Monday, November 16, 2015

Here I sit: Shaken for Others

There are not many moments when I find myself nearly suffocated with grief, fear and misunderstanding but tonight is one of them.  I saw this post recently and it has rocked me to my core.  Keeping in mind that this is in the wake of all the other violence going on throughout the world as well. 

Each picture I passed more tears began to well up in my eyes and my stomach continued to turn in knots.  Each picture I passed I said a prayer, "Thank you, Jesus, for our home. Thank you, Jesus, for our safety.  Thank you, Jesus, that neither my child nor I, have ever known this type of fear.  Thank you, Jesus, for medical bills that mean I can provide medicine to both Camden and my unborn baby.  Thank you Jesus, for soft pillows, blankets, heat and comfort."  How did you choose me for this life of privilege?

Yet, here I sit.  Hurting for these parents.  Hurting for these children who in their short lives have been exposed to and known more hardship, hurt, terror and violence than I will ever know.  I'm motionless.  I have all of this knowledge, and moreso I've always had a solid foundation of faith in which I trust that God is the creator and leader of this world.  Yet I can sit here like anyone else and say, Lord, how can you allow things like this to happen?  How can you allow your children, the youngest of your lambs, to endure such pain, heart ache, violence and cruelty?  I am frustrated, I am angry and I don't understand.

As I write this, I don't have answers and this side of eternity, I never will.  All I can do in my human frailty is choose, deep within my sadness, to trust the Lord and pray.  Just pray.  Pray for these children, pray for their parents.  Our hearts break when we see youth go through hard things but what we don't see are the parents out there, putting on a brave face each morning and each night, and fighting battles literally, physically, and spiritually for their children.

In my hurt and angst after seeing this I am reminded that my God, my Jesus, came and fought the battle on my behalf.  He bore pain and sorrow and put himself in my place so that I can one day be saved and be with him in eternity.  He is just like those parents putting on a brave face and fighting the battles on behalf of his children.  And that, THAT, is what I have to place my hope in right now.  I am reminded that this earth, this sinful place, is not our forever home.  Tonight I can't create peace and I can't take away pain but I can pray.  I can lift up these families in the most powerful way I know how and trust and remember that my Jesus who came before me and bore my pain, can do the same for these people.  I pray that someday these children will know a place where there is no hurt, no violence and no pain. 

I John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Dear God, 
I beg you to hear me tonight.  Know my heart and teach me your ways.  Be near these families and these children.  Help me to be better, to do better, to be more to your children who are hurting.  Thank you for this life that you have bestowed on my family and me.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  I pray that these families efforts are not made in vain but that you hear their cries.  Be with your children and this world in these very dark days.  Help us who know you be a hope and a light of your love.  May others who don't know you realize that even your children struggle with fear, doubt and anger at the way this world is but in spite of these things we trust in your will and your ultimate plan.  May your love be my peace and your word be my guide.  Father, I thank you that you broke my heart and shook my comfort.  May I be reminded that this life you have given me is not one to take for granted but to make a difference and used for a purpose.  I pray each day you reveal your heart and purpose for me and my family and pray that we trust you and walk with grace on that path.  Be near tonight, Lord.  In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Now what? Perspective

Now What?

I received a thorough ultrasound this morning and the doctor came in after reviewing the results and said that the lump is my body fighting an infection.  It is absolutely nothing to be worried about so we can go home with clear minds that all is well.  Praise God!

I had received a peace from the Lord the past few days that this would be the news I received from the doctor this morning and I'm more than grateful for it.

Nonetheless, after being in a position throughout the past week that makes you consider the what ifs and how you would respond if the doctor came back with different news, I find myself saying, now what?

Not because I am ungrateful for the news but moreso because on more than one occasion in the what if process I thought to myself, if this....then that.  If I received bad news then there were ways I would improve on being a wife, being a mom, being a friend, being a disciple.

Here I am with a sound bill of health and I just don't feel like I should take this information and get back to life as usual.  Yes, life is going on but why wait on a few of those if this...then that internal discussions.

After a recent conversation with a close friend about goals in life and talking about ways that we like to "find center" I am noticing that this check-in on life process should happen in more ways than one and more often than I'm used to.

Why should I wait to get bad news to ask my husband, what are ways that I can love you more effectively?  To ask myself, how can I be a more patient mom?  What ways can I more visibly live my faith in front of my son, family, friends?  Why should I wait until I have a more sympathetic platform to be bold in my statements about God and His truth?

I often think that someday I will be called to public speaking but I always wonder, what will be my platform?  What will be the subject matter? This is an answer I do not have yet and honestly, I'm not actively seeking this scenario. I know it is not in this season but God will lead me to something.  However, why am I waiting for an official platform when God has been creating one for me my entire life?  My testimony is my platform.  No one can argue that.

