Finding Thankfulness in the Unlikely

Thanksgiving is quite possibly my most favorite time of year. It's set in the heart of the season that ushers in crisp mornings whispering hope that the oppressive summer heat is about to break, apple pie and pumpkin spice everything, football weekends. Set against the bluest skies of the year are beautiful colors exploding in the trees. It's the beginning of the holiday season where we intentionally take the time to celebrate family and friendships around the table, where we open our homes and our lives and invite people in to stay a while. It's the season where when we press pause on life's hectic pace, we find ourselves almost overwhelmed at all beauty around us and all that we have to be thankful for. It's the time of year where we remember that it takes effort and practice to cultivate a thankful heart.

Play along with me as you read. Don't over think it. There is no wrong answer. I'm about to ask you a question and I want you to jot down on a scrap of paper the first three things that come to your mind when I ask you this question.

What are you thankful for?

I'll wait while you write them down. Remember, don't overthink it... just jot down the first three things that come time mind.

Done?

Look at what you wrote. Many of our top threes are the same. We tend to top our list of thankfulness with some combination of God and our salvation, our support system of friends and family, financial security and health. Also making the top of the list include staples that help us survive this busy season and all the daily demands placed on us... coffee, chocolate, friends, moments of quiet. Did I mention coffee? 

Regardless of what our top three include, there is no wrong answer. They are the top three for you and for me. We should be thankful for those things! We should be shouting and dancing in the street with gratitude for those things God has blessed us with! The same applies to all of those things marked with a #thankful hashtag that we see as we scroll through our Facebook and Instagram feeds this time of year. But I want to ask you to consider something. Is that enough? Should we stop there?

When Paul penned these words in 1 Thessalonians 5, do you think the social media challenge thankful lists is what he was talking about? Keep in mind, this is Paul who was sitting in prison, being persecuted daily and facing certain death. He wasn't out walking through sunflower fields and corn mazes. He wasn't walking the beach at sunset with the love of his life. He was in the worst of the worst of circumstances, yet he was proclaiming to rejoice and give thanks! So maybe we start with the list above, but Paul is begging us to go deeper, to find the things of thankfulness that require obedience and sacrifice. Paul is pleading with us to find a heart of gratitude, a striving for thanksgiving in spite of our worst circumstances, that will unlock true hope and purpose that is deeply rooted only in God's greater purpose and love for us. Sometimes the only way to do that is to admit just how badly some aspects of our lives or at-risk dreams hurt.

I have tasted that desperation, that heartbreak. My husband and I struggled for five years to have a baby. We went to extensive lengths through fertility treatments to get pregnant. {You can read more about our journey to parenthood here.} When we finally did, the pregnancy that should have brought so much hope and excitement ended in a heartbeat that we could no longer find after just crying tears of joy over seeing it beat weeks before. It ended in loss and devastation and a whole host of emotions I wasn't prepared to face. We went on to have a beautiful little girl a year or so later, but I remain scarred by that miscarriage. I continue to grieve the child I never got to hold. From time to time I wonder in the far recesses of my mind what he would look like or what kind of personality she would have. Just after that loss, I hurt like I had never hurt before. I was completely shattered, angry and terrified. But God was there. The day I broke under the weight of the grief and stress and stopped fighting for control of my own plans was the day He wrapped me up completely in His arms, letting me feel the full weight of His Holy Spirit, and whispered verses of comfort and purpose into my soul.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

That was the moment my healing began. My pain wasn't minimized or magically erased, but it was no longer the end of the story. My pain became bearable because it was no longer without hope or purpose.

Years later, that is why my infertility tops my list of Unlikely Thankful Things. The darkest moment of loss birthed an invitation to walk hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. Choosing thankfulness in spite of everything gave God the chance to use my story to reveal Himself to others.

I've had close friends go through miscarriages and as I cried on the phone with them, I had to relive part of my own hurt again. In those moments, I had to again choose to be thankful. I hurt so badly for my friends that are going through the pain I've gone through, for those fighting with everything they have to achieve a pregnancy or for those who wait on pins and needles by the phone for a matched placement for adoption. But that is exactly why I am thankful... God met me in my lowest point and wrapped me up in His comfort, so that I can be there to comfort other hurting friends now. It requires obedience and sacrifice to answer those phone calls or emails, to know I will have to again feel the pain and be reminded of the worst days of my life. The blessing of being able to hold hands with a friend as she experiences this fresh pain far outweighs my own. The blessing of seeing God begin to heal a hurting friend makes it worth every bit of the uncomfortable feelings I may experience. In every circumstance, every miscarriage, every failed attempt, I give Him thanks... because He is always good, His plans are greater than my own, because He has given me a story that brings His grace and healing to others.

Some of those darkest moments are the reasons that keep us up at night. Coming in at number two on my list of Unlikely Thankful Things is insomnia. For years I spent countless nights awake in the wee hours of the mornings. As I try to relax and go back to sleep I would lie there and stare at my husband, who I adore, as he slept peacefully just wishing I could sleep like that too! I dealt with a lot of anger and frustration and honestly dreaded bed time because I knew I was likely to be awake again all too soon. 

