Tuesday, September 25, 2018

the one about too-much, too-little, and just-right

My dog threw up 6 times and peed in the house - all between the hours of 10 and 2. I read my Bible as Elmo shrieked in the background. I bathed a little girl who went one too many days without a bath. I fielded phone calls and emails and texts and details for and about the campus ministry. I braved a downpour to buy more paper towels for additional vomit-related emergencies. I felt guilty relying on Sesame Street to entertain my baby while I put away the groceries. I threw laundry in the wash, and threw out expired things from the fridge. And even with all of that - I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing at all. Ever feel like that? Like all the “little” things you’re doing amount to practically nothing compared to the length of your to-do list?
Since Rosie entered toddlerhood, so many things have gotten easier (hang in there, moms of newborns!) and I am cherishing this stage of constant babbling and discovery and the peace of a predictable, simple nap schedule. But at the same time, I feel the pressure of togetherness. I feel the guilt of too-much and too-little: She watches too-much TV and reads too-little, she eats too-many carbs and too-little veggies, we bathe her too-little and her routine changes too-much, she sees me worry too-much and pray too-little, I clean too-much and play with her too-little, I clean too-little and work too-much, I work too-little and relax too-much. AH! The cycle of too-much and too-little is TOO MUCH for one person to handle! You feel me?

I sent some friends a text asking for help with mom-guilt today. And you know what I realized (for the millionth time) as the responses started coming in? Almost all of us will feel this ebbing sense of not-doing-enough or not-being-enough at one point or another. And I’m convinced that it’s not just a wife or mom thing. I think it’s a human thing….and maybe a human thing that especially affects women. We are all just out here doing our best.  

Earlier this summer, I was feeling especially stretched in some of the roles God has given me and incapable of rising above my weaknesses. I also felt discouraged that trying to grow meant failing and falling down more often. On one particularly dark afternoon, I called a mentor in the faith and dear friend and she told me that this season of my life required more faith than I’ve previously possessed. I’ll be honest - that wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. I was forced to acknowledge that my faith and trust in God couldn’t stay the same if I actually wanted to grow - I had (and have to continue) to take it deeper. But then she reminded me of something that I’ve remembered every day since, “Alexandra,” she said, “think about Rosie learning to walk. She hasn’t learned how quite yet but don’t you have every confidence that she’ll eventually figure it out? Of course you do! Do you ever feel frustrated with her for not knowing how to walk yet? Absolutely not! You rejoice over each wobbly step! You clap and celebrate with her over every single step! And that’s how God looks at you - he looks down at you with every confidence that you’re going to figure this out eventually. He’s not disappointed when you fall or annoyed that you’re not walking quite yet - he rejoices over each and every step you’re learning to take! He is clapping for you just like you clap for Rosie!” And now every day that I see Rosie toddle away or fall down and get back up with a smile on her face - I’m reminded to do the same. I know that I still have my fair share of too-littles of this and too-much of that, but I have a Heavenly Father that is cheering me on over each unsure, awkward, topsy-turvy, but completely-determined step. And for today, that’s just-right.

"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." - 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

the one where I turn thirty

When I was 23 or 24, I found this quote on the then-new Pinterest, "You only get ten years to be in your twenties." At first, I loved this graphic...so much so that I made it my desktop background for awhiiile. After all, my time as a twenty-something was fleeting and those words served as a reminder that I should take advantage of every moment and every opportunity afforded to a young, non-wrinkly, zero gray-haired, but completely in debt, young woman! Carpe Diem and all that jazz! But as the months and years went on - these words began to haunt me. Ominous, intimidating, and flat-out scary - these words might as well have been followed by a "DUN, DUN, DUNNNN." This quote led to anxiety-laden thoughts: "What if I'm not maximizing my time in this decade?! What if I don't travel as much/get in as good of shape/accomplish as much/have as much/become as much like..." -- the list goes on and on. And so I felt defeated by the very words meant to keep me inspired. Eventually, off the desktop the quote went (praise hands) - but they remained etched in the back of my mind.

