Hear My Story

Owning your story is one of the bravest things you can do.

“It is incredible that the thing I have battled most with in my life was at the heart of the story God wanted to write through me.” Debbie Ivins – Whole Pieces

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Thank you to our friend, Josh and Ayan5 Media for believing in our story and encouraging us to share the next chapter in our journey with a whole new audience.

Josh is based in America and has been telling people’s stories through film and photographs since 2003. Our collective prayer is that stories like these continue to encourage others to press through their own pain and live life with passion and purpose. I am excited for the release of our short documentary soon and hope people can relate to the raw emotions we all experience in our daily lives: the searching, suffering, smiles and silliness that emerge from everyday trials and triumphs.

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Don’t Wait Until Friday

Love can be such a confusing word. We love people (I love my husband), love activities (I love my running), love food (I love my peanut butter) and we do things out of love (like bake little messy chocolate surprises for pudding, without waiting for Valentine’s day or a special occasion.)

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Watching sport with our spouse until late at night, because you know how much it means to them, is love in action too. (‘Liverpool for life’, shouts the wife!) Yes, I am proudly brainwashed.

“I am in love and out of it I will not go.” – C.S Lewis

Love can mean different things to everyone, but ultimately, love is a choice, it’s an action and we need to choose it and keep choosing it, daily.

In a similar way, every day we choose our attitudes too. We should not wish the week away, living only for the weekend and although every day may not be good, there is something good in every day. Joy can come to us in the seemingly mundane and ordinary moments. Don’t miss it.

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I saw a friend post this. I think we can all relate to some version of it. You are allowed to have those days when you cannot wait to go to bed and start again. However, let us do our best to starve the negative thoughts and feed our focus. If you want to change your life, you have to change something that you do daily. Thinking about what you are thinking about, is a great start. Give every day the chance to be good one.

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Stop waiting until Friday and make the most of the moment you are in now. Find joy where you are now.

Have a happy Thursday!

Resolutions

“We spend January 1, walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. But maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws but for potential.” Ellen Goodman

As the year comes to a close, most of us will spend time looking back and if you are like me, perhaps you are surprised you are still here and made it through to the end in one piece! There are always so many unexpected highs and lows and yet, here we are, ready to begin again.

Sometimes these reflections lead to resolutions for the new year and focusing on things we want to change. While this is important, remember to concentrate on the positive potential and not the faults and flaws. Before stepping into something new, we usually have to let go of something we are holding onto and perhaps this is a bad attitude.

I know from experience how easy it is to slip into bitterness and self-pity but I have learnt to be better and choose joy, on purpose, even when I don’t feel like it and things are not going my way. We can make resolutions for 2019 but without a doubt there will be obstacles in the way. I read an article recently by Mark Gungor, on love in relationships, and how it is not something that is constantly there, following you around like a puppy. Instead it is more like a greased pig!

“You have to chase after it and pursue it. You have to run it down and tackle it. And when it gets away, you go after it one more time. You may finally get hold of it for a while, but then the little rascal can slip away and you have to chase it down again.”

I hope this brought a smile and reminds you to pursue what you want most out of life and don’t give up so easily. Keep chasing those dreams and working hard, despite difficult circumstances. It is also important to have fun between the obligations and responsibilities, so make sure you work in some things you enjoy and don’t overlook the little things either.

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A spoon of peanut butter always cheers me up. Maybe a good cup of coffee is something you relish or a glass of red wine like my husband. Your child’s laugh, a cool shower after a hot day or the sunset…there are so many treasures and pleasures in everyday life, that are easy to take for granted. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to blessings and it will serve us well to carry this gratitude attitude into the new year.

Own Your Story

I was recently chosen as one of the winners for the BLURB “Share Your Story” contest. I printed my book with them in 2011 and years later, it is still having an impact. I was excited to receive my generous voucher prize but more importantly, have another opportunity to reach people and encourage them to own and share their story too.