Look back at the Bible.  Look at the people God used.  What was so special about them?  Truthfully, the one quality that every special person in the Bible had was they were real, human, broken, and loved Jesus.

I openly admit that I wait for times when I think that people will want to listen or be more interested in hearing what I have to say.  The truth is, ever since I started this blog, I said that it wasn't for me.  Yes, I love to use it to feel heard but more importantly, I committed using this blog to honor and glorify God's presence and faithfulness in my life.  I need to stop looking for something to make me special and remember that my love for Jesus is all the world needs to see.

Today I challenge you, I challenge myself, during the mundane, every day, plain life to stop waiting for a platform and just honor God.  Honor God in our marriages, in our parenting, in our friendships.  Let's let it be known and obvious, sick or healthy, happy or sad, strong or weak, God is real.  He lives, He breathes, and He is present.

Friday, November 6, 2015

hiccups, healing and My Heavenly Father

Hiccups, healing and my Heavenly Father

To say that my pregnancies go smoothly and without complication would be a lie.  Our last pregnancy journey started well before we actually conceived and most already know the path that led us on and at the end of it was a new beginning, Camden.

This pregnancy has been different in the sense that leading up to it was smooth sailing but there have been a lot of hiccups.  I won't use the word issues or problems because in comparison, our hiccups are small with regards to what some women have to carry, both mentally and physically, during their pregnancy.

If I am being honest, so many of these hiccups have seemed like such inconveniences and have really skewed my perception of the miracle that grows within me.  I've been annoyed that because of my body make-up I'm required to put in the extra effort to carry and maintain a healthy pregnancy.  Where last time I resolved to accept and treasure the way God made me because of my body, this pregnancy I've been looking at them as weaknesses.  I don't like that.  I mean, how dare I behave this way when I know full well what a miracle it is just to be pregnant in the first place?!  I don't like my attitude and I've noticed that I need to really snap out of it.

This pregnancy is almost halfway over and I don't feel like I've really embraced it or enjoyed it.

At the same time, I've really been thinking about how my life, my attitude, and my faith impact our son.  As a result of my attitude being in the wrong place, I worry that my son won't see me daily living out my love for the Lord but that is where I realize I've got it all wrong.  I need to be daily living out my love for the Lord in order for my son to be an everyday witness of God's love, presence and faithfulness in my life.  From that fountain, all other things will flow.

Leading a little one is the biggest responsibility I've ever been blessed with in my entire life.  There may be days that I take it for granted but I never take it lightly.

To circle back to our hiccups, a certain hiccup reared its ugly head about six weeks ago and just in the past two weeks has really tried to take a stronghold over my peace.  It's a lump.  I had it before in my last pregnancy and it went away but now its back.

Earlier this week I was so worried thinking about potential negative outcomes that tears would just well up in my eyes.  It is so easy to get caught up in the what ifs and what could happens that it becomes a black hole and you can get sucked in.

I've been sucked in by fear and debilitated by negativity before when I was depressed and ever since I came out of that I have made a conscious effort to never let myself go back there again.  The only way I know how to avoid that is to get on my knees, get in my Bible and get into conversation with God.

Amazingly, but not-so-surprisingly, since digging in and locking down on my faith, my peace has strengthened and insecurities have weakened.  It isn't a coincidence that in all my devotions and teachings lately the prompt has been to remember all of the miracles that God has performed in the past, remember what God has walked me through and remember the outcomes.  And what miracles I have to celebrate?!  I have two miracle pregnancies in my testimony, I have healing and renewal in my testimony, I have restoration in my love story and relocation in my life's path.  Whom or what shall I fear?  God is for me.

In remembering and reflecting on God's faithfulness, I now take time to tell Camden stories about what Jesus has done in my life, in our lives.  He may not fully understand them at his age, but the words are being said, the history is being taught and the stories are being passed down.  The name of God lives and breathes in our home and especially in our car rides. :)  In putting God back on the front burner, He is an obvious daily presence in our lives and we are working to keep that a priority.

With regards to that hiccup, the lump, I fully believe that the Doctors will say that this is nothing more than just that, a hiccup and nuisance.  Nonetheless, even if they don't, God has gone before me and will carry me and my family.  I declare God's power and victory over this body of mine.  How could I not?  I've already been healed and restored once before, why would I doubt that I am anything but healed and restored still?

If you would, in order to keep this victory march going strong and to help me avoid the what if black hole, I would humbly ask that you say some prayers that God's will is done.  I pray that He is continually glorified with each step we walk down and ask for peace, strength, and confidence in Christ.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wrong Financial Focus

The past few days I have been extremely focused and distracted by finances.  I am continually discouraged looking at how much further we need to go.  The amount of debt we still have and the unavoidable expense increase that comes with expanding our family is wearing on me.  I am a graduate of Financial Peace University and it just drives me crazy when I don't feel like I have things under financial control. Admittedly, when I stress about money, it causes a ripple effect in our marriage and then Jake also stresses about money.  It isn't a good thing.

