How to Dress For Southeast Asia

Halong Bay, VietnamAs you may have guessed from this blog title, the J-man and I are headed to Southeast Asia this fall for our next great adventure. We will be exploring Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for almost three weeks. I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. We’ll be visiting ancient ruins at Angkor Wat, cruising through Halong Bay, getting custom clothes tailored in Hoi An and relaxing in a tropical wonderland in Thailand.

Hoi An

All of this planning has me already thinking about the obvious next step: what should I pack?

Here’s the thing about me– I’m not the girl who lugs around a giant suitcase when I travel. I like to pack purposefully and light. I used to wander new cities looking like a total tourist in basic tees and convertible pants but those days are long over. As long as I can get laundry done along the way I plan on packing as little as possible with clothes that are as fashionable as they are comfortable. I’m also taking into account the amount of shopping I plan on doing along the way. SE Asia is famous for it’s vast markets full of deals and Hoi An is known for it’s tailors who can craft anything you can dream up for deals that make Forever 21 look high end. So while I plan on taking less, I’m hoping to fill up with some goodies along the way!

I’m weeks away from packing, but here’s what I’m thinking about taking along for this adventure:

Packing List SE Asia• 5-6 tops that can work with just about everything

• 2 pairs of shorts, not too short though (Asians dress very modestly)

• 1 pair of lightweight pants for the flight + temple visits (you must cover your legs to visit temples)

• 1 lightweight long-sleeve or 3/4 sleeve top for cool nights + temple visits (shoulders must be covered in temples)

• 1 sweater, mostly for the flight but also for cool nights on Halong Bay

• 1 dress

• 1 bikini

• 3 pairs of shoes including cute sneakers + flip flops + dressier sandals; everything must be good for walking all day

• cross body purse

• cute accessories including sunglasses, scarves, jewelry and hats to dress up even the most basic outfits

With this packing list, I feel like I’ll be well-covered for the trip. Of course, I’m planning on purchasing at least one dress and one skirt in Hoi An so this list is with those additions in mind. It will be the “cool season” in Vietnam, with nights in the north down in the 60s, do I’m thinking the sweater will be just as necessary there as on the plane.

And the suitcase I’ll be stuffing these items into? I have an Eagle Creek suitcase that I LOVE. It’s just a step above carry-on size, has wheels for pulling through airports, converts easily into a backpack and has a small backpack attached to the front of it that zips off for use as a day pack. I’m not sure the exact pack that I have but it’s very similar to this and I can’t recommend it more. It’s such a great travel bag. You can grab one here: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/doubleback-26/d/1392_c_115 And no, I’m not paid to endorse this bag. :)

eagle creek double back

Be Strong and Take Heart

VivaGood_Ps 27_1440x900

I can’t thank everyone enough for the outpouring of support I received after my Waiting For Baby post. It is incredibly scary to post something that personal and the response was so sweet and humbling so thank you, thank you. I feel so loved knowing that we have so many friends praying for us and supporting us in the wait.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

The truth is that most of us are in the midst of waiting for something in life. Whether it’s a baby, a husband, a change, a good day, a better job, we’re all waiting and hoping for something to change. I love this verse because the first part contains a promise: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That means we don’t have to be spending our days in heaven before we get to see our prayers answered with good things. God wants to give us good things NOW. I’m so thankful for that.

The second part of the verse is the challenge. Knowing that we can confidently rest in the promise that we will see the goodness of the Lord, we now just need to WAIT, BE STRONG, TAKE HEART and WAIT. That can be hard, right? Especially when we’re told twice to wait…because waiting is inevitable. But I find that the more I remind myself of God’s faithfulness — as I look back at all the ways He’s taken care of me — the easier it is to wait and be strong and take heart.

So today I want to offer these sweet wallpapers for your computers and iphones so that we can all be reminded together that God is faithful and we can trust in Him; we need only to be strong, take heart and wait.