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I have learned that nothing in my past can stop me having a good future if I keep a positive attitude and decide to believe that although I’m a mess (aren’t we all!?) with God living on the inside of me, I’ve got what it takes to turn the page when bad things happen and begin a new chapter. You have to keep moving forward because you will never get to where you want to be if you keep complaining about where you’re at.

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With August being Women’s month, various topics are being discussed, from physical well-being to mental health awareness. I am under construction in both these areas and overcoming self-doubt is a big one at the moment. Self-doubt will destroy confidence and cause confusion. I still let people’s remarks tear me up inside from time to time and it makes me second-guess my decision to speak as openly as I do about my life. I wonder if it is worth it. But I am responsible for my path and have discovered you can’t let anyone else write your story for you. I am grateful for the friends who love me because of my imperfections and have been there through the messy bits with me.

I took the vulnerability leap a long time ago and am always sensitive to those who do the same and feel safe enough to share their story with me. Many of them recognize that empathy is lacking in our world today and sadly I have noticed this too. Trying to put a silver lining around your friend’s pain is often not the best way to respond. For example, the words “at least” hurt, especially when the wound is still fresh. “I had a miscarriage.” receives the reply “…At least, you know you can fall pregnant.” If you are at a loss for words, rather say, ‘I don’t know what to say, but thank you for telling me.’ Rarely can a response make something better, but a true connection can speak volumes. That is in my experience anyway.

Those are my Tuesday thoughts. Let me know yours.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S Lewis

 

Share Your Story

“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

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I had the opportunity to meet new people this week and realized, once again, that we all have a story in us that has to come out. I want to encourage you to use your story as a platform to inspire others and don’t be ashamed.

Extract from my book, ‘Whole Pieces’:

It has been humbling to look back and I can see how much I have matured, not only in my writing style but also in my relationship with God, the way I deal with my circumstances, as well as my attitude towards my situation. Communicating this way became a great source of comfort to me and from what I was told, it added to the lives of those who read the emails too. I know God worked in many ways through this correspondence and I pray He continues to do so through this book.

Most of the material I have read on infertility has been written by people who now have their ‘bundle of joy’. A baby. I used to find it hard to relate to them, thinking that of course they can write about “staying strong” and “keeping the faith” when they aren’t waiting anymore! Not that it makes them unqualified to address this tender topic. Maybe I simply got emotional because they were where I wanted to be.

I haven’t got perfect patience or answers but I have learnt a few things, which I pray will help you too. Like how important it is to appreciate and respect a waiting period in your life. God doesn’t owe me a baby or an explanation, He simply wants me to keep trusting Him. Have faith in His perfect timing. Rest in Him. Be kind to yourself too and don’t forget to enjoy each day.

Embrace where you are now!

Love Debbie

Love Can Be Many Things

“Love is not about how many days, months, or years you have been together. Love is about how much you love each other every single day.”

Tomorrow is our 14 year wedding anniversary.

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Sometimes love is holding up the old kitchen cupboards above your head while your husband screws them to the wall in the garage. Your arms are shaking and your clothes are covered in dirt and you are wondering why he can’t call the neighbour to help instead?! Out comes the drill and you put in your earplugs and squint your eyes, to avoid being blinded by falling sawdust again. While your hair looks like it is covered in dandruff, you try to not think about the itch behind your ear, as your hands are full and you have been told not to move an inch!

I can’t tell you how many weekends we spent doing these D.I.Y projects, especially in the early years of marriage. When I was absolutely exhausted from the morning’s work and begged for a short nap, I remember being told “who sleeps in the day?!” which made me realize I was in for a crazy ride with this new husband of mine!

