January 31, 2013

Does Isaiah's Prophecy Apply?

In studying the first week of Beth Moore's Breaking Free, the central Scripture was Isaiah 61:1-3. 
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

As I first read this passage in the context of my breaking free from spiritual chains, I was applying these words to my own life, interpreting them as a prophecy written on my own life. Though I have read these verses in the context of Christ, for whatever reason my perspective was different this time. But then, I got to the next paragraph in Beth's study guide and she explicitly pointed out how these verses were indications of the great works and power the Messiah Jesus was going to have on earth (and referenced Luke 4:14-21 as prophetic fulfillment.) 

Certainly Beth is correct in his interpretation of these verses, but my heart was a bit down-trodden as I realized they weren't indications of prophecy meant for my life. I was disappointed, but moved on, knowing I serve a Christ who is capable of all of those things. 

And then, the moment of clarity came to me as quick as a flash, evidently a word from the Holy Spirit (John 14:12-13). 
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 
These words from the mouth of Jesus, the one fulfilling the prophecy to bind up the broken hearts, to bring (to BE) the Good News, and proclaim the Lord to all those who mourn, was telling me that through my faith in him I was do those same great deeds on his behalf -- and even greater. HOW POWERFUL!

My God is a God of redemption, of glory, of greatness, of healing and mercy. And through his anointing on my life, the righteousness poured into me through the sacrifice of his Son, I am given the power to do even greater things than Christ

Am I (are you?) prepared for the fullness of this prophecy in my life?  

January 29, 2013

Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Simple things that have made me smile lately.

1) Kirsten, a senior in our youth group & very near to my heart, coming to a book club filled with 6th and 7th graders after a long college visitation day.

2) Finding this message and photo on my Facebook wall after getting home from a less-than-stellar performance during pit orchestra practice.
This is my beautiful piano teacher, youth group leader, book club leader, and over all my best friend. I love you Mel and I can never get enough of being with you!!!!!!!! 

3) Refocusing my time and efforts onto my recipe blog, complete with a redesign. I am LOVING it.

4) Using our new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens. This thing makes me realize how much I was missing by only using our stock lens. WOW.

5) After ordering the wrong sizes for our first ever TOMS order in December, my new shoes finally arrived yesterday! I used my Christmas and birthday money to purchase two pairs of these awesome shoes. And CHECK OUT THE PATTERN! I am over-the-moon geeked about them! (I also ordered a plain navy pair for the more classic use.) Last night at orchestra, a few of the clarinet girls were equally excited when they noticed them. I felt pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie.
Now, I am thankful the other pair of TOMS didn't work out, because just a few months ago they had yet to come out with a music shoe pattern. I am glad I had to wait.

Info about TOMS - They are easy to wear, cute and most of all comfortable! PLUS they give a pair to a child in need every time you purchase a pair. Cool, huh? (PS- I normally wear a size 8 and I fit into a 7 in these and a 7.5 in the navy, though a 7 would work. Just a word to the wise.)


And you know what? I'm just going to stop there. That's a lot of little happiness.


January 24, 2013

God First, God Second, God Third.

As I journey down the path of infertility, of waiting and hoping, demanding and pouting, praying and seeking, I have finally begun to discover a purpose to all of this. --God himself has not been the point of my life, all along. He may have been a priority, even the first priority, but He has certainly not been my everything. I have conjured up needs that can only be met through children, as if I will only be who I'm created to be as a mother.

But wait. Didn't GOD create me? So how can I go about questioning Him and even replacing his place on the throne of my heart with my children?

I distinctly remember the moment of clarity I had, regarding my life's priorities. I was walking up the stairs and stopping suddenly, sharing this visionary statement with my husband.
"What if a reason for this infertility is God waiting for me to acknowledge my only worth is in him, not in my role as as a mother? My children will not give me a divine identity. That only comes from God.
And there it was as clear as day--I needed to make Jesus my only. Although that deep moment of listening to God's call was a few months ago, it was only this morning that I saw an even deeper meaning-- it's not just about prioritizing my life and making God number one again.

Read these words by Oswald Chambers, quoted in Beth Moore's Breaking Free -

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord. — Isaiah 6:1
Our soul’s history with God is frequently the history of the “passing of the hero.” Over and over again God has to remove our friends in order to bring Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was, died – I gave up everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? or – I saw the Lord?

