loss, faith, & celebration.

i’m a new year’s girl; there’s no disputing it. it’s not about resolutions (which i love) or being over christmas (impossible), or even the countdown to my impending birthday (christmas + the new year + my birthday = a trifecta of goodness). it’s the fresh canvas…the newness…the hope of what’s to come.

last year was the first year in a long time that the new year came & went, and i didn’t pay it much attention. ditto for my birthday. i actually kind of dreaded both of them; my heart just wasn’t ready to celebrate. when i am most honest, when i looked out to the 2014 that was ahead of us, i was anxious, scared, & desperately wanted to wish it away.

you see, just one week before christmas the year before (2013), we had an appointment that confirmed that the abdominal surgeries i have had in my life have done permanent damage that would not allow us to get pregnant. we were told that IVF would be our only option for trying to have a baby and that there would be a number of things that would need to fall into place in order for that to even be a possibility.

for a girl who had spent most of her childhood boasting that she was going to have 14 kids and most of her adult life thinking there was good reason to scale back just a little but still dreamt of a big family, the news was devastating.

to put it simply, 2014 was not my best year. it started out tough (lots of tears on new year’s day & we went to an IVF info session on my birthday), and it felt pretty awful more often than i’d like to admit. however, for all the hard stuff it brought, 2014 was undeniably a really important year. (do not be fooled – there were no rainbows & sunshine. remember the new year’s & birthday dreading?) in my heart, i knew it would be a long year.

early on i remember admitting that i had a deep sense that it would be a year of mountain-top-highs and deep-valley-lows. that could not have been more true. there was sadness, loss, heartache, and grieving that i still can’t quite put to words, yet there was sweetness, too. it was a year marked throughout with wonderful celebrations of my husband – things he worked incredibly hard for, and celebrating him was wonderful, with our first wedding anniversary, with deepened relationships that brought healing, and with words spoken over me & us by people that have been relentless & intentional about sticking right by our sides through everything.

the Lord is tender like that. He knows about the heartache & loss & sadness, and He carries us through. He gives us strength in ways we never though possible. He brings beauty from ashes.

although i closed the door on 2014 with a bit more gusto than other years and am deeply thankful for a new year, 2014 was – and still is – a formative year for me. in the way that only challenges & grieving do, i was faced with questions, fears, and decisions that helped me dig deeper into my faith, priorities, and dreams. i was invited to sit in hard places with people that love me & know me – people that reminded me i wasn’t alone, encouraged me, and supported me. we have a little tribe of people that continue to pray us through doctor’s appointments, procedures, and decisions…offer to come to doctor’s appointments…and text, call, send cards, and shower us with love – in person & across state lines. through it all, i can honestly look back on 2014 with a thankful heart – holding all of the joys & all of the sorrows – knowing that i & we could not be in this place today without what we came through. i know a greater depth of the strength the Lord through me, i know His character more intimately, our marriage is stronger, and our faith in the Lord’s provision, nearness, and grace is even stronger.

to bring things full circle, 10 days before this past christmas (2014), after a year of appointments, waiting, procedures, and more waiting, we got the news we had been hoping & praying for – one of the biggest pieces in our journey to IVF fell into place. with hopeful anticipation, we scheduled our last two appointments for January 2nd, and got ready to celebrate 2015. this year, i was ready to celebrate again. not because we got good news (although that was certainly a big part of it) but because we had come so far.

and celebrate we did. we even managed an extra fun celebration a few days before my birthday when we officially got our IVF protocol & found out that we could start our first cycle of IVF the next week! i think we both floated out of the doctor’s office that day! then my husband planned the sweetest birthday for me, and we got to sit and revel in the glory & grace of it all.

i wouldn’t have ever willingly chosen the path that we have been on for the past year, but i know that i know that i know that God is with us in it. i know that our babies are being fought for with every shred of our beings & that one day we will tell them the story of how we longed for them & loved them well before we ever knew them.

this isn’t easy to share, but i genuinely believe that each our stories matter. over this past year, it’s been the voices of women & my incredible spiritual dad (who walked this road with his daughter, Nicole) who have been down this awful infertility road that have brought me comfort, relief, and encouragement – blogs, conversations with the dearest friends, and even instagram posts. although each journey is unique and personal, there is a shared ache & hope that knits us all together. for that reason alone, i want to share our experience. because if it offers hope, encouragement, or makes just one person feel a little less alone, that’s all that matters.

