Tuesday, March 31, 2015

{iPhone Rewind} :: March

The crazy end-of-February weather carried over into the first week of March. As I was leaving the office, the rain was freezing on my windshield. My windshield wipers were no match for the freezing temperatures, so I'm glad I had a short commute!

We ended up with 4 inches of snow, which was actually a nice reprieve from the ice. But I was more excited about the sun finally coming out! It had been way too long since we had sunshine.

Our niece Sarah was in the musical "Oklahoma" and it was so fun to see her up on stage! We weren't allowed to take photos in the theatre, but we were so proud of our little starlet :)

I am SO EXCITED about this fun arrival! I have been stalking watching this Etsy shop since we got married, because I loved the idea of having one of our wedding photos created into a piece of art. She is so popular that she often has to close her listings and I could never seem to catch her...until now! :)

I was texting with my brother about Easter plans, and I love that we can catch each other's jokes! #nacholibre #brothersarethebest

Our sweet friends threw a My Little Pony party for their 3-year-old, and we were invited! We loved getting to celebrate with this cutie #twilightsparkle

I know this conversation seems morbid and a little strange, but I cannot say enough times how thankful I am for my love. He keeps me laughing and always helps me focus on my Savior when the breakdown of my body gets overwhelming. Laughter is absolutely 100% good medicine #lovehim

We have been hearing rumors about H-E-B stores in the Dallas area for years. But when I saw this article in the Dallas Morning News, I started to get excited that it might actually happen! H-E-B is an awesome grocery store that I grew up going to in San Antonio...I would LOVE to have them here!

We headed to the Allen Americans game and enjoyed some fun time with Mike's family.

We were at the Allen Americans game because it was Star Wars night, and Mike's brother was doing the ceremonial puck drop...as Darth Vader. He is a part of the 501st Legion, an officially licensed imperial costuming organization. Mike got in line with all the little kids to get his photo taken with Vader. #brothers

Friday, March 27, 2015

Solar Powered

Ya'll. I am convinced that I am solar powered. 

The weather has been warming up and we have started to have more sunny days, and I just feel like a new person! My mood had definitely shifted, and I am SO excited that Spring is here. Which means we're that much closer to summer...my most favorite season :)

Everyone who knows me, knows that I get cold easily. I would MUCH rather it be 100 degrees outside than below 50 {don't laugh...I'm a Texas girl born and raised}. Most people hate the high temperatures, but I soak up every. single. second. Those dog days of August and record-breaking temps? Bring them on! 

Even when it's cold, I can handle it a little better if the sun is out. The sun makes ALL the difference to me. It's probably all in my head, but if the sun is out, my brain thinks it's warmer than it is. And the sunshine just makes me feel happy and content. There's nothing better than the feeling of the sun's warmth on my skin. 

I don't necessarily get depressed during the winter months, but I also don't realize how much the cold and cloudy months affect me until they're gone. It's almost like a thin veil or a weight is lifted. I just feel so much more alive and energetic when the sun comes out! And I'm sure my husband can attest that I am a less crabby person in the warmer months. Maybe it is a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder {SAD}. Whatever it is, I just feel better when the sun is shining :)

Even now I am counting down the minutes until I can be outside in the sun...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Embryo Adoption :: Mock Transfer Day

Today I had my mock embryo transfer. Which is exactly what it sounds like...it's a practice run for the real thing :)

They do the mock transfer so that the doctor can get a good idea of what she's dealing with, so there are no surprises on the day of the actual transfer. They do something of a "mapping" process, to make sure they know exactly where to release the embryos.

The procedure itself was super simple; the worst part? Was having to drink a crazy amount of water right before the procedure. So you have to go in with a full bladder. I will leave details to your imagination, but just know it's highly uncomfortable. And I spent the time praying I wouldn't pee on the doctor :)

My doctor said that I have a "beautiful uterus" {ha- at least something looks good!}, and we should be all set for the real thing, once we have our embryos! So for the real thing, I will have started my medications, Mike will be with me, and we will actually be able to watch the procedure on the screen. For all that infertility steals from you, I have to say that this is a SUPER cool part of the embryo adoption process. 

