Saturday, December 18, 2021

Joy to the World!

Hello to my dear friends and family! This blog has been lying dormant for quite some time now, but I decided to get back on here to send our greetings to all of you & share some of what has been on my heart and mind this Christmas season! 

I lead a college women's small group, and for the past year, we have been walking verse by verse through the Book of Revelation together (at their request!) And what a blessing it has been! Truly though, did you know Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises that anyone who reads it will be blessed? "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophesy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." Revelation 1:3  

You might be wondering why I am writing a Christmastime blog about Revelation, and I promise you that I do have some good reasons! For starters, Christmas was the incarnation of Jesus Christ and Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, so Jesus is central to both. His birth was the beginning of many prophecies being fulfilled and the events foretold in Revelation will be the consummation! It brings it all full circle.  The prophesies of Christ began to be realized in Bethlehem, but did not end on the cross or even at His resurrection. They will be completely fulfilled when He comes again to establish His kingdom on earth, do away with evil forever and live eternally with His people in perfect peace, like He has always wanted! 

Also, The Book of Revelation is a gift from God to Jesus, and then a gift from Jesus to us! "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw-- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:1-2  We think a lot about gifts this time of year.  But what about this amazing gift we have sitting right there in the back of our Bibles? Open it up, I can't recommend this to you enough! It is a great tragedy that so many churches and people avoid this marvelous section of Scripture. I get that it is pretty unique and can be difficult to wrap your mind around, but it is literally Jesus unveiling parts of Himself and His future plans to us! Isn't that what most of us want... to know Him more and have insight into the future? How extremely kind of Him to share any of that with us! Truly such a gift. You do the reading and He'll do the revealing! 

I've always loved the song, "Joy to the World!" I even chose some words from that great song for our Christmas card this year. A few weeks later, I was preparing for small group and made a very cool discovery! This beautiful poem (later turned song), was not written about Jesus' first coming (Christmas), but His second coming! Isaac Watts wrote it in the year 1719, in anticipation of Christ's return to rule and reign on the earth:

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart, prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ, 
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, repeat the sounding joy, 
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found. 

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove.
The glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love, and wonders and wonders of His love."

What began at Christmas will be fulfilled when He returns again in glory...
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing it with justice and righteousness, from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7  

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then He said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:3-5

Talk about JOY TO THE WORLD when that day arrives! 

If there is one word that keeps coming up in discussion during small group, it is "urgency." That is because we know that between now and Christ establishing His kingdom on earth, there will be a lot of judgement and wrath that takes place, especially during a 7 year period known as the "great tribulation." Humanity has always been very stubborn, and many people sadly continue to reject Christ's sacrifice on their behalf and His free gift of salvation. What no one wants to think about or talk about is how those who do not repent and receive this gift will be subjected to His wrath and will ultimately be tormented forever and ever in the lake of fire (hell). God is love, but God is also just! He is actively holding back His wrath right now because He desires for everyone to be saved. He will judge the ungodly, but not before going to great lengths to try and save them first. Are you certain that you are in Christ? If not, I pray that today be the day! Nothing else matters like this. And nothing breaks my heart more than thinking about people I love enduring God's wrath and not spending eternity with Jesus in glory. You get to choose your destiny. Hell is real, heaven is real, and both are eternal. 

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Revelation 21:17

I'd love to talk more with you and try to answer any questions you may have. You are not alone. "I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see." Your life can change in an instant, just like mine did! I pray you will answer His call. 

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, loves of pleasure rather than lovers of God" 2 Timothy 3:1-4

If you are a believer, I encourage you to read the Book of Revelation so that Christ will be revealed to you even more and  so that you will have a renewed sense of urgency to share the truth with the lost. And also to help you keep an eternal perspective as this world continues to go downhill. 

"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." Revelation 22:17, 20-21

I pray that meditating on both the first coming and second coming of Jesus will challenge and bless all of you this Christmas, as it has me! Look upon the manger with great gratitude, while remembering that our humble newborn King is now seated at the right hand of God and will come again in glory to establish His eternal kingdom on earth! We have so many reasons to be full of hope here between the already of Christmas and not yet of His return. Let's extend that hope to the hopeless all around us! 

In closing, I want to share with you a little remix of  a verse of "The Christmas Song" that I wrote the other day as I was pondering all of this:

We know that Christ is on His way,
All of heaven will be with Him on that day.
And every human being is going to find,
that some horses really know how to fly!

