Monday, March 23, 2015

My Birthday Weekend

I turned 37 on March 2. THIRTY-SEVEN. How can this be? I remember when i was a kid, and all my friend's parents were in their thirties. I remember thinking that was so old. How could I have thought that?! 37. 37. 37. I kind of like how that sounds, actually. 37 is going to be a great year!

It sure did start off great! Laura was in town. We had all kinds of things planned. I mean, Saturday night, was a girl's night. That wasn't really for my birthday, but more so that Laura could meet some of my friends. We had a great time.

Mary Claire, me, Laura, Ali, Amanda & Mandy 

Sunday after church, we went to Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro. I had decided instead of a regular cake, I wanted cheesecake for my birthday, so this was the obvious choice. And then I ended up splitting a hot fudge brownie & ice cream with Brad. Go figure. Anyway, for my birthday lunch, it was my parents, my sister & her husband, Brad's parents, his sister, and her friend, Donna. I told them if it wasn't raining afterwards, they had to let us take a few group pics outside before we all left. (I torture them with pics every year. I think they're used to it by now? Maybe.) So here is the entire family (mine & his) plus Laura! 

 
  Laura & my mother-in-law 

 Laura with my mom :)

 My dad & my sis 


It was such a beautiful day, even though it was supposed to rain all day long! I was so glad. After lunch, Laura was like "We have to go somewhere! It's such a beautiful day!" So we went to LSU to let her see a little of campus, but mostly to meet Mike the Tiger. I'm sorry to say i haven't edited a lot of my pictures still. But here are a couple.




Monday was my actual birthday! We started it off with breakfast at my favorite little place, The Whistle Stop Cafe.


Laura really wanted to go to another plantation home while she was here, so we went to Nottoway! I am so glad we did that! It was amazing!!! (Check out Laura's post on Nottoway, and all her beautiful pics!)


That evening we met up with my husband at one of my favorite restaurants (possibly my very favorite), Bistro Byronz. Ate on the porch again. It was supposed to rain all day (again!) but it held off. 


I can't help but remember how last year my birthday was very different. Last year, we had found out I might be miscarrying and i spent my entire birthday weekend praying that wasn't true. And then the days that followed were some of the hardest days of my life. I am so glad that this year was different. Even though we don't have our miracle yet, I have so much more hope and joy than I did last year! God is definitely working. 

And I'm so glad Laura was here too! Thankful that she got to come and that it was right around my birthday! :) It was awesome!! 

37! It's going to be a great year!   

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Laura in Louisiana {New Orleans}

Back to my Laura in Louisiana posts. That was my hashtag on instagram when Laura was here, by the way. In case you were wondering! I don't know why i am the slowest person on earth to crank out a series of blog posts, but I just am. And there is SO MUCH MORE to blog about! Sigh.

Be sure you go by Laura's blog and check out her posts, too! She has written about everyday of her trip here: meeting my family & friends, trying our foods, visiting plantation homes, visiting New Orleans, and more! I am going to do a few more posts on her trip here, and then go back and tell you about all the other things that happened this year that I have failed to blog about. (This is why getting back to blogging is so hard! I keep playing catch up! But i am determined, so. Don't you worry!)

On the Friday Laura was here, we went to New Orleans. It was a beautiful day! Why did I think New Orleans would be a little less busy on a weekday? I guess I thought all the vacationers went back home after Mardi Gras? I don't know, but I definitely felt like I was on vacation or something! In New Orleans we listened to street performers, ate poboys and beignets, and took A LOT of pictures. I actually brought my own camera that day. We had a great time!

Here are just a few of the gazillion pictures we took.

This is in Jackson Square. I thought they were pretty great! 

Here is Laura's post on the street performers. She loved them, one band in particular... be sure to go check it out!

St. Louis Cathedral

Outside of Southern Candymakers where Laura tried pralines for the first time! (And where I 
actually tried and liked them for the first time! I would have to agree with their sign!)

Trying on masks in one of the little shops!
 

Waiting for lunch at NOLA Poboys... so good!

Ready to try some beignets!!




Sunday, March 8, 2015

Stacks of Stones.

