Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye {Part 2}

So, here we are broken hearted from boy and holy spirit dwelling richer. Truth sits in front of me and I can’t blink enough to miss it, though those most close to me could tell you that I tried…I really tried.

Like most times, I am a slow learner and like to trudge through the thick of it when the straight and narrow is well within sight. It just doesn’t seem to stop me from paving my own way, from chasing control to death—literally it seems at times.

In God’s grace it only took me two or three months after sending him home on the plane to realize that he was not mine. It took him longer and his promises to wait forever for me left me always hanging on, clinging to something I knew wasn’t mine. But I hung onto the idea of him and me, the feelings, the moments, the future—I clung to it like a monkey to a tree.

And let me tell you, it took that darn tree falling flat to the ground before I unlatched. But when I did, Jesus was there among those broken branches and leaves turned brown and He held me. Gentle and patient as ever.

A week later this man who waited for me to throw my hair down, he texted to tell me he was in a relationship. FYI—it wasn’t with me. A little broken and a little relieved, I kept trudging through my jungle.

A few months later, nearly one year after I sent him home on that plane, he proposed. FYI—the ring wasn’t for me.

Not gunna lie—I cried. Yes right there on the couch by myself, I wept like a baby as the blizzard outside poked at my heart a bit. And eventually one friend just laughed at my foolishness and the tears faded into giggles and thanksgiving. Yes, I was actually thankful that it wasn’t me—deep, deep down I was thankful I obeyed, even when I felt my world turn. I was thankful, I kept saying it and soon my heart believed too. 

Then the holy spirit began to convict again. He showed me this picture. This picture of me and him together that morning, his arms holding me tight.

I looked at it and I wept for an hour. This time, it wasn’t because I missed him. Rather, because I stole from him, I stole from his wife to be and I handed him over things that weren’t his to have either.

Here’s the thing—our lips never touched that year. Our hands collided only several times. We were rarely alone and we sought wisdom from our elders. He asked my dad if he could date me months before I even knew he was going to pursue me. We were pure, we did it right—so I was convinced, we were doing it right.

It wasn’t until I found this picture and I saw him holding me and I heard him singing to me and remembered our long drives and endless conversations about family and Jesus and our future together that I realized I was a thief in the night.

Last month, the boy married his bride and their wedding was beautiful. Once in a while, the tears still fall as I see her holding his hand because I remember all that I have, all that I just wish I could give back. So much I wish I could give to her, so much I wish I had never taken. 

I hate that I stole those moments from her. 

I hate that I didn't see it—that as a sister in Christ, I took those moments from him, my brother, moments that belong to his wife—now forever mine.

So sisters, how do we reconcile this? How do I know all of this and yet still enter into another dating relationship?

Real quick, let's clarify some definitions:
--Dating: finding the right person for me, intimacy before commitment, pretend like you're married to see if it will work, just enjoying each other and waiting to see what happens, no time constraint.
--Biblical Courtship: being the right person to serve your spouse in glorifying Christ in your role as man or woman, commitment before intimacy, commit your way to the Lord and marriage will work, intentional time to decide if marriage is in the future or not, either you're it or you're not.

1.)  Let us be in the world but not of it.

What does dating look like when filtered through verses such as these?

  •        For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. -Mark 8:38
  •        Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -James 1:27
  •        But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. -1 Peter 2:9
  •       Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Rom. 12:1-2
  •        We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  -Rom. 15:1-2
  •        For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[a] of Christ. -Gal. 1:10

When we, as women in the love with Jesus, walk around holding hands with our man, how are we not in some respect reaching even deeper into our culture with each grasp we take? We say we want to be a light, to be a generation that rises up, to walk in our newness. So how do we date no differently from the world but not think twice? Okay, so maybe we don't kiss until our wedding day or have a short engagement or cherish our virginity.

These are honorable pursuits, ones that very much impact, so I ask—is it enough?

 2.) Our hearts are deceitful; we must learn to guard.

