My first gray hair!

Yesterday morning after waking up to brush my teeth, I noticed something interesting in the mirror: my first gray hair!

And not just one gray hair, but 3 plus 1 tiny baby hair in the front of my head that appears to be coming in gray. Oh my!

I’m sure it’s alarming the first time anyone notices gray hair in the reflection looking back at them, but this came as quite the shock as I’m one week away from turning 29. I was sure I would probably someday have a few gray hairs in my older years, but I didn’t expect to see the sign of “old age” before I even turn 30.

Surprisingly I don’t feel upset about this or worried. From everything I read on the internet, there really isn’t a solid answer for what causes premature graying. Some studies link to stress in our modern lifestyle causing premature aging, others say it has nothing to do with stress it’s all about genes, and others point to lifestyle (things like a thyroid problem, autoimmune disease, and so on).

I really can’t say if it’s linked to my genes. My dad (who I take after with my hair) didn’t start getting gray hairs until he was in his 40s. My mom always dyed her hair or highlighted her hair so I don’t think she would have a clue as to when she started getting gray hairs. My brother is 5 years older than me and I don’t think that he has started to get gray hair yet, but I’ll ask him the next time I speak with him.

It definitely wouldn’t shock me if this was related to stress. Hello, the last 5 years of dealing with being a newlywed, marriage to a police officer and then transitioning to his job as a major crimes detective, our 6 pregnancy losses and infertility, health issues and other life stressors is likely bound to affect me physically.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if this was caused by an autoimmune condition or imbalance of some kind.

Regardless of what the cause is, I’m not going to let myself worry about it.

In my most recent post, I talked about my journey in dealing with anxiety and taking steps to overcome that burden. While I can’t change the stress of the past and I have only so much control in reducing my current stressors, I know that I’m on the forward path towards a future that will be much better than the past has been.

Just last week we paid off $800 in debt and another $150 this weekend. We are that much closer towards financial freedom. While being debt free certainly won’t solve all of my problems, it will give us peace and the freedom to not have to worry about finances while dealing with other stressful events. An example of how this will give me more peace: if I’m ever blessed to carry another child again in pregnancy, while dealing with anxiety during pregnancy, I won’t have the added anxiety of worrying about medical bills or going into more debt if an emergency situation should arise. It won’t take away from the anxiety of dealing with medical issues, but it will give me peace of mind to not have one extra thing to think about.

By my 30th birthday, we will be completely credit card debt free and well on our way to total debt freedom if not fully debt free (my husband is able to make a lot of money in overtime – but it’s not predictable. If we are fortunate and he is able to pick up a lot of hours of overtime there is a good chance we could be completely debt free in a year).

Even though my current season of life is really stressful, I’m tired and exhausted and sometimes I just want to throw my hands in the air and give up, I’m taking this one day at a time and focusing on the goal that is not all that far away. My 20s have been sad. I’ve tried to remain positive, but the truth is that this gray hair on my head is very symbolic of the last 5 years of my life.

I almost feel like this gray hair is a badge of honor for everything I have survived. I’ve told my husband many times that I feel like we are much older than we actually are because of the things we’ve experienced at a young age. We were only 24 when we said goodbye to our first 3 babies. Loss changes you and yes I even think loss ages you.

Aside from the negative aspects of the last 5 years, I can also look back on that time as walking through the valley of the shadow of death with God. There was a long season or stretch of time where I couldn’t feel God. I felt abandoned by Him. I didn’t understand His plans for me. I thought He wanted me to suffer and didn’t care about what I was going through. I remember at one time saying, “Why does God continue to allow loss after loss after loss? As soon as I grieve one loss and try to move forward with positivity, he brings more loss into my life. It’s as if He wants me to live a life of sorrow.” God pulled me through that dark season and showed up as only He can do. There have been so many moments where He revealed Himself in special ways in my life – so many little testimonies of His faithfulness at just the perfect time.

God has given me faith to believe that He is trustworthy. He has given me faith to believe that He is working for my good. He has given me faith to trust that He is protecting me from harm. He has given me faith to believe that my testimony, my miracle is going to be one our great joy and celebration. I don’t take credit for any of this faith. I’ve doubted more times that I can count. But in the moments where I was ready to give up on God, He showed up with His grace to show me how much He cares and to give me hope for His plans for my life.

A few years ago, I was worried about getting older. While some of you might think that is silly because I’m still in my 20s, the worry for me came based on the fact that I’ve already faced so many reproductive problems at an early age. The idea of getting older each year and having my reproductive options decline even more was scary. I think we assume that youth is supposed to be on our side, but if I had this many problems in my youth, what would getting older look like for me?

But now? I’m not scared of getting older. My 20s have been a time of growth and maturing. I will carry the wisdom of this decade with me throughout my years. But do I think turning into a new decade will bring worse fate?

