day parade, listening my husband riffle through the Black Friday newspaper and sharing every good deal in it with me (“No, really though, isn’t that a great deal? I wish we needed a scooter.”), and of course, all the food to be feasted on. And of course, the relaxing time with the family, creating new memories and enjoying laughter is great too.

But one thing I wanted to share with you all today is this simple fact: I am thankful for my infertility.

No that wasn’t a typo. This Thanksgiving I’ve decided to forgo the traditional gratitude list (all of which are valid and are things I really am thankful for) and instead, share with you this reality.

I am thankful for my infertility.

Dealing with infertility has taught me so many things and given me so much. It has been difficult. There has been tremendous heartache. Many tears. Physical suffering and emotional agony. Moments of desperation and periods of heavy sadness and grief. Yet I wouldn’t trade this journey in for anything.

Infertility has taught me to learn how to choose joy in tough situations. It has changed my heart to be one that sees the glass as half full instead of half empty. It has made my “joy muscles” work out and as a result, there are days I feel like I could bench press a truck. And admittedly, days I ignore the joy gym, but at least I still feel convicted about it. It has reminded me that we are to give thanks in EVERY situation, not just the ones that make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Infertility has strengthened my marriage. I truly can’t imagine walking down this path with anyone other than Josh.  It has brought us to our knees in prayer, together as a unit. It has made us realize what God meant when He said we will cleave to our spouse. It has made me appreciate his optimism and positivity more than ever. It has given us reasons to laugh together, cry together, and learn to love deeply and unconditionally. It has made us depend on one another in unique ways and Josh’s example has taught me what it is like to have a servants heart.

Infertility has brought me closer to friends, family and strangers. It has caused me to seek support from unlikely places and communicate in ways I hadn’t imagined. Because of it, my heart has swelled and overflowed due to the incredible kindness of others. I have made new friends thanks to Instagram and this blog – friendships that I don’t doubt will last a lifetime. It has made me more vulnerable with my family and friends – people I see in real life, that have been given an insiders pass to my heart and emotions. It has resulted in beautiful conversations, meaningful prayers prayed, and many tears and hugs given.

Infertility has helped me to look past my own situation and into the lives of others. It has made me more aware that everyone is suffering from a Thing. It has helped me to assume the best about people’s dispositions and taught me to extend grace since I have no idea what path others are walking on. It has sharpened my spiritual gift of encouragement and made me fine tune reading people’s hearts and needs, and prayerfully, helping to say the right words at the right times.

Infertility has made me stronger than I ever imagined possible.  It has forced me to deal with difficult tasks – whether it’s giving myself shots or learning patience during a two week wait. It has given me reasons to be sad, cry and learn how to lean on a strength that’s not my own. It has made me pick myself up off the ground, brush the dirt off my shoulders, and keep walking forward. It has taught me the fine art of persistence. It has reminded me that we are to “ask, seek, and knock.” (Matthew 7:7-8). It has taught me to keep knocking and to trust that the door will be opened.

Infertility has taught me that God will equip me where He calls me. Never did I ever imagine having a blog. Never did I imagine writing routinely. Never did I imagine sharing our small story with all of you. Yet each time I sit down, He fills my heart with words and allows my fingers to type in a way that, thankfully, many of you understand. I am not a writer – yet somehow, I write.

Infertility has taught me that I don’t always know best. I have recited Proverbs 3:5 to myself more times in the last few years than any other verse in the Bible. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” It has reminded me that my own logic, my own decisions, my own will and my own knowledge are nothing compared to His will and plans. It has resulted in me trusting where He leads us more than what makes sense in my head. (For the math folks out there, that means His plan > My understanding.)

Infertility will make me a more graceful pregnant woman and hopefully, a better mother. It will allow me to experience pregnancy (God willing) with a spirit of thanksgiving, knowing what a wonderful gift I will be given. (Or at least teach me to know my audience on tough days.) It will allow me to embrace the challenges, remembering how strongly I desired them. It has allowed me to pray for my children and their lives many years in advance. I don’t think I would have been a lucrative mother, but it sure has given me time to prepare my heart as much as possible for what may be ahead.