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
to kids from one to ninety-two,
Although it's been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

This is my first official Christmas letter blog! I did not get cards sent out this year, but I do love me some Christmas cards and letters and decided there was still time for me to do a virtual one! 

Corey and I have had quite the year! It started off in such a sweet way when we got our puppy, Sage, in early January! Corey had to wear me down pretty hard to agree to getting another puppy, but I am so glad I did finally agree! She is so stinkin' adorable and entertaining! We call her "Sage-a-roo" because she hops and bounces all over the place. She even jumps completely over the couch sometimes... and she's not that big at all! She has brought us so much joy and laughter. We could not imagine 2 dogs loving each other more than Sage and Mocha do. They are the best of friends! What a HUGE blessing our dogs are to us! We are those crazy dog people and are proud of it! Ha ha. 

We have had some awesome times in family and friends this year! People coming to stay with us, game nights, celebrating birthdays, weekend getaways, etc. have been a few of the most memorable. One highlight of the year was when my brothers and I were all home in Nebraska for Easter! And by some miracle, we will all be home together again for Christmas! Since I live in Arkansas, Sean lives in Texas and Taylor lives in Colorado... this is actually quite significant!

We also had an awesome getaway this summer to Big Cedar outside of Branson with Dad & Angie! It was a not-so-suprise birthday trip Dad and I planned for Corey and Angie. Their birthdays are a day apart! We had SO much fun! 

Another highlight was spending quality time with Corey's family in Fort Worth at his sister Stephanie's house this summer and again over Thanksgiving in Arkansas!

It has been quite a wild year for us in that we sold our house, moved into a rent house and began building a new house! Whew! We moved in May and broke ground in August. The projected move-in timeframe for the new house is late May/early June. Because my husband is super smart and talented, we (he) drew our own floorplan and then we had a draftsman officially draw it all up with the roof elevations, etc. included. That whole process was actually much smoother and more fun than I thought it would be. The idea of doing it ourselves stressed me out, but it was neat to be able to make it our own and work through it together! They just finished framing and are now working on the roof. The pace is really starting to pick up! We are thankful the house will be enclosed before any crazy weather happens! You never know what you are going to get here. It may not snow at all or we may have multiple snow days! Kind of hoping for the latter :) 

We feel so blessed being able to build this home! God has truly made the way and guided our path. It is weird building in hopes that we will still have a child/children to fill our home and hearts, but not knowing if that will be the case. But we are still hoping and believing & have made space for that answered prayer! Whatever happens, we know God has a good purpose for us as it relates to this house. We desire for it to be used for His glory as more than a place to live, but a place to be His hands and feet to others whom we welcome in. This excites me so much! He has truly given me such a heart for hospitality! We would love your prayers for us during this house building process and that God will continue to make His will known! 

Here is the most recent photo of the house taken yesterday, 12/18/17 :) 

Corey continues to excel at his career as a dentist at the Smile Center in Springdale! He makes me so proud in the way he treats his patients and the rapport he has with the rest of the staff! We love being a part of this great office. I get to see Dr. Corey in action firsthand more than I'd like to because I seem to be rather cavity prone. On the bright side, it is neat to get to see him do his thing both as a wife and a patient! 

When he is not working hard, he is playing hard! Corey loves flyfishing and golfing....and playing basketball, and going to Razorback games, and hiking, and kayaking. Needless to say, he's a pretty active guy with lots of hobbies! I love that because I am rather adventurous myself. We are always finding something fun to do together! A few of my favorite new experiences we had together this year were vacationing in Maui, Hawaii going to Magnolia Market in Waco, TX :)

I am still the owner and photographer at my business, "c.nic photography." I truly love what I do! I have always been a huge picture person and realize how blessed I am that one of my favorite hobbies and my job are now one in the same. I do miss nursing at times, but this feels right right now. I am thankful to have the flexibility of a photographer schedule... especially during this season of building a house! God has provided me with awesome people to work with and capture at various special times in their lives. 