There are moments when you struggle to like each other and you have to choose love. That’s what makes a strong relationship. It’s not always a feeling or emotion. It’s a decision. Often daily! Commitment is easy on your wedding day, because you want to be there. The true test comes later, when times are tough and you want to leave but choose to stay. It isn’t easy and our relationship isn’t perfect but we are a team. We have overcome obstacles together, some that we share, like our infertility journey and others that nobody knows anything about. Being married involves facing challenges and putting in the work but realizing that it is worth it because you are doing it together.

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We balance each other out. I have come a long way from the quiet, shy mouse I was when I met Bruce. I have grown and gained confidence, but am still finding my way. We are always under construction! We aren’t the same two people we were when we first met all those years ago (on the dance floor of a night club of all places!) Bruce loves his red wine, so I think it is appropriate to say our relationship is evolving like a good red wine, improving with age. There is value in history and depth, which is opposite to what the world wants us to believe and have us fall prey to the lie that everything is better when it is new. There is nothing wrong with remembering how things used to be but more importantly, keep strengthening how things are now.

Keeping up with Bruce’s energy is a full-time job! Yet even husbands who exude confidence and strength still need support and it is my absolute privilege and greatest joy, to be his backbone and biggest cheerleader behind the scenes. I love being a wife and motivating my man to be the best he can be.

“Thank you for being you… for sharing your love with me… for inspiring me to accept myself… for helping me see the unique beauty in imperfection… for showing me that love is something you do; something not just to be said, but also to be shown.” – S. Maraboli

A New Script

“She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” (Matt Baker)

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19-06-2007: “I already rattle from all the pills and now another four a day have been added to the mix. The pharmacist thought there was some mistake as it was an unusually high dosage and I had to have the doctor confirm this. But it is necessary because of my vulnerable state and we can’t take any chances. I’m overdosing but legally!”

28-06-2007: “Oh Lord, I am crying out to You from a very scary place. The pain is so strong it’s burning through my chest and eyes. Clawing its way through my body, wanting to rip my spirit to shreds. It’s going to be so hard to fight, again. How can this be? …Today makes no sense at all.” (Whole Pieces)

The highs and lows of the infertility journey cannot be explained in words. It is a lonely road, no matter how many friends you have supporting you. It is an ugly journey and you feel stripped bare (physically and emotionally) from all the treatments and medication, injections and scans. You are prodded and poked and by the end of it you are left feeling anything but ladylike. I remember feeling like a dirty rag, useless and discarded.

I am grateful to my husband for loving me when I was so hard to love. My self-worth was low and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. The shame was also a heavy burden I carried daily. Only now, with the self-awareness I have developed during this journey, can I see how I struggled for years trying to be the perfect wife and doing anything and everything for my husband, in a desperate attempt to make up for what I haven’t been able to provide. A child.

I think many of us women feel we have failed in one or several areas of our lives, as we continuously strive to be what we think we ought to be and find ourselves falling short every time. We never feel good enough. My own infertility journey certainly didn’t help in this regard and I have had to fight my way back out of that pit and remind myself that God placed within me a femininity that is powerful and worth recovering again.

A trusted friend, who has shared this pain and understands the journey herself, took some photos of me at the end of last year, which I have kept close to my heart. I wanted to feel like a ballerina: a girl who is free and lovely and able to twirl in her tutu without fear or inhibition. These pictures were just for me, to have a tangible image of a version of myself untainted by the brokenness and heaviness of my past. The kind of woman that I know God intended for me to be, for you to be, because we are worthy and beautiful and have no need to hide in shame.

“There is a strength in you. I see it.” (William Wallace to the Princess in Braveheart)

 

Multiply The Memories

Somewhere between ‘I do’ and ‘Until death do us part’ there is real life going on. It is too easy to get stuck in a rut and forget how to look at the world (and each other) with awe and wonder and pure delight! I wrote this poem below in 2012 and since it is our twelve year anniversary next month, I thought it would be fun to share it on my blog.

It is a light-hearted account about how my husband and I met and although it is a little cheesy, I think it is special that these simple words still evoke blushing, smiles and nervous laughter!