It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever. “In all the world there is none but thee, my God, there is none but thee.”

Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision.

I was complete stricken with this statement, this life-altering view of seeking only God. And as we focus all on Jesus, but of course He will flow out of our hearts onto others, seeping from our very being.

All God.
Only God. 
No other priorities. 

January 21, 2013

km photography | Josh & Amanda's Wedding

Back in December we had the awesome opportunity to photograph Josh & Amanda's wedding. This lovely couple became friends of ours during our time in Monroe, Michigan as we shared lives in a small group, lead the youth ministry together, and went on a few double dates. In November 2011, we made the trip from our newly settled New York home to Monroe to shoot their engagement photos. A few months later we were honored to be asked to be their wedding photographers.

December 21st, 2012 (12-21-12) was a freezing cold day with gusty winds and a temperature that made outdoor photos questionable. Both Amanda and I were pushing for outdoors (I shoot much better in natural light), so we gave it a go. My toes ended up slightly numb (she traded shoes with me at the end! The girls were wearing Ugg boots for these pictures.), and I'm pretty sure the girls were frozen despite their adorable black shrugs, but it was a success. 

I loved being behind the scenes with the bridesmaids as they got dolled up for the big event. It was such a great way to help out as I could and get to know each girl better. Knowing your photo subjects makes photography that much easier (and way more fun!) 

Kevin and I both had a blast at this all-day event. It was great spending all that time with Josh & Amanda  on this momentous occasion and I hope they feel the same. Thanks, guys, for this opportunity and for your business! 

Here are few favorites from that special day together.





January 17, 2013

Ice Cream Date with a 6 Year Old

And now for something completely different....

As a fun change of pace from the past few posts full of difficulty and challenge, I wanted to share with you the fun evening I had with a very special 6 year old.  Miss Madison and I used to spend a lot of time together when she was still a preschooler last year. Her mommy (aka my bff, Sheryl) and I would go grocery shopping together or spend a morning talking, but I always made sure to make time for Maddie. We would play Barbies or a game of Hi Ho Cherrio and have a grand old time together. 

Well, nowadays, Maddie (who has decided she wants to be called "Madison") is halfway through her year in kindergarten, and she's always mentioning how she misses spending time with me. I've even heard her say, "But Jillian [her 3 year old sister] gets to spend all the time with Melanie!" 

This sets the stage for Madison's 6th birthday party. I was the one "friend" she was inviting to her party in addition to her family, and Madison called me a couple hours before the big evening to ask me to come over early and play with her. How sweet! We had just enough time for her to beat in me in a round of "Spot It" AND half a game of Phase 10. (no joke!) 

I knew there were many gifts I could buy Maddie that would make her very happy, but I decided to be different this time. I wrote out a gift certificate that said: 
This gift card is presented to Madison and is good for one ice cream date with Melanie. 
She was THRILLED! 

A few days later I picked her up and we headed to Coldstone together. 

check out the perfect height of that "Peek Thru" window! 

Madison picked out the peanut butter cup creation--sweet cream ice cream with real peanut butter, peanut butter cups and fudge mixed in! (that's my first favorite choice at Coldstone!)

happy girls
I decided to get the dark chocolate peppermint ice cream with brownies and fudge. Yes, it was delicious!

As we talked, we got on the subject of American Girl dolls. I told her all about my Samantha doll and I could tell she was eager to meet this special doll. I brought her back to my house and pulled the box from the back of the closet. Madison's eyes lit up when she saw how pretty Samantha was and quickly went to work deciding which outfit she should change into. 

I told Madison how I hoped to give my doll (whom I've had for 16 years now!) to my daughter one day, and she conveniently slipped this gem of a comment in the conversation. "Well, if you ever decide to give her away, you could give her me." Ok, Maddie, I'll remember that. :) 

Maddie was really enjoying her ice cream!
I'm glad the two of us had this special time together. I think these memories are something that will stick with us both. (Unlike that ice cream. Except maybe that's what I'm seeing on my hips....)

January 14, 2013

Does Giving Birth Make a Girl a Woman?

