full circle moment.

The other weekend in church, I had one of those “full circle” moments. Those moments that are bigger than you, that zoom out wide, that sort of make things click.

Let me start by taking you back about 9 or 10 years ago.

9 or 10 years ago, I entered into a long season of silence in my life, a time where God was silent, painfully so. It wasn’t just for a month, or two, it was for almost 2 years. YEARS. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. In that season of my life, the words of Psalm 6:6 were read daily, inscribed in my heart: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” I prayed for magical signs. You know the ones. “Lord, make my left hand tingle if You are here.” or “Send me a sign, allow the lamp to flicker.” I never got a response, nor did I feel any different. 2 Chronicles 15:4 kept me going – “But when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.” 

I wasn’t sure why I felt so abandoned, so alone, so empty. It was confusing, as I had this relationship with God for years, one where I would truly feel the intimacy of a relationship with Him, an emotion, a guide. But the days, weeks, and months lingered on and I felt nothing.

In the months of silence, while I wasn’t feeling like I was getting anywhere, I kept reading my Bible, journaling, praying, and seeking Him because I felt like my experience in that past proved that He could be found. (And truthfully, I also thought “I’ve got nothing to lose.”) I was weary and felt a lost. I remember sharing this season with our couples small group at the time and feeling so numb and disconnected from Him. All of these prayers, these motions, these attempts, and still, nothing.

Finally, one March, I was sitting on my bed on vacation in Mexico, alone with my Bible and my journal and my iPod, when the song “How He Loves Us” came on by Jesus Culture and Kim Walker, and I felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks. You see, for these long months, feeling loved by Jesus was the opposite of how I felt. I felt alone. But as the words began to pour over my heart, it was like my soul instantly thawed. I cried and cried and realized, ironically enough, that He had been there the whole time. That He simply wanted to see me pursue Him with vigor.

So let’s fast forward to a few weekends ago.

Here I was, sitting in church, my first weekend attending in person after some weeks of bedrest, when a song started to play. Yes, you guessed it, “How He Loves Us”. And then my full circle moment came.

Here I was, sitting in church, pregnant, with twins. As I looked back at the time this song changed my life, I realized the second year of silence mixed right into our first year of trying to start our family, back when we didn’t know we would have a problem, back when we didn’t know what was ahead. I truly believe friends, that if it wasn’t for that long, treacherous season of silence, that I never would have gained the strength and endurance I would need to face the battle I was about to face. I think that without taking the time to pursue Him and seek Him, I never would have understand how much He loved me despite the pain, losses and sorrow. I think without that season, I would never be the person standing before you today.

And as that song played, I realized the love God had for me during that storm in a whole new way. You see, He knew what was ahead for me. He knew that I would need to go into the years of infertility fighting. He knew that I would need to be completely confident that He was ALWAYS by my side, and He knew EXACTLY what I needed to be prepared.

He knew I needed silence.

It broke my heart in the best possible way as I heard that song play out once more, completing this long anticipated circle of my season.

So, why do I share this with you today? Well, first of all, if you are in a season of silence right now, I understand. I understand how frustrated you are. I understand when people talk about hearing Him, or being answered by Him or being filled with peace because of Him, it makes you feel angry because you are doing everything you can and you don’t have that. I tell you this because I know the tears you are crying, the weariness you feel, the questions you are asking are draining. I tell you this because I want you to keep going. Even when it feels pointless. Even when you feel like He isn’t real. Even when you open up your Bible and you can’t seem to understand where this loving, kind, merciful God you are reading about is in your life. Keep going. Day after day. Keep praying. Because friends, I am certain, beyond a shadow of doubt, that in the moments I felt the most alone, looking back, He was holding me the whole time. He is worth fighting for! And He sees the BIG picture, the one, four, seven, or in my case, nine year picture in a way that you simply just can’t. He’s worth trusting.

Having faith in an invisible God isn’t easy. But if He was visible, if He proved Himself to you through physical acts all of the time, we wouldn’t need faith. (Hebrews 11:1) The growing I did in that season was invaluable. Don’t lose the chance to have your big picture moment, He has never left your side and never will.

I’d love to close this today by sharing this song and lyrics with you. I pray it blesses you today as it has for me.