Absolutely not. I’m very much looking forward to my 30s. We will be debt free in our 30s. We will be able to take active steps towards growing our family (more on this in a later post). In our 30s, we will likely purchase our first home where we will God willing bring our children home. There are many things to look forward to as we grow older and I’m excited for what the next decade will bring. I’m sure there will still be plenty of hard times and trials, but I’m not afraid anymore.

I’m not sure what I’ll do about my gray hair. For now it’s just a few. To be honest, I actually kind of like it. The gray is more of a silver color. I really feel like it’s a badge of honor and I love what the bible has to say about gray hair and growing older:

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”

Cheers to growing older, gray hair and all!

-Amber

 

 

Long time no blog

Hello friends, if any of you are still out there! I know it has been so long since I last blogged and prior to that I wasn’t keeping up with this blog consistently. I’m back for a brief update but I can’t promise that I’ll start truly blogging again anytime soon. I really don’t even have time to do this tonight, but I have been thinking about my blog lately and felt it needed a little love.

The last time I wrote, I discussed that I was dealing with some tough issues but that I was having trouble taking the time to publish those thoughts to the blogging world so I stuck with private journaling for a season.

Today I’m ready to open up a bit about what I was going through.

Anxiety – severe anxiety that I finally realized was affecting every part of my life. I think that I have always struggled with anxiety, but wasn’t able to pin down the issue until the recent past when my struggle with anxiety was growing increasingly worse over time. I think my recurrent miscarriage history obviously added to the weight of my struggle and the combination of dealing with life after multiple losses plus other stressful life circumstances led to me feeling completely helpless and frozen in a pit of fear.

I finally realized back in January that it was time to start taking some steps forward to deal with conquering my anxiety when my husband and I were going to attend a new church and I desperately wanted to go inside in my spirit and enjoy the fellowship lunch we had been invited to, but instead my body refused to move and I sat paralyzed in my car. In tears, I made my husband turn around to head home. I wanted to write about this moment when it happened, but was too embarrassed to share this with the public. Now that time has passed, I’m feeling more brave and ready to share a little bit about this struggle.

When we came home that afternoon, I started searching for how to manage extreme anxiety and social anxiety and found several helpful tips that I could start immediately implementing. Of course therapy would be a great option, but one of my current life stressors and a trigger for my anxiety is dealing with financial struggles. Seeing a therapist just wasn’t an option at the time (but will hopefully someday be one should I need it).

After researching anxiety and how I can cope with this struggle, I also did a bit of research on social anxiety within the church. I read countless stories of people desiring to be a part of community with their brothers and sisters in Christ yet feeling trapped by their anxiety that they felt prevented them from truly living the abundant life Christ promised.

Reading those stories and having a list full of resources to start applying to overcome my anxiety, I felt inspired. God did not plague me with an awful case of anxiety for my harm, but for my good and for the good of others. I felt determined and excited that although this struggle feels really big right now, I believe with every ounce in my heart that God created me to use this burden to overcome every obstacle I face and grow stronger and to help those who face the same kind of struggles. I was excited to think that although at the present time I was too afraid to walk into the church building and share lunch with new faces, someday I will be able to do so and I will also be the person who offers encouragement and true fellowship and community to someone else who needs a little help.

But to take this journey forward, was going to mean taking some difficult first steps forward. One of the first steps I took was to make a plan of action. I thought of all the problems in my life or goals for my future and made a plan for what actionable steps I could take to move in the direction to either solve my problems and accomplish the goals and dreams I have for my life.

I’m not going to go into great detail about my problems/goals and solutions bit I will talk about the biggest action step I took to move forward: I started a new job!

I have stayed home for most of my marriage, but worked briefly in the second year of marriage. While homemaking will always be my first choice for a career (it’s just the way I’m designed!) I realized that although we were “making it” on my husband’s income, we really needed a second income to accomplish our goals a lot faster.

On top of accomplishing our financial goals and saving for more personal future goals, I also realized that getting a job would be a great way to start working through my struggle with anxiety.

I was terrified to even look for a job. I had so many defeating thoughts throughout that process. I received a call back about a job offer after about a week of searching but missed the call. I was so afraid to call back that I almost didn’t. I worked up the courage and was told the recruiter would call me back shortly. A few days passed and my phone remained silent. I asked my husband if I should call back and see if maybe they just forgot about me. He thought that was a good idea. This was really breaking my rules for me. I hate bugging people. I was shaking so hard when I made that call (which makes me sound crazy I’m sure). Again the recruiter wasn’t available and after a few days I thought, “I guess they didn’t like me!”

Just as I had given up and decided to move on and hope for another job offer, I finally got the call and had an interview 2 hours later. The interview process was three hours long and I had interviews with 3 different managers throughout the process. I did a good job, but by the time I went home I had a huge headache and was completely drained from my nervous/anxious energy. The good news: I was hired on the spot and I started training a few days later.

We had 5 weeks of in-class training and 2 weeks of on the job training. I graduated from training today and officially start my first day of the job on my own tomorrow. I know that it might sound completely silly, but I feel very proud of myself for making it this far and overcoming all of the obstacles that came up over the last 7 weeks.