Corey and I are still in a season of waiting as far as children are concerned. Much to our surprise, we have gone a whole year with doing absolutely nothing fertility related. No doctors, no medications, no nothing. We continue to pray that God will direct our path. It has not been easy being in limbo for so long, but our desire is for His will to be done, whatever that may be. We believe that if He does not bless us with children of our own by natural birth or adoption, He will bless us with opportunities to use this desire He has given us in other ways. This journey has certainly looked nothing like we could have ever imagined. These past 6.5 years of infertility and loss have at times stolen our joy, shattered our hopes, threatened our marriage and taken us to the depths of despair. But I wouldn't trade it because all of that has caused me to experience an authentic relationship with Jesus that I'm not sure I would have ever had otherwise. And that is so worth the cost! (Literally crying as I type this). All the feels. Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I will endure this pain the rest of my life if it means He will somehow be glorified. It is temporary, and before I know it, I will be in heaven singing his praises, with a completely whole and healthy body and surrounded by unending peace and joy! No sin, no death, no despair. All because He came to meet me in my humanity and and died to save me. He has allowed this pain in my life to draw me to Him. What Satan wants to be a terrible curse, God has used as a great blessing. As I have said many times before, He gives beauty for ashes! 

In closing, I will leave you with something Billy Graham once said. "Without Christmas, there would be no Easter. And without Easter, Christmas wouldn't matter." 

Thank you, Jesus, for both your birth and your death & resurrection! Please help us remember that neither Christmas nor Easter is seasonal, but central to the gospel! 

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
With all our hearts we praise His holy name. 
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, 
His power and glory ever more proclaim! 
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I am very thankful for all of what 2017 held for us! Memories, lessons, healing, growth and provision all happened within this great year. We look forward to ending it on a beautiful Christmas note and beginning anew in 2018. We pray blessing upon all of our loved ones in 2018! Thank you for being a special part of our lives.
Merry Christmas!

Chelsey & Corey

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Last week I had a day where I was flat out in a really bad mood. I literally spent the whole day feeling bad for myself and being anxious and irritable and just BLAH!!! And I felt like I had every right to be, because "my life just isn’t fair."  Sometimes it feels like a constant series of “one thing comes together and then another thing falls apart.” 

As badly as I needed some good sleep, it wasn’t going to happen…because my mind was reeling. Unfortunately I know all too well from experience that there is no point in even crawling into bed when I’m in that state. So I went out into the living room and I decided to do my bible study homework that I had been putting off all day. But I couldn’t focus, so I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram (because that is always so helpful)… until I finally collapsed on the ground in tears. 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12

Lately I’ve had the lyrics to this amazing worship song stuck in my head:

Tonight those lyrics were on repeat in my mind once again, and I finally was still long enough to realize that Jesus was calling out to me in those words. I’ve learned in my years of walking with Him that He often speaks to me through music. Its kind of our thing. 

So back to me on the floor crying. I finally surrendered and said “yes Lord, I’m broken… my heart, my body. I’m overwhelmed by my sin. I’m tired, I’m thirsty, I’m desperate for you. And if we are being honest, I’m angry and I am frustrated, too.” And although He did not audibly speak, I felt in my heart He was saying, “I’m calling, just answer.” And in that moment I realized that I spent all day pitying myself, complaining to friends, crying to my husband, being bummed out, trying to keep busy… when what I needed most was just to hear from Jesus, to answer His call and respond “yes Lord, let's talk... because I know You alone have what I need.” 

Being saved means you are going to heaven and nothing will ever change that. But it does not mean you always choose to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. It is a daily choice, and lately I’ve been choosing wrong. And it shows in the symptoms that my mind and body are experiencing.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 says "Do not quench the Spirit." Paul is speaking to believers... People like me who he knows are prone to doing just that, and ending up in a tizzy. 

As I sat/layed there praying, my eyes were opened to the fact that the bulk of the pain & frustration in my life has come from unmet expectations. And not only in my relationships…but in my health, my dreams, my plans. And you know what hit me like a ton of bricks? Even my relationship with God has not met my expectations. Yikes!!!!! OF COURSE He has blessed me, but not exactly in the ways I WANT Him to. As thankful as I am for all He has given and forgiven, I realized that deep down I am bitter about what has not been fulfilled. Basically the attitude that I have sometimes is like saying, “God, I know you have saved me from the road to hell and placed me on the road to heaven only by your grace and mercy and goodness, but if we're being honest… I don’t love the view. Can I maybe get a better seat? Closer to the front? By a window? I’d love a snack and a blanket, too. And the sooner the better. I mean I'm really looking forward to heaven, but I’d like to be more comfortable on the journey.”  

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??? I totally relate to the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 when he says, “what a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” When I am honest with myself, sometimes it is shocking how I really feel. Lord, forgive me!