“How He Loves”
He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.

And oh
How He loves us oh
Oh how He loves us
how He loves us oh

He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, and I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.

And oh
How He loves us oh
Oh how He loves us
how He loves us oh

Yeah He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

Yeah He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking (ha ha)
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when I think about the way

He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves
Yeah He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves yeah yeah

hey yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Yeah He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves yeah yeah
Yeah He loves us
He loves us
He loves us (ha)

[Kim Walker speaks]
Yeah
His presence. His love.
Is so thick and tangible in this room tonight.
And there are some of you here that have not encountered the love of God.
And tonight God wants to encounter you.
And wants you to feel His love.
His amazing love.
Without it these are just songs.
These are just words.
These are just instruments.
Without the love of God, it’s just like we’re just up here just making noise.
But the love of God changes us,
And we’re never the same,
We’re never the same
After we encounter the love of God
We’re never the same after we encounter the love of God
And right now if you haven’t encountered the love of God,
And you would know,
Because you wouldn’t be the same.
You would never be the same again.
And if you, if you, want to encounter the love of God right now,
You better just brace yourself because He’s about to just blow in this place
And we’re gonna encounter the love of God right now.
So God I speak to all the hearts
And I ask God that every heart be open right now
Every heart be open.
Every spirit be opened up
To you God. To You.
And a love encounter
A love encounter from you tonight
A love encounter from you tonight God.

Yeah He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves
Let it go deep go deep go deep

He loves us
Oh how he loves us
oh how he loves us
oh how he loves
His love is going deep
His love is going deep tonight
His love is going deep tonight
See the Father
Behold the Father
Behold the Father (ha)


PS – For those asking, things are going great over here. The babies are growing perfectly and I am already 13.5 weeks pregnant. We are immensely grateful. I will try to provide a first trimester summary in the next week. Thank you all for your continued prayers, they are life changing.

TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

image-1

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

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

Who can participate?

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

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

How does it work?

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

How much is this going to cost me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of mug do I need to send?

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

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

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens when I get my package?

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

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Click here to complete the form:

http://tinyurl.com/jbsvye3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready, set, GO!

house for sale.

d1fd0bf0adb3ebbace98262734b0aac5*

I was stirring my coffee when my friend asked the question: “So how are you really right now?”

With the buzz of steaming milk and brewing espresso around me, I admitted my heart’s been a little weary. I touched on how 7 pregnancy announcements from good friends in 3 days drained me a bit. I tried to explain that while my heart was overjoyed for them, it made me a bit reflective of my own journey, which can be a hard, emotional path for me to walk down sometimes.

I could see in her eyes, as someone who doesn’t struggle with infertility, that she couldn’t quite grasp how someone could be happy for someone else but sad for themselves.

And that’s when this example hit me.

Let’s pretend that you and your spouse have decided it’s time to move from your small apartment. It’s time to expand! It’s not necessarily that you don’t like your current place, but you feel ready to embark into a new neighborhood, have the chance to mow a lawn, use a driveway, and have a little more space.

So you celebrate this big decision! You are going to sell your house! You tell your friends, you have a celebratory glass of champagne and list it. It’s time to sell!

Hmmmm. A few days, weeks, months pass. Why isn’t your house selling? You try to stay positive. Oh it takes time! You just have to wait for the perfect buyer! It can take couples almost a year before their house sells! Take a vacation – then it might sell!

In the meantime, friends around you decide they too want to sell their house and move. And you watch and celebrate as they immediately find buyers. It was our first showing! We hadn’t even listed it yet! A friend of a friend asked to buy our house! In fact, some of your friends who didn’t even take care of their apartment sell it right away. Huh?

What is going on, you asked yourselves. You paint the walls, freshen up the tile, and replace the old floors. And yet, months pass by and still, no buyers. Multiple showings, the promise of hope with each one, but a firm and audible NO after every one.

In the meantime, you’re invited to house warming party after house warming party to celebrate your friend’s new home. You are thrilled for them! What a beautiful new kitchen! Lawn! Bathroom! Is that a walk-in closet?? And you wonder what is wrong with our apartment??? You bring the wine, send the congratulations card, help move the boxes, all while dusting off your “for sale” sign. You pack away the towels you bought for a new bathroom. It hurts too much to look at them each day.

