Why I (Over)Share the Hard Stuff

It’s been a while since I have written here.  I could say ten different reasons why, but that is for another blog post (or most likely not).

One of the main reasons is that there is just only so much of Steph to go around.  I am saving the best parts of me for my family.  Right now that means going to chemo with my Dad every Monday.

Every week Dad and I take a selfie with a quick update, and I post it on my personal Instagram and Facebook.  Some may wonder why I (over)share about such a personal subject in a public forum.  Here are just a few reasons why I let everyone in:

  • I covet your Prayers.  I want prayers from far and wide to cover my parents, my sister and I.  I have been in a crisis situation where the prayers of my family, friends and strangers alike literally held me up.  I want that kind of strength and peace for my family that only comes through prayer.  That is the peace of God that passes all understanding that you can only have through Christ (Phillipians 4:7).
  • I want to share our Smiles & Faith.  Dad was diagnosed with a very rare, stage 4 Cancer that is not operable nor curable.  The diagnosis was very bleak when we heard it almost two years ago.  Yet we hold our hope in Jesus, so we can smile every week.  Sure there are definitely a lot of tears too.  However, we know no matter how hard things get, Jesus has us wrapped in His arms.  I am so grateful to my parents for raising my sister in I to know and love Jesus, so that we have the Faith needed to make it through the difficult times in life.  There is no greater gift that a parent can give a child.
  • I want to be a Friend.  I can’t tell you how many people who have approached me because they are either dealing with something similar with a parent or have in the past.  Whether they can share some of their wisdom with me from their experiences or we can commiserate together about our pain, it helps us both feel better and not quite so alone in our pain.
  • I want to get REAL.  In a world where your FB & Instagram feed is full of date nights, football games and pretty Christmas trees, I want to sprinkle in some reality.  If you were to see me at the kids’ school, at work, church, or Publix, you would have no clue that I am dealing with such a difficult situation.  Life doesn’t slow down just because you have a crisis you are dealing with at home. You have to keep up with life and responsibilites.  There are people you cross in your life every day that are dealing with BIG things every day, and you don’t know it.  Always be ready to give an extra bit of grace.  The person that may be a little short with you…..the email/text that goes without a reply a little too long…..the mom that may forget to sign a folder or put $$ in her kids’ lunch account 🙋🏻😳 😂  Have a little extra patience and understanding with your fellow man.  You may (or rather WILL!!) need it one day too!

So here we are another Monday with Pa Pa.

No other place I would rather be!

Pa Pa Collage

 

When God’s answer is NO

Yes.

No.

Or the dreaded…WAIT.

Those are the answers that God typically gives us when we pray for something.

Sometimes we have to pray a long time to get an answer.

In 2013, I spent many nights crying and praying.  My husband I were going through fertility treatments with our remaining frozen embryos (our sweet totsicles 🙂  Would I have another sweet baby to snuggle and rock in the wee hours of the night?  Would I give my kids the baby that they asked me for every single day?  Oh please God say YES!!

After a year of failed fertility treatments, I got an answer.  When I had to have surgery to remove my fallopian tubes, the answer was not only a NO, but a “Not Now.  Not EVER!”  It was devastating.  I couldn’t understand why He not only said NO, but slammed the door shut on the possibility to have another baby.  All of my hope was gone.  And honestly, my feelings were hurt.  Why did it have to be so final??  It took me a while to get back on good speaking terms with God.

Fast forward to four years later…

As I was having my quiet time this morning, the Holy Spirit spoke to me.  Saying NO in such a permanent way was the most loving thing that God could do for you.  He wasn’t slamming the door in my face as I felt years ago.  He was wrapping me in His arms and forcing me to face my reality and heal.  God knew me.  He knew that I love babies and would still want to have another one.  He knew if I thought there was even a slight chance that I could get pregnant, I would continue to try.

Infertility robbed my husband and I of so many years in our marriage.  Over the last four years, we have been able to heal and strengthen our marriage.  No consulting a calendar to determine when to be romantic.  No month to month roller coaster of hormones and emotions.  By God taking the possibility of becoming pregnant away from me, He allowed me to focus on the many blessings in my life.