VivaGood_Ps27-iMac-CinemaMock-up

ViviGood_Ps27iphone-mockup

You can grab your wallpapers here. Just click on the appropriate size for your device.

xoxo

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iphone

ipad

iMac 27″

iMac 21″

widescreen laptop

 

Waiting For Baby

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“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45)

I have a story to share with you today. Our story. It’s extremely personal in nature so please be gentle with your comments. Sharing this is harder than I can explain but so important that I have to share it. This is going to be a bit long so please stick with me. The good stuff comes at the end, but you won’t fully understand the magnitude of it all unless you read through.

J and I got married a little over 4 years ago. Marriage has been one of God’s greatest gifts to us as we’ve been blessed with a happy, joy-filled marriage. Honestly, being married has been really easy for us. We just truly enjoy being together. When we got married we agreed to wait at least a year before we’d even talk about having kids. That year turned into closer to two years as we waited for insurance to kick in and us to feel truly ready to grow our family. Then, in the spring of 2012 we headed to South America for an epic two weeks in Patagonia. The trip was a last hoo-rah you could say…an epic adventure before settling down into babyhood for a while. And it was an AWESOME trip! Bring on the babies!

When I got married I assumed that we’d never have any trouble getting pregnant. I mean, high school kids get pregnant just by looking at each other (at least it seems that way) and friend after friend was having “accidental” and “I don’t know how this happened” babies. Why shouldn’t we be any different? After trying for about 5 months I visited my OBGYN for a routine visit and asked her about it. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “It takes most couples 9-12 months to get pregnant. I’m sure that next time I see you you’ll be pregnant!” And so I went away relieved and confident. A few more months? No problem.

Yet the months keep going by and still nothing. I started to research fertility tips, read books and did all the things they tell you to do when you’re trying to conceive. I cleansed, took herbs and vitamins, stopped exercising, ate lots of pineapple, stopping drinking caffine and alcohol, keep my hips raised after the “deed,” drank stinky conception teas full of sticks and leaves that made me gag, charted my temperatures and anything else that could possibly help. Besides, your friend’s cousin’s sister did this* (enter crazy conception help technique here*) and got pregnant right away, so why wouldn’t it work for me, too? Or my favorite suggestion — just relax and it will happen (insert eye roll here). I know some of you can relate to this. It’s exhausting, right?

When we hit the year mark I decided that it was time to visit the dr again and get some tests done. The first tests just tested hormone levels and such and everything looked great. I was so relieved! Plus, my cycles were picture perfect so I didn’t need any help there. But the doctor kept pushing for an HSG test where the shoot dye into your uterus and watch with an x-ray machine to see if it travels through your fallopian tubes to your ovaries. A good test will show that your tubes are clear. I finally agreed and we scheduled the test. Besides, several friends had the test done and had fallen pregnant right after (it can help clear the cobwebs, so to speak) so maybe it would help.

I’ll spare you the details, but the test was awful for me. It was intensely painful and didn’t seem to be going very well. At the end of the test the tech told me that it didn’t look like the dye was able to go thru either of my fallopian tubes and that they appeared to be blocked. “Your doctor will have a look at it and let you know what he/she thinks,” he said as he left the room. I remember quickly getting dressed and running to the car, hot tears starting to fall. Blocked? How could this be? About a week later a doctor from my OB’s office called to confirm what the tech had seen. “The test showed that both of your tubes are blocked. They are diseased so you should have them removed and start thinking about IVF. It’s your only option.”

And just like that my world started to crumble around me. I was devastated. How could this be? I called my mom sobbing and told her the news. Being the great woman of faith that she is, she immediately told me not to take the doctor’s report as final. “God can heal this,” she told me as I just shook my head and sobbed.

At that point I just gave up. I gave up taking vitamins and herbs, gave up charting my temperatures or trying to make sure things happened at the right time. What was the point? If my tubes were blocked, all of that effort wouldn’t matter at all. To make things worse, my online research with Dr. Google showed that unblocking fallopian tubes is a nearly impossible feat. They are about as thin as a spaghetti noodle and most surgeries to repair them end up just creating scar tissue, thus repeating the problem. I felt so defeated and angry. Why would God allow this to happen to me?