What exactly is in our heart?
  •        He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean. For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' " –Mark 7:20-22

Is the heart always bad?
  •        Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. –Genesis 6:5
  •       The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? –Jer. 17:9

How do we guard our heart?
  •         Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Prov. 4:23-27
  •         Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day. –Prov. 23:17
  •        Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. –Ps. 62:8
  •        But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. –Ps. 13:5

Why is does it matter?
  •     You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. –James 5:8

What is the result of guarding our heart and abstaining from the world?

  •       Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. –Matt. 5:8

Okay, so maybe we get the physical part of dating down. Maybe the being together but not really being together the way we were created to is silenced for a bit so that we can just date. What about the heart of it all? Ladies, we all know it is deceitfully wicked—add that to our emotions, our biological clock ticking a little quicker, our Facebook feed plastered with new relationship statuses and big ole' rings, and our Pinterest-planned wedding and then what? Can we truly guard our hearts adequately inside of a dating relationship in the culture we live in? I thought so.

See, a battle in ever dating again for me is this—because we are just dating with no indication of anything more intentional, essentially that could be YOUR husband holding my hand. 

 And in this situation, this boy who I sent home on the plane, he thought I was his. I thought he was mine.

Sisters, how do we reconcile this? Even in a friendship, how do we devote hours to primping and prodding our hair up to the ceiling and cover our faces with color because we know our "friend" is going to be there tonight, but tell our roommate we really are guarding our heart—it's a group party and we are just friends. Really?

By design, I don't believe we were created to be in close friendship with guys. Think about it—do you ever see a girl in scripture just be friends with a guy where it doesn't lead to sin?

 3.) We really can’t miss it—we can’t screw it up.

If I don’t date, I will never meet my husband.
  •         But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt. 6:33
  •         Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. –Ps. 139:16
  •         I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. –Ps. 32:8

People will think I’m crazy.
  • Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. -1 Tim. 4:12
  •   For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. -1 John 2:16
  •  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”   (Luke 12:6-7)
  • Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
  •    And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. –Mark 12:33

Monday, September 24, 2012

On the Nations & Learning to Laugh

They teach me to belly laugh from somewhere called joy and the world looks different through this lens as the sun dances across my skin. They ask questions and I remember His goodness  in the little things. Sometimes, English leads us all astray but we know what it means to laugh and kick the soccer ball. I remember it is the quiet moments hiking through the woods together where I hear His voice speak right to my burden and the weariness fades with each step I take. Step on, daughter, step on.

I am a doer of the Word and I hear them laugh and the doing tastes sweet, like honey.

We work all day, me and my dozen. The ideas keep coming and I have to drag myself away and clean myself up. It takes two hours extra to load up the vans and yes, I am way late to my own party. So I ask her where she is from and we talk into the whole hour of lateness until it simply doesn't matter anymore and I watch the control slipping though my fingertips and I just laugh. I needed to be here more then there, just for that hour and it is good.

We make it home to the country and the crowds fan out from the big white vans and the green grass holds many tribes, tongues and nations now. I stand high and gaze out in awe for a minute. Then the to-do list kicks in and I greet and explain and smile a lot. We are here and it is happening and this is a glimpse of heaven right here in my own backyard. I was created for this, for these relationships, for these nations, for this moment right here—that together we might glorify God.

We play soccer and horse shoes and frisbe. I stand on the wobbly chair and take photos by the barn for hours. The girls love it, all of it. I try new angles and only wish I had the talent of a photographer because it is so much fun to watch the colors story-tell right on the other side of this lens. Moments captured, joy overflowing caught on pause forever. I attempt to edit later on and just laugh. So much laughter and I am lighter and God is bigger.