God keeps challenging me and simply saying, "I will provide."

So in an effort to release these burdens to the Lord, I am going to write them out here.

We usually heat our old farm house with two wood burning stoves.  We have no wood and it is mid-October.  We will likely need to use propane all winter, which gets expensive.
God will provide.

We have $3,700 remaining in students loans for Jake that I would like to pay off before the end of the year or at least by the time baby arrives.
God will provide.

We have medical bills from Camden's ear surgery and my emergency room visit that exceed our savings at the moment.  
God will provide.

My emergency fund is depleted. 
God will provide.

The holidays are coming up and our discretionary funds are tight. 
God will provide.

Finally, we will need money to hit our deductible and out-of-pocket expenses next year due to having a baby in the spring. 
God will provide. 

In simply stating that He will provide, God has moved in my heart to look at how far we have come and the blessings He has bestowed on us this year.  For example, even if we had wanted to go to our specialist to get a frozen transfer this year, we would not have been able to for the simple fact that we do not have the money.  God provided for us in so many different ways, one being financially, with this natural pregnancy.

I was able to finish paying off my student loans in full this year as a result of a mid-year bonus I received and now we only have Jake's to pay off.  God provided.

We want to sell Jake's truck, we may have a buyer.  God is working on it.

While we have medical bills, the hospitals are willing to work with me on payment plans so I can pay them off in a reasonable and responsible amount of time.  God is providing each month to pay those bills. 

While funds seem tight now, we have been able to celebrate and enjoy witnessing the marriages of many good friends and family members.  God has provided for those moments that we would have hated to miss out on.  God has also kept Jake healthy and physically able to continue to do his job all throughout this construction season.  He is providing jobs and continued work for Jake and our business.

I challenged myself to do this exercise because these things have been swirling around in my head and causing a heavy weight on my shoulders.  They have also negatively been affecting my attitude and my marriage and today I'm choosing to say no more.  I trust you, Lord, for your provision, strength and peace.  Thank you that my "struggles" are far less than what some other people are called to walk through.  I am grateful for your presence and your care.  I entrust my family, my home, and my finances into your name.  

Proverbs 13:11
Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.  

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Matthew 6:24
No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

God Remains

First I would like to say thank you to everyone who expressed excitement and extended congratulations upon hearing our pregnancy news.  We appreciate those that are sharing in our joy.

I'd like to take a few moments to be very honest and work through what this pregnancy has done to my heart so far and dig a bit deeper into showing you my true emotions on this.

I wrote this early on in our pregnancy to just get my thoughts out on paper.

Let me say, I know a lot of people who have struggled with and continue to struggle with infertility.  Have I questioned why God has decided to bring this baby into our lives and not theirs? Absolutely.  Do I wonder why God had us go on our first walk through ivf with Camden only to find out He would bring us a baby this way? Absolutely not.

Here is what I have to say, God is good.  He is good all the time.  He was good and faithful during our difficulty and struggles to become pregnant the first time and He is still just as good and faithful during this pregnancy.  Let me make something clear here, this pregnancy doesn't make me think God is more generous and gracious and miraculous than the last one.  What it does is it puts me in awe of God's plan for our lives and how He weaves and creates our testimony one day at a time.  My God, Jesus Christ, is as capable today as He was thousands of years ago and into eternity.

Through our walk, we have met, ministered to, interacted with, encouraged, cried with, and bonded with a number of people we would never have known so deeply.  In that walk, God called me to bare my soul, my deepest hurts, heart aches, defeats, victories and joys.  Through that walk, people have seen and can witness the power that God has during some of the most difficult and vulnerable times of our lives.

You all know that my cross to carry has been infertility but more than being a cross to carry, it was a heart mission to reach and honor God through His unexpected plans.

As I have said before, the Lord gives me a word or inclination about the difficult things I will encounter in my life.  He gave me a "feeling" that this unexpected miracle pregnancy would be a part of our lives and quite frankly, for a while, I asked Him not to.  I did not want Him to dig this deeply in my heart with regards to our embryos nor did I want to think even more heavily about the future donation process when our family is complete.  I didn't want to be reminded that children are not ours for the keeping but rather they are a privilege and temporary gift that God trusts us with here on this earth.  I have made claim to the life we have created and the Lord continues to challenge me and work on me to remind me, "Dana, these are my children first and foremost and I trust you with them but FIRST you need to trust ME with them. You need to trust in the plans that I have for them for they are far greater than anything you can dream of or imagine."