I don't even know where to begin, but God has been doing so much in my life lately. It is literally one thing after another. I feel like ever since BELIEVE became my word for 2015, God has done one thing after another to stir up my faith to help me to keep on believing. It's exciting. I feel His presence.

I didn't just make "believe" my word for the year, and then be done with it. I began to really think about that word. I began to pray and ask God to help me with my unbelief. I began to say scriptures on faith & believing Him OUT LOUD. I began to really praise Him in the car on my way to work, and on my way home. Doing this has only continued to stir up faith in my heart.

I am not the same as last year. Last year was my 3rd year of infertility. It also included my first pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage. It was a year of grief and heartache, anger and fear and jealousy. But i wanted to reach out to God. I wanted to run to Him. Even when I was mad at Him, I wanted to be closer to Him.

This year, I feel so much hope, so much faith. Verses about faith are taking on a whole new meaning for me. The truth of these verses is really resonating deep within my heart.

And nearly every day, God reminds me of how He is working, how much He loves me, how much He cares about me, how He sees me. Nearly everyday. He is literally blowing my mind.

I remember when I was in my late teens. I hated myself. I did not like myself at all. I thought i was ugly, stupid, fat. My self-esteem was just so low. My youth pastor, if he overheard me talk negatively about myself, would correct me and make me repeat things like, "I am a child of God. I am beautiful, created in His image. I am a woman of strength and victory." Things like that. As i repeated those words, I heard them, and I began to believe them. Like I said in my last post about this, it's not a magic potion, but if (as the word says), "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God", then when I speak His words OUT LOUD, I hear them, and I start to believe they are true.

I knew these things in my head last year. I remembered how my pitiful view of myself changed because I began to change the words I said about myself. Because I stopped speaking words of hate to myself, and instead started speaking words that God said about me. But I didn't know how to get there when it came to infertility. I had to wade through a pool of grief first, I think. But even when I felt like I was no longer drowning in the grief, I still didn't know how to believe that God would give me a baby. I began to listen to lies in my head that said it wouldn't happen for me...that i wasn't good enough...that i am too old. You get the point. I didn't know how to trust God when He answered my prayer with a pregnancy, only to allow a miscarriage. I didn't know how to BELIEVE when I just didn't.

But when the word "believe" was dropped in my spirit after a sermon at Healing Place on the woman with the issue of blood ("Daughter, your faith has healed you."), I began to think about how i have to believe. I have to have faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. I began to read Luke. I started hearing scriptures or song lyrics that talked about BELIEVING HIM, or (along those same lines), trusting Him or having faith in Him, and I began to repeat them. And it seems like since then, since i have started to actually believe, God has done one thing after another to help me to keep on believing.

I have also noticed that since my word has become "believe" more and more people are making statements of faith towards me when they talk to me. I am getting fewer ignorant comments regarding infertility, and instead comments like "God is going to do it!", "When you have that baby..." or "I am believing with you!" These statements have only helped the faith in my heart to rise even more.

This isn't how it was AT ALL last year. If someone said "It's going to happen, I just know it!" I would think, "You can't possibly know that". I thought I was just being realistic. It was too scary to hope for more. But now I don't care. I'm just going to go ahead & believe Him. Trust Him. Have faith. I am so thankful for this new perspective. It feels like I have turned a huge corner in this journey.

At my support group last week, our leader, Beth, talked about Joshua 4. She had stones and had us get into two groups and make stacks of stones just like the people did in this passage of scripture. Each stone represented what God had done for the people, to remind them of His faithfulness. Beth told us to make a stack of stones & tell each other something God had done for us on this journey through infertility. So we did. My stack of stones is at my house now, to remind me of His faithfulness.




So here are three of my stones....just three of the (many) things God has done this year in my infertility journey.

{1} I don't know if I have told y'all this one yet, but I'm guessing not. Although if you follow me on social media, you may have seen it. I was so blown away, I could not keep it to myself. A few weeks ago, I made an appointment to go back to our RE (reproductive endocrinologist). It was a Wednesday. The appointment is just for a consult, to talk to our doctor before starting up treatments again. Two days after making that appointment, I got a phone call from my doctor's office. It was from Sherry, who handles the finances, so I was a little confused why she was the one calling me, because I assumed it was about my consult.

