8.30.2017

Dear Future Husband.


Dear Future Husband:

I came across an article today which implied that asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage was belittling and sexist.  Because I am old-fashioned, the article didn't necessarily reflect my views on the subject matter.  I simply sighed and scrolled on because although I hold certain traditions and values dear, I am not under the impression that I am part of a vast majority.

But then I thought of you, wherever you are, glancing across those words and taking them to heart.  I thought of all of the articles you're reading, the words you are taking in and considering.  I thought of the wait and the difficult loneliness and the questioning if you're doing any of this right.

There are so many words, opinions, and voices out there.  And on days when the loneliness settles so deeply in my bones that it physically hurts, I desperately want to listen to those words.  If I just do this, maybe he will show up.

It's because I know the struggle that I want, so badly, to tell you this: don't listen to any of it.

The articles.

The blog posts.

The opinions of friends and family with good intentions.

You are not too much or too little.  Your hair isn't too dark or too light.  Your talent isn't too small or too quirky.  You are not too smart or too shy or too funny or too quiet or too loud.  

You are you.  Don't change any part of yourself because the world has made you believe that you need to in order to attract someone.

Please just be the man that God is asking you to be.

And maybe that won't attract a lot of girls, but it will attract me.

Don't give up.  Don't give in.  Keep your head up and your faith strong, love.  Our time rests in our Heavenly Father's capable hands and I am certain that He is always, always, always right on time.

With all of my love,

Courtney.

6.30.2017

What I Know About Shame.

Let me tell you a thing or two about shame.


Shame will crack it's knuckles and reach for your throat, threatening to steal every essence of life in your body.  It will kick you while you're down, taunt you while you sleep, and harass you while you just try to make it out alive.  

Shame shows no mercy.

If you let it, shame will swallow you whole.  You'll tuck happiness away until you feel worthy of truly letting it seep into your bones.  You'll fight for bravery because it will mean that you're not a lost cause, that there's still some good left in you.

Shame can ruin you.  

But it doesn't have to.


This is a place of decision, for me and for you.  We can give God permission to only redeem some of our fear and some of our past, or we can surrender it all.   

Can we be honest?  Sometimes we just get comfortable in our messes.  I don't want to be broken.  I don't want the shame.  I don't want the guilt.  I don't want the inability to forgive myself.  Yet I have such a difficult time releasing those things to the grip of mercy that my Heavenly Father extends towards me.  

What if I give Him my shame and let Him redeem my past and still, underneath all of the junk I have hidden under for the last several years, I am no good?  What if my mistakes aren't bad; what if it's just me?

But, friends, I've discovered something else about shame: it lies.  It lies about who we are, Who we belong to, and how great His love is for us.  

I didn't come this far to give up now.  I didn't dive into the deep end only to get to this point and search for shallow waters again.  It's tough and it hurts and it's so scary that my stomach remains in knots, but it's time to take off my shame and lay it at the feet of Jesus where it has always belonged.

I am shedding years of guilt, of hidden insecurities, of distrusting myself and others and hiding in all of it.

Maybe it's time that you do the same.

Let's ditch shame together.  How can I pray for you, friends?

*******************************************
Memories don't make us who we are.  There's a silver lining in every scar.
Everything's forgiven.  Forgetting's up to you.
--
"Carry On, San Vicente" // Dave Barnes

5.08.2017

Write Your Heart Out: A Giveaway.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't think I'm that great of a writer. 

Seriously.  I'm not going to impress you with perfect grammar or sentence structure.  I can't remember half of the literary terms that years of honors English classes tried to beat into my head.  It has never been my intention to create great works of theological study.

I don't want to be perfect, but I do want to be authentic.

So, in the spirit of authenticity, I need to tell you that I wanted to quit writing a few months ago.


I've been casually throwing words together since the third grade, so the idea that I would ever want to put my writing pen away seems unfathomable.  But I did.  What once felt like breathing suddenly felt like a burden, and it was the worst form of torture.

I put my pen down.  I locked up the words in my chest and told them they couldn't come out.  People had always told me I could write, and because I wanted to believe them, I accepted it.  But now?  Now I knew the truth.  I wasn't a writer.  My words were nothing.

