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! 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Goals & Things for 2015.


New Year's Resolutions. I guess it's about time I share them here. This is honestly the first year I haven't consciously made any. But they're on my mind; I just need to write them down.

1- Make every effort to continue to make "BELIEVE" my word for 2015. I mean, I can't just say it's my word and then forget about it. I'm currently reading Luke. I'm really giving my all to Him in praise & worship. I'm praying more. I want to continue these things, a lot more so than in 2014. In 2014, i was very sad much of the time, angry some of the time, and desperately trying not to get bitter. This year I want to really make a conscious effort to trust Him more, seek Him more, and believe Him more.

2- Incorporate and stick to an 80/20 lifestyle. I am not sure how to make this happen, except by really leaning on Jesus and asking for his help! I don't think I will ever be someone who cuts sugar out ENTIRELY all of the time. I want to learn to have self-control. I want to be able to have junk food on occasion but not everyday, or even every week. I basically want to live an 80/20 lifestyle, eating healthy most of the time, but allowing treats occasionally. (I'm trying to get it in my head, though, that a "treat" is not an everyday thing! Ha!) For me, the healthy 80% part would mean: No sugar. No grains. Little dairy. Nothing processed. There you go. That's the reader's digest version; I'll try to write a whole blog post on the subject soon. :)

3- Get some EXERCISE. I don't even know what to say here, because exercise has been out of my life for way too long. But i NEED it to become part of my regular routine this year. NEED. I would be happy if i just started walking 3 days a week and built up from there.

4- PHOTOGRAPHY. Number one, I want to improve as a photographer. That means taking some classes and really studying my camera, my flash, lenses, and any new equipment I bring in this year. I think for the most part I have flown by the seat of my pants. Haha. Don't get me wrong... I've had mentors and have definitely used their advice and that has helped me a great deal. But there is still so much room for improvement, and I want to make time for that in 2015.  Number two, Get & keep everything organized and running smoothly for the business side of things. If I'm going to do this, I want to do it right. I got registered and became an LLC last year. Last week, I met with a CPA and asked her all of my million questions. I'm so glad I did! Now I have a list of things I need to do to make sure I get it all turned in correctly at tax time. In 2015, I want to get and stay organized, running the business smoothly and efficiently.

5- Create, complete & purchase photo books for 2013 & 2014. Honestly. It's time. In 2013, I decided I needed to have a photo book for each year of our marriage. Since 2013 wasn't over yet, I made my 2012 book, deciding I would go back later & do 2008/2009 (one book since we got married late in 2008), 2010 & 2011. That never happened. So all i have is our wedding book, and our 2012 book, both of which turned out beautifully. Today I am starting book 2013 and I would like to finish it and do my 2014 book before the year is over. Eventually, yes, I want to go back and do the ones from the beginning of our marriage, but completing two this year sounds more realistic than doing all 5!

I am sure there are more things I would LIKE to do in 2015. Aka, travel, send snail mail, flowers and other fun things more, cook meals for people more, have friends over more, do another whole30 or two, keep this house more clean and organized, you get the idea. But the ones above are the most important to me, and the ones I want to focus on the most! :)

*   *    *    *    *   * 

Before I leave, I wanted to share some good things I read this week!

God will give us more than we can handle: You know how people love that little phrase, "Well, God will never give you something you can't handle!" And they even will say the Bible says that? Well, it doesn't. God WILL give us more than we can handle, so that at the end of ourselves, we turn to Him! Caroline just wrote a great post on this, thought I would share it with you. So much truth.

Why Are You Single? When i was single, i HATED being asked "so why are you single?" or, even better, "so when are YOU going to get married?" when the asker knew i didn't have any prospects! Amy shared this article on her blog, and I thought it was too good not to share.

The Brutally Honest 6 Reasons You are still Overfat. This was SO GOOD. If you need a kick in the pants, something that shoots your excuses in the head, and maybe motivates you step away from the pantry and actually get off your butt and do some exercise, THIS IS THE ARTICLE FOR YOU. I loved it and needed to hear it. (Beware, there is a good bit of foul language.)