The photos blur from the barn to jumping to making Egyptian pyramids and I totally forget about the hard-boiled eggs and the ropes. The three-legged race and egg toss I had planned fades with the daylight as all fifty or so head down into the woods and gather around the flames. We eat and laugh more and for some they have never experienced this before. The way a hot dog tastes crisped black right off the flame, the way the marshmallow jumps across your face and the chocolate tastes better triune. Some pack up and hike up the hill back into the city. Others linger as the darkness drapes over us and the flame is brighter. I take a picture of it and I pray my life will resemble this flame, right here in this darkness sitting around me.
For the first time in the night, I just sit and stop directing and smiling. I sit and lock eyes and remember names and majors. I sit with several from the other side of the world and we talk. We talk about the government and the hot dogs and the way humanity is born sinful. We ask each other questions because we just want to figure out why we are here on this earth, why we are sitting around this fire sharing this moment. Eventually I talk about the cliffs and the bridge that leads to the other side, the only way to God through Christ. We ponder ultimate Truth together and she tells me about confucianism and how no one is perfect so we must pick and chose truth we believe, because there are always lies. The air thickens and the darkness brings a chill.

We are interrupted and we have to hike up to the house and load up the vans once again. God is at work on this mountain, in the big white van I drive through the dark winding roads late at night—He is there too. He is. I feel it and I see it and I am so thankful. I drop of the last one and its just me and a friend heading back up the mountain and we talk about how the Word really does just reveal itself and trying to be the holy spirit is draining. She testifies to the spirit dwelling and I am thankful because we all need to remember.

The same power that conquered the grave lives here inside of me.

My international friends teach me to joy through the laughter and to recognize the light in the darkness and to take goofy photos and to wrestle through the meaning of life together and eat burnt hotdogs and to let the spirit dwell richly inside.

They teach me to glimpse heaven and stay there because it is coming and I want to laugh with them there too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dear Little Lives That Are Going to Be...

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."
                                                                   Psalm 143:8
The Past Year or So...
Dear little life that is yet to be,

Do you have any idea how badly you are desired? How earnestly so many voices are echoing a need to see you face to face? How loved you are even before you are real? How much your momma and daddy want you? The thought of you is so real. So real because we want to meet you so badly.

Little life that is yet to be, do you know that you are loved, that even before your creation, you are loved? Yes, right now. That is a crazy idea to grasp in this finite mind of mine—but somehow I love you and you don’t even exist. I suppose there has to come a point where faith crashes over what makes sense, drowning out the doubts and whys.

While I cannot imagine a perfect will of a sovereign God that does not have your name engrained upon His hands, I still choose to trust that it is indeed His sovereignty in which I must place my hope—whatever that means.

Because I trust Him, I know I can come boldly to His throne and cry out for mercy and grace in this time of need. For your mamma and daddy who want to know you so badly, for the doctors to have wisdom and discernment in helping your mamma have a fertile place for you to come into existence, for the ups and downs of this journey, for the waiting and trusting and hoping and waiting some more.

But really, I just know that whenever the Maker of the Universe, the One who holds the stars in the sky, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, Jehovah Rapha our healer, Jehovah Niessi our banner, the giver of life—whenever He decides it is time to meet you, little life that is yet to be, then you will simply be. One breath. 

He just needs to breathe into you one breath, to speak and you will be. Wow. I don’t get that. I cannot begin to wrap my brain around that. I just know He is able—beyond able. He is the only one worthy of our cries, our prayers—He hears them.  A broken and contrite heart pleases Him. So we rest and wait and trust and hope. We want you, little life that is yet to be, your mamma and daddy really, really want you.

So, we pray. Until He forms you in your mamma’s womb, in His unfathomable mercy. What a day that will be, what a miracle you will be. What a testimony to the greatness and grace of our sovereign God you will be, in faith, little life that is going to be.