So as much as I needed sleep, I needed a wake up call even more! The definition of expectation is “belief about the way things will or should be.” If I insist on my expectations being met on this highway to heaven, I am going to miss out on SO MUCH GOOD, because I will be spending the bulk of my time being disappointed. Yes, I’ll still make it there no matter how ungrateful or whiny I am. By His grace, He won’t ditch me somewhere along the way… but the ride won’t be near as enjoyable as it could be if all I focus on is how less than perfect it is from my perspective!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

I'm thankful for the times God lovingly straightens me out. He allows us to feel the anxiety and the tension and the frustration to signal us that something is not right.  He is always there to show us the truth and to fill up our empty places that we try so hard to fill in other ways. And He is always calling, but never forces us to answer. I wish I wouldn't "ignore" Him so often before finally answering. If anyone deserves my full attention, it's Him. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

I've been feeling SO nudged lately! You know how sometimes you just feel deep down like you are supposed to do something and then things keep happening to make it all the more clear? It started about a month ago as I finished up an awesome book on prayer that we were doing in my women's Bible study. The last chapter was titled "Are you ready?" It was a beautiful invitation to give your life to Jesus. I know there are people around me who need this invitation, so I decided I was going to share it on Facebook. But I got distracted and never did it. And the last few weeks in church, (as we are studying the Book of Jonah), our Pastor has really challenged us to share our faith. Like actually do it! Then a few weeks ago, I started a New Testament Bible reading plan. Right now I am reading through the Gospels and Jesus is sharing all sorts of parables about the desperate need for salvation in the world. I get teary eyed thinking about how so many people don't have it... don't have Him. I remember what that was like! But then I close my Bible and somehow just go on with my day. But not today, today was different. We are getting ready to go out of town for the holiday weekend and I have so much to do today, but I cannot put this off anymore. Nothing is more important than this! 

Why is it so easy to just sit on the sidelines watching this world crumble, thinking about how very sad it is, and then just move on? It is hard not to become numb in this culture. We see so much violence all around us every day and sin is celebrated and accepted by so many. It much more comfortable to pray for people's salvation behind closed doors in the privacy of my own home than it is to approach them with the Gospel. I know I am not alone here. So many believers are so quiet about the saving power of Jesus Christ. We are so worried about offending people these days. But what I've realized is that each person who ever had the nerve to approach me with the Gospel did offend me to a degree, but at the same time (unbeknownst to me) broke off another piece of my hardened heart, until eventually it was softened enough to be ripe for salvation. So that when my husband, (then boyfriend), asked me... "If you died today, do you know without a doubt where you'd be going?"... I wept and wept, because I knew the answer was no. And I finally understood the gravity of my sin and my need of a Savior! That is when it all began to change for the better. Soon after that, I gave my life to Christ and finally started to understand what true love and true freedom were all about! I am tired of holding back what He has done! I KNOW where I am going and I want as many people as possible to go with me! 

With Independence Day approaching, I've been thinking a lot about freedom. I'm proud to be an American and I am very patriotic! I love our veterans and I am so thankful for all of those who serve in the U.S. military to help secure our freedom as a nation!! The definition of the word Independence is: freedom from being controlled or ruled by another country. What a blessing that we Americans all have that physical & national independence! We should not take that for granted. But the sad truth is that many, many people in our country are still spiritually controlled by the "ruler of this world," Satan. And most don't even know it! They think they are in control of their own lives, but the truth is... You are either God's or Satan's. You're either free or you are in chains. Seriously let that sink in. Wake up to the fact that there is a spiritual war raging around us right now. What side are you on? 

"Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ."                 
2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Satan has so much control over the unbelieving world. He blinds the minds of unbelievers. If Jesus Christ is not your Lord and Savior, you are completely defenseless against Satan's lies and schemes. You're anything but independent and free! (Although he likes to give you the false sense that you are). Satan loves to keep people in bondage. It really, really burdens my heart now that I am on the outside looking in. I used to be so tangled up in his darkness. I was like a zombie going through the motions and never questioning why I was so religious, yet so empty. Satan wanted me to keep thinking if I just did enough and kept all the rules and performed well that I was good to go... because then I'd be too busy and too pridefully self absorbed to see the truth. The truth that it is not about what I do, but what Jesus DID! And his plan worked for a long time. I was lost, lonely, drowning in sin, full of guilt and shame, but going to church every Sunday and looking like I had it all together. So busy making sure the outside looked good while the inside was rotting. It was terribly lonely. Satan is the king of deception and teaches us how to fake it so well. To hide what is really going on inside. And that is exactly what I did for a really long time. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Matthew 23:27-28

But that is not how God operates. He brings sin into the light and shows mercy and grace and brings healing to our broken, dirty places. So we are washed clean rather than working so hard to cover up our filth. He knows everything about us and loves us anyway! He wants us to just come as we are. The truth of the Gospel is so simple, yet so profound. Jesus died so that we could live.... freely, abundantly & eternally! There is nothing like it. 