While I initially struggled with this gift, I am choosing, just like I did during the first trimester with Camden, to be healed.  To trust in the miraculous power of my God and to honor Him above all else with this child's journey and story.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Post of Honesty

It is hard for me to write this and admit the emotions that I am going through but I have to do so.  I have to humble myself and be vulnerable.  I have to dig into my weakness and expose parts of my heart that I don't want to be seen.

We are pregnant.  We didn't have to see any doctors, we didn't have to run any tests, I didn't have to do any ultrasounds, take shots or take medicine.  We just had our fun and ta-da, we are having a baby.  Who knew?

It doesn't feel right.  It doesn't feel normal.  For us, we never expected this to be our normal, we never expected this to happen.  There is this part of me that feels like this baby has been cheated.  Cheated because of a lack of prayer, anticipation, expectation, longing, faith, you name it.  All of the emotions that went into bringing Camden into this world.  All of the effort that went into bringing our miracle baby here.

But that is where I am wrong.  This baby is no less of a miracle than Camden is.  Doctor's said that the likeliness that I would ever get pregnant on my own was slim to none.  I was already at 50% of a disadvantage than normal women.  Whatever the odds are, cut them in half again and those were my changes of getting pregnant "on my own."

When I took a pregnancy test and it turned out positive, I was speechless.  It was all I could do to walk out of the bathroom, positive test in hand, and say, "Honey, I think I might be pregnant."  Jake made the obligatory walk over to me, gave me a kiss on the lips, smiled and said, "wow, hun."

The rest of the night, we could hardly speak.  All I could do was continue to look at Camden in awe and remember the journey of him coming here.  Then I thought of all of our frozen embryos being stored away.  Because of this pregnancy one less of those babies, life already created, will be mine.  Mine to kiss and hold and raise and snuggle and sing to and, I just can't keep going.

Jake took Camden upstairs to go get ready for playtime, bathtime and bedtime, and I stayed downstairs in the kitchen to do the dishes.  I turned on my worship music and the song that first came on was More Than Anything, by All Sons & Daughters.  I broke down.

For those of you closest to me, you know that I have always said, if we got pregnant naturally I think I would have a very hard time because I will grieve over our embryos.  I've spoken those words, the Lord knows the deepest corners of my heart on this and yet, we are walking this path.  Like so many other journey's that I have been on in my faith, I had a sense in my heart that the God would take me down the path that would break down my heart the most.  And He is.

I am still in the first trimester of my pregnancy when I write this but within the first month of this pregnancy we had two scares.  I had spotting for the entire first month and we spent four hours in the emergency room on a Saturday night because we thought I had lost the baby.  By the grace of God, this child is strong and developing according to His will and plan.  In those moments of uncertainty, the Lord was near to me and comforted me by saying, "You will love this child no less than you love Camden.  This child is my gift just as Camden has been.  I have chosen to give you this miracle.  Trust in me and trust in my plan.  I have plans for this child and they begin this way."  I realized that although the anticipation and the build up was not the same for this baby, it is very much already a part of our lives and family.  This child is woven onto my heart and will be forever.

I write this to share our news in the most humble way possible.  I write this so that I can reveal my heart and give God the glory for renewing me, my spirit, and quite literally, my body.

It is my prayer that God be as glorified by this pregnancy as He was in our last.  My prayer is that while you may not be able to relate to my struggle, you see and feel my heart.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Series of New Beginnings

I realized recently that I look back on my life in its entirety and the times that I thought I faced change and adversity, it was in fact God stepping in and with His grace presenting me with a new beginning.  Actually, my whole life can be looked at as a series of new beginnings.

If you ask my mom, I don't deal well with change.  Really though, it's not the change I have a problem with, it is overanalyzing and overthinking HOW or WHY the change is happening.  It is stressing about the arrival or the inevitability of a change around the corner and THAT is what I don't handle well.  Now I know that this is a self-inflicted problem.

If I were to be honest I would say that my first new beginning happened when I decided to go to counseling, a change that was positive in my life but a change that I faced with severe anxiety.  Before admitting my need for counseling, I went through every different scenario and stigma in my head about depression and "needing help."  It wasn't until God stepped in and said, "you need this," that I admitted my weakness.

The next big thing for me was ending my relationship with my high school sweetheart.  It was not a toxic or bad relationship, it was actually quite the opposite.  We were madly in love but God stepped in and said, "he is not yours to marry.  I have someone else for him.  I have someone else for you." 

Then came college.  Deciding on a school was fairly easy when my parents said, "either you get a scholarship somewhere else or we will pay for you to go to Monmouth, those are your options."  I picked Monmouth begrudgingly after God told me, "I want you there."  

Once I got to college I decided to study abroad in Spain.  Before leaving I ended a relationship I knew I wasn't supposed to be in and while away God revealed to me that my heart truly belonged to another.  Before Spain The Lord told me, "I want this time with you, give me your attention."  