Today, as I spent my last day in my twenties, I couldn't help but feel a little off. Between Tim McGraw's "My Next Thirty Years" blaring in my mind's ear (is that a thing?) and that freaky quote from 2012 -- I was feeling a tad introspective. After all, I didn't quite accomplish all the things I thought I would when I started this decade: I am not the editor-in-chief for Lucky or Elle magazines (shocker, right?), I don't own a house (much less a vacation home), I don't live near my family OR in New York City, I don't have lots of designer clothes in my closet, I don't have a million stamps in my passport, I'm n in the best shape of my life  *she says while eating warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk*, I haven't written a book (in fact, I can barely blog consistently), I don't have as many kids as I thought I would by now, and I am very, very tired. Virtually nothing in my life looks quite like I thought it would when I turned 20! Allow me to first say: thank goodness. Clearly, my 20-year-old self was slightly consumed with the wrong things  in life! And although I'm extremely grateful that some of those expectations didn't come to pass (ahem most of them), there was a piece of me that felt a little worried that I didn't live my last 10 years to their fullest potential. Like what if I didn't live my best, most exciting, 20-something-year-old-life?! Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had this kind of existential age crisis?!

But as I read through Ecclesiastes today (nothing says quarter/mid/whatever-life crisis quite like Ecclesiastes, am I right), I was reminded that my life and my 20s aren't measured by my accomplishments. The quality of these years is not measured by my achievements, workplace accolades, possessions, dress size, followers on Instagram, cool trips or experiences, bank account balance, or even -- gasp -- my relationships. My years are measured by one thing and one thing only - my Maker. And according to him, well, if I'm still making every effort to become like his Son, I'm doing alright! I can't even begin to tell you how liberating that thought is for me!

When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless. Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless. Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”
- Ecclesiastes 11:8-12:1 NLT

Meaningless, meaningless. Without God, it's all meaningless - gotta love the bluntest book of the Bible :) So ultimately, I'm positive that my thirties will be different than what I expect and probably filled with a lot more spit-up and a lot less "glamour" than my twenties...and that I'll probably stay tired for the foreseeable future (update: Rosie was teething all night so yeah - sleep and glamour are officially out. the. window. But sweet baby snuggles are IN!). Cheers to a decade of letting go, remembering the Creator first, sleeping the exact-same-not-nearly-enough amount, and attempting to eat more salads and a few less french fries.

It's time to check on my sweet, sleeping daughter and convince J to watch that episode of Friends where Rachel turns 30 with me. Thanks for joining me as I've attempted to make sense of my twenties. Can't wait to keep keeping it uncomfortably real with you all in my thirties. Is there any other way?! Stay young, y'all!


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

the one about body-image and postpartum "fashion" {if-you-can-call-it-that}

Postpartum fashion. You stumble out of bed, throw on the now too-big maternity clothes that you lived in for your last trimester only to pick up a cute-as-pie but still crying baby, feed them, burp them, change them, and then soldier on in a delightful but exhausting haze of activity, naps, laundry, diapers, snuggles, and spit-up. If you’re miraculously able to manage a shower AND put on make-up in the same 24 hour period you feel worthy of a medal (and let’s be honest, they really should have medals for this).  For those of you new moms that manage this feat with a newborn AND a toddler - we new moms of one baby stand in awe of you. That said, once you get through the first two months of all-out life-altering craziness, you’re somehow supposed to start looking presentable again. And yet, if you’re anything like me, you looked in the mirror in Month 2 and felt like the woman starting at you in the reflection was nearly unrecognizable. But hey new mama, before you start browsing through Facebook pictures of your pre-baby self (guilty), just remember – YOU JUST GAVE BIRTH TO A HUMAN. That is insane and amazing if you let yourself believe it. And maybe, just maybe, it's okay to give your body a little bit of grace. 

"mommy-camouflauge" in action
Before having a baby, I knew it would be challenging for me to accept that my body would be different for awhile…and maybe stay a little different forever – and oh.my.was.i.right. Body image has never been my strong suit. At times, I've thrown health out the window and been filled with self-loathing over my lack of self-control. Other times, I've obsessed to an unhealthy degree over calories and "points" and steps and kettlebells. Today, I'm trying to find balance and it's a whole new world of fighting to appreciate my body, take care of my body, give it time to find a new normal, and say no to at least a few chocolate chip cookies along the way. I feel like motherhood is one big lesson in “everything is different and you’ll be okay”. But thank goodness for babies who love us no matter what - and even appreciate a little squish - and for husbands that keep complimenting us through hormones and stretchy pants. And can we also thank God for the built-in mommy-camouflage of strategically holding cute babies in front of slowly-shrinking tummies?

