2

The Scars We Carry

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The above photo was a Timehop I posted a year ago– meaning this is the 10 year anniversary of what has since been lovingly called my “sharkbite”.

People who don’t know the story or have never seen the “before” photo gasp in horror or awe or sometimes both. I know people stare at my leg and want to ask questions but are too afraid to ask. It doesn’t bother me much anymore but it took me a few years to get to that place. At this point, I honestly don’t mind the questions– I mostly make up stories about how it happened anyway since I get a kick out of watching people’s faces while they try to decide if I am telling the truth or not.

I’m a pretty bad liar, so I can pick out the most gullible listeners in a heartbeat; they are the best ones to tell the stories to as they usually accept what I say at face value and think I am pretty B.A. for enduring my circumstances– ’cause you know I always paint myself as hardcore when I tell the stories.

The thing is, when, on occasion, I do tell someone the REAL story, I rarely get that reaction– and that story is the one that really shows how truly resilient and “B.A.” I am.

The one that shows the real me.

If you’ve been holding on waiting for me to tell stories, real or fake, about my leg you can go ahead and stop reading now (I only tell them face to face) but if you are interested in reading about my reflections the 10 year anniversary of this injury has given me, read on.

libby aghast at leg

My dear friend Libby feigning disgust at the hideousness that is my leg after it had been grafted. (2007)

I have learned a lot about myself through this scar over the years…

2007: I learned I am stronger than I know. I persevered through the initial incident, the multiple surgeries to debride (spell check keeps telling me that is wrong/not a word but I am not and it is) the wound and graft in new skin, the emotional pain of being, yet again, on crutches and missing another season of soccer, and the idiotic comments of people (including doctors) with no filters/people wanting to touch it (ew!). I learned how to get back up.

2008-2009: I learned about how real post traumatic stress is and how difficult it can be to combat it. I learned that dwelling on the “what ifs” does nobody any good– especially myself. I learned to not let fear control my life (sometimes I have to be retaught that last one).

2010-2012: I learned that my scars don’t define me and even though I saw this as a hideous disfigurement that no one could ever look past that the people who truly love me and care about me don’t care about it. I learned I can still find love even with the scars and emotional baggage marring my skin and heart. My beauty isn’t skin deep and even it were I would still be beautiful if only to the people who really matter. I learned how to be light-hearted about it and move on from the pain (it still weirds me out though when people want to touch it).

2013-2017: I learned that people want to connect with you in your pain. I still hesitate when people ask to touch it but ultimately I realize that they want to feel what I feel and they a curious about this piece of my story that is so vividly displayed for the world to see. I learned that this is not the worst thing that could or would ever happen to me and that while the trauma of the moment seems daunting, time rolls on and, as they say, “heals all wounds”.

This last little cliche has always been interesting/vexing to me. For people who have endured serious pain (losing a loved one far too soon, receiving a terminal diagnosis, never being able to bear children, etc.) the wounds don’t feel all that healed. I believe, however, my before and after picture of my leg says it all:

Sure, scabs form, the skin grows back, or maybe you even had skin grafted in place to decrease the length of time it takes to heal but when all is said and done your leg never looks the same. Time rolls on, you pick your life back up slowly one piece at a time with the help of loved ones– maybe someone new even enters your life to help speed along the process– but you will never be who you once were.

And you have to learn to live with that.

I had to learn to live with that.

So happy 10 year anniversary to the beginning of a weird path of self discovery, understanding, and forgiveness. May those of you at the beginning of your journeys find comfort and peace along the way.

We a pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but are never destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 (NLT)

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2

Loved and Not Alone (pt. 2)

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

Thank you, one thousand times over, to everyone who reached out to me after I wrote my last blog post (and the prequel to this little diddy– so go back and read it before you start on this one). Your words of hope and solidarity were so overwhelming for me that I wish now I had posted it sooner rather than held back in fear and heartache.

I promised you my story wasn’t over last time; there was a lot that got me to the point I could post about my fertility issues and I intend to keep my promise and share with you my more recent story.

After August I still struggled off and on with the general feelings of discontentment wrapped around my dysfunctional body but it began to die down significantly as I opened up to more and more people about my struggle which meant more and more people were praying for Patrick and me on this issue. But I think the number one thing that helped me begin to overcome my negative self talk was leading the student ministry at Central Christian Church‘s Glendale campus.