Do we try to get used to staying here forever? You begin to ask yourselves how you should approach this limbo. What does the future look like? Do you apply for that new position knowing it would be across town, near the city you want to move to? Do you redecorate the space and plan to stay there? Oh how your hearts yearn to be in a new place – and yet still, all the showings result in nothing. No. No. No. No. No. No.

So you hire a new realtor. The one who sold your friends house in just 1 day! And your heart breaks as he tells you that you may never sell your home. You see, because there’s this one part of the inside of a wall that is damaged. It’s not really your fault, but it’s your home and because of it, it may be a little harder to sell it.

How did I not know? What can we do to improve our chances?! He provides you with a list of things to do and you eagerly dive into them. You replace the trim, sweat over refinishing your floors; exhaust yourself with tearing out the old carpet. Still – nothing.

Meanwhile, you get the calls from your friends, We’re moving! We sold our house! It’s our 4th home in 3 years! And your feelings get hurt as some of your friends pull back from you as they are afraid to tell you they sold their house too. You find out when you get their Christmas card in the mailing with a preprinted announcement. Why didn’t they tell us? And yet still, you celebrate their new adventure, move the boxes, ‘like’ the Facebook announcement and wonder if you should take your house off the market. After all, it’s been 3 years.

Then 4 years. More announcements, more moves.

Then it’s been 5 years. You find some friends who too have a hard time selling their house, are stuck in limbo desiring a neighborhood, a closet, a stove with more than 2 burners, a chance to feel at home where they feel called. You relate to one another’s questions and empathize when yet another potential buyer decides to pass. Another lost chance, I am so sorry.

Then those friends who once understood, begin to sell their houses. More celebrations! And the conversations shift from questioning why your house can’t sell, to the frustrations of picking out paint colors for the new living room or the cost of the movers. They forgot what it’s like, you think. Then you no longer get together. I am sorry, I have a house now. There’s so much to do! More dusting, a garden to tend to, bathrooms to clean. Maybe when the house gets a little older.

And still every single morning you wake up, make your bed, clean the house, waiting for the moment you get a call about a showing. You can’t escape the fact that your house is for sale. It’s part of your daily life, reminders everywhere. The lockbox, the sign, the calls. Every day you are faced with the desires to hear the words “you’ve sold your house!”.

6 years pass. You switch realtors again, are given a dash of hope that this is the one! In fact, by this point you’ve had 7 offers on your home, but all of them have fallen through. It’s just been bad luck. This happens to many couples. There must have been a bank loan defect. Unpack your boxes, not this time. Don’t lose the faith!

More moving announcements from friends. We weren’t even thinking about moving but someone came to our door and offered us over market price for our house. And then we got an amazing deal on a new house – in the last lot of the neighborhood you were looking at! What are the chances? We were so surprised!

Housewarming party. Wine. Feelings of defeat. Questions. Did we misunderstand our calling to move? Everyone else thinks we are crazy, yet we continue to feel led is to sell this house. What do we do?

And now here you sit – with 7 more offers sitting on your home and you think this could be it and you are terrified. Everyone around is asking you aren’t you so excited? And while, yes, you are, the truth is you’ve been here before. You’ve had the offers and they’ve all fallen through. You’re hesitant to get your hopes up based on these new offers, knowing what happened last time. And so you smile, nod, and pray harder than ever that one of these offers takes. Because you don’t know if your heart can handle any more. Most days you want to rip down the ‘For Sale’ sign, ignore the aches in your heart, and chuck the lockbox in a volcano. You are now known as the couple who has always had their house up for sale.

Just be thankful you have a house to live in! Everyone around you, many who just sold their house, says to you, as if you aren’t thankful for your apartment. You want shout back that you are thankful, you just hate living in limbo, are struggling to figure out what your future looks like, and that you can’t ignore that nagging longing to become new-home owners.

And still you wait, feeling foolish about the day you drank champagne and told everyone you were going to sell your house. You never expected this.

You get the picture. And while this example may seem silly, can you only imagine having your house for sale for YEARS? I get exhausted just thinking about it. And, oh friends, if only infertility were this kind of exhausting.