Then one night it dawned on me, this is how God made me. I'm wired like this. I don't require as much sleep as most around me and being angry about something I have no control over is just useless and more tiring. I realized that though I may be tired and running on fumes, those quiet hours in the middle of the night are a gift. You see I'm what you may call an extroverted extrovert. I thrive on being surrounded by people and activity and being full of life. The downside to this is that I rarely, if ever, have time to just be still. That is my gift through insomnia. There aren't many people to talk to at 2 o'clock in the morning. So rather than dread the night, I almost look forward to the nights that God wakes me up to spend with Him. Rather than being angry and frustrated, I now use that time to pray for those I care about, laying in bed with praise songs running through my mind, and talking to Him. And when the insomnia strikes and I have several sleepless nights in a row and the sleep deprivation is nearing comical levels, I am blessed with some really wonderful friends who love me and laugh at and with me when I can barely form a sentence. They even volunteer to have my daughter over for play dates so I can snag a much needed nap.

But all relationships aren't so wonderful. Do you struggle with a difficult relationship? I have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and some truly great friendships, but I know what it's like to have someone in your life that magnifies your biggest insecurities. Someone who is more critical than supportive. I know how badly it hurts to have those blows to your self esteem that knock your feet out from under you and make you struggle to feel worthy enough. 

But when my feet are knocked out from under me, I end up on my knees and God finds me there. I have seen His provision time and time again. He has shown me that even though it may not come through traditional ways, He has put other beautiful relationships in my life that meet my needs and give me encouragement. I have to make the choice to be thankful for His presence in the middle of my difficult relationships and trust that He will supply all my needs according to His riches. 

Just recently I had another encounter where the criticism was flowing freely. It was the day after I wrote down this relationship as my number three on the list of Unlikely Thankful Things. When I answered the phone, I was in a state of mind of fighting to find thanksgiving. So as the criticism began, I just started thinking over and over "I'm thankful for God in the middle of this" and the Lord answered me. Before I knew it, I was hardly hearing the stinging words on the other end of the phone because in my soul the Holy Spirit was screaming Psalm 34, Psalm 34, Psalm 34 over and over again. So as I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes from the fresh sting of words that had just been spoken to me, I grabbed my Bible and began to weep as I read the sweet words that flowed from the page. 

I will praise the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.

I sought the Lord and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.
— Psalm 34:1, 4-6, 17-19

My friends, that is exactly the point. We are going to face circumstances in this life that hurt deeply. Things that rip our security away from us. Things that cause us to face our biggest fears and insecurities. Like Paul, we are going to be enslaved in our own prisons and have to face our own versions of persecution, pain and death. In those moments, we have a choice to make. When we find ourselves in the lowest circumstances, if we choose to rejoice always, to give thanks, God will meet us there. When we fight for a heart of thanksgiving, He will whisper psalms into our souls. He will be there to comfort us, to give us life, to tell us that yes we are worthy of being loved, we are capable of being used for His glory, our stories do matter and can change the lives of those around us. We are worth everything to Him and He will work every circumstance for the good of those who love Him

When you find yourself trapped in that dark place of hurt and fear, start with the easy list. Start with the list of blue skies and sunsets and coffee and all the good things you can physically see around you. But don't stop there... don't be afraid to fight heard, defiantly even, for a heart of thanksgiving in your dark places and hard circumstances. You will find God covering you. You will hear His voice speaking scripture and songs into your soul. You will find the key that unlocks true faith, hope and trust. God asks us to show Him gratitude in the dark times because He knows that is how we will find Him in the dark.

When we can reach a point of gratitude, even in the midst of our worst pain, the bitterness is replaced with purpose, anger is stifled by comfort, fear is transformed into hope and our hurt begins to heal. Our of that we are given stories of redemption and hope. And for that, I am eternally thankful.

It's a tough fight at times and for many of our circumstances will be ongoing. But every time I fight for that grateful heart, I get to encounter God more. He lavishes me with His provision, comfort and His grace. The more I fight to give Him my hurt, bitterness and fear, He becomes more present in my life. 

What tops your list of Unlikely Thankful Things? I would challenge you to take a minute to write it down. Write down the thing that makes you cringe a little bit. The thing that would make people tilt their head and question your sanity just a bit if you were to tell them what you were thankful for. Let's be thankful that God is big enough to handle whatever our emotions are as we fight to find Him in the difficult places of our lives. Let's be thankful that when we come through the other side, we will be able to see those around us who need us to hold their hands and simply say "You are not alone, I hurt with you."

As we go into this holiday season, emotions can be high. We are looking forward to the reasons why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, looking forward to the parties and dinners and gift exchanges. But times of excitement and get-togethers also tend to put a spotlight on those areas where we are really hurting. So this holiday season, let's fight together to encourage one another, to be kind to one another, and to fight hard to find a heart of thanksgiving even in our most difficult circumstances.

I would love to hear some of your most Unlikely Thankful Things! Leave a comment below and let me know what tops your list.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and God Bless each one of you.