The Glendale campus is a LOT different demographically and culturally to the other four Central campuses located in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. Glendale is in the West Valley– which, even if you aren’t from Phoenix, you know that there is always a sort of “rivalry” of lifestyle and demographic between east and west anything. The greater demographic of the area the campus is located in is middle to lower-middle class, blue collar workers, and Hispanic– again, a generalization of the area and not indicative of the entire population. I grew up East Valley, served/worked in East Valley youth programs, and I began to awe at a few of the girls that have attended our junior high program in Glendale.

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Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

Working at the Glendale campus was my first ever exposure to working with students who were living in a group home situation. They have always been girls, and each girl I encountered taught me something new about resilience and faith and beauty that I don’t believe I could have learned on my own. Some of their stories were so so tragic, some were filled with hope and longing, and some stories I never heard but I know were creating deep pain in their hearts and souls– but I would still see them every Sunday, smiles on their faces (usually) and new stories to share with me.

I never knew my heart could open so wide.

It was my interactions with them that really got me over the hump. I knew that if I couldn’t have a child of my own that I wanted to love ones like that– ones that, of no fault of their own, had been cast aside or experiencing pain and loss. I thought that, if I couldn’t have a child of my own, I could adopt/foster a young person who just needed someone to believe in them and love them.

Patrick and I are friends with a couple who have been doing this for years– their niche is babies with special needs– and it has been such a blessing to watch the two of them with every child that comes into their home. They adopted one of the little angels not too long ago and are just the cutest little family you ever did see. But it isn’t always that rosy; two of the kids, brothers, they had in their home for quite some time and were in the process of adopting when suddenly they were taken from them with little warning and placed with family that had crawled out of the woodwork. Patrick and I had watched how it devastated our couple friend and we wondered if that was ever something we could deal with (this was all prior to my even knowing about my fertility issues).

My relationship with the young ladies from the group home changed that for me but Patrick was still fearful of that pain.

While we were talking about what it might look like to start fostering, we were also talking about going to a fertility doctor recommended by my new GYN. We had decided that once we got back from my brother’s birthday trip that I would schedule an appointment and see what our options were.

I hadn’t cycled in awhile (which isn’t weird, remember) and my brother was turning 21 on this trip so, just to be safe, I took a pregnancy test– you know, in case by some MIRACLE, God had decided to open up my previously dusty and difficult womb– fully expecting a “Not Pregnant” to appear on the screen.

Not even the obligatory 2 minutes later…

“Pregnant”

SAY WHAT?!

So long story short, I discovered God had finally deemed me ready to have a child of my own on a trip, to Las Vegas, to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday. Ain’t that somethin’?

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Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

As of today, Mother’s Day, I am 13 weeks along. This time last year, Patrick was celebrating mother’s day for me even though I didn’t think I could ever be one and now here I sit today, 6 months away from being one.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone struggling with infertility, but for me–

It felt like God was waiting for me to realize that even if I couldn’t be the mother of my own flesh and blood I could be the mother of someone else’s flesh and blood. I still fully intend to follow up on that with God and foster/adopt a preteen/teen some day. I wasn’t given that call for no reason, I know that. I want them to feel loved and not alone as I have come to feel over the past 7 months.

Thank you EVERYONE who has walked with us through this very difficult journey– you all know who you are– and we are so blessed to call you our friends and family. Welcome to my mess.

13

Loved and Not Alone (pt.1)

I apologize, I began writing this post last August and couldn’t bring myself to finish it, but I am ready now, so here it is! If I inserted something more recently to the older part of my post it will look like [this]. So read on!

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Get ready to be candid with me for a moment…

A year ago today (give or take a few days either direction) is the day I unknowingly began a journey I never wanted to be on. A journey I never considered I would have to take. A journey full of pain, self-loathing, sorrow, and despair. For every step forward I’ve fought to achieve, I’ve been thrown back a few 100 yards on my butt where I would sit and cry for a moment then slowly pick myself back up and start all over again.

Some of you may know this pain, whether you have experienced it in the same way as me or not, and you understand how excruciatingly difficult it is to get back up after being knocked down…

so.

many.

times.

You know what it is like to doubt God’s plan, whether he really cares about you at all.