Postpartum body image is challenging and every time we’re in the grocery store (shout-out to the moms who make it to the grocery store) we’re bombarded with headlines about so-and-so celebrity mom who lost her baby weight got her six pack back planking in the hospital and then there’s Princess Kate who walked out of the hospital in HEELS for-crying-out-loud and hello, then there’s me, who basically rolled out of the hospital in a wheel chair and greasy hair. Let’s just go ahead and agree that those fourth trimester unicorns who lose all of their weight by blinking and breastfeeding are RARE and possibly lying to the world. One of these days, the rest of us will get back to a number on the scale we feel comfortable with and a body shape we can live with. Maybe it will be different – correction, it WILL be different - but different is okay, remember?

I’m reminded of Psalm 139 – a scripture we predominantly associate with our babies in pregnancy:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13
If God went to all that trouble knitting our babies together – don’t you think he spent some time knitting us and that womb of ours together too? Don’t you think that he knew what he was doing when he prepared us to give birth? I have to think that just as he was intimately involved in forming our babies – he was and is intimately involved in shaping the bodies that held those teeny little bodies too! And shame on me for undervaluing something that God knit together! This body never belonged to Rosie or I anyway – it is and always has been, God’s. And that little bit of truth makes all the difference for me.

So with that little tid-bit of post-baby-body perspective – what do we wear while in this beautifully in-between, function over fashion, constantly needing-to-nurse, and ever-evolving body stage?!Figuring out how to exclusively wear separates (for nursing reasons) has been a challenge I didn’t quite expect. I have come across a few staples and tips that are getting me through these days that I wanted to share with you! If you've followed my blog at all, you know that I'm a big believer in only buying things I can wear in multiple ways. I just don't have the budget for statement piece after statement piece. So prepare for a list of basics. Hopefully they give you some ideas of what to mix and match. *there is some sort of formatting snag so make sure to drag your arrow over the paragraphs to see ALL the links!*

1.       Go shopping. I know. It’s the last thing you want to do right now and it seems like a total waste of money. But having a little confidence is worth it. NONE of my shirts fit quite right after baby (to be quite honest, I'm four months in and they still don't!) and my maternity clothes were definitely not cutting it so I went out and bought a few shirts that I’ve worn non-stop for a few months. If you need to, sell some of your old clothes so you have some guilt-free spending money and closet space for the new items! I went through some of my winter clothing and decided to purge some sweaters and dresses that I just know that I won’t want to wear this season. And if I’m not going to wear them for a full year, what’s the point of keeping them??

2.       Tunic Tees. These tees are long enough and flattering with jeans or leggings. They are the perfect tunic length that you can wear at home or out of the house without compromising on modesty (yes please!!). I layer mine with cardigans, flannels, and basically everything I can think of. I love this shirt so much I have it in three colors (update, I bought a fourth while Christmas shopping the other day…I think I have a problem)! The best part? They are $9.99. For those of you preggos out there - I also wore them while pregnant! Another friend just sent me a link for these long-sleeved tunic shirts for $21 and they immediately went on my Christmas list! They sell these in virtually every color and I’m partial to the ¾ sleeve situation. I'm constantly in the market for long tops, tunics, etc that are an appropriate length with leggings. If you have any links, please send them my way! 

3.       Leggings. Since Rosie came on the scene, I've rediscovered the need for leggings. Between being constantly up and down on the floor with her for tummy time/diaper changes and a new stage of homebody-ness (and a sincere dislike for my old jeans), I've definitely needed a stretchy, easy, day-to-day option. My favorite pair is the Lou & Grey Essential Legging. They are just so soft and the perfect thickness! I also decided to bravely venture into the world of faux leather leggings. I know what you’re thinking: Yes, I’m basically Sandy from Grease (cue Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom…*wink*”). Jussst kidding. They’re leggings that like to party – and by “party” I mean, they complement my long tees for holiday church functions very nicely.

4.       Jogger jeans. So you’re sick of your maternity jeans but not ready to wiggle and streeeetch and suck your way into your skinny jeans – I give you, jogger drawstring denim! These were a lifesaver for me this summer and I am just as obsessed with them now (even as I’m able to get back into my other jeans). These are just so comfortable and the perfect transitional jean. They are also on sale! And they come in different colors/styles.