Now we're just waiting for our babies to become ours and arrive at our clinic...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Come to Me

Sometimes when I'm not feeling well in the middle of the night, I will spend time in prayer or reading Scripture. I am not always faithful to that, but I try to redeem the time as best I can. And other times the Lord will just allow me to rest in meditating on a verse or a song. This morning he brought the song "Come to Me" from the Village Church to mind. Health and family and life can just feel so heavy sometimes. I'm so thankful that I can take all of it to the feet of Jesus.

Weary, burdened wanderer, there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love, so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blest
Oh, thou heavy-laden, "come to Me, come and rest"

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, "come to Me"
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin
Mercy's door is open, rise up and enter in

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, "come to Me"
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried He will take

Jesus, there is waiting patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling, "come, oh, come to Me"
"Come oh, come to Me"
"Come oh, come to Me"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Infertility :: Our Diagnosis {Part 2}

Yesterday, I shared Part 1 of our infertility story. It really was only the beginning of what was ahead...

Infertility Testing
Though we were certainly disappointed with the official infertility diagnosis with my OB/GYN {and many tears were shed}, it was somewhat of a relief, because we were more than ready to begin the process of finding answers. I knew before I met with my doctor that we were infertile; now that she acknowledged it, we could move forward to find the problem. We waited a full year to hurry up and wait some more...

We went through several months of testing, attempting to pinpoint the problem{s} and exploring what our options could be. An infertility diagnosis is heartbreaking in and of itself, but this testing phase of finding out results and wading through our options was just as hard {if not harder}. My initial tests {overall health, ovulation, etc} came back fine. So we were referred to a urologist {the best in DFW} to begin testing on Mike. Let me just say: introducing a third {or fourth, depending on the number of doctors involved} party into an intimate part of your marriage is one of the strangest things I have ever encountered. We have had to have fairly frank exams and conversations regarding {what we consider} private things, with essentially strangers. Necessary in order to identify the issue, but not super fun...

Male-Factor Diagnosis
While we wanted to find answers, I don't think that we were quite prepared for the answers we received. In August of 2014, we were told that, due to a genetic male-factor issue, we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving on our own, and that there was nothing we could do to improve those chances either. So essentially, there was no "fix" for the problem. No lifestyle changes, no medicine, no surgery. Our only option to have our own genetic children was IVF with ICSI, a procedure where the best sperm is selected and injected directly into the egg, and the resulting embryo{s} are transferred to the uterus in hopes of implantation. Even with this option, the doctor was not quite convinced that it would work because of the genetic concerns.

This news rocked my world in ways I was not prepared for. I had been doing my research and had already started praying about the types of infertility treatments we might attempt. I was not prepared to not have any options. In the infertility world, IVF with ICSI is one of the most extreme and often the last stop on the infertility treatment train. We basically skipped ALL other options {medication, IUI, IVF}, and went straight to the most expensive, most invasive treatment.

While I tried to be brave in the doctor's office, I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing. Mike was devastated as well, but he had to be strong for his wife, who was falling apart in front of him {and in front of the doctor. and the intern}. I remember the doctor handing me a tissue and asking me if I needed a minute, but I just felt numb. I remember walking back through the waiting room {I'm sure the devastation written all over our faces}, but I don't remember much of the car ride home.

We fell on our knees before the Lord and wondered what His plan in all of this was to be. We had some reservations about IVF with ICSI, but I wasn't quite ready to give up on my desire to experience pregnancy. We have spent the months since seeking the Lord's will for our family.

Female-Factor Diagnosis
Even though we had our official diagnosis, we wanted to be absolutely sure that I could even carry a pregnancy before we moved forward on anything. In September/October 2014, we met with a reproductive endocrinologist {RE}, and I had an HSG test {a fancy x-ray for my reproductive organs}.The HSG showed what my doctor diagnosed as a hydrosalpinx, or a blockage, in my right Fallopian tube. She said it was most likely scarring caused by Crohn's inflammation, and that she would need to do a laparoscopy to remove it. 

