Embracing Your Longest Wait

There is no doubt about it, once you decide you’re ready to start your family, your patience will immediately begin to be tested. What should be the happiest time in our lives can sometimes be the most disappointing. Starting a family seems so easy for some, yet very complicated for many of us. Whether you end up on the road of infertility and decide to pursue adoption or fertility treatments (or both), the wait is a very real and a very stressful part of the process. Waiting on the phone to ring can seem like torture.  It doesn't matter whether you’re waiting for an adoption agency with news of a match or for test results to come back from the doctor, time feels like it stands still. Add in a few good doses of some disappointment and it can be tough – painfully so. We both survived it and not only survived it, but learned to thrive in it – to the fullest extent possible! We learned to be patient and look to God for strength in those moments where you could almost hear the second hand on the clock... tick, tock, tick tock.  God yearns for us to praise Him even among our biggest storms. He sends these storms to draw us closer to Him. So do just that – draw close to Him and praise Him in your storm! If you have found yourself in this storm as we have, then follow along for some ways that helped us get through our difficult, complicated times. 

The Personal Matters

Let Go of Your Attempt to Control the Uncontrollable

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
— Proverbs 16:9

There is nothing wrong with wanting to have children.  We believe God puts that desire in our hearts for a reason.  He specifically designed us that way from the beginning.  So once we recognize the desire is there, we begin to plan for that day; however, we do not know what God’s timing will look like, or how long that road will be.  That is out of our control.  Nevertheless, we continue to try to fight to hang on to feeling in control with our hearts.  It’s a useless battle and the outcome is simply more unnecessary stress and anxiety, both for us personally and for our relationships. So how do you plan the course and let God establish the steps?  It can be very helpful at times when struggling with this to actually make a list of things within our control (i.e. taking medication, going to doctor appointments, overall health) and things that were out of our control (i.e. my body’s response to the medication). Then we can focus our energy and thoughts on doing those things within our control to the best of our ability and turn the rest over to Him. God will allow us to be tested, and we may feel like things are completely out of our control, but God is always in control of our circumstances and wants us to live life abundantly, faithfully, and with hope.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’.
— Jeremiah 29:11

Seek a Mentor and Supportive Friends

‘To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’.
— 1 Peter 5:1-5

The Bible is full of mentoring relationships, like Ruth and Naomi, and 1 Peter 5:1-5 describes this mentoring as a process of showing humility and bringing glory to Him. God knows we need guidance through the difficult phases of life and shows us the proper way. If possible, find a mentor who has been through a similar experience to call on as you go through this process.  Whether you’re going through fertility treatments or adoption, there are a lot of decisions to be made and having someone who has walked this road to refer to is immensely helpful.  To have a Godly mentor will help you find God’s purpose for this wait and can change your whole perspective. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In addition to a mentor, find a few trusted, encouraging friends who don’t mind a few late night phone calls when you’re having a rough day.  A friendship or two that can keep your spirits lifted, your thoughts positive and keep you focused on God as you travel this road is a blessing like no other. 

Find Your Prayer Warriors

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

This is possibly one of the most important and comforting things you can do while in your wait.  They don’t have to know all the details of your journey, but finding people that will truly commit to praying for you is an amazing experience.  Knowing these prayer warriors are out there on your good and bad days is so comforting and you will definitely feel the impact of their prayers.  In addition to asking them to pray for your one-day child, ask them to pray for your spiritual growth during this trial.  Ask them to pray for protection and strength for your marriage while you walk through difficult days.  Ask them to pray that God will show you His purpose for your wait and show you the blessing(s) that will come from it.  Ask them to pray for your humility, perseverance, and decision making.  God will not let you down and that alone will keep you going and keep your eyes on Him!  The Bible is full of references to prayer warriors, because it’s important! 

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join my in my struggle by praying to God for me.
— Romans 15:30
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this , that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:4-6

Be Still and Listen

Be still, and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10

God allows us seasons of waiting so that we will have to actually “stop” and pay attention to Him.  If we always got exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it, then we, as selfish humans, wouldn't have much need to seek His will and purpose.  We wouldn't have much of an opportunity to recognize the “everyday miracles” that God performs – like the right person saying the right thing at the right time to help you in a decision or to comfort you when your heart is broken.  Sometimes, He just needs to get our attention so He can teach us a few things, shower us with His amazing grace, and give us the desire to bring Him the glory from the miraculous outcome of our situation.  And in that wait, it gives us the chance to learn to cast our anxiety on Him and be thankful – yes thankful – for the wait and the struggle. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7

I read this verse countless times while on my journey and it became my prayerful goal to learn to give God my anxiety, to just sit and LISTEN for His voice and direction, and to thank Him while I waited.  It was a hard thing to do and took a lot of diligent practice, but oh the blessings that came from it.  The peace that comes truly does surpass all understanding.  Even though your desire for a baby does not diminish at all, the wait becomes a peaceful, blessed and comforted one.  God will, if you allow Him, use our biggest pains to become the greatest opportunities for ministry.  We are living proof of that!