I Could have a Baby but She Could Not. I loved this. It literally made me weepy, because for someone who has not experienced infertility to have the ability to truly put herself in her coworker's shoes, and really learn from that. Beautifully written. I will say, i would never ask someone NOT to share in their joy of pregnancy. I feel like it is up to me to remove myself from a situation that is too hard for me, rather than ask them to not mention it around me. So that part of the post is not my reason for sharing this. It's just about being more sensitive with what you say (and post) when you know someone struggling with infertility is around. This writer's understanding and compassion is truly remarkable.

So there ya go!! Enjoy. And hope you are having a great weekend! :)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Whole30 #2 {Meal Ideas & Recipes}

Ok, so I wanted to give you a little idea of what I eat when I'm on whole30 & what I plan on continuing to eat even after it is technically over. I also wanted to share some recipes with you. So, here we go! :)

{Breakfast}
I can't think of anything better for you for breakfast than eggs. Eggs, eggs, eggs. They are good for you! I know back in the day there was all this worry about them being too high in cholesterol... but do some research, because that isn't really a concern anymore. In fact, my cholesterol has never been high (even before my first whole30) and it didn't get worse afterwards (when I had been eating eggs practically every weekday).

They are sooo good with avocado! 

I am going to be honest with you and tell you that while i think eggs are the best thing for breakfast, usually after a few days of them, I want to gag just thinking about them. I'm not sure why that is. On those days I've had either a lara bar, some chicken with avocado (who says breakfast has to be a traditional breakfast food?!), or nothing. Out of these, I would say chicken is the best idea, and a lara bar second best. NOTHING shouldn't be an option if you're trying to eat healthy. You need a healthy breakfast!

Definitely some coffee with coconut milk. In a Garfield mug, preferably. :)

Last whole30 I had smoothies a lot for breakfast because they're great for me on the go. A lot of people will tell you they aren't legal on whole30, but they ARE! They're not recommended, but they are not against the rules. The reason they aren't recommended is because it's like dessert for a lot of people, and possibly a trigger for cheating later on. This isn't the case for me. It's just a convenient way to have breakfast on the go! I haven't had a smoothie this time around, though.

My FAVORITE breakfast is what is called monkey breakfast, or maybe you can call it monkey cereal. I LOVE this because it's got the crunchiness of cereal. In fact, i don't think i'll ever have cereal again! Put in a bowl sliced up banana, a sprinkle of cinnamon, coconut flakes, pecans or cashews and coconut milk. To say it is good is an UNDERSTATEMENT! I have insulin resistance, so I should probably limit bananas. Because of that, I don't think it would be good to have this every single day! But a couple times a week wouldn't hurt! :)


I'll never need cereal again. OMG, so good!

{LUNCH}
My lunches aren't too exciting because I just have to pack something to take to work. It's usually leftovers from dinner, or baked chicken with veggies. Here are three examples of lunch.

Lunch at work that I brought from home (usually something like this or leftovers from dinner):

Lunch at work that I got at work (this is if i just couldn't get it together and bring something! Thankfully my work has a salad bar!):

Lunch at home on a weekend:

The little single serving of green stuff is wholly guacamole. So good! I could probably dip anything in it and be happy.

{DINNER}
Here's where you get to see some new recipes and all the fun things I've been trying! I am also learning to meal plan. This is new to me, I never could get the hang of it! I still don't have the hang of it, but I'm making progress. When I planned the first week, I wrote down the meal and ingredients in my planner. That way next time I'm ready to meal plan, I'll have a bunch of recipes and the shopping lists already ready!


I've also been writing down everything we have been eating for dinner on a weekly planner, to help me as i meal plan in the future. 

Here are some of the things we have tried. (P.S. Their pics are better than mine, so click the link for a better picture - or a recipe!)

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Ragu
I was pretty proud of myself, although I did have to get help from my husband!
That thing is hard to cut open!

To say this was good would be an understatement. It was FANTASTIC.

Paleo Shrimp Fried "Rice"

The top picture on the left is cauliflower rice - delicious and easy to make! A note about this recipe - I had forgotten and didn't realize until it was finished (& consumed!) that peas are off limits for whole30 (unless it's snap peas). Oops. So leave them out if you're on whole30. This meal was SO DELICIOUS! I told Brad i couldn't believe it didn't have a soy sauce or something. It didn't, but it is just bursting with flavor!

