Tag Archives: love

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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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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To ALL my valentines…

IMG_4677I was reminded the other day that Valentine’s Day is a special day for everyone. If you have yourself a valentine, it’s a special day to celebrate your love for one another. If you don’t have a valentine, it’s a special day that makes you feel like crap. Why can’t we just celebrate that we have people in our life that we love and they love us back? This year, I’m writing a little note to ALL my valentines.

To my parents/siblings’ valentines,

Thank you for never letting me ever forget all the embarrassing stories about myself. Rolling down the window during the car wash is always a favorite; second only to busting my face on the concrete on our trip to Atlanta. Remembering these stories from my childhood keep me humble and remind me that you guys have always been there. Ya’ll didn’t even take vows to love me in sickness and in health but you’ve done it anyway. I’m a better and stronger person because of each of you. I can slay a one-liner and I feel like that’s some sort of spiritual gift, no? We may tease one another but if anybody outside the circle of trust tries to do the same we will cut their throat. I mean that in the most Christian way. We’re not mushy or sappy but I like our gruff love. We act out our love more than we say it, but since it’s Valentine’s Day and I can say whatever I want on my blog I’m just gonna say it: I LOVE YOU GUYS!

To my friend valentines,

Oh friends. Where would I be without you? Without you, I would still be walking around in tapered, pleated jeans. Bless. Without you, I would have no one to be anti-social with at parties. Without you, I wouldn’t belly laugh. Without you, I would have no one to tell me the truth about myself. Thank you, dear friends. If a person is judged by the company she keeps, then I have far outkicked my coverage. You all love me so well and have encouraged me to grow into the uncomfortable places. I don’t know if there will be a corner for us in heaven to share inappropriate jokes but I kinda hope so.

To my Valentine babies,

You 3 little ducklings gave me a whole new definition of love. I never knew that kind of love until I met each of you. You all can make me madder than a hornet and turn me into a pile of mush with a bat of your lashes. You own me. You own my thoughts and my activities. I don’t do anything without thinking of you guys. I can’t imagine a time years from now when I won’t know your daily whereabouts. Ya’ll are like a drug I can’t quit. I love you and I need you but if you ask me one more time what we’re having for dinner I might lose my mind.

And to my til death do us part Valentine,

You had me at hello….

Actually that’s totally untrue. You had me about 3 years after hello but whatever. The point is you have me. You are my biggest fan and I can’t say enough about how important that is to me. I’ve said before that when someone believes in you it gives you wings to fly. Thanks for the wings, Love. They mean more than you know. Thank you for embracing all my new “feelings” that weren’t there when we got married. Thanks for growing with me and always believing the best about me even when I’m not sure it’s true. Because of all these things I will put up with your shenanigans and tomfoolery. Without you my life would be utterly boring. Love you.

 

Love to all my valentines,

Courtney

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The One Thing I Want To Do In 2016

“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry, and accept an apology I never received.”

I’m not sure if @pastorralexander actually came up with this or got it from someone else but it sums up in one sentence what would’ve taken me a thousand words to write. My brother showed me this quote the other day, not knowing that I had been writing about this very thing in my journal. It articulates everything I’d been trying to put into words the last month or so.

While we’re reminiscing over 2015 and thinking of goals/resolutions for 2016, this one’s mine: forgiveness. That’s my number one goal for 2016. Just like the quote says, the person I need to forgive isn’t sorry nor will I receive an apology from them. And that in itself is what makes forgiveness far more difficult. I want this person to be sorry. I want this person to want my forgiveness. They don’t. So what am I supposed to do with that? Why is it necessary that I forgive if the other person doesn’t feel they need it?

I’ll tell you exactly why it’s necessary: forgiveness will set me free. If I can choose to forgive then anger and hurt won’t control me anymore. I will hopefully be able to move on. There will be scars from the relationship but they won’t be open wounds anymore. Forgiveness will help me heal.