About a month later, my mom sent me a video on YouTube about a woman who had the same diagnosis but who’d prayed and been healed. I wanted to believe for that, but it seemed too far-fetched. Does God still perform miracles like that today? I’ve never seen any kind of miracle. But off to the side of the YouTube page is a column where they list related videos. One called “God’s Plan For Pregnancy” immediately caught my eye so I clicked on it and watched.

The woman teaching, Nerida Walker, has her own story of God’s faithfulness in the area of fertility. Her husband was declared clinically sterile by the doctors and they told her that it would be impossible to conceive any children together. But they found truth in God’s Word and believed that God’s Word is bigger than any doctor’s diagnosis and they ended up having 4 children in 4 years!

 

Tears ran down my face as I listened to her talk about what God has to say about fertility. That God’s will is for EVERYONE to be fruitful and multiply (Exodus 23:25-26, Psalm 128:2-4). That God calls me “the joyful mother of children” (Psalm 113:9). That God’s words have power to change things (Mark 11:23-24, Matthew 17:20, Hebrews 11:3). I spent that day listening to whatever sermons Nerida had posted on YouTube and then found her website and ordered her book “God’s Plan For Pregnancy.” It was like cool water to a parched soul.

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” (Luke 1:37)

I’ve grown up in the church, been a youth leader, memorized scriptures and felt like I knew who God is before reading this book and digging into the Word. But as I began to read this book, I realized that much of my faith was built on a limited view of who God really is. I would say that I believed that God is powerful, healer, for me and not against me, but my prayers and my actions didn’t show that. Did I believe that God today could and WOULD still perform miracles in my life? That in Him I actually had all power and authority — the SAME power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11, Col 2:9-10)? Honestly no, I didn’t.

I would say things (and we’ve all said them) like, “God is allowing this to happen for a reason. He’s letting me struggle with infertility to teach me a lesson.” Friends — let me emphasize this — God is LOVE and He is fully GOOD. He does NOT inflict hurt, diseases or trials on us in order to teach us a lesson! He does not lie or change! His promises to in the Bible are LITERALLY true today — not a version of them that feels possible but what He actually promises!!

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil?” (Num 23:19)

“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Ps 84:11)

“Which of you, if his sons asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:9-11)

I spent the next year learning about WHO God is. That He is good ALL THE TIME. I learned that Jesus died on the cross not only for my sins, but to free me from all sickness, disease, infertility, depression, hurt…anything that drags us down. I started to learn about the power of God’s Word and began declaring God’s truth over my life and body. As I did, I grew immensely in my faith and went from hoping that God would heal me to believing that I was already healed. I began to thank God in advance for healing me and for our babies, even though nothing on the outside had changed.

And every month when I’d see that I wasn’t pregnant yet again, I’d continue to praise God for a healthy body and healthy cycles. We found a new church — an amazing church — and began to learn about God in new ways. We’ve witnessed friends get healed and started to truly believe that faith filled prayers — not the “I hope this is your will” prayers but actually prayers where we take God at His word — have power.

So where does this all leave us in our fertility journey? I’m glad you asked. :)

After being told that IVF was our only option, I decided that I didn’t want to visit any doctors and instead I’d wait and pray and hope…hope for a miracle. But then, about two months ago I felt like it was time to visit a specialist. I’m not sure what prompted the urging but I found a fertility doctor who specialized in unblocking fallopian tubes and made an appointment. It had been a year since I’d last had any tests done so he decided that we should run all the tests again — including the dreaded HGS dye test — as well as an ultrasound to check for cysts or anything else that could cause trouble in my reproductive system.

I had to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the HSG test. I had to remind myself that even if my tubes were still blocked, that God is bigger than any diagnosis and that His word has the final say, not some test results. I had to pray for peace and no pain since the first test was so painful.

When I arrived at the doctor’s office I had a few minutes to wait. I opened up my Bible app on my iPhone and it just so happened that Psalm 103 was the verse of the day. This is what it says:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

As I waited, I memorized this passage and drank it in. God’s will for my life is to heal me, redeem my life, crown me with love and mercy (some versions say compassion) and to satisfy me with good things! When I went back for the test I keep repeating this passage over and over again in my mind. I was determined to see God’s goodness this day!