Praise Him – The Storms Bring the Greatest Showers of Blessings

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
— James 1:2-4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5

This seems so counter-intuitive to our human nature, and it is.  But that’s the point.  Just like the chunk of coal that under immense pressure and time becomes a beautiful diamond, we cannot grow spiritually, or otherwise, without a little hardship and trial.  Our faith becomes stagnant without being tested.  And God gets a chance to show off his incredible power, love and grace through our weakness.  As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness.  So we should boast about our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may be seen through us. 

The obvious blessing is the long-awaited child; however, we have both found that there are countless other blessings that have come from our trials.  We are both completely changed people since going through the struggles to start our families.  Our marriages are stronger, we are better parents for our precious children than we would have been prior to the long wait, and more importantly, we know what pain and comfort is first hand so we can now pass on the comforting to others.  Those are just a few of the blessings that we never would have experienced, had it not been for our storms.  So yes, we’re incredibly thankful for the wait, for the heart breaks, for the struggle.  We’re incredibly thankful that God was always in control and always had us in the palm of His hand.  It’s hard to see that when you are in the middle of the journey, but you have to just keep telling yourself that, keep reading those verses, and keep praying that God will reveal bits of His purpose and blessings to you along the way.  But without a struggle, there’s no need for a miracle and without the miracles, God doesn’t get to show us just how incredible He is!

Trust!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

We've already discussed how God is in control, has a purpose and a future for you, is working in us to complete us and bless us and wants us to give him our anxiety and worry.  So now what... now we simply trust.  Cling to these verses, or one that God gives you for your particular journey, and anytime you start feeling that anxiety rise up or start to question God’s presence in your life, read the verses again and TRUST.  Banish all the other thoughts from your mind and lean on your mentor, friend and prayer warriors to help you do that!  When I got to this point in my journey, God showed me a verse that became the one I clung to.  “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24. At that point, it became clear that it was all about faith.  That trust and faith will not return empty.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:13
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.
— Psalm 62:8
longest wait.PNG

The Practical Stuff

Be Honest – With Yourself and Your Spouse

Infertility is a difficult process to go through and you may find at times that you're just tired. Though it applies to either option, this is especially true if you are undergoing fertility treatments. It's hard on your body, your mind, your marriage and you may find that you just need to take a break. Do it! Take a cycle off and refresh yourself. Focus on your spouse, do something fun together, put the baby making on the back burner for a few weeks until you feel rejuvenated and excited to try again. There is enough outside pressure put on you during this process that you don't need to add to it by putting yourself through another cycle of medicines and procedures when you aren't completely ready. If you are awaiting that special phone call from an adoption agency, the same principles apply. Breaks may be needed, especially if you have been waiting a while. Remove your names from a list if you have to and begin again. The "not knowing" can be much more stressful than you admit to yourselves. When your name is on a list, in the back of your mind, you are constantly wondering if someone is looking at your profile and asking yourself why am I not being chosen. So be honest - with yourself and your spouse - about how you're feeling, how he's feeling, and make the decisions together.

Stay Busy and Keep Your Mind Active

When you’re waiting on a phone call or are in the dreaded “two week wait” between the time when you could have gotten pregnant and when you get the test results back, the worst thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time with nothing to do but think and stare at the phone!  During these times, call up those friends we discussed above and go do something!  Have a couple special date nights with your husband (who by the way is waiting just as patiently or impatiently as you).  And when you do find yourself quiet and thinking, then practice listening for God’s voice and stay in the scriptures.  As we all learned as children on Christmas Eve, the big surprises come quicker when you’re busy!

Save Money

Both adoption and fertility treatment options can be quite expensive, so as soon as you start your wait for a child, start saving money where you can.  It will take a lot of pressure off if you can afford to have more options, and hey... if your wait ends sooner than later and you've been saving, then hooray – you get to buy that much more adorable little baby stuff, treat yourself to a massage or take a vacation with hubby!  Also, if you are adopting, check into tax credits and also many companies offer reimbursement programs for adoption related expenses.

Do Your Research**

I’m going to put an asterisk by this one because this one partially depends on your personality.  For us, we are both engineers who are married to engineers.  We love science, we love facts, and we love knowing everything about everything.  So research was not only very comforting to us when we were trying to stay busy and keep our minds active, but also helped us feel more prepared as we approached decision points.  However, we recognize that not everyone thinks this way.  You may be someone who quickly becomes overwhelmed by technical or legal information.  If this is the case, then limit your research to finding a great medical staff or lawyers whom you can trust to guide you through the future decisions. 