I had gathered with a large number of wonderful ladies and we were going around introducing ourselves. As part of the "about me" sentence, it was suggested that we share how many children we have and how old they are. Of all the women in the room (some younger than me), I was the only one childless. I held it together, but that moment of "I'm Melanie, and I don't have have any children" was raw and painful and even embarrassing. Did I belong?

Later that day, one of my friends, knowing my struggle, pondered, "When did our children become our identity?" A good question, indeed. 

For years now, I have wondered if I would ever been seen as a grown woman--adult, independent, responsible, able. I look young for my age (as in I am mistaken for a teenager on a weekly basis), so this doesn't help my case. But I have been on my own for nearly 10 years. Four and a half of those, I have been married, and together we've maintained a home, jobs, and a bank account. But I still feel like an "outsider" so often. 

So much of women's conversation revolves around their children; and for a good reason. I understand that being a mother does become much of a woman's identity and that her love for her babies is unmatched. But I can't participate in those discussions. I smile, of course, and I truly do enjoy hearing about my friends' children. I love playing with their kids, being called "My Melanie" by those little ones who love me dearly, seeing photo updates of their growth and reading stories of hilarious antics. 

But, no matter how welcoming my friends are & no matter how much I love being with them and their children, nothing can offer me entrance into the sacred club of motherhood other than a child of my own. 

And so, I remain the babysitter, the onlooker, the dreamer. 

How can I change the world's perception of me? Can I be a woman--fully alive, not lacking purpose-- even if I never have children? You might say, "But of course I see you as a peer, Melanie, as a friend." But there's nothing either of us can do to change the gap that exists. 

January 11, 2013

Another Year Before Testing

Continued from Wednesday's post.

...And for the next 12 months, the lab requisitions stayed at the bottom of our metaphorical pile. We were in a new state, trying to make new friends, living with no health insurance. As upset as I was that we weren't conceiving, beginning the hunt for a good doctor, then paying for tests and treatments, and dealing with medical expenses and painful rigmarole just didn't seem feasible. In fact, it seemed insurmountable

Some friends couldn't understand how we were putting off this decision. Why wait to get some simple lab work done? What if it's a simple fix? I could totally understand their questions. I had similar thoughts floating around my brain. 

It was becoming clear that for as much as I wanted to start our family, or even just to know if it was going to be possible, we were becoming more and more content with how thing were. Just us. No strings attached. And I think there is a fear that still lingers--fear of the unknown, how things will change, what will be given up. Answers we can't know until that precious moment is granted us. 

But soon I realized I needed to have my yearly gyn appointment, at the very least. I did some asking around for names of doctors and finally settled on an office. I made my appointment, not knowing if I had made the right choice in a physician or not. When I left the exam room that day, I said, "That was the BEST doctor's appointment I have ever had." The exam only took 10 minutes, but she sat down and talked to me for at least 45 minutes more, finding out our story and talking about possible fertility solutions. She gave me laboratory requisitions--one for me, one for Kevin--with instructions on which hospitals to call. Additionally, she wrote a request for an HSG Fluoroscopy, a pricey procedure that was optional but would give us great insights into the workings of my organs. 

In true Kevin-and-Mel form, we put these procedures off, but only for a month this time. Both of us got our lab work done--with no questionable results to concern us. Yay! We knew we couldn't afford to get the  fluoroscopy procedure done at this point, so we were blessed beyond belief when a loved one offered to pay for the $800 x-ray. After a 15 minute procedure that was much quicker and MUCH MORE painful than I had anticipated, we already had our answers--my insides looked A-ok. 

Our wonderful doctor called me the next week to follow up on the exam results and, in doing so, ended up saving us the $100 office visit fee. Another gift! She said there were no issues with any of our tests so to give it two more months and come back for a follow-up if we hadn't yet conceived. 

Which brings us to the present. 

read more about our journey through infertility


January 9, 2013

The "Quick Fix" I Didn't Take

Can I just say what an amazing blessing it has been to finally talk about the "elephant" in my room? It's relief to not feel like I have to hide something, yes. But much beyond that, the outpouring of love, encouragement, and shared stories have been unexpected and beautiful. Thank you for being a friend. 
Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

There are many paths a couple can take when they're faced with infertility. Tests, bloodwork, temperature readings, exams, referrals, pills, injections, and the list goes on. Here is how our journey started.

