Infertility – The Unexpected Blessings – Part 2

20170526_114455 (1)In my last post, I referenced the struggle, but also the blessing. What blessing can come out of such heartache? What blessing could come out of an unmet desire?

I do say this – I am hopeful.

Does that sound odd? It could. It could also mean a lot of different things. But, in the face of infertility, that is how I feel. So, what am I hopeful in? Hopeful that one day we’ll conceive? Hopeful that someday we will adopt? No, I am hopeful in God’s ability to bring good from, and get glory in, this trial.

One of the unexpected blessings I referred to in my last post was the blessedness of being able to be a source of encouragement, love, and empathy in sisters that are in the same place as I have been and am. I can remind them of the Scriptures and truths about God’s character that I clung to. I can remind them that He is good and that He is not withholding good from us, the lie that Adam and Eve believed. I can come from a place of shared pain and experience and that – that is good. That is helpful. This is not a wasted experience. This is one reason I am hopeful. He gets glory.

The Lord has given my husband and me several children to love and care for and pour into. I often joke that we actually have lots of kids. Funny – I almost have the 8 children that I wanted years ago! Between 2 families, the Lord has blessed us with 6 sweet boys, 1 sweet girl, and 1 sweet girl on the way. They are 7, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1.5, and 1.5 months old. I love them so much and they are such a joy and blessing. We have been able to serve these families at points by watching their children and have had the opportunity to pour into them spiritually. We have a very close relationship with the families and their families and really love these children dearly. Some of my favorite times have been putting them to sleep, singing hymns with them, praying, and kissing their sweet little faces. The opportunities we have had to teach them about Jesus have been countless and ongoing and I am thankful. Again, God gets glory.

I don’t want to seem as though I am surfing through this trial without being hit by waves. That’s not true. There are still times when I do still feel sorrow and grief, times where I cry and weep and feel that ache in my throat & heart. But I remind myself of who God is – He is gracious, kind, loving, wise, giving, faithful, generous…! So many things. It’s not me that gets to decide how He works out His characteristics, but He is who He is according to His will, according to His good purposes, according to His wisdom. I trust this. I cling to this. I have often wept over the thought that there will be no children to carry on our legacy. It still bothers me. It still hurts. But I have to remind myself – God is wise and He knows far more than I! I can trust that this too is according to His wisdom.

I have seen recent times where my husband has done well at guarding my heart and loving me when those questions inevitably come from those that don’t know us – “Do y’all have kids?” Whether it’s an arm around my waist, a kiss on the cheek or forehead, or the way that he takes charge of answering the question, I’m grateful for it.

I’m also grateful for the fact that more openness leads to more openness. It gives birth, so to speak, to more transparency and causes the topic to be less taboo. So many women struggle in silence, and for those that belong to Christ, we do not have to. We have the Body of Christ to walk alongside of us, share these burdens together, and we enjoy the blessing of being able to pray for each other, cry for and with each other, and love each other. Again, God gets glory.

I find myself more prayerful for my sisters, rejoicing at the first news of a new baby, praying for that baby’s protection & formation in the womb, and bringing meals as they adjust to this new blessing.

I have learned how to be a better listener, to watch the words I say, to be selfless, to rejoice with others. So, even though it is difficult, it has been helpful. And for that, I can praise the Lord.

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Infertility – The Struggle & Unexpected Blessings – PART 1

When I was younger, I knew I wanted children. I used to have a certain number in my head – 8 to be exact. I remember talking to my married, child-raising friends about that number and being told, “Wait until you have at least one, first!” And so I looked forward to that day with great anticipation. I’ve always loved children, even in my years as a child. I couldn’t wait to have my own. I really wanted a son. My husband would laugh at me because most women seem to want daughters, but not me. I wanted little boys. I wanted him to have a ‘mini me’. It really warmed my heart to think about him with a little shadow!

When my husband and I got married, about 2 months in, I had gotten sick. All food started to make me nauseous, especially the smell of it. After dealing with the symptoms for quite some time, I went to my doctor and was met with her predictions. “Oh I know you’re pregnant, but let’s get these tests done. I will be more surprised if you aren’t!” I went to the lab and sat there, texting my husband, a feeling of nervousness and excitement in my belly. All of the what-ifs flooded my heart and mind and I allowed myself to imagine life 9 months from that moment. My name was called, specimens were collected, and I headed home to wait for the results. Those hours of waiting were hard. Finally, later that evening, that call came. My doctor called me personally to tell me the results. I wasn’t pregnant. She apologized for her negligent words and told me that she understood if I did not want to continue seeing her as my provider.