5.       Cozy + long cardigans. Again, I live in these. The need for comfort has never been more real and I’m convinced that one new cardigan a year will sustain my need for novelty through the never-ending Boston winter. With nursing, I’m also finding them even more essential. Here are a few I’m loving: this patterned just-right cocoon cardigan that I got on Black Friday for crazy cheap; this textured beauty that I spotted on Gap’s website (would loveee this number for Christmas), this cardi with the studs - I love its tough-girl vibe. Perfect for my cool-mom leggings, right?!

6.       New shoes! Okay so you don’t necessarily neeeeed these postpartum, but I bought myself a few pairs of shoes to reward myself post-baby because I felt like my clothing may not be as exciting as it used to be, but my feet can still be happy! I’m partial to the slip-on sneaker lately. I bought these slip-ons at Target and they are my absolute go-to’s for everyday right now. Also, my feet are slightly bigger than before?! I’m also mildly obsessed with these velvet beauties in “whipped pink” from LOFT…if someone can tell Santa aka my mom or my husband…. Also these!! Ballet flats kill my toes so give me all the smoking loafers puh-lease.

Thanks for joining me on this mildly embarrassing post-partum fashion journey. And please don't judge me if you see me wearing the same 6 pieces of clothing for the next two months. I know you won't though - judgement-free zone, right?!
A + J

Thursday, November 2, 2017

the one with the new rhythm

Lately I've been reflecting on my walk with God. I'll be real with you - God and I are going through a bit of a transition right now as I'm figuring out this whole "motherhood + discipleship" thing and ohhhh my is it a bit different. Between hormones, exhaustion, a dependent little person, and to be quite honest - my own sinful nature - finding a rhythm with my Heavenly Father is challenging. I've been fighting for it with prayer walks and new-mom devotional books, but it's certainly been an adjustment. My mom-friends keep telling me that this transition is normal and that it will get easier (um, yes please!). Because the truth is, I am loving motherhood and all it's spit-up glory - but I miss my rhythm with God.

I'm reminded of verses like Psalm 42:2

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

And Psalm 84:1-2, 10

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Oh how I need God! Oh how I'm desperate for God. But when those free moments come and the baby takes an extra long nap and I'm left with a bit of free time - how easy it is to flip on the television, browse through social media, and just.waste.time. Now don't get me wrong - I don't think that's always the worst thing - moms need time to relax too (and shower, can I get an amen?!) - but all too often, I choose self-refreshment over God-centered refreshment. And that self-refreshment never lasts long enough and certainly doesn't sustain me.  

Just last week, Jesse and I went to Crane's Beach and it reminded me of how precious my walk with God really is. We first went to Crane's Beach on a beautiful summer day when we were in the peak of infertility. I was so unbelievably sad that when J found that this beach made me happy - he bought us a year long parking pass on the spot and agreed to take me every week that summer. It was the sweetest, most impulsive, most expensive decision ever! That beach became my sanctuary and the prayers I prayed up and down those sandy shores will stick with me forever. Last week, we finally took Rosie to the place we prayed for her over and over and it was magic.

Being back at Crane's Beach transported me to such a special time in my relationship with God but it reminded me of something else -- I don't want the best years of my spiritual walk to be behind me. My future with God can look different - different is fine - but it can't look worse. I never want to say that my best years as a disciple of Jesus were before I had children. Because to be perfectly honest with you, sleep-deprivation isn't exactly making me more Christ-like. I need more of God, not less! Motherhood is exposing jagged edges in my heart and character that desperately need to be smoothed and softened by God. And yet so often, motherhood and marriage - both incredible gifts from God, can easily (albeit sneakily!) become our excuses for not drawing near to Him! Sisters, this should not be. I want to be gentle with myself during this season - after all, Isaiah says that God "gently leads those who have young," but I also don't want to neglect my Maker. I need his help more than ever!

So maybe my times with God can't be quite as long in these infant days, and maybe I can't hop in the car and hit the beach to pour out my soul to the Lord - but I can absolutely do a few things. I can turn off the television, I can put my phone on "Do Not Disturb," and I can pull out my journal and my Bible and meet with God.