[i’ll recount what our first few days have been like & our first check-up (which is tomorrow – Monday – morning) in the next post.]

holding hope

monday gratitude.

practicing gratitude truly turns what we have into enough. lately i have been grateful for…

twinkle lightstwinkly lights at every turn…

breakfastslow mornings with pancakes & bacon (and brooklyn nine-nine)…

christmas 2014 giftshomemade christmas-gift-making…

sk gingerbread biscottismitten kitchen’s gingerbread biscotti dunked in decadent hot chocolate

hsg 2014 encouragementpeople that know & love us, not only share life’s journey but jump right onto the path to be with us, & overwhelm us with encouragement & truth…

and for ellen. 40 seconds of hilarity ensues as dancer (the 12 days reindeer mascot) busts out some sweet moves. at 2:45 i was crying i was laughing so hard.

happy monday!

gratitude, day 23.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for mentors.

wedding_paschallsthe saying we all know and that i wrote about the other day says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” as an adult, however, i would have to say that it takes a village to raise an adult, too. for far too many years, i didn’t really get that. i thought that at a certain point i should know enough to make big decisions, process experiences, & generally navigate life. i imagine i adopted that line of thinking somewhere around 18 (i was officially an adult, after all) or maybe 22 years old (a college graduate should surely have all of her stuff together).

wr_nicaragua_blacksi was so, so mistaken. by way of doing things wrong (sometimes repeatedly), i learned the hard way that i honestly just plain wasn’t equipped to do everything on my own. don’t get me wrong – i am a strong, competent, intelligent woman. it’s just that in a number of ways i put so much unnecessary stress on myself. looking back, my heart aches for the girl that was trying so hard & working so hard to keep everything together.

wedding_lauraanother key thing i learned is that as incredible as family, friends, & teachers are in our lives, God brings mentors & spiritual parents into each of our tribes. people that love us, see from an outside perspective, call life out of us, speak truth, & guide us. i prayed about finding a mentor for months before gathering up the courage to ask about connecting with women who would be interested in mentoring me. i think i’ll save that specific story for another post, but i mention it now only to say that although there truly are countless people who are passionate about mentoring, we need to first take the step to open ourselves up to the process. however, once i did i was & continue to be blessed ten-fold by the women & men who are now knit deeply in my life & our marriage.

me_joan_2011there are very specific conversations, moments, & experiences that i remember vividly – viscerally even – with each of them. one change in perspective…one truth affirmed…one word spoken over me that i know that i know that i know changed the trajectory of my life. it’s those little decisions, little changes of direction that have such a big impact much farther down the road. my cup runneth over…

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22.

gratitude, day 20.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful to be part of the village.

eli nov

to say that i have been the luckiest to know this handsome, funny, sweet, smart, joyful little monkey since the day he was born is laughable, because it has honestly been one of the greatest blessings in my life. we are lucky to be able to be part of a community that doesn’t just believe that it takes a village to raise a child – they really live it. we’re surrounded by great examples of parents at all stages, and we get to be part of their villages.

particularly with this cool dude, we’ve gotten to do a number of fun weekends with just us & him, but it just hit me tonight that we’ve gotten to watch him this same weekend for three years in a row! it was a fun trip down memory lane tonight remembering all the things we’ve done & seeing how much he’s grown from year to year. we just love him so, so much, and could not be more grateful to get to be part of his village.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19.

gratitude, day 16.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for changes in plans.

friends of ours have two adorable little girls, the youngest of which is three & quite fond of dustin. it’s ridiculously cute in every way. last week, jen said that simone asked if dustin was coming to Chipotle next week after church. after a good laugh, i said of course we could come, not really knowing if it was a real thing or a “next time we go” situation.

i originally thought we’d play it by ear & see when we got to church if they did in fact want to go, in which case we’d happily join. however, as the week went on, sunday began to get pretty full. plus, it was our last day to do final cleaning & organizing before having someone over tomorrow night. with all of that going on, by the time we got to church tonight, i had actually forgotten all about our possible dinner plans, but when jen asked, all i could do was smile. of course we would go out to dinner! our to do list wasn’t negotiable, but we both knew, without saying a word, that we’d gladly change our plans, work a little faster, & stay up a little later to make time for friends. we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than laughing, catching up, and sharing a meal with friends.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.

gratitude, day 15.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for life with community.

life together apps

dustin & i love to have people over. we love sharing our home, cooking, and sharing a meal with people we care for. we don’t get the opportunity to host all that often, but when we do, it is a special event, and we relish it. tonight, we were able to have all but one of the couples in our small group over, and it will be one of the highlighted memories for me of our time living in this sweet little home. it was a snowy day turned into a snowy night, and our friends made the trek west to our home, navigating delayed babysitters, weather, and a bad accident along the way. we were able to invite good friends into our warm home to have drinks, catch up, share a meal, and to essentially open our lives to entrust pieces of ourselves to each other.

talking over the night as we put a few things away & did dishes, we talked about what a great night it was. we are blessed.

life together dishes

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11.  ::  gratitude, day 12.  ::  gratitude, day 13.  ::  gratitude, day 14.