My anxiety is certainly still here in full force. The last two weeks of taking calls have been really rough on my body. I do an excellent job talking with customers and the majority of my customers thank me for being helpful, but the anxiety of just being new at what I’m doing and not totally confident right now has been really tough to manage. During the first 5 weeks of training, I was super motivated and productive and was able to get a lot of things accomplished before and after work: grocery shopping on the weekend, meal prepping on Sundays, laundry every day, ironing clothing, keeping the house clean and orderly, and so on. But with my anxiety kicking into full gear now that we are finally applying everything we learned over the last 5 weeks in class, I have very little energy to get things done.

On top of just the normal anxiety of starting a new position and being unsure of yourself, I celebrated my 6th due date with empty arms on March 16 for our baby Madison that I lost in July. I actually was okay on her actual due date, but the week before I was feeling very low and was exhausted from the emotions surrounding her due date. On top of the sadness of experiencing yet another due date, I was struggling with defeating thoughts of wondering if we will ever reach our goal to have living children. I always dreamed of having a large family and in weak moments like that, it’s hard to imagine any of our dreams ever coming to pass.

Again, I’m so proud of myself for not giving up during these times. It’s so hard to walk through it when you’re in the moment and everything feels too heavy to bear, but somehow God just gives me that little bit of grace and strength I need to push through another obstacle, another day, another low valley in the journey to my promised land.

Not every day is hard. I have many good days. The hard days, the days where my anxiety is exhausting me are obviously more memorable, but the good days are that much sweeter and more meaningful. I cherish every good day that I have. Don’t even get me started on how much I love Saturdays. Walking with my boys (husband and 2 dogs) on a beautiful spring day makes me swoon like nothing else. SWOON, I tell you😉

Another change that I have recently made has been to start participating in more social events and fun life events, even if they are hard to attend.

The big example: Baby events. In November, I realized that while I could be around pregnant women, families with young children, or moms with new babies, I was “faking it”. If I said I was happy for someone, I wasn’t really happy. I was jealous or just plain sad for myself. I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to genuinely be happy for other people. I wanted to truly be able to celebrate with other people in their happiness. I prayed a heartfelt prayer that God would start putting me in situations where I would become more comfortable being around family events and where He can work in my heart, as only He can, to truly “rejoice with those who rejoice.” The only thing I have to do on my part is be willing to say yes.

When my husband’s co worker and his wife (who I’ve met on a few occasions) invited us to attend their gender reveal party, I said yes without a second thought.

And you know what? It was so much fun. Long before my infertility, I thought that gender reveal parties were just the cutest idea and I couldn’t wait to be able to throw one. While I someday hope to be celebrating at my own party, it was really nice to be able to participate in the fun with someone else. Plus, I have kind of a sixth sense about baby gender. I’m always right. No joke! And this time, I was totally right that they were having a girl.

During the party, I also met another wife of my husband’s co-worker and she started talking about how she was doing infertility treatments for secondary infertility (her first child was conceived with treatments). I had no intentions of mentioning my own infertility, but when curiosity got the best of her, she asked me and I revealed our own experiences with IF. I didn’t want to spend much time talking about it so I just briefly said my history, but she added me later on Facebook and told me all about the Reproductive Endocrinologist and offered to be a listening ear in the future when we go down that road for treatment. It was really thoughtful.

Over the last 5 years, I have shared my journey openly with people in my life. But recently, I have become more quiet and do not feel as comfortable as I once did sharing my story. For that reason, I decided that I would not tell my story with my co-workers. I’ve even had a few people ask specifically why we don’t have children after 5 years of marriage, but I just smile and say, “just life circumstances” and the discussion dissolves from there.

I have to say, it has been really nice not sharing my recurrent miscarriage story. I’ve made a friend that was in my training class that is pregnant and due in June and it’s nice being able to talk with her about her pregnancy and baby without feeling awkward wondering if she’s worried about my feelings. I do plan on opening up more in the future, but for now, it’s nice to keep my journey private to myself.

My co-worker even invited me to her baby shower and I was very happy to attend last Saturday. For some reason, I wasn’t worried at all before the shower and never felt anxious about how it would go. And yet again, I had a wonderful time and enjoyed all of the baby games (and won a sweet prize for guessing the right size of her belly!) and even enjoyed shopping for cute baby items for her gift. I only went $4 over budget, surprisingly!

The only area of anxiety with being around my pregnant friend at work is that she shared with me that her pregnancy is high-risk because her baby is too small and they are monitoring her weekly to check on the baby’s growth. Of course with my loss history, I’m terrified for her. There was just a brief moment during the baby shower where I had to pull myself together: she was so shocked by all of the presents she received and said, “I’ve never received such nice stuff before.” I thought it was a really sweet comment and felt really happy for her and thankful to God for giving her the blessing of this baby when the negative thought came to my mind, “What if something happens to her baby?” I wanted to cry but was able to pull myself together enough to focus on the celebration.