Amish One Pan Ground Beef & Cabbage Skillet

Sorry the picture isn't very pretty. But trust me, it's really good and filling! This was a favorite I tried on my last whole30. I've cooked it a few times since then.

Steak &/or Chicken Fajitas with Avocado Ranch Dressing

The fajitas don't have a link because I kind of just throw everything in a wok or skillet & toss it around til it's cooked. I toss in steak & or chicken strips, green bell pepper, onion, garlic & sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic or onion powder. It is so easy & delicious. The dressing is AMAZING! It is a recipe i found while beginning my last whole30, but it's now my favorite - more than any I've had from a bottle.

Other dinners I tried but didn't get a picture of... all of these were also very good!
Skinny Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles
Burrito Bowl

{Parties & Such}
Early in January we had my first little party and I decided I would bring dessert - something that I could eat. All i did was get fresh fruit - my favorite kinds - and toss it all in a bowl together. Now doesn't that look good?! It was!!


And you can drizzle coconut milk on top of that, too, if you want! Haha! By now you're probably thinking, what is this coconut milk and where do i get some?! (I know some of you aren't fans of coconut. I'm sorry. I wish I could help you! Haha. It's been my saving grace!) Coconut Milk is found in most grocery stores in the Asian foods section. DO NOT GET THE LITE WHATEVER YOU DO! You need the full fat version. It's not going to make you get fat. Promise!


Sometimes when you open your can of coconut milk, it's solid at the top and has water at the bottom. I bought one of these hand blenders to help out with that. I love it! I've heard you can make all kinds of things with this, so stay tuned! :)

Well, there you go! Hopefully I'll try some more new recipes soon, and I'll definitely share them here.

Have a great weekend! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Whole30 #2

So, if you follow me on instagram or facebook, or even on pinterest, you've probably picked up on the fact that I am doing another whole30. I'm super glad about this and proud, because I have tried to do another one approximately 590404 times since the whole30 of 2013, and I failed miserably every time. Like I've said before, this isn't the program's fault, it's my fault. I am a food addict, especially when it comes to sugar, and it has been extremely difficult for me to say no to foods that I like. Extremely difficult.

The good news is that after about 4 or 5 days on whole30, you're good to go. I mean, the cravings still come, but they aren't as difficult to resist a few days into whole30, because you have already detoxed from the sugar.

I know some of you are thinking. "Everything in moderation, Melissa!", but that doesn't work for me. I don't think it works for a lot of people. Sugar is as addictive as a drug. I know there are people out there that do have self-control, though. I'm not one of them. I wish I was! I know people who eat healthy 80% of the time, and splurge 20% of the time. To me, that is moderation, and I do hope that one day I can eat whole foods 80 or 90% of the time, but still be able to partake in a piece of cake for my birthday or some m&m's with a movie, without it sending me spiraling out of control. But that day is not today. Back in the fall, it was give me a little and I just can't stop. I was out of control. I remember having dinner with friends a few months ago. There was a basket of rolls still sitting on the table after dinner. I watched as the conversation continued and NOBODY touched the bread. They were all full, and done, and could happily enjoy the conversation. Me? Could not stop thinking about the bread. I feel ashamed to admit that, but it is truth, and I like to be real with you. In case you're like that too and think you're the only one - you're NOT.

So anyway. I've gained all kinds of weight back, and it's been a real struggle to get foods that are not good for me back out of my life! But then January came, and I decided I had to do it, I could NOT start 2015 off on the wrong foot. I also had several friends starting one, and that helped a lot. So now I'm on Day 22 and I feel pretty good.


When it's over, what will I do? Well, I'm really not sure yet. I'm thinking I may allow one splurge meal. I'm dying for a regular old hamburger and fries. And no, not the healthy way - minus a bun and where you cut up the potato yourself! I'm talking about a burger from Five Guys. Ha! This won't include dessert, which is the main issue for me. I know that carbs like fries & buns turn into sugar, but they don't taste like cakes and brownies and candy, and that is what I'm going to try to stay off of, at least until my birthday weekend. And even then, I've got to be very careful.

