5 Ugly Truths About Infertility

National Infertility Awareness Week is here again! It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Sharing my heart and journey is both heart-wrenching and freeing.

This year’s theme is Uncovered. Infertility warriors have been encouraged to Uncover truths about infertility this week to bring awareness to the disease. I’m hoping to uncover some ugly truths about infertility in a genuine and honest way.

I also hope to uncover the love, hope, and grace of God we’ve experienced while facing the ugly truths. I wouldn’t be doing our story justice without speaking on both.

Ugly truth #1
Infertility is isolating and lonely

There are days when you feel like you’re an island. Who can relate to what’s happening in your life? How can you explain it to the people around you? The reality is that no matter how much details you give, there is no way to fully express the emotions and procedures you are going through. Some relationships change or grow distant. Some people don’t know what to say so they say nothing at all. Some people say insensitive things or make less of your journey. All these things can make you guarded and much more selective with who you’ll be sharing your story with.

Ugly truth #2
Infertility is coping with denial

Edward and I clearly remember the day we saw “IVF ONLY” highlighted in yellow when he was first diagnosed. We couldn’t wrap our heads around it. It was a huge blow for us. We thought, “What the heck? That is so extreme! This can’t be right. Not us”. It took us a year to go back to the doctor. I couldn’t fathom having to go through something so invasive. I didn’t feel strong enough or ready. And I thought that God’s plan HAD TO BE different. Well, it wasn’t. This is the path that we must take. And we are finally at a place where we’ve accepted that this is our reality.

Side Note: We are in the middle of our first IVF cycle! It’s a huge step in our journey. We are excited, nervous, anxious, and hopeful. And I’m super proud of us for taking this step.

Ugly truth #3
Infertility is filled with shame and embarrassment

Honestly, talking about all the stuff that needs to work and be healthy when you’re going through infertility can be so embarrassing. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been examined, prodded, asked intimate questions, and performed analysis’ that are uncomfortable. Then, there’s the shame of feeling like there’s something wrong with you. The shame you feel when people ask if you have children. Or the embarrassment when you have to decline an invite due to financial or emotional struggles.

Ugly truth #4
Infertility is time consuming

If you’re going through infertility and trying to explore different options to become parents, it take A LOT of time and effort. Whether you’re adopting, fostering, getting medical help–it takes a big chunk of your life. Your calendar is dictated by appointments, hearings, visits, or medical procedures. And for the average person dealing with infertility that can mean putting work, responsibilities, goals, jobs, or prior commitments on hold. That in itself can be frustrating and disheartening.

Ugly truth #5
Infertility is coping with pregnancy envy

This is by far the hardest thing to admit for me. By nature, I am not an envious person. I feel most like myself when I’m encouraging and cheering someone on. But grief and loss have weird ways of manifesting. I felt like the worse person in the world when I saw or heard of pregnancy announcements and all I could feel was anger and disappointment. I hid my emotions many times because what kind of “evil” person would feel pregnancy envy? I was genuinely happy for them but incredibly sad for us. We have seen many friends and family get pregnant and give birth in the 3 years we’ve been waiting. The feelings of grief and loss have been deep. But we have learned to work through these feelings. We have chosen to bless, love, and celebrate our loved ones despite what we feel in the moment.

God’s Truth:
Love, hope, faith, and grace

My husband said something very wise to me the other day as we spoke about our journey. “God has a plan behind everything. He doesn’t close one door and never opens another one. He closes one door to open another one. A door we need to go through. The word need should only be used by God. He’s the only one who knows what we need“.

I’ve expressed to Edward many times that I just don’t understand why we have to go through this. Are we not good enough people? Are we destined to be terrible parents? And his response has always been that it is just that God has a special assignment for us.

I now understand this. It’s taken me a while. And sometimes my mind wants to play tricks on me. But in my heart I know that for some reason, God has a knowing we don’t. He sees something we don’t. In His sovereignty, He deems it necessary and essential for THIS to be our story. Somehow this will have a ripple affect for eternity.

Through every single Ugly truth–loneliness, denial, shame, lost time, envy–God has been there. His has loved us fiercely. He has sent people to love us and meet our needs. He had given us the grace to walk through this with dignity and strength. He has orchestrated moments for us to hear his voice. He has provided in ways that are uncommon for most people going through this. And he has double, tripled, our faith.

