Strength from Our Struggles

When you first think about that statement, it seems crazy.  But when you really think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Weightlifters have to struggle through resistance to gain strength.  Kids have to struggle through falling off their bikes to gain the strength to get back on and try again.

Sometimes, facing our fears and weaknesses can become not only our biggest strength but a great testimony.

I’ve been through a LOT in my life.  A LOT.  A lot of struggles.  A lot of pain.  A lot of junk that I remember thinking “WHY ME?!”  And in the midst of those struggles, I used to hear from people “Someday, you will be able to use this to help someone else.”  **Cue the eye roll and whiny voice**  ” But whyyyyyy do I have to go through it at ALLLL?!”

temper tantrum

It’s a great sentiment to tell people that their struggles will be someone else’s strength some day.  I guess I just didn’t really stop to think about how it could actually be MY strength too.

I’ve been able to speak with young women who are in abusive relationships.  I’ve been able to talk to young women who struggle with being let down by someone who they’d placed on a pedestal.  I’ve been able to talk to women who are battling with the emotions that come with empty arms.

I’m still affected by all of those things.  Some days, it feels like the blind leading the blind.  But other days…  Oh, other days it feels like all the pain and tears and struggling were worth it just to feel that connection with someone who needed to not just hear the words “I know how you feel” but needed to actually FEEL that I know how they feel.

Tonight, I was sent a link to a sermon by an old friend of mine.  It’s from Elevation Church and a series called “How to be Brave”.  The one I listened to tonight was called “See It Through” and in it he says:

“What if God wants to show you your purpose, but He wants you to see it through your pain?”

Maybe I’m starting to see my purpose through my pain.

Do I still wish that I didn’t have to struggle?  Sure.  Do I still wish that God would lighten up with the trials already?  Of course.  Do I still wish that I didn’t have to feel the pain?  Absolutely.

But I am grateful for them.  My past has helped me create my present. 

If I’d not dealt with a LOT of the things I dealt with all those years ago, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am now.  If I’d not dealt with cowering from a raised hand, I wouldn’t have learned how to defend myself.  If I’d not dealt with constant comparisons, I wouldn’t have learned how to place more worth in my opinion of myself.  If I’d not dealt with the pain of knowing what empty arms feel like, I may never have appreciated how the crook of my elbow might be the perfect pillow.

We grow through our pain.  We gain strength in our struggles.  We gain faith through fear.  And God knew that we would before we even dipped our toes in the pool of uncertainty.

Even now, J and I are facing a situation that we may be able to use to help others further down the road.  Oh, how I wish we weren’t facing it.  How I wish we knew what the outcome would be.  How I wish it didn’t hurt so much.

But oh, how it’s making us stronger.  How it’s making us dig in, dig deep and hold tightly.  To each other and to our faith.

Oh, how we are gaining strength from our struggle.

Good Friday. Great Sunday.

Today is Good Friday.

The day that made Easter Sunday possible.

Without the pain and heartbreak, we wouldn’t have hope and expectation and excitement.

Christ knew what He was headed towards.  He knew that He would suffer unbearable pain and a brutal death.  He even pled for it not to happen.

But He knew.  He knew it was His Father’s Will.  He knew our eternal lives depended on it.  So He bore it.

He took the whips.  He took the crowns.  He took the nails.  He thirst.  He breathed his last painful breath, and then turned his Spirit over and died.

three crosses

His mother wept.  The soldiers mocked.  The criminals argued.  The earth shook.

And then they wrapped Him in clothes and placed Him in a guarded tomb.

For days, His followers and family mourned and grieved.  And then…

The tomb was empty.  He’d risen just like He said He would.

empty tomb

What a beautiful display of love.  That He thought of me as He hung on that cross and bore a pain that is unimaginable.

Unspeakable love.  Unthinkable mercy.  Unfathomable grace.

GRACEGod’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

We can’t earn it, it’s already ours.  Paid for by the sacrifice of a Son for the world.  Paid for by the blood of Someone that loved us so much that He suffered torture and death.

And then He rose again on that beautiful Sunday.

