Tag Archives: Faith

Why I’m Not Worried About the Younger Generation

Entitled. Narcisstic. Fame obsessed. Immoral. Smug.

I’ve thought these words when thinking of how to describe the next generation. I see articles on social media and in the news of how cruel young people have become. I’ve witnessed teens climb the social ladder, sacrificing true friendships, in the name of popularity. I’ve watched as sex and everything surrounding it has become casual and nothing more than an act. Drugs are commonplace and not as taboo as they once were. The demoralization of our younger generation had me worried.

Until a week ago.

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Last week, my family went to a place that has become near and dear to my heart. It has become a sacred place for my family, a refuge. We went to Pine Cove family camp. Although the actual location was different (last year, we were in TX, this year we went to SC), the experience was just as magical. It’s because of this place that I’m not worried about the next generation.

Let me explain: they hire unicorns to be on their staff. What I mean is, their staff are the rarest breed of young people I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know they actually existed in the wild before Pine Cove. (You can read about my first experience with unicorns here.) As I sit here typing, my eyes are welling up with tears just thinking about the counselors that cared so well for my family last week. Men and women in their early twenties spending their summer loving on kids and families because they love Jesus are, well…weird. Translation: not the norm when you think of young people today.

 

(These were just a few of the unicorn counselors who took care of my kiddos. Don’t worry, they hide their horns and tails at camp.)

Servant-hearted doesn’t seem to fully encompass the hearts of these people. They served us meals, they were camp counselors to our kids all day, they attended to our every need whether it be bringing us Tylenol or coming to our cabin before 7:00am so we could go ride horses without our kids. They did ridiculous skits to keep our kids entertained during meals. They all had “camp names” to make them endearing and it was also a good conversation starter. They cheered and chanted and had more energy than a 6 year old with ADD. AND IT DIDN’T STOP THE ENTIRE WEEK. In their scant free time, I saw them reading the Word, writing notes to their campers, and journaling. IN THEIR 30 SECONDS OF FREE TIME. They sat with parents and chatted about their plans for the future as though they hadn’t been asked that every week by every parent they came in contact with. They sat in on our family devotions and shared experiences from their own lives so our kids could see real faith in people that weren’t their parents. Or they took the 2 year old that was simply not having one bit of the family devotion and took them to the playground so the older kids could still benefit from it. They spoke truth to my kids. They encouraged them and affirmed them. They were kind. They were gracious. They were the very heart of Jesus.

And at the end of the week, the parents got to hear these counselors tell their children the character qualities, or CQs, they saw in them. Do you want to make a parent’s heart actually explode? Tell them the amazing qualities you’ve seen in their kids. In affirming the kids, they affirmed the parents. So much of the time we feel like crap parents, don’t we? We worry we’re not doing a good enough job. We worry our kids will never “get it”. We worry about how they will turn out. Then some unicorn counselor tells you they’ve seen honesty and trustworthiness and adaptability and joy in your kid in just one week of knowing them and you fall apart into one million little pieces because God, in His goodness, has worked to grow things inside of your child in spite of all your “not good enoughness” and you swell up until you almost burst. These are the kind of men and women I want my kids to be.

So no, I’m not worried about the next generation because I’ve seen Narnia, full of unicorn young people, who are after the very heart of God. Don’t underestimate the power of God to change a person’s heart. Don’t fret, older generation, God’s not done. Just because they’re not on the news doesn’t mean they’re not there. I’ve seen them with my own eyes and they are precious, beautiful souls. Don’t be discouraged, He’s still working in the hearts of young people just as He always has.

And just for fun, here’s one of our entire crew…

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If you want any more info on Pine Cove, please please please feel free to email me! My email is courtneypallen216@gmail.com. (Or just sign up to receive my emails at the bottom of this page and you’ll get amazing posts like this sent straight to your inbox. I know, it’s a shameless plug.) Would LOVE to talk about this amazing place with you! And no, they do not pay me to write things.

-Courtney

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Quit Shoulding Yourself!

I was keeping the nursery at church last Sunday and one of the guys that volunteers with me said something that made me laugh, but also made me ponder. He said it jokingly after his wife made a comment about something she should do. He said, “Stop shoulding yourself!” If you say the phrase out loud it may make you chuckle, but it made me think, “Man, isn’t that the truth?”