Over the years that followed, I was so mindful of everything – a late cycle, unexplained nausea, fatigue seemingly out of nowhere, headaches – you name it. Each month brought tears when my cycle would come. All of my friends were getting pregnant and our church experienced many ‘baby booms’ each year where babies were being born back to back over the course of several months. All the while, I tried to sustain a happy outer demeanor, explaining that it was all in God’s timing when I’d be asked about our desire to have children. There were many times that I cried to my husband, heartbroken over my unfulfilled desire and the careless words from others.

“You’re not getting any younger!”

“Do y’all even WANT kids?”

“You know – you’re next!”

“Have you tried changing your diet?”

“Look at you holding that baby, getting practice in, I see!”

“You know, if you want to adopt, you should get started soon!”

“When you (fill in the blank), then those babies will come!”

I heard all of those things and then some. Those comments made me even sadder. And I realized – we can say that we know that God is in control but or comments and thoughts can betray us, which is what happened with them and with me. The comments were unhelpful and mindless and often lent themselves to driving me into deeper sadness over our lack of children.

Baby showers were hard and I would avoid them often. I was happy for my friends, but mourned the absence of children in our home. The sight of cute little baby clothes and shoes pained me. I couldn’t do it! It didn’t seem fair to me!. There was no medical explanation for my inability to conceive. I was upset, but my husband helped me to realize that my beef was really with the Lord. Because He opens and closes the womb, and He had chosen not to for His own good purposes, my ultimate problem was with Him. That was a hard one to grapple with.

It became harder & harder seeing news stories about irresponsible, abusive, and negligent parents. They can have kids, but not ME, Lord? Really?! It was hard, it was sad, it was lonely. But, blessing came with it as well.

[ To Be Continued in Part 2 Next Week ]

 

A Merciful, Grace-Filled, God-Given 37 Years

37

Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday. In the early hours of the morning, on September 26th, I was born.

A big deal is often made about birthdays. And rightfully so (The Lord’s grace), but also wrongfully so. We can often make such a big deal over a day we had no control over, often demanding special treatment and praise, expecting people to bend over backwards to make it all about us.

I grew up getting cards each year from my grandmother with money that matched my age. My mom and dad would take my brothers and me to the restaurant of our choice, or my mom would cook the meal of our choice. One year, I actually asked for lobster! And my mom made it! I wasn’t even a teenager at the time. She’d bake our favorite cakes (straight chocolate for me) and it would be such a fun day of celebration. The next day, life went back to normal. As a kid, it was always sad for me; I wanted to continue the party! But I had to wait another 12 months to do that.

As I have gotten older, birthday celebrations look different. Since I have been married, my husband has done sweet things to celebrate with me. One year, he researched and found a bakery that had gluten free cupcakes and bought me FOUR (4!!!) of them. I always look forward to the cards from family and friends and having dinner at special places with my guy. Yesterday, we ended the day with him praying for me; I loved that.

But I think in a way that I didn’t when I was 10, or even when I was 20. As each year passes, I think, “Whoa – where did last year go?” and birthdays are more deeply appreciated. I used to set my alarm at the time I was born and wake up to thank the Lord for another year, but now – I have to get up at 5:30a for work and getting older (for me) means my sleeping patterns can easily get thrown off. A super early wake-up turns into a clock watching session until it’s time for me to get ready for the day haha. So now, I just thank Him when I wake. He’s been merciful.

When I think about the passing years, I often shake my head at how kind God has been. He’s been faithful. Gracious. Kind. Long-suffering. Steadfast. Enduring. I don’t deserve to be 37. I have classmates who have long been gone. I have had countless times of rebellion against the Lord, yes, even since being a Christian! I am thankful for His grace. I am thankful for salvation.

So here’s to another year that the Lord has given me. I plan to work through Donald S. Whitney’s “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday” and prayerfully consider how I can spend the next year, if God gives it, honoring Him and serving Him more effectively.

Learning, Growing, & Expanding – Upcoming Blog Changes

For a long time, I have been thinking about revamping the blog. When I started it about 5 years ago, I was a newlywed and wanted to write about the things that I would be learning about marriage. I wanted to write about how my faith would intersect and what it looked like to be a new wife. I wanted to write about everything that I was learning as a wife in hopes that it would be helpful.