It’s the hope of Sunday that gives us strength to carry on.  To fight battles that we feel we are losing.  To trust our Father who loves us to bless us as He sees fit.  To give us a peace that passes understanding and a joy that comes in the morning.

It was Good Friday that gave us a Great Sunday.

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We Meet Again

January

Well, January.  We meet again.  You’ve been lurking like a mischievous child.  You’ve always been my favorite month – you’re the month that everyone gets to celebrate the fact that I was born!  The last 2 January’s, however, have NOT been good.  January 2012 – my mother got sick and was diagnosed with cancer soon after.  January 2013 – my mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer.  So, maybe you can kinda understand where my apprehension to see you comes from.  Now this year, I’ve started out with pneumonia.  I’m just gonna assume that this is just getting the major illnesses out of the way for the year!  I WILL NOT spend as much time at Dr’s offices this year as I did last!  Mark. My. Words.

no_doctor

2013 wasn’t exactly kind to me.  I learned a lot, though.  About me.  About my husband.  About friends.  About family.  I’ve learned that I can feel more than I thought.  I’ve learned that I can bend farther than I realized.  I’ve learned that I can fight harder than I’d expected.  I’ve learned that I can live through pain that seems unbearable.  I’ve learned that my husband can support the weight of my leaning on him.  I’ve learned that some of the friends I thought would be there, haven’t.  I’ve learned that some of the family that I thought would be there, aren’t.  And I don’t regret a single thing.  I might change the outcome – but the lessons are valuable.

2014 paris

This is the time of year that everyone starts their “New Years Resolutions”.  I’ve never been one for resolutions.  Let’s be honest – how many of us stick with the resolutions that we make every year (for longer than a month)?  I’ll be the first to say “Not me!”  They’d probably be better served being called “New Years Intentions”!  I have a few of those!  But I’ll just share a couple.

in 2014, it is my intention to:

  • Give myself more grace in tough situations.
  • Focus more on the blessings I have than the ones I want.

This year IS going to be a good year.  Because I say so.  Our arms may be empty, but our hearts are full.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” – Isaiah 43:19

Know what I wonder?

I wonder how a woman that used to light up around babies can hardly even glance in an infant seat when she’s in public? I wonder how a woman that used to get butterflies in her stomach when she saw a pregnant woman has to turn her head when one comes in view? I wonder how a woman that used to wander through the baby section in a department store for fun now has to find the route that keeps her the furthest from it? And then I remember… The woman that used to light up around babies, now feels how heavy her empty arms are. The woman that used to get butterflies in her stomach when seeing a pregnant woman, now only sees a reminder of her barren womb. The woman that used to wander through the baby section, now only sees painful reminders of what age their child would have been. And I only know that because that woman – is me.

dream

Sometimes I feel so dramatic about the situation God has given to my husband and I. I remember that there are women that have been travelling this path far longer than I have. There are women that have felt far worse pain than I’ve felt. But saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse, is just like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else might have it better. And just because it could be worse doesn’t mean my pain is any less real. It’s been really hard for me to see so many friends get pregnant. I’m overcome by feelings of bitterness and jealousy when I see the announcements. You see… it’s a fine line. That line between being happy for you and being sad for me. I haven’t learned how to walk it just yet. But I’m trying.

The saying “the things you take for granted are the things someone else is praying for” became very real and personal to me earlier this year. On a day that was challenging enough in it’s own respect, I received the news that someone that was once very close to me – who has basically thrown their life away for that “fix” – was expecting a baby. I know where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, what I was wearing. I will never forget hearing the news that had just “slipped accidentally”. The words “I’m sorry! We weren’t going to tell you because of the miscarriage!” swirled around through the fog of emotion I had been enveloped in. I couldn’t think about anything but getting off the phone as quickly as I possibly could – to save the person on the other end from hearing whatever it was that was playing tug-of-war with my tongue to be uttered. As I hung up, I don’t remember saying goodbye, and I can’t quite put words to the feelings that completely overcame me, but I do remember hitting my knees & trying to catch my breath. I can only liken the feeling to what I’d imagine it’d be like being hit dead-center by a MACK truck. Not fun. AT ALL. I remember it finally hitting me and thinking, “Wait? You mean you KNEW and you didn’t TELL me??” I hastily composed a text to someone very close to me, a text that toed the line between accusation & sheer amazement that they’d actually kept the secret from me. The response was simple… “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt you.” I felt that now, not only was I dealing with the gut-wrenching fact that someone was getting the gift I’d been begging praying for, but also with the fact that I’d been lied to. My head could grasp the concept of protection, however getting my heart on the same page has not been so easy.