I think God is definitely answering my prayer to be able to celebrate new life, but I think my next prayer is going to be for God to help work through the anxiety surrounding loss and pregnancy and to be able to not have those negative/fearful thoughts. I suppose before I struggled to celebrate with others, but now that I’m investing in other people and celebrating with them, I’m finding myself worrying about those I love and care for experiencing the same kind of loss that I have.

Love is hard sometimes, isn’t it? But so, so worth it!

I’m not exactly sure how to wrap up this post as I rambled on much longer than I thought I would (don’t I always), but I suppose I should say, I have this huge struggle in my life, well many struggles really, but God is so faithful. As hard as some days are to get through, I just have full confidence that He is working in my life and that all of this pain, all of this hard work and striving, all of my faith and trust that I place in Him, is going to someday be revealed. Right now, it’s hard to see that finish line, but I’m taking each step now just believing that I’m going to make it there.

Someday I’ll look back at this season of life or maybe I’ll even read this post (hi, future me – I bet you’re laughing right now!) and think, “Every hard moment, every difficult moment that I wanted to give up and throw in the towel was 100%, totally, completely worth it.”

If you are also struggling with anxiety, I hope you’ll find encouragement in this quote that showed up on my twitter the other day. I was right in the middle of dealing with a really bad day and my anxiety was making me feel like I couldn’t keep moving forward when I saw this and felt encouraged to know that not only is God for me, but caring people in this world are for me:

“I don’t think people realize how much strength it takes to pull your own self out of an anxiety attack or a panic attack. So if you’ve done that today or any day, I’m proud of you.”

The same day, I also read this verse on my bible phone app:

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

I love that the bible doesn’t shy away from difficult concepts like anxiety and depression. It doesn’t say, “Buck up and get over it.” It says to take your anxiety to God who cares for you, who weeps with you, who KNOWS you and made you uniquely in such a way that you don’t need to be ashamed of. You don’t have to feel like you’re not good enough to go before God because your life is a mess. He wants you just the way you are. It’s such a comfort to me that as crazy as I sometimes feel, God looks at me with loving adoration and calls me his beloved child. I’m not a “mess” to Him – I’m His beautiful creation. And you, my sweet sisters, are His beautiful creation and don’t ever let the world tell you otherwise.

I hope that you all have a great rest of the week. My favorite day is coming up soon, what what! To leave you with some laughs. It’s how I feel every Monday, LOL:

Weekend

Source

-Amber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by my mother

I said I was most likely not going to post much on the blog in my last post while I’m dealing with some heavy issues in my life, but this is something I feel very comfortable sharing.

I was inspired earlier this week remembering back over the course of my life as I watched my mom overcome enormous obstacles in her life as a woman and as a mother. I’m facing a lot of issues in my life that seem very difficult to walk through and as I was wondering to myself earlier this week how I was going to do it all, I remembered my mom’s influence through the years and was encouraged that I can also walk through difficult seasons of life with grace just as she did.

My mom always dreamed of being a writer and had a love for reading. She grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas and could be found during her high school years rocking a bikini and a book by the beach. She attended the University of Texas and made the Dean’s list every semester. Sadly, she didn’t finish college as she married my dad half-way through college and didn’t receive enough financial support to continue going.

She devoted herself to being a full time mother to me and my brother and stayed home for most of our childhood, with the exception of working as an aerobics instructor for several years before she pursued her writing dream once more. A close family friend encouraged her to take a romance writing course and she took the plunge into the world of historical romance.

She devoted herself to her writing dream and was fully immersed in reading, researching, writing, workshops and classes, a romance writer’s community, and spending time with writing friends in a writer’s critique group. Her first novel was so successful that she won the Golden Heart Award and her novel was requested by several editors. She had an editor, but unfortunately her first novel was not meant to be and was not published.

Following her first writing disappointment, her dream took a back seat when my parents divorced. I won’t go into many details here, but it was a very nasty divorce and my mom had many obstacles to face as a new single mother.

She selflessly put her writing dream to the side, never knowing if she would be able to pick it back up again and went back to school to finish her degree. To finish sooner, she took 18 credit hours a semester, while working a part-time job, and being a single mother.

I remember for almost two years seeing my mom come home after a very long day, making dinner and then sitting down to study and write papers (she majored in English, of course!) Even though I was only 10 or 11 at the time, I remember thinking how exhausting it all looked.

Not to mention, she did all of this while dealing with the grief of divorce. She even made time to see a therapist on campus to help work through the issues of divorce and single parenthood. I can’t even imagine how she was able to do all of this, but I’m thankful to God that she was.

Her first job out of college was decent and paid the bills but it was very long, taxing hours for a job she wasn’t super thrilled to do. Shortly after that, she moved on up in her career and accepted a job as a market research analyst for a major computer corporation. It was a great job with excellent pay, but the first few years were scary as the company had lay-offs after lay-offs and my mom was constantly worried about losing her job. At one point, we even moved in with my grandparents because of her fear of getting laid off.

