All I Want For Christmas, Is You...

Dear Santa,
For Christmas this year, I think we have a problem. The only thing I really want can’t be wrapped and left under the tree. It can’t be bought in a store or delivered from Amazon with 2 days shipping. All I want for Christmas this year Santa... is a baby.
— With Love

We all know the struggle to have a child, no matter how that child arrives, is tough. But when we find ourselves facing a season of family gatherings, gift giving, Christmas parties and a laughing child sitting on Santa's lap in every mall, the daily reminder of what you're waiting on can be even more difficult. Hanging stockings on the mantel comes with a tug on the heart that there is a stocking missing for the decorations to truly be complete. And to add to the stress, your Christmas season may be full of doctors appointments or gift giving may be difficult as you are scraping together pennies to save up for the next round of fertility treatments.

Likewise for biological families who may be facing tough decisions, have recently placed a child for adoption, or even placed a child for adoption in years past, it can also be a difficult time of the year.  And even though you or they are very happy and unregretful of those decisions, a child never leaves your heart.  They are always a part of you.

We have to be sensitive to all situations and realize not everyone has the cookie cutter family that is often portrayed on television or in movies.  Each of us is in some way connected either as a friend or family member of someone who is struggling with infertility or someone who may be a birth family.  And this season can sometimes be painful for both.

We feel that if you are a waiting parent or a biological parent who is placing or has placed in adoption you will gain a lot of understanding of what the other feels and goes through especially during the holiday season.  Our goals and dreams are the same…to ensure a child has a loving, nurturing home.  For one side it is painful to wait for and for the other side it is painful to let go. Ultimately, God can create a beautiful story where you can each open your hearts and homes to the other and give a child more love than they could ever imagine which is what happened for Jenny.

So how do you enjoy the holidays and have a Christmas that is truly merry when you feel like you’re missing a part of you?

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In general, this is definitely a season to intentionally focus on some of the waiting survival tips we discussed in our post, Embracing Your Longest Wait.  If you’ haven’t read that one yet, you might find it helpful.  But specifically, let’s look at a few of the awkward and difficult scenarios you may encounter this time of year. 

Scenario #1: The loving but inappropriate family members

You know how this one goes... long lost aunt so-and-so or your crazy cousin (we all have them) or even your parents or in-laws, if you’ve managed to keep your struggle close to the chest, want to know why you aren’t buying presents for your little ones yet.  Or if you are pregnant and are a biological parent facing a tough decision, they ask questions about your pregnancy.  And then if you are a biological parent who has placed a child through adoption then some may feel the need to ask questions about them and the situation.  It goes on and on….

These can be some of the toughest questions to face because they’re coming from people who love you, but can still unintentionally be hurtful and sometimes downright inappropriate.  If you are a parent in waiting, they’re excited about the idea of having little grandchildren or nieces and nephews to shop for and sometimes that excitement can override their sensitivity to the fact that there is a good reason why you’re not out Santa shopping this year.  If you are a biological parent, frankly they just can’t comprehend what you are going through or have gone through in the past.  Many are still very uneducated about the subject.  And because they’re family, they can sometimes feel entitled to ask more than personal questions without regard to the sensitive nature of the subject.  When you’re faced with these questions, try hard to remember they are usually coming from a place of love.  And be prepared for the awkward questions so that you can answer with honesty – whatever level you are comfortable with.

We were pretty open with most of our family so when someone would ask something awkward, we tried to find a way to honestly, and lovingly say, “We’re really looking forward to celebrating with our kids one day too and are trying, but God has a different plan for us so we’re just not sure when that day will be here.”  Then change the subject!!!  Or if you feel that family gatherings are going to bring up difficult questions, you may lovingly turn down the invitations with as much explanation as you feel comfortable with to avoid something that may bring you more pain. 