In August of last year[2014] I unintentionally stopped taking my birth control (BC). It was a miscommunication with the pharmacy and so on and suddenly I saw myself two weeks late on taking my next round of pills. I decided I would wait until I got my next period to start again. Patrick and I had discussed going off BC somewhere around December anyway so I didn’t think it would be a big deal if something happened earlier than that anyway.

August crept by…

…then September…

… next October…

… and suddenly I am very aware of the fact that something is wrong. No period in 3 months. Every test I take tells me it isn’t due to pregnancy. I scheduled an appointment with my GYN and prayed for the best (I am going to intentionally leave the name of my [FORMER] GYN out of this as I am NOT happy with the way my case has been handled by them and I don’t want to get in trouble for defamation or something…). A pelvic ultrasound and blood tests reveal a couple things:

  1. I’m not ovulating.
  2. My ovaries a ridden with cysts. [A more recent test indicates that it was not as serious as I was made to believe]
  3. My hormone levels are all out of whack.
  4. The lack of ovulation is not due to anything they can determine at this time.

Okay… so what do I do next? I began WebMD-ing things that could be wrong (bad move by the way– learn from me, don’t do it) and I had myself worked up into such a frenzy about it sleep was ridiculously difficult to achieve. I had myself believing I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (I’m still not convinced that isn’t what is wrong) [better doctor now, better explanations, pretty sure it wasn’t PCOS now] because everything my GYN told me seemed to point to it. Here is link to some of the WebMD articles I was reading to try to better understand what was happening to me.

[Okay, present day me talking here, PCOS is very serious stuff and I don’t want this post to, in anyway, diminish the real and raw pain that any woman, facing this issue, is wrestling. Just because it didn’t happen to be true in my case, which I discovered thanks to a much more competent and communicative doctor, doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize 100% with those looking at that diagnosis. My struggle is and was still real and I was grasping at answers– because even a crappy answer was still and answer– so I knew what I was fighting.]

At my next appointment with my GYN, they tell me they are pretty sure it is my hormone levels. One hormone is a little higher than the others and could be suppressing ovulation which in turn is preventing me from getting a period. To force my period, they want to put me back on BC again. By the time I am having this conversation with my GYN it is late December/ early January and this was the time Patrick and I had previously discussed taking me off BC and letting whatever happen. So, obviously, I wanted a different solution to my problem.

December and January [of 2015] were two of the hardest months of my life. Ladies who know my pain, didn’t it just tear you up inside that the one thing God created you to do, the one thing that sets you apart as a woman, was not something you could do? You were broken, and not just emotionally or spiritually, but physically…

I’ll tell you exactly what I thought.

I am broken, defective, insufficient. I’m letting my husband down, he would be such a good father and I can’t give that to him. I’m not good enough for him anymore, maybe I should give him an out, set him free so he can find someone who will give him children. I hate myself for the defective monster I am.

Some of you read that and think I am being dramatic and that my identity was WAY to wrapped up in this issue [I’M reading this right now thinking the exact same thing!]– you would be right. Some of you think I should get over it, let it go, or just adopt if I want to have children — you are also right.

Some of you read this and relate so deeply that you may be crying with me. Maybe some of you have been afraid or unable to express your real feelings on this– or haven’t told anybody yet because then it becomes REAL.

[Present day me again. The reality is it is already REAL. Just because you are having trouble admitting it to yourself doesn’t mean it isn’t still your truth. And isn’t life so much better lived in communion with others? Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, spouse, aunt, uncle, friends… We were given these people so we were not alone when we hit difficult times like this. This may be hard for some of you to hear– it was for me in some ways– but you NEED people. You need people to lean on and, yeah, that means running the risk of getting hurt further because you’ve made yourself emotional vulnerable but no relationship is worth anything if it doesn’t carry a little bit of vulnerability risk to it. Genesis 2:18-22 tells us God knew it was not good for us to be alone and that is why he created Eve for Adam. The same is true for you– it is not good for you to be alone.]

I’ve come a long way since December and January [again, of last year]; I am coping better and I don’t randomly cry throughout the day anymore. I have accepted that I am not broken or defective and that my husband still loves me. I am voicing my pain in healthy non-destructive ways and can even bring myself to be happy for the plethora of friends that are now popping out their own little bundles of joy.