Don’t Wish Away the Life You Do Have

This is a very important one that can make a huge difference on the impact this wait has on both you personally and on your marriage.  When you’re so focused on having a baby and by the nature of the option you choose, so much of life becomes dictated and centered around trying to have this baby, it can be easy to forget that the life you currently have is still pretty great.  You want to grow your family because you've got a happy family and a happy marriage now.  So don’t lose sight of that.  A friend told me once, “Look... we all know how this story is going to end.  One way or another, you will have a baby at the end of this road.  But the catch is we don’t know just how long this road is.  So don’t forget to stop at some romantic scenic overlooks along the way and hold hands with your husband.”  She was absolutely right! We've been married for a while now, Courtney for 10 years and Jenny for almost 12 years, and we both spent five of those years trying to have a baby.  We are so glad that those five years weren't solely defined by our journey to start a family.  Though that did make up a big part of our lives then, we found time to just live too – we threw parties, went on trips, had date nights, laughed, talked, worked, and lived – and tried to start a family.  As a result, our marriages are much stronger, our families much more solid, and we have no regrets!

Remember: 

Someone Else Having a Baby Doesn't Take Away Your Chance

This can be a tough area for many people going through their waiting period.  While you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting... it seems that everyone else around you is getting pregnant.  And if your wait is long enough, you get lapped! While you’re still trying for baby #1, your best friend or sister has her 1st, 2nd and 3rd babies.  It can be tough and though you are happy for your friends and happy that they do not have to experience the same kind of struggle as you, it’s hard because it’s such a stark reminder of what you’re longing for so badly.  However, the good news is that there is no quota on the number of babies that can be born.  Just because the Duggars have had enough babies to populate a small country of their own, does not have any impact whatsoever on the likelihood that you will have a baby yourself.  Remember that God has a plan for everyone.  Only He knows just how long our road is and how many stops we’ll make along the way.  So try hard to just be happy for your friends and focus on staying positive for your own journey.  It will be worth the wait!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3

Though it feels anything but normal, this wait what you find yourself in is a normal season of life. That does not make it any easier... we know. However, you don't have to try to hide or deny your emotions because as Ecclesiastes says, there's a time to mourn and weep, but there's also a time to dance and laugh. So be honest with yourselves, with your spouse, with your friends and pray warriors, and most importantly with God. You can be frustrated and excited, heartbroken and hopeful. And you can experience all of those emotions without losing your faith! You can go through this wait and come out a stronger person, better spouse and more equipped parent. But you have to be willing to let God lead you through the journey. He will never forsake you, never leave you and will bring you to the place that He has already prepared. We just have to hang on for the ride and keep our heads up to see what He wants to show us along the way. And we have to remember that this is a season of our lives - it is not forever. God will redirect our paths when His time is right.

We truly pray that you find some or all of these tips helpful as you endure your wait. It's tough, but is worth every second of it at the end. Just use your time while you wait to really focus on becoming a better you, a better wife, a better friend and that will make you a better mom when your time comes. God really does have you in the palm of His hand and will guide you through every step of the journey if you let Him. He will show you incredible things along the way and will teach you invaluable lessons. He will comfort you with a comfort that reaches the deepest, darkest corners of your soul and will fill you to the brim with His joy. So prayerfully, try hard to focus on that, get your friends and mentors to help you along the way, and remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in what can feel like the longest wait.

To the Infertile Ones... It's Not Your Fault

I was so weighted down by this guilt I carried. I wanted to protect him from my pain. I wanted him to have more than what I could give. That little black mark in my medical file... my diagnosis. 

My fault.

For two years I told myself it was silly to feel so much weight for something I had no control over, by my heart wouldn't let it go. For two years, I looked in the mirror with every failed try and saw a failure as a wife. For two years I battled a guilt that wasn't mine to battle. I couldn't give him a baby; it was my fault.

On the rare occasion I would try to talk this out with my husband, he would say the perfect things. He would try his best to relieve me from this guilt I had placed upon myself. He would tell me to stop thinking that way because we were in this together. No matter what happened, natural conception, IVF, adoption or no child at all... we were in this together. My heart wasn't accepting though. I didn't want him to have to shoulder a diagnosis that wasn't his. I wanted to believe him. I fought to trust every word he said and that he truly didn't resent me for that little black mark in my medical files. I just couldn't let it go. I was so afraid of resentment and failure.

Two years into our infertility my perspective changed. Two years in and I finally understood. We had run out of options to try with the regular OB/GYN and had been handed over to the fertility specialist. Being the extremely thorough doctors that they are, they wanted to start from scratch and run every test, identify every possible factor, and then move forward with developing a plan to help us have a child. So we tested... only this time, he was thoroughly tested too. When the test results were all in and the doctors called us in to discuss the results, we were shocked to learn we both had a black mark in our medical files. We had known I had PCOS. What we didn't know was that my husband also had a factor as well.

My first reaction was complete relief, followed instantly by a flood of compassion, sympathy and heartbreak for him. I knew how he was feeling because I had been there for the last two years. I saw the look on his face as he now wrestled with what I had been fighting for years. I knew how he felt. But with that came a huge awakening.

Infertility isn't my fault. It isn't his fault.

It just is...