Infertility has made me enjoy this season of my life. The quiet. The calm. The ability to walk out of the door and run to Target when I want. The ability to have spontaneous date nights with Josh and the ability to go to bed at 8:30 if we so choose. I appreciate sleeping in, taking long baths and watching shows other than Nick Jr. I can’t wait for the time to come when all of that changes, but for this time, right now, I am grateful for what I can experience.

Infertility has taught me that life doesn’t always have to make sense for us to be content. It has helped me realize that if God answered every prayer we all prayed, we would be living in heaven. It has helped me remember that we live in a fallen world, with human bodies that are less than perfect. We are in a world of sadness and death, with more and more dysfunction every day. It certainly isn’t ideal but I serve a Lord that “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…” (Romans 8:28).

Infertility has made me realize that I don’t always need to come up with the right words to pray in order for Him to be near. “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves…” (Romans 8:26-27a MSG) It has taught me a greater appreciation for His Spirit.

And lastly, and most importantly, infertility has caused me to fall deeper in love with my Father. It has caused me to seek Him with all of my heart. It has made me turn to Him for comfort and it has made me realize that nothing on this earth is more valuable than my relationship with Him. God, in return, has drawn intimately close to me and His daily presence in every moment of my life brings utter joy to the surface. It has taught me that denying myself and following Him (Luke 9:23) is to trust in His plan and walk with Him regardless of my own desires. It has made me dive deeper into His love letter to us, made me seek Him through podcasts and music, and transformed a stagnant prayer life into a daily conversation with Him. Infertility has taught me that my eternal Hope has already overcome it all. That this world, these moments, this life, is brief compared to what is ahead.

When I started this blog in 2012 and was asked the gigantic task of creating a web address for the page, I chose “trials bring joy”.  It stemmed from James 1:2-4 which says: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” Oh Lord, I am finally getting it. It took a while – but reflecting on this trial placed in front of me, and all the lessons learned from it, I can’t help but understand the phrase “trials bring joy” even more so now. It ispossible for our most difficult times in life to be an opportunity to bring great joy.

I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone. But I do wish that everyone had the opportunity to go through a challenge, a trial, a journey, which results in building endurance. For when we go through fiery times in life, like silver being melted and transformed, we WILL come out more refined and polished. And for that I am thankful. I am thankful for this time of fire. I am thankful for a God who never leaves my side. I am thankful for YOU – for caring as deeply as you do. For the prayers of many and for the joy that is to come. I am FAR from perfect. I have good days and bad days. But what I have learned thus far has made an everlasting impact on my life.

So on that note, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving (and/or Thursday). Enjoy the day!

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:18)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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 ….

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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

 

friendship.

You know what is beautiful? Friendship. Community. People. More and more each day I become keenly aware of the gift I have been given of those that surround me. There is something special about being able to pick up the phone and call a friend, just to chat about the day or pass along a funny story. There is something beautiful about sitting over a cup of coffee in a living room or coffee shop and laughing (or crying) as you share what’s on your heart. Friendship takes time. It takes real investment, open hearts and the willingness to let others in.

Friendship takes vulnerability. It requires raw conversation with the ability to “go there” without doing permanent damage, which requires a deep trust. That trust is built over time, each trial and opportunity building another level to the foundation of friendship.

True friendship is sinking down into the depths of who we really are. Have you ever seen that quote that says “You, too? I thought I was the only one.” True friendship is giving someone something in which they can say that back to you. It’s opening up and being vulnerable, a word that is so hard to whisper these days since we aren’t sure what the response will be.

Shauna Niequist writes “We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk.”

The thing about friendships though is that they aren’t one way. Many of us have been stung by someone we thought was a friend, that we shared with or supported in their own time of need, but left us abandoned and alone when we needed them. Or perhaps we put ourselves out there, shared that emotional vulnerable story, only to be met with silence, a little awkwardness and a significant absence of phone calls and texts returned. It burns. But it doesn’t mean we give up. Sure, when a “friend” begins to let you down routinely and consistently, with no remorse or causes you pain and makes you feel inferior, there is a time to leave that friendship alone and stop the pursuit. That is necessary because we need to have heart boundaries. However keep in mind that there are seasons where one will give more than they receive and vice versa. I call it the teeter tauter of friendship. We give support, we watch one rise, we cheer them on and help them when they are in need, and when the roles change and the weight of life shifts, the other gets to step up and lend a hand, provide more listening than talking, and stepping up as you did for them. It’s not about receiving all you give, but it’s about balance.