Six months into TTC* I was getting a little concerned and mentioned something to my Ob/Gyn at my yearly exam. He assured me there wasn't anything to be concerned about; we were young and in good health. "Give it six more months and if you still haven't conceived at the year mark, come back and see me." As you know, the one year came around with no prospects of a baby, and back to the doctor I went. Unfortunately for me, he was at the hospital delivering someone else's baby (the nerve!) and I was going to see the nurse practitioner. 

*trying to conceive

Now, here's the thing. I have absolutely nothing against Nurse Practitioners. In fact, I rather like them. But this appointment was a BIG DEAL for me. I had officially crossed over the medical line into infertility. I wanted answers, guidance,  help, and most importantly someone who knew me and my story. This woman came in, heard my brief synopsis, looked over my ovulation tracker, deemed me "ovulatory" (a good thing) and then proceeded to write up a lab request for anovulation and a prescription for Clomid (pill for anovulation.)  Something just didn't add up! She wanted to give me a quick fix (for a problem it didn't appear I had) with a pill that has been known for crazy side effects (namely hormonal, but also risk for multiples). Between that uneasy feeling in my gut (this just doesn't seem right, Mel) and the fact we were packing up and moving our lives 3 states away just one month later, the paperwork was pushed to the bottom of the pile...

January 7, 2013

Coming to Grips: August 2011

If this is the first time you've been to our blog (or if it's a been a while), let me say welcome. Pull up a chair, bring a mug of your favorite tea, and join us. Right now we are in the middle of sharing a very personal struggle. For the first time ever, we are publicly sharing the details of our on-going journey through infertility. Please feel free to read these previous posts before continuing.
31 Month Confession 
Journal Entry at the 12th Month

Before we move to present struggles, glorious victories, and what in the world we've been doing to "treat" this for the past 2 years, here is a slightly-gut-wrenching journal entry I wrote almost a year and a half ago.

august 27, 2011
So much pain poured out in my prayer journal this morning. It was welling up inside of me--anxiety, hurt, fear--and it came flowing out in tears. 
Oh, God! Why are my insides pulling part, churning, convulsing? You are so, so good to me. And I don't know where this anxiety came from, Jesus. Give me clarity. Show me your peace. So much tension is welling up inside of me, God. 
What if we never have a baby? That is becoming more and more a reality to me. and my heart breaks. I am at a loss for words, tears streaming down my face. Feeling alone, like no one can really understand. "Just wait," they say, "It'll happen in God's time." Why do they lie to me, Father? They make up niceties to tickle my ears and give me a false sense of peace. But nothing says you will give me a child. NOTHING. 
2010. June. July. August. September. October. November. December. 2011. January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. 
That's 15 months, God. And my hope is fading. Yesterday, I ordered a necklace form Lisa Leonard Designs with a gift card I won. I had been waiting and waiting to order one with ours and our baby's initials on it. But it has occurred to me, in a very real way, that this day might not ever come. Or, at the very least, I shouldn't sit and wait for it to happen. Because it might not. And what are we to do? Do we get tested? When? And then what?
Could it be this is what you have for us? Life together, without babies of our own?
And now that I ordered the necklace I feel it releases me to live my life without planning around a little one who may or may not ever be. A job--is this what you have for me? Saving for who knows what?--a house, but why? a car? missions? vacations? adoption
In any case, it doesn't matter. I can't sit hear, twiddling my thumbs, waiting and hoping and praying and putting all my stock in my plans to be a mother. What if I'm never a mom--like I have always dreamed I would be? What if I never get to push that beautiful red stroller or use those adorable onesies that I started buying over a year ago at garage sales. It made sense then. We were going to start trying. We were going to get pregnant. I might as well start preparing.
But I was so, so wrong. And all of that was wasted. How could I ever let myself get so wrapped up in a hope, a dream? Assumption. Expectation. 
But you never promised this. You only promised to be there, be HERE with me. Through the pain. Into the unknown. Transforming into beauty. 
Be here now, God. 



January 4, 2013

Journal Entry at the 12th Month

God has been working wonders in my heart over the past two years as we've journeyed down the road of infertility, and I can't wait to share his goodness with you. But let's back up the story and visit something I wrote June 9, 2011 (a year and a half ago), when my heart was raw and aching after crossing that 12th month, you're-officially-considered-medically-infertile marker.

