Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Tale of Thanksgiving

When I walked into my sister’s house on that chilly Thanksgiving afternoon, I had butterflies fluttering from head to toe. I had not seen these people in years. With DNA entangling us in some beautiful mess, I knew nothing about them aside from a man we all call dad.

I could not even believe I was doing this. I mean, what could they possibly want with me?

Give them an hour or two and they will regret this, Courtney. As they look you up and down with disproving glances when you turn your back, you will know I am right. You will feel it, every glance, every disappointment. I mean, you know they would never love you if they had any idea the mess your life has become…right? Well, it’s true. You better stand up straight, suck in that gut, and smile real big—its your only chance at making it through the evening. You’ll see…they don’t want you. Smile now.  

At this point in my life, I was enslaved to lies. I was insecure, selfish, and hopeless—I was convinced I was a failure and would never be good enough to receive anyone’s love.

I was lost in the darkness of an eating disorder, depression, and self-harm. I didn’t see a purpose in my life anymore.

As the door opened, the warm air wisped across my bare neck, sending a tingle down my spine. High pitched voices going off, much like fire works sounding on the fourth—one after the next, in synch. All the women of course. So much noise and commotion—and yet I feel oddly peaceful. Hugs—the good ole hug like ya mean it ones. Twenty of them—at least. I had forgotten what that felt like. Food—everywhere.

Somewhere in the middle of all the commotion and all of the people packed into my sister’s warm house, was me. This broken, hurting little girl. I was sitting in a chair next to the couch, just taking it all in. My sister came up behind me and started playing with my hair as she began speaking words of life over my dehydrated soul.

Across the room, sat my sister-in-law and brother. I remember looking up and locking eyes with my brother in this moment—he just smiled at me, not the fake kind though. He needn’t say a word—his eyes told me I was worth more. They told me I could trust him. I felt like my heart could penetrate through my chest at any moment. What was happening to me?

I had never experienced anything like this—the warmth, joy, noise, messiness, smells, voices, laughter, touch, joy, thanksgiving, genuineness—the love. I remember thinking, “Why am I feeling so sentimental all of a sudden? They wouldn’t be this sweet if they really knew me. A girl can dream, right?”

That night, I felt more love then my heart could handle. I could not remember a time in my life when I felt so at home—so at peace—and so loved. It was like a crystal clear, beautiful lake sprung up in the middle of my desert. There was something very different about this family—something that drew me to them, something far greater then the DNA we shared.

But what?

I did not walk out the door night with an answer. However, I did leave with a hunger and thirst for something ever so tangible, yet unlike anything I had ever tasted. I remember trying to figure out what it was about being in their presence that brought out this odd thirst for more—this peace that there is actually something more to thirst after.

They had no reason to embrace me, to speak words of life over me, to welcome me with open arms, to love me—but they did.

Little to my knowledge, it was on this chilly Thanksgiving evening driving home on the windy roads, that my stone cold heart began to melt, just a little.

Five years later, on this beautiful afternoon, I will walk into my sister’s house once again. I will smell glorious things, be met with hugs galore, and I will still hear the squeals of women who love me. I will sit down in a chair in the middle of my crazy family. Lock eyes with my big bro, assured nothing I will ever do could possibly hinder his love for me, thankful for his protection.

My heart will feel as though it could burst through my chest at any moment as I reflect on God’s faithfulness to draw me out of the darkness and into His glorious light. I will think about that girl who sat in that very same room half a decade ago, and a tear might fall in thanksgiving to a Lord and Savior who I met for the very first time sitting right in this spot.

People often ask me about my story—if I didn’t grow up churched, then how did I come to know Christ intimately? A big smile across my face, I begin to tell them about this very day, walking into that warm house, experiencing the love of Christ from my siblings after years of being apart, and walking out unsure of what just happened, but sure of one thing. I wanted whatever they had.