Three Months Ago... {Guess what, little life that is yet to be—you are really going to be!!}

A Month (and a half) Ago... {Guess what, little [LIVES] that are going to be—there are THREE OF YOU!!!}

A Couple Weeks Ago...{One little life is sitting in Heaven with Jesus—and two of you have hearts still beating strong and so many who can't wait to meet you while you spend some time here on earth.} 

At the end of it all, He the author and perfector. He gives life and He takes it away. He is LORD. What an unfathomable blessing that He has chosen to give three lives at once, and that two of them we will get to meet soon. While the reality of a whole new life to come begins to settle in, there is no doubt in my mind what an incredible Daddy and Mamma you two are gunna make. I have seen time and time again in my life the way you have loved me as your own...taught me through doing life together, challenged me, counseled me, prayed for me, lavished grace upon me, laughed and cried with me—and continue to do so. Though, I guess a few things might sharing my room when I come visit and not sleeping quite as soundly :) 

Truth be told, I am pretty jealous of these lil lives growing inside of Mamma as I type these words. Mostly because they get to grow up calling you two mom and dad for their whole lives. Day in and day out they get to watch the way their mamma trusts daddy and the way daddy protects mamma, the way they love each other so good, even in the mess. I can not imagine the legacy these little beans growing in your belly are going to leave. The way they are going to labor and wrestle to further the Kingdom and ultimately to know the King. At the end of it all, I guess this is it—what comes from the next generation. And the next and the one after that. It matters.

This is just the begining. New life brought forth out of your lives together, ultimately a testimony of God's faithfulness in all five of your lives. The thought of surrendering these babies to Him is something to be grasped—yet what peace there is in knowing that He is in control and His plan is perfect, even as we learn to count the trials joy. So exited to watch you two in your new roles as mamma and daddy...could not be anymore blessed kiddos then these two you get to raise!! 

Yes Mr. Luster, 'that is a lot of years to mess em' up' praise the Lord for unfathomable grace and mercies anew every morning!! 

Let's continue to intercede on behalf of the Lusters and the two being knit together inside, and the hearts of this mamma and daddy as they grieve the loss of a baby as well. 

Thankful today for these two lil heartbeats, a mamma and daddy who love Jesus above all else, and hope in Christ even in the hurt of life and the sting of death. 

As soon as she starts feeling like a functioning human again, I am sure you can find lots of updates over here from The Mamma!!! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye {Part 1}

I was eighteen and the second he sat down across from me at that long table, my eyes met his and locked in. He introduced himself and shook my hand, a Texan and a gentleman. He was young and a baby in Christ, but there was something about him that mattered. What he lacked in knowledge of scripture he made up for in his love of people and faith in this God he was just getting to know.

We were instant friends. He made me laugh like no one else. I got him and he got me. You all know it, that friendship deepened by glances that speak novels and the words spoken for mere sake of proclaiming your sanity to others. 

As we spent the next month traveling through Sydney and the outback aboringal villages with our team, our friendship deepened. Everyone knew where he was, I would be also. When silence birthed deep laughter with no obvious root, everyone knew it was just us storytelling with our eyes again. 

We were friends and I knew life would be empty upon return to the States without him. 

Months of friendship led to a move South which led to dating which led to meeting the family which led to talk of marriage which led to the holy spirit moving in my heart unexpectedly which led to me sending him home on a plane in the middle of the night, which led to tears flowing for months because I knew it was right and hated every moment of it. 

The holy spirit had begun convicting me months prior, but I wouldn't hear of it. We loved each other and we would make it work—even if we had to date for three years while he finished college until we could marry. But then God began to birth vision. 

Months of pain and heartache and longing for my friend—plenty of doubt and what-ifs and whys. Months of begging Him to let me forget, to let me go back to the time when I didn't see anything wrong with befriending a guy, when I didn't see anything wrong with dating. Months of laboring to die to self and trust in the One who could see the bigger picture of which I could only catch a glimpse. 

I told Jesus I kissed dating goodbye. And no, at the time I didn't know anything about the book. I just knew the Holy Spirit and the wise women pouring into me. To not spend any time alone with a guy my age. To respect men as my brothers and not assign them a number on the hotness scale floating through my brain within moments of first meeting them. To not pursue a man—no flirting or reaching out to them or initiating anything. And yes, it is so hard. 

To not settle for anything less then the whole "ask my daddy {who is sitting on the porch with a shotgun and cowboy boots} if you want to pursue me before you even tell me you like me." That's right, if he says no or he tells you to do x,y and z first then you won't be hearing from me.