I finally understood all those beautiful words of reassurance he had speaking to me. I didn't marry you so you could give me a child. I will still love you just as much if we can never have kids. This isn't your fault. We are in this together. We multiply our blessings and divide our burdens - that's marriage.

I finally understood as I had my chance to say all those things right back to him as he fought back similar fears and self-imposed guilt.

Friends, a diagnosis of infertility is so hard. It puts a gut-wrenching pain into your lives and into your marriage. It affects you both. You have enough to face dealing with your diagnosis and the subsequent decisions of how that will impact your future. Be kind to yourself and don't add to your stress with self-imposed, undue guilt. Never forget why you are trying to have a baby with your spouse in the first place. You love them for who they are, period. You married them to have a life with them, period. Remind each other of this... often. Keep the communication between you open. You will likely both deal with the circumstances and stresses in different ways and to varying degrees, but allow each other the freedom to handle this process in you own styles. But in those different styles, never stop talking. Infertility can kill a marriage... but it can also bring you closer together than you ever thought possible. This takes work; it takes communicating when you'd rather pull the covers up over your head. It takes listening when the other person needs to vent their frustrations. But it is worth it. Free yourself of a guilt that isn't yours to carry and let your spouse know that you need them in this as much as they need you.

In good times and bad, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. We're in this thing together. No matter where it takes us. No matter where it leads.

I wish I could look each of you in the eyes when I tell you this, so you'll know how serious I am when I say it...

This infertility is not your fault.

It's Time to Thrive

There are times that my heart just aches... for each of you and where you are on your journeys through infertility or fighting for your health; for our country as the past few months have been hard hitting with disaster after disaster. Whether we're facing our own individual storms of another failed cycle and another discarded pregnancy test or facing frightening news of a diagnosis and the uphill battle that lies ahead of us as we fight for our health; or we're seeing hurricane devastation to entire cities and states or crazed madmen terrorizing a city of innocent victims, there's an awful lot of emotion to deal with.

I struggle to find the words that can explain all of the hurts. I wish I knew the right thing to say that could make it all better. It feels like sometimes we're just surviving. One step at a time, facing one battle after another, just surviving. But that's not the life God intended for any of us.

I had no sooner typed those words and was struggling to find the right way to describe everything in my heart when the next song started on my Pandora station...

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died

Like a tree planted by the water
We will never run dry

So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our soul
With one desire

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun made darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
— Casting Crowns, Thrive

It is time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive. 

Jesus Himself told us there would be trouble in our world. It shouldn't surprise us when we turn on the news or sit face-to-face with a doctor as he tells us what the test results show. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) When we face these times of trouble and we find that our heart is aching, it's a call to action. It's a call to dig deep in His word, to seek after His perfect will with all of our heart. It's a time to trust and thank Him profusely that in Him alone we find peace - true peace - a peace that isn't all rainbows and unicorns, but deeper than that. Peace that means that even if the world spins out of control around us, our souls are still at rest. Peace that allows us to find comfort in a scripture verse and a whisper from the Holy Spirit on the same day we find out we are miscarrying. Peace that allows us to lend a helping hand to our neighbor even when we also just lost everything. Peace that allows us to rise up together as a community and pray for each other, together, as we battle our own uncertain futures. The peace and power of the Holy Spirit that can allow us to thrive in the middle of our own individual heartbreaks, is also the same peace that will be a beacon to the world when the hurricanes hit or the madman attacks a city or you step into your inner city to serve the homeless and help the poor. 

john 14 27.PNG

With the peace that comes only from Jesus Christ Himself, we are equipped to more than just survive. We can truly thrive, even if... We can cling to our faith and put a smile on our face as we shed tears, because our future does not depend on our current circumstances, but on our future in Christ. We can take comfort in knowing that God alone knows our paths, our dreams and our futures and He is good. If the dreams we have aren't meant to be, we can trust that if we surrender them over to His mighty hands, He will replace them with something so much better. We can thrive. 

Facing these times of adversity allows us the unique experience of realizing our painful times are so much bigger than ourselves. They are times that help our faith grow deep. They can teach us lessons that we would never experience otherwise. They give us the opportunity to have a platform to help others when they encounter similar pain. They give us the chance to stretch out our hands in love and show others just how much God loves us. Our pain can hurt deeply. Our circumstances can bring us to our knees and knocked the air out of us. It can break our hearts. But it cannot steal our hope and peace because in Jesus, we know our broken circumstances are temporary and not without purpose if we trust that we were meant to more than just survive.

IVF: Playing God or Trusting God

All I want is a baby... One to love and nurture, one to raise and hold. But everything else has failed. All the treatments and medicines have failed to make that dream a reality. Then the doctors come in with their advice... "We think in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is your best option for getting pregnant and having a child." 

But I'm a Christian and my mind starts racing. 

How far is too far? Am I trying to play God? What about the "extra" embryos?

