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.

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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.”

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hallelujah

When I started this blog a few years ago, I wanted it to be real. The real me with real struggles and real successes all wrapped up in a very real God who orchestrates all the seemingly crazy moments into a purpose-filled life.

So the back story for this post –

March 12: Tax season is in full swing, hours are creeping above 40/week, life is good, but a minor headache begins (and I assume tax season is to blame because it can be stressful y’all).

Fast forward almost 11 weeks: That minor headache overnight became the hands-down worst pain that I have ever experienced, and it never let up.  My life consisted of trying to sleep, going to work, and wanting desperately to get back home to try to sleep again because sleep was the only time my head didn’t hurt.  Many doctors, many MRI’s, and many, many tears later, surgery was really the only option, so that’s what we did.

Thankfully (x a million), the surgery has been successful and recovery, though not without a few set-backs, has been smoother than expected.

Now to the point of this post –

“…I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” – Isaiah 46:4

He will sustain you.

With every medicine that didn’t work, doctor that couldn’t give me answers, night that I couldn’t sleep, and day that I physically couldn’t function, I became more frustrated and felt more helpless.

But I also became more reliant on the good Lord because honestly, I had to.  I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I knew I couldn’t get out of bed and pretend I was fine in my own strength.  I knew I couldn’t put a smile on my face every day when it took every part of me to just get up in the morning.

Thankfully, with many God-timed reminders from friends and family along the way, it is with every ounce of gratefulness in my body that I say God truly sustained me.  He was my strength, He was my motivation, and He was the hope that I desperately needed. Because no matter how bad I felt, I knew even more that my God makes no mistake. “If this pain is part of my life, God has a purpose for it.” became the mantra that I had to cling to daily.

So let me say again, God will sustain you, just as He faithfully has every other day of your life.

In pain, in suffering, in confusion, in questioning, in grief, in sadness, in depression, in anxiety, in stress, in loss, and in every other phase of life, the Creator of every good thing will sustain you because that is who He is.

He is sovereign and gracious and persistent and faithful and purposeful and loving and so, so much more.

I know there are many people fighting a battle much bigger than mine, but please hear me when I say that no battle is too big for the God who splits seas and opens the eyes of the blind.

On the other hand, many people are fighting a battle that seems smaller than mine, so also hear me when I say that no battle is too small for the God who cares for you so deeply and so personally that He knows just how many hairs are on your head.

He will sustain you. He will catch you. Or He will pick you back up if He allows you to fall (again, He makes no mistake). He will rescue you. He will be your source of strength or light or hope or love or joy or grace or mercy or freedom or literally any other thing you could possibly need.

So what will I do in response to the greatness of my God? Honestly, no words have come to mind that seem to be enough, so all I’ve been able to say is “Hallelujah.”

Hallelujah – God be praised.

Throughout this journey, there was a song that sang the words I prayed over and over again: “Whatever’s in front of me, help me to sing Hallelujah.”

After saying it so many times, I’ve experienced more than ever that there is power in a “Hallelujah.”

So whatever you’re going through – sing, shout, cry, scream, or if you don’t think you can do any of those then simply whisper it. “Hallelujah, God will sustain me.”


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the pursuit of surrender

When I think of the Lord, I find myself falling into a state of overwhelming awe. So while this post is about abandoning self and chasing wholeheartedly after the God who is in every way superior, I want to share three simple truths about who God is and why he is worthy of our surrender:

God is good.  We serve a God who is so good we, in our humanness, can’t fully understand how the goodness of God steadfastly exists in every situation

God is sovereign.  In every moment and in every situation we come across, God is in control.  Our God is 100% in control of anything that happens in our life.  This may be hard to see when things get hard, but remember that God has promised he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand *with his help* (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Yes, he will allow us to be tempted, but he is sovereign.  Nothing will touch us without God first knowing that we can withstand it as we rely on him for strength.

God is faithful. The Lord has promised that he will never leave or forsake us many times throughout scripture.  His promises never fade, and his faithfulness is eternal.