You may call it old school or straight up crazy, and at one point, I did too.

But as the calendar flips and diamonds flash on my friend's fingers and I learn exactly where the tubberware and mixing spoons are at Target {one of the few aisles this girl on a budget can afford} and new life is plastered across my Facebook feed, little finger and toes and I swear the seconds start ticking like they're on fast forward and my world just gets a little smaller.

As I find myself wavering through single-hood, the more I have to chase my heart as it blows away with the petals down the aisle, the louder the clock inside ticks, the more I know this is good for me, this is me guarding my heart like a wellspring that I might have life, this is right.  

I am not saying dating is wrong. Okay, well I guess I am saying that for me, dating is wrong. Man, that is even hard to read, all black and white, but true. 

I am not saying God is not glorified if a relationship is not played out my way. I am just saying that experience has led me down this new path, I am learning that there is another way—that it seems old-school and counter-cultural and out of my control but the pattern of it, I believe is biblical.

And then I remember how I don't want to be of this world, how I need to guard my heart, how I am a woman and yes, my role is different then that of man—and yes I want to embrace that, not fear it, not deny it. 

After I joined an online dating website several months back {yes, I did, I know...I know...} and decided I knew better then He did, I realize I need to release the insecurity, the desire for a husband, the fear that comes with single-hood and hold fast to Christ and the convictions from which I had been running, yet the ones to which I knew all the way He was and still is holding me to.

"Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next."  ― Elisabeth Elliot

Next week I will outline how scripture led me to this place, why it seems to make more sense biblically. I hope you will come back and join me. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

On Seeing the Church Around My Kitchen Table

In this college town, the nations have arrived by plane and train and automobile. I love the mess out of them and find something among them, a taste of heaven maybe, right here in these rolling hills and saturday night lights. I am home. This summer was spent planning a new program at the University called Campus Cousins, after last years life-chainging relationship with my international friends.

This year any American college student/family can connect with international students through the I-Friend program and I love making the connections and seeing the fruit. If you live in NW Arkansas, come out to meet some international friends this Saturday--details here. 

Today I had a lunch with international friends and American friends and American friends who smell food across the way and sit down at my table and eat. There is plenty to go around it tastes too good. I laugh too loud and talk too much but we all do and I love the church a little bit more, right here as we are gathered around this table and laugh hope into our doubts, talk joy into our mundane because it is all sweeter when we meet like this, when we are more then ourselves and it matters becuase there are ears to hear and eyes to see, ears and eyes that have never heard or seen but we don't put on a show.

We are just the church and it is real and it is home. See this, He whispers. Take a deep breath of the joy, exhale the hope because this is my bride whom I am coming for. Remember her clothed like this, sitting at your table.

One next to me, her brown skin, she speaks of the church with fear and frustration and her eyes get small and her lips beg of a new subject. I push a little more as the Spirit prompts and she tells me in her country, if she doesn't go the building to worship and doesn't memorize the bible and if she doesn't do these things, she will go to this very bad place, or so those people tell her. The ones behind the walls of the building called church, they tell her. So she pushes it all away--the building and the bad place and the bible and the relief floods sight to her eyes again and she smiles and speaks and her words pierce.

"And that's why I don't go the church." She concludes and asks me about cooking the meat. 

I drive home from dropping them off and inhale these breaths of fall and I pray that He would give these new friends, friends from Korea and India and Japan and Indonesia, eyes to see and ears to hear. That our words would penetrate and the fear of the church and the religion and the hell and the works would all pass away as loving Jesus breathes death to life right here around this kitchen table. Isn't that the hope to which we have been called? The love for our neighbor we are commanded?

It feels a little hopeless, a little overwhelming—the need greater then the workers. Some days, it feels lonely, time wasted. But today it was right and I smell heaven right here because the church showed up and I needed to know it just as much as they do.