I discovered, very quickly, that when God creates you to do something, you have to do it.  Even if you don't want to.  Even if you don't think you can.  There will be a literal buzz that hums through your body until you release the gift that God has given you.  It is constant.  It is annoying.

It is beautiful.



I picked up the pen, put words to paper, and felt myself exhale for the first time since I had mistakenly convinced myself that the words I wrote were mine to keep.  

And maybe there's a gift inside of you that you've locked away, and maybe it hums through your veins and begs to see the light of day.  And maybe, just maybe, you should remind yourself that this gift?  This annoyingly beautiful gift that you just want to put down? It's been given to you, but it's not really yours to keep.

*******

My writer friend, Tiffany, is a gem.  You know those genuinely kind, creative people that you just love immediately?   Yeah, she's one of those.  And she knows a thing or two about using, and sharing, the gifts that God has given.

That's the heart behind her new creative ministry, The Inspire Shop.  She aims to create #mugswithamission: beautifully crafted mugs that will inspire you as you sip your daily cup of tea or coffee. 

But they aren't just coffee mugs.  Tiffany wants to bring that same inspiration out into the community.  Once a month, a team of volunteers come together to bring the love of Jesus and crafts to women who are choosing to leave addictions, abuse, and lies behind for a purposeful life. 



I love the heart behind her shop, and because God is good and His timing is impeccable, the mug came like a gentle reminder that these words and this heart are meant to be poured out.

And because Tiffany is so kind, she wants to bless one of you with the mug of your choice! 


So here's how this works:
  • Visit The Inspire Shop and pick your favorite mug. (WARNING: You will want all of them because they are beauties.)
  • To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below!  Tell us which mug you would want to win. (You must comment here on the blog; comments on social media WILL NOT count.)
  • One entry per person.
  • Winner will be chosen by Random Result.
  • Giveaway starts 5/8/17 at the time of this posting and ends 5/14/17 at 11:59 PM.
  • I will announce the winner on 5/15/17 via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  (If you're not following me on social media, what are you waiting for?!  I'm a cool chick.  Let's be friends.  You can find my social media over on the sidebar ------>)
That's it!  It's that simple.  So which mug do you absolutely love?  

3.07.2017

It's Okay to Not Be Okay.


There are a million adult responsibilities beating at my door right now.  I won't bore you with the actual to-do list; just know that it is extensive and exhausting.

But my heart isn't okay.


There's no real reason for it.  It's just a season, I suppose.  But it's a difficult one where each breath feels like it's piercing the tender flesh of my chest.  

And so tonight, I'm giving myself permission to set my to-do list aside for the sake of my sanity and my soul.  

I'm writing words, not to share or turn in, but simply because they pour from my veins.

I'm laying in the floor and talking to God and letting the tears come and go because broken is not bad.

I'm taking care of myself because 24 is too young to be beat to death by this life.

And maybe you need to give yourself permission to set the to-do list aside and simply breathe.

Your homework can wait.  The checkbook can be balanced tomorrow.  We both know you don't really want to fold that laundry anyway.

Tuck your babies in and watch in awe as they fall slowly and peacefully asleep.  Rest in your spouse's arms a little longer.  Paint the scene in your head.  Read that book.  Text that friend.  Let the dishes set in the sink and the toys lay in the living room floor while you weep at the feet of Jesus over your broken heart.

Take the time and make the effort to sustain the life within you.


It's important.  It's necessary.  

May we never value a completed checklist more than this incredible gift of time we have been given.

2.11.2017

Blooming Love.

It bloomed when we were happy.

The flower on the roof flourished when we smiled, when the heart in my chest loved the heart in his.  


But I watched as he left, stepping into independence and out of my life.  I watched and I wondered how a person could survive having their heart walk down the sidewalk while their body stood on the porch.

I turned to look at that flower on the roof, expecting to see a traitorous explosion of color.  Instead, the flower was dead.  Unwilling to accept it, I stared at that flower.  Intently.  Stubbornly.  Faithfully.

When the color returned and the petals opened wide, we would be together again.  We would be happy.  I merely had to wait for it.  And I was willing to.