"Melissa, this is Sherry from Dr. Webster's office? I was calling to tell you that an anonymous person has made a donation to your account ... in the amount of 1500 dollars."

I'm sorry...what?!? Y'all. I cried. I cried in the lobby of the hospital where I work, I was so blown away & in awe of God. I have NO IDEA who could have done that! Not a clue. There are so many who love us, who know treatments are expensive. $1500 is enough to cover another IUI which is what we would be doing next. He is so good and faithful! I felt just FULL of gratitude and joy. What an awesome God we serve!

{2} My friend Mary Claire and I have become worship buddies. We went to Hillsongs last August, then Kari Jobe in October, Bethel Music in February, & then just two days later, Natalie Grant/Charlotte Gambill. One after another & we are loving it! Anyway, Bethel Music blew our socks off. I had no idea if i knew their songs, and neither did she. We both just wanted to go. We met for dinner first, and then headed to the church, in no hurry. But the church was nearly full, and the line outside wrapped around the building! We were like, 'What is going ON???" I mean, we had no expectations. But clearly people love Bethel Music!

 me & mary claire at bethel's night of worship

Well, the night of worship blew us both away. Completely. I told Mary Claire it has been a long time since i have felt the presence of God THAT strongly. It was just powerful. (Not to say the presence of God isn't in my own church, and even in my car when i am praising Him! But there is something about corporately worshiping with thousands of people for a few hours!)

So at some point they started praying for people to be healed. People raised their hands for healing and those around them would lay hands on them and pray with them. The girl we prayed with had been suffering from migraines. So we prayed for her. As Mary Claire and I were moving back to our seats, the guy said in the microphone, "I believe God is healing people all over this room right now. I believe there are women here who have been unable to have children, you have not been able to become pregnant, God is healing you right now. Your womb is open, He is healing you now." Mary Claire and i looked at each other so quickly & i thought my eyes might pop out of my head! She said, "Melissa...oh my God", and that was about all I could say, too! I looked across the aisle at my friend Ashley & she was leaning forward so she could see me. She had a huge smile on her face & she was nodding her head at me! I looked several sections over where I could see my friend Amanda wiping tears out of her eyes. She texted me the next morning and said, "Just so you know, when they started praying for healing, I started praying for you and Mary Claire. So when that guy said that I just lost it!" Haha! Amanda & Ashley have been two huge supporters of mine in this journey, so it was so neat that they were there to hear that, too. WOW! God, thank you! I remember feeling so emotional after that. Not in a bad way. Just overwhelmed with His kindness.

This is getting so long, and I'm sorry. If you're still here, thank you!!

{3} This happened the day after we made our stacks of stones, but it is definitely a reminder of God's faithfulness. Friday at work. I'm in there, minding my own business. Nobody was in the waiting room. A man in his late 50's or early 60's came in and I let him know that his wife & daughter were still in the back. He began to chit chat with me. He asked me if i had any kids. I said, "not yet". A little while later in conversation, he asked me how long I've been married. (Nosy questions, I know! But it was worth it this time!) I hesitated because I knew when I said we've been married almost 7 years, he would have something to say about us not having kids yet. So i said it. And he said, "It's time for a baby!" Well, duh. Usually when people say things like that I get angry. Because what gives someone the right? They have no idea. I mean, i think it's about time we had a baby, too!! Since i am no longer private about my story, I normally will just be honest with someone when they are so honest with me. (Unless I am just not in the mood, in which case I will shut the conversation down!) So i said, "Yes, I know. We want kids. We've been trying for almost 4 years, we just haven't gotten our miracle yet."