Read More

Being a Friend When Infertility Strikes

A friend loves at all times... but what if your friend (or family member) is going through something that you cannot understand?  Until I was faced with infertility myself I had no idea just how common it is. It's such a personal struggle for so many women and couples that it often stays hidden just below a very thin surface of brave smiles.  In fact more than 1 in 8 women and couples will be affected by infertility. So the odds are good that you know someone dealing with this extremely difficult issue. 

If you have a friend dealing with infertility, she is likely feeling very isolated and very alone. While you may not have walked the road they are facing, it's likely that you have experienced some sense of hurt or deep fear over something personal in your life and can relate more than you think you can. I confided in a friend who had reached out to me, but fearfully, I gave her an out by saying something along the lines of "but you don't want to hear about that."  Her quick reply of "I may not have dealt with this issue, but I've been through hurt before. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter what causes the hurt and fear, it feels the same, so please let me help you through yours." made all the difference. I knew I wasn't alone. Keep reading for some tips on how to be a good friend when infertility strikes.

Read More

Hello My Name Is...

As I talked about in my last post, A Clean Slate, Now What?, it has been a while since I've written last. So there are probably some of you whom I haven't met yet. I so wish I could meet each of you sweet friends face to face over a cup of coffee. I want to hear your story, what you're excited about, what you're struggling with, and how I can pray with you. Since that's a little difficult to do over this whole internet thing, I'll introduce myself and tell you our story and how this little space to hang out in came to be. I love that this is an safe space in the world for us to encourage each other through some tough times. I love hearing from you though emails, prayer requests and comments, so please follow us on social media (@ournotsoengineeredlife), subscribe to the newsletter (I promise we don't send out very many), leave us comments and let us know what's going on in your journey. Your story matters!

The conversations are where the best relationships are born, where we get to know each other and encourage each other through life's journeys. Please know that I do love open comments and conversations, but I also highly respect the need for anonymity, especially when you're struggling through a difficult time in your life. So right up front, I just want to assure you, privacy will be respected as we talk about prayer requests and things of that nature.

my name is.jpg

So with that... Hello, my name is Courtney. I am about as extroverted as they come and a full blown night owl. But many of my favorite people in this world are quite introverted and love running before sunrise... yes, like in the morning. Running... before sun up. I do not get it, but love them in spite of their questionable decision making. :) So wherever you find yourself fitting on the social interaction scale, you are welcome here. I am so thankful you are here and really wish I could be serving you a cup of coffee at my kitchen table right now. So let's just pretend, shall we? 

photo shoot picture courtney.jpg

I absolutely love making new friends, entertaining in our home and laughing over good food and coffee. Despite being an engineer, I'm most happy when I'm cooking, crafting, planning parties or writing. {Proof you can teach an old dog new tricks...} I'm fiercely competitive, love traveling and am not very good at relaxing and sitting still. You will almost always find a stack of three or four books by my bed that span the ranges from inspirational religious books to good old fashioned murder mysteries. Most of my time is now spent trying to make the most of our family time, keeping up with my daughter's endless energy, hosting play dates, or attending school and church functions with her. I am also a Bible study junkie. I thoroughly enjoy leading and being a part of women's Bible study groups, speaking and serving God through bringing comfort and encouragement to others who are walking through a difficult season of life. 

In 2002, I proudly graduated from the University of Alabama { Roll Tide } with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a heart that was deeply in love with this handsome guy who had graduated from the University of Florida as a Nuclear Engineer the previous year. In 2003, Rob and I were married and working for the same company. We spent our first several years together enjoying married life, being committed to our challenging and enjoyable careers, traveling and hosting parties for any and every occasion.

intro collage.jpg

When we began contemplating having a family, we were so full of excitement, nervous anticipation, dreams and plans... plans that two engineers can't resist making. For a marriage made of two people with extremely logical, Type-A personalities, we are in our comfort zone when there is very little "unknown" to be treading in. Why would there be? If we have already thought through all the variables, planned for anything, and are prepared to move forward before we ever take our first step, then the "unknowns" shouldn't be a problem. Shouldn't be... until life throws in an unexpected twist.  That was our state of mind when we entered our "5 year plan" to start a family. We were ready to begin the next phase of our lives with nothing but excitement - and a lot of naivety. We had no idea we were about to step off a cliff that would drop us into an entire world of not knowing what was to come or what to expect - but also into a world where God would become so unbelievably real in every moment of every day that we were forced to recognize that our plans are meaningless unless they fall in line with His plans, His will and His purpose.

God chose this moment in our lives to intervene, take over and show us that He is really in charge. To read more about our walk through infertility, miscarriage and our multiple rounds of IVF, click on the button below. 

Our lives took some pretty drastic turns after realizing we were going to struggle to have our family, but in hindsight, I wouldn't change a thing. Those changes and struggles brought us so much closer to each other as husband and wife, and even closer to God. I know now what a tremendous blessing it is to be called Mommy. Now, as a stay-at-home-mom, I am striving to live every day intentionally for God, supporting my husband, raising our little one and taking every opportunity to encourage others. I am passionate about telling our story so that you know that you are not alone and that there is always hope. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I am an open book about our infertility journey and IVF processes. If you are facing fertility treatments, I would love the chance to pray with you or help you navigate through the sometimes overwhelming amount of information and decisions. I am by no means a medical expert, but I have walked in your shoes and understand many of the emotions and fears you may be facing. Please feel free to contact me or visit our prayer page to let us know how we can pray for you during your journey. You are not in this alone.