Until I looked around and realized the season had changed.  The flower on the roof wouldn't bloom even if I wanted it to.  It simply wasn't the right time.

It broke my heart to think of all of the things I had missed because my gaze, my focus, my entire existence was spent willing something to happen that wasn't meant for that season.

I woke up from that dream and decided that I didn't want to waste my new season.  I wanted to look around, to experience my moments instead of missing them.

Can I be honest with you?  I know too many young people who are missing entire seasons of their lives because they're willing a flower to bloom that simply isn't in the proper season for blooming.


We can become so focused on our relationship status, like I was focused on that flower in my dream, that we lose essential seasons of our lives.  We waste precious time waiting and looking and obsessing.  And, y'all, I'm just not convinced that God would be honored, happy, or impressed.

This is what I know to be true:


God can be trusted.  With my heart, my life, my time.

And He can be trusted with your heart, your life, and your time as well.  


I'm begging you not to lose another season of your life willing a relationship into place when it simply isn't the right season.  Trust Him.  If for no other reason than the pure fact that He can be trusted.

Become active for God.  Get rooted in His Word and in His Church.  Fall in love with Him before you ask anyone to fall in love with you.  And when the right season rolls around, when a blooming relationship becomes possible, you will be so involved with God and His work that you won't have the opportunity to obsess over it.  You'll just take it as the gift it is.

What a beautiful way to live.  

What a beautiful way to love.   

1.28.2017

Stay.


I will trust You.

And that might look different than I've always thought it would.  Because trusting You means trusting that You hear me, You see me, and You are aware of my needs.  It means trusting that You know me better than I know myself and You know what work needs to be done on the inside of this stubborn heart.  It means walking the fine line between impatiently moving ahead of You and dragging my feet because I'm expecting You to just drop things from Heaven.

It means trusting and believing that You have more than enough grace and mercy to spare for my numerous mess ups.  And it means taking all of the pressure off of myself to get it right the first time.

I have walked on eggshells for years, trying to decipher the next move of my life because I wanted so desperately to be right in Your eyes.  I thought one wrong step would ultimately end everything between us.  

Sometimes I know it so deeply, that You're staying and You won't leave.  But other times, I panic.  I still treat You like You're going to walk away when I mess up.  I don't think I am enough to make You stay, so I strive to do everything right because if I don't mess up, You will still want me.

But that's not how You work.  That's not how You love.  

I have always talked of grace and mercy and love, but I never really applied them to my life.  I tried to.  I tried to look at my hot mess and find a place where something like mercy could fit.  

Which is funny because I hand out those words like popsicles on a hot day, like I'm Oprah giving them away with joy and excitement.  "There's grace for you!  And you!  And you!  EVERYBODY GETS GRACE TODAY!"

And not once did I bother to truly grab some grace for myself.

But I will trust You.

And that looks different than I've always thought it would.  Because trusting You means trusting that You will still want me when my humanity shows.  Trusting You means trusting that You will extend the same mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness to me that I believe You extend to others.  

It means trusting that You want me to live like I'm loved. 

It means trusting that You love me enough to stay.  

12.23.2016

Embrace the Interruptions.


She was engaged, preparing for a wedding and a marriage and a normal life, when an angel popped in with a divine message and wrecked her plans.

And I think about what it must have been like to be so young, on the brink of truly beginning your life, and being told that your womb would shelter the Son of God.  The fear and questions must have plagued her long after that angel left.  How would she face people?  Would anyone believe her?  Did she even believe it herself?  

A few years ago, I played Mary in our church's Christmas play.  I had always known the Christmas story, had always thought it was beautiful.  But it wasn't until I was dressed as Mary, speaking her words, that I began to really think about what it must have been like for her.

I imagined her watching her stomach grow, knowing that the child forming inside was created miraculously.  I imagined her amazement at every kick and flutter.  I imagined her feeling of inadequacy when she realized that she was giving birth to the Son of God and all she could offer Him was a stable and a manger.  I imagined her crying, tears of joy and relief and uncertainty, as she held her son and kissed His precious face.  I imagined her thanking God in Heaven for this beautiful gift, this unplanned blessing of being the mother of Jesus Christ.