Want to know what the word “should” does? It’s a good intention that carries a backpack full of shame.

“I should really take them dinner. They’ve been through a lot lately.”

“I should do a bible study.”

“I should really start to work out more.”

“I should start eating healthy so I can lose some weight.”

“I should really call ________ and catch up.”

“I should start memorizing Bible verses.”

“I should volunteer.”

“I should learn a new skill.”

“I should be more intentional about spending time with my husband.”

“I should ________________…”

The list could go on for infinity, am I right?

When did we start living lives of “should dos”? I have a feeling it’s when we started comparing ourselves to other people; so basically it’s been going on forever, but social media has really amped it up. We see pictures of people starting amazing organizations. We see couples going on dates. We see people organizing their lives. We see people growing their businesses. We see parents doing fun things with their kids. We see people having quiet times. We see people in yoga poses. We see it all. The best of every person. Everything. And none of it is bad, but when we start thinking our lives are supposed to look like someone else’s, or really everyone else’s, that’s when it gets sticky. And shouldy. When we consider what we should do, it’s normally based on what someone said we should do or saw someone else doing. Don’t you love it when you tell someone something and they say back, “Well, you know what you should do is….” It’s like unsolicited advice on how to live your life. As if they’re some sort of expert on you. But dangit if I don’t do it too. We have good intentions, we really do, but sometimes people don’t want to be fixed; they’d rather someone just listen. Sometimes we just want to be loved for who we are not what we do. Social media has led us to believe if we’re not doing something amazing with our lives for all the world to see, then our lives must not be post worthy. This is crap.

To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure what I should be doing with my life. Anyone else live with that uncertainty? Does it consume your thoughts on the daily? Or is it only there when you get quiet right before you go to sleep? It can send you into a tailspin quick as a whip. Many of us just block/busy it out all together so we don’t have to go to that part of our soul. The shoulds can weigh us down and make us feel inadequate in so many parts of our lives that I get why we don’t want to address it. But if we don’t address it, we risk living a life where we don’t value ourselves and how God made us.

I don’t know much, but one thing I’ve learned in the last few months is living underneath “shoulding shame” is not living at all. It’s a life sucking existence. If we ever want to know what God wants us to do, I can guarantee it’s not live with a backpack full of shame bricks. That is not the life He has called us to. He did not send Jesus to the cross so we could spend our lives living in shame.

“But you don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know my thought life. You don’t know my past sins. I try to be a good person but I keep screwing it up. I’ve never done anything with my life. I’m just a regular person; a nobody, really.”

Maybe these statements are how you feel about yourself. We say nastier things to ourselves than we do our worst enemies. We are so unkind to ourselves. We know God loves us but we have a hard time believing that don’t we?

We know the gospel is: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him we have eternal life.

But we live like: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him and do a lot of good things and are really good Christians, we have eternal life.

Nope. Not the gospel.

The beauty of the gospel is it leaves out all the shoulds. And do you know what happens when you live without the shoulds? You’re free. You are free to live, knowing you’re beloved by the God who created you. And guess what:  He loves you for no other reason than He created you.

In Psalms 139:14, it says:

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

God made us wonderfully from the beginning. He knew us. He hemmed us in. He saw our unformed substance. He laid His hand upon us. He is a good Father who loves His kids. Our souls know it very well.

Quit shoulding yourself. Live with the knowledge that you are loved. When we live like we’re loved, we can begin living a life of want to, instead of should do.

When’s the last time you just sat and let God love on you? If you don’t know how to let God love on you, go read Psalm 139. I pray it leaves you feeling loved, known, and near to the Father.

-Courtney

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To the parents of teenagers

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To the parents of teenagers,

I owe all of you an apology. I was naïve. I was proud. I spoke of that which I did not know. I would listen as you talked about your teen with desperation in your voice at how they had somehow changed overnight. They were now these angsty, hormonal humans who could cut you with their eyes and under their breath mumblings. The looks. The sarcasm. The eye rolls. Honestly, I judged you. I would never have said anything out loud, but in my mind I thought, “Well, maybe if you talked to them more. Maybe if you monitored their every move more. Maybe if you taught them about Jesus more…”

Bless my little heart.

What can I say? I had no idea. I broke the Mom code. I judged you without having walked in your shoes. I’m so ashamed I had these thoughts that it was something YOU did to make your teenager live on the brink of emotional breakdown at all times. I thought you had some control over their stubborn will and annoyed sighing. What did you do to make them stomp off and curse you under their breath?