This is the God to whom I surrender.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24

Surrender is the heart of faith.  It means laying everything at the foot of the cross, trusting the Lord, and accepting His grace.  It’s laying down your problems, your sins, your plans, your dreams, your desires, your life, and picking up the salvation that Jesus died on the cross for you to gain.

Surrender means giving your heart, your whole heart, to the Lord. It means giving up the plans you have in your mind of what your life should be like.  It means seeking the Lord with every ounce of strength that you have inside of you, despite circumstances trying to steal that strength away.

Surrender is more than a one-time decision.  To me, the pursuit of surrender is something I strive for daily.  I have to wake up each morning and decide that God is worthy of my every breath.  I would love to tell you that I made the decision once and I never question it, but that wouldn’t be true.  I’m human. I make mistakes. I lose sight of how good, how sovereign, and how faithful my Lord is every single day.  That is why I’m calling my surrender a pursuit.  I’m pursuing the Lord and the life he has called for me, knowing that I, in my power alone, could never accomplish the plans he has for me.  With each new problem that comes my way I’m striving to lay down at his feet, trusting that he is more capable of handling that situation than I am.

Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You” lays out the idea of surrender in such an incredible way.  If you haven’t listened to it, I encourage you to do so.  There is one part specifically that I want to share to sum up what the pursuit of surrender is all about:

“When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move.
When you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through.
When you don’t give the answers as  I cry out to you.
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.”

Surrender is all about trusting that God’s plans are perfect, and his ways are good.  It’s about acknowledging that he is all-powerful, that He can move mountains, split the sea, and answer any question you come to him with, but also acknowledging that he may not do these things for you because he has other plans in mind.  His plan may be for you to climb to the top of the mountain instead of him moving it out of your way, or to stand and fight rather than him providing you a quick escape, or to wait months or even years before he will answer the questions you have for him.

In your pursuit of surrender, you have to trust that his plans and his timing are perfect.  It’s about having the faith and the trust in God to answer “Here I am Lord, send me.” whenever and wherever he may call you.  The pursuit of surrender is sacrificing yourself for the glory of God, knowing that by laying down your life to him, you gain infinitely more than you could ever lose.

My prayer is that you begin your pursuit of surrender if you haven’t already.  See what the Lord can do in your life.  Experience the joy of knowing and trusting in the One who made you.  Lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow Him.

 

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the Son still shines

To say that I’ve been blessed would be an understatement.  Most of my days have been full of joy and sunshine (for which I am incredibly grateful), but like everyone else I’ve had my share of bad days, too.  It is for the bad days that I write this post.

Life can be hard.

You may have days where you feel like you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, strong enough…days you just feel like you aren’t enough.

You may have days where anxiety holds you captive, and you feel like you’ll never be rid of the anxious thoughts keeping you from enjoying the life you’ve been given.

You may have known days where all you can think to do is literally cry out to God asking for some sense of clarity about why things happened the way they did.

You may have experienced days where you have no energy to even cry to God, where the only thing you’re able to do is look up and silently pray for your world to stop shattering around you.

…Or maybe you’re having one of these days now.

In all of these days, the world seems dark.  The sky seems so full of clouds that you doubt the sun is even there anymore.  I’ve been there, and it’s hard.  But there has been one thing that has steadfastly carried me through each and every dark day: Jesus.

Knowing Jesus changes everything.

You find a shelter in the storm.  You find a place of refuge where, even on the darkest of days, the Son still shines.   Even through the worst situations, He is still good because he is still God.  Through it all, Jesus still lives in you.  He is walking through your storm with you.  He is offering to carry your hurt and your pain and your sorrow.  Let him.

If you’re living through stormy days today, let Jesus carry your burdens, and simply exist in him.  Allow him to wrap you up in all that he is, and rest in his loving light that (I believe) shines the brightest on the dark days.

Let Him shine through your storm, and when you finally find yourself enjoying a sunny day once again, thank him. Thank him for the storm and the sunshine because through it all God is still good and his Son still shines.

 

John 1:5 + Psalm 18:28 + Psalm 91:1 + Isaiah 25:4 + Psalm 107:1 + Joshua 1:5

 

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