Thursday, November 29, 2018

Through All Seasons

1It was like a dream come true
when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion!
2We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness.
We were left shouting for joy and singing your praise.
All the nations saw it and joined in, saying,
“The Lord has done great miracles for them!”
3Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!
4Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory!
May streams of your refreshing flow over us
until our dry hearts are drenched again.
5Those who sow their tears as seeds
will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee.
6They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow,
but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness
as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!
- Psalm 126, The Passion Translation

To say that we are grateful for all God has done would be an understatement. Sometimes we look around and think, "Can this really be our life?" Over the past few years, the Lord has taught me about the value of seasons. We often fall into two camps: we take our current season for granted because it is truly wonderful, or we loathe our current season and idealize the next one. As you can read in my book, Already ChosenGod has taught me a lot about what it means to walk with Him through seasons of longing.

Throughout this entire journey through infertility and health issues, the Lord has reminded me of the beauty of seasons. Psalm 126 is one that kept coming to mind as I thought about all that we walked through in the last couple years. We are a frail people, and we want to live in seasons of abundance and obvious blessing all the time. But God just doesn't work that way. Seasons are important and vital to God's ways and plans for the earth and for our lives.

Over and over again, the Lord reminded me of the promise in Psalm 126: "Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!" You see friends, God works with intentionality and order. He does not leave our lives to chance and luck. He orchestrates every detail of our lives and knows our every longing. He knows when we will be ready for each season. He knows exactly what we need.

We cannot expect to see snow in summer or spring rains in fall. But we can know that God's unchanging love is with us through all seasons. He is our only constant through all of life's ever-changing tides. It is easy for us to desire the ease and happy go lucky emotions that summer usually brings. But the reality is that life ebbs and flows. There are winter seasons full of death and darkness, and they are not without purpose. In fact, they can be the most beautiful of all. And our circumstances, life stages, and God's timing all dictate how we experience various seasons in our lives.

The difficulty we experienced with conceiving marked one of the darkest seasons of our lives. And yet God was still good. We still had a roof over our heads, good jobs, and a loving community of family and friends. But there were days when I didn't want to get out of bed. There were days where I repeatedly hit the "unfollow" button on social media to protect and guard my ever so fragile heart. But underneath the doubt, questioning, and longing, there was a mustard seed of faith. I never wanted to give up on God. I never believed that He wouldn't bless us with a biological child. I just didn't know how long it was going to take. I know that there are many women who have walked through years of infertility who get to a point where they say, "Enough is enough. I can't do this anymore." And in a way, I did get to that point. I didn't want to use ovulation kits anymore. I was tired of charting every symptom and had long since given up taking my temperature every morning. But I wasn't ready to give up hope. Where else would I go and what would I have left if I walked away from Him?

Psalm 34:1,4-5 says, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth... I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed." During this time, I had to make the difficult choice to praise the Lord when I wanted to curse Him (although I did my fair share of that too). I asked Him to help me love Him and feel His nearness when everything seemed like it was caving in all around me. I didn't experience any tangible feelings of warm fuzzies. But I did have a deep knowing and understanding that I was not alone, even when I felt like completely isolated in my grief and pain. So I clung to the truth that those who place their hope in Him are not full of shame, but rather His light.

My hope was never meant to lie in the fulfillment of my dreams and longings. My joy and happiness are not meant to ebb and flow with the changing tides of each season. Yes, I am pregnant. And that is a good, good gift from my Heavenly Father. But if I were still trying to conceive and hoping for healing, God wouldn't be any less good. The fulfillment of this desire does not mean that my life is now perfect and I never have any problems at all. I still wake up with anxiety on my chest some days. I still cuss sometimes and think jealous thoughts. I still get mad at my husband for no good reason. And there are still things I want and parts of my life that I am not totally happy about.

But God. He's greater than all of my petty and fickle wanderings. He's kind enough to woo me to Him and help me desire Him even when things are (mostly) going well. And He's patient enough to humble me and remind me of my need for Him through all seasons.

If I had gotten pregnant when I wanted to, so many things about our lives would be different. We wouldn't have been able to take in our three kids this summer, and I wouldn't have seen His power and strength made perfect in my weakness. We probably wouldn't have moved to our new house, and we wouldn't be preparing to say yes to fostering again. So I think God knows a thing or two about timing. And it's about time I started trusting Him in the midst of the unknown in each area of my life. He's proven that He's worthy.

Yes, we are reaping a harvest right now. There were tear-stained journal pages and sleepless nights that have brought us to where we are. But I can tell you one thing that I know for sure. My God is faithful and true. He is kind. In my darkest moments, He did not leave me. In my questioning and doubt, He helped me understand that He actually means what He says. And even if I weren't pregnant right now, I could tell with abiding joy in my heart and a lump in my throat that He is good.

Encouraging Resources for Every Season:

Already Chosen: Loving Your Life in the Midst of Longing
Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart
The Broken Way: A Daring Path to the Abundant Life
Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful
Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love

Monday, November 26, 2018

Our Journey to Pregnancy

There are many new things on the horizon right now for the Mathisen family. This summer we were first-time foster parents to three and are opening our home again in January. We sold our first house, bought another and moved in September. And now we are preparing for the arrival of our first biological child! Wow. When God moves, He moves!

