reflections.

my thoughts these days seem so random and jumbled. usually i can process several things at once without feeling overwhelmed, but these days that is not the case. it seems like all of my thoughts got thrown into a blender on high speed. i’m blaming it on the pregnancy hormones. we are heading into week 35. usually the new year brings deep reflections of the previous year and goals and excitement for the year to come. this year that isn’t the case. sad to say it seems to just be merging into last year…. i guess usually i anticipate the holidays so much and new years is the pinnacle of it all… not so much this year. the one date set in my head is February 14th. I’m counting down the days and weeks until my baby girl gets here. I honestly don’t feel overwhelmed about it at all, i’m just excited for her to actually be here. I’m also looking forward to relief from pregnancy. I’m just tired at this point…. I’m running out of clothes that fit and I’m missing being able to breathe and sleep on my tummy (or sleep at all around this point). Up until this point I really did enjoy the process of pregnancy, feeling her little kicks and punches… the reality that life was growing inside of me… now her kicks and punches are not so “little” but more vicious. Its so crazy all that goes into creating life. What a journey it has has been. As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mom. From carrying around my cabbage patch dolls when I was little to carrying around little brothers and sisters, cousins and friends… I always had the desire to nurture and care for one of my own. I was more excited than I could say when I married my best friend. I knew he would not only be an amazing husband but an amazing father as well. We knew that we wanted kids, but we didn’t want them right away. We said we would wait two years before we would have them…  well, life happens. After lots of prayer and intense discussion and evaluation in our life we decided to stop “preventing”. That was in November of 2008.  We talked as though it would happen right away, like we would come home with a baby tomorrow. Month one went by with no results. It was hard to take at first, I wanted immediate results. I thought I had it all figured out. Friends all around me started having babies and getting pregnant. I went through month after month of anxiety of “not knowing” and then facing the disappointment that I wasn’t pregnant time and time again. I finally surrendered to God. I realized He is the giver of life… He has ordained the perfect time for our little one to make their grand entrance into our lives. I still had the anxiety of wondering if this could be “the month”. I went through countless tests, each one showing up with the dreaded “not pregnant.” Add to the raging PMS hormones the disappointment and I was an emotional mess. The problem was it was more than one week of the month I was like that. I have always had problems trying to lose weight as well. I had been tested for thyroid issues before, but only for Hypothyroidism. After going on month 6 of trying to get pregnant I decided to go to the doctor and have them run several different tests regarding hormone imbalances and thyroid problems. It turns out I did have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed by a variety of cell and antibody mediated immune processes). They put me on some synthetic thyroid hormones and literally less than 3 weeks later I got pregnant. I didn’t find out for another few weeks that I was actually pregnant. It was so surreal. This whole process has been crazy. For so long I imagined what life would be like when I was pregnant… now my day dreams are filled with what life will be like with a little one. 5 weeks to go…. I can’t wait.

Now that i’ve experienced pregnancy in the natural i can so easily relate it to the pregnancy analogy used so often in the spiritual. I really feel like Chris and I have been not only preparing for the birth of Payton… but also preparing for the birth of a new season in our lives. 2009 was a crazy year. We learned so much about ourselves as individuals and as a couple. It was a year of growth. In March we started the process of building our first home. It was exciting at first, but turned into such a tiring process. We gained a lot of wisdom and had some huge perspective shifts. I don’t regret it at all, because in the end we have a beautiful home… but if we could go back we would have done a lot of things differently. We have learned invaluable lessons about relationships. Its funny how the people that you see as your closest friends can shift so easily. I have learned that the most valuable relationships are the ones that are the most balanced… those who not only take what you have to offer, but also give back. Balanced relationships like that are so hard to find these days. Its easy to get caught up in relationships where you are always giving and just as easy to get caught up in relationships where you are always taking. I am really learning to be a good steward of the time that I have been given here by learning how to invest that time in the realm of relationships. The law of sowing and reaping is just as true in relationships as it is anywhere else.  This past year has also been a roller coaster as far as jobs and finances go. For a young married couple chris and i both were making very good money. We were trying to be smart with it, but at 22 with little life experience in regards to having money I could only be so smart. We did pay off a considerable amount of credit card debt and made some big purchases with cash rather than using credit but our saving skills were seriously lacking. I thought I was doing good putting $50 in savings every paycheck… oh if i had only known! As we were saving for the down payment on our house, nearly half our check was going right into savings. We learned how to live on a tight budget and I am thankful for that. The day that we closed on our house (which was in October… 7 months after the process began… and 2 months after the house was officially completed) Chris’ salary position was eliminated. We were thankful that he still had the option to stay with the company, but that meant going back to commission sales. Now, I had been on commission sales all year and hadn’t been doing as well as I did when I first started. With both of us being on full commission and sales being slow for the whole company we knew we had to make a move. So at the beginning of December I decided to move to an hourly position at the same company. Chris decided to do the same. Although it was going to be over 50% less than what we had been making just a few months earlier it would be consistent and especially with me nearing the end of my pregnancy it would be less stressful. Literally one week after we made the move to hourly our company shut down its entire sales department and let several hundreds of people go. We both would have lost our jobs if we hadn’t made the move we did. God is faithful. Over the last 3 months there were times I would stress out about money only to be reminded of God’s faithfulness in the little things. We have ALWAYS been provided for. God didn’t bring us to where we are now to abandon us. Of course I still have my moments when I wonder how things are going to work out, but God always reminds me He is in control. Such a blessed assurance we have in our Savior and Provider.