With love & laughter,

courtney signature.png
 

The Slate is Clean, Now What?

It has been a roller coaster of a year, but as I sit here with coffee in hand, watching birds eat from the feeder on our new deck, I'm ready to dust off the keys and let you in on a little something I've been learning over the past few months. Sometimes, an answered prayer isn't the end of the story, but rather the beginning. What you think may be the ending of a book is just the birth of the sequel. Sometimes the answer to prayer is going to be simultaneously more wonderful and more difficult than you ever thought. A fresh start is anything but a clean slate... but a reminder that we all carry baggage with us, that has to be occasionally purged, sorted and reorganized. But that's not a bad thing at all if we remember where it came from and why it comes with a great importance.

The beginning of this year, my family moved across the state. We went from a terribly stressful, hectic, out of balance life to one that brought the freedom to breathe easier, to play together, to start fresh. God answered our family prayers in a big way. He led us to an amazing opportunity to place priorities back in the right order; to give my husband a dream job that suits both his personality and his passion; to bring us back to my hometown, closer to family and the exciting opportunities a bigger city offers for raising a child. It was a dream come true... except for after years of making life and marriage work in spite of the stresses and unrelenting schedules, I now felt completely lost in the freedom and fresh start this answer to prayer brought.

clean slate.PNG

Over the summer we stayed incredibly busy exploring our new home, settling in and decorating the new house, traveling with my husband's job, meeting new friends and soaking up every minute the last few months brought before my baby girl started to big kid school in the fall. It was a challenging but wonderfully sweet time for us as me and my mini-me learned that extroverts could survive while rebuilding a a social world that had suddenly become very small. Fast forward to the fall and to school days, and our days are now filled with getting my big girl up and ready in time to catch the bus in the mornings and making sure I'm home in the afternoons to welcome her home with a big hug, a bowl of ice cream and listen to stories of how her day went. But in the time in-between the bus routes, I've come face to face with the task God had laid before me years ago.

I had become distracted with all that life was throwing at us. I was trying to just keep my head above water. I was tired, spent and just wanting to hide from anything that might add to my stress. I needed to take a break from writing for a while to get through all the transitions and find my voice again, and then it just became easier to not write that first post. I was selfish and I was scared. But God wouldn't - won't - let me step away from what He's called me to.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When we find ourselves in a distressed stage of life, it's hard to keep that bigger picture. It's hard to not make things all about us. But God is wanting us to trust Him to bring us comfort, so that we can do the same for others around us and point them to God's unfailing goodness. He has reminded me of this time and time again. He allowed us a season of infertility, loss and fear so that we could see His goodness, experience His comfort and see His bigger purpose. It's my honor and privilege to keep telling our story, to listen and invest in yours, to pray with you that you will experience the same comfort I did and see just how much God loves you as He rescues you from your pain.

In reading through the Old Testament this year, one thing has been made exceptionally clear, God doesn't show up in pillars of fire and burning bushes and divided seas very often. He sometimes uses the dramatic to make Himself and His direction known in a very clear way. Then He fully expects and asks us to faithfully follow Him in joyful obedience. He will keep us on the path He originally set out for us, confirming and encouraging us in His precious whispers until it is His plan to use us another way. So I was praying for a change in direction and God was answering me with making the passion that started this website stronger. I prayed for the easy way out and He answered with emails of prayer requests and relationships to remind me of the importance of just following Him faithfully. Encouraging you, praying with you, listening to you and walking through difficult seasons with you is truly a beautiful gift and an honor. The pain I once went through with infertility isn't baggage at all... it's an opportunity to serve Him passionately and to be rewarded with the gift of some amazingly wonderful friends along the way. I have seen God do so many amazing things through friends that came alongside me when I was hurting and continue to see that repeated time and time again when I have the privilege of helping you through your pain. God works miracles through relationships when we aren't scared or too tired or too timid to put ourselves out there to be used and to open up ourselves to let others see our vulnerabilities. When we are weak, He is strong. His Word never changes and He loves us too much to let us hurt alone if we will just be open to His plans for our life. 

God answered our prayers for a fresh start that has turned out to be the beginning to the sequel He started through this blog and ministry years ago. That is to walk alongside you, to encourage you, to listen to you and your story because, my friend, your story matters so much and sometimes we all need a reminder that we are not alone.

With much love and prayers,

courtney signature.png
 

Joy Is More Than Her Middle Name

Today I am thrilled to be able to share such an encouraging word from my friend Sarah, whom I "met" through adoption.  I know you will be blessed by her words today as she shares about finding true joy as we abide in Christ.  AND, she has an amazing Bible Study releasing on November 30 (which you will read more about at the end of this post).  Join me in welcoming Sarah today to the blog!


