Four Years Later

This past weekend, I decided to be an adult and buy some new furniture. After much store hopping (10 stores to be exact) and even more grace from the friend who bravely decided to shop with me, I found the pieces I wanted to buy. After coming home and realizing that now meant I needed to clean out my current drawers and prepare the way for the new, I found an old journal from 2015/2016.

Just a little back story – at this time in my life I was about to enter my senior year of college, I didn’t know what my grad school situation looked like, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a CPA, and I didn’t know what job I would land after college.

So with that being said, I was curious as to what I wrote about as college Courtney (because even though I lived it, I forget how I felt and how I thought in those moments). I found a journal entry from July of 2015, just a few weeks before I was to start my first internship, my dream internship(!!), and this is an excerpt of what I wrote –


“I’ve been waiting on this huge revelation about what to do next, when God revealed it to me months ago. What I now know is that my next step is a smaller step than I expected, but I’m not disappointed. I trust my Creator. I may not know exactly why my next step is what it is, but God does and I trust that His higher perspective shows much more than my earthly one. This step will somehow lead me closer to becoming who I’m meant to be…”


Fast forward to today, and I’m honestly brought to tears at the work the Lord was doing in my life even then.  After reading those words, I find myself jumping back into that moment. When I wrote that God revealed my next step a few months before, I had literally accepted the internship position 6 months before writing these words, but I was still so focused on the search for a permanent job (because I just knew that would be my next step-LOL at my plans) that I almost overlooked the value of the internship. I almost missed that the internship wasn’t just something to pass the time, it was my next step

And I took that step in obedience, trusting that the Lord would work out His grand plan for me and that was somehow a part of it. I knew taking that step would lead me in the direction I was supposed to go, but I didn’t know how. I had no idea how that internship would play into God’s plan for my life. I didn’t know that fours years later I would accept a full-time position with the same incredible organization, thanks to the time I spent in my internship. I didn’t know at the time, but God did.  

He knew that the step I saw as “small” was actually the foundation step of my future career. He knew when I was disappointed at not being able to stay there back then, I would be back eventually. He knew it all. He knows it all.

I can look back now and say “This is why I took that step,” and thank God I did. And as precious as it is to look back and see the pieces come together, I’m reminded that I can’t look forward and say the same for where I will be four years from now. But God can.

This is the point – When the Lord says in Isaiah, “My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts,” trust Him. Even when you don’t “get it.” Even when it makes no sense at all and you think you’re just wasting time. Let go of the steps you think you should be taking and spend some time looking for the steps the Lord has already laid out for you. When you find those steps as He reveals them, take them in obedience. Trust His eternal perspective over your human vision every single day of the week, y’all.

And while you’re at it, write it down. Document the journey. Keep track of the work He is doing in your life. Because it’s an incredible thing to be able to look back, see exactly where you were and what you were thinking four years ago, and see how the Lord has been faithful to make it all work together for good.

Advertisements
Image

untitled

To be honest, I don’t really know where this is about to go. Typically, when I write, a thought pops into my mind and I think about it for a few days before typing it out when it feels right. But right now, I just feel the need to write.

About what? I don’t really know. Why? Because I have been following the lead of my Creator for long enough to know when He is working something out within me. For what reason? I don’t know yet. Sometimes I never find the answer to that last question, but I’m kind of amazed by that. Amazed  by the idea that these words have power beyond my understanding. That by taking the time to just let the Lord do His thing through me, I could be used to bring glory to the God of all creation…somehow.

Let me be very clear, in my own right I am not worthy. I am not worthy of any clever phrase or well-structured sentence credited to my name (not many of those here, I’m afraid…grammar was never my strongest subject) .  I am not worthy to even think the name of Yahweh.

But y’all. God is. He is worthy of so much more than these words can express. He is worthy of every ounce of praise we shout and every prayer we pray, spoken or not. He is worthy of more glory and adoration than I could ever give.

Because He is God. Redeemer of the lost. Healer of the sick. Helper of the poor. Savior of the world. Creator of all things. Restorer of the broken. Sustainer of sanity. Pursuer of hearts. Answerer of prayers. Provider of needs. Father to the fatherless. Planner of futures. Worker of miracles. Friend to the lonely. Sovereign in all situations. Shelter for the weak. Bearer of heavy loads. King of all kings. Transformer of hearts and lives… and this is only scratching the surface because my human brain cannot comprehend all that He is. These are just the glimpses of Himself He has graciously allowed me to see.

So this is it. Maybe you’re still not sold on this whole “God thing.” Maybe you’ve never experienced the Lord in your own life. Maybe you’ve heard all about it but you want to know Him personally. Maybe you needed to be reminded of one of these attributes. Maybe you have another you’d like to add the the list.