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The Day I Stopped Being Barren

Today we are honored to share another one of our Grateful for Infertility submissions by Rebekah. I know so many of your will relate to her story and the song of her heart. I pray you will be touched as she shares finding the key of learning to truly be thankful for what God allows in our lives, not just tolerate it. Whether our trial comes through infertility or something else, that's the key isn't it? Realizing that if God is allowing a set of circumstances, we have to learn to be thankful for it, not just tolerate it, because it is for His glory and our best interest. Please join me in welcoming Rebekah to ONSEL today. I know so many of your will relate to her story and to finding the beauty of God's time and His ways in our seasons of barrenness. 

She is now a mother to one little girl, who writes about her experience of finding the beauty of God through the barren soul at her site Barren to Beautiful. There, she writes about facing infertility, God and the joys of realistic motherhood. Today she is sharing a beautiful piece with us about the day she stopped being barren.  You can read more of this story here

It had been almost two years since I flung that round disk of pills like a Frisbee into the trash can. Almost two years of charting periods, fluids, temperatures, and anger.

And it was starting to wear on us. The climax of every 28 days waiting to find out if “this month is different." Only to be disappointed by the regular flow of blood, or a negative pregnancy test that doesn't magically turn to positive after it’s tossed in the trash can. (I always checked. Just in case.)

Most of my friends were on baby #2 or #3. But I was barren. And no one knew why. It seemed so easy for everyone else. (Especially those teenage girls pushing their strollers down the street.) But not for me, not for us. It felt as if my husband and I stood still; frozen, while the whole world kept rushing past us.

Some months I was full of faith. “In faith..” I’d declare, “I am NOT buying tampons..because I am trusting this month I won’t need them!” (Only later to go out and have to buy the overpriced ones at the gas station down the road.) Darn.

Then one day, it happened. (No..not pregnancy.) All this time God was trying to capture my heart (all of it), and I remember the day He did.

Sometimes that happens. You’re not even looking for it. It's like swimming with your eyes closed and smacking your forehead off the side of the swimming pool.

Of all places I was sitting in my classroom, listening to an online episode of “Adventures in Odyssey” with my 5th grade students while they finished coloring their homemade storybooks. And the next thing I knew, I was enthralled in this story about a woman who had become blind by an "accident." She said for years she “tolerated” what God had allowed in her life, but she never was thankful for it. But over the years, she learned how to actually thank God for what He allowed in her life. "Blindness" is what He determined was for her greatest good---so she embraced it with both arms, and thanked Him.

As I listened, I began to hear something through those animated voices--I heard the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, specifically, intimately. That line, "For so long 'tolerating,' but never 'thanking' God for what He was doing." I was cut to the heart. If God decided I should not be pregnant then, or ever, who was I to say His plan was not good?

I ducked behind my computer and wiped away tears and bitterness. Who was I to quarrel with my Maker?

That was the day, this very small seed began to grow in me. A seed of gratitude. Instead of fighting Him tooth and nail over His plan, I began to thank Him. Begrudgingly at first, but then genuinely. Praying things like: Thank You that You know my body better than I do, and maybe you’re protecting me from something my body cannot handle. Thank you I don’t have to go through morning sickness. Or weight gain. Or (the dreaded) labor. Thank You for no stretch marks! Or a flabby stomach! Or flabby arms! (Ok..maybe my list was slightly vain and trivial..but it was sincere.)

But for the first time, I began to realize maybe God had a different purpose for me, for my husband. Began to think of the extra time we would have together. What this might allow us to do. It was the working of a real miracle in me: I stopped envying all my friends who were moms. Stopped wanting other women’s lives. And I started thanking God that He had a unique calling on me. I kept my focus on the few things He had entrusted me with, (like loving my husband, and taking care of our home, and my job) and tried to do those well.

That seed was growing in me. Life was beginning to fill me. I stopped seeing all the EMPTY in my life. Started seeing how full it was. Overflowing. Joyful. Unique. And God became close, intimate, and sovereign over this, over me. For the first time: I stopped demanding with clenched fists--and started worshiping with open hands.

As I was leaving work one day, a new song entered my mind, my spirit. I just remember words were coming, and I wanted to sing them. I remember jotting them down on pink Post-It notes…and crashing down at my piano the moment I arrived home. It was like this cry was coming out of me, I did not know if it was happy or sad, or something else I had never felt. But I started singing it there at my piano, singing the words off my sticky-notes.

Barren, barren for all to see
Barren, but He’s still beautiful to me

I prayed for a baby
For the start of new life
Though I barely know how to be a good wife

The doctor’s say
They don’t know what to do
But, I know in Your sovereign will You’ll choose
To give me life

And You say,

There’s Someone living inside you,
Though not a child, tucked inside your womb,
But my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,
Hear Him roar!

And you’re alive, you’re alive,
More than ever before.

Do you trust me, Honey?
In My time, In My way
When your womb is barren,
And your hands are empty?

Tears fell over the keys. And a new chord was struck that day, within me. One that had not been played before. I was waiting for a baby to fulfill what only God could. The Life I was longing for was only in Him all along.

And I was no longer barren. No longer sad. My soul was full, brimming, overflowing with joy. Gratitude. I was thankful, fruitful. Surrendered. Connected to the Vine. No longer dying..but living. And for the first time…in a very long time: content.

Happy.