With infertility, you take these exhausted, confused emotions and add in the immense deep rooted desire to be parents – moms and dads– and combine it with mind altering hormones, emotions, surgeries, and real life dollars. Every month offers hope that everything might change and when it doesn’t, you have to reprocess what you’re going to do next. Did you hear God right? Why isn’t He moving?

So while your heart is so thrilled for the others in your life who move onto the next stage – first, second, third pregnancies – it’s still very real there will be emotional struggles involved. With every announcement, pregnancy related conversation, baby shower and tiny babies around, it reminds you of the current state of limbo you are in. And with God-given strength, you celebrate the answered prayers, clinging to the hope that next time it might be you, and rejoice that God gave them a miracle. And it’s okay if you still wonder why not me?

Friends, I don’t know why your baby hasn’t come yet. I don’t understand why a 15-year old accidentally becomes pregnant and you can’t get a positive test to save your life. I wish I understood all the specifics. But here’s what I do know – God knows why. And while that can be hard to understand most days, it offers reassurance that we don’t have to be the ones understanding the ‘whys’. We just have to continue to trust the One who does.

I wrote these words in In the Wait and needed to be reminded of them today: “God is not early or late with His timing. Instead, He is right on cue, creating “Ah-ha!” moments when the answers prayers finally come. Yes, it may look different than we expect it to, but we know He will pull through. Scripture reminds us that we can trust Him to stay true to His Word, character and promises. His love is always present. Breathe out a deep sigh with me today and rest assured knowing He is at work, even when we don’t see it.”

I know it’s tiring my sweet friend. But make that bed one more day, accept one more showing, and continue to communicate with the Lord. You never know when you are going to wake up and have your whole life change in one moment. That day of answered prayer is worth the fight.

Lord, I pray for each woman reading this today who understand what it’s like to be stuck waiting. I pray that you renew our strength, our minds, and replenish our weary souls as we wait. We trust that you have the perfect plan for our lives and we ask that you would help strengthen us to continue to celebrate the victories and answers to prayer that you are providing to those around us. Jesus, we simply need more of you to help lead us into the perfect path for our lives. Amen

*photo from weheartit.com

update + celebrations.

7

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on tight … Here’s the post you’ve all been patiently waiting for!!!

OUR UPDATE!

So, last we talked, we shared that our embryo fertilization report came back that had 19 fertilized embryos. AMAZING NEWS! But how many continued to develop? How many would we have to freeze to add to our future family? Well, it all came down to one phone call, one voicemail from our doctor.

And, then we decided to wait to listen to the voicemail. Hear me out!! We had a mini vacation planned at the end of last month and as crazy as it sounds, wanted to venture into those few days without the weight and reality of the news that might be shared. We have felt such peace about this cycle, but there was a chance the voicemail would share we had no embryos and with that, our journey to starting a family would end. It was a loaded voicemail with potentially big effects … and so we saved it until we got back. I had such peace the entire time and wasn’t distracted by the wondering. It gave us a chance to enjoy our time together without distraction.

snorkeling

Snorkeling and enjoying precious time together!

So, imagine our utter delight and surprise when we listened and learned we have 7 embryos waiting to be welcomed into our home!

Thank you Jesus!

I feel incredibly humbled and moved sharing this outcome with you right now. While nothing is guarantee, we have babies! Teeny, tiny frozen babies that may grow our earthly family in incredible ways.

I have to admit – when I first heard “Fantastic news … 7 embryos!”, my eyes widened. Whoa, babies. If all goes to plan and these embryos result in pregnancies and live births, we may have a REALLY large family. And as I starred as Josh with big eyes, envisioning what this might look like, he sweetly reassured me that God has known this number and these babies all along. And so we continue to trust Him for that! And also, keep our eyes open at van potentials. HA!

No part of this cycle has been without Him. Not only has this cycle been SO significantly different (in a great way!) from cycles past, but the peace He has provided us has been unspeakably reassuring.

So, friends, our family is waiting for us in cryopreserved vials and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds. No matter God has planned for us, today we celebrate, rejoice, and THANK HIM for all He has done thus far.

Okay, let’s get a few FAQ’s out of the way!

How many are you going to transfer?