Oh, it’s called you were being a GOOD parent? But I thought it felt good to be a good parent.

Lies. If someone tells you they are slaying this parenting thing and they never really have any issues with their kids, they’re either liars or really bad parents. You are allowed to feel like an amazing parent for one hot minute. That’s it. You get one minute when all your kids are good and you’re good and your marriage is good, then something will fall apart. It’s SCIENCE.

Maybe I’m writing this to make myself feel better since I’m on the cusp of having a teenager myself. Moods are changing, eyes are being rolled, and general annoyance is heightened. It’s coming. I feel it in my bones and I need to know grace exists when my kid is the one screwing it up. I’m going to be the one needing handholding from those brave mamas that have gone before me. I will need reminding that my identity is not in the hands of my children; it’s in the hands of the God who made me. And my children’s identity isn’t in my hands. I don’t need to be making them into who I want them to be; I should be praying for them and giving them the freedom to be who God wants them to be. That last statement…that’s the hard one. Giving them freedom. The constant questioning of when to give them slack on the rope and when to reign them in is a doubt-filled struggle. And if I’m not going to get it right every time, how can I expect them to always make the right choices? Oh mamas, how do we do this? What are we to do with these children who are turning into adults? We pray. We cry. We open our hands and return to God what was His all along. This is when we begin to trust God with our kids, and when we remember He’s writing their story.

Maybe I’m writing this so I will remember that very thing. He’s writing their story just like He’s writing mine.

Sheesh.

Now I know why no one tells you about actual parenting at your baby shower. Mothers everywhere would be Googling “How to keep your baby in utero longer.” I think I need a “teenager shower” where older, wiser moms can come over and give me advice/condolences about the teenage years. And instead of diapers, everyone just brings me $20 because THESE HUMANS COST SO MUCH MONEY!!!!

Anyone else watching their children turn into little adults before their very eyes?

-Courtney

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How do we increase our faith?

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(Old Testament trash talk)

You know when God teaches you something in his Word and you just want to share it? This is one of those posts because it’s my blog and I can do what I want to.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel lately because it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible because, well, David. I can’t help but love the guy. Anyway, I get to the story of David and Goliath and God showed me something in that story that I never knew. Don’t you love when God does that? He takes a story you’ve heard since childhood and makes you see it in a completely new way.

I always assumed David was afraid, even though I knew he volunteered to fight Goliath. Like he was shaking in his sandals and no armor, but God gave him the courage to slay the giant. After reading the text, I’m not so sure that was the case.

“When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” 1 Sam. 17:48 ESV (emphasis mine)

He RAN QUICKLY. Basically he sprinted to meet Goliath, A GIANT, at the battle line. Scared people don’t sprint to meet their enemies. People who are fearful enter into battle carefully, with a well thought out plan. They may have summoned the courage to fight but they’re still sweating bullets when they enter onto the battlefield. No one shows up for a fight with a slingshot and a few little rocks and no armor to fight his opponent who is fully armed.

No one but David.

Was he just young and naïve? Rebel without a cause? Was he a teenager that thought he was going to live forever? Nope.

He was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would deliver the people of Israel. He was betting his very life on it. See, we have to back up a little in the story to understand why David would have such confidence. Earlier in the passage, Saul is trying to talk David out of fighting Goliath, reminding him he’s just a boy and Goliath is a man trained for war.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam. 17:34-37 ESV)

Oh, I’m sorry, did it say LIONS and BEARS? When hearing this story as a child I’m envisioning cartoon lions and bears. Like Simba and Baloo. It didn’t even seem real at the time. As an adult, if you told me my teenage son would be fighting off lions and bears to protect our families’ sheep, I would have a heart attack. Literally. I would also tell him to go ahead and say goodbye to sweet lamby because his mama ain’t gonna let him fight no wild animal. What kind of person fights lions and bears to save one little lamb? The person who has something to protect and, in this case, a person who knows he cannot lose.

David goes on to say:

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

Whoop there it is. David remembered.

How did David know God would help him defeat Goliath? Because He had done it before against lions and bears. David remembered God’s faithfulness to him in the past, which gave David faith for the present. David was certain of God’s faithfulness to him. He knew he was beloved by the Father and that the Father would protect him and deliver the people of Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. Oh to have that kind of faith! The kind that assures me that I can do the hard, scary things and God will show up. He always shows up for His kids.