I came home and began to date Jake.  We were in a long distance relationship for two years after college and during year two of our post-college relationship I was very unhappy. I felt pulled away from the relationship and that God wanted us to go different directions.  We took a break when God said to me, "do you trust me with this?"  Two days later I was called for an interview out in Hennepin.  Six days later I knew I was moving and a month later I made the move to Princeton.  Nine months after that Jake and I were engaged.

Once we were married we decided to start a family and we all know where that road has taken us.  During that God said, "am I enough?"

Do you see a trend here?
"You need this."
"I have someone else for you."
"I want you there."
"Give me your attention."
"Do you trust me with this?"
"Am I enough?"  

Each time it took an impending change or big interruption in my life's direction for God to get my attention.  He has had to drastically make me move in order to get my attention and ask me or tell me very important things.  

While I won't say God has made me wander through the desert for 40 years, reading about the Hebrews journey in the Old Testament helped me recognize that I'm not the first person God has had to teach this way.  

I now realize that all of these changes were all gifts of many new beginnings.  God in His grace decided to press the reset button or change my life's direction in order to do what is best for me. And in each of those changes I was able to look back on questions I had already asked Him during a past change and know I can trust His will.

Maybe you feel like you are wandering in the desert or you are overanalyzing the unknown outcomes or stigmas from an impending change, either way, maybe it's time to look at the change as a new beginning and a gracious way of God saying, "my child, let's reset.  I have something better for you in store."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Owning My Mess

I'm going to come right out and say it, we have a cleaning lady...and she is amazing.  I love our cleaning lady for many reasons but mostly because of who she is.  

From the day I met her she has displayed a servants heart and her work ethic is unmatched. She comes to our house every two weeks and I admit there have been a few times that I've forgotten to "clean for the cleaning lady."  We are that house.  Our house is an organized mess and I know where things are at but if a stranger walked in they would probably think it is chaos.  

The first time I forgot to clean for the cleaning lady I felt so self conscious and totally stressed about it.  That was in August.  Ever since then I've realized that there is no reason for me to stress out.  I honestly feel that Krista is one of the most caring and understanding people I know.  She accepts us for our mess and willingly cleans up after us.  Yes, we pay her, but it's more than that.   Nothing is beneath her and on more than one occasion she has said, "don't worry about me...spend your time with your family... enjoy these moments...I remember what it's like to be a new mom and have a baby, etc.". 

This past Friday I forgot she was coming, our house was a disaster and my "list" was basically a cry for help to reclaim our house.  She is the person that has really seen our house at its worst and then works wonders! Friday night when I got home, I came home to swept and mopped floors and a clean and bare floor laundry room.  As a result I was able to relax and enjoy the weekend with my two favorite guys.  

It dawned on me Saturday morning that I stress about meeting with God just like I stress about cleaning for the cleaning lady.  Then I realized that just like Krista comes and takes amazing care of us and gets things sorted and organized, God is capable of doing that and so much more!

I don't need my life to seem in order and I don't need to clean up my act before coming to Go to ask for help and then seeing Him work wonders in my life.  

Just like having Krista in my family's life and allowing her to witness our mess leads to more enjoyment and valuable family time, the same goes for keeping God a priority in my life.  I will also note that unlike getting my house cleaned, I should approach him more than every two weeks.  

Imagine if you were to lay your mess at the foot of the cross simply because you didn't have a choice.  Just like when I forget to clean before Krista comes and she sees my life as it is and accepts it in stride, (after all, if we weren't messy she wouldn't have a job ;)), God sees my life "as is" every day and He welcomes me and hopes to have time with me and to take care of me.  

I decided this weekend that I want to be more like my cleaning lady and learn to more readily accept mess, without judgment, guilt or condemnation!  I also want to realize that it's ok to not clean up my act before I approach God.  He came to seek and save the lost.  He loves our brokenness, He sees us just as we are, mess and all...and still loves us.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Feeling Heard

Feeling Heard

Most people don't know that during my junior year of high school I was severely depressed and suicidal.  

I vividly remember driving down route 83 one night and all I thought about was how badly I wanted to speed up as fast as possible and drive my car into the median of the highway in hopes that the crash would kill me on impact.  The only reason I didn't act on this desire was because my younger brother, Stevie, was sitting in the passenger seat next to me and I didn't want to kill him, just myself.  After all, he was only 13.

That is when I knew I needed help.  That night I came home, sat down at the kitchen table and told my mom and dad we needed to talk.  I told them exactly what I wanted to do when I was driving, why I didn't do it, and that I needed to see someone, tomorrow.  Not in two days, not next week, the very next day.  

It wasn't an accident or a coincidence that my younger brother was in the seat next to me.  God placed him there at that moment to save my life.  

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can beat.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  

Ever since I sought counseling and was healed of that depression, my entire outlook on life changed.  