Here is what I have realized. Most people believe in God. But that is simply not enough. Even the demons believe in God! Here is the deal: You must BELIEVE + RECEIVE to = SALVATION.  It is essential that you believe in God, but please do not stop there. You then need to receive the free gift bought for you by His death on the cross. If you don't repent of your sins and welcome Him in to be the Lord of your life, you will NOT BE SAVED. Please understand that. There are a lot of unsaved, kind people wandering around this world. Folks that believe in God, that do nice things, that give to charities, etc. You can be a very pleasant person on earth and then not go to heaven. Because it is not about what YOU do, it is about what HE did! So believe and receive. That is God's design. 

When you read this today, I don't know if I am planting the 1st seed in your heart or the hundredth seed. And it really isn't any of my business. All I know is God calls me to share what I know and have been given! A relationship with Jesus, pardon from my sins and the promise of eternal life are all wrapped up in the greatest gift ever... salvation. Maybe you have believed for a long time, but if you haven't received, there is no time like the present! He stands at the door of your heart and knocks, but He will never force Himself in. You must open the door and invite Him in. He doesn't want a puppet He can control, He wants a child He can have a beautiful relationship with! He doesn't want to give you an impossible to-do list to earn His favor, He just wants you to rest in Him and let Him shower you clean with His righteousness. So that when God looks at you, He won't see your sins, He'll see Jesus. What a beautiful thing! I don't fear judgement now because I am not relying on my own righteousness anymore, but on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross! That is freedom in it's fullest sense. Anything else just won't cut it. There is nothing you could ever DO to earn this free gift. It has already been bought at a very high cost. 

It all comes down to one thing, a choice. Only one question remains...

I pray that whoever desperately needs salvation today will be stirred to fall onto their knees, repent of their sins and proclaim Jesus as Lord! I don't care what religion you are or what you have done in your past... His gift of grace is for all of us! I pray independence and freedom will take on a whole new meaning for some reading this. I feel strongly that God wanted me to share this message today. It is a beautiful day for lives to be changed. You just never know whose heart is ripe for salvation. Who just needs to be asked, "If you died today, do you know where you would be going?" I am asking. And if your answer is no, let's change that RIGHT NOW!! Because if you die, there is no second chance. And we all know how fragile life is. "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world but forfeit their soul?" Matthew 16:26 

 "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36


Monday, May 8, 2017

I'd say my last blog was more or less a spiritual update. Now I suppose it is time for more of a physical update! 

If you read my last post, you know that we have pretty much been on a break from all of the doctors, drugs, procedures, etc. etc. for like 2 years now. I have really been focusing on my health and I am happy to say that I am feeling better physically than I have felt in a long long time! I've been seeing a hormone specialist for the past year who has been helping me get my hormones balanced out, which in and of itself makes a huge difference in how I feel. They still aren't perfectly balanced, but we are definitely moving in the right direction, and I am so thankful! 

And I am also happy to report that my last check-up with my GYN Oncologist for my abnormal cervical cell issue showed an "all clear" pap smear and ECC. Praise Jesus! What a huge burden off our shoulders!!! I pray those yucky cells stay gone this time. We've been battling them for 4 years now. Every time I feel like my reproductive organs are in jeopardy, it seems God shields them and grants me more time before the dreaded "hysterectomy." Wouldn't that just be awesome if I never ended up needing to have one at all?! 

Another decision I made several months ago was to go on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication... after a very long time avoiding it. I can't tell you how many times Corey and I have discussed whether or not to go this route. It has definitely helped! I feel like the same person, I am still able to cry, etc., but everything just feels lighter and I am able to bounce back quicker from being upset or down. A close relationship with God is absolutely the best treatment for anxiety or depression, and He has sustained me these past 6 years. But I do believe many people also have a chemical imbalance that can be helped by medication. Especially now that I have experienced difference for myself do I really get it. There is nothing to be ashamed of! I am sure I will talk about that more at some point. Overall I am getting a lot more/better sleep (medication seems to help with that, too), I'm exercising more regularly and my stress levels are much lower than they had been. Other than the fact that I am not pregnant, I feel like I really can't complain. Major healing and restoration has taken place in my body, just like in my soul! 