Want to increase your faith? Remember a time when God has been faithful to you. Recall a time He came to your rescue. God is always faithful even when we are not. We are his beloved sheep that He gave His own Son’s life to save…before we even knew him.

We would do well to face our giants like David.

RUN QUICKLY to the battle line.

REMEMBER God’s past faithfulness.

BE CERTAIN of victory.

This is how we face our fears. This is how we move mountains. We may not win the battle every time. We may very well crash and burn. This doesn’t mean God didn’t show up. It just means He has other plans. There is much to learn when we feel we’ve been defeated and we take that with us as we go into our next battle. My internal victories are far more significant than my outward successes by a long shot. I think when God spoke of the “work He has planned for us” (Eph. 2:10), much of it was on ourselves, in our hearts. And rest easy, God has already slain the enemy. Victory is oursWhat’s the mountain facing you?

-Courtney

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Rooster is 1!!!!!!

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I can’t believe it’s been a year. In some ways it feels like it was forever ago and in others, it was yesterday. One year ago today, sweet Rooster was released into the world. She has been so well loved by the families that have known her. I’m beyond grateful for anyone and everyone who has bought her book. Your kindness has been overwhelming. That was the most surprising thing of all. The kindness. When people extend kindness it’s like having a tiny glimpse of heaven. So thank you to all of you for showing me glimpses of heaven this past year.

Writing Rooster’s Balloon changed my life. Rooster helped me grieve the death of my sweet friends’ daughter. She helped me see that children’s questions for God aren’t all that different from adults’ questions. Every time I sat down at the computer to write more of her story, tears flooded my eyes. It couldn’t be helped. I needed to feel her pain. I can assure you this story was covered in prayer and I can say with certainty it was exactly the story I was supposed to write. Thank you for being so accepting of it. I know it’s an especially difficult story to read to your children. Believe me, I can barely get through it myself without getting choked up. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where hard things happen. Children may have to deal with loss before they’re old enough to process it. Rooster gives kids a narrative they can relate to. She asks questions that children may not be able to articulate after a loss. And she lets kids know it’s ok not to be ok. See, kids aren’t that different from adults after all.

So today I want to celebrate Rooster for being one year into the world! And I want to sincerely thank you for all the kindnesses you readers have bestowed upon me, especially this last year. You have humbled me and overwhelmed me and I will not soon forget it. Y’all are my favorites!

And if you never got your copy of Rooster’s Balloon and you want one, just go to the Purchase tab at the top of this page and get you one!!

I also added the video of me receiving ALL the books a year ago. The sight of all the books only gave me slight nausea…

-Courtney

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15 Things I Know Now That I’m 37

What I Know at 37

  1. 37 doesn’t feel as old as what my 15 year old self would have me believe.
  2. The best friends I had when I was 17 are still my best friends.
  3. Friends I’ve made in adulthood are fewer and farther between but they are genuine and life-giving.
  4. Having kids has made me a better person.
  5. Going to counseling doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or weak, or on the brink of divorce.
  6. Spiritual growth is never easy or without pain.
  7. Marriage requires love AND work and if you don’t believe me you’re fooling yourself.
  8. Marry someone who is going to be your biggest fan, not your biggest critic.
  9. Kids’ taste buds are liars…everything I cook isn’t “DISGUSTING!”
  10. Just because you start on one path doesn’t mean you can’t veer off onto another; that may have been God’s plan all along.
  11. Shame is a sneaky son of a gun that must be dealt with in order for me to love myself.
  12. I will never know how my parents raised 4 kids, who were involved in multiple activities, without cell phones.
  13. Choosing your battles is a great piece of advice for marriage…and for parenting.
  14. God values BEING with me over anything I could ever DO for Him.
  15. I’ve only got 3 years to lose my baby leftovers because I’ve heard that once you hit 40, losing weight is an uphill battle. Maybe yoga pants and joggers will still be in when I’m 40. And, yes, I’m aware my youngest child is 8. I’m on that really, really long-term weight loss plan.

What are some things you know at your age?

-Courtney

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A Letter to the Mamas,

I’m writing this to you because I think you need to hear it, but I’m also writing it to me so I don’t forget.