But other than a burger and fries, I want to stick to a paleo or primal lifestyle. I want to add certain things back in, like legumes and dairy. One at a time, to see how they affect me. If i feel okay after eating them, then that's great. But i need to stay off the white sugar and flour a little while longer. Or forever. Haha.

There are a couple of things I am REFUSING to go back to NO MATTER WHAT! And yes, I mean forever, and yes, I do think it's possible. The first one is COKE. Coca-Cola. Yes, the biggest addiction. It's so gross, too, the number one ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. I mean, that just SOUNDS bad. So, no more coke for me. I know that some people say that if they are off coke for a month, and then have some, it tastes gross. That doesn't work for me. It's delicious every time. So I think i just need to stay away from it. I don't care if you need to lose weight or not, they are TERRIBLE for you. (And so are the diet ones.)

Another good reason to give it up is that when I'm not eating right (or drinking), I tend to not drink any water. But when i get off cokes & other sugary drinks, I automatically drink tons of water in place of it! Definitely not a bad thing!

The other thing that I plan to never go back to is sugar & coffeemate in my coffee. I am thrilled to have discovered that I love coconut milk in my coffee and don't really miss the sugar or coffeemate at all! This is wonderful  news! Haha! Now, I'm not as concerned about NEVER AGAIN having it like I am with the coke. There may be a time or two i have a specialty drink at Starbucks or something. But that would be the exception not the rule. I don't mind that because i love the coffee with coconut mlk so much that I don't think I will have any trouble going right back to it. It's got its own natural sweetness! (Only problem...coconut milk isn't cheap! Sad-face!)

SO anyway. There you have it. I'll keep you posted. I'm not on a diet. My coworker keeps saying things like, "For so-and-so's birthday we're going to bring donuts that morning and order a cookie cake. It's in February so you'll be off your diet by then!". Um, no. Number one, I won't be off my diet then because I'm not on a diet now. Number two, going right back to those bad foods will do exactly what it did for me after I got off of my last whole30...cause me to spiral out of control & gain a lot of weight in the process! CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN! Now, the girl that is saying these things to me is in great shape and she does cleanses and things every so often. She also is able to use self-control (unlike myself!). But I don't think she has any idea that this isn't really a diet. This is how i want to keep eating. Whole30 isn't meant to be a diet. It's just a 30-day reset. But after that, most people transition into a more paleo or primal lifestyle. And that's what I plan on doing, too.

And by the way, Brad has been doing a semi-whole30 with me. Honestly, there is no such thing as a semi-whole30. But he's basically sticking to the w30 rules at home with me, but still bringing his soups to work for lunch, and partaking at work if there is a party or something like that. But that's fine with me!! Haha! Helps me that he sticks to it at home, so I'm not tempted. :)

My next post will share all the new recipes I have tried! I'm excited to have now tried cauli-rice, spaghetti squash & zoodles! YUM! Everything that we've tried so far has been delish! And hubby agrees! :)


Monday, January 19, 2015

Just a Side Note (or two)

Sometimes when something stirs in my heart and my spirit long enough, I have to get it out. I finally get time to blog and it just pours out of my heart. Clicking publish is hard, sharing the link on social media is harder. It's not easy to put my thoughts out there, it's not easy to be so transparent. But I never regret it.

I don't think my thoughts are abnormal... jealousy, anger, grief, blame... these are all completely normal things to experience and feel when you face painful circumstances like infertility. But I know I am not alone. And even if i didn't realize that, you showed me that yesterday. So many seemed to relate to my words, whether they have faced infertility or not. Different circumstances but the same feelings. Thanks so much to those of you who read my last post & took the time to send me a text or a comment to encourage me. You probably have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you.

I wanted to let y'all know that several of the girls from my support group have just started blogs. I'm super excited, and hope they continue them. All of these girls are going through infertility. I'm so excited they're blogging, and i was so proud as i read their posts. Good writing, y'all! So this is my side note. ;) Please check out their blogs, leave them an encouraging comment, and say a little prayer for them. It would mean so much to me. And them!

So here they are... meet my friends:

{ONE}
Mary Claire at The Stickles. Mary Claire started my support group the same time I did, so we have been friends for about a year and a half now? Something like that. I LOVE THIS GIRL and am so thankful she is in my life. She has such a positive attitude & sweet personality. She just started her blog where she shares her infertility story. Her writing is beautiful! Go read!