But while everything seems to be changing for the better within my body, we've discovered something majorly unexpected involving Corey's body. We decided back in January to go see a reproductive endocrinologist in Tulsa for a fresh set of eyes over our entire case. Well, you have to be careful what you wish for! We got some major clarity. The doctor informed us that Corey has very poor sperm morphology (the shape of the sperm). His are 2% normal, 98% abnormal. The test that she determined this from was run 2 years ago when we had our IVF work-up.... but no one ever told us!!! (cue the jaw drop). She started talking about it in our appointment like we already knew, (because why wouldn't we?) but we were in complete shock! We had the analysis done again in Tulsa just to make sure, and the results were the same. All this time, we've thought all of our fertility problems were the result of MY issues. Turns out, this has probably been our main/biggest issue all along and we've had no idea! It was hard for Corey to hear this news, naturally. He felt really bad.... not only that he has this issue, but that I've been carrying the burden all this time. As hard as this news was for both of us to hear, so many things suddenly made more sense. It has felt for so long like we were missing something and like all the pieces just didn't fit. She explained to us that we basically have a 2% chance of getting pregnant with a healthy baby on our own. Sperm morphology issues seem to be a genetic thing and there just isn't a whole lot you can do to fix it. We do still have the option of doing IVF again and she estimated we'd have about a 30% chance of success after multiple cycles with ICSI (where the sperm is actually injected into the egg). If it did take that many cycles, we are looking at about $45,000 out of pocket. So needless to say, we are taking some time to pray and seek The Lord. I still believe He can give us a miracle if He so chooses! And what a miracle it would be! 

One positive thing that has come out of this revelation is that I feel like it brought Corey and I closer! I truly don't think anyone can understand what it is like to hear they have something majorly wrong with their body that is preventing them from being able to have a child/give their spouse a child, until they hear it about themselves. It is heart wrenching! I got to be strong for Corey in that moment and the days to follow as he grieved & processed. He is not used to being the one grieving and I'm not used to being so strong. But trading places was a huge blessing to our relationship because it caused us have more compassion and understanding for each other. He has never blamed me or made me feel guilty about any of my fertility issues, nor would I ever do that to him. They are out of our control. But if we don't end up having any biological babies, it will be nice to know that it wasn't just him or just me. We both had issues, for whatever reason, and neither of us has to beat ourselves up for being the sole reason we couldn't have kids. As a result of this experience, I've seen Corey become more sensitive to other people's trials & emotions as well. It has been so cool for me to watch how God is working in His heart! I love him now more than ever before! 

The last major thing going on with us is that we just sold our house last weekend and are moving into a rent house next week! So we are in the midst of packing craziness. Where on earth did we get all this stuff?!?!?! Anyway, we are very excited and anxious to start building our new house! It has been such a fun project for us to work on together. We started designing our plans a year ago, so it has by no means gone quickly, but we finally to the point where things will hopefully start rolling now. We just have to wait for the bank appraisal and everything to be done and the plan is to break ground in early June! We feel so blessed. It is bittersweet to be leaving this house I love, but it is also refreshing. This home has been where wonderful memories have been made and where I have come to know The Lord so much more intimately, but it has also seen A LOT of heartbreak and tears. I think a fresh start will be a good thing! But I'll always cherish our time here in our 1st home in Arkansas, on Indian Springs Avenue!

Has anyone seen the movie "Passengers?" Corey and I just watched in last night. Usually sci-fi isn't really my thing and I honestly wasn't expecting much, but it was a great movie! (Heads up, there is a spoiler alert coming).

Jim & Aurora are passengers on a spaceship headed to a new colony on a far off planet. They left their lives on earth behind with dreams of doing something extraordinary! The journey is set to take 120 years and they are planning to be sleeping safely in hibernation pods until they get there. For various reasons out of their control, they both end up waking up around 90 years too early. This obviously causes them to go through an array of strong emotions... such as anxiety, confusion, determination, anger, hopelessness & apathy.  The ship continues to have major malfunctions, but because they are awake, they end up being able to save the lives of the 5,000 other passengers on board, who are still sleeping. If it hadn't been for them, everyone would have died. They of course fall in love and end up accepting this reality that they are stuck forever in space alone, but together. Aurora is a writer and she writes a book about their life for the other passengers to read when they wake up. The movie ends with them holding each other in a swimming pool looking out into the universe, smiling at each other and saying "hell of a life!" 