Hey, you. Yeah, I know you don’t have time for this. You need to get out the door and nobody has their coats or shoes on, and Baby has decided to take his pants off and run around the room. You’re going to be late to the kids’ doctor’s appointment and if it’s by more than 15 minutes they’ll make you reschedule. You’d think a pediatrician’s office would be more FLEXIBLE since, I don’t know, their dealing with CHILDREN WHO CAN’T DO ONE BLESSED THING FOR THEMSELVES SO HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU EXPECTED TO BE ON TIME? Anyway, by now you’ve gotten their coats and shoes on and Baby has on hand-me-down jeans from who knows where and you’re getting them in the car. Now one of them is crying because somebody hit her and Baby is whining and arching his back making it nearly impossible to buckle him into his car seat. As you use your best stern Mom voice to tell them “hands are not for hitting,” you notice you forgot to wipe of Baby’s face from breakfast and he has sticky syrup on his cheeks that has attracted every dirt particle from your home. He basically looks like a homeless baby. So you grab a wet wipe from the diaper bag and wipe his face off which makes him scream and you try to comfort him but you’re late so you figure he’ll get over it and jump into your seat. As you turn on your kids’ music or show, you find yourself starting to zone out.

This is where you need to listen, Moms.

As you begin to tune out all the car chatter, the voices in your head may take you down those old familiar roads. They are like a corn maze you can’t get out of. On your first turn, you head down the “What am I doing with my life?” path, then you take a right onto “Is this what motherhood is supposed to look like?” then hang a left on “Endless fighting and whining is not what I signed up for,” then merge onto “Am I even doing a good job?,” then you make a hard right onto “I suck at being a mom.” Then you’re basically there.

“Where?” you ask.

Right in the place the devil wants you. A place of vulnerability. A place where you’re so unsure of who you are and what your purpose is you are desperate for someone to tell you. So he does. He whispers things like, “No, you’re not really a good mom because what good mom yells at her kids/lets them watch THAT much TV/loses her temper/can’t get her kids to eat healthy foods/can’t get her kids to behave in public/doesn’t want to spend every second having “intentional” time with her kids/scrolls through her phone THAT many times a day/(fill in the blank with anything else that makes you feel like a crappy mom)…

And then the devil takes his toxic shame coat and drapes it over your shoulders and that’s how you live. Covered in shame.

This is where you need to listen, ladies.

Don’t let shame make you forget who you are.

Don’t forget that you are the woman that fed your kids today, you helped them get dressed, you held them when they cried, you listened when they told you about their day, you gave them encouragement when they doubted themselves, you washed their clothes, you picked them up when they needed to be held, you laid with them so they could fall asleep, you read them books, you helped with homework, you got them new jeans because theirs were getting a bit too short, you signed them up for camps, you made doctors’ appointments for them, you put money on their lunch card, you prayed for them, you prayed with them, you told her that she most certainly could not wear shorts that short, you said no to the party that was sketchy on the details, you called them out when they were being less than kind, you pointed them to Jesus with loving words, you corrected them and loved them, YOU DID SO MANY IMPORTANT THINGS.

Don’t forget that the God who made ALL the people gave you a few of His own to raise; because He knew you’d be the perfect fit for them. He chose YOU. He knew you would need help and He knew you would screw it up and He was ok with that.

See, the thing is, as much as we forget who we are sometimes, God doesn’t. If we have been saved through faith in Jesus, the Word says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

I believe being a mom is good work. It can be exhausting and wonderful and mundane and sweet and aggravating and beautiful and just plain hard. Lots of times being a mom doesn’t feel good. When we feel like all we do is discipline and say no, it doesn’t really feel that awesome to be a mom. But my feelings are all over the place sometimes so it helps to go back to the Truth. “for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prv. 3:12)

Aaaaahhhhh. Nice to know that all our reproving means that we actually LOVE our kids…contrary to what our kids may say. We’re just trying to point them to Jesus and keep them out of juvie, am I right?

All that to say… Moms, you’re doing a good job. What you’re doing matters. I see you and you are good enough. Actually, scratch that. You are excellent. Now go forth into battle and don’t forget to put snacks in your purse.

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(This pic was taken many years ago but it reminds me that winter with littles is HARD.)

-Courtney

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Where is your hope today?

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I’ve got great news…

The election is OVER and the world did not implode!!!