Scenario #2: When Christmas Magic turns to Christmas Blues

My husband and I got married on December 22 because the Christmas season is my favorite magical time of the year. I am a Christmas nerd! I thought it would be so wonderful for us to celebrate our Savior’s birth, fun family gatherings and our anniversary all in one week. I also think I had temporary insanity for thinking that too! But for a while it was just as fun and magical as I envisioned as that young bride. We were able to travel many times on our anniversary to some great places and sometimes would extend our stay through Christmas. There was nothing like it to us – the food, lounging around, and seeing the world! Well all of that was great for the first few years and then we decided it was time to settle down and we wanted to spend our remaining young adult years with children in tow. We were ready for the Santa shopping, shredded wrapping paper all over the living room floor, and continuing the tradition of watching every Christmas cartoon known to man. Not to mention watching them in the cutest of all Christmas programs! We met our first Christmas after trying to conceive with no results, then our second, then our third, and so on. And each year it got more and more painful. We went from being excited, hopeful parents to eventually realizing we may never have that traditional Christmas morning filled with squeals and laughter. Or my husband wouldn’t be able to carry them from their beds to see what Santa left under the tree the way that my own father had for so many years. And as painful as all of that was, it made Christmas all the more special and sentimental when we were finally able do all of those things with our son. One thing we never lost sight of though was our love for one another and the love we would come to share with not only our son, but his biological family as well. We gained far more than we could have ever imagined.
— Jenny
A couple of years into us trying to have children, I specifically remember having a wonderful Christmas planned for me and my husband. It was going to be just the two of us celebrating on Christmas Eve before we left the next morning to travel to see family, including young nieces and nephews that we adore. We were looking forward to having a “sophisticated” kind of celebration – you know the kind with a crackling fire, fancy dinner, glass of wine, perfectly wrapped presents to open in a beautifully decorated and neat house. But as we were halfway into what was supposed to be our magical Christmas night together, my husband just looked at me and said “This is nice I guess... but I’m tired of the “nice Christmas.” I want wrapping paper everywhere, Christmas mornings that come too early because the kids just can’t sleep anymore, a house scattered with new toys to play with and a fireplace that is practically unusable because someone might get too close to it.” And there it was... the magic instantly turned to Christmas blues. We still enjoyed the rest of our night, even though it was a little more somber. But we decided to look at it simply as confirmation that we were on the right road for us. That all the expense, emotions, medications, waiting lists, etc were worth it because we wanted the crazy, chaotic Christmas mornings filled with children’s laughter. That Christmas marked a whole new chapter in our determination to keep fighting – as long as it would take – to make that dream come true for us. Make the most of your romantic, quiet Christmas’ while you have them and enjoy that quiet time with just you and your spouse, and let your Christmas magic be centered on the love you have between you and the hope for a child that you share together.
— Courtney

Scenario #3: While everyone else is waiting in line for Santa

Preparing for Christmas without children does give you the gift of a little more time... You aren’t standing in long lines to get a picture and 90 seconds with the mall Santa and you aren’t having to start pricing and shopping for little Johnny or Susie’s “absolutely have to have or I’ll die” wish list items.  So with all that extra time, be generous!  Don’t spend it wishing for something that you won’t have this Christmas.  Spend it blessing others – adopt some kids from the Angel Tree, visit the elderly in a local nursing home, do some volunteer work at your local soup kitchen or food bank – just focus on giving what you do have!  That in itself is the true heart of the Christmas spirit anyway and will bless you tremendously in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Most importantly, remember what Christmas is about. It’s not about children, Santa, giving and receiving gifts, or trying to outdo your neighbors on yard decorations. It is about a baby though. It's about a baby that was sent to this earth to be our Savior. It's about a baby that would grow up to die for us so we could have eternal life. It's about a baby names Jesus. So celebrate Him and focus on what He has and can give each of us is we just let Him love us. 

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
— Luke 2:6-14

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

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, 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.

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
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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.

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. 

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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

Learning to Live Again

Sometimes things occur that completely altar the course of our lives. A large majority of those things are good – meeting your future spouse, becoming a parent, or even a job promotion. And then there’s the things that happen that we can never be prepared for – the loss of a spouse, child, or loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a home. My family has certainly experienced both the ebb and flow of life’s waves. We have been blessed and humbled in both the calm waves and the tidal waves. Most recently, we’ve experienced the physical, emotional, and spiritual groans as a result of my mom’s almost year anniversary diagnosis of breast cancer. It came crashing down on us and satan attempted to use it as a device to weaken our faith. But instead, as God would have it, our faith has prospered and His glory has shone like the sun for all that have witnessed my mom’s journey this past year.