I remember when things finally settled down and she survived all of the lay offs, she felt safe to move into our own place again. I spent my first year of high school in a completely different school district and missed all of my friends from my junior high deeply and begged my mom to find a place in that school district so I could attend school with friends again. The idea of starting at a brand new high school yet again was sobering. The prices of homes were higher and she was more interested in finding an apartment closer to work, but again, she was selfless and searched high and low to find us a place near the school I wanted to attend. She cried tears of happiness when she was able to tell me that she finally found a home that worked out. She had to drive an hour to work and an hour back home in Houston traffic everyday, but she did it out of love for me (my brother was now out of the house – he’s 5 years older than I am.)

Once things were finally settled, my mom picked up her writing dream once again. It was hard being a full time mother and working full time hours in a job where she had to travel often around the country and even out of the country (though she did enjoy getting to travel cool places and I enjoyed the souvenirs). Every night after getting home from work she would write. Every free chance she had was either sitting in front of the computer on Word or editing pages and pages of her future novel.

My mom started to pursue her writing dream when I was about 7 years old I believe. Life circumstances got in the way, but she never gave up on her dream and she finally published her first novel in January 2010. The publisher accepted a 3 book series deal and she continued to have success and has published several books in the last 5 years. She’s currently working on a book deadline as we speak and is now a full-time author.

My mom overcame obstacle after obstacle to provide a good life for me and my brother and to make her writing dreams come true.

My own dream has always been to become a mother. My dream has been filled with roadblocks and unexpected sorrows, burdens, and events that stop me from being able to move forward towards my dream coming true.

Right now, I’m at a point in my journey where I can’t move forward with making my dream come true. There are other circumstances blocking the way forward and as I looked at those circumstances this week, I was tempted to think I’m not strong enough to do it. But then I thought of my mom and how God provided for her in so many ways and how she worked night and day to take care of her family and to see her dream finally come true.

As I look to my mom for inspiration, I’m going to move forward believing that I will overcome all of this and the victory is going to be that much sweeter when I finally reach the finish line.

“In this life you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sending love to you all,

Amber

Having trouble hitting publish

Hi friends, I just wanted to come on here with a quick post to apologize for my lack of blog posts. I have several drafts that I have typed, but can’t seem to find the courage or strength to hit publish.

Some of the things I’m going through in my life right now are just really, really hard and it’s difficult to open myself up and be vulnerable in the online community. I know that the majority of you will be compassionate and thoughtful, but I’m having trouble finding the balance of what I’m really comfortable with sharing right now.

I so desperately want to blog and every time I find inspiration, I sit down and write. But everything so far is just too far outside of my comfort zone for what I want to share. It’s just kind of adding to my anxiety to put myself out there and wonder what people are thinking or how they will respond.

So for now, the blog will probably be mostly quiet. For now, I suppose I’m just blogging for my own benefit and not for anyone to actually read it. But I hope to be back blogging publically again as I work through some difficult parts of my life and find healing to share openly once again.

Thank you for your continued support and love.

Amber

 

Patience and Baby Steps

In my recent post, I reviewed my year in 2015 briefly and discussed some of the health issues I am struggling with, my reluctance to trust God and surrender totally to His plans for my life, and my ongoing desire to have a family.

To sum up that post for anyone who doesn’t want to read the long novel I posted (sorry about that, sweet friends): I talked about my struggle with GERD/acid reflux and food sensitivities, I shared that I successfully completed the Whole 30 diet in November but was disappointed to discover how many food sensitivities I have and now need to embrace starting a more strict autoimmune Paleo protocol to work towards healing, and of course wanting to work towards our goal of having a healthy baby but feeling like I’m stuck dealing with health issues that take precedence over trying to conceive.

I apologize to anyone who read my post if I was too whiny in that post. I don’t intend to share that in the hopes of getting sympathy, but rather as a form to vent my frustration and release the stress of the last year so that I can really start working towards moving forward with my life. I have to tell you, I feel like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders by releasing that in my blog. I’m still a little nervous to have so much personal information on the internet, but I love this blogging community that has been so beneficial for my soul over the last few years and I also hope that my words will be a comfort to someone else.

Although all of the problems in my life sometimes feel too big to even think about dealing with, I know that I have overcome many struggles in my life and I will overcome this also, with God’s helping hand.

In my quest towards healing, I want to set goals and plan/map out how I can work my way to achieving those goals. One of the hardest parts of dealing with illness, for me personally, has been the worry and stress of not knowing how to move forward and feeling too overwhelmed by having too many big changes in my life all at the same time. My goal is to plan out baby steps that I can take slowly over time to work towards my goal of good health.

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

When I started this health journey in November, I think I caused myself a great deal of added stress and anxiety because I had this end goal in mind that I wanted achieved by a set date. The reason for my set date was because I want to see my reproductive endocrinologist this summer and start working on trying to have a baby. Giving myself a deadline for healing is just unrealistic. Healing takes time and you just can’t rush that.