About one month later, we were watching a movie and I was scarfing down a bowl of Oreo Birthday Cake ice cream, when I realized I finally had to pee. I had picked up a pregnancy test like I had many other times, and this was nothing new. My period was late..but that didn't mean anything. This had happened before..to no avail. “Do you want me to pause it?” My husband called as I darted up the stairs. “Noo!” I shouted down. No expectations. I was just going to be content to "not be pregnant." I peed on the stick and waited, refusing to look at it. Furiously praying as I always did, “Lord. Please let me be at peace with whatever the result is!” I took a deep breath. Opened my eyes. And to my shock read, “Pregnant.”

I shook my head as if to clear it. “Pregnant?” Pregnant. My mind started racing a million miles per hour. "Brandon!!!" I shouted for my husband to come upstairs. I had no words. I just shoved the pee soaked stick into his hands. And he read it. Speechless. Our eyes met. Locked. And we started laughing. “What?!” Hugging. Staring at it.  “Do you think it’s right?!” We’re crying. Collapsing on the bed. Locking onto one another. Could this be real?

And suddenly, the realization, the rush of warmth—God. He did this. Exactly how He wanted to: In His time, in His way.


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

The Power of Prayer & the Blessings that Follow {Laura's Story}

Today we are sharing another one of our Grateful for Infertility submissions by Laura. Her beautiful story will leave you in tears, as have many others that we have shared.  After an unexplained diagnosis of infertility from her doctor, she and her husband asked for prayers of healing.  And we all know what the power of prayer can do.  Two weeks later, Laura found out she was pregnant.  What better way to share a happy ending to a painful journey. We are thrilled to learn that Laura and her husband Matt welcomed their blessing, Sunday, into the world right after Thanksgiving.  Please join us in welcoming our friend Laura to the blog today.  You won't want to miss her amazing story of faith and how the power of prayer has blessed their lives.

I am Laura and my husband is Matt. We met while we were both in the Marine Corps in 2006 while stationed on Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. We both deployed to Iraq together from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2008. Upon returning home from war we got married on the ocean in North Myrtle Beach SC on April 5th 2008. In October of that year I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer and had surgery to remove it in November. It was our first bump in our marriage but we handled it wonderfully and I have been cancer free since! In February of 2010 we moved back to Indiana to start our lives.

We had been trying to conceive since we got married but didn’t put much thought into why it wasn’t working until 2012 when we saw a fertility specialist. After running several tests they came to the conclusion that it was unexplained. There was nothing medically wrong with Matt or myself, we just couldn’t conceive. From there we decided to try fertility drugs. They never worked. The entire time, Matt and I stayed in prayer and we kept hope, Matt more so than myself because he’s a dreamer and I’m a realist. While I’d talk about what to do when we’re old with no kids he’d be talking about how to afford all the kids we’ll one day have. He kept me from allowing infertility to consume me, he made me search for happiness and contentment- kids or no kids. In December (2013) we tried one more round of fertility drugs and found out in January of this year it failed again.. So we decided to take a break and just enjoy our lives and praise God for blessing us with each other. In March (2013) we had a healing service at our church. Where those that wanted healed would ask to be prayed for and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to pray that whatever is keeping me from conceiving is healed. When our pastor asked for those to stand that wanted prayed for, I stood. I thought for sure he would just pray for all of us but no, he then said for those who want to pray for someone to stay seated and my heart sank. I was terrified to have to share my story to someone I didn’t know. I fought that fear and stayed standing. I then noticed Matt stayed seated and I thought perfect! He can pray for me! So he did and then my mom came over and prayed along with my best friend and a few more people. Everyone prayed out loud for my womb to be healed as I cried and hugged Matt. After the service I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. Fast forward two weeks and I’m standing in Target debating on whether to buy a bottle of wine or a pregnancy test. I decided to buy both, ya know, just in case. I thought, if it’s negative like it always is, I’m going to have a glass of wine for once. I waited until the following morning to test and I finally got my first ever positive pregnancy test. The faintest line ever but it was there! I woke Matt up thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, he could barely see it so naturally I took 5 more. All positive! We went to the doctor and my blood work came back positive as well. We then had an ultrasound at 6w and another at 8w and everything was progressing as it should. We also had our anatomy scan at 20w and found out that it’s a healthy baby girl! I am now 8 months and we have decided to name her Sunday Grace because of the healing service that Sunday, because it was God’s grace alone that allowed us to conceive, and because of Grace Gathering Church; where it all took place. 

There is so much power in prayer. More than I had ever realized but this is baby is proof. As out pastor told us, each day I am pregnant is God’s grace and we could not be more grateful!

We are grateful for infertility because it brought us closer together in ways I never thought possible. It allowed us to grow together spiritually and to show raw and real emotion with one another. Our faith has always been strong but now it's unbreakable and knowing that has made me ready to take on the world. Since becoming pregnant I have been asked to share our story with several different groups of people. One being the 3DM movement that's going on with churches all over the world. Recently at our church pastors and church leaders from all over the world came in for a conference and my pastor asked me to share our story them. I was scared because it was my first time sharing alone since my husband had to work but I did it and it was amazing. Dealing with infertility has allowed me to be more confident in myself. I started a local infertility support group with RESOLVE, the infertility organization. It's allowed me to help others deal with this and to be their shoulder when they need it. I get emails at all hours of the night from women in emotional crisis over this and I am able to talk them through it. I would not be where I am today is God didn't bless us and our marriage with infertility. Our sweet baby Sunday is due December 4th and we are so excited to meet her and see just what we waited six long years for. My husband and I both have red hair so we're excited to see what color Sunday's will be. Thank you for your time and thank you for allowing us to share our story with you!