This might be the hardest act of love God has called me to do. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Forgiven people forgive people” like that’s some easy task. Then I remember what Christ went through to forgive me. He absorbed all the sin and darkness of the world into Himself then hung naked on a cross for hours before His soul was released to His Heavenly Father. This isn’t even telling of the brutality He went through on His way to the cross. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Forgiveness is like love; it’s a choice and sometimes, it’s a hard choice. It is an act that is performed in contradiction to how I’m feeling. In Romans 5:8 the Word says, “-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us before He received an apology. He died for us when we weren’t sorry. He didn’t hold forgiveness in his fist waiting for us to earn it. He just gave it because that’s what God does. He doesn’t wait for us to come around; He opens His hands to offer us grace we don’t deserve nor do we earn.

So this year, I’m going to try to choose the hard thing every day. I’m going to choose to rise above my feelings. I’m going to ask God to take captive my angry thoughts. I’m going to try. Then when I’m weary from trying I’m going to have to go before the Lord and tell Him I can’t do this on my own and I need His strength to do it for me. I know there’s peace on the other side of forgiveness because I’ve experienced it before when I first believed in Jesus. 2016 may look a lot like God prying open my hands to share the gifts He’s graciously given to me.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do in 2016. What do you want God to teach you in the New Year?

-Courtney

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A Note to Paris

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It was one of those days you never forget. Most everyone I know remembers exactly where he was when he heard the horrific news. I was on my way to the community showers of my dorm when a girl in my sorority said, “Did you see the news? A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” I can’t remember what I said but I kept walking not really sure what to make of it or whether or not to believe her. When I got back to my room, I turned on the news and watched in terror as a plane flew into the other Twin Tower. The smoke, the people running around crazy, the news reporters taking cover, it all looked like a foreign country. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t even really process it at the time.

A terrorist attack? In America? Surely not.

I remember walking around campus that day and looking at all the passersby. We all looked like zombies. Most teachers cancelled classes that day. The university was already setting up a vigil to be held that night for those that lost their lives in New York that day. I can’ t remember if I cried that day. I remember talking to my parents. I just remember feeling like my safe little bubble of a world had been burst wide open. It’s a terrifying feeling having your safety stripped away. Not knowing when or where the next attack will be. Not feeling like the government that’s supposed to protect your country is doing it’s job. No, none of these are good feelings.

Paris,

We will not soon forget what it’s like to have terrorists attack our country. We sympathize with you and pray for your healing. We understand what it’s like to see evil with our own eyes. We have been vulnerable to evil when it took people we love away from us. Evil wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. Evil has no idea what he’s up against. Evil will answer to a mighty God who doesn’t take sin lightly. Don’t be overcome by fear, dear friends, be confident that the God you serve is just and holy. He sees everything under the sun and in His timing He will somehow make something good come from these awful events.

The thing about evil and injustice is that while it takes away parts of us, other parts become stronger to compensate for the loss. I’ve never seen our country more united than after those terrorist attacks. I’ve never seen more people lifting up others in prayer than when 9/11 happened. Sweet Paris, I hope this is your story too. I hope the world is rallying around you in prayer and petition before the Lord. I know the people of America are. We stand with you, knowing that God can bring beauty from ashes. He loves you, Paris, and His Word says He is close to the brokenhearted. Draw near, Paris, He’s waiting for you. Trust that God will bring justice in His own time. Evil will pay for what it’s done. Love will win. This is not the end of you.

Love,

Your friends in America

 

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Controversy

“Don’t let the world teach you theology.”

My pastor, Dr. Michael Easley, says this all the time at church. I’ve always loved this because it reminds me not to look to the world for truth, instead, I’m to look to the word of God. If I’m ever not sure of God’s will or don’t know what to believe, I can go to the Bible in search of God’s truth. Granted, there are some things that aren’t discussed in the Bible so I guess I won’t get an answer to some of my questions until I meet God in heaven, unfortunately.