I broke my seven month hiatus of writing because I wonder if anyone else is struggling with an answer that God has given you?  Maybe your feelings are hurt.  Maybe you don’t understand why He had to answer that way.  Maybe you aren’t quite on speaking terms with God right now.

It is hard for us as humans to see beyond this snapshot in time.  God sees the whole eternal picture.  I am so grateful that God gave me the insight into why he said NO and reminded me how deep His love is.

If you or a loved one is battling infertility, you can read more about my story in my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility…Twice.”

If you would like a prayer partner, send me a message.  I would love to be your prayer warrior.  I only got through my tough times by the power of my friends and family’s prayers.

John 116

 

 

 

Beauty from Ashes Interview

I wanted to share my interview with fellow Christian author, Ginny Priz, about my battle with Infertility.  It is filled with a message of HOPE in a very desperate time.  Please share with someone who has a similar struggle or maybe just loves someone that is dealing with Infertility.

Stephanie Greer – Beauty From Ashes interview

For more information, you can read my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility…Twice.”

Full Heart Empty Womb

Beauty from the Ashes

FB_Feed_Stephanie_Greer

Want some inspiration and HOPE over the next 10 days?

My friend and fellow Christian author, Ginny Priz, is hosting an interview series called “Beauty from Ashes” on her website.  She is interviewing 10 amazing women about how God helped them find HOPE in spite of their bad circumstances.  And guess what??  I am one of them!  I will be sharing about how God helped strengthen me through my battle with Infertility on Thursday, August 25th.

Please take a few and hop on over to Ginny’s website, sign up for the series, and be inspired!

 

How to Survive VBS

“If you want to make the leap from awesome husband to ‘out of this world husband,’ you will go get me a Sonic Diet Coke every morning this week!!” I hinted to my husband.

#DesperateTimes

Loud music. (played on repeat in your head forever.) Louder kids. (outnumbered 5 to 1.) Running around. (Non-stop for 4 straight hours)

And I signed up for it. With a smile.

It’s VBS.  Say Ya Ya Ya Ya Yes for the Va Va B B S!!!!! (Now that is stuck in my mind!!)

I have taught VBS for the last several years. Every year I say it is my last year. And every year I sign up for more responsibility the following year 😉 VBS is like childbirth. You forget about all the aches and pains and just remember the pure JOY. Like watching my sweet 1st graders sing, “I Am Remarkably Made!” Their precious smiles shine with their belief of every word they sing to the tips of their sweet totsies.

Here are 10 ways I Survive VBS:

  1. Procrastinate Not –   Some people work best under pressure. I just curl in a corner and cry if I get overwhelmed. VBS can make you feel like you are swamped with so much material! Bible Lessons, crafts, memory verses, games, and the list goes on! I start 6 weeks before VBS and tackle a day each week. On the sixth week, I review the whole week. For each day, I will make lists of materials I need to buy and materials I need to bring from home for that day. I will also go ahead and complete any copies or cutting out that needs to be done. Spreading it out makes is less intimidating. I get a big grocery sack and put all the materials needed for each day and label with the day of the week.  Has the procrastination ship already sailed?  Skip to #9 😉
  2. Teamwork– Get together with your fellow teachers. 2, 3, 4 heads are better than 1! Talking through the lessons with your peers will help you decide what will work best for your group. You can also go in together and get some wonderful things from Oriental Trading to help your week. Decorations and small prizes are reasonable and worth every penny. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to!
  3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate – If you are fortunate to have extra helpers for your VBS, then use them! In my classroom, we split up the Bible lesson, craft and game. Whoever owns that task they OWN it! It is their responsibility to make sure all the supplies are in order and lead that activity. You don’t have to do it all on your own. I love to involve our Youth in VBS. Some are proactive and others may need a bit more direction. Even if it is getting them to just sit between Chatty Cathy and Handsy MaGee, it is all appreciated!! And the kids LOVE to have the cool teenagers in the classroom. Honestly, it is as much a ministry to the youth as it is to our little ones! They are all the future of our Church.
  4. Visuals Engrave the Lessons in Their Little Minds – Any time you can include a
    Ocean Trenches

    Ocean Trench “Submerged” VBS

    visual aid in telling your story, it will help leave a lasting impression in the kids’ hearts and minds. Costumes, acting out scenes, and science experiments all engage the children. Engaged kids are listening and learning.  I also love any visual that the children can take home as a conversation starter. Now VBS is reaching others that didn’t even attend! This week we gave our kids a sticker with a porpoise on it. When asked, the kids can explain that God has a specific purpose for each and every one of them 😉