We are excited to share with you a picture of sweet baby Sunday and the reveal of her hair color!


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

Can I Be Grateful While I'm Angry? {Jennifer's Story}

We are so grateful to have our beautiful friend, Jennifer, back to on the blog today as we continue to bring you more stories of women who have been through great pain and loss.  Jennifer recently experienced a very hard failed adoption from Uganda wrote to us " I did not realize how badly some of this needed to be put into words. Mine does not deal with infertility but I hope that is okay. It still deals with pain and loss and has a large focus on being angry and grateful at the same time."  I know we can all relate to her beautiful heart poured out below.  We've all been there - in a flurry of emotions that won't seem to end.  We go from being heartbroken to furious.  And you know what?  That is ok.  We just can't stay there, and must turn our eyes to the One who can redeem us.  He is the only one that can pull us out of that black hole of emotional wreckage.  Please join us in welcoming our dear friend Jennifer back today as she shares her beautiful heart with us.

Can I be grateful while I am angry?

Anger and gratefulness are two very different emotions. I would claim they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Typically gratefulness coincides with happiness and joyfulness. Also normally with the Thanksgiving Holiday, which is a very happy holiday. It is meant to remind us to be thankful for all that we have. Anger is a harsh emotion, usually associated with sadness or grumpiness. So how can I be grateful while at the same time being angry?

I am still reeling and coming off of a very tough failed adoption. I spent 7 weeks in another country and ended up coming home alone. I was extremely sad for a very long time. I would wake up every morning and chose to put a smile on and get through the day. But then most nights I would go home and cry myself to sleep. I was just utterly sad. This was hard because at the same time I was dealing with my sadness I was also helping the family stay together which was a happy time. Again conflicting emotions, these I was able to compartmentalize and experience them at different times. Well slowly but surely the sadness has ebbed a little and I have regained a little more normalcy to my life. But what has come next I did not expect.

It started a couple weeks before Halloween. I saw all of these beautiful families celebrating fall and Halloween traditions. Next came the adorably fun pictures of all of the kids in their costumes or group family costumes. And instead of enjoying them, I was angry. Angry that I did not get to be a part of that, that I was a single adult dressing up all on my own. I got to sit around and hand out candy and visit with my niece when I should have been out there trick or treating with my child. This anger shocked me and I did not know what to do with it. You see I have an amazing family, my parents love me and spoil me, my sister actually likes hanging out with me, and my niece is my favorite person in the world. I have great friends who I can hang out with whenever I want to. I work for a fantastic company that brings me so much joy. I have all of these awesome things in my life and I am extremely grateful. I am angry and grateful. I am working on letting the gratefulness overcome the anger but right now I am housing both emotions and I think that is okay. As I head into the holiday season and I go through Thanksgiving and, the real zinger, Christmas I will probably still have this anger. But I believe that as long as I can still recognize the good in my life I am okay with the anger.

The most complex part of this grateful/anger combo is that I am so grateful that my (almost) little girl is with her family. She is loved and cared for and surrounded by siblings. Being grateful for that is what helps me get through some of my angry times. But the complex part is that the thing I am so grateful is technically also the cause of my anger. Wow, if that doesn’t make your head spin then I don’t know what will. I have to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be hard. I am not supposed to wake up one day and have forgotten everything and move on. This will always be a part of my story. The Lord is refining me. I don’t know what for yet. My hope is that this will all make me stronger when I am blessed with becoming a mother. But it also might be making me stronger to handle the burden of never becoming one. I don’t know what His plan is but I know in the end it will be better than anything I can come up with. I might always have a hint of anger but hopefully there will be more good things to come. And those good things will give me even more to be grateful for. So while I struggle through the holidays and deal with times that are clouded in "could have been’s" I hope I can hold on to my gratefulness. I hope it overshadows my anger. And if some days the anger wins… well that is okay too.

Jennifer is a single woman who began pursuing adoption almost two years ago.  She loves working with children, has been a daycare teacher for five years and absolutely adores her niece.  Family means the world to her and that includes her dog Piper who never learned the word calm.  She loves to read and loves all things Disney.  She says "I am striving to choose joy every day of my life."  She is learning to give her life away to others and most importantly to an awesome God who has a much better plan for her life than she ever could dream of. 


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

With Man It Is Impossible, But Not With God!

I am so excited to share a beautiful story of discovering how God provides for us when we intentionally choose to put Him first. Sometimes that provision comes through answered prayers and the dream we've been searching for, sometimes it comes through realizing our dream needs to change, but when we put Him above all other things in this life, the provision is always there. This story comes to you today from a lifelong friend of mine, Alison. She has such a beautiful heart, a passion for Christ and loves her family immensely. She is also blessed with one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. She and her husband regularly blog about their lives over at Alabama Camel Riders. Please join me in welcoming Alison to ONSEL.