Heather, me & Mary Claire at the Kari Jobe concert in October

{TWO}
Heather at Becoming a Family of Three. Heather (pictured above) joined our support group in 2014 and has become a good friend as well. She is such a sweetheart. Heather's infertility journey has brought her and her husband to adoption, and her blog is keeping everyone updated on the process. I'm so excited to watch them bring their new baby home!


 Ashton (center), with Joy & Katie.

{THREE}
Ashton at Baby Dragonfly. I didn't know Ashton until the Baby Steps Infertility Awareness 5k. Remember that? Ashton is the girl that actually won the IVF giveaway! She has since joined our support group. Something very cool about Ashton is that she and her husband are raising money for another IVF to "pay it forward" to someone else. How awesome is that?! :)

 Sadie with Mary Claire & Heather

{FOUR}
Sadie at Bringing Home Baby Hill. Sadie is another friend in my support group! Love her, she is funny & sweet! (I'm telling you, this group has brought some awesome girlfriends into my life!) Sadie wrote her first post this week, sharing with the world what they have been going through in this difficult journey. Her story is heartbreaking but she tells it beautifully.


Me & Loren at the 5k. 
{FIVE}
Loren at It's All Part of the Adventure. Loren has been blogging a bit longer than these other ladies, and I've been meaning to share it with you! Loren has one of the most positive attitudes about this whole infertility journey. I love her perspective, and honestly think we could all learn a thing or two from her! She is so sweet, and her upbeat personality is really quite contagious! Haha! I met Loren in support group just like most of these other girls. So glad I did!

 Lindsay (the blonde) with her BFF Meredith.

{SIX}
Lindsay at The Romes. Lindsay isn't in my support group, but only because she lives a few hours away! Lindsay and I grew up in church together. However, I am several years older, so we had different groups of friends. Infertility is what brought us together as adults. Funny how life works. I couldn't go through this without her, though...she's brought me encouragement through many many text conversations! Haha. Lindsay drove in from out of town for the 5k, and I'm so glad she did. The 5k gave her the courage to come out of the infertility closet! So proud. Love this girl.

Go visit them, please! :)

 I also have a read a couple of articles lately about infertility and i thought they were so good, I had to share! :)

"I could have a baby but she could not" - I absolutely loved hearing this told from a woman who has no issues with fertility. Her ability to truly put herself in her infertile coworker's shoes is truly remarkable. I have to tell you, I'm not judging the coworker because maybe she was in a really bad place at the time, but I've never asked a pregnant friend to hide their joy from me like this coworker did. It's up to me to avoid baby showers and other events that will be too hard for me, but I wouldn't want a person to have to hide the most joyful experience of their life. So that's not my point in sharing this post... it's more about people's lack of sensitivity in posting certain e-cards or complaints on social media, and even the things some of them say in person. I love the writer's response to her coworker, and how she encourages those without these struggles to not be like Penninah in the Bible. So good!

"10 Things not to say to someone experiencing Infertility" - I know there are a lot of "what not to say" posts on this subject, but most of them are either venting angry or just funny. This one is more of an educational one & i love it. Pretty much every ignorant comment that has been said to me is listed here, with an explanation on how it's not exactly true! Perfectly stated & well-written article.

So that's it, i guess! Just wanted to share it. Now go visit my friend's blogs so they'll stick around the blogosphere! :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A word for 2015.

Every year I make New Year's Resolutions. Maybe it is strange, but it is one of my favorite things about a new year. I like to set goals. And i know you can do that any time of the year, but something about a new year just really makes me want to focus on change. Doing things better. Making this one count. So every year, I list several resolutions. Some I stick with, some I don't. I don't really beat myself up if i don't succeed. But i do put it out there and try to achieve it. You know...at least through March. ;)

This year I didn't do that. It's the first year that i can remember NOT making new year's resolutions. I mean, I usually have them in my head before the first of the year, and i usually have them written in a blog post within the first week. But this year? Nothing. I haven't really given it much thought. At all. Of course, I probably will at some point. I do want to set my own personal goals for 2015, and I do want to write them down. But this year things are a little different. This year, it's not about my resolutions. It's about a single word.