And if someone could remind me of this post when I'm tired tomorrow that would be great ;)


To all my mama friends out there -- here a few things I've found that have helped me the last few months (If you have suggestions, please pass them along! I am so new at this):

- Devotional Books: It's been so helpful for me to have a ready-made Bible study everyday to meditate on. I wish I had the energy to create my own Bible studies but I'm having to accept that I don't and that it's okay to absorb other people's wisdom! I've read the books Gently Led and My Morning Cup and they've been wonderful.
- Simple verses, simple meditations: I may not be able to do an in-depth study on the Holy Spirit at this point in my Christian walk but I can pick out a short verse and meditate on it, consider it, talk about it and let it marinate in my heart all day.
- Podcasts: I've been listening to setapartgirl on iTunes and I love it. If I'm not able to sit down and read or if I'm nursing and needing to focus spiritually, I find that listening to sermons or spiritual podcasts are so helpful. Setapartgirl podcasts are Biblically based messages that last about 15 minutes and they really pack a punch for me. I've also listened to Timothy Keller and Francis Chan. It's fun to find new ones!
- Pray with others. When I have friends over, it's easy to just chat and pass the time - but I've found that integrating prayer into my times with other women just makes us that much closer and makes our time so much more meaningful! Why not bring prayer into my fellowship time! Jesse and I also try to go on prayer walks together a few times a week. It allows us to connect with one another, get some exercise, and most importantly - connect with God.
- Pray while nursing. So many moms have suggested this to me and I have to be honest - sometimes this goes better for me than others. But I do think it's a great practical - after all, it's something we new moms find ourselves doing a LOT!
- Ask your husband for help. This one is big for me - I ask Jesse if he can watch the baby for a little while so I can get some special time with God. Sometimes I forget to ask or feel guilty asking - but J is more than happy to take RJ for a little while so I can connect with God! I just need to make my needs known.

Here's to finding a rhythm with our God in each new stage!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

the one about {mornings}

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
- Lamentations 3:22-23 

Rosemary Jane arrived on July 22nd at 11:37AM. From that first morning until now, mornings have become my favorite time of day. Each morning, when my Rosie wakes up - I am giddy all over again, eager to hold the cutest bundle of answered prayers I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong, there have been nights of blown-out diapers and spit-up on bed sheets and un.real.exhaustion and drama-queen tears (her's...most of the time!) and did I mention exhaustion? - but all of those stressful moments fade away when the sun comes up.  The sun rises, a new day starts, and once more I get to kiss those long-anticipated sweet cheeks, see those little (but pudgier-by-the-day) arms stretch and stretch, and watch a teeny, toothless grin smile back at me and light up my whole world. 

Lamentations tells us that God's compassion for us is renewed every morning. Let's think about that for a second -- like, really think about it: Everyday, God looks at us - at YOU - with the doting eyes of a parent with fresh eyes of love, of grace, and of compassion. Yesterday's mistakes are wiped clean and the tears, the metaphorical "blow-outs," and even the tantrums are forgotten and replaced with a whole new helping of love. Our God chooses to forget and instead, I imagine him looking at you and I giddy to see our grins and eager to connect with us anew. After all, if I, with my limited amount of patience, can extend daily compassion to my daughter - how much more can our Heavenly Father do the same for us? 

Over the last six weeks, I've connected with this idea of God seeing me with compassionate eyes like never before. I meditate on who the Scriptures say He is - a Father eager to enjoy me, eager to console and soothe me, and eager to meet my needs.  And let me tell you - I have had a LOT of needs as of late. I've needed His grace like more than ever as my physical and emotional weaknesses have never been more obvious! I'm realizing that this verse (and many others) promise me access to this mistake-erasing, all-encompassing, absolutely relentless love every morning.
And me?

Well, I just get to smile back.


 Our friend, Jonny Havens, an unbelievably talented film maker, made Rosie a welcome-to-the-world video as a gift to us! Jonny made us our wedding video (only his second ever!) when he was an undergrad at Emerson College. Anyway, he made us this video and I cried when I watched it - cause, you know, hormones...and UGH SHE IS PERFECT. And believe it or not, this is the short version he made for us. The website won't let me upload a file that large (buh!) but the longer one is on Facebook. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!