Whatever your case is, bring it to God.

Please. I may have only seen glimpses, but I know that He is worthy of your time and capable of handling your circumstances, whatever they may be.

Image

when the fear comes…

Today is March 3, 2019.

On this day last year, life was good. I was happy, I was healthy, I was working.  The Lord had just brought me out of a season of waiting and feeling “stuck” (see “The Desert Place post if you don’t believe me), and I was excited about His working in my life.

Today, I reflect on that day and I’m honestly brought to tears by what I didn’t know then. I didn’t know that in 9 short days life as I knew it would be turned upside down.  I didn’t know that I was about to be brought to the end of my strength, my sanity, and frankly my ability to live. I didn’t know that over the next few months I was going to find myself closer to the Lord of my heart than ever before out of pure desperation to grasp the one thing I knew would stay steady.

I didn’t know.  Because it hadn’t happened yet.

So today, I have to admit that the point behind me writing this is that I am finding fear creeping into my heart.  Fear is reminding me of how oblivious I was to the pain that was so near to making its presence known, and fear is telling me that it can happen again.

As the 1 year mark gets closer and closer on my calendar, I find myself in crippling moments when the fear of my headache returning overwhelms me. It terrifies me.  It reminds me of the miserable pain and whispers to me that I couldn’t survive that again. And y’all, the limits of my humanity agree with the fear. I don’t think I could survive that again.

But God.

I could honestly stop writing there because God is the only word I need to keep speaking over myself. I need to be reminded of God.

I need to be reminded of God’s past faithfulness, of His right-now presence, of His future promises.

I need to be reminded of the love story He has written to me, of the sacrificial and unconditional love He has shown me by saving my doubting soul.

I need to be reminded that even when I want to let go and give in to the fear, He holds on to my heart and whispers truth. Even when I’m paralyzed by fear and don’t think I can take another step into the unknown, He sustains me…and carries me if need be.

I need to be reminded of His  grace. The kind of grace that gets me through the day when the day seems like it just won’t end.

I need to be reminded that time and time again He has rescued me from fear and provided a shelter for me in Himself, and He will continue to do so until I’m home with Him where fear cannot find me.

I need to be reminded of the peace that is found only in Him. The peace that goes beyond my circumstances and remains steadfast in the chaos.

I needed to be reminded of the purpose behind the pain. The pain was real, but I cannot express the incredible joy I have found in His presence or the unending gratitude that fills my heart each day at the thought of His provision during the fiasco that was my life in 2018.

When I think about enduring any kind of pain like that again, my humanness shouts that I could not survive it again. But God. God is reminding me of Himself. He carried me through once before and if the pain comes again, the Lord will carry me, once again.


 

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you…The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
-Psalm 91:1-7,14-16

Image

JOY

2018 – What a year. One of my favorite things to do as the year comes to a close is think about where I am now compared to where I was when this year began, and this year has by far been the most challenging and rewarding years I have ever experienced. There has been stress, suffering, and lots of searching for answers I may never find on this side of heaven, but there has also been strength. There has been more strength than I knew possible, more love than I am worthy of, and more joy than I can hold in my heart…

It’s no secret that I am Christmas crazy, and while I sadly have already safely packed away most of my Christmas decorations, I’m still caught on the joy that surrounds this season. Because of the gift sent to us all those Christmas’s ago, there is JOY to be found in this season and in every day to come. So as you read the descriptions of joy I have found to be true this year, my prayer is that the joy of the Lord will fill your spirit so completely that this joy will overflow into the world around you each and every day.

Joy is independent of circumstance. It is not restricted by what is going on in your life. As believers, we are called to “always be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4) and to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Joy is possible in all moments because it is found in our Lord, not our circumstances.

Joy is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. King David said “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…” (Psalm 16:11). This same joy is offered to each of us today through the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.  The Creator of the world is with you, living within your heart. When your circumstances don’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, lean into the joy found in His presence. He will always be there.

Joy is found in trusting that your Creator is working out his purposes for your life. He is working for your good and for His glory.  God created you, uniquely and intentionally, for a specific purpose that He wants you to fulfill. When you trust the plan he has so carefully laid out for you, there is joy to be found in knowing that “God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13


Joy is meant to be as steadfast as the faithfulness of our God. It may not always be as visible as it’s worldly counterpart of happiness, but joy will always be found when you remember that our God is faithful. Psalm 126:3 says, “The Lord has done  great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  Isaiah 35:10 says, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” David says in Psalm 71:23, “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” Jude 24-25 reminds us of the faithful promise that God “will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

Throughout the Bible are examples of believers who have no reason to be happy, but every reason to be filled with joy at the redeeming power of God.  As you reflect on the last year and look forward to what the next has to hold, remember what the Lord has done for you / what he has brought you through / how he has lifted you, and be filled with overflowing joy.