MARRIED NINE YEARS TODAY

On a beautiful spring day, September 6, 2003,

I was a nervous young woman; an excited bride-to-be!

A few years earlier I had met Bruce, at a night club of all places,

And at first he was just another guy, in a room full of faces.

No words were uttered; all we exchanged was a glance,

But then he boldly took my hand and we started to dance!

Later that evening he asked for my number, while walking to the car,

And I gave it to him without hesitating – which for me was bizarre!

When other guys had tried their luck in this way before,

I would usually blush and mutter (before heading for the door!)

But things felt different that night, it is something I still can’t understand,

What made me drop my guard and take this young man’s hand?

All I know is that he called to ask me out the very next day,

And my trusting mom simply waved, as we drove up the driveway.

The night before he was a stranger, the day after, my boyfriend,

What followed was love and marriage, but that’s not where the story ends.

Like all worthwhile journeys, there have been some highs and lows,

And two kids, a dog and picket fence, is not always how it goes!

But we’ve made the most of what we’ve got, and that is each other,

Our marriage is no less significant, for not being a father and a mother.

We still hold on to faith that there will be a child (or a few),

But for now we are a happy family, a family of two.

And while I look forward to making the kids peanut butter sarmies for school,

In the meantime I’m practising on hubby and he thinks that’s pretty cool!

It is easy to let life squeeze in between our relationships and cause us to drift in different directions. During these sticky times it is useful to have a stockpile of rich memories to pull up and help you keep a positive attitude towards your partner and relationship.

One of the ways you can keep growing together intentionally as a couple is to share memories, laugh together and do this often. Even social media is prompting us to “See our memories”. I encourage you to do just that this week: take a trip down memory lane or better yet, go out and make some new ones!

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Eleven (1+1=2)

“We’re all from our own planets.
That’s why we’re all different.
That’s what makes life interesting.” (Cary Grant – The Bishop’s Wife)

A few years ago, I put together a little book entitled ‘Whole Pieces’. It is a compilation of some of the emails, journal entries and poems I wrote during the first five years of our infertility journey. In honour of our wedding anniversary tomorrow, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some extracts from my book with you:

“Bruce, my husband and partner for life. This is a tribute to you and our little ones in heaven too. We have been through this TOGETHER and as painful as it has been, we still manage to smile and haven’t lost our passion for life, God and each other. I love you so much!”

Sometimes, waiting for God’s final plans to be revealed for my life, hoping this will include children, yet uncertain of the outcome or timing, is very hard. But with a decade behind me now, I have reached a peace that can only come from Him. I don’t know if I will ever be able to join the club of “motherhood” but I do get a joy out of being able to be a wife, a role I treasure, value and am proud of.

“Life may not be the way we want it to be right now but there are reasons why. As long as we can remain an example for others and hold on to each other we will make it. Even if we don’t have children, it doesn’t matter when I have you to share my life with! Love from the husband!”

When Bruce wrote those words, I knew of course that he loved me, but the infertility journey made me realize just how much! Children are a gift and wonderful blessing, but regardless, children don’t make a marriage and we continue to give our best effort to our relationship and get the fullest blessing from it.

“A few of you have been asking how things are going and I have battled a little to keep everyone informed, as it is a new experience for me to share in this way, after being private for so long. Not much has happened over the last two months. I have worked through a process of healing, trying to reach a place of closure and then tried to figure out if I am ready to do this one more time. I had to give my body a two month break to heal and although my emotions will take a lot longer, I feel strong enough to press on in hope and have faith that God will carry me through yet again.”

Infertility can certainly take a toll on your relationship, just as any challenging experience has the potential to cause marital stress. It is important to keep communicating and understand each other’s reactions as reasonable behaviour, even if they are vastly different. How you handle these differences is what is important, and although it hasn’t been easy (not even close!) we have emerged from this experience as a united front, stronger than ever before.

Eleven years and counting….