Those closest to me know that I wear my heart on my sleeve, I try to be as honest as possible and I try my very best not to sweat the small stuff.  I know that at times my words/advice/input may not be welcome but at least I know I've been heard.  

During my depression I withdrew.  I withdrew from family, from friends, from activities, from life.    I convinced myself that no one cared.  I wholeheartedly believed that no one would miss me or notice if I was gone.  

Praise God that I was healed from this sickness. Some people don't experience that healing.  

The reason I am so vocal about my faith, my beliefs, and my hope is because at one point I almost lost all of it.  My God is the reason I am here and alive.  

It is through platforms such as this blog that I share my hope, struggles and the things God teaches me.  I do this so I can feel heard.  I don't know everyone who has come across my blog or who it has impacted but I know in some way, shape, or form, God is being heard through these words.  

I will never again allow the Devil the opportunity to tell me no one cares, I don't make a difference, and no one would notice if I was gone.  I vow to make my moments count and use these words as a way to honor my God.  It doesn't come easily.  It takes daily effort but Hebrews 10:23 reminds us to "hold fast to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" and that is all I need to know.

If there is anyone who reads this that is struggling and doesn't feel heard, reach out!  Reach out to me, to someone close to you...reach out to the Lord.  Please know that there is someone who will listen, who will hear you.  Don't ever let the Devil convince you that you are not worth being heard.  As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, this struggle is "common to man", you are not alone.  There are people who understand and have been there.  Let God provide you a way out.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Business Travel: He is for Me

Throughout my trip I received encouragement and kudos from all of my male colleagues for juggling being a new mom and being on a business trip.  The majority of these men have children and understand what a precious and tiring time we are in with a six month old.  

I had many conversations with these men about raising their kids, remembering the young stages of parenting and vaguely remembering the tired fog that sets over brand new parents.  Over and over again they kept encouraging me and giving tidbits of parenting advice and even allowed me to discuss the questions that arise from thinking about introducing solids into Camden's diet to sleep training and child-proofing our home.  Surprisingly, they had a lot of input!

My take away from this trip was refreshing.  People know that above all else, being a parent and trying your best to raise your kids is the most important role in your life.  In an industry where I'm mainly surrounded by men, it's nice to know that there are men that vocally recognize this and support it.  I'm not trying to make a stereotype, in fact, I'm thrilled that all of these guys were so vocal about parenting and their experiences!

God was gracious in surrounding me with colleagues who "get it" and love their roles as dads and totally encouraging to me as a new mom.  In doing this, the Lord reminded me over and over that He is for me!  

 I often get caught up in feeling defeated and as if everything is working against me.  I want to give 110% in every aspect of my life.  I want to be the best wife possible, I want to be the best mom, I want to do well at my job, I want to maintain positive close relationships with friends and family and I want to be the best friend I can be to those that mean the most to me.  

The past couple of days I realized that I don't need to BE the best, I just need to do my best.  I also need to recognize that sometimes being a better mom (ie staying home with my sick child) may come at the expense of my work attendance and being a better wife, may come at the expense of not spending every waking moment with my son.  At the end of the day, my priorities need to remain God, husband, family and all other things will follow after that.  

God took the time and worked through other people the last two days to remind me that He is for me in all aspects of my life - I just need to allow Him access and invite Him into every part. 

When I try to compartmentalize my life and put God in a box, it doesn't bode well for my overall wellbeing.  I'm glad that the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that I don't have to do this on my own.  He is always there.  He is always for me.

I challenge you to ask what areas of your life you haven't given God access to.  Are you feeling defeated?   If your answer is yes then I would recommend you take some time and ask God to stand for you.  Give Him access to your burdens and I promise He will lighten your load.  Don't strive to be the best, just strive to do your best and God will honor your heart.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Business Travel: A Getaway with God

I am currently sitting in seat 8A on my flight to Washington D.C.  This is not my first trip to D.C., in fact, I’ve traveled to D.C. once or twice a quarter for the past three years.  The difference in this trip is that it is my first business trip after having a baby.

I admit that after I gave Jake a hug and kiss and Camden a squeeze and a kiss good-bye I teared up walking out the door.  This time is different.  It tugs my heartstrings that I won’t be there the next couple of nights to tuck Camden in to bed or sleep with my husband by my side.

In an effort to stay positive, I am determined to not let the requirement of travel in my job ruin my perspective of everything.  Instead, I am trying to embrace this as an opportunity for God to teach me more about Him and me as an individual since I’ve had a baby. 

Before going back to work I came to terms with the fact that I am a working mom and in order for me to accomplish things like paying our mortgage or paying off student loans this season is necessary in my life.  Jake and I both agree on what our priorities are for the next few years financially and my job is a blessing and helps us reach those goals.  In turn I have to be away from my husband and my son because of work obligations. 