Community is a precious thing, one never to be taken for granted. Know who your people are. Invest in them, both ways, in the good times and in the bad. We can’t do it all and be it all to everyone, this lesson I am painfully learning. But with true friends, the walls fall down, the shyness fades, the conversation about REAL life happens and we talk through the hidden places.

Give it time. Take the risk. Give up the control of being perceived as perfectly as you have crafted. Make it a priority to let your people know how much they mean to you. “The closer you get to someone, the more that friendship gives you and the more force and power it has to make your life bigger and richer.” (Shauna Niequest)

I want my life to be rich. I want others to know how much I care about them in a tangible, heart-warming, comforting way.

My community around me has blessed me so significantly more than I can communicate. Between dropping off meals while I have been on bed-rest after treatments or surgeries, to covering my volunteer shifts at church, to placing an order through the fundraiser – to THROWING the fundraiser, to sending more cards and packages than my little heart can handle, to dropping off a coffee, making a phone call, liking a status … It’s helped me continue to open up, be vulnerable, and give me the strength to help reach others and remind them that God is there. Because of the support of my people, my friends, my world, I can keep pushing forward each day.

Are you in a place where your world feels empty and such community feels foreign to you? I invite you to begin the simple prayer of praying that the Lord brings someone into your life to fill that hole. I am a strong advocate of getting connected in a small group or Bible study as a first step! But I know personally how hard it can be to go through seasons of life without anyone there. I can remember times in my life when I was just praying for someone to connect with, who got me, who I could be ME with. And boy, has God answered those prayers through time and vulnerability. Perhaps you can begin praying over friendships that have slipped away due to negligence or pride. I know that God doesn’t want you to be alone and wants to offer you the richness that comes with friendship. If I can join you in praying for this, I would love to. Please comment below or send in a private email and I promise to be lifting you up in prayer this week.

Lastly, can I share a beautiful act of kindness that was bestowed to me a few weeks ago? I was meeting over coffee with Julie, a sweet friend of mine who I met through a high school friend (and connected with on Instagram – love that). She leaned over and handed me a small box. I carefully began opening its tender corners as she excitedly explained this gift and why she was passing it on to me. (I have to admit I was so touched and overwhelmed that I forgot to listen to it and had to have her email me details again, haha!).

She shared that a few years back, a dental patient of hers had found out that Julie and her husband were struggling with infertility and were trying to have a baby through surrogacy.  4 months later, this patient returned with the box that was now in my hands. The patient, L, told Julie she went back to China to visit her family and brought her back this baby gift, for the baby she was going to have eventually. L gifted Julie with these Chinese fertility statues which were made to help keep “the house full”. She had taken them from her Grandmother’s home while visiting, and that Grandmother had them for over 50 years. L passed these onto Julie, who a short 4 months later found out her surrogate was expecting their little son, Ethan, who is now 1, and Julie tucked them away in Ethan’s room, grateful for the kind gesture of L.

Julie handed these dolls over to me, sharing that while neither of us believes in the superstition behind the fertility dolls, the gesture and the thoughtfulness that rests in passing these down from woman to woman who struggles, is one of the sweetest things. These little statutes now sit out and remind me of the value of friends, hope, and prayers that one day, “our house will be full.” I love them.

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And as Josh Garrels so beautifully sings “Weave your heart into mine, my friend.”

XOXO!

Chelsea

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.

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. :)

burdens.

The church was quiet. All eyes turned forward to listen to the older woman speaking at the microphone. Her voice cracked with tearful emotion as she begin talking about a verse in Matthew that touched her heart over the course of a year-long study we had been doing.