When women that have been diagnosed infertile are trying to get pregnant, there is a long list of methods that are tested, through trial and error, to obtain the outcome desired. Although sometimes those methods have side effects that are unexpected. In March 2013, my (new) OB-GYN decided that it was time to try Clomid. Clomid is the given name for a medication that makes most women have mood swings that would make even the most pleasant woman go from 0 – BI*$% in 3 seconds flat. Thankfully, I didn’t have much of the mood swings. Hot flashes? Check. Headaches? Check. But then, about a week and a half after taking them, I went to the Emergency Room for severe abdominal pain. At first, the dr’s in the ER were completely puzzled. My symptoms manifested themselves as a classic case of Appendicitis – pain, nausea, loss of appetite. They did all the testing and everything came back mostly clear. The only thing that showed up on Contrast CAT Scans were the large mass of cysts that had developed on my left ovary – measuring 4.4cm. They weren’t convinced that there wasn’t something deeper going on and with the evident amount of uncontrollable pain I was in (even after large doses of morphine & dilaudid), they admitted me to the hospital and told me that the Internal Medicine Doctor would be in to see me in the morning. After a fairly brief discussion, he told me that he would give his recommendation to the Surgeon and I’d hear back shortly. The next I heard was a few hours later when the nurse came in the room and told me that I was to be prepped for Emergency Surgery. When the surgeon came in to talk to me in Pre-Op, he told me that they were going to go in laparascopically (three small incisions) and take my appendix. He also said that the cysts they saw on the CT Scan were large enough that he felt they would probably need to be drained. So, while he was in there he took my appendix, drained the mass of cysts and also ended up removing blood from cysts that had ruptured. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the pain. My hubby had to take me back to the ER only 9 days after surgery, to which it was discovered that the mass of cysts had not only came back, but were now measuring 5.6cm. Know what that meant? No more of that fertility medicine for this girl. The medication that has been used for YEARS to help women get pregnant was now on the list of “Things Dacina Can’t Take To Get Pregnant.” And to add insult to injury – the person so close to me that had gotten pregnant? She had her baby 3 weeks to the day before we would have been due. Hard to not let that little tidbit of information mess with your mind.

After everything kind of settled down with that, the OB decided that the next course of action would be to have my husband get an analysis done. The results of that first test were devastating, to say the very least. We were CERTAIN that the results were wrong. She wanted us to have a second one done, just in case something had actually gone wrong. (Gentlemen, there are SO many things that can affect your swimmers that you don’t even CONSIDER!) But in the meantime, she had referred us to… [insert ominous movie music here] an Infertility Specialist. As if it hadn’t been real before, now we had to see a SPECIALIST. We booked the appointment for the Specialist and the second analysis all very quickly. Thankfully, the results from the second came back completely normal.

I knew, through some research, that Kentucky is #48 on the list of “Fertility Friendly States” so when my OB told us that the best specialist around was in Cincinnati, we were okay with it. It’s only about 1 1/2 hours from where we live, but still… it’s 1 1/2 hours from where we live! Thankfully they had a satellite office in Florence, which is only about an hour. On our first visit, I remember the triage nurse asking me how far we’d driven to get there and when I’d told her just an hour, she said they’d just had someone there that had driven 3 hours! SHEW! I feel like he was totally worth it now! Then we met him and I KNEW he was totally worth it. The consultation and ultrasound actually took less time than the drive up there. It was so much information so quickly and I think my hubby and I both just felt completely overwhelmed by it all… but, now we had a gameplan!! We were on the road to getting pregnant!!