  5. Decorating: Less is More –In this Pinterest world, it is easy to get caught up in “who has the coolest room” mentality. The focus of the week really needs to be God’s Word and sharing His love with the children. I am not crafty. My prize decoration was a jellyfish made out of a Dollar Tree shower cap and curling ribbon. (I will admit I got a ton of compliments on it that made this girl feel pretty Miss Crafty!) Don’t worry about the decorations. After the initial excitement of walking into the cool VBS room, the kids are over it. They are ready to learn and be entertained! You do that…not the room J
  6. Don’t Overschedule – VBS week can be energizing and exhausting all at the same time. When we get home after a morning at VBS, I just need a bit to sit and decompress. I am so glad that we made a decision to not plan much of anything during the week of VBS. We go to VBS, enjoy family time, rest up and maybe have some pool time since it is 100 degrees this week!!!
  7. Invite Friends – Every year I ask my kids to give me a list of kids to invite to VBS. Southern Lady-7Most years I get a lot of no’s, but we never gave up asking. This year I hit the jackpot. I got six awesome kids to come with us! I had the extreme privilege to hold one of our sweet friend’s hand as she prayed and asked Jesus to live in her heart.   Bless. It doesn’t get better than that.
  8. Trust the Holy Spirit – Often the parents have been planting seeds of God’s Word and Truth throughout the children’s lives. As teachers, we throw some VBS Miracle Grow on those seeds. Sometimes we have the privilege to introduce God’s love to kids to the first time. We do our part. We plan. We prepare. We practice our lessons. But it is the Holy Spirit that will prepare their little hearts for Jesus. We don’t have to carry that burden. We just do our part in God’s plan for the children’s salvation.  It’s not our job to “save” anyone.  Only Jesus can do that.
  9. Pray, Pray and Pray Some More – The whole week needs to be wrapped in prayer. From the workers to the children to the children’s parents. We need to be praying for the Holy Spirit to be present, for our words to be His, and for His love to be overflowing through us.
  10. Don’t Skip the Snack Table – Did I mention that the snacks are miraculously negative calories during VBS week?  A Twix bar and a Diet Coke two hours after breakfast every day are totally necessary.  Ministering to God’s children can boost your mood and your appetite.  😉

Now for a week long nap if I could just get that music outta my head…

9 Ways to Help Your Infertile Friend

9 ways to help your if friend

Whether you know it or not, someone you love is battling infertility. Although 1 in 8 couples are infertile, it is rarely talked about and often misunderstood.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, it reminds me of a time that this holiday brought a mixture of pain and dying hope to me. Would I ever be able to celebrate Mother’s Day like all my friends? Would I be given looks or pity or just ignored all together this year? What were the chances that I would be pregnant by next Mother’s Day? Any chance at all? Would I ever be a Mother?

After writing my book, “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility… Twice,” I have been asked many times about how to best support someone dealing with Infertility. As with most people hurting, I think it is good to offer specific help instead of “Let me know if I can do anything” because let me tell you – – she won’t.

Here are 9 ways you can help your Infertile Friend:

  1. Acknowledge that her pain is REAL. Studies have shown that the level of anxiety and stress that an infertile woman goes through is equivalent to someone dealing with cancer. Her infertility is never far from her mind. It is ever-present.
  2. Listen to her. There are no magical answers. Sometimes she may just need to cry and get her frustrations out. A shoulder to cry on is a tremendous blessing.
  3. Although well intended, most advice offered to Infertile women is actually more harmful than helpful. Erase these things from your vocabulary:
    • “How are you?” unless a) you are really ready to listen and b) you aren’t in a big group and putting her on the spot.
    • Anything that starts with “at least”. That just belittles her feelings.
    • “Just relax! It is because you are stressing yourself out!” Have you ever stressed about trying not to be stressed? She has and it doesn’t help to be lectured about it.
    • “You should just adopt and then you will get pregnant!” No one “just” adopts.  That is a huge personal decision.
    • “You just need to lose weight!” or “You are just exercising too much!” They are getting the medical advice they need from their doctors.
    • Or the worst that I have heard countless times… “I wish I had that problem! My husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant!” Does that really need an explanation??
  4. Be thoughtful about pregnancy announcements. Although it is wonderful news, it is a reminder to her about what she doesn’t have. Don’t tell her in a big group where she will have to process it in the midst of a crowd while trying to keep control of her emotions. But make sure you tell her. My feelings were hurt terribly when I found out once that everyone knew about a friend’s pregnancy and no one wanted to tell me.
  5. Give her a free pass to miss baby showers or children’s birthday parties. They simply are just too painful. Offer to give a gift together and take care of the shopping and wrapping.
  6. Shower her with mementos that let her know that you are thinking of her and love her. Cards, flowers with encouraging scriptures are always appreciated. One of my favorite gifts I got when going through IVF was a nightgown from Soma that was in their Cool Night collections. Many drugs that infertile women take cause hot flashes making sleep elusive. The nightgown was such a thoughtful yet practical gift. If she travels for treatments, a gas card or restaurant card would be helpful. Fertility treatments are extremely expensive.
  7. Take her out for a night on the town. Go to a concert. Go to a Karaoke bar. Go dancing. Just enjoy a night with lots of silliness and giggles. Remind her that there is a lot more to her than not being a mother.
  8. If she is dealing with Secondary Infertility (someone who has had a child and is now dealing with Infertility), she could use help with childcare. There are gazillion doctor appointments for ultrasounds, blood work, and various other things. Most of these doctor offices will not even allow children to come.
  9. Pray for her. This is the single most important thing you can do for her. She needs to be bathed in prayer. Aside from the obvious prayer for her to get pregnant, you can also pray for:
    • Peace
    • Patience
    • Clarity as she faces so many decisions on her Infertility journey
    • Her husband and their marriage because Infertility is a huge strain on a marriage
    • Other friends and family members to be sensitive to her needs

Infertility can be a wedge driven between friends, and over time, it pushes them further and further apart. My prayer for you is that instead it is an opportunity to show love and draws you into a more deep and true friendship.

Stephanie Greer is the author of “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice.” To get your copy of her book, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1503370879

 

 

The Infertility Diaries

“Gosh I wish I kept a journal!” If I had a dollar for every time I thought that while I was writing Full Heart Empty Womb, I would at least have made more that I have from my book ;). Throughout my journey with infertility and then high-risk pregnancy, several people encouraged me to keep a journal. A couple even gave me a journal to help me get started.

Unfortunately, I never did write consistently about it. I didn’t want to dwell on my situation anymore than I already did… and that was A LOT. It really is divine the clarity I had about the emotions and events of my near ten-year battle with Infertility. Before I wrote, I always sat down in prayer and asked for God’s guidance. I also looked through old pictures to help jog my memory. My editor joked with me about how she could tell when I was sucked back in time because I started to write in present tense instead of past!

So imagine my surprise when I came across a couple of journal entries on my old laptop. I was moving documents from my big old white brick MacBook to my new sleek one. I found two documents from 2013 that were just titled with dates. One was October 21 (the date of my pregnancy test for my last IVF) and the other was October 27 (a week after the test). I don’t even remember writing these.

When I read the raw emotions I was feeling, I immediately stepped back in time and down right SOBBED. I decided to share these because I think it is a good insight into the complex emotions that a woman goes through during IVF… and the aftermath.

October 21

I have been waiting for 12 long days since my embryo transfer.  The wait has seemed like an eternity. Time is literally crawling for me.

The good thing about going to bed at 8:30 last night is that October 21st came sooner. The bad part is that the day started at 4 a.m. for me. Two hours to do nothing but lay in bed. I held my hands on my stomach and talked to my sweet babies (aka my “totsicles”) in my head. I hummed a little tune to them. Still trying to convince them to stay with me. I would be a great mommy. I would love them like no other. I would hug and kiss them all day long. I would read to them. I would teach them all about God and His awesome love. I prayed. I begged for my babies until I cried. When my silent tears turned into sobs, Eric woke up and held me.

At 6 a.m., I dried my eyes, quickly got myself ready, and rushed to get breakfast on the table for the kids before I left. Eric came in to check on me right after I put my mascara on. I gave him the look and told him that we could NOT have a heartfelt talk right after I just put my make-up on!