Tuesday, June 7th marked the 12th month of unsuccessful pregnancy attempts. Back in June 2010, Kevin was totally on board with the issue, but he wasn't REALLY looking forward to the prospect of reproducing until the New Year. I know he would have been totally stoked about any pregnancy, but it wasn't a deep desire for him until the last few months.  
I, on the other hand, have been longing for this time in life for years. I can remember playing "house" as a girl and wanting to be a mommy so badly. For many years, maybe even until I started dating Kevin, I thought the reason to get married was to HAVE kids--babies were the point, right? I have realized in the past 3 years of marriage, that babies are most certainly NOT the point of marriage.  
Children are going to be an enormous blessing--something we're going to be more thankful now than if we'd gotten pregnant lickity split.  
Children are an incredible responsibility--something I don't think we're ready for and never will be.
Children are an important form of obedience to God's creation command to "fill the earth"--and they will be our most important contributions to the Body of Christ. 
My heart so deeply desires children. The passion has grown and strengthened since we were first married and now, that's it taken so long and we've not gotten pregnant, there is a fear. What if this never happens to me? What if I'm that woman who is barren? What if I'm Hannah? 
We both thought it would be easy to get pregnant--that as soon as we decided to try, we'd conceive. Not. so. much. And all around us, our friends are getting pregnant and having babies. I could count 20 or 30 friends our age who have conceived and given birth since we started trying. And NONE OF THEM knew what we were going through. (We hadn't not told anyone but closest friends and family that we were trying.) We're extremely excited for each of them. But there's a pain in my heart every time I see someone else announce their good news.
But I have to come to terms (at least for today) with the fact that God is IN CONTROL--NOT ME. His timing and His planning is perfect. He knew the last 12 months of extended one-on-one marriage would be extremely important to our growth and maturity. We're going to be better parents because of it. He knew we'd be moving to New York, uprooting ourselves, starting seminary, becoming involved in a new church, finding our feet all over again. He knows what's down the road, that I can't possibly anticipate. He is SO GOOD. 
He gives and He takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

And now we wait, we pray, we seek guidance (from friends and family who've been there.) 

I remember very vividly the emotions I felt as we went into New Years Day 2011, then again in June. These present days are much less raw, with tears being shed only every month or two. I have come to expect to not be pregnant, so my hopes aren't dashed nearly as frequently. But there are days, here and there, where my heart is heavy and the tears come. And that's ok too.

The struggle now is finding the balance between maintaining a true and Christ-like hope in this deep desire of mine without letting it become an expectation, something my world revolves around. My heart has released, more and more, the idea that children will somehow complete me, make me the woman I was meant to be. Only GOD, in all his goodness, can fill me, finish me. 

Make that truth known to me today, Jesus

January 3, 2013

The One with a 31 Month Confession

Dear friends, 

I have something to confess. I have been keeping a very large corner of my heart a secret from you all for many months. I didn't know if I should share or if this was something the Lord wanted me to keep private. And so I've waited for a peace about when to open this up for all to see. 

But I haven't been able to blog, to write anything, because I feel false, like I'm hiding something. And I am. 

It has been over 2 -1/2 years (31 months to be exact) since Kevin and I have been trying to conceive. We have been unsuccessful in starting our family--a pain I didn't know I would ever experience, nor could have I comprehended. As I have started sharing more openly with friends and family the pain lessened, and I learned of friends in similar circumstances willing to stand shoulder to shoulder. No one has been unkind or pushy. Prayers are offered and some tears have been shed. Women everywhere understand the longing in our hearts to give birth to our own, to raise a child, to be called "Mother."

And so, even after sharing this struggle with many friends in our Christmas letter, it is with trepidation that I pour out my heart to all of you. 

Lord Jesus, as I begin to share my story use it to bring me freedom and to work in the heart of a friend or a stranger. All of this for you, Jesus. 

Over the next few weeks, I want to share more of our journey, how it began, where we are now, the tears that have fallen, the joy that has been granted. God is so good to us. He has been faithful to uphold us, to hide us in the shelter of his wing. He has withstood my angry cries, and offered peace. As I look back over the last 31 months, I am thankful the lessons I've learned. Most notably, contentment

And with that I ask you, friends, will you journey with me down this road of confusion and questions, pain and blessing?