In the few hours since I left the house and got to the airport, God already revealed some blessings that come out of leaving my boys for a little while.  For example, it is an incredible blessing that I have full faith and confidence in my husband as a dad.  I know that while I am away, Camden couldn’t be in better care.  I was also able to take the time during my drive to the airport to listen to podcasts and hear sound advice from experts on how to pursue passion in my marriage and date my spouse.  My mind is now reeling with ideas on how to make Valentines Day special for Jake and usually Valentines Day is not a big thing for us.

I believe in my heart that although I am away on business and my attention will be on my work agenda, I can use this time to pursue one-on-one time with the Lord.  Being away from the things that command my attention most, gives me the chance to be present with the Lord and open my heart to His voice.  When God has my full attention and I listen to His voice, there is a positive effect on every aspect of my life.  Instead of looking at this as a work trip, I’m looking at is as a get-away with God.

Today, seat 8A is where God has placed me at this season in my life.  I know that I am supposed to work right now.  I trust that if our family is supposed to go a different direction or my career is supposed to change God will let me know that in His time.   I am going to look at my experiences both professionally and personally as opportunities to see God work in my life and allow Him to reveal things to me that will make me a better woman of God, better wife and better mom.  My eyes, ears and heart are open to being present in this season and embracing life as it is right now, business travel and all!

I look forward to the rest of my getaway with God and I’ll let you know how it goes!  I’m excited to see what God has in store for us these next couple of days!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Too tired or too busy? Pick your weapon.

Often times I find myself coming home from work with a to do list that outlasts the hours I have left in the day.  Dinner time, bath time, dishes, laundry, quality time with Camden, laundry, prepping for day care, storing breastmilk, cleaning, time with Jake, bed time, etc.

You will note that my list didn't include reading a devotional, time with God, or writing.  I'm currently multi-tasking and writing this on my phone, sitting on the couch next to Jake while he sleeps (quality time, right?) and feeding Camden.  

I've noticed that I have been using the excuses "I'm too tired or I'm too busy" a lot lately.  I've used them to put off writing what is on my heart, to avoid chores or certain projects and even the age old married "I'm too tired."  Yes, I admitted it. Also to avoid reading my bible and digging deeper into time with God.    

Something I realized today though was that those two statements are the Devil's very best weapons against me and the worst part is that I am the one that uses them against myself!  I don't use those excuses on the mundane things as often as I use them on the things that mean the most.  Such as, intimacy with my husband or quiet time with the Lord.  Those two statements erode the most important relationships in my life and it's time for me to reign that in.  

Sometimes God reveals that something I consider small or insignifant is actually quite serious and having a bigger effect on my life than I recognize or admit.  I now realize that when things or my relationships seem to be getting off track, I need to quit giving the Devil a stronghold on my time and my schedule.

Tonight, after recognizing this pattern, God seemed to give me more quality moments and time with those that mean the most.  I'm always amazed that sometimes all it takes is admitting that I struggle with something for God to make a change for the better.  

Matthew 6:33-34 ESV / 4 helpful votes

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Laying It at the Altar

I realize in my last post that I may have come across as ungrateful, especially to those still in the thick of trying to have a baby.  That was not my intention.  Rather, I just want to help people see that infertility isn't like a passing cold or flu.  It doesn't come and go and you don't just get better after getting pregnant or having a baby.  

This post might sound similar or be just as confusing but bear with me as I try to dig deeper into explaining life as I know it.  

As a result of our retrieval, we now have a number of frozen embryos in storage.  These embryos are there for our use when we decide it is time to expand our family.  

At an appointment prior to our IVF cycle, we sat down with a nurse to go over some paperwork.  During this time we came to a couple of questions and she posed them like this.  

"There is a chance that after retrieval you will have extra embryos.  You need to decide what will happen to those embryos in the case of divorce, death, or once you turn 50 years old.  At that point you can either choose to discard them or donate them."

Let's just put this in perspective, we were just told that we need to consider donating or destroying life, made of us, made by us, at the end of a divorce, when we die, or when my biological timeclock has expired... Sure, no big deal, give us 5 minutes to chat.  Mind you, our nurse was awesome and super helpful during all of this but it was still a shocking conversation to have to have.

We talked it over in the few minutes we had and decided that the only option for us, because we refuse to destroy these lives created, would be donation.  

That decision was made before retrieval took place.  We now know that we have 14 embryos frozen for use when we decide it is time to expand our family.  

I think about these babies every day.  I pray for these babies every night.  I wonder what they look like, if there are more boys or girls in that group, if they have more of my personality traits or Jake's, what their laughs sound like, and most importantly, what God's plan is for their lives.  I think of them when I look in my sons eyes, who at one point was frozen just like them.  I wonder who we will meet next if God decides to take us down the path of pregnancy again.