These past few months, God has led me on a journey of discovering the idols in my life - the things that I've been holding as more dear to me than Him. He led me to the realization that I was holding "getting or being pregnant" as an idol in my life. All my thoughts were on pregnancy and it seemed that everyone around me was getting pregnant, but not me. Anytime even the slightest thing was off physically or emotionally, my immediate thought was "maybe I'm pregnant!" The Lord showed me that these thoughts are not pleasing to Him. There's nothing wrong with desiring to be pregnant, but because I was consumed with it, it was wrong. It was idol for me. It was sin.

It's comforting to know that He didn't make a mistake when He made me. He's not surprised that I've had these struggles all my life. He's got every single one of my days - pregnant or not - written already. So I started asking myself if I would still praise and worship Him if I NEVER GOT PREGNANT AGAIN. This was a very difficult question for me to face. I knew that I had the desire to grow our family, but what if that meant that it wouldn't be through natural pregnancy? Would it mean adoption? Would I really, seriously be okay with it? I was facing this issue for the first time - for real. I was grieving. I was handling it, facing it, for the first time ever. 

Hop on over to Alison's blog to read the rest of her beautiful story, With man it is impossible, but not with God! 


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

Winding Roads Always Lead to the Most Beautiful of Places {Melinda's Adoption Story}

November is over and our Grateful for Infertility Giveaway is over.  But the stories are not! The response to this series was astounding and we still have many more stories of brokenness, faith, and redemption to share with you.  Women all across the country and even the UK sent us their stories - each brimming with God's glory.  So, we couldn't possibly not share everyone's submissions.   

Today I have the honor of sharing my dear friend Melinda's adoption story with you.  I will go ahead and warn you - have a box of tissue handy!  Many in the adoption community know her well and know her beautiful heart.  She is one of the sweetest friends I've ever had and a fellow Georgia resident.  She is the mommy to Logan who could pass as Ethan's long lost brother - seriously their antics are just alike and they are FULL of energy!  Melinda and her husband are now waiting for "the call" for their second baby (already named "Ruby").  The wait is long but it is always worth it.  God's timing is never early or late and I know Ruby will be in their arms soon.  In the midst of both of these long waits for their children, failed placements, and infertility Melinda has found strength.  Please join us in welcoming her to our blog today and click on Winding Roads Always Lead to the Most Beautiful of Places - Our Adoption Story to read her beautiful, heartfelt story.

To follow more of Melinda's stories, hop on over to her blog, We Match Hearts.


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

Thankful for the Struggle

Today, we are pleased to introduce you to Katie, the winner of our Grateful for Infertility giveaway. Katie does a beautiful job of describing the struggle between the reality that comes with infertility and dreams of a life she thought she was going to have. In the midst of her own crisis, she found her strength. To following along with more of Katie's stories, hop on over to her blog, Honey Put On Your Party Dress.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9

Some days are harder than others to get by. Some days I completely block and forget about my infertility. Some days it hits me like a brick wall. Some days it sits there lingering in the shadows.

I dreamed of having an amazing, highly regarded career that I loved. Being a fabulous editor of a fabulous magazine or writing fun taglines for commercials and products.

As I get older, my dream job changed. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have someone who loved me unconditionally, aside from my husband and dog. I wanted to be able to mold and shape someone into a good person. I wanted to be at soccer games and be the fun mom with the treats.

I find myself in a crisis. The two dreams of careers are not within reach; there is not light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel feels long, dark, cold, and lonely. People react to you with well meaning and intended advice that feel like jabs in disguise. Some just aren't there all together.

You find out who's really there for you. The people who will cry watching What to Expect When your Expecting with you. The ones who treat you like you're normal and will love you no matter what you decide. It's finding yourself that's the hardest part of infertility. The old, carefree version of myself was lost in tears and heartache for years. The tears and heartache were public to few, but very evident to Ben & Jerry who spent countless nights consoling me with their various flavors of pints. I became someone my husband didn't know. I was never a sad soul, yet I let this ONE thing turn me that way. 

I've come to terms with my infertility. I'm starting to find me again. The me who is free spirited. The me who is perfectly content just being a wife, a puppy mom, and an aunt.

While the search for the two dream careers may have faded a bit, rediscovering myself has made all the difference.

Without the struggle, I wouldn't have found my strength.


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

Grateful for Infertility? Snowell's Story

We are honored to be able to continue to share story after story of amazing women this month.  They continue to pour in, even after the iPad mini drawing was over all in an effort to have their stories told.  This morning we are sharing with you Snowell's story of infertility.  Just like Courtney and I, she and her husband had "plans" of how and when they would start their family.  But God had other plans.  Through their struggles, they were blessed to grow from a family of two to a family of seven within 13 months through adoption and a miracle conception.  Please join me today as we welcome Snowell to ONSEL today. We know you will be deeply touched by her story.

Hello my name is Snowell, and I have ridden the roller-coaster of infertility for 8-1/2 years now.  We were married in April 2006, with the plan to wait until our apartment lease was up in a year, then get a house & start our family.  I wanted 6 biological children (1 every 2 or 3 years would be fine), and when they all grew up & I was an empty-nester, we would consider foster care, foster-to-adopt or adoption.