We plan to, in time, transfer all of them, because these precious babies deserve a family! However, we will begin by only transferring 2 of them. If it’s a success, yes, there’s a chance we could have twins. If it’s not successful, then we will transfer 2 more, so on and so forth. If and when we are successful, the others will remain frozen until we are ready to grow our family again. It looks like we have many more embryo transfers in our future. :)

When are you transferring them?

We are planning on a mid-September transfer. Yes, that’s later than we originally planned! There’s two main reasons for that decision:

1) Josh has a trip planned with his father later this summer and if the cycle were to work, he would be gone during some important ultrasound appointments. I know I will be a worried mess when I am pregnant (a huge test of faith!) and having him out of reach anytime during 8-12 weeks makes me uncomfortable.

2) I want to get back into shape! The last year has been a rough one for me in regards to health and fitness – I kind of crumbled after our March 2015 miscarriage and it’s taken me a while to get back into a good routine. This will give me time over the summer to get my butt into a pre-pregnancy health I would be comfortable with.

What did you do differently this cycle? (non-IVF’ers, feel free to zone out on this question)

First of all, we had a new doctor, who is AMAZING and I can’t recommend enough. I strongly believe Dr. Batcheller’s wisdom, care, and dedication to our success has impacted this cycle immensely.

Secondly, in the past we have done a birth control + Lupron suppression protocol. She shared concerns that it may not had been the right protocol for me and over-suppressed me. This time, after just a few short 15 days of birth control to regulate my cycle, we jumped right into stims.

Past: 150-200 IU’s of Follistim, 1 vial of Menopur, daily lupron injections, 10,000 hCg trigger shot, 8 days of stimming, natural fertilization, moderate caffeine intake.

This cycle: 300 IU’s of Follistim, 2 vials of Menopur, 2 spaced out Lupron trigger shots + 2,500 hCg trigger shot, Ganirelix injections starting day 6 of stims, 9 days of stimming, ICSI fertilization, vitamin cocktail, no caffeine for Chelsea, 1 8-oz half-caff cup of coffee for Josh a day, Chelsea gluten free.

What’s the vitamin cocktail?

Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine – Minneapolis gave us this handout and Josh and I both took each of these vitamins as recommended. There was SUCH a significant different in outcomes (see below) that I strongly believe these vitamins had something to do with it.

I am unsure copyright details, but will attach the handout here for you to review until I hear differently! :)

Vitamin Cocktail Handout – provided by CCRM-Minneapolis

Female Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_05

Male Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_48

Summary:

Cycle 1: 11 eggs, 9 fertilized, resulted in 1 day-5 blastocyst, 1 day-6 blastocyst (frozen), and 1 morula for transfer.

Cycle 2: 14 eggs, 11 fertilized, resulted in 2 day-6 blastocysts.

CCRM Cycle: 27 eggs, 19 fertilized, resulted in 7 day-5/6 blastocysts.

How’s the puzzle going?

YOU GUYS! We’re still working on assembling it! This intricate puzzle is a perfect depiction of our journey thus far, haha! We can’t wait to share the final product with you when it’s all assembled and your names have been written! SWOON!

Now, join us in thanking God for His glorious provision for our precious little babies and if you could, continue to pray for their homecoming in September. (Well, 2 of them at least!). Also, if you could pray for my strength and dedication to get my butt back in shape, that would be incredibly helpful. I will certainly share more about that journey throughout the summer.

Alright, now your fertility update has officially concluded! If your eyes are crossed and you have NO idea what I am talking about up there, that’s okay! I share for those who do. And now let’s get back to our regular scheduled blogging updates going forward! I will keep you posted as our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) plans start to kick in (mid-August) and we will keep rallying with you! HOORAY!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

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PS: My reunion with caffeine was previous. Did you know that our budget includes $0 for Starbucks? Since 2011 when our infertility treatments started, it became a no brainer that coffee splurges were not a priority. And so, I began asking for Starbucks cards for birthdays and holidays, using them when there was a balance and skipping it when there wasn’t. And as silly as it sounds, I’m always amazed at God’s simple provision over something SO MINOR. Random giftcards are sent to me for no reason but thoughtfulness, always when, unknown to a friend, my balance is getting low. Or, I’m almost out and my free reward cup is earned and ready to be used. I know it’s silly how much a cup of coffee means to me, but it’s a highlight in my day when I’m running around or provides a cozy spot to write or work. As so, every sip of Starbucks reminds me God cares about the little joys in our lives. Love that!

trusting, praying + puzzling.