Now, my focus has changed slightly, but only to expand. I have learned a lot in the past 5 years of being married. Not only have I learned more about who I am as a person, as a Christian, but I have learned about what it means to be a wife, in the fun times and the hard times. I have learned that getting married doesn’t mean that having babies will follow and that children are not a given. I have learned more about what health and self control looks like. I have learned the hard way about food allergies & intolerances and what it looks like to ignore them or treat them. I have learned how to stick to a budget while providing healthy, delicious dinners. I have learned about the paleo / primal diet and how it benefits health. I have learned a lot on home and food DIY to save money (the price of ghee is REALLY ridiculous when you see how easy it is to make your own!) I have learned more about the Bible, how to read it properly, and how to apply it to life. I have learned more about my tendencies toward anxiety and how to fight that with Scripture. I have learned how to sew better, how to follow patterns, and about so many sewing feet! I have learned new ways of saving money and how to make my money work for me. I have learned how to trust the Lord when I have been super fearful or unsure or anxious. I have learned how to manage my ADD symptoms. I have learned that allergies in central Texas have no respect, lol! Yes, I have learned a lot! But at the same time, there is so much more that I need to learn and will learn.

And so, with the focus changes, my content will be changing & expanding & talking about all of the above (and then some). And by the way – I must say that I don’t write anything as an authority, but simply as a woman who desires to help others with what I have learned in hopes to be a blessing. That also means that I will be blogging much more frequently. Life happens, but I don’t believe in learning things and keeping them to myself.

So here goes!

Recipe Review: Real Deal Cookies (Against All Grain)

Coooooooooooookiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.

Something tells me that the Cookie Monster wasn’t thinkin’ “paleo” when he said that. But these days? I sure am.

While never positively diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten intolerance has frequently made itself very well known to me. I used to be able to cheat on the weekends and have a bite of gluten… a bite? Sorry, a plate! I would have some Chick Fil-a nuggets, a bbq sandwich (on a REAL bun!), a cupcake, etc. Only the weekends though! The biggest side effect I’d feel was sluggishness and sometimes body aches. Was it wise to do that? No, but old habits can die hard until they have to be put to death.

Some weeks ago, my husband and I went to get some BBQ with some friends. I know that a lot of BBQ sausages contain gluten, but I thought I’d be okay. I wasn’t. Not to mention, the previous night, I’d added some jalapeno crisps to my salad and had IBS-like symptoms the next morning. After this situation, I knew that I couldn’t even cheat with gluten anymore! One of the catalysts to pursing paleo, I decided that I needed to learn more methods of making gluten free treats. I usually replace the all purpose flour in a recipe with gluten free flour, but those gluten free flour blends often contain potato and rice flours. I also wanted to use alternative sweeteners. I like coconut sugar and would sub that cup for cup as well, but I really wanted a new method of doing things. More about that later.

I discovered this cookie recipe in Danielle Walker’s “Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great”. The first time I made them, I added some leftover pecan pieces. The cookies were different than the textures I was used to. They were really light, so much so that my husband jokingly called them ‘air cookies’. I only wished they were a little more moist & chewy. The second time I made them, I added a little more palm shortening and omitted the pecans. I also used a mix of dark chocolate & mini chips from Enjoy Life. Baking time was decreased by 30 seconds as well. This was a better batch! I love how the coconut sugar mimics the smell and taste of brown sugar.

I think this recipe is a great base to play with. Maybe some cocoa powder for some chocolate cookies? Peppermint extract for mint chocolate cookies? Macadamia nuts and white chocolate? Unsweetened coconut? Definitely something I am planning to get creative with!

All in all, I do recommend this recipe and look forward to manipulating it. She does have a 2.0 version of this recipe in her “Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime” book that includes tahini (not sure how I feel about that!) and only uses egg whites. Her notes state that she wanted to create a nut free, coconut free alternative that everyone can enjoy. As I do have friends with more severe allergies and intolerances than myself, I will try my hand at these in the future.

Recipe Review: Paleo Paprika Garlic Shrimp (Per Chance to Cook)

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago on Pinterest while looking for some paleo dinner ideas. It looked pretty yummy – shrimp, garlic, coconut milk, paprika… how could it NOT taste good?

A few months ago, during a visit, my mom had given me some shrimp that she’d frozen. I’d been looking for a good recipe that would make me actually WANT to peel and devein (a*k*a remove the yuck!) them and so I came across Per Chance to Cook.