So part of my plan is surrendering to the understanding that I am only in control of making positive changes, but I can’t control how long this process of healing is going to take. While I still hope we will be able to see the specialist this summer, I’m prepared for the wait to be longer than I expect. (For anyone wondering why I can’t focus on healing from my GERD issues while seeing a RE: it mainly has to do with finances. I’m prepared for the RE to cost a great deal of money and I want to do everything in my power to be as healthy as I can before going. I want to do what I can on my own first and then work with the doctor with the things I don’t have control over. I just don’t want to waste money or time when I know that I’m not healthy enough right now to start that journey. Also, I’m not mentally prepared yet for starting that process. I’m still struggling with grief over my loss in July and not ready to get pregnant again.)

I’m giving myself grace and taking this process one baby step at a time.

Sending you all my love,

Amber

 

Life Updates

I wrote my last blog post in August before taking an unintentional blogging break. At the beginning of last year, I had so many plans and dreams for 2015 and all of it was turned upside down when my plans intersected with a little thing called life.

This verse pretty much summed up 2015 for me:

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”

Blogging was definitely a big part of my plans and I was hopeful that I would finally start the YouTube channel I’ve been dreaming of for so long. I wanted to share my infertility journey, my love of homemaking, recipes and cooking videos/blog posts and our journey to financial freedom with the world. The Lord had other plans for me.

It’s odd for me to admit that 2015 was one of my hardest years yet. Looking back, there were a few years over the course of my almost 5 year infertility journey that were filled with mourning and grief. I had a lot of good things happen in 2015 – it’s odd for me to feel like that year could have possibly been worse than 2012 when I was grieving 3 miscarriages that happened over the course of 9 months, I was grieving the first 3 set of due dates with empty arms, and grieving the results from the doctor that left with no answers for why I lost 3 children.

How could this year possibly be worse than that year of grief?

Last year, I wrestled with God. I would have never admitted it to even myself, but my hands were tightly gripped around my dreams and plans for my future and I didn’t want to give up control or surrender to God. If I’m being totally honest – I still don’t want to. I’m still struggling with wanting life to go according to my plan.

Last year was the year of discovery. I learned that I’m much more of a selfish person than I thought I was. This admission will probably make me seem like I’m totally full of myself, but I think in my mind I thought that I was willing to follow Jesus anywhere. I thought I trusted Him completely.

Last year, I wrestled with God and He humbled me.

At the beginning of the year, I mistakenly found myself in over my head with a ministry commitment that lasted through May. It was overwhelming and stressful and I wasn’t sure it was possible to get everything done.

Instead of taking my cares before the Lord, many times I found myself becoming bitter, complaining to others and especially to my husband, having a very critical attitude, and worst of all, I played the victim role very well. My husband is a saint for putting up with me. I’m sure my negativity could have easily been contagious but he was so patient with me.

At the beginning of the year, I had many plans in my heart, but the biggest plan was to focus on my health and work towards my biggest dream of all: having a healthy baby. I didn’t want anything standing in the way of that dream.

But everything did. My husband’s new job as a detective working in major crimes was incredibly busy and stressful. My ministry involvement consumed a lot of my time that I was not really excited or “willing” to give and I did so with a foul spirit and not one of giving and service. I started having all kinds of weird health problems that just got worse and worse as the year progressed. Even my two best friend’s weddings were getting in the way of my dream.

I didn’t want to be bitter over what should be exciting, joyful times in my life. But my desire to have a healthy baby was stronger than finding contentment in my present circumstances, and everything, even good things in my life, became a burden to me instead of a gift.

When I found out I was pregnant in July followed quickly by my 6th miscarriage, I was devastated (and still am) that I didn’t do everything I could that year to focus on my health for the sake of maybe having a healthy pregnancy. In my mind, all I could think is, “If I would have said “no” to everything and focused on myself, my baby might still be alive.”

After my second friend’s wedding in June and finishing my last ministry commitment (VBS), I was finally excited to have time to focus on my home, my health, our financial goals, and my personal hobbies. It was such a peaceful, quiet month. We had went for a long period of time not getting pregnant so I started to think that I might not get pregnant again and was feeling more comfortable and safe that month not preventing pregnancy. Many times in our marriage we have prevented because of the fear of miscarriage. My husband I were really close that month and we enjoyed for what felt the first time in a long time, times of intimacy not filled with fear, but just with enjoyment for each other.

That intimacy was shattered yet again by miscarriage. The next time we were together, we had to stop and broke down sobbing and hugging. It was a different kind of intimacy, one of grief and fear. Grief that our love leads to the loss of our children and grief that we can’t fully enjoy our marriage.

In August my health problems were even worse and it was time to finally set foot in a doctor’s office. Two things were causing my problems: an extremely bad case of acid reflux/GERD and mold in our apartment. We found the mold in September and promptly moved out. We moved into our first home together and I am feeling a lot better, but still dealing with the bad acid reflux issues daily.