*All photos by Fergie Medar Photography*

Thursday, April 27, 2017

a + j's {incomplete} guide to infertility

Allow me to start this post by giving you a few important facts about infertility - facts that surprised me and facts that I think few people realize. Infertility is NOT only a female problem. 1/3 of all diagnoses are male factor, 1/3 are female factor and 1/3 are unexplained (meaning they have no idea why!). Jesse and I were in the unexplained, they-have-no-idea-why, camp. One of the biggest lies that Satan tells you when you're infertile is that your diagnosis is YOUR fault. That if you worked out more, ate better, and stressed less - you would get pregnant. But let's think about all the humans that smoked, drank like crazy, and made a plethora of unhealthy choices and somehow managed to get pregnant faster than you can say "Baby Mama."  As if we needed more of a reason to hate ourselves as infertile women - we buy into this terrible lie and head down the rabbit hole of self-hate. Every time we went to the doctor, my specialist would literally place a box of tissues in front of me and tell me (again) to get off the internet and that I didn't have to exclusively eat parsnips and pineapple cores in order to get pregnant. I can't tell you how much I needed his Robin Williams-esque "IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT" speech month after month. So anyway, from one crazy human to a likely less crazy one, here are my biggest pieces of input for a woman who may think she's infertile:

1. Get Tested Early.

My sister went through infertility so I was aware of the possibility of a diagnosis much earlier than most. After suspecting infertility and doing all the things we could do to up our chances - I made an appointment with our doctor and got forwarded to a specialist. Our specialist informed us that "normal" people have a 15% chance of conceiving every month. Couples past a year have less than a 5% chance of conceiving every month. Those are challenging odds. In my humble opinion, it's worth it to get tested and to get answers sooner than later. After all, knowledge is power! If you've been trying for nearly a year - you're not being dramatic to make an appointment and ask for a referral to a specialist. Any fertility doctor would encourage you to go ahead and set up an appointment. It often takes a lonnnng time to get into see a good doctor and then several months of testing before you're even given any sort of diagnosis. So my advice would be to go to the doctors early - it can't hurt anything and it feels a whole lot better than doing nothing.

I wrestled with the idea of pursuing medical advice at first because I wondered if going that route said something about my faith in God's timing. I worried that getting help meant that I wasn't surrendered and that I was "taking matters into my own hands". But again, my sister's wisdom to the rescue! "Do you really think Sarah or Rachel or Hannah wouldn't have used every thing at their disposal to try and conceive?" A fair point. Infertility is a disease. Would you ever criticize a friend for seeking medical intervention about any other disease? Would you really call her "not surrendered" for getting medical advice? Of course not! So why is infertility any different? And even when you look at the seven women who dealt with infertility in Scripture (an incredible Bible study btw) - you see that many of them tried different things to get pregnant. And you don't see God shaming or judging them for trying to get pregnant. If anything, he deals with every infertile woman in the Scripture with incredible patience, compassion, and gentleness. If God displayed compassion as they tried to navigate infertility - don't you think that same compassion extends to you? Now obviously, seeking a medical diagnosis is something that you and your spouse need to decide together and with prayer and advice. However, those are just a few thoughts that helped me, an over-complicated/always guilty/over-thinker, to decide to go to the doctor.

2. Gather Support.

I personally believe that infertility is one of the most isolating things you can experience as a woman. It's an invisible diagnosis and something that most people don't quite understand. Being young and infertile was extremely strange for me because me and my baby face would walk into a doctor's office and immediately feel like a freak. I'm pretty sure I was the youngest woman in every waiting room I entered. I felt like every other woman (even the infertile ones!) were looking at me with judgement for getting married young and like I must REALLY be messed up to have a faulty body "at my age". Now, this doesn't mean anyone actually thought those things -- but I sure felt that way! That said, very quickly into the process I recognized my need for support and encouragement. As you all know, I was pretty open about our journey with people in my life. Vulnerability wasn't a luxury for me - it was a necessity. I had to be vulnerable in order to handle my job, my emotions, and just my day-to-day life. But as our waiting dragged on, talking about it with whoever wasn't always the most helpful. I chose several women - about three - to be completely and consistently raw with and then I was honest with others in my life to a less intense degree. I just couldn't quite bear my soul in the same way (even though I wanted to) with each and every friend. I had to give myself permission to not tell everyone every single infertile thought and emotion and about every single blood test and doctors appointment. I quickly realized that I just couldn't quite handle hearing everyone's opinions or thoughts or even sympathy all the time. As a compulsive over-sharer who is constantly afraid of being inauthentic - this was soooo hard for me. But I realized that I couldn't survive the day by reliving and retelling my latest emotional moment 15 times with 15 different humans. It just wasn't practical. I eventually started a text thread with some of my closest friends and named it "Future Aunties." I would text them updates regularly and send specific prayer requests to keep them in the loop. This was helpful because it allowed me to feel connected with them and they with me without feeling like I needed to call each and every one and explain the same thing every time.