Like this morning we were studying the church at Ephesus and I think of them as I hear her talk about this church at Korea and I just hear Jesus words. "I have this against you--that you have abandoned the love you had at first."

It is all important of course, the the church and the works and the hell and the theology and such. But today I realized it is too important to me sometimes.

Don't abandon the love you had at first, Courtney. 

The church around my kitchen table--that's important too. A simple apology to my friend who hates the church, an apology because we are the bride and He is coming.

Our Lunch Crew
And when the nations come here, right here to this little college town and call it home for a year, I hope they see the church without ever setting foot inside a building that reeks too much of hell and their eyes that can't yet see and the nose just too sensitive to discern the sweet aroma just yet—so we make more.

I hope that we reeked of sweetness today. 

Love them and train their nostrils to smell in the process. Make sweet smells in the kitchen and gather around close and tell stories and talk gospel as much as you live it in the cooking and eating and cleaning and maybe, maybe then the church door won't seem like a really bad place and the working to earn something will cease with the work of Christ that is already complete.

I hope the bride clothed in righteousness can be identified here in this town—at Walmart, on campus, at the park, and around my kitchen table. I hope the church will flood these hearts from abroad with grace, as they preach of the way, the truth and the life because these hearts are so deceived, so cold to the building and the hell it stands for. Good thing He is about redemption, even so in His Bride. 

I don't know the proper ratio of love and wrath, heaven and hell, works and service, sinfulness and redemption. I don't know.

I learn new ways to evangelize and prepare for an afternoon of sports and a night of speaking gospel stories over the fire while eating hotdogs in the buns...I still doubt and wonder and mess up and say too much too fast or not enough fast enough and then she is gone or she pulls away and I still just don't know the right answers sometimes.

But the more time I spend in the company of these internationals, the more I just realize that God is so much bigger then I credit Him and the more I find strength in the church, in my brothers and sisters linked up in heart and vision and then it just seems right, not knowing all the answers I mean.

This morning we worshipped inside the building as one and it was more authentic and heavenly then ever before and it carried right over into lunch and the smell drew in some hungry hearts and I wish I could see it more and more because Jesus, he cast out demons and he healed and he bound up the broken. When the disciples tried this and failed they came to him asking why they couldn't do it and he called them a "faithless and twisted generation" and he cast out the demon and told them they only needed more faith.

I think if John wrote to the church at America, he might just say "Don't abandon the faith you had at first."

So bride, the groom is coming. Let us learn faith to move mountains with a grain of mustard seed, or move hearts with a meal shared around the kitchen table.

Just a single seed, church--then let faith move the nations. 
Part of our lunch crew

new friends!

I made two dishes in the crockpot and tons of rice...turned out so good! Will share recipes soon :)

Cake Balls....delish

Yang Hye and me, my new friendship family student

My boss Mary and her student with me and my student!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dear 16 Year Old Self

Dear Six-Teen Year Old Me, yes the one with the cake thrown on your face,

Wow. I really don't know how you made it to here, here where I forget just how green it really is, just how crisp the air smells on this cool day. Here with this family in these mountains with this job and this hope and this future.

I wish I could just hug you, one of those big ole' make you feel at home in my bosom Southern hugs. You just really wanted to find home. You really wanted to be loved. And looking back, you were skin and bone near death starving for it.

Oh Courtney, just chill out and be a kid. Let life be simpler. Eat your cake and don't cry when a boy slams it in your face. Makeup not being perfect on your sweet night isn't really a tragedy. You will see tragedy, though.

You are driving and you think you are hot stuff. You still watch 7th Heaven every Monday night and you sing—at the top of your lungs—on those back windy roads in your Solora. You are a dreamer and your world flips if you forget to write in your journal. I have no idea what you wrote, but the breeze across your neck and pen in hand always made sense to you in a world where much didn't.

If only I could spare you the pain that is coming. You think it's bad now—but you will dig your grave and you're even going to lay down in it. I wish you never had to know that darkness, that feeling of suffocation because the dirt heaping over you is just that heavy. But there is a shovel and latter you will get out.