Well! This guy was a pastor!! He had been looking at some art on our wall, but when I said that he turned around so fast and exclaimed, "Hold out your hands!" I did. He grabbed them and prayed right there in our waiting room! He prayed a prayer full of faith. This stranger, knowing nothing about me or if I was even a Christian, held my hands and asked God to give us a baby. He BELIEVED! And after He prayed, he said, "God is going to do it! You are going to become pregnant THIS YEAR." (He wasn't prophesying, but making a statement of faith.) I said, "I believe it." He said, "Ohhhh, it's going to happen!" He was so full of excitement for me. There was NO DOUBT in his mind AT ALL that God is going to answer that prayer. He asked, He believes. Just that simple. I cried when he prayed for me. I told Brad he wasn't a fake. I felt like He was full of Jesus. It was crazy! And yet another reminder from God that he sees me. He knows. He hasn't forgotten. And He's going to do it!

After he prayed for me, I let him know I am a christian, too. We talked longer, about my family, about Brad, about how we met. We talked about my church. I told him I had a miscarriage last year. I don't normally open up to strangers like this, but i just loved him (despite his nosy questions in the beginning. Ha!)!! My only regret was not getting a selfie with him! Haha! He gave me his number and told me to call him when I'm pregnant! And i will!

God set that up. He set that appointment up. It was divine. I fully believe that. His daughter wasn't there for a routine checkup. They thought they saw something on her mammogram and had called her back. At this point, they tell you it's nothing or you need a biopsy. When she came out, she said, "Everything's fine. It was nothing." And he said, "See?? Didn't I tell you?? We prayed, God answered!" And then he looked at me and said, "It wasn't an accident that I came here today, was it?" Oh, no sir! :) (By the way, his first words to his wife & daughter were (pointing to me), "She's a believer too!" and then "I just prayed for her to become pregnant!" HAHAHA! You should have seen the looks on their faces!)


So there you go. Three of my stones. But there are many more. God is faithful.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Laura in Louisiana {Rosedown Plantation}

I'm finally back to write a little more about Laura's trip here! She is writing much faster than I am, so feel free to visit her blog.

Louisiana Vacation - Baton Rouge
Louisiana Vacation - Rosedown
Louisiana Vacation - New Orleans (part one)
Louisiana Vacation - Street Performers

So, I already shared about our visit to downtown Baton Rouge. Later that day, we had just enough time to go to Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, before heading to my mother-in-law's house for some gumbo! :)

Rosedown is one of my favorite places. I do a lot of photo sessions there (in fact, I'm heading there in about a half hour to do a senior session!). Laura saw one of my pictures from there and said "We have to go there when i come visit!" and so we did. It's just a beautiful place.

We walked the grounds and took a lot of pictures...of the grounds and each other. We are both photographers (she is the person who first taught me to shoot in manual mode!), so we had a blast together!  Here are a few pics from our day! (Be sure to check out her post, too...she got some beautiful shots!)



 

 
  So, this was fun!

 This one cracks me up! :)


Serious business. 

Laura took this one...so pretty! 

 And a selfie or two! :)

Being silly!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Laura in Louisiana! {Downtown Baton Rouge}

This past week my friend Laura came to visit. All the way from Pennsylvania! I had a GREAT time showing her all the sights, introducing her to all our foods, and having her meet some of my favorite people. We had such a good time!

Some people might think it's crazy that we met on MySpace. Haha. Well, that's what happened. TEN years ago, so our friendship is pretty legit. :) Honestly, our friendship wasn't some random thing. I'm convinced God set it up. I mean, He knew we would be good friends to each other, so He made it happen! There was just an instant connection between us. We started emailing each other these long emails about our day, or about our walk with God, about whatever we were dealing with or struggling with. And we've kept that going for ten years! That's really something!

Three years ago I made the trip to Pennsylvania to visit her for a week. It was a blast! I was so excited when we started making plans for her to come here! Once she booked her plane tickets, the time flew by! And finally the day arrived! Her plane landed last Wednesday evening.

 At the airport. Excuse the blur...I was probably excited! :)

On Thursday, we headed to downtown Baton Rouge, so I could show her a few of the sights.

One difference between Louisiana and Pennsylvania is that Louisiana is very flat. It's something I never even think about, but Laura couldn't get over it! Haha! This was pretty much the only hill she saw, and it's pretty small!

 The Liberty Bell replica & the State Capital in the background.


 Laura LOVES our trees. I understand. I kind of love them myself. :)


You are looking at the area where I do a lot of my photo sessions!
 It was so fun seeing it from the top of the state capital!