Update: All of the pieces have been claimed! How amazing is God!? We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by all those who have joined us in this puzzle and will certainly share pictures as it is finished being assembled and marked on. We are watching Him put together a puzzle far bigger than we could ever ask for or imagine! Thank you all for your sacrifices, thoughts, prayers and love. We are overwhelmingly grateful.

Ah, the long awaited update. Friends, it goes without saying that our road to starting a family hasn’t been easy, yet it’s one we have been called to fight for. Fight for the promises God has written, fight for the desires He has put on our hearts, fight to stay obedient to Him throughout it all. The fight has led us through 7+ years of infertility, lots of medication and treatments, surgeries and tears. And through it all, the miscarriages, the tears, the fears, and the questions, still He whispered Hang onto Me. Don’t let go of Hope. I have not left you. Keep your eyes towards heaven and wait for Me.

The last year called us to do simply that, wait on Him. Wait for His timing, His direction, His guidance. Truthfully, we kept crying out that if starting an earthly family would not come to pass, that He would graciously change the desires of our hearts and lead us towards another road.

And yet, still He whispers, Wait on Me. I have something in store.

I shared with you all that He began stirring in our hearts at the beginning of this year, pointing us towards a new clinic, Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine – Minneapolis. (You can read more about that here.) Oh friends, it’s hard to put into words how much He showed up that day. Your prayers circled us in the days preceding, melting away anxious thoughts and ushered us into the appointment with complete peace, articulation and a God-given sense of calm.

That appointment went so well! We felt completely listened to and validated, the seasoning of cycles past able to lace the conversation with wisdom that I can only say was God-led. And so, after much continued prayer, Josh and I are excited to share that we are stepping into the waters of in vitro fertilization (IVF) one final time with this clinic and doctor!!

The timing and excitement stirring in our hearts isn’t a coincidence! The changes we are making to our cycle protocol are significant and we feel a lot of peace and confidence regarding the path that lies ahead for us. Our prayer is simply that He would use us and our story for His kingdom, regardless of the results. (If there is anything we have learned along the way, it’s that He is writing our story here and we are simply along for the ride!)

As we have been praying, we have felt a strong call to invite others in to help us bring our baby home in a tangible way. How so? We have designed this beautiful 1,000 piece puzzle and are humbly asking you to claim a piece. What does this mean!?

Our goal is to put together this puzzle, piece by piece, with the names of those who are committing to pray and support us as we jump into this again. After the puzzle is completed, we will frame it between two pieces of glass and hang it in our child’s room as a wonderful keepsake, visually representing the team of cheerleaders behind us. (Yes, we are claiming there will be a child as a result!)

We will be offering 2 types of puzzle pieces – prayer pieces and sponsored prayer pieces. Many of you have asked in the past if you can donate financially to our cycles, knowing that the cost of uncovered IVF is expensive. We continue to feel, as we always have, that the power of prayer is much stronger than the power of the dollar, however, this cycle, unlike cycles past, we feel led to open up the door to vulnerably allow people to support our journey in this way should they so choose. We don’t want this to be a big commitment, so the cost of the sponsored puzzle piece is simply $5. We do NOT want a dollar amount to stand in the way of you being part of our puzzle. If you cannot or simply don’t want to chip in $5, please, do not feel any obligation. Josh and I always try to be intentional stewards* of the money God has given us to manage and all puzzle donations will be specifically used to fund this cycle. We want to stress though that this is not about the money but about the prayer involved.    

Simply put, this puzzle is our way (and God’s way!) of organizing a team of prayer partners behind us and giving your name a tangible piece to our puzzle. We hope to be able to visually see the names of the army behind us!  If you have sent over any prayers, thoughts, positive vibes and support, in the past or currently, we sincerely thank you and hope you join us for this next adventure.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you want a piece of the puzzle, it’s all yours! We simply ask in return that you offer up a small prayer** for us over the next few months. If you have stumbled across this blog and find yourself still reading, YES! Please, we covet your prayers too! No prayer is too big or small! We mean it! (The thought of complete strangers being part of this story gives me goosebumps!)