In January 2015, I had the laparoscopy, and they ended up finding a larger problem. There was no hydrosalpinx after all, so my Fallopian tube was just fine. Instead, they found stage IV endometriosis and an ovarian cyst the size of an orange. So our less than 1% chance of conceiving was actually nil with my endometriosis. Thankfully, they were able to remove it all, and I should be ok for another 6 months or so before I start seeing the endo flare again. But at least now we know exactly what we are dealing with.

This diagnosis was a little out of the blue. My doctor wondered how I could not have known something was up {as endometriosis has some severe symptoms and, hello- I hid an orange-sized cyst in my belly!}, but she concluded that my Crohn's symptoms and endometriosis symptoms have just been overlapping. And because I am always in some pain of some kind, I didn't really have anything new to bring up with my doctors. I just thought it was all normal for me. It is likely that I have had endometriosis since I was in high school. I went on birth control at that time because my cycles were so debilitating and painful. And since I stopped taking birth control when we started trying to conceive, it has been allowed to flare, which ultimately led to the cyst.

The more research I have done on endometriosis, the more I have realized how auto-immune disease affects so much. Some research shows that women with endometriosis are 80% {!} more likely to also be diagnosed with IBD {hello Crohn's}. So now I am even more convinced of the genetic links and predispositions for Crohn's Disease.

So What Now?
We covet your prayers. When we were first diagnosed, we were devastated at what it all meant for our little family. The heartache and the disappointment are still there, but the Lord has allowed us to process and is slowly bringing healing and peace, something that I believe is only possible in Him and requires a daily dependence on the Spirit. 

We are carefully weighing our options before the Lord. At the end of the day, we want to be obedient to our Savior, even if it means letting go of our dreams of experiencing pregnancy and/or being parents to biological children. That sounds simple, but typing those words is incredibly difficult, and my keyboard still floods with tears at that thought. That's such a big dream to turn over. I really want to be a mom and experience pregnancy, now more than I ever thought I would. And I have had to face the reality that I might not get to...but somehow I still have to trust the heart of my Savior and believe that He is still good to me.

For now, we wait and we pray for our miracle baby. Whether that baby comes through fertility treatments or adoption, he or she will be no less of a miracle for these two hopeful infertiles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Infertility :: Our Diagnosis {Part 1}

In January, I briefly mentioned that we have been struggling with infertility, but I didn't share many details. While I am in a much better place than I was last year, it's still a hard thing to talk about. But it has been such a large part of our lives, and it has been strange to have such a life-altering thing hidden for so long. So today I want to share our personal story in trying to grow our family. 

Our story is not over, and in many ways is just beginning. So I want to be sensitive to those who have struggled a lot longer than we have; I do not presume to understand all of the ins and outs of infertility, treatments, etc. We are still praying through each next step in this journey. All I can do is share where we are now, and how the Lord has brought us to this point.

So here is our story {so far}...

We started seriously talking about having a baby in the Fall of 2012. Mike was ready for kids when we got married, but it had taken me a little longer to be comfortable with letting my mind and my heart settle on having a baby. Not because I didn't want kids {I did}, but because we had so much going on at the time. I had left my friends, my church and ministry, and was newly married in a new city. When we first started talking about it, we were in the middle of a church planting residency and trying to figure out the next steps for our church, and I just didn't know if we could add parenthood to the list. So it was easier to tell myself I wasn't ready and to just not think about it. Of course, once my mind and heart had started down the “baby path,” there really was no turning back, so that was a lot easier said than done. I slowly let myself get excited at the prospect of growing our family.

Since we had seriously started discussing and praying about it, we knew that I would have to figure out what was up with my stomach issues first. And then I got really sick and ended up in the hospital. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease I had never heard of, and suddenly everything changed. My thoughts immediately shifted to figuring out life with Crohn’s and how to manage it. But my heart had not forgotten about having kids. Instead, more questions flooded my brain…can I still get pregnant? Can I take medication and still have healthy babies? Can I pass this disease to my kids? Is this going to delay us growing our family? Why is this happening now??

