TTC Mug Exchange 2016.

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

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

Who can participate?

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

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

How does it work?

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

How much is this going to cost me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of mug do I need to send?

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

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

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens when I get my package?

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

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Click here to complete the form:

http://tinyurl.com/jbsvye3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready, set, GO!

house for sale.

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

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

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

And that’s when this example hit me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then 4 years. More announcements, more moves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*photo from weheartit.com

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

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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the hallway.

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A few years back, my mom gave me this wooden sign that now sits by my kitchen sink: “Until God opens the next door, praise Him in the hallway”. It’s become a favorite sign for me to read on a daily basis while I’m washing dishes and I routinely ponder what it looks like in my life.

I envision a long hallway with a locked door at the end. Have you ever stood in that hall with me? Trying to open a door that doesn’t seem to be budging? Perhaps you can relate in the desire to have a baby. Or maybe on the other side of the door is the spouse you’ve been praying for or the job promotion you deserve. Whatever it is, you can see it – some days you feel like the doorknob is wiggling, and yet, you can’t get in the door. So in the hallway we sit.

I turned 30 last week. T H I R T Y. At first I was nervous about entering this new decade, the one that now requires me to check off a new age bracket, start seriously thinking about eye cream and even renew my driver’s license. Thirty.

I didn’t anticipate it, but guess what? I love being 30. Like, L-O-V-E it. It seems crazy that an age can bring with it such a wave of contentment but I am so fully embracing this new decade that it scares me a little. I am doing this. I am being and enjoying life, with all its unknowns, even here in the hallway. Perhaps I am still running off of birthday celebration fumes, the aftertaste of parties and cards and hugs. But it feels deeper than that – it feels like a fresh start.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Our speaking pastor, Jason Strand, mentioned it yesterday in his sermon and I absolutely loved what he said after: You don’t need to be thankful FOR all circumstances; you need to be thankful IN all circumstances.”

You know what that means? We don’t need to be thankful for the hallways – infertility, singleness, job loss, health issues … but we do need to be thankful IN the hallways. There’s a big difference there! Being thankful in the hallway starts with our attitudes, how we view our circumstances, and what we choose to focus on. Our pastor continued by saying “Happiness isn’t getting what you want; happiness is enjoying what God has given you.”

So good.

What is your hallway today? And how are you learning to embrace it and find joy in it? I promise, no matter how lost we feel, God sees us there in the hallway. We haven’t gotten stuck in a maze and disappeared from His sight. Maybe that locked door isn’t opening anytime in the near future. Or perhaps it never opens but another one in the hall does. Or maybe, it opens tomorrow. Either way, we can’t waste today forgetting that it’s possible to praise Him in the hallways.

Now a note to myself:

Dear Future Chelsea, remember this moment. Remember the contentment you have in the hallway. Don’t lose sight on His goodness as you wait. Keep your perspective upward and when you slip, which will inevitably happen because you’re human (and hormonal), come back to Him and keep praising Him. He hasn’t let you down and He won’t start now.

Love, 30 years + 5 days old Chelsea

Have you gotten a copy of the In The Wait devotional book yet? Don’t miss your chance! Preorders close THIS Wednesday and then the book won’t be available for purchase again until September 14th. Plus, you get freebies if you order now! Check out this post for all the details + your chance to order.

Interested in hearing Pastor Strand’s entire message? Click here to listen. 

broken bones.

Last night I was lying in bed, wired from way too many iced teas and coming off an invigorating fellowship with my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) small group. I watched the clock pass by, minute after minute, quietly listening to the breathy snores of Josh and Cali next to me. They were sighing in unison, sounding so similar I couldn’t tell which one was a person and which one was an 8 pound dog. I replayed the events of the day and evening, of which I decided that I definitely talked too much and used up about 4 days worth of words. I tend not to realize how chatty I am until I am laying in bed and thinking “Oh my gosh, I said that didn’t I? And that? And that. Oh boy.”