But it is a journey, not a race to the finish.

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That is where I ended 8 months ago, plus my present day addendums, and I sounded like I was getting to a better place– which is true, but not the whole story.

I still wept on occasion, and in fact I cried as I typed away at the above which is why I couldn’t finish– that and I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to perfectly explain my pain so my readers would fully understand.

I realize now that it isn’t worth it to try and make it perfect because someone somewhere is not going to understand and is going to judge. What is important is that I got it out of my system and onto paper (or the web, as it were).

I’d like to finish my story now, up to where I am currently, but I need more time to write it. I am in a much better place (for real this time) but also still very fearful of my future. In the meantime, if you are struggling against infertility I hope you realize you are not alone and you are loved.

2

Love > Fear

France, Corsica, Girl with armbands on beach

My first real post.

**Inhales Deeply** 

I’m nervous. I don’t know why; I love to write, so that part doesn’t scare me, but the idea that you, reader, are going to explore my thoughts is intimidating.

New adventures always scare me at first. Walking into an unknown abyss that could promise excitement and fulfillment or danger and failure–and while danger has not always scared me, failure most certainly has. Making new friends, trying new restaurants, learning a new skill, taking on a new hobby, writing a new blog… none of this comes easy to me because, ultimately, of my fear of failure.

A simple example, that I am sure many a reader can relate to, is getting in shape. It is such hard work and the capacity for failure is great. What makes my situation worse is having been a very athletic youth–my brain knows I a can do something but my body says, “Hell no!” I have started and quit and started and quit more times than I care to admit in my fitness journey and all I seem to accomplish is creating in myself a spirit of shame and disgrace that I cannot shake.

Until recently.

My sister is going to be in a wedding in October so in February she decided she needed to join a gym and I was going to be her workout buddy. Umm… Excuse me? Who made you queen of my life? So I joined the gym with her. I figured, with a little accountability this journey should be easier right? Wrong.

Love my sister to death, but she does NOT have the most flexible schedule in the world and this brilliant plan of being each other’s workout buddy has tarnished a bit. I couldn’t use her as the reason to drive me–that was a bad reason to begin with–no, it had to come from within me. It helped that I swore to Patrick that since I was now officially investing money into this, for the gym membership, I would not give up but I digress…

I began going to the gym on my own when my sister couldn’t come; kicking my own butt, pushing myself to be better. Then, I’m not sure when it happened, it wasn’t torture to workout anymore. Did/does it still hurt? Heck yeah! Do I still want to cry the next day when my muscles are sore? Sure I do! What is different is the perspective on the pain. Feeling sore means I worked hard and I begin to crave that feeling.

I am overcoming, slowly, the fear of failure in this area of my life but it still paralyzes me in other areas. What I am learning from this though is that perseverance is the key:

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:2-4 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

James, of course, is not talking about my fitness goals, but he what he says is nonetheless true of where I stand in my fear of failure. New tests, new trials, new hoops, hurdles, mountains, oceans, valleys are all opportunities in disguise. Opportunities for what? To persevere and grow stronger and more confident. Faith and reliance in the Lord gives this to us.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

In a really low time in my life, a little over 5 years ago, driving home late one night from a crappy job that I was settling for because I feared the failure of reaching for a job that would challenge my potential, I exited the freeway and waited at a red light behind a black truck with this bumper sticker in window:

Love is greater than Fear

For some reason God had been priming me that night to hear from him that night and his words ripped through me and left me in tears, “My Love is greater than your fear. Let go.”

Since that moment I have worked tirelessly at trying to keep those words at the forefront of my mind.

[God is love.]18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

1 John 4:18 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

I am by no means perfect. I have feared starting this blog for a little over 5 years and I am only now pushing through and striving to be the only thing I can be; which is me, the way God intended me to be. So I will write the heck out of this blog, and I will put myself out there and make new friends and I will freakin’ learn to sew a dress if it kills me. The point is, I cannot let my fear keep me from living a full life. I want to leave you with this quote that I discovered not long ago that I have since written out on a post it note and stuck to my desk at work so I can read it everyday:

When you come to the edge of all you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.

-Patrick Overton

What are some fears you are facing? I hope that this inspires you, with the help of the Lord, to step off the ledge of your fear and soar.