But I also had to realize that I did need to be totally transparent with a few in order to keep my own heart and walk with God in check. As the months dragged on, I had to deliberately choose to let these women influence me, guide me, and even correct me in my particularly dark moments. At one point, I even decided to seek counseling as the process got more intense. And honestly, it was extraordinarily helpful. Being a minister, I had no idea how to talk with someone without asking questions in return. I would sit there like, "Um, so you really wanna know more about me?" But I eventually got over it and those sessions changed my perspective and my heart in very real ways. The weirdest way I found support? Through Instagram. I know, I know - it sounds weird. But there's an incredible trying-to-conceive community on Instagram - known as "TTC accounts"-  and these women are all going through different parts of the infertility journey. It ended up being a great place to ask questions and make friends who were dealing with similar treatments at the same time. One of the women that I connected with has become a dear, dear friend and we are due with little girls within 4 days of each other! Her support got me through so many hard days as someone that completely "got it." Support is vital and may come from unlikely places!

3. Recognize the Crisis. 

You're not crazy. What you're going through is really hard!! And just because someone has a worse challenge, a harder life, or a circumstance you can't even begin to fathom - doesn't invalidate your pain. This is hard. And it's not wrong to acknowledge your heartache. I eventually learned to anticipate and plan for my hard days. I discovered that days I went to the doctor, that I needed to plan in more time to process and deal. I learned that events where lots of pregnant women would be present would be hard for me - this didn't mean I didn't attend - but it meant that I took the time to pray and prepare my heart ahead of time. I had to acknowledge the crisis in order to endure it.

4. Recognize your Need for God.

Going through infertility can either make you bitter or draw you closer. There will be moments where you stare into the abyss of bitterness and dip a toe (or five) in. Back away from the edge, dear friend. Bitterness will not give you a baby, comparison will not make you happy, and judging other women will not make infertility any more bearable. Pursuing peace, praying deeply, and soaking up the intimacy that only suffering can produce is far more worth your effort. If you question if God is good - study it out. If you wonder if he hears - study it out. If you question his justice - study it out. The word is full of insights for the hurting, the helpless, and the lonely. It will not leave you nor forsake you. My times with God changed over the course of infertility. The room that will one day hold our baby was a battle ground for me many, many mornings. I put on my spiritual music, prayed (when I could get the words out), studied the word, and tried to work through whatever lie Satan was throwing my way that week. Sometimes, I avoided the subject of infertility altogether and focused on other things about God and prayed more fervently for others. Other days, I went on prayer walks and just tried to bask in God's creation. Whatever it was - I needed God and I couldn't handle infertility without him. But that's the beauty of it - I didn't need to.

5. Lean In.

Ok, I know this is going to sound weird and make me sound slightly "over-spiritual," but bear with me: nearly everyday of our journey (especially as it went on and on), I tried to thank God for the pain of infertility. About halfway into our struggle, I realized that one day, I would miss infertility. I would never miss the heartache or the pain of it - never that - but I recognized the way it drew me closer to God and left me needy for Jesus in a way that was beautiful, sacred, and special. That day, I decided to start leaning in to the pain - and allow it to fulfill its purpose in my life. I thanked God for the intimacy it gave me with Him and the way it brought my husband and I closer and led me to friendships that I never expected beforehand. I thanked him for the sweetness of buying a baby substitute - our little Huckleberry - and the sweetness of to-be-answered-prayers and more time to enjoy just J and just our simple, but still-full life. I thanked God for the ability to understand pain in a way never before known to me and a deeper sense of compassion for other women than anything I had ever experienced. This doesn't mean that everyday I accepted the pain with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step - HA, not.even.close (somewhere, my sweet, patient mother is laughing). But on my better days, I tried really hard to fight for this perspective and fight for gratitude. I still thank God for these things as often and as deeply as I know how. Again, not because I would wish infertility on anyone, but because there was something beautiful developing in our suffering. I don't know what God is producing in you during this time of waiting and hurting and waiting some more - but I do know that it's something precious and absolutely worth every minute of perseverance.

"Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
- Romans 5:3-5

I think that's all the words this little post can handle today and it's by no means an expansive guide! If you're currently dealing with infertility, feel free to reach out - I'd love to pray for you and share more about our story if that's helpful! For those of you reading this that haven't experienced infertility - thank you for reading! I hope that this very incomplete guide helped you understand at least one woman's perspective on a complicated topic.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the one with the rejoicing

Well, here I am - finally emerging from a long (and needed) hiatus! So many things have happened since I lasted posted: we kissed summer goodbye, cherished this fall's extra bright foliage, welcomed lots of students into our campus ministry family, turned 29 (okay, that's as of today), endured countless doctor appointments, prayed and cried and prayed some more, and finally, and I mean finally, got pregnant!! I spent the majority of November and December in a state of delighted shock and happy-exhausted-nauseous-but-crazy-happy haze. As the reality of this little miracle sets in - it's hard to even begin to express all that my heart wants and needs to. I'm fairly certain that this post will turn into a series...so prepare yourselves...but also know that I won't be offended if you don't want to follow along. 

That said, today, I'm not really going to discuss the journey or the process or the heartbreak - I'm going to start at the end; I'm going to begin with the rejoicing. 

We found out we were pregnant earlier than we should have...mostly due to my own impatience. I caved and took a pregnancy test (much to my husband's very-wise and very-careful dismay). I day-dreamed of positive pregnancy tests and plus signs more times than I care to remember but there was never a time where we even came close to a positive. It was all stark-white pee sticks for us (sorry, TMI). The first positive brought equal parts shrieking (on my part) and cautious optimism (on J's). We were worried that it could be a false positive due to some medication I was taking so I sent a photo of the test to two friends who had experienced a similar infertility journey. Both texted me with so much enthusiasm I thought my iPhone might explode like a Galaxy Note. A teeny flame of hope began to light in my heart. 

The next morning, I woke up before the sun, heart racing, and took another test. Still. Positive. This flame started to become a full-on fire at this point. I told the only person sure to give me both an accurate - albeit emotional - response: my big sister. Let's just say that when she saw those pink lines - there was zero heart-guarding going on. All the tears, all the joy, all the shock, all the relief. Watching someone you love accept the news that you can't quite believe is the best, most surreal feeling I can describe. 

Two agonizing days (and an election) later, we went in for a blood test. Around noon, the nurse called with the results and we listened - stunned - as she told us what we longed to hear. 
"You're pregnant!" she said, with a huge smile in her voice. We thanked her profusely (through the tears), got off the phone, and Jesse and I just held each other weeping and asking each other if we believed it. I'm not quite sure if we did. We thanked God through the shock and basked in the miracle.

The next few days were filled with sharing the news with the prayer warriors who stuck by us through our darkest days. Seeing their eyes light up, tears stream down their faces, and all of the finally happy prayers -- humbled us in a way I can't describe. 

Romans 12:16 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." I think most of us know this verse by heart but I never saw it truly come alive until we faced infertility. Just like I day-dreamed of a positive pregnancy test and just as I still dream of this sweet, sweet baby -- I also dreamed of finally telling people that God heard their prayers on our behalf. I longed to see my faith and the faith of our community become sight. I had a feeling it would be special - but nothing could have prepared me for the outpouring of love Jesse and I received as we shared this news. 

When you wait as long and as publicly as we did, there are moments of so much exposure to the struggle and your own weaknesses, that you're tempted to wonder if it's worth it. However, yet again - God taught me that vulnerability breeds closeness like nothing else. So many of you (that I hardly know!) prayed for us, shed tears for us, and have since rejoiced with us. Each of you have built my faith in indescribable ways. Through you, I dared to believe that God sees me, that God hears me, and that God cares about what I care about. After all, if we as sinful humans can have so much compassion on one another - how much more does our Father in Heaven long to "satisfy our desires with good things" (Psalm 103:5)?

For those of you still waiting, still mourning, still longing - you may not realize it - but you have a community at your disposal who longs to be there for you. Many of you have waited longer and through more trying circumstances than I can begin to imagine - and I cannot and will not pretend to truly understand your pain - but I can promise that God sees you too, he loves you too, he cares about you just as fervently, fiercely, and fully as he cares about anyone else. I hope that the story of our answered prayer gives each of you hope. I long for the day when you too experience the gift of sharing your good news, only to see your own celebration reflected in your friend's eyes. 

Here's a little video I made of some of the responses I got to witness :) And there may be a little announcement at the end that's worth waiting for...

All our love and all of our gratitude, 

Photos courtesy of Fergie Medar Photography