 

gratitude, day 9.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for sunday sabbath.

today was one of those days i talked about on the first day of these “gratitude lately” posts: full-to-the-brim with memories & goodness. we had back-to-back things happening all day, but they were totally worth it and totally life-giving. we got to spend the beginning of the day with my mom & step-dad before driving across town to have coffee with friends we love. then we all headed to church together to worship & learn with a community of people we are grateful to do life with – on sundays & many other days throughout each week. as full as it was, it was truly a sabbath day of resting with loved ones & being refreshed.

we’ve learned that sundays tend to be a little more full purely due to the transition from weekend to new week. if possible, we try to keep errands & other running around to saturdays so that we can be home sunday to make breakfast, prep lunch stuff for the week, do laundry & house work, etc. an incredibly helpful habit we’ve adopted is having dinner either completely made (thus only needing re-heating) or fully prepped (to throw in a pan or in the oven as soon as we walk in the door) before we leave for church. at least one of us is already in the kitchen doing lunch stuff anyway, so working on dinner fits easily in that rhythm. plus, a little extra work earlier in the day makes those last hours between getting home & (hopefully…) getting to bed a little less chaotic. because, let’s be honest – i have a hard time with sunday nights. i’m one of those people that agrees 100% with this:

Honestly….

A post shared by The Honest Company (@honest) on

this recipe is a home run as much for making ahead of time & warming later as it is for prepping early & having dinner on the table without a whole lot of fuss. from the first time i made it this past winter, sweet potato chili has been in our meal rotation at least monthly – even in the summer!

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gratitude, day 6.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for our church.

we are incredibly thankful to be a part of a community where sometimes worship looks like this…


gratitude, day 1.
gratitude, day 2.
gratitude, day 3.
gratitude, day 4.
gratitude, day 5.

dear beginners, there is a gap.

there is a gap_ira glass

image from 7Plums on etsy

i first stumbled upon this quote from ira glass a few years ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. [side note: i think it’s one of the first things i ever pinned on Pinterest. although the original pin was a different version, a few years may very well = vintage in Pinterest years.]

to this day, i still come back to it regularly. for encouragement, reassurance…and sometimes for a little push. at my core, i am a creative, full of dreams & hope, but i am also a practical realist. as a result, i can easily get caught between the scales of these traits.

at my best, my hopes & dreams cheer me on, and ira’s words are comforting: keep trying new things. you’re not alone! it’s normal that this part is hard. but at my worst, the potential failure, disappointment, rejection, and unmet expectations can be paralyzing. fears loom large, threatening to cast long, dark shadows on my creativity, passions, dreams – everything. i get caught up in ira’s other words: it’s just not that good. a lot of people never get past this phase. it takes a long time (years).

it’s such a normal struggle. not just for a creative – for all of us, in all of our roles.

what i’m learning helps me tip the scales towards hopes & dreams is to be honest with & true to myself. on tough days, i’m learning to acknowledge the fears & even name them (not an easy task). i’m finding that when i know what i’m up against in my mind (fear & doubt’s favorite playground), i can start to knock them down with truth, and i can ask for help & prayer. i’m learning to not push past this part but to instead honor my real feelings. that has been helpful for me in two ways. first, i’m learning to give my real feelings time & space because denying them doesn’t help me grow. second, i’m learning that when i allow myself to feel my real feelings, often i better understand the root of them. as i’ve begun to try to do this more often, i’ve seen some little wins where a past fear or doubt actually motivated me in a positive way to achieve something i once thought was impossible (hello, starting – and re-starting – the blog! hello, writing a post about fears!).

and then, of course, there are the good days. days when i’m humming along jotting ideas, reading blogs & sites that inspire me, trying new things, and dreaming. even those days can get a little sticky here or there, but my perspective is set further ahead. i remind myself of the bigger picture & realize that little bumps are ok – they’re actually part of the adventure.

most importantly, whether it’s a good day or a tougher one, having people who support, encourage, & believe in me makes all the difference. i’m lucky to have people in my life who see & call out of me the potential that i sometimes lose sight of. they hold me accountable, dream with me, cheer me on, and love me unconditionally. being honest with them about my fears helps call out the truth that combats doubt, and wins & growth are that much sweeter to celebrate together.

i have a few more thoughts on this that i’ll follow up with this week, but in the meantime…

do you have some favorite resources that help as you dream & plan? favorite practices or routines?

who are your go-to creative inspirations?

how has having a community/tribe of friends & family helped shape & grow your dreams?

*my friend laura sent me this sweet vimeo version of ira glass’ interview that captures this quote with a visual of a fun overlay of the words. very creative, and it’s great to both see the words and hear ira speaking them.

community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_5670

when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

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