You see we all will come to a crossroad, that hard thing in our life, where we must choose which path to take. We can take the path that is easy, only later to find out it is covered with thorns and brambles. Or we can take the path that tests our endurance and is our victory to joy, hope, and peace.
— Jenny

I'm beyond grateful and humbled to share over on the Persimmon Prints blog today, as we explore what it means to LIVE all this month.  Join me as I share what that has meant for our family this year, as we honor my mom and many other women fighting breast cancer during the month of October.  (Read full article here)

I love you mama!

Divine Appointments: What I'm Learning About Being a White Christian

I walked into the room not really knowing anyone, yet dying inside just to have an adult conversation with someone.  We had moved 250 miles away from the town we had called home for 10 years.  Our son was just 2 ½ years old and well, enough said.  It was the toddler years and between that and the move I needed a “momlationship,” as my friend Melanie Dale calls it.  I needed to feel human again.  This mommy needed to connect in a bad way but I had no one to connect to.  So I did what any good Southern Baptist girl does – I found a women’s bible study group that provided child care.  I mean it had to be a win-win because they offered Jesus, coffee, and child care, right?!?

The first Tuesday morning of our study I left not really knowing anyone, nor could I even recall a name, but smiles and polite surface talk was exchanged.  It was enough and at least it offered human contact outside our new home.  I continued to attend each Tuesday and the Lord sent me a friend – a real, live one and not just one on the interwebs (or my make believe friends as my husband used to call it).  Olivia and I just seemed to hit it off and her sweet, authentic spirit just spoke to my soul. She became a dear friend to me. 

Life went on and we both stopped attending on Tuesday mornings for various reasons.  And shocker – I made lots of friends after settling into our new home town.   Olivia and I both became busy, the buzzword us Americans love to throw around.  She and I stayed in touch over the last couple of years thanks to Facebook but it just wasn’t the same. 

This past weekend I was asked to speak at a fundraising event for breast cancer – by Olivia.  You see, she and I didn’t know what would occur after those Tuesday morning bible studies.  But God did.  He knew that our worlds would collide again when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.  He knew I would become a huge cheerleader for my mom and advocate for other warrior women just like her.  It was a divine appointment two years ago that He connected me and Olivia.

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It wasn’t until I sat in the pew at First Shiloh Baptist Church this past Saturday that I realized what God had done in our lives.  I began to tear up and hold back the weeping as I saw the glory of God right before me.  I was overcome with emotion as I stood there with my head bowed.  He had taken two women who were unlikely to meet any other way and crafted a way for our pain to be used to share Jesus with others.  And the timing could not have been more perfect in my eyes on the cusp of all the racial tensions that have been resurfacing across the country.  I was the only white person in the whole congregation.  But you know what, when I looked out at the faces as I spoke, I didn’t see how we were different.  I saw how we were the same.  I saw their smiles, heard their amens, and shared in their worship.  I saw us all as Jesus sees us – HIS. 

I prayed for God to allow them to see Him through me that day and for me to be able to connect with them in a way I was unsure I could. Our worship styles are different, and quite frankly I was convicted as I stood there realizing that maybe I need to be as on fire for God as they were.  Why am I not shouting in His presence?  Why am I not calling on the Holy Spirit?  Am I afraid, or am I lukewarm?  I’m pondering many things now.  So, instead of me delivering a message to them, they ministered to me.

God created that divine appointment not because he allowed breast cancer to infiltrate both our families.  He is not a God that “allows” destruction.  But He is a God that can use what sin in this world has caused and turn it into something beautiful.  He didn’t create the friendship between Olivia and I just because I needed that at the time.  He created it because He had something to teach me about my own relationship with others and with Him.  And possibly by sharing that, others will learn as well.  He had a message to share.

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Instead of seeing how others are different from me, could it be that I should ask how I am different from them?  We as Christians even build barriers around ourselves when it comes to other cultures because we are afraid.  We are afraid of how they worship or being uncomfortable.  But maybe that’s what God wants – for us to be uncomfortable.  I believe there are still many race issues in this country.  Do I understand it?  No, nor will I pretend to.  I see people as human beings, not in terms of race.  But sadly, not everyone does.  I do believe that Christians could do so much to help bridge that gap though.  And one way I would encourage that is to get out of our comfort zones and attend services with one another.  Christ intended us to worship as one – because we are all His people – so why don’t we?  Why haven’t I?  Because we are scared and because it is different.  But I think the only way we can make progress in this country is if we begin that in the church.  It takes baby steps and I took mine this weekend. 