Joy is not a fleeting feeling, escaping you when the pain is just too bad or the hurt is just too deep. Joy is the strength that carries you through the pain, the grief, and the struggle as you hold tight to the hand of your Deliverer, your Protector, and your Healer. One of my favorite reminders of this is Nehemiah 8:10, which tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The entire book of Job is a testimony of joy that can be found in the most difficult of circumstances – he endured every trial and every sadness and at his lowest point, when he no longer wanted to live, still maintained “my joy in unrelenting pain–that I had not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

Additional reminders of strength in joy are found in the Psalms, including Psalm 21:1 which says “How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory.” and Psalm 94:19 which says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Joy is the knowledge of unchanging Truth – You are loved by the Everlasting Father (Romans 8:38-39). You are forgiven through the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:8). You have been adopted as a son of the Most High God. You have been made a daughter of the King of kings (Romans 8:15-17). You have been brought to life by the gift of the Perfect Savior (John 3:16-17).

Joy is for all believers…not just believers with sunny dispositions and optimistic attitudes. Remember what the angel told the shepherds on that holy night? He said to them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today…” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus is our joy.  He came for us, all of us. Immanuel. Joy to the world.

Image

Jehovah-Rapha

*This may be a futile attempt to explain what has been going through my mind since the day I realized that healing had (finally) found me, but here is my best shot…*


restoration – freedom – joy

These are words I’ve heard, I’ve spoken, and I’ve studied in my walk with Christ, but through my journey over the past 6 months, and especially in the past month, Jesus has brought them to life.  Recently I was telling a few people a piece of my story, and I realized in that moment that I had hit the 6 month post-op mark, and honestly it took me a lot of restraint not to cry ugly tears of joy that the struggle is over. But one question that has lingered (after abandoning the “why did this happen” question) is “What if this hadn’t happened?”

Without going through the sleepless nights, the tear-filled mornings (and afternoons and nights), the unrelenting pain, and the darkness that seemed to surround me throughout the days, would I have found my way to knowing my Jesus as I do today?

Because today, I feel alive.  I feel as though I have seen and experienced the Lord in ways I never knew were possible. And in response, I want to shout to the world that my God is so good. My God is powerful.  My God is Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals.

In the pain and the recovery I’ve walked through these past 6 months, I’ve accepted that I will never get back to the me that I was when this year began. I’ve realized that God has not only restored my physical health; He has done a new thing in my spiritual life…and Hallelujah for that because y’all I am overflowing with gratitude and joy like never before. So I’ve come to this place of accepting that I won’t be who I was, and the incredible thing is – I don’t want to. I wouldn’t trade this closeness that I feel with my Healer, even if the trade was to never have gone through what I did.

I’m thankful for that part of my life. I’m thankful for this newness in my spirit that I can only explain as the Holy Spirit filling more of my heart than I honestly thought possible. I’ve realized that even in the absolute misery and pain I felt, God was carrying and sustaining me (Isaiah 46:4). Every minute of every day He would pick me up and guide my feet as I put one foot in front of the other to just keep moving.

As amazing as it is to look back and see the strength of God keeping me going, I felt a little (or a lot) uncomfortable being in that state of dependence. Being someone who loves control and independence, it was difficult to feel as though I was giving that up because it felt like I was giving up my freedom along with it.  But let me tell you now how completely wrong I was.

The freedom I gained by realizing that God can handle me (all of me) much better than I can handle myself is far, far greater than the appearance of independence I felt before. He can handle my life. He can handle my pain. He can handle the honesty of my anger and frustration. Realizing this helped me to see that the independence I claimed as freedom for so long was just another chain keeping my heart away from the very One who knit it together (Psalm 139:13).  I don’t need independence, I just need God. This is freedom.

So I want to encourage you. You who lives in pain, temporary or chronic. You who is weary or weak. You who is fighting to stay above the waves. You who is struggling with anxiety or depression. Trust in God. Abide in His presence. Hold tight to His promises. And whenever you, like myself, catch yourself thinking “I can almost see the light at the end of this dark tunnel” please just look up. There is not only light at the end of the tunnel, there is light more powerful than any darkness in the tunnel right where you are. You are not alone. Depend on the Lord of your life, and when He leads you out of that tunnel, remember that you now have a testimony to share. You now have a reason to walk outside, freedom in hand, and shout to anyone who will listen “Look how He lifted me.”