In March of 2015 our little Liana Joy Manhua arrived home from China. I’ll never forget the moment of stepping off of the plane into the chilly air at the top of the mountain at Yeager airport. The barren trees from the surrounding hills were home. After two weeks away, I was finally going to be able to hold my other children again. Together. Our Family Day. Our Belong Day. Her first day with her new family. This face says it all. She wasn’t quite sure about all of us. And we weren’t really sure about her either. 

Liana Joy Manhua. Joy wasn’t something I just chose randomly. I believe God gave us her name.

I wanted to give her a meaningful first name. Lian means flower in Chinese. Liana, adding the ‘a’, was the Hebrew word for My God has answered. God answering prayer summed up our adoption experience. Manhua was her Chinese name. It was a part of her, and we wanted that to stay a part of her. 

I choose Joy for her middle name because it was short. That’s it. I liked it, and it was a short second middle name. God just laughed, I’m sure. Joy would become more than her middle name.

Joy became something we fought for, in the middle of the tears - both hers and mine. Joy became a distant dream as my own dreams died. Joy was birthed again as God showed me HIS dream for our family. And how much more beautiful, amazing, and fulfilling His plans were, compared to mine. 

Joy was something I tried to fight for, choose, and just wait to show up. But it didn’t. Joy didn’t show up until I began to abide. In John 15:11 Jesus says: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. What things? What did Jesus say so we can have joy - full joy? 

If we read John 15:1-10, Jesus is telling the disciples the secret of abiding. The secret of abiding is we stay connected to the Father, and Jesus, so we can bear fruit. How do we abide? I love this quote by Andrew Murray in his book Abiding in Christ:

It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living waters flow. Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting.

Abiding isn’t about doing, it is about thirsting. Do you thirst for Christ in your life? One way is to ask if you are reading God’s word everyday? Not because you should, but because you get to. When the hard season of adoption hit us, I backed away from Scripture. I felt too hypocritical to read. I knew joy was far from my heart and mind, so I stopped reading God’s word. I didn’t want to do it as a check-list item.

I realized joy would never find me if I waited to “feel right” before seeking Christ. Abiding would only come in the pages of scripture. Joy would only show up if I showed up first. So, slowly I learned the beauty of showing up one day at a time. If you are struggling to find joy, find God first. Don’t worry about where you were yesterday or what tomorrow will bring. Start today. 

If you want help in knowing where to start, my new book is for you. The Glorious Ordinary is a nine-week Bible study designed to lead you into deeper study of God’s Word. No matter if you’ve studied scripture you entire life, or are just starting out, this study is for you. I’ve provided the passages to read, questions to answer, and scripture to memorize. It releases November 30!

Sign up here to get started abiding TODAY. You will be the first to know when my book releases as well! I’ve developed some great printables to help you in your Bible reading journey. You will receive them all of for free, right in your inbox. Click here to sign up. 

Picture.jpg

Sarah lives her life with an amazing husband and four little ones (one adopted from China). Her inner-planner girl would like to say she’s super efficient and has the house, homeschool, and husband all neatly organized. But she doesn’t. Sarah’s house is run with fuel from coffee and Jesus. She is learning how to find the thrill of walking one day at a time in the messiness of mundane. She invites you to study God’s Word in your ordinary days. 

If you are having a hard time starting a Bible study habit, check out Sarah’s 5 Steps for Starting a Bible Study Habit - Today! Found at sarahefrazer.com/audio-course

Connect with Sarah here: Website / / Facebook / / Instagram / / Pinterest / / Twitter

10 Practical (and Creative) Ways to Support Someone with Cancer

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, it took us completely off guard.  No shocker there.  No one can ever anticipate cancer.  My immediate reaction was to be an emotional hot mess, and scream “it’s not fair.”  But then I quickly realized that is not what my mom needed – an angry, bitter, and resentful daughter.  She needed a cheerleader.  She needed someone to lift her up when she couldn’t lift herself.  So that’s the mission I set out on along with my dad and our immediate family and friends.  She needed us and she needed God.  And she needed us to support and encourage her in practical ways.

As I searched the holy grail of Pinterest and “the Google”, I was shocked to find little to zero ways to support people battling cancer.  Sure there were a few ideas that I took off with and made my own, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find more.  I mean, there were the “pray, support, encourage” ways that all good Southern Baptists know already.  However, I needed and wanted more because as great (and necessary) as prayers are, sometimes we need the tangibles too – the reminders around the house when we can’t go anywhere else, things that make us smile when all we want to do is give up, and so on.  That’s when I vowed to change that once my mom was over her battle.  If I needed those ideas then surely others were desperately searching too. 

So I’ve narrowed it down to 10 practical ways that you can support someone you know with cancer.  Maybe you can’t or aren’t able to do all of these.  And that’s ok.  But I pray these will give you some guidance when you want to help and you just don’t know what to do.  And, you can know – by me sharing first hand – that each and every one is greatly appreciated by the person fighting for their life.