You just broke up with that boy, the first one you ever kissed and outside you smiled and your friends told you that you could do so much better. Fuel to the fire. He made you feel special and loved and when it stopped, you starved. It will take you years to remember how to hunger. But for the sake of righteousness, you will.

Oh and FYI, you will kiss dating goodbye. Crazy I know.

You don't know it yet, but one day soon your phone is going to ring...and it will be your dad. Yes, the one that disappeared for over a year now. The one who missed your birthday and never called at Christmas. The one that your mom told you was probably dead. He isn't. He will want to see you and you will stand strong—for awhile. Then you'll give him a chance and he will cut you deeper. But the hurt will be more then you ever imagined, for a while. You will get some distance and flip the calendar and get stitched up. It is good.

You love your friends more then life itself and you are all black and white. One day, maybe you will learn grey is a color too. You hide your Jewish heritage because you want to be one of them--you want to fit there, maybe. The years will teach you to glory in your decent from the Holy Nation, in your identity as God's chosen, a people belonging to Him. You will disobey and screw up more then your pride can handle.

Oh and please just give up the control, you freak--one day you will live with a dozen and it would be a whole lot easier if you learned now!!

All men aren't scum...I wish you could see it, to just glimpse what it coming.

He has a plan for you. You don't even know who "He" is yet, but oh little one, He knows you. And He is already at work. Oh I wish you could get it a little sooner. I wish I could help you see past your studies and your girl drama and your pride. I wish you could see the hope and future instead of the past. 

This year you are going to meet you siblings. They are going to define love and you are never going to be the same. This is your first taste of home and family and stability. Let it soften you, soak here for you are safe. Your sister plays with your hair and you purr and it will be your "thing" well into adulthood.

Your best friends will invade your world and you will raise babies with these three, one day.

Your appetite will change. You will learn to eat grace and drink mercy. But oh young one, you will always hate cheese. 

You want people to like you--I wish you would just like yourself. You're fashioned in His image--see Him in the mirror. You get straight As and you are a tennis champ. But the works don't earn you nothin'--remember it. You live in the hospital your senior year and you yell your mom--a lot. You see things that drain the little girl right out of you and I just wish I could save you from it. You are gunna be a great mom, though.

You wasted so many lonely nights locked behind your door--I wish I could plow it down, just like the walls you built up. Even six years later, you still hide behind the door and the walls, but if you stand tip-toed you can see over them now. Yes, you always have been a bit of a learn it the hard way kinda girl.

I wish I could give you a new lens to see you mom. Love her Courtney, love the mess out of her. One day you will miss her. You are beautiful, even if you go to the prom solo. I know you couldn't believe it though--not then and maybe not now.

Eventually you will stand up again and pick it all back up because its all you knew for these six-teen years. It will be a pattern, a puzzle solved before it's started. You and food will have at it—tug of war over your life. You will learn to be still and let Him fight. You will learn to submit to the process and not worry about the product. It is a process. Hate sin.

In a couple years, you will quit on life. But in His mercy, God will spare your life and you will stop pursing death. You will taste redemption this night--and you will want more. The sun will shine across your skin and you will taste His goodness, that He chose in His grace to redeem you from the pit of darkness. He will teach you to walk in the light.

And every time you feel the sun like that, the tingles scamper up your arms and you just know that He is God.  He stirs deep down as the darkness fades into a horror scene that was another life, another girl. And even this morning, you must remind yourself you are not her.

Your feet will walk the dirt of India and the mountains of Australia. You will hear the nations declare He is Lord and your life will be messy. You will want a husband and babies and you will cleave into Jesus so much more. You will have hope.

And one day the darkness won't loom so close and you will depend on the light for air. You won't ever be that perfection you measure yourself against in the back of your mind, so just give it up already. You are always a little more hungry for grace, a lot more in need of it too.

Sixteen doesn't last forever--One day, the seas will part and you will sing a new song, so hold fast!

Thankful for Emily over at Chatting the Sky and her new book!