Now, I always always ALWAYS have paprika. Not just one kind either! I usually have Spanish smoked paprika and regular paprika. Of course this is the one time that I have barely 1/2 a teaspoon of either one in my cupboard. How does that happen!? And I wasn’t about to make a run to the store! I just added that to my grocery list and kept it moving! But, let me say – this recipe was so good that I cannot imagine how much better it would have been with that right amount of paprika! I was concerned initially that using a whole head of garlic would be overwhelming, but it was perfect. I added a little ghee to the mixture and added extra coconut milk because my husband and I both enjoy sauciness in our foods. To keep it paleo, I used some arrowroot (instead of cornstarch) to thicken up the sauce a bit.

I served it over some cauli-rice that was sauteed in coconut oil. I added granulated garlic, ghee, kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and light coconut milk to the cauliflower and let it soak it all up in the pan. Perfect compliment to the shrimp! I think that I will add some spinach next time for color and for nutrition and to round it out. Our home is never lacking in spinach (of all the things, right?) so I know I’ll have some on hand for that.

It was a delicious dish! My husband gave it the eyebrow of approval as he ate. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched this man eat cauliflower! The same man who turned his nose up at the thought of it now eats cauli rice regularly. I love it! The flavors were not overpowering and everything tasted great together.

Note: This recipe is clean as well as grain free, gluten free, dairy free, and paleo & contains healthy fats from the coconut oil and milk as well as great nutrition from the cauliflower. Adding broccoli or spinach adds to the nutrition and ensures you have a well rounded meal!

Summertime (& Beyond!) Goals

bitmoji-20170602125601I often wish I had a job where I was off for the Summer! As a former preschool teacher, I appreciated those few months that I had to just have some really good downtime. While I miss that, I do not miss the pay. I remember driving around Austin and seeing the marquee signs of fast food restaurants, advertising starting pays of more than I was making as a preschool teacher! But anyway – Summer is coming! As I think through the Summer and what I would like to have accomplished by its end, I think of sewing, reading, and health.

Last Wednesday night, I was chatting with two close friends about reading. We were discussing books we’d read lately and how they are becoming better readers. Because being a better reader is something I want to grow in, I made a small list of books I would like to read this Summer. I am a frequent visitor at my local library branch and have these books on my virtual bookshelf. I have “Rise” in my possession and have started it already. “Brave New World“, “The Explicit Gospel” , & “Fahrenheit 451” are on the way, being transferred from other branches.

My list for the Summer consists of:

“Rise” – Trip Lee
“Brave New World” – Aldous Huxley
“Fahrenheit 451” – Ray Bradbury
“The Explicit Gospel” – Matt Chandler
“1984” – George Orwell
“Amusing Ourselves to Death” – Neil Postman
“The Screwtape Letters” – C.S. Lewis
“Til We Have Faces” – C.S. Lewis
“The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce” – John Piper

What do you have on your Summer reading list?

Another thing I want to get done this summer? I’d like to continue to grow in my sewing skills & sew at least 10 garments. At least! Sometimes I wish I could have dedicated days to sew, but I have to sew when I get a moment. In one of the sewing books that I have read recently, the author suggests sewing everyday, even if it’s just 15 minutes here and there, and eventually you’ll be done with that new garment. Right now, I am in the process of dropping 20 – 30 pounds so I am focusing on outer garments like this Simplicity 1318 pattern & items that will adjust along with me like a nice maxi dress. I dread making a dress for my current measurements & doing necessary adjustments just to not have it fit me in a few months! So – that is the plan for now. Hopefully, by the end of August, I will be sewing some dresses. I have my eye on completing several patterns, especially some from “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book” (soooo many that I want to make!)

Do you keep a sewing to-do list?

That leads me to my health & fitness goals. A couple of years ago, I was running & exercising pretty regularly, losing weight & feeling pretty awesome in the process. I had surgery in May of 2015 which sidelined me for some time, then a series of events happened – injuries (patellar tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, hip pain) allergies, moving, and the list somewhat goes on! I have had a hard time being able to exercise consistently which bothers me. I felt so much better when I weighed less. With the injuries & such, the weight came back on and it’s been hard to get it to go away again. My husband and I have goal weights we want to reach and have come up with an ultimate reward, so in addition to the reward of having good health, I have a monetary reward in view. I often look at it like this – the next few months are going to pass whether I am active or not. Either I will weigh the same, weigh more, or weigh less. I’d much rather weigh less & be healthier! I want to be a much better steward of the health & body that God has given me. And so that is my goal for the Summer as well – consistent exercise, weight loss (& maintenance of that weight loss this time!)

Do you have any Summer goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!