When Hope Grows Up: Part 5

Part four here


The woman who did not try hard enough or long enough.

The woman who gave up on her dream to be a mother.

The childless woman.

I suppose I may live the rest of my life proving these judgments wrong, but not to you or for you but for myself because they are not my truth.

My hope, especially my hope for the future, has meant finding the peace and clarity within the lifelong losses of infertility and my work of being okay.

I do not honor myself, especially my babies, by allowing my whole story to be my struggles and loss. I only honor myself and them by doing the work of forever healing.

This is the work for all of us who have survived any struggle, trauma, loss or tragedy in our lives.

We choose to do the work. We choose how we are forever changed, and yet, always healing.

What I do with my life is my legacy on this earth. And the same is for you. Our legacy is left with every breath we take on this earth. By the love we share with others, how we walk with nature and the work we do, but most of all in the connections and relationships we have with others in our lives.

My legacy will not be in my own biological children or in how many books I sell or how many clients I see.

My legacy is left in how my soul transforms your soul, in how my light shines into your light and how my love influences even just a tiny bit of your own metamorphosis.

My legacy is my choice.

When hope grows up we choose the legacy we leave.


“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ~ T.S. Eliot

When Hope Grows Up: Part 4

Part three here.


Deep down, even within uncertainty and questioning, we know what our truth is. If we are unsure, then that uncertainty is our truth in that moment.

Owning our stories means owning all the parts of our story. Owning our stories sometimes means owning that we are unsure at this moment.

Because when we finally give ourselves permission to own it, even in the lostness, we will find our truth and clarity.

And as my favorite author and researcher storyteller, Brené Brown says,

When we own our story, we can write the ending.

Owning my story means I do not have to explain to anyone else why I have made a choice, it simply means I must stand by that choice, honor it and hold onto it as my truth.

Even when my truth makes you uncomfortable or you do not agree, I still do not have to make you understand it. Because at the end of the day I am the only one who must live with it.

My enough and everything, how far I have gone for my hopes and dreams may look nothing like yours.

And that is okay; one is not better or more okay than the other.

They are our truths.

And if I have reached my enough and everything and redefined my hope to let go of a dream, even if you do not agree or understand, does not mean that I have given up, quit or chosen without loss.

It only means I have honored truth; myself.

When hope grows up I own all the parts of my story and know I am enough.


Tomorrow we'll talk choosing our legacy.

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ~ T.S. Eliot



When Hope Grows Up: Part 3

Part two here


We like to check the box. We quickly categorize. We think in black and white.

Therefore, we also like to feel in black and white.

Happy or sad. Angry or joyful. Disappointed or at peace.

My education, training and professional experience have always taught me that this black and white thinking is simply not how we are wired. But our society does not embrace this much and the messy complicated gray of feeling too much of anything, let alone feeling conflicting things at the same time, has many of us are numbing and self-medicating ourselves to the utter loss of us.

However, I did not truly learn and embrace giving myself permission to feel it all, and feel it all at the same time, until going through and surviving the infertility journey.

Losing three babies, not being one of the success stories and choosing to define my own happy ending means I must choose to live the rest of my life making the room to feel it all.

Sadness with joy.

Trust with longing.

Parts forever missing and yet choosing to do the work to be whole.

Through giving ourselves permission to feel it all, all at the same time, we allow ourselves to move the the dark.

With this work, we make room for the light.

This is my hope.

My hope can no longer be that everything works out the way I wanted. My hope can no longer be that if you just try hard enough, never give up and do everything right, you will get what you think you deserve.

My hope is moving through the dark to make room for the light. My hope is in trusting there are no mistakes and choosing to do the work to respond to it with love, light and courage.

When hope grows up we give ourselves permission to feel it all, and to feel it all at the same time, because only then does our light shine.


Tomorrow we'll talk owning our enough; our truth.

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ~ T.S. Eliot


Don't miss my new coloring journal, Taking Flight, now available via CreateSpace!!


When Hope Grows Up: Part 2

Part 1 here.


I had to change my definition of hope because never giving up was killing my soul and stealing my light.

We've all had those dreams we've wanted our whole lives. The dreams we've worked very hard for. The dreams we maybe even paid lots of money for.

The dreams we will do anything for.

But what happens when our pursuit of that dream begins to take more from us than it will ever be able to fill back up?

Losing ourselves to our dreams means we have nothing left of ourselves to enjoy them if they come true.

And so we must practice active acceptance of what we cannot change and grasp on to a new and more realistic hope for ourselves.

The only thing, ever, in our lives that we must never give up on, is ourselves.

And for some of us, this includes the work of letting go of what we hoped would be and practicing active acceptance of what cannot be changed.

Yes, we chose to stop infertility treatments. A choice between shitty choices; keep going and wreak more havoc on our well-being and our finances or determine our enough and begin the difficult work of redefining.

To let go of the dream that was destroying me by accepting what is not in my power and grasping onto a new, realistic hope was the only way to truly be okay.

When hope grows up we practice active acceptance and never give up on ourselves.