I was frustrated that our plans were put on hold. My heart was ready, but my body obviously was not. I knew that I would have to get better before we could even think about having kids. I was still having flare ups, was getting used to the medication, and learning through trial and error the things I could eat. I was at an unhealthy low weight and was vitamin D and B-12 deficient. I had been sick for so long, I desperately needed a period of time where I felt well before beginning a pregnancy. So my sweet husband was patient and helped me figure out life with Crohn’s.

I knew my best chance of having a healthy pregnancy would be when my Crohn’s was in remission, and when I was feeling stronger physically. After months of working toward remission and better health, we re-engaged the conversation. I did my research, talked with my doctors, and we officially started trying in the Spring of 2013. It was exciting at first; we were finally going to grow our little family! I was so ready for this next stage in life, and I just could not wait until the Lord blessed us with a baby of our own.

But the excitement quickly faded. I wasn't getting pregnant in the time frame I had hoped for, and each month brought increasing disappointment and frustration. I knew what was considered normal {in terms of time frame}, but my heart feared there was a deeper problem. What if my Crohn’s {or my medication} was keeping me from getting pregnant? My doctors had assured me that I shouldn't have any more difficulty than someone without Crohn’s; many women with Crohn’s experience perfectly healthy pregnancies. But some don’t. The {stinky} reality is that I have an autoimmune disease, so I don’t get the benefit of “normal” or “usual.” I constantly battled these fears as I tried to trust the Lord and His timing.

Initial Infertility Diagnosis
Month after month went by, each one more disappointing than the last. We eventually {sadly} reached the ominous "1 year" mark. Under age 35, that's the mark when a doctor will really talk with you and take your concerns seriously. I probably could have pushed the issue sooner, given the fact that I have Crohn's, but a lot of what the Lord was teaching me was patience and waiting on Him instead of rushing ahead with my own plans. And as much as I hated and fought it, He kept telling me to wait for the full year. I can now see the hidden blessings of waiting the year, but it didn't make it any easier to endure, especially since I waited the year and didn't get the answers I had hoped for.

I had my annual exam scheduled with my OB/GYN {May 2014}, and it was disheartening that this conversation was so much different than the year before. In May 2013, I had my pre-conception visit, where I got to ask all the fun questions and have the excitement of beginning to try to have a baby. I walked away full of hope and excitement, so sure that I would be back in her office pregnant soon. In May 2014, however, I was full of questions and fear. Even though we already knew we were {by definition} infertile, it was still disheartening to hear her confirm it. She outlined what our next steps could be, and despite her efforts to sound hopeful and encouraging, I walked away in tears, full of questions and fear.


I share this early part of our story, because Crohn's has very much been a factor in our infertility journey. It has affected our testing and the treatment options we have considered. I also share it to show how long our hearts have been waiting to grow our family. While we didn't start trying until the Spring of 2013, our hearts had settled on and had begun praying for our sweet baby many months before. 

Also, writing just a few sentences about the year that we were trying doesn't do justice to all of the emotions and struggle. There is SO much to be said about that year...more posts for other days. For now, I will stick to just sharing the overall story. More tomorrow...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

{Guest Post} :: Good, Bye

Today I am hosting my first ever guest post! :)

I had the privilege of being a part of Christine Hoover's book launch team when she released The Church Planting Wife {review here}. So I was excited and humbled to be chosen to be a part of her book launch team for her second book From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel {review here}. And now today, I have the honor of hosting the author herself here on my blog :)

Christine Hoover {@christinehoover) is an author, a recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys. She writes online at www.GraceCoversMe.com and has contributed to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Send Network, and iBelieve. Her newest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, offers women biblical freedom from trying to "be good enough." The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book. You can read the entire chapter here.


I've been obsessed with being good and performing all of my life.