To have your name put on the back of one of these puzzle pieces, simply click here and submit your first name (last name not required but welcomed!) or your family name. **LINK IS CLOSED AS THE PUZZLE IS FULL**That’s it! Josh and I will rejoice as we write your name into our story! Go do it right now before you forget!

  • If you want to purchase a puzzle piece and support us in this way, first of all, truly, thank you. We know $5 is a cup of fancy coffee, a car wash or lunch out. We don’t take your sacrifice lightly.

You can sponsor as many pieces as you would like! ($5 = 1 piece, $10 = 2 pieces, $20 = 4 pieces, etc…) With each additional piece you add, feel free to add a message to your portion of the puzzle scaled to size! We would love words from you etched into the puzzle!!! (This is optional.)

If you choose to donate, you can do so in one of these three ways:

  • 1 – Click on the Donate button below and pay securely through PayPal. Simply add the amount of pieces you are purchasing (Feel no need to purchase more than 1! Honestly, your $5 gift is so meaningful! The thought really does count.) You will see a spot available to “add special instructions to the recipient” during “checkout” where you can add your puzzle message. If you include anything else in that message, please make sure to note what is a personal message and what you’d like written on the puzzle.

**DONATIONS CLOSED AS THE PUZZLE IS FULL**

  • 2 – Write a check or donate cash and hand deliver to Josh and/or Chelsea.
  • 3 – Mail a check to us (email us at trialsbringjoy @ gmail.com for a mailing address).

Please don’t let the hesitation of not having talked to us in a while, not knowing us at all, or having been a quiet observer stop you from being a part of this road with us. We are so hopeful that God has great things ahead for our family!

We humbly thank you so much for caring about us so deeply. It’s only in Him and through Him!

Love,

Josh, Chelsea and of course, Cali

I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For were two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT)

*I feel it important to note that prior to knowing that we would be pursuing these costly medical treatments, Josh and I planned a small, half-week vacation for early May. Had we known we would be undertaking this IVF cycle and extensive testing, we would not have financially committed to that. However, His view is always bigger than ours and we are grateful now to have this short get-away to look forward to in between our egg retrieval and embryo transfer. We do not in any way want to make you uncomfortable if you choose to purchase a piece and leave you feeling that we were not clear about this pre-paid trip.

**Not a pray-er? We invite you to offer up simple words such as “Dear God, thank you for the chance to pray for Josh and Chelsea. We know that You and only You are the one who makes and sustains life. I pray right now for Josh and Chelsea and the medical journey they are about to step into. I simply ask that they would be blessed with a baby for their family! Amen”

PS – I know that many of you are interested in all of the fun details of IVF cycles! The blood tests! The medication protocol! The timeline and nitty gritty details about how this cycle will differ from others. We wouldn’t let you down! All of these details will be shared in the coming month as we proceed. I will share now that as I write this, I am already on medication to begin this final cycle! Our intentions are to enter into the egg stimulation phase at the end of March with a tentative and God-willing egg retrieval surgery early April. YAY!

photography: Gina Ziedler

Photo by: Gina Zeidler Photography

fur mama giveaway.

Oh I am SO excited for this one friends! If you know me at alllllll, you know that my fur baby, Cali, is insanely precious to me (bordering obsessive) and that I love being her fur mama. Another thing I love is mail and encouragement. So imagine my DELIGHT when I saw that Fertile Box’s October TTC Care Package was made SPECIFICALLY with Fur Mama’s in mind! ALL THE FEELS. (And it can be made for a cat or dog mom too!)

Crystal sent me and Cali this AMAZING Fur Mama Care Package and we couldn’t love it more! So, I couldn’t let the day pass without sharing this awesome box with you AND of course, inviting you to win one for FREE! (More details on that later!)

(Side note: If you aren’t trying to conceive and still want this box, you can! When you order it, simply add a note that you aren’t trying to conceive and she will omit the TTC-related items, as well as allow you to add an extra quote print of your choosing. HURRAY!)

Let me walk you through this awesome box. Gah, you’re going to love it!