  1. Focus on the Positives

As if being diagnosed with cancer isn’t bad enough, the chemotherapy drugs used make cancer patients extremely sick.  Instead of focusing on what chemo would do to my mom’s body and her physical (and emotional) well-being, my dad and I were determined to make it positive. Because without these drugs, my mom would not have a fighting chance.  My advice is to be sympathetic but positive and encourage them that they will get through this and these drugs will save their life. 

I also gave both my mom and my dad a journal for them to try to write down 1,000 gifts throughout this journey.  Not only do cancer patients need to be reminded of all the blessings despite cancer, so do their caregivers. 

2.  Chemo Countdown Posters

One thing that my mom loved was being able to take her poster I made her and cross out each treatment as she finished them.  This kept her focused on the end result, as well as reminded her all that she has fought thus far.  They don’t have to be Pinterest worthy, and they don’t require a ton of money.  They just require a little imagination, some poster board, markers, and bright colors.  Get the kids involved and let them help.  And then at the end, make a “Last Chemo Day” poster to help them celebrate that phase of the battle being over.  Because it is the hardest one.

3.  Numbered Chemo Gifts

I think in some ways my mom was a little sad when chemo was over because she got a small gift at each treatment.  For every chemo treatment, I made her a numbered bag that coincided with what treatment number it was.  Inside would be something encouraging, fun, or something handmade by our son.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful.  And it keeps a positive outlook on the treatments they are enduring. 

 4.  Radiation Chain

These are so easy to make, and they are just like any other countdown chain you would make to lead up to something great.  For my mom’s, I just bought different patterns of pink (for breast cancer) scrapbook paper and cut them into small strips and stapled together.  The number of chain links will correspond to the number of radiation treatments they have.  Another great addition to this would be to add a Bible verse or word of encouragement on the back of each link for them to read every day. 

5.  Get Children Involved

We did not hide what my mom was going through from our son, which is always a personal decision.  But by getting him involved, he was able to make sweet things for his nana.  We know we can’t hide all the pain in this world forever from him, but we can get him involved in being part of the encouragement and healing.  Kids love to help…so let them!  It’s such a great teaching tool also.

6.  Organize a Card Schedule

Think outside the box on this one and ask people that you may know as well as those your loved ones know to participate.  About halfway through chemo, my mom got really sick and depressed.  This is normal because the reality sets in, they are sick, and they are sick and tired of being sick.  So I simply but a request out there on my social media platforms and was overwhelmed with the response.  Some people I knew, some I didn’t, and some I do now.  They flooded my mom’s mailbox with sweet words of encouragement.  I cannot tell you how many hundreds of cards and comments she got, or how much that did for her soul.  Simple words go a long way.

7.  Be an Advocate

Sharing your loved ones stories (as long as they are in agreement) is a great way to spread hope and encouragement to others.  We never know what battles people are facing.  For others to be able to witness my mom’s strength and faith throughout her battle is something we will never know the full impact of.  God will not let any struggle go without glory coming out of it, if we let him use us.  And be their words when they don’t have the strength to share them.  Maybe they are too tired to share, or feel like they are being self-centered by sharing too much.  So share for them.  Advocate for those who need it.

8.  Organize a Meal Schedule

This is something us southerners pride ourselves on.  We can whip up some meals or have them delivered.  We love to eat and we believe in the healing power of food!  But spread it out.  Remember that the caregiver is exhausted too and doing more than their share of the duties around the house along with caring for their loved one.  Meals are a great way to help them out too.  We tend to bombard people with all kinds of casseroles and crock pot meals immediately, and forget that they still have months of need ahead of them.  Spread the love out over a long period of time.  Most cancer patients take up to a full year to endure treatments and overcome those side effects.

9.  Have Their Homes Cleaned

This is a fantastic way to help.  But do it when they are gone to treatments and not at home.  Having too many people around agitates cancer patients, and they are usually resting 24 hours a day. 

10.  Don’t Forget the Primary Caregiver

We tend to focus on the person who is sick and inadvertently forget about the primary caregiver.  This is almost always a spouse, child, or parent.  Seek ways to encourage and support them.  Don’t leave them out.  They are fighting physically and emotionally as they watch their loved one fight, and as they take on the stress of looking after them.  Offer to sit with their loved one while they go and do something small for themselves, even if it’s just talk to clear their head.  Bring them meals, help with daily house or yard work, send them cards, pray for them, and just be there to listen when they need someone to cast their burdens on.  They don’t always need advice, they just need ears to listen.

I could probably name a multitude of other ways to support someone you know with cancer.  These are the catalysts that really got my mom through her battle and I pray that our struggle will now help others. 

If you or someone you know is battling cancer, I would love to talk to you.  We also have a prayer wall on our site.  Our mission here at Our Not So Engineered Life is to let others know they are not alone, no matter what struggle they have.  We would love to pray for you, and our faithful prayer warriors would love to as well.