Have you seen how some people have a word for the year? Like... someone's word may be "peace" or "trust" or "faith". You get the idea. I've never done this. I have never thought it was dumb or a bad idea or anything like that, it's just something I'd never heard of doing. And then when i started seeing people proclaim their word of the year, I thought it was cool but I didn't plan on having a word for myself. It didn't even occur to me. I'm a resolutions girl.

Until this year. God gave me a word. I wasn't looking for one. But suddenly this word became something I really want to focus on this year. And that word is,



It all started in early December. I was in a gift shop looking for something to give a friend. Then i found this,

And i had to have it. I wanted it in my house, where i could see it and read it and let its words sink into my heart. I've known this verse, and others like it, my whole life. Believing those words has never been a struggle. But after years of infertility, and then a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage... well, let me be honest and say that believing God was no longer so easy. I felt betrayed. I felt hurt. I felt many other things, and I don't even know if I realized at the time that I was blaming God. But i was. (It's okay to admit that... He knows anyway and He loves me anyway.)

Once my anger had dissipated, I still felt really hurt. Hurt by God? Yes. I felt that He had let me down. Big time. Certain things about the miscarriage felt cruel to me. The biggest one being that this pregnancy came after three years of infertility. Because of that, it felt like a HUGE answer to prayer! And then I lost the baby. So basically He answered my prayer, i was elated, i was overjoyed, i praised and thanked Him for this gift. And then it was over. He received all praise for the miracle, and in my mind, he got the blame for taking it away. I do not mind being transparent with you; this is how i felt. I'm not saying it was the "right" way to feel, but it's how i felt in my grief. I do not feel that way anymore. But at the time, i had to blame someone, and there was really no one for me to blame but God. He is the only one who could have prevented it, but He didn't. How could I trust Him again?

It has been almost a year since my miscarriage, and I am not fully emotionally healed. I don't know if i ever will be, especially if we are never able to conceive (or adopt). But i am closer to Jesus than I was before I miscarried. He's shown me over and over throughout my life just how good He is. He allowed my pregnancy to end, and I don't know why. But I still will believe Him. I have no trouble believing He is God, that His word is truth, and that He loves me. But i need to believe Him on a deeper level. I feel like my faith was shattered in 2014. Not faith in God, but faith in His promises. Promises like,

"For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain "be taken up and cast into the sea", and doesn't doubt in his heart, but believes what he says is happening, he shall have whatever he says." -Mark 11:23

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them and you shall have them." -Mark 11:24

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord." -Luke 1:45

I think the day i saw that little plaque that said that verse, something began stirring inside of me. I WANT to BELIEVE. I'm like the man in the Bible who said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). I do believe IN God, but i want to really believe Him. I want to believe the promises He's given me, i want to believe that He can AND WILL answer my prayers (I know he CAN, but WILL He?). I want to stop thinking that because of my age, i can only have one child... i want to have faith that there is still time for a couple of them. I want to believe that He will help me in every battle i face in the journey of infertility, including my unending battle to lose weight. I want to believe that I can overcome. I want to believe that with His help I can do anything I put my mind to. I want to believe Him, really believe Him. I want to trust Him. I want to be a woman of faith. I'm not there yet.

I have said this a few times. Early in my journey of infertility, i heard a speaker (I think Christine Caine) say that in our suffering we have a choice. We can run TO God, or FROM Him. One or the other. You may be able to just exist for a little while, but at some point you are either heading towards Him or not. I determined then that I would not allow this to bring me away from God. I would run TO Him. I know that I've struggled with believing Him this past year, but before that, and before infertility, I didn't. I have walked many years with Jesus by my side, relying on Him, trusting Him, seeking Him. I KNOW that He is faithful. I KNOW that He is good. He is the one who turned my sorrows into joy, more than once, and He has whispered to me that He will do it again. So this post is not coming to you from someone who has never really fully believed. I used to have no trouble believing God. Not because someone taught me to believe Him, but because i experienced His love and compassion and goodness for myself. Infertility & miscarriage has changed my perspective. But it hasn't changed God, or who He is. And that brings me a lot of comfort. He hasn't changed. He's got this. And he still loves me even more than i can comprehend, despite my lack of belief and trust. Despite my anger and jealousy. Despite my fear and doubt. He loves me, and even rejoices over me (Zephaniah 3:17).