Tomorrow we'll talk feeling it all to make room for the light.

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ~ T.S. Eliot


My debut coloring journal, Taking Flight, is now available via CreateSpace!!!


When Hope Grows Up: Part 1

Hope With a Catch


Of course I don't believe hope needs to die but good God do I wish people would take their rainbows and fairy dust hope and stop shoving it down our throats.

Sometimes it is hard, the struggle is real and the dark, fucking dark.

Hope is flung around as a weapon, a badge and a reprieve, especially in the infertility, pregnancy loss and recovery worlds. It is a word used to inspire others but oftentimes comes with a significant catch. The catch is that it oftentimes only comes attached to the stories that worked out, got the ending we all want or are considered successful.

When hope is the message of these happy ending stories it can feel like a weapon being discharged on our soul for those of us who it did not work out for. The ones who have defined our own happy ending but the ending that many do not be consider the happy one.

So are we shit out of hope?

Or only invisible?

You know my story by now: tried to be a mom, paid a lot of money to be a mom, it did not work and we live a childfree not by choice life.

It is sad. It makes you sad and makes you really want to take away my pain by offering a not so simple solution, such as "why don't you just adopt?"

Stories like mine do not go viral, they do not get shared and sometimes hardly acknowledged by our society.

Because we don't think there is hope in not getting what we dreamed of; and we only want to read, hear and feel the stories full of happy hope.

And yet, every single day there is hope in my life; hope in many different things and people and it was only found in letting my old definition of hope die.

When hope grows up we refuse to be invisible.


Tomorrow we'll talk active acceptance versus never giving up.

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ~ T.S. Eliot

Hope Needs to Die?


A huge part (the more bitter part) of me wanted to title this series Hope Needs to Die but I know that title would not honor the work I am doing or my story, so I embraced When Hope Grows Up.

For the next five days I will be sharing short posts on the topic of hope; and if you are a follower of my work you already know I consider hope to be one tricky SOB right alongside acceptance, forgiveness and letting go.

So hold on folks, it may get bumpy on this hope ride.

In this series, we are going to consider a more complicated, and therefore uncomfortable, way of keeping, having and redefining hope. You may agree, disagree, grow, think, feel, and most definitely, probably squirm a bit in the next five days.

The good news is that this discomfort means you are learning and growing, and I believe, therefore living.

Out of the Ashes

One week shy of 9 months after my dad's life changing fall off a ladder, my family has faced another life threatening and forever life changing tragedy. I have spent the last week along side Chad's family in Denver on another of the scariest roller coasters of my life. You can read more about my sister in law's journey here, and please send all the prayers, light, love and strength you can, as we all have a long road ahead.

Preparation in fight and faith.

There is no doubt that my dad's accident prepared me for this journey. I knew what kind of support my family would need because it was the support that I lacked myself during dad's accident. So I bossed; making people sleep, eat and take breaks. I counseled; providing the space to vent, talk and cry. I helped; starting the Caring Bridge site and simply just being me. And, I walked through it with my continually growing faith; allowing my in laws to give themselves permission to beg and question God for their daughter's life while also trusting Him and their faith. As my friend Kelly told me, I think I may have a calling as a chaplain in my future.

I may never get to know why this year has been both the best and hardest year of Chad and I's lives; a job promotion for Chad and launching Ever Upward for me, and yet we have also experienced these two family medical emergencies, that were literally life or death.


What I do know is that I felt different through this emergency, I felt my faith more than I ever have. I also witnessed too many miracles to ignore the fact that He does have a plan for us. And, even if in this moment I am not sure I like, or even want to accept, His plan, I still know that it is and will be okay.

Because out of these ashes He will bring beauty.

I trust this more than I ever have in my life. I trust this because of my journey out of my ashes; two back surgeries and a year in a body cast, the lifelong losses of infertility, three lost babies and the rock bottom of my life. I believe, especially with having faith in something, that we can fight for and find our beauty out of the ashes.

This is ever upward.

There are many things I do not know. I do not know when my sister in law will get a new heart. I do not know how difficult this road will be for all of us. I do not know if Ever Upward will ever get the big break I so hope it does. And, I do not know when the next trauma, loss or tragedy will strike me or my family.

However, there are many things I do know. I know that we will be okay no matter what. I know that one day I will get the understanding of the why I so desire, even if it is just on the other side of eternity. I know that if we continue to give ourselves permission to talk about it, embrace it, practice recovery from it and own it all, we can all find the beauty we all so deserve no matter what we face.

This is the work of faith.

This is the work of life.

This is the work of finding and moving ever upward.


Please feel free to share!

If you want to read more of Justine's writing make sure to purchase your copy of Ever Upward today and find her on The Huffington Posthere.

This post lined with Amateur Nester's Link-Up.

The Childfree Mother-My Messy Beautiful

I am not a mother. I wanted to be a mother.

I fought very hard to be a mother.

I paid a lot of money and put my body (and my surrogate’s body) through synthetic hormonal hell to be a mother.