That plan lasted for about a month.

In May we flushed the birth-control pills down the toilet & started trying for a child.  And trying.  And Trying.  By Christmas I knew something was wrong.  No one tries & fails for 8 straight months in a row.  I went to my 1st gynecologist appointment ever.  How uncomfortable!  But, all I learned is that having babies is "all about the timing," and that we were to keep trying for a few months.  What I also learned is that the incredibly debilitating periods that I had been having could be a sign of something worse.

The months progresses & still no baby.  I was recommended to an endocrinologist/fertility specialist.  She told me that my case was very simple & would pregnant within the next 3 months.  But, nothing worked.  The pills made me sick, I would have much rather had morning sickness.  The hot-flashes from the medicines made me wonder if I had somehow missed my child-bearing years at the age of 22.  I was in the doctor nearly every week for monitoring.  I had lost all of my modesty by being poked & prodded by so many strangers!

About this time God had put an idea in my head.  Why wait to join the Mommy Team?  I need to be a mommy now!  The drive consumed me & didn't go away until I had the paperwork in-hand for a local adoption agency.  We decided that we wanted to do foster-to-adopt.  I couldn't stand the thought of bringing a child into our home, giving them my heart & then they move back with their parents, so straight foster care was out.  And, I couldn't afford an adoption.  We didn't care if our child was black, white, yellow, orange or green with pink polka dots.  We didn't care if it was a boy or a girl.  We had hoped for a child 3 years old or younger, and we were willing to take in 2 children if they were siblings & if they were the same gender.

And, the waiting game began.  We waited 4 months before the placement specialist suggested that we widen our age range to 5 years old and younger.  We widened it, and waited 2 more months.  Then we got the phone call.  I was at work, and took the call on the front sidewalk.  My placement worker was on maternity leave (go figure) and her back-up didn't know our specifications.  She said "I have a little boy who is 4 years old, and his little sister who is 2 years old.  We want to place them in the same home.  Are you interested?"  I almost shouted YES!  But, I told her very calmly that I needed to speak to my husband, but most likely this would be a great placement.  I immediately called my husband and told him the news, along with "We've waited 2-1/2 years for a child, and have been on this waiting list for 6 months.  I know this isn't what we planned for, but we have the room and I think this is the family God wants us to have."  He agreed, and another phone call from the placement specialist secured a move-in date for 4 days later.  I followed that up with a phone call to my mom, when she answered the phone I said "So, how does it feel to be a grandma?"  She was thrilled!

4 days later we had a child-proof home, a fridge full of goodies, new toys waiting patiently to be played with & new beds with new bedding were waiting to be slept in.  We were going to do a meet-and-greet before the children moved in with us the next day.  The social worker stopped by so that we could fill out even more paperwork.  I sat there looking at their birthdays and kept counting in my head, it didn't match up... These kids were 3 & 5, not 2 & 4.  Someone else couldn't add, but it didn't affect our decision at all - we were ready!  That evening a shy little boy with the whitest hair you've ever seen on a child walked in, and didn't say anything.  Then, his little sister walked in, went straight to my husband & said "You're my daddy now."  They've had my heart ever since!  After her entered a 3rd child, a little 2 year old boy, still in diapers, and not great at walking.  I quickly learned that this was their little brother - the placement worker  had failed to mention that it wasn't just a 2-child sibling group, it was a 4-child sibling group!

I wanted that little boy bad!  As soon as his siblings were moved in & settled down I began my petition to get all of the children under 1 roof - mine.

I finally went in for a HSG test & discovered that I had a "shelf" going straight across my uterus.  Not only was this causing the insanely painful and irregular periods, but was most likely blocking the baby-batter from ever meeting up.  I was scheduled for a hystoscopy & endoscopy for the following day.

They removed the shelf & a few cysts and was once again promised that I would be pregnant within the next month.  It didn't happen.  Months passed & I finally got that little boy I had been fighting for!  We were so excited to learn how to be a family together, this was the 1st time the children had ever lived in a single home.  I continued my treatments & the doctor seems to be at a loss.  The next step seemed to be in vitro fertilization, which would take a special OK from my insurance company.  I gave them the go-ahead to start getting the approval, but in the mean-time I was going to take a shot-giving class, and I was going to start on some of the drugs that in vitro mothers-to-be use, in hopes that it would trigger my system to take the fertilized egg & become pregnant.  It didn't work & the insurance company was dragging their heels.  I took 1 last negative pregnancy test with the doctor, then decided to stop the drugs and medicines until the insurance companies gave the OK.

2 months later we received another phone call from the social worker.  How did I feel about babies?  My children's 1-year-old brother needed a new home - immediately.  I loved babies!  And, I was glad to provide a safe home to the biological brother of my children!  We needed to trade in our truck for a minivan & we were really feeling like a complete family.

That week I kept getting sick.  But, I didn't have a fever, so I still drug myself to work every day.  My co-worker said "Are you sure you're not pregnant?"  I patiently explained to her how I couldn't be pregnant, nothing the doctors did was working & I wasn't on any sort of medical regimen at the moment.  But, the sickness didn't end, so I dug out that long-forgotten pregnancy test & gave it another go.  And this time there was a little pink "+" sign instead of a (-)!  I couldn't believe it.  I woke up my husband & we just stared at each-other in amazement.  It had been 3 years since we started trying!  The fertility doctor confirmed the pregnancy, and the fact that I had conceived 1 day after my last negative test!