So there you go. My word is BELIEVE. This year is about believing God. Trusting Him. Becoming a woman of faith again. I've been listening to this song all day. A friend from my support group shared it with me and i can't stop listening. I especially love the part where John Piper speaks. In case you can't listen right now, I'll post what he says during the song below. It's powerful.


"Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light, in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is TOTALLY meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that! I don't care if it was cancer or criticism. I don't care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn't meaningless. It's doing something, it's not meaningless! Of course you can't see what He's doing. Don't look to what is seen. When your mom dies or your kid dies, when you've got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don't say "It's meaningless!" - it's NOT! It's working in you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore...THEREFORE...do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for." -John Piper

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Photography Lately

Photography is probably to blame for my lack of blog posts this year. And in case I thought it was just my imagination that i wasn't blogging as much, I saw it by accident last night as i was scrolling down my blog & got to "blog archives". Um, yeah. It wasn't my imagination! 152 posts in 2009, 450 posts in 2010 (!!!), 276 in 2011, 212 in 2012 (i had to go back & make sure i read that right! Ha!), 174 in 2013, annnnnd! A measly 62 in 2014. Dang.

I am thinking I will have a new year's resolution to get that number back up in 2015. If i do, it will be the first time ever to have a ny resolution about blogging. Ha! First time for everything, I guess. I've always been opposed to resolutions on blogging, i mean - the blog is for me to do with what i please... i blog when i want, i don't when i don't want. But i'd really like to have more than 62 posts next year!

Moving on! This has been a VERY BUSY season for photography. I'm not complaining at all! It was just a lot. Last year I really overbooked myself at the holidays, leaving myself too little time to edit! This year i started out well, and had time to edit as I went, but kept adding sessions when i really should have stopped. Thankfully i finished editing all of my Christmas sessions before Christmas! But i did do four additional shoots after that!

I regret nothing. I mean... i made these exceptions to my "being done for 2014" rule, for four very good reasons. Why? The first was a maternity shoot & she was likely going to be induced in the next two weeks...kinda couldn't wait! Ha! The second was a dream session for me! Number 3 was a newborn session & it's really best to do those in the first 14 days of life & baby girl was 10 days old! :) And 4, i had some friends in town & they're some of my favorite people, and who knew when i would see them again! So definitely no regrets!

None of these are edited yet, but i did take a few behind the scenes shots with my cell phone!

{ONE}
A couple weeks ago, I did a maternity session at Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, La. I absolutely LOVE that place! I had my bridals done there. As a photographer I've only done one session there... a senior session back in May. So i was overjoyed to get to go there again! (Most people don't choose it because it's about 45 minutes away. But so worth it!)

This is heading into Rosedown Plantation. 


And this is on my way home. 

{TWO}
Last weekend, I got to do a proposal session!!! It was SO MUCH FUN, y'all! I have always wanted to do a proposal. Josh got in contact with me, told me the where, when & how, and i headed there. I hid on the side of some townhomes. Then i realized i might be blocked by some columns, so i moved closer. Then i realized she would see me before the proposal even happened, so i started to head back to another spot, but THEY WERE HEADING MY WAY!!! LOL! He was supposed to text me first! She didn't see me, whew!!

So i did my first pro pics of a proposal & i really hope i get to do that again! It was fun! I haven't edited any of them yet, but i did grab a few with my cell phone so she would have something to post when she announced to the world (because i knew i wouldn't have them ready that quickly!). She was SO happy, and i am so happy for her! For both of them! (I've known Becca for awhile as she is my good friend Amanda's stepsister. She goes to our church now, though, so i've gotten to know her a little more. Josh is on our worship team.)



{THREE}
After that i headed to my friend Shoshanah's house for a newborn session with her brand new baby girl!! I met Shoshanah through blogging but she is local and we've gotten together a couple of times. I did her maternity pictures a few months ago, so i was excited to do the newborn pics. (Newborn pics are not my specialty. Fingers crossed that they turn out good!)


