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.
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.