We adopted our children & had ourselves a beautiful baby boy (we call him our miracle baby).  We went from a family of 2 to a family of 7 in 13 months!  We knew immediately we weren't done - we wanted to conceive more children!

That shy white-haired boy is now almost 12 years old, and as tall as I am, and his siblings are all growing way too fast for this mommy's heart.  My biological son is about to celebrate his 5th birthday.  Still no little baby brothers or sisters to join our clan.  Another visit to the gynecologist is leading me to fear the worst, but I'm not willing to go back to the doctors to be poked & prodded again.  My husband, myself and all of our children all pray for another baby every day, and we always have hope!  God-willing, we'll have another miracle child in the future.  And, I'm trying to not let my jealousy consume me with every baby shower I attend.


A series for people who are grateful for infertility? Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.

Grateful for Infertility? Jenni's Story

We are truly honored to share another beautiful story with you today.  Jenni is a dear friend and fellow adoptive mom.  We "met" through an adoption group and connected through her move back to Alabama.  We quickly became friends in real life and the first time we talked on the phone, I knew she was the Salt to my Peppa.  We share so many of the same thoughts and emotions as adoptive moms, and both are moms to precious little miracle boys.  Plus we have the same name!  Like myself and many others, Jenni found herself in the midst of the myriad of emotions that we all face when going through a trial like infertility.  But through those emotions, she found a way to reclaim her hope in God and a way to hold on for the far better plans He had in store for them.  She is sharing those words and raw emotions for those of you still in the midst of your trial.  You are not alone.  Hold on to the hope and faith in the Lord.  Please join me as we welcome one of my best friends and favorite people,  Jenni , to ONSEL today. 

Hold On {Jenni's Story}

My journey started like anyone other young women’s would. I had this idea in my head of what my life would look like. We all do. Perfect man, kids, house, career all of it. So with that vision I lived my life, with that in the back of my head as the standard. That is where my story begins. 

My husband and I settled in to cozy Colorado and started our life. We enjoyed our life just us and then I got babies on the brain. We did everything that anyone else would to do have babies and that failed. Then we did 6 IUI’s with one miscarriage. Then we did 2 rounds of IVF with two successful pregnancies with 2 miscarriages. 

I will completely honest when I say this, It was a dark place. The first IVF miscarriage was the hardest. I was the most hopeful with that one but that one also broke my spirit. Honestly, I never wanted to do IVF. I did it for my husband. I did it so I would never look back and regret. I did it because we were blessed enough to be able to. Looking back on that time for me is scary. It is scary because I was so sad and broken. So I began to pray. Sometimes my prayer was, I have no idea what I am doing. Sometimes my prayer was, help me keep it together. Sometimes in my prayer I cried. None the less it was prayer. Something I had lost a long time ago.

People on the outside saw me as so brave. I constantly posted quotes and prayers about keeping the faith but I was lost. I could not understand why God had left me. Had I not done enough? Had I not prayed enough? Was it that party stage in my twenties that made me interfile? Was it because I had been married before? WHY WAS GOD PUNISHING ME? 

It is funny that I seriously just looked at that last sentence a while right after I wrote it? I honestly felt abandoned. I felt alone. I felt betrayed. I see now, three years later, that this was never abandonment. It was my journey. I say that to say this about "gratitude from infertility". If you are in the thick of it, it is really hard to be grateful. I get it. I have done it. Heck, I still do it.What I will tell you is to HANG ON. If you feel like you can’t take one more minute of waiting, Hold on. Hold on to your husband. Hold on to your faith. Hold on to YOUR SPIRIT. Don’t let your journey break you. It may try but don’t let it. 

That is how I find my gratefulness. I held on. I did not break. The beauty of that is that I now see I was never abandoned. My life was being orchestrated by a God that watches over me. Even when I feel like he is not. My God was growing a beautiful little boy in someone else’s beautiful womb that I now call my son. That in and of itself is greater than any plan I thought was possible. 

So, I leave you guys with this. My favorite artist of all times is Tom Waits. Don’t know who he is? Well Google now please. His is the most brilliant song writer on the planet. His song Hold On, made me hold on even when I did not think I could. You can hold on too because your journey and miracle are unfolding. You will survive and you will thrive. 

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I'm standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Jenni and her husband reside in beautiful Fairhope, AL with their larger than life little boy, Dean. She is an active member of the adoption community, providing encouragement to many women and families. You can follow Jenni on Instagram: @jennistarling


A series for people who are grateful for infertility?  Sounds crazy right! But it's not... what was once a phase of life marked by heartache and longing, has now become the scars that make us beautiful. Some of you reading this are right in the middle of your wait, are facing an unclear future or have been scarred by infertility. You may be struggling with how you could possibly be grateful for infertility. It took us a long time to get there ourselves. This is one of those areas where sometimes our faith has to guide us while our hearts and heads catch up. We have to practice thankfulness, even when it makes little sense, while God does His divine work on our souls.