A selfie on the 27th floor of the State Capital!



The last two pictures are from inside of the old State Capital building. 

Head on over to Laura's blog to hear more of the story and to see some more pics! :) We will both be blogging about her trip here!

After downtown, we headed to Rosedown Plantation. I'll share some of those pics with you next! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Do Believe!

2015 is the year, y'all. 2015 is THE YEAR. No, I don't think I'll be having a baby this year, unless one shows up on my doorstep...which i would TOTALLY be okay with, by the way. And you know, there is still a chance I could have a baby this year. But becoming pregnant this year? I BELIEVE.

2015 has been off to a great start, an excellent start, and that is far more than I can say about 2012 or 2013, and DEFINITELY more than I can say for 2014. I'm not trying to go all woe is me on you, but I've had a few bad years in a row. I can't really remember how great or not great 2012 was, but it was our second anniversary of trying to conceive, so that's no fun. I was also in the worst job, one I didn't blog about, but one full of tears, stress and DRAMA, and one i all too happily left in early 2013. 2013 started off rocky with that job...but then I quit because I found  "the perfect job". Well, that turned out too good to be true. And while I ended up where I am now, a great job, the infertility treatments began, and that was very very difficult.

Through those years, of course there was joy. My husband continued to show me unconditional love, the best friends I've ever had continued to be there for me, and my support group, which I started going to in August 2013, was pretty much the best thing that could've happened to my walk through infertility. But those were still some rough years.

2014. I thought for sure that was going to be my year. I thought FOR SURE it was the year I would become a mom. Third IUI on January 30th. Blood test that showed I was pregnant on February 17th. Found out I might be miscarrying February 27th. (So weird that one year ago today I was actually pregnant.) Miscarried on March 3rd, the day after my birthday. The days that followed included: Grief. Heartache. Fear. Worry. Stress. Anxiety. SO MUCH PAIN. Grief. Hurt. Anger. Anger that I desperately tried to not allow to turn into bitterness.

At some point during last year, my emotions did settle down a bit, things did start to get better. Praise and worship began to mean more to me than I ever thought possible. As I focus on God in worship, His peace floods my heart. I became more public than ever about our infertility when I shared the story of my miscarriage. People came forward, people shared their own stories, people sent encouraging words and prayed for me and loved on me. And then there was the infertility awareness 5k which was so awesome and friends came to support me there. I honestly thing that 5k might be when things started to turn around.


Or maybe it was in early December, when my pastor approached me one Sunday morning. He asked me what I would think of the congregation standing with us in prayer for a baby. My first thought was "The entire congregation praying for us?! YES!" My second thought(s) was(were), "What will they say? What will they think? What if they don't understand? What if they think it's a dumb request? What if they think I should just relax?!" I mean, it's one thing to be vocal about it on Facebook, it's quite another to stand in front of your congregation - a congregation small enough to where you can see each one of their faces - and allow your pastor to tell them you need a miracle because you have been unable to conceive. I told him I would think about it. I knew before I even got home that I would say "Yes". The word "no" limits God, don't you think? I don't want to close Him off. If I said "no" my life would go on as usual, and I would still have people praying for me. But if I said "yes", what would God do?? This could not only affect me and Brad, but also other people in our church who may be praying for their own miracles. And times when I am feeling doubt, other people would be speaking words of life and encouragement and prayers, which would stir up faith in my heart again. It would be a really good thing. I said YES. Well, my intention was to say yes, but I didn't tell him right away. The holidays came and things got crazy, and it wasn't until January that I told him our answer.


Also in January, I went to a women's night at a local church with a couple of friends. The pastor's wife was the speaker and she spoke about the woman with the issue of blood. That was truly a turning point for me. I think that sometimes our faith is crushed and we do not easily put our faith in Christ anymore. I didn't intentionally stop putting my trust in Him, but it is much easier to slap a "trust in the Lord" bumper sticker on your car and go on about your day, than to ACTUALLY cast your cares on Him and just TRUST HIM. How can you trust Him when the trust just is not there? How do you trust that He has a plan, that He is good and faithful when it's been a few years and He still hasn't answered? When you're 36 and still not a mother? I mean, y'all. As many times as God has proven Himself faithful in my life, there were still days where someone would post a "GOD IS SO FAITHFUL" on facebook, and i would roll my eyes. (That is probably a terrible thing to admit, but it is the truth.) It's just that I was so focused on my circumstances that I was forgetting that just because He had not answered my prayers yet, did not mean He wasn't going to! I had begun to listen to the lies in my head. Lies that said I would never beat this. Lies that said infertility would always be my story. The belief that He COULD heal me, you know, if He wanted to.