He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore.

Selah.

our God is so big!

Lately I’ve been realizing more and more how BIG our God is. I mean, I was practically raised in church… I went through the nursery, sunday school, youth group and adult service. i’ve done hundreds of bible studies. spent 2 years at Teen Mania, going through different classes and teachings. yet still again and again God reveals a new part of his character to me. i’m always learning something new. i love that about God. there was a point in time where i thought i had learned it all. i was frustrated because i had read the bible so many times, memorized so much scripture and knew all the “right” answers to typical questions people would ask about God. oh, how naive i was! not only naive, but prideful to think i had already gotten all the answers. truth is, i had become so well versed in religion that i thought that’s what it meant to know God. Don’t get me wrong, God was always real to me. My relationship with him was always genuine. I just had misconceptions about what a relationship with him was or how to pursue it. It seems like there was some type of formula I was to follow, rather than letting the relationship develop like all other relationships do. I even struggled with the idea that grace was somehow “earned”. i wrestled with the temptation to do what i could to appear more “holy” thinking for some reason i would be that much closer to God. but recently i’ve learned that there is so much in modern day Christianity that has come from man made tradition. seems like we take God out of the equation… worse than that, we put him in a box. we turn him into “a genie who does magic like houdini or grants wishes like jimminy cricket” (in the words of regina spektor) he is SO much more than that. SO SO much more.  and i love learning more about Him. with every season of life i learn different parts of his character. marriage has been the most recent. learning about a deeper love. knowing that even when i’m rediculous, chris still loves me. he shows me so much about the character of God. but recently i’m on another journey…. with this little life growing inside me suddenly my perspective has begun to change. for so long it was about me… well, i made it about me. my dreams, goals, desires. now all of a sudden this avocado size life that will continue to grow and soon enter this world has taken over my mind. i think about how their life will impact the world. i’m already so proud of our little one, and i am so grateful that God has blessed us with this amazing chance to do hands on ministry in our home. talk about making disciples! we are responsible for taking this little one from a fully co-dependent infant to a responsible, caring, independent human being. wow. what a calling.

so there you have it. my ramblings from starbucks for the week.

much love.

listening to music, thinking about what to write.

listening to music, thinking about what to write.

yesterday’s thoughts.

today has been such a beautiful day, a preview of fall. cool, breezy and overcast. driving today i noticed the sky. i usually try to notice the sky, but sometimes i forget. today it grabbed my attention. the sun was dancing away for the evening leaving colors of orange, pink, purple and blue. the clouds mixed in made it just perfect. it was a beautiful dance. a reminder of the creator of the dance.

tonight has been a relaxing night. took our little delilah down by the pond, she got to run around and have an adventure. my amazing husband took me out to cracker barrel. we were the youngest couple by at least 20 years. it made me chuckle. now here we are sitting at starbucks, i’m sipping my caramel apple spice and enjoying the atmosphere here. i love caramel apple spice. it reminds me of fall. i love fall. its my favorite time of year. i look forward to it with great anticipation.