 My good friend, Devon, had given me the verse Ecclesiastes 11:5 to me while we prayed togetherIMG_1361 the day before my embryo transfer. I had written it on a napkin and had held it close to me since that day. I carefully folded it and put it in my jeans pocket to take to my last pregnancy test. 

I was on autopilot as I drove to Nashville Fertility Center. My chest got tighter and tighter with every yard I drove. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I was sobbing. At first it was desperate pleas for my babies. Then when I parked, it was for the Lord to please give me strength to quiet the tears so I could just get out of the car. When I finally did, I saw a magnet of one of UT’s rivals that we had beaten 2 days before. I laughed and thought God had a sense of humor and was obviously a Vols fan. Silly as it sounds, that gave me the courage to keep moving. It lightened my mood as I snapped a picture and sent it to Eric. It helped me not feel so alone. I imagine he felt the same too. At that moment, he was sitting in drop off line with the kids worrying about me.

And then a week later . . .

October 27

This time last week I was so full of cautious hope. I really believed down to my bones that I was pregnant. I formulated the email I would send to my prayer partners and then chastened myself for being too confident. Then I dreamed about being able to joyfully announce to the world that I am pregnant on Christmas card. It would have pictures of Ethan, Ella and Matthew on it of course. And I was sure I would find something just precious on Pinterest to help me announce our new addition (or additions!!) to the family.

When we got the kids to bed, Eric and I talked for a little bit then tried to decide on a TV show to watch. Finally, I told him that I just wanted to go to bed and wake up tomorrow. At 8:30, I went to bed dreaming about how good I would feel at noon tomorrow when I finally got the voicemail that I was pregnant. 

Today…almost a week later… I skipped church. Eric hardly ever travels, but he is this week. I couldn’t stand to go to church and face the same sweet prayer partners I have walked this painful journey with. I had 2 choices: continue to paint on the happy face and assure everyone that I am ok or cry and let it all out. I was too tired to do either of those things without Eric’s hand on my shoulder. I know that my friends want me to feel comfortable to share all my feelings with them, but it is hard. Hard because no amount of talking can help them understand the depths of my grief because we are in such a unique situation. And hard because of my pride. I don’t want to look as broken down as I am. It is confusing. I want people to see me as strong and reasonable like Phillipians 4: 4&5. However, I am afraid that by being that way, it diminishes what we went through in their eyes. That shouldn’t matter to me, but it does.

I agreed a month ago to go to a child dedication of my dear friend, Devon, for their child they adopted from China. They are a sweet, Christian family that we have grown so close to. I was so honored when they asked us to be a part of it. It was a service that had several dedications and most of them were babies. I don’t know why, but I was caught off guard by the wave of grief I felt sitting in the service. I looked at those sweet babies and realized that I would never have one of them again. The pastor spoke at the beginning and talked about how the parents’ responsibility was to teach about God’s love, teach them the Word, talk all the time about God. I do that!! I have proven I am a good, Christian mother. Why can’t I have another? No. Not just another baby. The babies I had. The ones I had inside me but didn’t stay.

IMG_1274It became evident to me tonight that I HAVE to write this book. I have to. I went through all of this pain the last couple of years. There has to be a purpose. I will not accept that. If it isn’t because I get a chance to love my babies and raise them to love the Lord, then I have to make good of this pain. The only way I can do that is to try to help someone not feel alone. To know that when they walk this walk of infertility they have to do it hand in hand with God. 

It is quite emotional to read these gut wrenching words that I wrote 18 months ago and vividly remember that pain. I am still grieving for the babies that I thought were in God’s plans for our family. In fact, Ella has been asking me lately for a baby sister. Oh how it pains me. Oh sweet girl. Mommy tried so so hard to give you a baby sister!

But it is also so encouraging to me. October 2013 I was at the lowest point of my life. I have never felt so alone or misunderstood. Yes, today I still get sad, but I am healed. You can be at your lowest point today, but things will get better. “Cast all your worries on Him because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.

If you want to learn more about my journey, how I coped, and what I learned through Infertility, please check out my book: “Full Heart Empty Womb: How I Survived Infertility … Twice.” To get your copy today, go to: www.amazon.com/dp/1503370879