And isn't that just like us?  To begin our journeys with God full of questions and hesitation only to end up blessed beyond measure by His provision and wisdom?  

God had greater plans for Mary than she had for herself.  She thought she would only be a normal girl with a quiet life, but God looked at her and saw more.  He saw the mother of Jesus.

When our plans are wrecked, it isn't because God is good at destruction.  It's because His plans for us are infinitely better.  And perhaps, even more than that, it is because He sees our full identity in Him while we only catch glimpses. 

Perhaps our interrupted plans are meant to redefine us, to bring us a step closer to becoming the complete version of who God has called us to be.

As we experience Christmas this year and make our entrance into 2017, let's hold our plans loosely and tighten our grip on the Heavenly Father instead.  Let's embrace the interruptions because we have faith that our God knows exactly what He is doing and exactly who He is calling us to be.  Merry Christmas, friends, and God bless.

I'm just a girl, nothing more.  But I am willing.
I am Yours.
- Be Born in Me, Francesca Battistelli

11.25.2016

Where Grief Meets Gratitude.


It stands on the left side of the road and I smile as I approach it, reaching out to touch the familiar bark.  There aren't any special marks.  I haven't scarred the trunk in an effort to document my time here.  But I know this tree.  I've memorized this spot under the sway of branches and falling of leaves.  When you wrestle with God, you don't forget about it.

And I remember the first time I stood here, only a few years ago.  I was supposed to be walking until my heart felt lighter, until the grief was gone, until the ache in my muscles could overcome the numbness in my chest.  Instead, the falling rain was holding me hostage and anger caused my blood to boil.

"Are You even there?" I yelled, throwing my words toward heaven.  "Do You even care?"

I was heartbroken and devastated over the passing of a young friend.  She was beautiful and so full of life when, all of a sudden, she was sick and then gone.  And I just couldn't wrap my mind around any of it.

For over a month, I couldn't gather any words for my Heavenly Father.  I simply sat in silence and questioned His goodness and His wisdom.  I avoided Him, afraid that my hurt and questions would drive me too far from His heart, afraid that our relationship would never recover.

But under that tree, I finally faced God.  Like a full-blown crazy lady, I loudly poured my heart out.  Sobs escaped from the very core of my being and bitter grief burned in my chest. 

When I was finished, no booming voice came from heaven.  The tree didn't set fire in front of me.  On the outside, I just looked like a psychopath yelling at the sky in a rainstorm.  But on the inside, miraculous things were happening as God was gathering my broken pieces that I had finally placed in His capable hands.

I learned that His heart broke with mine.  I wasn't alone.  And He was, and still is, big enough to deal with my tough questions and broken heart.

My grandfather passed away earlier this year, and to say that I handled it gracefully would be a complete lie.  Much like when my friend passed away, I grew angry.  I was devastated.  And then I realized, once again, that His heart breaks with mine.  I'm not alone.  And He was, and still is, big enough to deal with my tough questions and broken heart.  

Yet I face the holidays with a crippled joy.  It's so hard to be grateful in grief.  Whether it's the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship or the loss of a dream, grief and gratitude aren't often synonymous.  And for good reason.

My heart catches when I think of my friend and aches when I miss my grandfather, but I always remember that day under the tree.  I always remember that day when I wrestled with God, when I finally approached Him and said, "I'm not leaving here until something changes in my heart."

And I feel much like Jacob after his wrestling match in Genesis, when his name is changed and his identity is altered all because of one tiring and painful encounter during the night.

I have wrestled with God and I have wrestled with grief and I am not the same person that I was before the match.

So although I feel grief, it does not root out gratitude.  And although I feel sadness, it does not eradicate joy.  And although I am fighting, always fighting, to find my footing in my faith, it does not weaken my belief in God.  In fact, it only enriches and deepens my love for Him.   

Gravel shifts under my feet as I leave this beloved tree, this place where some of my deepest hurts have collided with my greatest moments of peace.  Friends, if you're struggling to find Him this holiday season when everyone around you is bursting with joy and peace and a million other pleasant things that you just can't seem to get a grip on, please know this above all: our God is good, even when our hearts hurt and ache like old wounds that never quite healed right.  He is good even here, where grief meets gratitude.