i feel like this is a season of great anticipation. i’m trying to learn to live in the words of paul “being content in all situations” but i also live in great anticipation of what is to come. changes are on the horizon. our house is nearing completion… we will probably be moving in within the month (hopefully). more than just changes in the physical there are so many changes going on in the spiritual. i honestly feel like i’m on a whole new journey, learning about God all over again. i feel as though i have been walking down the same path for so long, but suddenly there was a russling in the bushes calling me to travel on this path that few have traveled before. i have been longing for a new revelation of God’s heart to be revealed to the body of Christ as a whole. i wish we would return to the uncivilized faith and passion of the early church, that we would rid ourselves of this traditional religion that has become like a noose by which we hang ourselves leaving our spirits lifeless…. just the opposite of the type of relationship that Jesus gave it all for us to have. i wish so desperately that we would remember that it is by GRACE we have been saved through faith, not of ourselves, that it is a GIFT of God. i wish we could learn that we can come just as we are and He loves us just the same. that we would hang up the cloak of good works that we somehow believe has made us that much closer to heaven. Jesus is the Savior of all. it doesn’t make sense to our human mind that wants to rationalize it all. How is it possible that he could love the doctor performing abortions as much as the woman who has gone to church her whole life, teaches sunday school and faithfully gives back to the church and community? it is possible because grace doesn’t discriminate. it is freely given to all. “Here is a revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for the sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for the corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used car salesman.” from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennen Manning. There’s no way to earn grace. its a gift given to all. the church needs to realize that…. we need to stop trying to show off our fake religion and embrace the message of the cross. We need to become like Jesus and be in this world, not of it. Jesus choose to associate himself with tax collectors and sinners. He loved them unconditionally, but never condoned their sin. Lord, give us your heart. Let us see the world through your eyes. Strip us of our false sense of pride and religious security. Let us embrace your gift of grace and extend that same grace to those around us, whether we feel they are worthy of it or not, because we cannot do anything to make ourselves worthy of the grace you have given us.

raw thoughts about God and religion.

i have come to find that my heart is most at peace in a quiet room with beautiful music playing and enjoying a hot drink of some type. today that music is misty edwards and that drink is hot chocolate (yes, its summer and i’m drinking hot chocolate.) its amazing that while my heart is at peace my spirit is stirred. i have been thinking a lot lately about this whole relationship with God concept. most of you may think “but courtney, you’ve always had a relationship with God…” true. however, to be completely transparent, there are more times i don’t think about it then times i do. as a old friend asked me tonight “courtney, when did we become grownups?” good question… but whenever that happened something changed. all of sudden there were more priorities and responsibilities… and even though you know that God is supposed to be the center, He somehow slips to the back of your mind. behind the lists of things to clean, shopping to do, bills to pay and a marriage to keep up with there is remnant of that encounter you had with God. every once in awhile you visit it…. remember when…. or wouldn’t it be nice to feel that again? and all of a sudden our FAITH is reduced to FEELING. all the while God is trying to grasp our attention. in that touch from a loved one, that song on the radio that was just what you needed to hear or the beauty of nature surrounding us He is desperately vying for our attention. and maybe for a moment we give him a glimpse…. just enough to remember the days of intimacy and allow the guilt to flood in as we quickly and conveniently become distracted with our other lovers. yet He remains FAITHFUL. every moment of everyday He is there patiently waiting for us to give him even a thought. Even though we go to church and are heavily involved in church, sometimes church becomes just another thing to check off the to-do list. a chore. we no longer relish the moments of fellowship or the intimacy of worship. we plaster on our fake smiles and get through that hour or two of week, thankful no one really sees what’s going on in our lives. We say “Praise the Lord” and “Amen” and walk out just as wounded as when we walked in. Our churches should be hospitals for the broken and the weak, not a place of spiritual competition playing the who is the most holy this week game. Our generation is hurt and dying, desperate for someone to just be real with them. The one place they should feel safe is the place where they have been most hurt. somehow it has become a sin to question God. if you don’t have blind faith you are not really saved. what happened to the scripture that said SEEK and you will FIND? you have to ask the questions to get the answers. God will not be crippled by questions and doubts. He wants to reveal Himself to us, but that will not happen unless we ask Him to, removing all doubts along the way. God brings us through different seasons of life. We are constantly in a season of preparation… always being tested and tried before moving on to that next level. Before God can use us greatly He must test us deeply. I feel like we are in a season of preparation for something, but I just can’t put my finger on it. I know its greatly uncomfortable, but at the same time I am thankful for The Comforter. I see where I have come from, and how uncomfortable it was to get here, but how grateful I am to be where I am. Life is a journey… a process… a beautiful story being written word by word, page by page, chapter by chapter. Somehow we start to think this is our story… we cast ourselves as the leading role and make it all about us… all the while the writer laughs at how disillusioned we are, because in all actuality we are but a speck… a small part of a bigger story… this crazy story of love, betrayal and redemption… and it is HIS Story.  We were created out of this overflow of love, He desired to share this love with someone and humanity was created to play that part. But to be the apple of His eye wasn’t enough, we were tempted with equality with God, knowledge and power…. we gave in and broke that constant communion with God. Now that we, humanity, were unrighteous, we couldn’t be in His presence. But like every heroic story, He had a plan. He was going to send His son, this hybrid God-Man, to be the Redeemer. He paid the price and bought us back from the grasp of the evil one. We were once again restored to God, yet despite that we still don’t take advantage of the fact that we can go BOLDY to His throne of grace. We, as if we are writing the story, banish ourselves once again from His presence because of guilt or simple ignorance, regardless the reason we still don’t live in constant communion with God. I wonder what would happen if we actually got it… If we actually realized the peace and power and fulfillment that would come with the cognisance of His presence already around us. If we would open up our spiritual eyes and acknowledge His presence. What are we missing out on? My heart is so desperate to find out. To shut out constant noise of this world and just Be Still and know that HE IS GOD. I want to know Him. To know His heart. I want to be like Jesus. but not the Jesus religion has painted on stain glass murals. The real Jesus. The Rebel. The Revolutionary. The World Changer. The Jesus that hung out with the sinners and cursed the religious zealous who were so full of themselves there was no room for God. The Jesus with Righteous Anger that led to action. Action that led to change. That is the Jesus I want to embody.