I had planned on writing a health update post this fall to inform everyone of how things were going for me post-procedure. It wasn't looking so great (to me at the time), but I thought I was at least headed in the right direction. You see, after my procedure in January, I experienced some relief, but did not get the results I hoped for. I still was experiencing a great deal of pain during my menstrual cycles each month. My specialist in Atlanta who performed the procedure told me that the UFE was completely successful, so any remaining issues could not be coming from the fibroids that had been embolized because they are essentially dead. So according to my symptoms, Rory and I concluded that I most likely have undiagnosed endometriosis. This is a "silent disease," because although 1 in 4 women suffer from this chronic illness in the United States, most people have no idea what it is. You can read more about it here.

In May, I began seeing a naturopathic doctor here in town. Even though my specialist in Atlanta said it wouldn't be an issue for me to get pregnant, we weren't "intentionally" trying. I wanted to try to get my other women's health issues under control and was focused on getting relief first. My naturopath told me that it would take about three months for me to see results from the regimen she gave me, which was monthly visits to her for acupuncture, several supplements, and a diet change that eliminated most of the "fun stuff." I had already modified my diet quite a bit and got even more strict. It wasn't fun, but at this point, I was desperate for any relief I could get.

After a couple months, I didn't see the results I wanted to see and was growing impatient and frustrated. Two of my good friends also suffered from endometriosis in the past and had been to a specialist in ATL for a surgery that I thought I might be a good candidate for. I completed the application to be seen by him and also conversed with their office via email several times. At this point, I figured that it was going to take another surgery for me to find any sort of relief and to increase my chances of being able to have a biological child. The only problem is that the specialist was out of network and very expensive. Rory and I had quite a few "discussions" about it, but I was ready to submit my application after our move to our new house in faith that God would provide and open the door if I was supposed to be treated by this doctor.

In August, right after our kids left, I was crying in our bed, writhing in pain because I still had horrible cramps. I didn't understand why I wasn't getting relief and why I still wasn't able to get pregnant. I was able to control my cramps with ibuprofen that time, but I was not experiencing the grand sweeping changes I had hoped and prayed for for so long.

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, when I was awaiting the arrival of my period yet again. I was getting antsy because it was late, which is quite rare for me. But I assumed it was because of the supplements I was taking, stress related to our kids leaving, and the upcoming move to our new house. Early that Saturday morning, I got up to go to the bathroom and was feeling a little perturbed. I mean, why wouldn't my dang period come so I could get the worst of it over during the weekend and not have to be miserable at work the next week?

A little nudge told me to take a pregnancy test, and I did so in secret for fear of being embarrassed yet again at a negative result. Much to my surprise, I watched in shock as two pink lines very quickly appeared. What?! That is not what was supposed to happen! I burst into our bedroom and said, "Babe, wake up right now!" Rory is not a morning person at all, so he was quite confused. I tossed the test in front of him and said, "Look at this!" He said, "Is that real?!" I quickly reassured him that it couldn't be real, and we proceeded to Google all of the reasons why one might get a false positive on a pregnancy test, none of which applied to me.

I guzzled some more water so that I could take another test and headed to the bathroom to grab a digital one. If this was real, I needed to be able to see the word "Pregnant" and have no doubts. When I sat down on the bed next to Rory, I handed him the test and said, "I can't look!" and proceeded to cover my eyes. I waited for what felt like forever, and he said, "Holy crap, babe." I looked down, and sure enough, there was the word "Pregnant," clear as day. I immediately started crying and hugged him, and he teared up too. We realized that this was in fact no fluke. We are having a baby!

That day I called my family and got to tell them the happy news, and we were also able to tell Rory's parents in person since they live in town. It felt (and still feels) very surreal. The three-week wait before we could go to the doctor was almost unbearable. I felt like the Lord had assured me that everything was going to be ok and that I would, in fact, carry my baby to full-term, but every now and again (like a few times a day), fear would creep in and I would begin to be overcome with dread and a sense of "This is too good to be true." But then I would reach out to a friend, turn on some praise music, or read Scripture, and my heart was calmed again.

When we went to the doctor, I was extremely relieved to hear our sweet baby's heart beating oh so fast. The ultrasound was so funny, because at that point the baby looked like a little gummy bear! It is incredible to see the way that God knits us together through each stage. Through this time, we have been so grateful for our family and community of friends who have gathered around us to encourage us and pray. The best truly is yet to come!

My Favorite Pregnancy Resources (so far)

Praying Through Your Pregnancy: A Week-by-Week Guide
God's Plan for Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth and Beyond

What to Expect When You're Expecting
The Mama Natural Week by Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth
Val Marie Paper Pregnancy Prayer Journal

Images from our sweet friend Bri Moore :)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Dressember: The What and Why

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:to do what is right, to love mercy,    and to walk humbly with your God.
- Micah 6:8

A few years ago, a friend and I participated in a style challenge called Dressember. The idea behind this challenge was to wear a dress every day during the month of December to raise awareness for the worldwide human trafficking crisis. I participated that year and had fun trying new things with the existing items in my closet. However, I only participated that one year. It didn't really cross my mind again after that. Last week, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Her guest was Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember. Listening to how what began as a simple style challenge evolved into a foundation which has raised millions of dollars was fascinating.