The real truth is that this incredibly heavy load we carry is something we never wanted but can look back and see evidence of God’s love, grace, and hope. We have come to realize that He is the prize. We have come to believe that He is what we hope for. We have come to know that He is what our hearts are after. And no ugly truth or diagnosis can take Him away.

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

Romans 8:38-39

8 Unique Passion Week Timeline Cards Inspired By Stained Glass

As I created this project, I was moved to thankfulness and tears. These cards represent each day of Passion Week–starting Palm Sunday and culminating on Resurrection Sunday.

The front side of the cards are a modern take on stained, colored glass. They remind me of traditional churches with beautiful depictions of Jesus’ life. And on the back of each card, there is timeline of the events that happened on each day of Passion Week.

At the bottom of the back, there is a space to take notes and bible references that correspond to the timeline’s events.

I love taking a step back during Passion Week to get my heart in a position of gratitude. Making these cards reminded me of how extraordinary Jesus is. Despite all of the chaos and what he knew lied ahead, he took time to celebrate, love, and teach so we could all see and grow from his example.

I hope these cards set the tone for your week. I hope the colors and patterns urge you to pick them up and get closer to Jesus this coming week.

To download these Passion Week Stained Glass Cards, just click here!

Hand Lettered Song & Scripture Cards

If you like incorporating music to your quiet time with God, these song cards are right up your alley. I’m a music lover and I especially love worship music. It helps me get closer to God and realigns my heart and focus. Download the hand lettered song and scripture cards here.

These song cards were designed to help guide your devotion time. On the front they have a simple hand lettered worship lyric. On the back they have songs and scriptures to accompany the lyric. There’s also a small note section for you to jot down any thoughts, ideas, or prayers.

You can incorporate these cards into your daily devotional, you can use a different one every Monday to kick-off your week, or you can use them as decoration for your home.

Hope these song cards enrich your life and walk with God! And if you want to have a playlist ready with all the songs on the cards, I’ve got you covered. I created a Spotify playlist, Styld by Grace Songs Of Worship, with all the songs–click here to listen!

IVF ONLY – Our infertility journey and how God has redeemed our pain

We have been trying to get pregnant for over three years now. And the journey has been very difficult. I wish I could sugar coat it and say there have been pros to this but the honest truth is that it sucks. As I researched a little before starting to write this post, I found articles on how infertility has ruined marriages, women’s bodies, couples mental health, and how IVF (in vitro fertilization), is not recommended. In general, most articles were honest, which I appreciate, but so negative.

Side note: If you're going through infertility, don't google about it. It's freakin scary. Talk to someone you know has or is going through it, instead. 

The reality is pretty heavy and painful and I’m going to be as honest and transparent as I can, but I will not allow my pain to dismiss that there is ALWAYS hope when you have God on your side. Infertility sucks. But God is good.

It has been a long journey so far. We started trying to get pregnant in 2016 while we were still living in a small apartment. We were anxious to move to a new place so we could have more space for our growing family. So we decided to move to a new city, buy a home we could afford, with enough room for the children we were hoping to have. Fast forward to 2019, we have a 4 bedroom home and no kids. Just me, my husband, and my mom who lives with us. And an empty room waiting to become a nursery.

In 2017, after trying for a year I decided to let my Gyno know and she recommended for us to do a bunch of tests. Blood work, ultrasounds, semen analysis, etc. After all the exams, we met with her again and my results came back normal. But my husband’s didn’t. And on the report, it read: IVF ONLY.

I was in shock. One minute we were trying naturally–just doing exams to check what was going on. And all of a sudden, we were being told IVF was the ONLY way we’d get pregnant. It was painful, scary, and I felt sad that my husband had to carry this burden.

I did not understand how or why God would let this happen to us. We had done everything in our ability to live in a way that was pleasing to Him. We had made purity when we dated and in marriage a top priority. And we served Him faithfully. I was so confused.