As the credits were rolling, my face was drenched in a stream of tears. Like I said, I was not expecting to be moved at all by this movie. But it struck something deep within me because it felt like such a parallel to mine and Corey's story. For so long we have been "stuck" in a reality that we did not choose. We started off on this journey full of dreams of baby kicks and ultrasound pics, diapers and pacifiers. But many things out of our control have derailed our plans and caused us to battle through all of those same emotions that Jim and Aurora experienced on the spaceship. For a long time that is where I parked my heart. That was the end of my story. My dreams were shattered and I was destined to live with this broken heart forever, and there was nothing I could do about it. 

"But God..." As the Scriptures so often say when things are looking pretty grim.

There is more to this story. It doesn't end with me wallowing away the rest of my life. Maybe there are sleeping passengers around us that need to be rescued? And if we weren't where we are then maybe that wouldn't be possible? Maybe this shattered dream of ours is about more than just us. Didn't I just say in my very last blog that God only breaks us so He can put us back together more whole? Our Pastor said in his sermon last week that if God is asking us to do something we can be sure it is good for us and for others. Faith is being sure of something you cannot see. Well I am sure of this, God did not bring us here to abandon us. And I pray when others read the story I am writing through my blog, they will see His fingerprints ALL OVER.

I feel like I've been on the brink of acceptance for a while now. Scared to let go but ready to let go. This seems like a very appropriate time to hold onto Corey and look out together into the unknown before us and smile at each other and say, "heck of a life!" 

Aurora: "You can't get so hung up on where you'd rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are."

After I finished my good, long cry, I told Corey... "with everything going on, the flood gates were bound to break." And he said, "who would have known a sci-fi movie would be what caused that to happen?!" I can't be too predictable! ;) Good night, all!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


...Two not-so-fun words that have become rather life-changing to me recently. It is amazing the way the Spirit can transform things! Like my heart, for example. And negative words into positive ones.

When you last heard from me over a year ago, I was a few short weeks away from leaving on my very first mission trip! Little did I know, those 10 days in Ethiopia were going to be a major turning point in my life. I needed to be broken out of my bubble of despair so badly, but who knew that some precious African orphans would be the method by which that would happen? 

If those motherless children can be SO joyful,
can't this childless woman be joyful, too?

The kiddos I spent time with and loved on had a far greater impact on me than I had on them, no doubt. I thought I was going there to help change the world, turns out the world was a tool God was using to help change me! More on that in a moment.

The past two years of my life can be divided into two sections:

Recovery Mode (April 2015- April 2016)

After our failed IVF in March 2015, we decided we absolutely had to take a break from it all. It was our first "break" in 4 years and needed to happen, for the sake our my health and our marriage. I was at an all time low at this point. It literally felt like I couldn't handle another ounce of disappointment or another medication being put into my body, or I might just spontaneously combust. So we stopped. That was in itself hard because so much of the past 4 years had been devoted to doing everything possible to try and have a baby. So what do we do now? It's hard to go from go, go go.... control, control, control to nothing, just like that. It definitely took some time to unwind. I was wound pretty tight. This was a painfully healing year! I finally had the space to truly grieve like I desperately needed to. And that is exactly what I did. There was so much I had been carrying that I simply could not carry anymore. I finally laid it down. And then God took me to Ethiopia...

Restoration Mode (May 2016- present)

I consider this period beginning when we got home from Africa. I was in a total daze for a while! I knew God was doing some major work in my heart, but I didn't quite understand what it meant and I certainly couldn't verbalize it. People would ask me about our trip and I remember saying over and over that "I'm still trying to process it." It was just so very different from what I thought it would be. So very beautiful, joyful and peaceful... not scary, depressing and stressful like I expected. Yes, there were things that broke my heart... like the intense poverty I witnessed and the fact that some children were deserted by their families and left alone to die. But GOD WAS THERE!! He had transformed what could be so ugly into something so beautiful. He gave a home and a family to the orphans. They are loved and safe and being taught about Him! He gave community to the impoverished. I've never seen such fellowship! Everything moved at a much slower pace there. They had time to enjoy life. No one was in a hurry, and it was so refreshing to me. I breathed deeper. I slept like a baby. I cried like a baby. Because I needed Africa so much more than Africa needed me. I wanted to take home what I learned and keep them and the lessons they taught me, and that God taught me, so close to my heart.