Lord, help us see you for who you really are. Forgive us… Forgive me… for being just another harlot. Help me return to my first love. May you constantly invade my thoughts. Teach me to be like you, to think like you, to act like you. Thank you for showing me more of your character. Let me be more conscience of your presence in my life.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Sitting here staring at the computer screen I find myself searching desperately for inspiration that used to come so easily. What was once flowing through my veins I must now pry out of the dark cave of my heart in which it has been hidden. I’m not sure exactly what caused it to fall into this slumber but now I am trying desperately to awaken it once again. I have to set the stage. Turn off the TV. Forget about the chores. Just simply “be” with the music that stirs my heart and a clean page awaiting to be transformed into a story. I have to stop the lists from forming in my head dancing around reminding me of what is still to be done before this day ends and another one begins. It becomes way to easy for life to become one ling to do list rather than the adventure God created it to be. The more we try to figure out this life and set it to the music we create the less beautiful it becomes. Its like we have taken this beautiful masterpiece that was already created and try to mold it to form our idea of what it should be. Instead of just taking it as it comes and giving all the glory back to the creator. Lord, forgive me for this! I want my life to scream of the beauty you intended it to be rather than whisper the mistruths I have created in my own mind.

I have begun to evaluate a lot of my priorities and thoughts lately. Maybe it is just because I’m pregnant, all those hormones changing and raging. Maybe I’ve already begun the process of “nesting” in the emotional sense. I feel there is so much I have to get rid of emotionally to make room for what is about to enter my life… As I look from the outside in I find myself not so surprised at the selfishness that dominates in my life. I know that this won’t last long. In just over 6 months there will be a little one who will rely on me for everything. No longer is it me first. I know I won’t be perfect at it… after all I am human. But I am so very grateful for the opportunity to serve this little life inside of me and raise Him or Her to be someone who will leave a lasting impact on this world. I often times find myself sitting here and dreaming about what their personality will be like. Will they be a dancer? a singer? a writer? or maybe a little actor…. I’m excited to see what God has for this little life growing inside me. I am grateful that he has given Chris and I this precious responsibility and I pray that we make good use of the gifts of leadership He has already given us and that we develop new gifts along the way.

relationship

the house is dark, save the light of the tv and candles burning on the coffee table. 
the dishwasher and dryer are both running, a little peak into how i spent my evening. 
after dropping chris off i took delilah out for a jog. she enjoyed it very much, as you can tell from her laid out on the floor.
it was so beautiful outside we just took our time walking around the boardwalk by our house, as we did so i was just so blown away by the beauty in God’s creation. every little detail matters. and i love that.

we came home and i cooked a delicious dinner, blackened chicken and roasted garlic potatoes.
my dinner for tomorrow has been in the crock pot all afternoon… corn chowder, yum.
after cleaning up a little here and there i took a bubble bath and read a book about smith wigglesworth.
what a great man of faith.

all evening long i enjoyed myself, but i realized something as well… life isn’t meant to be lived alone.
its great to have some time to yourself now and again.
but we were created for relationship.
i’ve realized how much marriage mirrors the relationship we should have with God.
i enjoy everyday life with the man God has blessed me with.
sometimes it could be easy to be disappointed that life didn’t turn out how you planned.
but i (along with Garth Brooks) thank God for unanswered prayers.
i’m glad he’s in charge, because he knows a lot better than i do.
i know its only a few days that he’ll be gone, but i’m looking forward to him coming back.  

well, i’m off to finish a few things around the house before heading to bed.
much love.