(The thing about being a chatty extrovert is that I typically forget very quickly all of the “oh my gosh”’ moments but unfortunately then it doesn’t stop me from much next time. Which is why I am doing a Bible Study now called Keep It Shut. For real.)

Anyways, I digress.

The nighttime hour seemed like the perfect time to clean out the Notes section on my iPhone so I began clicking through grocery lists and meal plans, dating back to 2010. (Hey, that’s one way to make a girl sleepy!).  Then in one of my most recent notes, this quote was typed out:

There’s no glory in easy. No one remembers easy. They remember the blood and the broken bones and the long agonizing fight to the top. And that, that is how you become legendary.

That’s all my note said. I put my overactive brain to work, trying to figure out where this was from and why I wrote it down. A sermon? A podcast? Something on the radio? A song? A quote by one of those really deep authors? Well, my brain was shutting down quickly so I turned to Google and guess who it credited this quote to?

(5 points if you know …)

Dr. Amelia Shepard from Grey’s Anatomy.

Oh goodness. So it wasn’t from a deeply spiritual source, no, instead God was using a fictional brain surgeons script line who works at a fake hospital with a imaginary board of directors. Eh, whatever it takes right?

But in thinking about that quote, I realized how true it is when we live out the story that God has called us to. Isn’t it the broken bones we tend to remember the most? The hard times in our life sort of act as defining time frames, chapters for the seasons. I don’t remember all of the easy, no-drama car oil changes but I sure do remember the ones when they tell me something is wrong with my car and needs a big repair. I don’t remember the doctor check-up’s where everything looks great, thanks for coming in! I remember the ones where they sit down next to you and say I am so sorry ….. We remember the fight, we are familiar with the scars, we hate the pain of dealing with the broken bones, but it’s the broken bones that give us a chance to do something.

What if we start using these broken bones we all have and start wearing them out loud a little more? What if instead of hating the broken bones with disgust, we start to respect them, viewing them as God’s fingerprint on our lives and knowing that we have a few beautiful, unwanted, but still present, life tattoos. What if we stop hiding these scars – no one needs to know we are struggling with money, with in-laws, with our marriage, with the kids, with a past mistake – and start to use them to create a story that gives Him glory and allows others to see His work as legendary? Because we can sure create a life where things look easy. We can sweep everything under the rug and post the Facebook pictures with smiles and empty sinks and vacuumed floors. We certainly can make it all look effortless, but why? People don’t remember easy and if people don’t remember easy, it’s a lot harder to allow Him to use your story to touch others.

I have had so many beautiful and unique stories shared with me over the years. And each time, I just want to hug the person (okay, I do) and tell them you aren’t alone. Others have broken those bones too. Others struggle. I struggle! Like, all the time! Yes, my struggles in my childfree season may look different than your struggles but I get the premise of struggling.

There a quote, which many attribute to Henry David Thoreau, but I just learned recently is misquoted (meaning I have no clue where it truly comes from) that says “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song (of life) still in them.” Gut punch. I don’t want to go to the grave with my story still in me.

I think far too often we are tempted to hide the broken bones and as a result, we lose us. We lose our story and our potential impact. No, I am not talking about you needing to write a book or start a blog or walk around Target shouting “I SHOULDN’T BE HERE! I AM IN SERIOUS DEBT!” No, I just am posing the question on what would it look like if we started having less of a filter between the broken bones and the relationships we are in.

Victor Frankl says “God did not create us to live in reaction, but to be co-creators of a meaningful life.” Yes, there are going to be amazing moments of easy in our life and they will include special, special memories. But none of us are exempt from the broken bones season either, so instead of negatively reacting to it, what if we ask God how He wants to use this injury to make it more meaningful?

I’m starting to ramble now, but I love where this quote got my mind going and am anxious to see what He does to sprout more thoughts from it. I just don’t want to lose years of my life living in crisis mode. I want to push forward when it hurts, I want the bones to heal correctly so that I can be functional again. I want to redefine hard seasons as opportunity seasons. I know, it’s easier said than done, but I know we can do it.

impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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