Of course one of the looming obstacles now is, the exorbitant cost of the infertility treatments themselves… But, we are taking it one day, one step, one breath and often days, one tear at a time….

please

Post Script: Resolve has since updated & Kentucky is now #50.

My Thoughts on Infertility

You know that feeling?  The one where you suddenly feel all alone in a sea of people?  Or that dream?  Where you scream and scream but no one hears you?  That’s KIND of how it feels sometimes…  This is a journey I’d NEVER expected to go on.  I certainly didn’t pack the right things.  You can NEVER find your unbreakable heart when you need it the most!!!

Infertility is a medical condition… much like cancer or heart disease.  A woman is only diagnosed “Infertile” after 1 year (12 months) of actively trying to get pregnant.  I know 4 months or 8 months is hard…  believe me, I know.  And I’m in no way saying you aren’t entitled to the sadness.  I’m just saying…  give it a year.  Then you’ll know if it was truly infertility, or just impatience.  Most Doctors wont do anything until you’ve been having unprotected intercourse with your partner for at least one year, but if you think you might truly, truly have something that will place you on this path I pray you’ll never understand, PLEASE don’t hesitate to tell your Dr.  Once you hit my age, time is no longer your friend.

I’ve met some new friends on this journey and I’ve reconnected with some old friends… A close, recently reconnected childhood friend, Brooke always tells me that it’s a “sacred, unique bond” that we share.  I can’t think of a better way to describe it.  She says it’s the sisterhood of infertility – it’s “not quite as sexy as travelling pants, but what can you do?” Of course, she’s ALWAYS been amazing with words, sometimes regardless of if you want to hear them or not!!  **I love you, friend!**

I’ve not shared this journey with many…  for many reasons.

  1. I’m scared. Plain and Simple.
  2. It’s raw & emotional.
  3. It’s uncomfortable for many.
  4. I don’t want to hear the “I have a friend that did this and then went on to have 2 children naturally” or “Just adopt, people always have kids after they adopt” or (my personal favorite [insert sarcastic tone] “Just relax!”
  5. I don’t want people to try and “Fix It”

So with all that being said….  I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.

Those of you that haven’t been there – GOOD. I hope and pray you never have to.  Those of you that are just starting this journey – Reach out.  SERIOUSLY.  It’s lonely enough without actually being lonely.  To those of you that have been travelling wearily – I may have only been on this path for 20 months, but here’s my hand.  Grab it, we’ll walk together a spell.

The best way I can think of to describe infertility (and marriage), as a journey, is like an onion…  I know, bear with me!  You get an onion.  It looks perfect from the outside.  Then you peel off that first layer.  Not quite what you expected, so you keep peeling.  As you peel, it makes you cry.  But you start to get to the good stuff – though not without more crying.  Then you throw it in the fire.  As it heats up, the aroma reaches you.  but it’s changed.  Still makes you cry, but now there a sweetness to it.  As it cooks, it becomes more transparent.  And the longer it cooks, the sweeter it gets.  How does that relate to infertility, you ask?  Let me try and explain how my brain processes that…  I found an onion… my husband.  He looks (almost) perfect from the outside.  The first layer peeled off rather quickly – not as expected.  It made me cry, but I kept peeling.  Then we were thrown in the fire.  It’s heated up and believe you me, it’s changed – I’ve changed.  There is a sweetness to it.  It’s a bitter sweetness.  Jon & I have grown closer.  We’ve been tested on levels I never even imagined exsisted.  Have I wanted to walk away?  ABSOLUTELY.  Would I?  NEVER.  I can’t imagine going through this journey with ANYONE else.  Even though he often doesn’t have the right words and doesn’t even begin to know what to do when I’m crying – once he’s softened – there’s no place I’d rather my tears land than on the soft, welcoming shoulder of my husband’s strong arms.

So there’s that.  The following blogs will be more about my personal journey, and possibly some of other’s journies that they will allow me to share.  If you love it, good.  If you don’t – oh well, start your own blog.  😉