She began to read the words of Jesus – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…(Oh I love this verse, my mind began to think) … Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Rest for your souls … good stuff right there ..) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

During the course of her reading the verse, I immediately felt like an immense weight had been lifted off my shoulders, er shoulder. Shoulder? What was that noise? And why am I physically feeling absolutely no pressure on my left shoulder?

I kept my gaze focused ahead, now confused and distracted enough by my own miraculous light-yolked left shoulder situation to no longer be listening to the woman as I gave my shoulders a subtle wiggle. And that’s when I realized what happened. My bra strap had snapped and was no longer connected on one side.

It’s in this moment where I feel that I perfected my emotional nod-with-the-crowd face while on the inside panicking at the immediate and rapid response to gravity that was happening on my left side. Oh my goodness, did anyone else notice? Thankfully all eyes seemed to be focused ahead, oblivious to the fact that a nightmare of mine was occurring. Could anyone see the strap? I casually glanced over. Oh yes, I am wearing a sheer shoulder paneled shirt today. Awesome, so yes, the ladies behind me are probably noticing the strap creeping up my back as it heads …. Yep there it goes, over my shoulder. The room broke out in applause as the woman’s sharing time was up and she walked away. I need to clap, how can I do this without creating any more movement? Ah yes, the left-arm-still, right-fingertips-lightly-tap-the-left-palm clap.

Thankfully the time ended 20 minutes after the great “unburdening” and I shuffled my way out, clutching my Bible and books tightly to my lopsided chest and broke into a huge laugh as soon as my car door shut. This would happen to me.

Anyways, the whole thing got me thinking though. If only it was that easy to just hand over our heavy burden and have that strain be taken off our shoulders! (Literally in my case above, but more realistically, figuratively in our lives.) Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that we are to come to Him and hand over our worries, cares, anxieties, and doubts and He will give us rest for our souls. This same messaged is echoed throughout the Bible. Psalm 55:22 says “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.” and 1 Peter says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”

But how do we do that? Here are some of my thoughts today:

1. Believe He is capable, that He cares, and that He is willing. More than any other lesson I have been learning in this season of my life, it is that if I believe in God (which I wholeheartedly do), then I need to believe His character and His words. His character is proven over and over and over again in the Bible and traits like compassion, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, capability, deliverance, power, shine through the stories of the Old and New Testament. Because I know Him, I know that my worries, anxieties and cares are in the best hands possible and that He truly does want to carry them for me. (In fact, He already knows how this will all end.)

2. Practice. We have heard those words “practice makes perfect” before and I think in this situation, more than any, it becomes accurate. When we begin to make intentional choices to choose to give God our cares, it begins to break a mental habit that we have to carry it. We have to practice praying intentionally about that care and begin to substitute prayer for worry. We have to practice deciding to have gratitude for the problem, thankful that we have a chance to develop ourselves.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

3. Trust. Once we take our worries off of the spin cycle in our brain, we can begin to breath, feeling the weight starting to lessen as we remember whose hands our situation is in. That’s when we make the active choice to trust that God hasn’t forgotten about us or that He is intentionally trying to cause you harm or pain. If you are a Christ follower, then you can be assured “ that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…” (Romans 8:28 NLT) So we make an active choice to rest in that trust.

If you are struggling today to figure out why you still feel like the burden is heavy, I prayerfully suggest that you spend some time with God today. It begins with simply forming a relationship with Him that goes both ways because it’s near impossible to trust a stranger and believe that they have good intentions.

Guys, this isn’t easy stuff! I struggle with it all the time. I give over my worry to God and then have a panic moment and race to bring it back in my hands. Some days it feels like a constant tug of war mentally, back and forth, back and forth. I trust you! WAIT!!! Kidding, kind of, here you go, I trust you …. Ummm, but what if ….

This is where practice comes in. We have to train those spiritual muscles of response just as we have to train our physical muscles. Keep verses on hand to read through when your anxiety begins to bubble. Pray. Talk to Him. And I guarantee you, with everything I have and am, that He really will give you rest and that you can be filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Who would have ever thought a breaking bra strap would lead to a blog post? Haha, not me, but hey, God uses these things in our lives for a reason. I’m just thankful no one called me Droopy.