If it makes you feel better, God is not surprised nor has His plan changed because of the results of the election. He’s not up there thinking, “Oh shoot, I really didn’t think Trump was going to actually WIN. What do I do now? I’m completely out of ideas! And my goodness, the praying?! People I haven’t heard from in years are praying for America. Sheesh. I’m so tired of listening to their whining. I’m only the God of the universe, how can they expect me to know what to do? Do I have to take care of EVERYTHING for them??”

I’m so grateful that the God I serve isn’t pacing and wringing His hands over the state of our country. We sometimes forget that He lives in perfect peace with His plan. He knows we do not and He’s gracious enough to share that peace with us when we ask for it. (Phil. 4:6-7)

I think many of us have forgotten where our hope is found. I don’t know about you but I don’t place a lot of hope in our government. The corruption and nastiness inside our government has taught me it is not a safe place to put something I treasure so much. Our God is the only person who is fit to hold my eternal hope. I didn’t realize it until the other day, but creation also hopes in the Lord. Who knew creation could hope?

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

the hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the farthest seas;

the one who by his strength established

the mountains,

being girded with might;

who stills the roaring of the seas,

the roars of their waves,

the tumult of the peoples,

so that those who dwell in the ends of

the earth are in awe at your signs.

You make the going out of the morning

and the evening to shout for joy.”   Ps. 65:5-8

Yes, creation knows that the One to put your hope in is the person who established the mountains, stills the seas, and keeps the sun rising and setting every day. He has more power than any president of any country. So when we feel tempted to fear, let’s keep our focus on Who’s actually in charge. When we feel tempted to say ugly things, let’s consider that it was always Christ’s kindness that drew people in. When we feel tempted to let bitterness take control, let’s remember our marching orders as believers in Christ: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. Then go make disciples. It’s extremely difficult to convince people you “love your neighbor” when you are actively spewing hate about them. If you are a Republican, the Democrats are your neighbors. If you are a Democrat, the Republicans are your neighbors. To be clear, I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone else. So let’s remember today that we may not all agree on the issues, but we are ALL neighbors. Christ died for every single one of us and none of us is better than the other. God loves the people we disagree with just as much as He loves us. So let’s keep our snarky remarks to ourselves and treat one another a little more gently today.

-Courtney

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Growing Pains and Autumn

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Listening to Ben Rector is always a good choice in my book but some days, it’s an excellent choice. Have you ever listened to a song many times over, then one day it hits you anew what the song is actually about? I feel the same way when I read a familiar passage in Scripture and, for whatever reason, I see it in a completely different way or learn something I never knew before.

I was driving the other day and listening to an old Ben Rector song, “Autumn”, and was struck by the words of the song. It’s a song about, well, autumn, because Ben wants to be very mysterious in his titling. Here are a few of the lyrics:

 

“So I watched the leaves fall

All of the way to the ground

And I knew that that was what love was

To die so that it could be found”

 

To die so that it could be found. Hmmm.

That’s when my brain exploded.

I’ve been going through some things recently and have not really been all that grateful for where God has me. I’ve been sad and mad and digging in my heels telling God that his Plan A is unacceptable. Then I heard that “Autumn” song and God whispered in my ear, “What needs to die in your life so love can be found?”

Well, shoot.

There God goes again, trying to grow and refine me in the fire. Growing hurts. I remember when my kids were younger, they would wake up in the middle of the night, crying, saying their legs hurt from the “growing pains.” I’m not sure I’ve ever grown in my faith without it hurting. Growth is not my favorite. I like it when it’s over, but during? No, ma’am, it’s the worst.

So, death, huh? I knew what needed to die in my life but I wasn’t ready to let them go.  I needed some long held dreams and expectations to die.

Has this ever happened to anyone else? You have an idea in your mind of how your life is supposed to work, or how your kids are supposed to be, or what your marriage is supposed to look like, then God has a different plan all together? He allows certain things to take place that alter your plan for your life. Honestly, you may not have been aware you even had these dreams or expectations until they were suddenly taken off the table and not an option anymore. Then you have to come to grips with the fact that the story God is writing for your life, or your child’s life, or your husband’s life, may not be the one you wanted. You had a whole different story all worked out for your life and He just up and changed it.