The past five years have been journey, an incredible testimony to His ruthless pursuit of His daughter. Things got worse before they got better, even after I came to know Him. I still screw up—all the time! But by the grace of God, I am a new creation. I have a purpose. I have a hope and future. I am completely in awe when I reflect on the perfection of His sovereign will, humbled that He would not only choose me to know Him, but that He would use the unconditional love of this family to draw me to Himself, bringing them into my darkness, into my dry land—what a stream of living water they offered. As the battle wages on in this fallen world and within my sinful flesh, I am confident of the victory that has already been won!

Today, I am thankful for Christ. I am thankful for life—for freedom in Him. I am thankful that He is yet to complete the good work He has begun in me. I am thankful that I am no longer that hopeless little girl. I am thankful that I am a slave to righteousness over sin. I am thankful that I don’t get what I deserve. I am thankful that I walked in that door five years ago today. I am thankful that He is ever so faithful to draw me closer and closer to Himself, that I might love with that kind of love. Oh Jesus, today I am thankful for you—and for the family you sent in ruthless pursuit of me, that I might know you and make you known.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Entering Adulthood

As a child, I always imagined this day. That final crossover from dreaming of being all grown up to actually being there. I think that we often long to be in the next season of life. Already today, I feel as though I am ready for marriage and motherhood! How faithful He has been these past twenty-one years--how faithful He will continue to be in this new season of life.

Celebrating my 21st birthday the past several weeks with many loved ones, I feel incredibly blessed.

Over my birthday weekend, I went out to dinner with some of my best friends to my FAVORITE place to eat! Then I came home to a huse full of balloons, glitter, sparkling grape juice, presents, and cake!!! It was such a sweet time and so encouraging. Then on Saturday (my actual birthday) I tailgated with my international friends before the last Razorback game of the season and spent the night with one of my precious daughters, Emna.

Then this past weekend, my mom and two of my best friends came down to visit and celebrate with me! We went to a new museum that was really cool, stayed up late catching up on life, shopped forever, and ate--a LOT!!! It was such a sweet time and I was so encouraged my time with them. I really got a clear glimpse of the way God really has slowly been restoring my relationship with my mom over the past few years--oh is He faithful to complete the good work He began in each of us! Then my best friend Ash stayed til Monday and we drove back to St. Louis together. Now I am excited to celebrate the holidays with my family!

Here are some pictures from the birthday festivities!

My daughters, Seonguen and Emna

So blessed by these girls.


Bestest Friends

Sweet Roomies

Emna gave me is a heart engraved
and it says "For the best Mummy."

I was cracking sweet sis Heather got me
the NIV Study Bible I've been wanting!!!

Glitter scrapbook from Rach!

Me and Mom

Okay, I don't know why Julie is not in any
of these, but insert her here!!!!

love the tree!

Out to dinner...again :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

21 Reasons I am Thankful on my 21st

  1. I am thankful for God’s miraculous beauty that comes alive at this time of the year. Fall brings peace to my soul.
  2. I am thankful for over-sized t-shirts, leggings and boots.
  3. I am thankful for a warm place to sleep in.
  4. I am thankful for my family, that thy fight for me and encourage.
  5. I am thankful that I get to worship freely everyday.
  6. I am thankful that I get to live in a community of believers.
  7. I am thankful for best friends and the Truth that pours off their tongues, daily.
  8. I am thankful for the relationships I am so blessed to have with international students.
  9. I am thankful for freedom—thankful that He is making me new.
  10. I am thankful for pictures, with pale faces against bright fall leaves, and the memories they represent.
  11. I am thankful for adulthood, beginning today.
  12. I am thankful for pumpkin everything—bread, muffins, cookies, candles, waffles.
  13. I am thankful for God’s Word being life to my dying soul.
  14. I am thankful for the hope that I have.
  15. I am thankful for my education, no matter how much it takes out of me some days.
  16. I am thankful for my daughters, the way He has so perfectly placed them in my life for this season of time, the way they love me so well, the way we get to do life togther, all that they have taught me.
  17. I am thankful for belly laughter with dear friends.
  18. I am thankful for Jesus Christ and the death He died in my place, making a way for me that I never could have earned on my own.
  19. I am thankful for my spiritual families, who have so graciously adopted me intimately into their lives, training me up in godliness.
  20. I am thankful for God’s provision in my life daily.
  21. I am thankful that His ways ALWAYS far exceed anything I could ever ask or imagine. Oh, is He faithful to complete the good work He began!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Longings of a Daughter

I do not understand why the Lord permits certain things to happen--or how it all works together for His glory. I do not understand the extent of my sin. I do not understand the outrageous and jealous love He has for me. I do not understand the death of His Son, that I might experience that kind of love in the midst of my sin.