{FOUR}
Last Sunday, my friend Robyn was in town & she asked me to get some pics of her boys. Y'all. This killed me. I used to nanny her boys (part-time) when her youngest was just a baby. They are now 11, 15, and 18. I have kept in regular contact with Robyn, but hadn't seen her boys in awhile & could NOT GET OVER how tall they were. Just couldn't get over it!!! Two of them are a full head taller than i am! And the youngest one is not far behind them!

I knew they were super tall. I mean, i've seen them a couple times since they've gotten so tall. But i guess that wasn't anytime recently (they moved to Texas this year), and i was in shock! I told Robyn that i had probably never used the word "tall" so much in a one hour period! Ha!

 See? TALL!!!! (And handsome.) ;)


I had SO MUCH FUN taking their pics...even though i'm not sure if i got any ones without some blur...they were pretty hyper/crazy/teenage boy-ish. Ha! Such a fun shoot, though!

I got some with Robyn, too. I love her a TON! She is an amazing, kind, strong woman & she is funny, too. Love her!



So there ya go! That's pretty much the four shoots i have left to edit right now!! Guess i better get to it! ;)

By the way, have I shared here that I finally have a photography website? My friend designed it for me & I love how it turned out!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Card Roundup

I feel like my last post was kind of heavy... how about a fun one? How about some Christmas card stats? My friend Erika actually came up with this idea. She wrote a Christmas Card Roundup post, and it was hilarious and fun to read, so this is me totally copying off of her. I never come up with great blog ideas on my own! So i steal other people's ideas! I'm sure a lot of people are like me & just don't admit it out loud. Oops. ;)

But it's totally justified, because (a) Christmas cards are one of my most favorite thing of the christmas season... giving them and receiving them. And (b) I got more cards this year than any other! See? Justified.

First... I'll show you our Christmas card this year. Actually, for the first time, I ordered 2 different cards, because i am indecisive. Also because it allowed me to order two different types of cards from mpix and i wanted to see the quality! I have been using mpix since 2008, and i love them, but i have always ordered prints through them and cards through Tiny Prints or Shutterfly. This year, i wanted to try mpix. I'm glad I did! The quality is excellent and also, i received them very quickly! Win-win!

So here is one of our cards. Apparently i sent out all of the other one and didn't have an extra to take a picture of! It was cute, though. Promise. ;)


 {front}

{back}

We got a LOT of cards this year, and i was thrilled with that. I love getting them. Checking the mail is so exciting for me for the entire month of December! In case you don't believe me...


5 in one day was super fun!! 

Anyway... how about some Christmas card stats??? Thank you, Erika, for the great idea. Sorry to steal it. Please forgive me! So, here is our wall of cards! I have never put them on the door before... but my Christmas card hanger was over-full, and i wanted to see each photo card! Haha. 


Number of photo cards: 21
Number of non-photo cards: 18

Let me interject here that the reason there are so many non-photo cards, and the reason we got so many cards this year, is because our church had this great little idea. They set up a sort of mailbox with slots for every letter of the alphabet, so people could bring Christmas cards and deliver them there, thus saving people money on postage. I think this encouraged people who never do cards to do them, because there were 3-7 cards for us in the V slot every Sunday leading up to Christmas...from people i normally don't get cards from. It was fun! 

That being said, 11 of the 18 non-photo cards are from church family. 1 is from a blog friend, 1 from a girl in my support group, and the rest are from extended family. :) 

Of the 21 photo cards:

Number of collage cards:
Number of cards from blog friends (people I would not/did not know outside of blogging): 4
Number of cards with pets: 2 (I did not know this was not a thing! How is this not a thing?! Furbabies are a part of the family!) 
Number of cards from theatre friends: 4
Number of (photo) cards from church family:  2
Number of cards from Louisiana: 12
Card that comes from the farthest away:  Tonawanda, New York (1289.81 miles), and believe it or not this is not a blog friend. This is my dear friend Rebecca who was in my wedding & I in hers. Miss her so much!

And my two favorite categories: 
Number of cards from people who suffered from infertility but now have a sweet baby on their card: 3 (So happy for you ladies!!)
Number of cards with pictures that I TOOK: 4 (Very exciting for me!)

So there ya have it! Hope you enjoyed it! Have a merry Saturday after Christmas! :)