And I have tried to do just that. Shortly after we returned, I quit my nursing job at the pediatric clinic. Because as much as I loved it, I realized that it was a stumbling block to my healing. It just wasn't where I needed to be working at this point in my journey. It was too hard on my heart. I also began to clear my calendar to allow for more space to rest, to not run myself so ragged. I made fellowship more of a priority. I found an amazing counselor and have been going to her consistently. And with her help, breakthrough is happening. I leave each session overwhelmed by God's goodness as He continues revealing and freeing. I've began reading for pleasure and have enjoyed having the time and the energy to do so. I've read some of the most awesome and powerful books! I am doing photography full time and am finding how well a flexible schedule fits with my personality. I am learning to set boundaries in my life and relationships. My stress levels are lower than they have ever been. My marriage is better than it has ever been. I'm taking a painting class and trying to recover my creative side. It has been a really good, blessed year... and I am beyond thankful! I am referring to it as the year of Spring, because so many dead places in me have been coming back to life. 

My circumstance hasn't changed. But I have changed. 

The hope & joy that had been slowly drained out of my body, mind and soul is being infused back in. I trust God right now more than I ever have before! He has done a work in me that I could have never accomplished myself. I needed to be broken... completely shattered of my stubbornness, selfishness, perfectionism, expectations, etc. so that He could put me together so much better. I used to be so angry at Him for doing this. But now I see that He is creating someone who I actually kind of like when I see her in the mirror. I can see more and more of Him and am beginning to see less of me. And that is only by His grace! I can see now that if I had never gone through all I have, I would not be here. I'd be back thinking I had this whole life thing figured out and I'd probably be controlling my husband and kids like a crazy person, running around like a chicken with her head cut off.... and coming to God only when things got really bad. I bet I would still be bound by my flesh and my priorities would be so far off from God's will. I don't exactly know what His will is, but I do believe a big part of it is for me to be in close relationship with Him and with a surrendered heart, seeking to see His kingdom come. And that is where I am right now, and where I always want to stay, Lord willing. I don't ever want to go back to the old me. If God does give me children, they will have a much better role model of a mother now! I know that for sure.

I'd like to share with you an except I just read this morning from this great book we are going through in my women's bible study, called "Prayer, Our Glorious Privilege" by Pastor Chuck Smith:

"God wanted a man who would lead the nation back onto the path of righteousness, back to God, back to a place of strength. But though God looked all over Israel, He could not find such a man. But God did find a woman. God closed up Hannah's womb and put her in an uncomfortable situation, by opening the womb of the other wife, Peninnah. He even allowed Peninnah to torment Hannah, knowing it would bring her to a point of desperation. In that state of desperation, Hannah prayed over and over "God, I want a son. God, I need a son." No answer. Why did God delay? God delayed because God wanted to give much more than a son. He wanted to give the nation a prophet, a priest, a judge who would lead the people back to God's path and would save the nation from destruction. God wanted to give Hannah much more than she was asking for, so He withheld her desire until she finally prayed, "Oh God, if You will but give me a son, I will give him back to You all the days of his life and he can be totally consecrated to You." There is no better place to be than right in that place God desires for us; that place where He will give us so much more than we have asked Him for. And so God granted her prayer and gave her Samuel, that great prophet, that great priest, that great judge, who saved the nation by bringing them back into a right relationship with their God." 

Hannah asked for a son. God gave her a son, prophet, priest, judge and leader! He not only answered her prayer, he exceeded her prayer, way beyond what she could even imagine. Hannah's delays led to a beautiful destination. Her brokenness was made into such a powerful testimony. God's will was accomplished through her! What greater legacy could there be? 

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

That is my prayer today... that like Hannah, I will be able to be used by God to accomplish His will. I have come to a place where I want that more than I want anything else. I don't know what God is doing in my life, but I know whatever it is for my good and His glory! Not just one or the other, but both. I believe He is going to do more than I can even imagine. I am excited for what that will look like. I praise God for streams in my wasteland and for this new thing He is doing! I pray that this change in my life brings hope and encouragement to you if you feel like you are lost in the wilderness of your own suffering. It will get better! God will come through for you! 

Don't be afraid to be broken and delayed.