Making the Silent Nights Holy

If you're returning home from Christmas parties and family gatherings to a house that's a bit too silent, you're not alone. Even the happiest, most celebrated time of year can be less than joyful when facing loss or unfulfilled dreams. 

I've told y'all before about how hard it was for us to balance the mix of emotions tugging at our hearts in the years we were trying to have a baby. I've given you a survival guide to get you through some of the awkwardness and Christmas blues that may come your way.  You are not alone in your struggle this year. It's such a joyous time of year, but one that often brings a tidal wave of conflicting emotions. 

As always, I try my best to be an open book for y'all... my ONSEL family, so I'll be honest when I tell you this year has been a sobering holiday season again. While we have our sweet, long awaited, almost 6 year old (queue the why is time flying by so fast tears) and our house is finally full of the huge blessing of giggles and wish lists to Santa and early morning readings of the Advent verses, we've had several harsh blows lately to remind us that Christmas is far from a happy magical season for many around us. In just the past month alone, we have heard the shocking news of a good friend's wife suddenly pass away leaving behind our friend to raise several children alone; we've had another good friend relapse with leukemia and have to deal with spending Christmas facing that frightening disease and harsh treatment from a hospital room hundreds of miles away from home; we've send messages of condolences for family friends who passed away too young and will leave a seat empty at next week's tables. We've spent an afternoon feeding the homeless in our inner city and prayed with our child at night that they would find food and warmth and know that Jesus loves them. We've celebrated with news of adoption placements and positive pregnancy tests in the same week that we've heard of failing adoptions and miscarriages that wrecked the hearts of friends. Just the other day, my mom and I were talking about some of this and how it's a good reminder that this is indeed a special, beautiful, magical time of year, but it's one that is hard on so many. So if you find yourself reading this and relating to some of the struggle of emotions here, please know my friend, you are not alone. 

But this pain we have to deal with on this earth is exactly the reason for Christmas in the first place, isn't it? We are a sinful people. Five minutes of the news or reflecting back on how kind we were in all our conversations during this last week will prove that. This world is hurting and we're going to continue to struggle with the consequences of our sinful ways until Christ Jesus comes back. But that is precisely the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is exactly why Jesus, born of a virgin birth, came to earth as fully God and fully man in the most humble and vulnerable of ways imaginable. It's exactly why He grew up living through the hard times and watching friends and family struggle. It's exactly why He cried when his best friend died too young, knowing He would days later raise him from the dead. He knows exactly what it's like to not feel so overcome with happiness that we burst out in carols at a moments notice, but rather struggle to bury the tears until we can find a moment of solitude to let them out. This pain that is tugging at our souls is exactly why He came. He came to give us hope and life in Him!

Our most silent, isolated and lonely nights, were made holy when a little baby entered our world and shattered everything. No longer are we slaves to our circumstances. No longer do we have to question if we're good enough or trying hard enough. We no longer have to put on a brave face when we're alone with our thoughts and no one to hear them but God, because He already knows them. It's exactly why He came. Our silents nights are now holy nights because of His infinite grace and mercy.

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So this Christmas, if you're grieving the loss of a loved one, a failed adoption, a miscarriage or are painfully waiting on that phone call that will change your world and will make your dream a reality, take a few moments and read these verses below. Spend an honest night thanking God for making your silent nights holy ones. Perhaps this year, our great gift of all is the gift of hope that we always have in Christ Jesus.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:3-7
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Timothy 1:15-17
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
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’
— Luke 2:10
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
— 1 John 5:11

No matter where you are in your journeys this year, I want you to know that I love each of you dearly, I pray for and think of you in this ONSEL community often and I wish you a truly Merry Christmas.

With much love,
Courtney

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
— 2 Corinthians 9:15

Hello My Name Is...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love & laughter,

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