We decided we weren’t ready to take such a big step so we waited for a while. We knew that doing a procedure like IVF was financially, physically, and emotionally draining. It wasn’t until we felt the “ok” from God that we moved forward. In the summer of last year, I spoke to someone very dear to me who encouraged me to call my insurance to see if IVF was covered. She encouraged me to not let fear get in the way of a blessing. And I did just that. To our surprise, our insurance covers it! And that motivated us to look for a fertility clinic that we felt comfortable with. (Side note: our clinic doesn’t take insurance for some parts of the process so we will have to pay a few Gs out of pocket. As Jimmy Fallon would say, “EW”). After lots of research, we made an appointment.

Making an appointment was a big step for us. It meant that we were ready to face our fears. And it also meant that we were out of our denial. This was an issue. We are really struggling with infertility. And we were taking a step medically to address the issue.

When we met with our doctor, he had us do MORE test and exams. He suggested meeting with a urologist before we even decided our next steps. He explained what his predictions were but wanted to make sure we took every step necessary before we went down the IVF route. This made me feel at peace. I knew he had our best interest at heart. But it was also very frustrating because it meant more waiting and potentially more tests which means more money, too.

The latter part of 2018, was filled with lots of appointments with a urologist who is helping my husband improve the root cause of infertility. He’s been on medication for a while now. After a few months of being on the medication, we were told there wasn’t much improvement. Not enough to try for an IUI (Intrauterine insemination), which is a step before IVF. Another letdown. So we decided that we’d keep trying naturally while Edward took this medication to see if after a few months there was an improvement.

And that’s where we’re at right now. We are waiting. And our next appointment is coming up. To be honest, the weeks leading up to our appointments are hard for me. They remind me of what we’re dealing with. It puts focus on something that I wish so badly wasn’t true.

Throughout this process, I have wrestled with God. I have made my pain and my anguish known to him. And in return, He has comforted me and also admonished me. He has searched my heart. He has healed me from a lot of junk that I have carried for years. He has brought to light the fact that my relationship with Him has been a means to an end in many cases. He has helped me celebrate other women and their children in the midst of my pain. He has helped me cope with my pain as others became parents. And he has humbled my heart so that I don’t create an idol of this desire to become parents. Yes, even something as good as being or becoming a parent can become an idol.

There are so many articles that speak of infertility ruining marriages and ruining lives in general. I am thankful that even though it has taken a toll on our relationship, we are stronger than ever. It’s not because we are the most awesome couple in the world, it’s because we have clung to God for dear life. And we have not separated ourselves from our community.

One thing I told myself a few months ago is that I REFUSE to let this consume me. I REFUSE to let this ruin any part of my life. I want us to be parents but not at the expense of my sanity, my relationship with God, or my relationship with my husband. If I’m being real, it’s on ME to let anything ruin my life. I get to decide if I will truly believe God’s word or if I will accept the enemy’s lies.

We are choosing to believe God. We are choosing to trust Him. We are taking every step cautiously so that we can hear from Him. Even though we are on the route to IVF, we don’t know for sure if that’s what we’ll decide to do. And if we do, we don’t know for sure if that route will result in a baby. And we don’t know for sure if we will ever have our own kids. Which scares me and makes me incredibly sad. But we DO know that God is faithful. And that miracles happen in many ways. Not always the way we imaged or wanted, but they happen.

The last thing we ever want is for people to pity us. For people to see us and say “I feel so sorry for them. They don’t deserve this”. I am aware that sharing all this might bring pity. And that kinda makes me nervous. I share this because I truly believe that God wants to use our pain. God doesn’t cause us pain, He is our Father and only wants good stuff for us. But he does use our pain to help us understand and be there for others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5)

So, this is our story. It’s still being written. And I trust the hands that are writing it. I know His plans are bigger, better, and brighter than mine. I choose to humble myself before him and accept His will for our lives. I choose to celebrate in the middle of my pain. And I choose to allow him to use it for His glory.

If you’re currently going through an obstacle, loss, medical diagnosis, hard new season, whatever it is, know that you’re not alone. God is with you and wants to hear your heart. And I am here to say that your pain is valid and real and justified. I also want to say that no matter how deep the pain, there is hope. And that hope is Jesus. Cling to him. He will never let you down.

10 Practical Steps For Vacation Planning

If you haven’t noticed yet, I love celebrating unofficial holidays. Like National Handwriting Day or National Vision Board day.

Today is probably my favorite: National Plan Your Vacation Day. It is a day to commit to scheduling time off. Why is this even important? As I planned this post, I thought it might be too superficial.