I can’t stop thinking about what God is teaching me right now, or wondering where He is leading me.  I do know that it won’t be my last time attending First Shiloh Baptist Church. 

5 Reasons I Quit Blogging our Adoption Journey

I began blogging about our infertility and adoption journey when our son was just two years old.  The wounds from an empty physical womb were still gaping open, and the emotions were too overwhelming.  I didn’t know how to process it all.  The five year battle seemed to last forever, leaving stretch marks from numerous failed pregnancy tests.  And then something miraculous happened – our adoption journey. 

Infertility and adoption are like one giant rollercoaster. Infertility leaves you on a cycle of uphill climbs and stomach dropping falls. And adoption is the finale where you were left both aching from the pain you just encountered and the thrill of God’s ending to it all.
— Jenny

And so, when E was just two years old I began sharing our experiences in hopes of connecting to and encouraging others.  I shared our journey all the way up through E’s birth.  It is chopped full of tiny little nuggets that God sprinkled along the way that only He could do.  Details that left us in awe.  The world needed to read it and hear His message of hope. 

Our son grew older and something in my heart changed.  The reality hit me that one day he would no longer be a toddler, but he would be a growing child with big emotions and the ability to read.  He would see the words I mustered up, and be able to read them along with any comments from the great world wide web.  You see, as hard as we try, we really can’t control who gets a hold of our words or what they do with them.   I realized very quickly that I don’t want to share every detail of our lives with the whole world, and I especially don’t want to advertise our son’s emotions or relationships in detail.  Now if you are blogging and sharing about your own journey as your child(ren) grow, please do not mistake this post as “shaming” you for it.  This is just my own personal decision and me sharing the reasons behind it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

5 Reasons I Quit Blogging our Adoption Story

  1. It is our son’s story to tell.  My husband and I talked extensively about this and agree that as our son gets older, then it is up to him to share about his adoption.  We have open and honest communication with him.  We tell him what he is capable of comprehending at each stage of life.  Currently, at five years old, he knows that my tummy is broken and he grew in the tummy of his birth mom.  We don’t use words like “adoption” just yet simply because he is sensitive and we don’t want him to comprehend it in a negative way.  Adoption is beautiful and wonderful.  And as we share more and more, it is up to him to keep that to himself or to share with others.  It is not for us to announce, and we don’t believe in labels.

  2. We love, honor and respect our son’s birth mom.  And as such, there are details that she may or may not be comfortable with us sharing.  We have an open relationship with her, but she also has her own life aside from being a birth mom.  Just as we don’t want to be labeled as “adoptive parents,” or our son to be labeled as “adopted,” we don’t want her to forever to be known as “E’s birth mom.”  She has a name.  We will always share pictures of our visits because we love her and the relationship we all have, but it is not for me to share about her feelings or experiences.  Those are hers and hers alone to share.  As much as I love her, I will never know what it is like to be in her shoes.   And I respect whatever level of information she wants others to know.

  3. We can’t trust the “interwebs.”  As much as we want to trust the controls we have in place surrounding our social media outlets, and as awesome as we believe our friends and family are, there is always at least one person sitting there waiting to criticize or publicize our words and/or life.  The more we put out there, the more vulnerable we are.  And the more we share, the more likely we are to have our words land in the hands of strangers whose intentions are far less than admirable.  I really think and pray about how much information I divulge to the public eye.

  4. Words should come from us, the parents, first.  This somewhat goes along with the first and previous reasons listed.  We do not want our son to hear things about his life from others before he hears it from us or his birth mom first.  We never want him to be blindsided.  It shouldn’t come from something written for the rest of the world to see before he knows about it (even when we think they are too young to read).  Our kids deserve to know the truth, but that truth should come from those closest to them first.  Open communication is essential in any relationship, and that is no different for us.

  5. Details are for one on one conversations. Important conversations, we believe, are meant to be held at eye level where context and emotions are clear.  We never want our son to mistake any words typed out for untruth.  Whether we are talking about his day at school, or his life as it relates to adoption, we reserve those talks for one on one conversation where they are clearly communicated and received in the love in which they are meant.

While I may no longer sit at the keyboard and type hundreds of words as it pertains to our particular story, I will always be an advocate and go to bat for the adoption community.  I fully support others, their choices, and the miracles that adoption brings into each of our lives. 