Moving was exciting but totally stressful. We wanted to stay in our apartment for at least one more year to continue saving. Our plans were to purchase a home, but instead we had to rent because we didn’t have time and the mold was making me so, so sick. Thankfully we found an awesome deal in a cute little starter home and we love it.

I’ve wanted to enjoy our new house more than I have been able to, but my acid reflux symptoms are just a constant, daily pain and the stress of not knowing how to heal has been a lot to deal with. Medicine doesn’t work, so I’ve given up on that. I tried doing the Whole 30/Paleo diet challenge in November and while I successfully completed the 30 days and was so proud of myself for doing so, my acid reflux problems didn’t go away and I never had the amazing energy that other people talk about from doing the whole 30 challenge. I was still incredibly fatigued the entire time.

The Whole 30 diet was definitely beneficial, however. I discovered that on top of having Celiac disease and not being able to eat gluten, I’m also sensitive to eggs, tomatoes, mandarins/oranges, nuts and seeds, and a group of food called nightshades. Doing the paleo diet made it very easy to discover what foods I was sensitive to. I would be feeling okay and then eat a handful of almonds or a mandarin and my reflux symptoms would be so bad that I could feel everything rising to my throat for hours and had trouble sleeping from the reflux. While searching about eating paleo and being sensitive to other foods, I discovered the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol that eliminates all of these food groups for a period of time to allow your gut to heal from inflammation and damage before trying to slowly reintroduce these food groups back into your diet.

While I’m pretty much ready to give anything a try to heal from this illness, I am feeling huge anxiety about what I should eat. The Whole 30 challenge was really difficult. Every time I would try a new recipe, I would suffer the consequences of reflux problems. My diet was pretty boring the entire 30 days and most of the meals included a lot of daily cooking. Even with weekly food prep, I was still constantly in the kitchen and it felt like I was a slave to food. It would be one thing if I could make a big pot of Paleo chili that I could eat as leftovers for a few nights in a row to get a break from cooking, but the tomatoes were a trigger for my reflux. It was so discouraging. It seems like all of the bulk recipes have foods that I can’t eat without getting sick. With the exception of homemade chicken broth and chicken soup. Bless you chicken soup – you aren’t the most filling food, but I love you!

So while I know what I need to do, I have been hesitant to get back in the game. I’m worried that by eliminating all of these food groups, I won’t ever be able to tolerate the foods again. It’s already hard enough not being able to eat gluten. Too much attention is drawn to me in social settings and I hate talking about it. The thought of having so many food restrictions is simply overwhelming.

It’s been difficult to accept that all of my plans and dreams for last year (and the same ones continued for this year) have completely gone out the window. It’s hard for me to understand what God is doing in my life. What is the purpose in this illness? What good is going to come from this? Much like the miscarriages, it’s hard to see what good could possibly come from this.

And again, my biggest dream of wanting to have a baby is left in His hands, and all I want is to take that dream and hold it tightly in mine. It’s like in one way, I trust that God is going to redeem all that has been lost and use this for His good purposes. But on the other hand, I don’t know when that’s going to happen and I’m struggling with life in the valley. That mountaintop experience of seeing God’s glory, showing up at just the perfect time, well, it looks pretty far away right now.

I’m still very much wrestling with God. I have so many questions and need so much direction in my life.

I don’t really know what His purpose is for this, but perhaps part of that is that all of these struggles are reminding me of my desperate need for a Savior. All of my plans, my best efforts, my dreams and goals, while they are good and honorable to have, are only temporary. God is eternal. The pain of today is temporary. The pleasure of today is temporary. Salvation through Christ is eternal.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

While I have plans and goals for the year 2016 that I hope to work towards and especially hope to find healing from illness, I suppose my biggest plan of all is to seek after God and go to Him. My word for 2016 is “prayer”.

Starting this new year, I felt hopeless and in over my head. I know that the only way I’m going to get through this year and come out better on the other side, no matter what the circumstances are, is to run to my heavenly father for His love, guidance, correction (and sometimes rebuke – eek!), comfort, and peace.

If you are also feeling overwhelmed by life and struggling with knowing what direction to take or how to move forward when fear is so paralyzing, I encourage you to seek after God. He loves you and He cares. You might feel all alone, but I can promise you that you are never alone.

Sending you all my love❤

Amber

“I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121

 

 

My favorite day of the year

January 16 has become my favorite day of the year. In 2014, I believe that God gave me a special promise that I will someday have a child. You can read about my testimony on believing that promise in my post here from 2014. I feel a little bit crazy sharing all of this online, with people that can read and think, “Okay. You’re crazy.” It’s definitely possible, haha.

But that promise has been such an encouragement to me over the last two years in moments of weakness and sorrow. It doesn’t take away from the pain, but it does give me an extra source of hope to believe that someday I will have a child in my arms. I don’t know what the situation will look like (adoption, fostering, biological, etc. – who knows). But I believe with every part of my being that God is going to work in my life to bring about His good plan.