But, I am not a mother.

At least in the common definition of mother.

And yet, here I am, a fan of Glennon, her Momasteryblog and her book Carry On, Warrior, contributing to her Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project… but I am not a mother.

Talk about messy and scared to death.

But I choose beautiful and courage instead.

Messy, Beautiful Warrior

My story could be considered epically sad and tremendously messy. But, I like to think of it as beautifully flawed and filled with ever upward light and love, and every piece of my life puzzle in this Messy, Beautiful life is proof that I am a Warrior. Because, it is messy and beautiful to live our lives authentically brave, and so, everyday I choose to live as a Messy, Beautiful Warrior.

Being a warrior means living all the parts of my story fully, wholeheartedly and brazenly authentically courageous.

It means never shying away from the most asked question of every woman my age, “How many children do you have?”, and answering it in my own honest way.

“We tried, we tried really hard, but we can’t have kids.”

It means never allowing shame to steal my story when I am asked the inevitable second most asked question, “Well, why don’t you just adopt?”

“We know adoption is not our path. We’ve been through a lot, financially and emotionally, with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), surrogacy and losing three babies already. We have decided to accept a childfree life.”

Owning My Story

I will not apologize if my answer makes you uncomfortable. I will not allow your need to fix or take away my pain to silence my story. I will not let shame, self- or societal-induced, steal my light.

So I will educate. I will write and speak my story, owning my shame, every day of my life. I will live it because it is the only way to honor myself. I will live it because it is the only way the landscape of infertility will change. I will live it because we all have our epically Messy, Beautiful journeys. Because hard is hard and maybe, just maybe, openly owning my story will make you just uncomfortable enough to open your eyes and heart to someone else’s story and therefore lead you to some compassion and understanding.

In short, my life and the stories I write in Ever Upward are the epitome of Messy, Beautiful. They are about what happens when we don’t get what we so desperately wanted and hoped for. What happens when we don’t get what we thought we deserved?

Ever Upward

Ever Upward is about letting go of what isn’t and embracing a new purpose.

Every day I live and write about my Messy, Beautiful.

Every day I live and write about the epic stumbles followed by every purposeful rise.

The following may look like a mess of words to some, but to me they are my Messy, Beautiful story told through some of the titles of my writings...

Where Do I Belong?

Searching through Our Soul’s Way Through Invisible Sufferings, where I must speak my Fear In Owning My Truth where I am Taking Off the Armor of My “Choice”. Because, only then will Shame Die a Little Bit More.

Learning the hard lessons of seeing the limitations of others as they become Our Fellow Warriors, True Friends, Limited Supporters and Incapables. And then, continually asking the question, Can Our Incapables in the Stands Become Our Warriors in the Arena? As I am constantly figuring out The Frankenstein Walk of Feeling Left Behind.

To make sure Shamed Silence is Broken, I must work on Embracing It to Truly Let It Go and fighting for and finding my Resilient Dreams. Where I must learn The Paradox of Letting Go. Maintaining the balance between my need to Wallow, But Just For a Bit, Then Stop Sitting in the Shit to learn the lesson that it is Worth Every Raindrop and Thunder Strike.

Pushing back My Dementors of Shame and Self Doubt to Reach Through the Keyhole of Your Closet. Because only then will I be able to help others learn to Tread or Float. As I have done in Conceiving Our Chosen Family, which is Never a Consolation Prize and always leaves me Filled with Awe.

Pushing Through Fear to Accept Joy, Hell, to Fight For It has meant loving my Chosen Children. It has meant taking My First Step Out of Rock Bottom to Start My Walk on the Moon and looking for the Lights in the Tunnel to Thrive and Not Just Survive.

And trusting that through this battle I will find my Faith in Something. And that this faith will help me fight The Gravity of Relapse especially in Making Room for the Light.

Because I know, I am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic.

My messy is the random anger and bitterness that can over take me at times. My messy is the underlying sadness that comes and goes because I didn’t get what I wanted or hoped for. My messy is that in every traditional sense of a woman my age, I won’t ever really fit in because I am not a mother. My messy is owning my struggle in my recovery. My messy is the risk I am taking in asking to be considered part of this project and, better yet, my courage to own my shame in my childless status.

But, I choose beautiful in my ever upward mess.

My beautiful is surviving failed IVF and surrogacy. My beautiful is accepting and redefining my childfree life. My beautiful is finding my chosen family within the love of our surrogate family especially with their unexpected pregnancy after our failed IVF tries. My beautiful is finding my role in the lives of all our chosen children. My beautiful is having the patience to find my faith again. My beautiful is owning my story, for the world to see, in order to break the silence of infertility but more importantly in claiming my ongoing recovery. My beautiful is knowing that I am a mother in more ways than most are open to considering. My beautiful is in trusting my gut wrenching ironic path to my ever upward light in being a childfree mother.

As, my beautiful is living my light, authentically brave, mess and all, no matter what. Because life in recovery is always a Messy, Beautiful ever upward journey.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!