It's Not Fair (+ Giveaway)!

“IT’S NOT FAIR!”

How many times have we heard our children scream those three words in our face?  Better yet, how many times have we found ourselves in the trenches of life screaming them out?

In my own life I continue to fling that phrase around while stomping my feet in my nearly forty year old tantrums.  First at infertility, and now three of the people closest to me have life threatening illnesses.  It’s not fair.  And while half of me wants to curl up in that fuzzy blanket eating cookie dough and snotting, the other half feels like Braveheart screaming out “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”  I’m ready for battle.

Life can feel like one big poop emoji sometimes.  It isn’t fair.  But then again, is it really meant to be?  It can still be good when we learn how to navigate it and love the heck out of it regardless of the big pile of poo.  We all have something in our life that isn’t fair. And we have to learn to love that life we didn’t choose. 

I’ve been a big fan of Melanie Dale’s for a while – of her blog and of her first book, Women are Scary (because hello we totally are).  I love her heart, her honesty, and her sense of humor.  But her new book – It’s Not Fair, Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose – is my number one recommended book.  Let’s just say if I were Oprah, then “you get a book, you get a book, YOU GET A BOOK, everyone gets a book!” 

Melanie takes us through her own battles of infertility, adoption, and other shattered dreams.  Every single person can relate to her words.  Maybe our circumstances aren’t exactly the same.  Maybe it isn’t infertility that has thrown sucker punches straight to your ovaries, but maybe it’s cancer, loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one.  Whatever it is, Melanie navigates us through all those real emotions.  She shares how to live with purpose and lots of humor.

This isn’t a “how to” book, it is a “me too” book.  It is one where you will be comforted in knowing you aren’t alone in this great big broken world. 

If you feel like your life hasn’t been fair, then I urge you to read this book full of hilarious illustration and truth from God’s word.  It’s Not Fair will make you laugh and it will have you shouting “Amen!”  It’s the book you will give to all your friends along with a warm fuzzy blanket. 

**To win a copy of Melanie Dale's book, It's Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn't Choose, please comment on this blog post and a random winner will be drawn on Wednesday, September 21.**

I received this book from the author and Zondervan Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion which I’ve provided here.

Motherhood is Everything I Never Thought it Would Be

I was never one of these little girls who carried a baby doll around with me everywhere.  In fact, I didn’t even really like baby dolls.  I didn’t pretend to be a mommy, or even think about being a mommy one day. 

Then I grew up, went to college, and got married (in that order because that’s what I thought was the good little Southern girl thing to do).  I earned a college degree in Chemical Engineering (totally by the grace of God) and I jumped head first into a career.  I didn’t love it, but it gave me meaning and what I felt was value.  My husband and I felt we wanted children at some point, but our careers came first.  I needed to validate myself in the corporate world and claw and scratch my way around in it for a while before I would even consider becoming a mom.  ME FIRST. (Insert caveat – I had no idea at the time just how selfish of a person I was).  To make a really long story short, five years went by and I was at the peak of where I wanted to be.  I was knee deep in meetings, paperwork, and travel.  All my friends became knee deep in diapers, bottles, and toddler tantrums.  I was almost 30 years old and began to think “I guess it’s time to have a baby too.”   

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Exchanging My Pain for His Glory

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of last year.  It shook us to our core.  It was aggressive and seemed to come out of nowhere.  Fast forward to earlier this year, and she sat at her very first day of chemotherapy – anxious and afraid like all the others that surrounded her.  Some were there alone, some were young, some were old.  I knew their fears because I knew my moms.  As I sat there in that room that day, I knew God was stirring something inside of me to do.  I just didn’t know what at that moment.

It was an open room surrounded by thirty other patients sitting reclined in their chairs, all with IV lines hooked up to ports in their chests.  They were there just like my mom receiving their four hours of chemotherapy treatment.  The weight of the magnitude of people battling the beast of cancer came crashing down on me and I found it hard to breathe.  This is one office in one city.  There are thirty patients twice a day.  Multiply that by at least four days a week.  That’s close to 250 patients in a week’s time in a single office.  I fought tears and I felt the lump rise in my throat.  I couldn’t speak.  I felt paralyzed by the amount of pain and fear that surrounded me.

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