I am beyond honored that Courtney DeFeo would share with us today and you will be blessed immensely by her story of faith. I have followed Courtney since her book came out years ago, "In This House, We Will Giggle". I hope you are deeply encouraged by her words today.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Southern girl at heart. I grew up in Atlanta, went to Auburn University, moved to Orlando and then to Texas. However, my favorite place to be is at parents’ house in South Carolina with my entire family. My husband, Ron, and I have been married for 18 years and we have four amazing girls. Ella is almost 15, Larson is 12, Lauren is 24 (not legally adopted but 100% ours) and my favorite child ever is Mazie (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, age 1). We reside in Colleyville, TX and eat mounds of table side guacamole.
I love brainstorming, creating and dreaming. Especially when those ideas intersect with glorifying Jesus and encouraging people. As a former marketing professional for Chick-fil-A Inc., I had the privilege creating memorable programs that helped customers fall in love with chicken. I’m the author of In This House, We Will Giggle and Treasured and creator of ABC Scripture Cards and the kindness movement Light ‘Em Up Acts. I am currently pursuing a Masters Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. I also enjoy serving and volunteering for Lighthouse Family Retreat, Compass Church, For Girls Like You and Operation Dream Home. Connect with me Courtney at CourtneyDeFeo.com.
My top two priorities are my faith and my family. However, the creative girl in me (and serial entrepreneur) has to keep many random ideas on a note in my phone. Every now and then, an idea or message will bubble up and stay in my heart - and then I know it’s one that Jesus wants me to pursue.
Years ago, I heard someone say, “If you’re a communicator at heart - a message will have various formats. It’s not always just writing. It’s important to find the best way to communicate what message has been laid on your heart.”
I love that freedom because I’ve been able to communicate about faith, families, intentional parenting, generosity, raising girls and more in so many fun ways. Although I’ve enjoyed so many creative roles from product designer, author, podcaster and speaker. However, my ultimate calling is more simple. I am a follower of Jesus and I feel MOST ALIVE when I’m using my gifts to point people to Jesus and encourage others at the same time. Sometimes that looks like a conversation with a friend in carpool and sometimes that will manifest into a curriculum for moms and daughters I haven’t always done it perfectly, but I’m finally learning to pause and wait on the Holy Spirit and His timing. It’s always better that way.
At this current time, I feel a strong calling to my local church community and the young girls in my life. That looks like house groups and discipleship groups in this season and less time online. I’m so excited to open up my home and heart in this way.
Okay, Courtney. I can't wait for you to share your story of belief with us. Let's go!
Three years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away very unexpectedly. Not only did it break my heart, it stirred up my faith in a way that I’ve never experienced.
Her name was Wynter Pitts. She was simply remarkable.
In 2011, we met at the DotMom Conference put together by Lifeway. Wynter was at a table selling her magazine (For Girls Like You) and I was at my table selling my ABC Scripture Cards. During the main sessions, we would meet in the middle of our tables and talk about our dreams. And also talk about the struggles of trying to launch a big idea with zero budget. And, we also shared our struggle with going it “alone.” Then, I flew back home to Florida and she flew back to her home in Texas. However, a friendship began.
We would communicate on social media and through emails for several years. Often, we would just encourage each other about life, ministry and everything in between. In 2015, I found out I was moving to Dallas, Texas. One of the very first people I called was Wynter. I wasn’t thrilled about starting over in a new city, but I was super pumped to be in her city. We were so excited to have our families connect in real life.
We got together our girls together only a couple times because somehow 30 minutes still felt like states apart. In 2018, we started realizing that our ministries/businesses were so similar. I was working on a small group study for moms and tween girls. She was ramping up her magazine (targeted at tween girls) in a much bigger way. However, we still didn’t want to go it alone. We both really felt lonely professionally and felt this pull to work together.
So, we had her entire family over for dinner. While the girls played upstairs, the four parents sat around my dining room table and brainstormed what it would look like to merge. We knew it would totally work because we were opposites. She was the introvert. I was the extrovert. She loathed marketing. I loved it. And we felt it was something God was orchestrating.
We prayed and brainstormed and decided that our first step together would be a podcast for moms of girls, and we would wait for God’s prompting for the rest. Within just a couple of months, we were recording our first podcast. It was AMAZING to work with a friend. It felt right. It felt easy and incredibly fulfilling. The podcast episodes were like free therapy for us - and quickly thousands of moms were tuning in each week. We recorded 19 episodes fast so that we could both enjoy summer break. Plus, she had decided to take a leap and move to Nashville. So, she was a touch busy.
On the night of July 24, 2018, I got a call from her cousin, Chrystal Hurst, letting me know that Wynter had suddenly died due to a heart-related issue. I hit my knees and wailed to God. I could not understand it or believe it.
I could not get my arms around what her daughters were having to experience. I cried for hours that night and had many feelings and questions for God. The only thing I kept hearing in my heart was “She is yours.” This was a prayer and book written by Wynter. It was about the hard job of releasing our girls to God. And I just kept repeating it to myself even though I didn’t want to let go.
I knew in my mind she was home immediately with her Savior that she served so beautifully. However, my broken heart just couldn’t reconcile how this was better for her family. How her girls would be without their amazing mother. How Jonathan would be without his bride. I was definitely confused and angry and so deeply sad that this was their reality.
I had never experienced losing a friend. Especially not a friend like this. One that I had assumed would be with me in life for years to come. One that just got me. One that I spoke or texted with almost every day. I felt like we had just started something so special and God really had things for us to do together in ministry. I grieved for way longer than I thought was appropriate. I remember feeling guilty at times because I wasn’t her family or even her closest friend, but something hit me deep in a way. In many hard ways and often beautiful ways. He was using her life, her legacy and her death to grow me.
I would often reflect force myself to focus on truth over doubt. I had to choose to believe that God was still good. That He loved her family more than me and that He would carry them through this. I wanted to fix it so badly. I would certainly try by jumping into to serve the girls and help Jonathan with the magazine. The most ironic thing was that God used the giant faith of her grieving husband and her family to minister to me. The way that Jonathan and the Evans family marched through their deepest pain with Christ at the center impacted me deeply and slowly healed my heart. If her family could believe that God was still good, then I could too.
I wish I had time to share with you all of the ways that Wynter impacted my life (and still does). I wish I could share how many times I saw God work out the details surrounding her death. I watched Him provide over and over again for Jonathan and the girls. I saw Him at work in a way that I have never seen before.
During one of my frustrated, teary days, I called Wynter. I had received a “no” from a publisher about my mother/daughter curriculum and she offered me such wisdom and encouragement. She encouraged me not to lose hope in what God had asked me to do. Then, she shared with me a musical artist that had really been resonating with her. It was Morgan Harper Nichols.
During the year or two after she passed, I would cling to every song. Sometimes, crying myself to sleep and listening to the songs on repeat. Especially her favorite song by Morgan, Storyteller. Here are some of the lyrics. Somehow, these songs (filled with God’s truth) comforted me in a special way.
You hold the broken
You hear my every cry
My eyes are open
I know that it is well
It is well
The lessons I learned from choosing God through incredible grief has made me seen Him in a new way. I realized that when you’ve been up close to a dedicated disciple of Jesus like Wynter, the mark they leave is forever. And the hole they leave in your life is real and often painful.
I felt God’s nearness.
I saw His beautiful faithfulness.
I saw that it is well. It is truly well with my soul.