They started the test and thankfully, it didn’t hurt. But when they started up the x-ray machine it wouldn’t work. Again and again they’d try to no avail. There was no way I was going to have to come back and do this test a third time! I truly felt like Satan didn’t want me to have this test, that he wanted to keep me feeling defeated and I wasn’t going to allow that.

The staff went into a back room to try to fix the x-ray problem while I lay there and said out loud, “You have no place in here, Satan!” I know that sounds crazy, but the Bible says that the enemy comes to lie, steal and destroy; it also says that we have authority over him. I wasn’t going to allow him to steal this moment or what came after. I started quietly repeating Psalm 103 as the team walked back in the room and decided to try one last time when all of the sudden the machines all came on! Amazing! I didn’t want to feel anxious as they finished the test so I just closed my eyes and waited until they were done. When the doctor announced that my tubes seemed clear I want to say that I was surprised but I wasn’t — I knew without a doubt that God had healed me.

From there it was straight to the fertility doctor’s office for the next test, an ultrasound. This would also check for blockages in my tubes as well as look for anything else that could be wrong. But as he did the test he moved the monitor towards me and pointed to the screen. “Do you see this?” he asked, pointing at one of the black blobs. “This is your ovary. That means that not only are your tubes clear, but they are wide open!” He moved the ultrasound to the other side and it was the same. Clear. Wide open. Praise God!

You see, God can do anything including heal what the doctor’s say is impossible to heal. In fact, over and over again Jesus says, “Ask for anything in my name and I’ll give it to you.” I’ve spent most of my life not really asking, and when I did, not really believing. But God is good and He is eager to show Himself strong and faithful.

Obviously this isn’t the end of the story. There is still no baby in my belly, no announcement on facebook. The best is yet to come! But what there is now is a miracle to share with you and hope. And because the Bible says that hope does not disappoint, we move forward EXPECTING God to bless us with children. Not because of anything we’ve done or said or earned but because, just like Sarah and Abraham, I consider him who has given me the promise of children (God) to be reliable and trustworthy and true to his word. (Hebrews 11:11)

I know that there are some friends reading this that probably have tears streaming down their faces…the story similar to their own. I know the burden of it, the pain of infertility. No one can understand unless they’ve walked it. Praise the Lord for His Word which is FULL of hope and promises for men and women trying to conceive. Please know that you are not alone! Although it might feel that way at times God has not forgotten you or abandoned you.

I encourage any couples who are struggling to conceive to pour into the word of God and see what He has to say about pregnancy! Do you know that God answered every woman’s prayer for a child in the Bible? Not answered the prayer with adoption (not that there is anything wrong with adopting) or a child from a mistress, but with naturally conceived children of their own! God SO wants to bless us! As He did for them He can also do for us!

I can’t encourage you enough to read Nerida Walker’s book God’s Plan For Pregnancy. I guarantee that you will be encouraged and will grow in your faith and knowledge of who God really is. I also recommend listening to Nerida’s messages online. They are only a few dollars to download and are worth every penny! She also offers some audio testimonies for free which are just amazing — babies conceived when the doctors said it was impossible, babies healed in the womb, babies brought back to life when the scan first showed them as dead! You will be so amazed by what God is able to do.

So that’s the story. If you’ve actually read this whole thing then thank you. It’s scary to be this vulnerable and share what is such a personal struggle. I wanted to share this because I’ve been learning SO much that I just couldn’t hold it all in anymore. And then the miracle happened and I knew that I needed to share with the world God’s goodness, His mercy and loving-kindness. God is good at all times and he loves us so, so much.

Not one of all the good promises of God has ever failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Joshua 23:13)

“For I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)

 

**This is not going to turn into a infertility blog but I probably will be posting more of what I’ve been learning along with favorite scriptures, books and other resources over the next few weeks to encourage all of your future mamas out there