I do know that regardless of my understanding, or lack there of, He is the PERFECT FATHER.

It seems to be a consistent theme, a steady stream of running water. My daddy issues, that is. Always lingering, consistently simmering just beneath the surface. This weekend, there was an explosion. And now, well now, I suppose it is some kind of a glorious mess.

I feel like the more I get to know girls my age, the more entangled our thread of stories become. My generation has been strengthened by matriarchs, yet ever so tainted with these all too familiar issues, simply a result of growing up without dads, with passive ones at the least.

As counter-cultural as I sound, I am convinced men and women were created differently. More so I am convinced men and women were created to serve differently--to carry out differing takes based on gender, on how we were created. Genesis makes it very clear we are made in the image of God. Thus, men and women are equal in the sense of dignity and value. However, they differ in their roles; men were created to be the head (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:23), women the helper (Gen. 2:18-20). In other words, they share equal worth, but different roles.

Genesis 2:18-23 continues to say that from the rib of man came woman.

Is there not a bit of irony in the fact that woman came from the rib of man, and that is still the very core of where we, as women, desire to be--protected, loved, held tightly, safe beneath the warm embrace of his arm. I know I do, anyways. Of course someday, I want to be protected by the embrace of my husband, but for the past twenty years of my life, I have so desperately longed to nestle into that cozy, safe place beneath the arms of my daddy.

My heart does leaps when an older, wiser, loving man reaches in for the tight embrace. At church. Around where I live. Heck, I would take a hug from the man at Walmart if he offered. There is something deep within me that longs to feel safe and loved by man.

Men were created to lead by protecting and providing for their families.

Women were created to help by affirming him and being the nurturer in the home.

So I do understand why I have this longing, what I don't understand is how to satisfy the aching of this longing being unmet by my earthly dad.

Today half of marriages end in divorce. Men are getting lost in their own passivity, forgetting what it means to be the leader of their home. Women are finding far more satisfaction in power, wealth and control then they are in giving up a salary, title, and control in order to nurture their children.

The roles have lost value. We have forgotten how we were created. We are believing a lie.

And then we sit and wonder, years down the did things ever get to this point? 

We forget, in the midst of this glorious mess, that everything we are doing, saying, feeling, and thinking is sending the same lies right down our tree. No longer a tree of life, but a tree of generations cursed by death! Do we not get it???

My dad has hurt me in ways that penetrate beneath my core, into the depths of who I am. Even this weekend, his words stung. His requests drained everything inside of me.

But by the grace of God in my life, my children are NOT going to know this pain. And by the grace of God alone, He is healing my wounds. He is making me new--whole really, like only He can do. He is ejecting the tape of lies constantly echoing through my mind, and replacing it with a new anthem, a new song--of His Truth, of His freedom, of His love. His perfect love that will never leave me or hurt me. His perfect love that is nothing like anything my dad knows how to give me.

So while the battle rages, while I bow down confessing the sin of my unforgiving heart once more, I hear whispers of the Truth all around.

He cannot give you what he does not have. You must give him grace, think of how often you screw up. Do not forget what you are capable of--what you have been saved from--who you are apart from Christ. You just humble yourself, Courtney, get back down on the floor and you cry out "Abba Father...draw my daddy back to you." You cannot change him--you cannot fix him--you cannot fill him. But you better be asking the One who can to do just that.

Okay Lord, okay.

For all of you fatherless women out there, hear this: His love is perfect and He is more then enough to fill up that hole, that longing, that desire. Nothing else will ever compare. Doing life without an earthly dad just so many of the consequences of sin that we experience daily. But praise God that we are privileged to be chosen by Him, to be called out, to be elect that we might get to walk in the love of the PERFECT FATHER. What a gift, what a gift that I do not deserve, yet receive anyway.