There are many scriptures that talk about God’s heart for the barren woman and His promises to be faithful to her. A really good one that I hope everyone reading can hold in your heart as your own promise from God is:

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.”

The week leading up to January 16, I was talking on and on to Jonathan about my special “promise day” and reflecting on God’s faithfulness over the last 5 years of my life and dreaming about the future and all that He has planned for me.

The night before the 16th, someone in my family hurt my feelings (I wrote a post about it – but it will probably be deleted soon so I’m not linking to it) and it was kind of putting a cloud of negativity around my hopefulness and excitement for God’s promise. Well my reaction and bitterness was at least. Sigh. Maybe one day I’ll have calm reactions and not respond with such sensitivity.

But then on Friday night, I read on Facebook from the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian American who has been held captive in an Iranian prison for 3 years, that Saeed was taken out of the prison and moved to a different location. She didn’t yet know what this meant and asked all of her Facebook followers to be in prayer for Saeed and his family.

I have been praying since 2013 when I first heard about Pastor Saeed. I’ve wept for the family and have waited and waited and waited for God to finally answer the millions of prayers that God’s people have cried out for this family to be reunited. Many times, when I would think about how difficult and painful the journey of recurrent miscarriage and infertility is, I would remember Pastor Saeed and his wife and children and think, “If they can be faithful and trust in God in that horrible, horrible situation, I can do the same.” They have been a source of inspiration for my faith. I know there are many, many Christians throughout the world who are persecuted for their faith, but because of Pastor Saeed’s faithful wife’s advocacy for her husband, my prayers and I think the prayers of many others became more personal and we were able to relate and grieve in a more connected way. I think sometimes, just knowing someone’s name and knowing their story helps us to better connect when it’s so hard to understand and put yourself in the shoes of someone half-way across the world in a completely different culture.

When I found out that something different was taking place that Friday night, I immediately prayed that God would bring Saeed home and I said something like, “Oh Lord, it would be so amazing to find out tomorrow on January 16, that Pastor Saeed is finally free!”

Saturday morning, I woke up and was still feeling pretty sad from the night before. I looked at my phone and the very first status I read on Facebook was from Pastor Saeed’s wife saying: “It is confirmed: Saeed is released!!!”

Reading through the thousands of comments, I wasn’t the only one crying and praising God. This was such an exciting day in history!

I read from his wife before that Saeed felt God telling him he would be released from prison before his daughter’s 9th (if I remember correctly) birthday. I can’t even begin to imagine how long and agonizing the days must have felt behind prison walls. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to hold on to the promise that God would free him. He was given many opportunities to be freed from prison, if only he would reject his faith in Christ. But he remained faithful to God the entire time and I’m sure he was a powerful witness to those in the prison. I’m sure many would think, “What is it about Jesus that would make someone choose to stay behind prison walls? Why not just deny his name and be freed?” We can never fully know why God allows pain and suffering, but as believers, I know that God would not allow it if He weren’t going to save many people through the witness and faith of His beloved child, Saeed. I believe with every ounce of my spirit that Saeed was a bright, bright light in that dark prison.

Hearing the long awaited news that Pastor Saeed was finally free made January 16th an even more special day. It gave me even greater faith and hope that just as God was faithful to this beautiful family, He will be faithful to me and my husband in due time.

I had originally planned on going out shopping Saturday to purchase a few baby items, in faith. Elisha from Waiting for Baby Bird always inspires me to live out my faith in unique ways, and I’m enjoying picking up a few baby items every now and then to remind me of God’s promises. She is such a great example of patient trust and hope in the Lord to me and many others.

But with the excitement of Pastor Saeed’s release from prison and checking my phone all day for updates from his wife (she is so kind to share her journey with all of us), I completely forgot to go shopping. Who forgets to shop? LOL!

Around 10 that night, I remembered and I asked my husband if he wanted to make a “fun” trip to Walmart to look at baby stuff. He was already in bed, so I’m sure you can imagine his answer.

Instead, I went online in search of a few sweet items. I found a onesie on Etsy that says, “Worth the wait” and I ordered a cloth diaper with a teddy bear pattern that was on sale.

After almost 5 years of infertility, I don’t exactly enjoy looking at baby items, but on that day, it was really fun and exciting to dream about the day I will finally get to use those items.

In the past, I would sometimes see a cute baby item and want to get it but I would tell myself, “You don’t even know if you will have a baby! You might be wasting your money.” But then one time, I saw this adorable police officer onesie (my husband is in law enforcement), and I was showing it to Jonathan and saying how much I would love to see our baby in that, but I didn’t want to waste money because there was a good chance we might not have a baby. He was so sweet and encouraged me to get it, saying, “We’ll get to use it.”

My encouragement to all of you today is to have hope that you will be a happy mother of children. I know it doesn’t take away from the pain of today, but maybe, just maybe, it will lift your spirits to let yourself dream a little. And if you need it, I’m giving you permission today. Buy the cute onesie that makes your heart fill with wonder at the thought of your little one in it.

Sending you all my love,

Amber