My box arrived and was packaged so cute and carefully. Take a peek!
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Cali was immediately interested and of course came over to help open it! First we opened the Fur Mama Survival Kit.

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Inside was: 2 flower and bow collar attachments, a package of homemade dog treats (which has been Cali-approved!), an adorable Snoopy halloween toy (with a squeaker, which we have been hearing all weekend in the most adorable way), and some fall doggy bags.This bag was a home run!!!!!

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Next we opened this box:

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Inside was this PRECIOUS paw print necklace in silver. I’m swooning!

Next we opened this Trick or Treat bag.

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Inside was some special treats for me – a face mask, a KIND bar (my favorite kind too!), some Kettle Pop gourmet gum, and of course, you can’t do fall without some pumpkin spice! I can’t wait to try this Tazo Chai tea!

 

Next up, unwrapping this:

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It held this ADORABLE Fur Mama tee shirt! The shirt is so soft! They offer sizes S – 2XL. I can’t wait to iron mine and rock it! You can count on seeing a selfie on Instagram this week for sure. (Just realized this image is a little blurry but you get the picture!)

Next up – this 5 x 7 quote print out. I love how she adhered it to the box so that it shipped safely. Just love it!

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Last up was the TTC part of the package, which again, can be omitted if you aren’t TTC and replaced with an extra quote print out:

The front of the package looks like this:

And it’s filled with 5 ovulation tests, 2 pregnancy tests, and of course, baby dust!

Seriously – you guys. This will put a smile on ANY Fur Mama’s face! The card in the box says it all: “For many of us … the only thing keeping us sane on this difficult journey to parenthood is the unconditional love of our fur babies….We may not be human mommies yet, but we’re wonderful loving Fur Mama’s!”

If you are supporting someone who is struggling to start a family and know that they would love this Fur Mama package, order them one. Seriously. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about someone going out of their way to acknowledge how much of a mom you can be to a pet.

Every month has a different theme for the Monthly TTC Care Packages and this is the only month to order the Fur Mama collection and they will sell out, so don’t delay! Head over to http://www.myfertilebox.com to place an order! There are two versions of the box, this FULL version ($36) which includes everything pictured, and the MINI version ($26) which has everything except the t-shirt. Seriously, for everything inside, it’s a DEAL!

BUT WAIT! Because I love you guys so much, and Crystal over at Fertile Box is so amazing, we are offering my readers a special promotional code for a FREE “Refuse to Sink” silver cuff! All you have to do is enter the Promo Code FALLBONUS when checking out.

Every month there is a different theme to the packages so if you aren’t a fur mama, or if you want to spread some love next month or over the holidays, keep checking out http://www.myfertilebox.com for updates. There is always something new and it makes this journey so much more bearable.

Now, the GIVEAWAY!!!!!

This giveaway is being conducted entirely through Instagram, so head on over to my account @chels819 to enter. Rules to enter:

  1. Follow @FertileBox and @Chels819
  2. Like the Giveaway Picture
  3. Tag 3 friends that you think might be interested!

That’s it! But for an extra 3 entries, repost the Instagram picture (pictured below for an easy save and repost) and use the hashtags #fertilebox #FurMamaGiveaway. (if you are set to private, direct message me a screenshot of the post.)

So easy! We are drawing the winner at the end of the day FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9TH so don’t let time get away from you! This honestly is the funnest giveaway EVER and I can’t wait to spoil a special fur mama with this package. (By the way, we are giving away the FULL version! Whoop whoop!).

Okay, what are you waiting for? Go enter and/order! Before they are all gone!

Use this Image on Instagram to repost

Use this Image on Instagram to repost

(Also, congratulations to Amy L. who won the In Due Time book giveaway! It’s not too late to buy a copy for yourself – head on over HERE to purchase one for yourself in paperback or for your Kindle! Thanks again Jen for sponsoring that giveaway!

guest post: not just a beauty blogger.

Happy Tuesday friends! I am excited to share with you a guest post I wrote over at Not Just A Beauty Blogger today! I connected with Nikol several months back (you will love her!) and am honored at her invitation to share with her readers. The post is about how I have been learning to wait with God and not just waiting for God, including some practical tips on what that means for me. I hope you will pop on over and check it out!

Click Here to Read

Until next time ….

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