Image

the desert place

*Full disclosure – I wrote this a few nights ago when sleep escaped me, life drained me, and Jesus lovingly reminded me of who He is through it all.  I still find myself in this season that feels a lot like a faith-drought, but I am waiting on my Jesus and trusting Him through this desert place*

Here I am in this season where I feel as if I’ve lost my fire, my desire, and my awe of Jesus.  And here I am reading and praying and wanting so desperately to snap out of it because it feels wrong, and it feels fake.

But isn’t it funny how God seems to speak even when we don’t hear him?  I’ve been reading the same Psalm twice a day for the past two weeks and right now it’s almost as if I’m reading it for the first time.  It begins with this:

“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” 

It’s as if through this waiting for the voice of God or waiting for the “feeling” of his presence to find me again in this dry season that God simply speaks.  Not in a roar or a huge rush of excitement in an ‘ah-ha’ moment, but a quiet moment at about 12:15 AM, in the dark, when I’m worn out and tired. And this is what he says to my heart –

“I am your Shepherd, you shall not want.

You want this amazing moment when you find Me after a dry season, but I just want you to rest in Me.  You are worn and you are burnt out and you are exhausted. I want you to simply sit with Me.  Not wanting a  big show of Me, but simply waiting–not wanting–in My presence.  

Allow Me to refresh your soul. Let Me, your Healer, soak up the heaviness and revive your spirit. I want to do this. I want you to let Me do this, but you must be still.

You must stop moving. Stop wanting. Stop beating yourself up because you feel like you should find Me by being swept up in a big rush of worship or revival. 

I decide how and when to speak. I know what is best for you, and right now that is to remind you–gently and softly–that I am your Shepherd, your Protector, and your Provider.  You don’t always need life-altering moments and heart stopping feelings. 

You need Me, and you will find Me as you lie down and let Me watch and work over you, as you walk with Me by waters of rest.

I am your Shepherd. You shall not want.”


Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside waters of rest.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Image

new year, same God

For the past few years, I have sworn off New Year’s resolutions.  Not because I think they’re a bad idea, but because someone once told me to pick one word. Not a list, but one single word that will define your new year, because it’s much easier to keep up with one word than a whole list of resolutions.

In 2017, my word was peace.  In a year where I would leave the USA for the first time, start a job, finish my exams, and manage to get my Masters degree, peace was just what I needed.  And I found it…and then lost it (my fault)…and then found it again.

Through it all, the biggest thing I learned was that peace, true peace that comes only from God, is really just a whisper away.  It’s amazing and it’s completely insane and I don’t think I could ever explain it well enough to do it justice, but there is something so incredible and so humbling about being  able to literally say the name of Jesus and feel a peace in your soul that tells you He is there. He has always been there.

Even in the struggles and the moments where it seems like you take one hit after another, the peace that can be found in the presence of the Holy Spirit remains steadfast.  The key is not God giving His peace to you because He did that long, long ago. You have to accept it. You have to choose it. You have to trust Him.

Thinking of this new year and what my word would be for 2018, I began praying…because as much as I like to think otherwise I really don’t know anything about what this next year will hold, but God does. He’s already laid out each day with more care and more love than I could ever deserve. And that’s when I was reminded of part of a devotion I read a few months back:

“Linger with me.” 

So as I continued praying about what my word should be, it was as if God kept reminding me of this little sentence and then one word started popping up…

Abide: to wait for…to accept without objection…to remain stable…to continue in a place…to conform to…to dwell…to stay or live somewhere...

In 2018, I want to wait for my Jesus and for His perfect timing. I want to “stand still and see the great thing the Lord is about to do before my eyes.” (1 Samuel 12:16, Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 130:5)

I want to believe and trust with all my heart that God is exactly who He says He is. I want to accept without objection that freedom and forgiveness and grace can be found through Christ because of a love too great to understand. (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:2, 1 John 4:10)

I want to remain in His love, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, to linger in His presence, to rest in His promises, and to seek his peace and hope and joy in every moment. (Psalm 91:1, Romans 8:28, John 15:9, Ephesians 3:16-19)

I want to live the life He has called me to live, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day. (Ephesians 2: 10, Romans 12:2)

In a life full of brokenness and uncertainty and so much darkness, I want to abide in the One who shines so brightly the darkness disappears.  The One who redeems and restores the broken. The One who speaks life and shows grace to every child He created. The One whose power is unmatched and whose presence is as steadfast as His love.

I want to abide in God–reverently, wholeheartedly, intentionally–as He so lovingly and faithfully abides in me.


“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4

Image