Die so that love could be found. As long as I held on to these dreams and expectations that I had created, I would hold onto bitterness and anger and resentment. But if I let them die, then I could begin dreaming new dreams in the place God has me. I could begin the process of accepting things I cannot change. I could receive the new thing God has for me to love.

Simple enough, right? In case you were wondering…no, this is not simple and it is not easy. I have to choose it every day. I have to choose the new dream, the new perspective, every day. Acceptance is hard, especially when it isn’t necessarily something you wanted. The only thing that keeps me choosing the new, hard thing is the hope that something love-worthy is on the other side. God has never brought me to a hard place and given me a crappy return on my pain. Historically, He has always used my pain to bring something good. That’s something I know to be true; He doesn’t waste my pain. So the sooner I can put these old dreams to death and embrace the new, the sooner I’ll find love, right? That’s what Ben said so it must be true. I’m sure Ben is talking about the love of a girl but I like to leave it open for interpretation.

Anyone else have anything that needs to die and be grieved so you can move on to loving something else?

-Courtney

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“Lord, help”

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(image cred:: Pinterest)

Lord, help. This is how the writing is starting off today. Seems like a good, desperate place to start, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed this prayer. I pray this a lot. It’s basically my Hail Mary/last ditch prayer when I don’t know what to pray.

Lord, help.

When life gives me unexpected news, unexpected frustrations, unexpected pitfalls—Lord, help.

Lots of times I feel bad about praying this. I mean, I’m a writer, shouldn’t I come up with something more eloquent to say to the God of the universe? Something more writery? (Writery…it’s a word. Trust me, I’m a writer ;)) Shouldn’t my prayers be something more, I don’t know, lengthy? Lord, help. Sometimes I just say it over and over wishing I had more words but failing to find them.

There’s something about this little prayer that brings me to the place God always wants me: Surrender. When I choose surrender, it allows me to embrace the peace that comes with knowing God is in control. I so badly want to be in control of my life and everything that happens, but if God allowed that, there would be no room for Him. I spend so much of my life trying to make sure things go smoothly–for me, for Kyle, for my kids—I sometimes forget I’m not actually the one in charge. The thing is, when I’m in charge and ultimately fail, it’s all on me. The failure is mine and I get to carry the weight of it. This creates something toxic inside of me: shame. Not healthy shame. Toxic shame. The shame that tells me I can’t do anything right. I will never be good at ___________. I’m too forgetful. If only I were more like __________, then this wouldn’t happen. I’m the worst mom/wife/friend/________ ever. Ice cream. Ice cream would make me feel better. (After finishing ice cream) I’m so fat, why can’t I stop eating ice cream? Another failure. I’ll never be as thin as ___________. She’s probably the perfect mom/wife/friend. And down and down I go into the shame vortex. It’s crippling carrying all that shame. Lord, help.

The times that I can wrap my head around the fact that God is in control and I am not, something amazing happens. I am free. I’m free to screw up and let it roll off because I know my self-worth is not determined by my ability to get all the things done. I’m here to tell you surrender is where it’s at, friends. Knowing that your productivity/efficiency don’t hold your value and worth is freedom.

But what about the unexpected circumstance that is not necessarily “our fault?” You know the things I’m talking about: the sudden death, the diagnosis, the accident, the divorce, all those things we don’t see coming. What then? Lord, help. If I had my way, none of those things would be allowed to happen. Those are the hard things. But you wanna know something? Without those things, I may never see my need for Jesus. I might never come before His throne, on my knees, begging, “Lord, help!” I wouldn’t cry out. I wouldn’t plead. Life would be easy and I would never live a life any deeper than what you could see on the surface. I would never experience true joy because I had never endured sorrow. I would never experience grace because I wouldn’t have a need for it. This would be an obscene waste of a life because grace…sigh. Grace is the most pure, intoxicating, and overwhelming thing to receive. It breathes life into dead souls. It is a good gift from a good Father. God is constantly making beauty from ashes sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for it.

The truth is we need help. Whether it’s help to check off our to-do list or help to breath in and out after receiving devastating news, we just need help. Why not go before the One who is known for being a Helper (Ps. 54:4)?

While “Lord, help” may be short in length, I think it is more than sufficient at communicating what we need.

And if you’re from the South, sometimes it comes out, “Lawd, help.” This is also perfectly acceptable 😉

Is there any place in your life you could use a little help?

-Courtney

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