As stated before, there are no guarantees.  Jake and I don't know if we will have another successful transfer, we don't know which of these embryos God will entrust into our care as parents and which He will entrust into another couple's care.  This is heavy stuff.  I imagine conversations with the babies that we can't raise ourselves and explaining to Camden that he has siblings in the world that didn't grow up with him.  My heart breaks at this thought.  My heart yearns to meet every single one of these children but I don't know if that is God's will for our family.  

Last week my pastor challenged us to leave our "security" at the altar.  You see, these frozen embryos are my security.  I know they are there and I wait for the day that I can meet them, whether or not it will be this side of heaven is unknown.  When our pastor spoke two weeks ago, his words pierced my heart.  I was convicted and realized that I was placing more security and drawing comfort from the fact that they are there when needed instead of laying them at the altar and trusting God with their care.  

I can't say what the plan is for our family nor can I say what the plan is for each of our children but I can say that daily, I have to choose to trust God with their care.  I have to lay down my security at the altar and always remember that these children are a blessing from God, they are not mine to keep or control.  I must trust the Lord to give me the strength and patience to see His plan unfold for our family and so far, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.  While embryo donation is a path that we may go down later in life, it is absolutely something that God has to prepare in my heart each and every day starting now.  

Please remember that the weight of infertility can go far beyond what you are aware of or can imagine.  

Jake and I are privileged that God has chosen us to walk down this incredibly windy road but we know it will bring us to our knees time and time again and we just hope we can walk it with God's guidance.  We lay these babies down at the altar and we pray that God will guide us and help us to be good stewards.

Beyond the Baby: The Aftermath of Infertility

It has been a while since God has laid anything on my heart to share and I didn’t really intend on writing on this subject openly until someone nudged me to do so. 

While I’ve known ever since walking through our journey to pregnancy and IVF that my heart breaks most for those longing for a child, there are some portions of this struggle that I would feel more comfortable keeping private but yet again, God calls me to be transparent. 

I thought that after I got pregnant and upon the arrival of our son that everything would just be better or I would somehow feel fixed.  Then one day, we received news that our friends had begun trying to have a baby and were successful right away.   With this announcement came the usual lines of “I could just look at her and she would get pregnant…” or “It was always very easy for us…” 

I stood there and let the comments go in one ear and out the other and while I was so joyful for our friends, I found the news hard to take.  Really hard to take.   Luckily, Jake could sense this immediately and upon our arrival home, just as tears began to well in my eyes, he said, “Isn’t it crazy how different life can be for people?  God has such different plans for each of us.  Sometimes I don’t get it, but you know what? I’m ok with it.” 

He knew.  He knew instinctively that there was a part of my heart that was broken for us.  He knew that even after everything we have been through, I carry a certain weight because I know that isn’t our story.  He won’t ever be able to say how easy it was for us. 

The fact of the matter is that while we have our child that we have longed for and prayed for for years, we are still working with the same equipment.  And while I am fearfully and wonderfully made, the way God created me puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to naturally conceiving a child so that just isn’t us.  It wasn’t our story and unless God wills it otherwise, it won’t be our story.

That night, I realized that infertility is not just a one-time thing that you go through only to have it be “fixed” by a pregnancy or a child, if that is what God plans.  It is something that you re-live over and over again.  The sting of pregnancy announcements can be just as hard after you have had a baby as it was before you had a child because while you may have your baby there is no guarantee that you will be able to continue to grow your family.  It comes with a dose of post-traumatic stress because you know in the back of your mind that it was harder for you, it took longer, and there are no guarantees.  Please don’t take this as me saying that anyone who successfully conceived naturally once will be able to do so again or that pregnancy is a guarantee for anyone.  What I am saying is that once you live through the reality of infertility, you never truly let it go.  It is always a part of who you are, it is part of your story, and it can discourage you or encourage you.  It can also be very painful to revisit and is not necessarily somewhere you hope to return to ever again.  Nonetheless, if you desire one child or five, it may be something you think of often. 

Truthfully, I accept it as my cross to bear but I won’t say that it has been or is easy to carry.  I know that it is a heavy load and that is why it is so deeply rooted in my heart to help anyone else carrying it.  It can make you weak and bring you to your knees.  It can knock the wind out of you when you least expect it and that is why it is so important to let others help you get back up. 

I have to remind myself often that there is no shame in what we went through or the steps we had to take to get to where we are.  I continue to find victory in the struggle.  I share these thoughts and insecurities with you because I want you to know I am not “fixed” and I have realized I am not seeking that.  I won’t sit here and tell you how infertility will affect any one person in particular or how you will come out at the “end” of your struggle.  I can only share what it has and continues to do in my heart and trust that God will use it for good.  I will also trust that God and my husband continue to love me just as I am. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.