Blythe began Dressember to raise awareness for human trafficking, which is a worldwide criminal epidemic. There are more than 30 million people enslaved today, and more than 2 million children are currently exploited in the global commercial sex trade. This issue is lurking within our backyards, and Atlanta is one of the top cities in the world known for human trafficking.

So this year, I am joining the Dressember challenge as an advocate. The plight of victims is especially near to my heart because of two facts:

As a woman and a foster mom, this crisis means something to me. I may not have experienced forced labor, but I know the shame of being taken advantage of. And to think of any our kids who have lived in our home and have to be a part of our lives experiencing this injustice makes me very, very upset. Yes, I love clothes, and it just so happens that I love dresses and am very comfortable in them. But this is about so much more than a dress. This is about raising awareness and money to help victims of heinous acts find new life and recovery. We can make a difference by spreading the word

Friends, will you join me? I have created a new team through the Dressember site, and I would love to have you join me by participating as an advocate or by donating. My fundraising goal is $1,000. I figure that if 9 other people join me, we each can try to raise $100. Simple, right?

I will be posting my outfits each weekday on Instagram. I don't do social media on the weekends, and let's be real, sometimes I don't leave my house on Saturdays. ;) I would be so honored if you would join me!

You can learn more about the Dressember foundation here:

And you can donate or join my team here:

Let's do big things!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pregnancy and Baby Mathisen FAQs

Can we take a moment and talk about how adorable Rory's grandpa is?!

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! - Psalm 126:3

Well, my friends, the cat is out of the bag. I am pregnant! It is very surreal and we are overjoyed. It has been hard not to talk about it publicly, and last week, I thought I was going to explode! Many of you have followed along with our journey for the last couple years, and we are so grateful for your prayers and your support. It has been a long road, and we are just filled with joy that God answered our prayers and the prayers of so many family members and friends.

I figured it would be fun to answer some questions that people have been asking, and I want to keep a bit of an online journal through this experience so that I can look back and remember the beauty of this sweet miracle.

How did you find out?

Well since we are all adults here, I found out on Labor Day weekend when I didn't get my period as expected. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I will be sharing more about that sweet day in another post coming soon!

When are you due?

I am due on May 5, 2019, which is the day before my birthday! May has always been a special month in our family, because Rory's birthday is on the 20th and my dad's is on the 25th!

How far along are you?

I am in the beginning of my second trimester (15 weeks) and my fourth month! It is crazy how fast it is flying by and I cannot believe that each day brings me closer to meeting sweet baby Mathisen.

How is Rory?

He is over the moon excited, and I can't wait to watch him step into this role. Watching him with our kids this summer was an immense joy, and I know my heart will not be able to handle him with our sweet little one. He is so ready and was born to be a dad!

How are you feeling?

Right now I am feeling really good. For about a month (while we were moving, not the best timing) I was dead tired and also had weird food aversions. My appetite never completely left me but it sure was weird. I craved a ton of red meat and ate lots and lots of burgers, which is not like me at all. I feel great now and have gotten my energy back. It's wonderful!

Will you find out the gender?

Um. Duh. If you know me, you know I am a planner. We actually already know the gender because we chose to do genetic testing, and we will be having a small gender reveal for our family on Thanksgiving Day at our new home!

Have you chosen a name?

We have, and I love it so much. It makes me happy to be able to call the baby by name now in my thoughts and prayers. We will probably keep the name under wraps until the birth, though. We've got to have some element of surprise. :)

Will you continue to foster?

Yes. Fostering was not something we did just because we were walking through infertility and wanted kids in the home. We are called to foster and it is important to us as a family that we continue to commit to that calling regardless of the convenience of the season. We are opening our home again in January and are really excited. Our hope is that we will be able to take in 2 elementary age girls. You can begin praying for them with us now!

Thank you again for how you have walked with us, friends. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share about what God is doing in our lives. To Him be the glory!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Currently: November

It's November! I have to admit that I've already been listening to Christmas music for a while. #sorrynotsorry :)  I am so excited about this time of year and love that the weather has been cooling off and there are lots of fun things ahead. This season is about gathering with those we love and enjoying the simple things. Right now I have been enjoying time at home more than ever before.

Appreciating: Right now I am appreciating the time I got to spend with family this past weekend. I went to visit my sister in North Carolina and we went to see our aunt, uncle, and cousins. It was so fun and it was really good to see them!
Posting: I've been teaching more essential oils classes online, so I've been posting some educational tidbits about all things natural wellness!
Getting: I am getting excited about Thanksgiving! We are hosting our families at our new home this year, and I am excited to play hostess.
Cooking: It is soup and chili season and I've been loving the ease that the pressure cooker brings to that process! Lots of veggie chopping around these parts lately.

What are you up to currently?

Linking up with Anne today!


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