I'm done talking to myself that way. That sermon on the woman with the issue of blood was probably the thing that turned my mindset around. Mainly because of the last sentence: "Daughter, your faith has healed you." She knew if she could JUST get to Jesus, if she could just touch his robes, she would be healed. And i began to think... that is the kind of faith I want.


So the very next morning, I began to read the gospel of Luke, a little everyday. I started with Luke for no other reason than that is the book with the story of the woman with the issue of blood. And the stories of so many other moments of Jesus healing the sick. I began asking God to help my unbelief. I began praising God and thanking Him for our miracle baby. I began turning my negative thoughts into positive words, spoken out loud. Doing all of these is not some magical concoction to give me a baby. But it is stirring up faith in my heart.  It is making me a woman of faith. It is helping me to believe that not only CAN God change our circumstances, but HE WILL!

And then the Sunday came, February 1st, where my pastor told the congregation that we are inviting them to walk alongside us in our journey through infertility (or "delayed fertility", as my friend told me I should start to say! I like it!). He told them how long we've been praying for a baby, how we faced a miscarriage last year, and he asked the congregation to come forward and pray for us. I felt like he worded everything perfectly, and the people came and laid hands on us and agreed with us in prayer. And after we prayed, women began hugging me and saying things like, "I can't wait to hold that baby!". That really stirred up faith in my heart. The next week a young woman in our church said to Brad, "It's going to happen! God's going to do it! I believe it!" & I thought that was so sweet, and once again, my faith was strengthened.

And then I went to the Lisa Harper conference and felt like God kinda winked at me when Lisa Harper (who is basically like Beth Moore) sat right down in front of us before the service and started chatting and laughing with us. And in one of her sermons she talked about how she was sitting in her own church one day when a woman went before the congregation with a testimony of God's healing. She walked up there with her four year old daughter who had been healed from a blood disease and she testified about what God had done. And Lisa sat in that congregation with her own four year old daughter in her lap. And Lisa thought to herself... "You know... I'm a lot like that lady. We both have daughters the same age. They both have a blood disease. They both go to the same hospital. The only difference between myself and that woman is that I know God CAN heal my daughter, but she knew that GOD WILL." And y'all. When she said that, it resonated SO DEEPLY in me, because that is the EXACT SAME THING I said to myself all year last year! I kept saying, "I know God CAN give us a miracle, but I don't know if He WILL." I just didn't know. But now I am crossing the line... I will no longer think God CAN do it! Instead, I am standing in faith and believing that in His timing, HE WILL!!


Listen, I know God's plan is God's plan. But I also know that prayer works. Faith is real. And in the past i have purposefully NOT had too much faith, because then if God let me down, maybe it won't hurt so much. Ha. What kind of faith is that? And the truth is... it still hurts. Either way. Whether I choose to put my faith in Him or not, it is going to hurt when He doesn't answer the way I think He should. From now on, I am just going to believe Him. Believe in His promises. Trust in His timing. Right now the only thing I choose to believe is 'Not only CAN he do it, but HE IS GOING TO DO IT!"

Amen. :)

I have SO MUCH MORE to say on this. God is doing a new thing in my life!! He has really been doing one thing after another since 2015 began. Things to stir my faith in Him... not just faith in who He is but in what He can do and what he wants to do in my life. At the beginning of this year, i asked Him to help my unbelief, and guess what? He has SO come through for me on that, and he continues to do so! I mean, I can write you a list of all the things that have happened this year alone to help my unbelief, to stir up my faith, because it's insane. I'll have to share it all with you in my next post because this one is getting to be too long! Haha! So, stay tuned. And if you are still here... thank you!