But taking time off, to recharge is so important for our health. Essentially, taking vacation time should be a time to find rest, see the world from a different perspective, and learn about different cultures. Even if it’s in your own backyard.

I’m not one to over-spiritualize things, but vacation time can be a time to connect with God and hear from Him in a new way. And it can bring deeper connections with your family and friends.

I asked my husband to help me with this post, so shoutout to him! He is the planner and budgeter in our family. I learned a few things myself as I asked him how he plans for vacation.

Here are 10 Practical Steps For Vacation Planning:

1. Plan your vacation at the beginning of the year
At the beginning of the year take inventory of how many days you can take off of work. Literally, count the days and look over your calendar to see where vacation fits best. I found this really cool online tool that helps you plan for each day you have off.

2. Think of who will be going on vacation with you
I’ve never really vacationed alone. I’ve traveled for work alone which can be really nice because I can choose what to do and where to go once I’m off of work. In those cases, I really don’t have to consult with anyone. But when you vacation with others, it’s good to keep in mind other people’s schedules. If it’s really a vacation you want to include others in, coordinate when to take time off together.

3. Write a bucket list
Where do you want to go this year? List all the places. We usually pick 2 small vacations that we can do locally and 1 big vacation. Big to us has meant going on a cruise, taking an extended vacation with family at Disney World, and most recently, going to Hawaii. Not all years look the same. The year we moved to Orlando, we were closing on a house and could not afford to go on a big trip but we did weekend road trips and staycations.

4. Research, research, research
The moment you get an idea of a destination or when you have created your bucket list, start researching hotels, flights (example: when is the best time to book flights for that destination), transportation needs, and things to do in that city. This gives you an idea of the cost and the type of activities you’ll be doing. And if it’s not within your budget or it’s not your ideal destination, at least you already have done some research and can use that for future vacation planning.

5. Envision yourself there
This may seem kinda new age-y. No worries, this is not to help you “escape” from reality. This is meant to gauge what you desire to experience on vacation. Maybe this year you want to feel like you’re going on a retreat so a place where you can relax, sleep in, and take it slow works best. Maybe you want to be more active this year, so you envision yourself hiking or skiing or walking around a big city. I think you get what I mean.

6. Use Google maps
Start looking for specific things to do in the destination of your vacation. Use Google maps to search for what’s around the area: museums, aquariums, theatres, restaurants, parks, historical sites. And if you see something you really want to do, find out the cost. You’ll get a really good idea of what you can do and what fits in the budget.

7. Think of what kind of transportation you’ll need
It’s important to think of what kind of transportation you’ll need and how that will go into the budget. Things to keep in mind: will it be worth renting a car, is Ubering cost-friendly in that city, is public transportation accessible, can a family member lend you their car for a couple days?

8. Make an inventory of all the money and resources you will have for the upcoming year
Write down how much money you can use for the year on vacation. And where that money is coming from. Is it from your paycheck, from your side hustle, from investments, birthday money, additional paychecks or bonuses, weekend jobs? And make note of the dollar amount that it all adds up to.

9. Go back to your research
Look back at your research and bucket list. With all the information you gathered and the inventory of money you created, think of how far your money will take you. Which vacation can you realistically go on? Think about how you’ll allocate each vacation day and what you can do on those days. Will you take a few staycations and 1 big trip or 2 big trips? Last year, we knew we could only afford Hawaii if we reserved most of our resources and time for that trip. We only took road trips for family get-togethers and hosted a family reunion in our home.

10. Make it happen
One of the best parts about vacationing is feeling a sense of accomplishment so really go for it! Truly commit to making it happen. Be disciplined with your savings and reduce everyday costs where you see fit. Something that can help you save monthly is to look at the services you use and ask about deals or discounts. Something that has helped us commit to taking our trips is to look for opportunities to reserve lodging with hotels or rentals that don’t require full payment or a deposit. Cruises, for example, can be paid on a monthly basis, which can help you save and budget easily. Finally, download alllll the apps and look for deals weekly. You’ll be sure to find something that meets your needs and you’ll probably notice trends for future trips.

I hope these steps helped you realize that you CAN and SHOULD take time off. Write that bucket list, stay committed by saving, and remember to coordinate with the people you love vacationing with.

So tell me… where are you planning to visit in 2019?