Hello, my name is Christine. I'm a goodness addict.

I was born with a list in my hand, or at least that's how early I imagine I started. I came by it honestly - my mom's response to everything my sister and I needed as children, whether shampoo from the store or help with a school project, was always, "Make a list!"

So I did. I made list after list - of library books for summer reading, of boys that I liked, of songs to record from the radio on my tape recorder, of necessities to pack for overnight camp, of must-haves in my future husband, even of outfits for the first month of eighth grade so as not to repeat and make a fashion faux pas of infinite proportion.

I don't just make lists. I am that person, the one who adds a task to a list just to experience the satisfaction of crossing it off, the one who makes lists for my lists.

I'm a perfectionist.

There was a time when I would have said that with pride, but not anymore. Perfectionism has not been a friend to me. Sure, my house is organized and my budget spreadsheet is up-to-date, but when perfectionism is applied to the spiritual needs of the heart, it's called legalism. And legalism is a fancy word for an obsession with goodness. It's a belief that good things come from God to those who are good. And it's a belief that you can actually be good enough to get to God on your own.

I became a Christian at age eight. From that point, or more accurately from the point in middle school when I started having "quiet times" according to my youth minister's instructions, until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving - striving for perfection, for God's favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

At an early age, I fell for perfectionism's lie that I could be good enough to win God's heart and the approval of others. I sought joy, peace, and love through being good and, instead, found myself miserably enslaved to my own unattainable standards.

This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn't true and biblical Christianity. On the outside I appeared to be a good Christian, but on the inside I felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about my inability to please God.

Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self. Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, response from others, and results. It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior. Goodness required that I control my environment with military precision, hide my weaknesses, and compare myself with others or my own arbitrary standards. Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation and kept me relationally isolated.

The other part of a goodness addiction, I discovered in my twenties, is a faulty understanding of who God is and what he expects from His children. I only saw God through perfectionism's filter. He was gray. He had no patience for my mistakes, forever glaring at me with a scowl on His face. He sighed a lot. If I was extra-good, He might manage to crack a smile. He was one-dimensional, disengaged, unaffectionate, and I absolutely feared him.

I knew nothing about grace.
I knew nothing about forgiveness.
I knew nothing about the true gospel, because a goodness addiction completely overtakes the heart and mind, leaving no room for truth. It enslaves and cannibalizes itself. It becomes an all-encompassing religion, closing tightly around one's soul. It led me down paths of depression and despair.

And it became my gospel.

I lived according to that gospel - what I now call the goodness gospel - for far too long, precisely because I didn't know the true gospel's reach. I believed that faith was effective for salvation but only self-effort could produce my sanctification. Now I know differently. God has taken me on a ten-year exploration of grace and sanctification and faith, and I am not the girl I once was. I live in the freedom that Christ has won for me.

Now that I know differently, I also have eyes to see the goodness gospel covertly worming its way into hearts of believers, and I see its destructive effects. 

In the Christian culture, there seems to be great confusion and even pressure that we women feel about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. The confusion touches decisions about education, family, eating and drinking, work, hobbies, community involvement, and even whether one should volunteer when the sign-up sheet is passed around again at church.

The pressure grows when choices are wrapped in more-spiritual terms. We see it everywhere: Do something great! Follow your dreams! Make a difference for the kingdom! Be missional and in community! For the gospel-confused, that too often translates into: I'm not doing enough, what I'm doing isn't making a difference, and I've got to create my own and my neighbor's own and my children's own and everyone's own life transformation.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is a book for women like I was, who long to please God but fear they never will. It's for the woman drowning in self-condemnation, the woman afraid to be vulnerable with others because she's so fully aware of her imperfections, and the woman who craves but can't seem to grasp the freedom and joy that Jesus promised His followers.

Instead of asking "What does God want from us?" From Good to Grace asks, "What does God want for us?" The book illustrates how we confuse being good and trying hard--the goodness gospel--with the true gospel, which is really about receiving the grace and love that Jesus offers us and responding with our lives by the Holy Spirit's help. It's my prayer that through it you discover it's possible to know God's love, live in peace and freedom, and serve others with great joy. Because God has something so much greater for you than trying to be good enough.


Purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or iTunes and discover the gospel's reach in your own life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Review: From Good to Grace

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of being a part of the launch team for Christine Hoover's book The Church Planting Wife. When I heard she was coming out with a second book and was looking to create another launch team, I knew I wanted to take part! Christine graciously picked me again, and I received an advanced copy of the book to review and promote. I may or may not have done a happy dance when it arrived in the mail! :)

Just like with her first book, I would promote this one even if I wasn't a part of the official launch team. Christine has such a gift for writing, and particularly connecting with and ministering to women. I so appreciate her willingness to share her heart in such a vulnerable way, both on her blog and in this book.

From Good to Grace is saturated with truth, and the gospel fills every page. Christine cuts to the heart of the goodness gospel, a false gospel that too many of us believe and live by, sometimes without even realizing it. Too many of us believe that we are not doing enough, that we are not enough, and that we can live life in our own strength. Not only does that become exhausting, it is also an enslaving idea, devoid of God's abundant grace.

Christine shares from her own personal struggles and offers words of hope for the freedom she has found in discovering and pursuing God's grace. She uncovers the lies of a goodness {or works-based} gospel, cutting to the heart of false idols, people-pleasing, the desire for "control," and even things like the "mommy wars." For me personally, I have seen the goodness gospel creep in with the idea that if I am good enough, then God will bless me. While I know this is false, I haven't always recognized it right away as believing a false gospel.

If you have ever struggled with wanting to be "good" and {falsely} believing that being good is what being a Christian is about, or if you just have a hard time just receiving God's love and grace {and maybe extending it to others}, then this book is for you.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"The more we know what God wants for us, the less it matters what others want from us."
"Joyful service is solely motivated by love- not our love toward God, as if we're showing him what we can do, but his love for us. It's based on a cyclical pattern of returning to Jesus, receiving from him, and then responding to him by loving others."
"God's goal for the church is our unity, not our uniformity."
"Grace and the freedom it offers us should always benefit others; it is not for our benefit and our freedom alone...we must live in responsible freedom, not taking advantage of God's grace by living for ourselves, not mocking grace through blatant sin and taking opportunities for our flesh, and not taking lightly the impact we have on others around us. It also means that we don't hold up our personal convictions as the only right way."

I also loved that there is a discussion guide at the back of the book. It would be useful for small group discussion, and even just personal reflection. Be sure to pick up a copy! {AmazonBarnes & NobleChristianbook.com, or iTunes}

Monday, March 2, 2015

Embryo Adoption :: We've Been Matched!

Today we accepted the match for our embryo adoption!! :)

The matching phase can take a few months, but we were blessed to be matched with our first genetic family! We won't provide a ton of details on this blog {for privacy reasons}, but we are so excited about the genetic family the Lord has provided for us. It's crazy to think that the Lord has known all along that we were to be forever connected with this sweet family.

Our genetic family lives in Texas, but they are in a different part of the state. They have 3 beautiful children, that the Lord blessed them with through IVF. They wanted their remaining embryos to go to a loving, Christian family, and their one, non-negotiable requirement was that all of the embryos stay together. Which is part of why they chose Nightlight, because Nightlight advocates for families to adopt all embryos {rather than splitting them up among multiple families, which is often the case with clinic programs}. 

This sweet family has 6 {count them six!} precious embryos, and we cannot be more excited! We knew that we wanted multiple embryos, because we knew we would want multiple children. So while any resulting children will not be related to us, they will be related to each other {how cool is that?} 

Six was a little shocking to us at first, and it took some serious prayer to be sure we wanted to step out in faith for 6 precious lives. But in the end, we knew this was the family God had prepared for us. We appreciated their heart in wanting to protect and provide a good home for their remaining embryos, and we are so humbled by the fact that they have entrusted us with something so precious.

So now that we have been matched, we move forward with the contracts!