That being said, I really didn’t want to write this post. Like really really didn’t want to write it. I am aware that what I’m about to write could very possibly alienate friends and family that are very dear to me. My view of them has not changed; they will always be amazingly wonderful people. My fear is that their view of me will change and that worries me a great deal since I’m one of those people who want everyone to like them. It’s a sickness, really. That’s why I try to be funny, I mean who doesn’t like funny? So please hear me when I say writing this post wasn’t easy or fun but I had that feeling about it. You know, that sick-to-your-stomach-makes-you-want-to-throw-up feeling. This feeling usually indicates that I’m supposed to do that thing I’m scared of. I hate this feeling but the only way to appease it is to do the thing I don’t want to do. So here goes.

I don’t know about you but there are many parts of the Bible I sort of wish weren’t in there. I wish it didn’t talk about gluttony being a sin because I like to overeat (Prov. 23:20-21). I don’t always want to turn the other cheek because I think it’s unfair (Matt. 5:39). It’s really hard not to exasperate my children when I’m having a bad day (Eph. 6:4). It’s difficult to see the benefit in not repaying evil with evil (1 Pet. 3:9). Doing things without complaining (Phil. 2:14)? Not my strong suit. Even if it’s only in my head, my complaining and grumbling sounds an awful lot like a pity party. Truth be told, I wish I could brush all of these under the rug because they don’t suit me all the time and I want to do what I want to do and not feel bad about it.

When the SCOTUS ruled last week in favor of legalizing gay marriage, part of me wanted to sweep what God’s Word says under the rug. A small part of me wished I could be on board with it because it’s getting celebrated all over the country and who doesn’t want to be part of a celebration? It seems so happy and fun. Then I had that thing in my stomach; the thing that reminds me I’m on the unpopular side of controversy. “Don’t let the world teach you theology.” So I looked up verses about marriage in the Bible half-hoping I missed the verse where God said “Marry whoever you want. #lovewins” Guys, there is no such verse and no such hashtag in God’s Word. God was clear about a marriage covenant being between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24). At no point in the Bible does He change His mind or wording on this. He always used a man and woman, a husband and wife, to be the representatives in marriage (Prv. 31:10-11, Eph. 5:22-33). It seems that any time in the Bible when God mentions things over and over it’s because He’s trying to make a point. And if I’m going to write about how my faith is rooted in the Word of God then I can’t skip over this. I have to take God at His word.

A long time ago I told God that I believed Jesus was His Son who died on a cross to save me from my sins, and rose from the dead to affirm He was the Son of God and the giver of eternal life. When I surrendered myself to this belief, I also surrendered my life. In doing this, I was telling God His way is better than my way, His thoughts are more important than my thoughts, and ultimately what He wants is more important than what I want. Now, hear me on this: I have a hard time with all of these and I most certainly don’t do them even close to perfectly. God never said that following Him would be easy but He said it would be worth it in the end. So I’m putting all my eggs in His basket and trusting that He will do what He says. But while I’m here living on this earth I made the decision to believe, and try to live by, what the Bible says. Again, I don’t do it all that well but it’s my understanding that’s what grace is for. My fear is that this post will come off like I’m some holier-than-thou punk. I’m well aware that Jesus died on that cross for the whole world, not just me, which let’s me know He loves all of us. And since I’ve chosen to believe this is true, I owe Him my life. I owe Him a life of obedience and gratitude for what He did for me.

So I believe marriage is a covenant before God between a man and a woman because that’s what the Bible says. I also believe that I am supposed to love others like Christ loved me because the Bible says that too. Remember how I said when you see repetition in the Word it’s because God is trying to make a point? Jesus tells us over and over to love one another. Don’t believe me? Read the book of John. God also tells us not to judge. Don’t believe me again? Read Romans 2. My (our, if you’re a believer in Christ) responsibility is to love. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I can’t love you. And vice versa.

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Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This is how I’m supposed to identify myself with Christ. I’m supposed to be kind and love those I disagree with. If I only love people I agree with wouldn’t that be just a tad superficial? The people Jesus hung out with were nothing like him but He loved them just the same. I have to live out what I believe, as do you. So thanks for letting me get my thoughts out so my stomach could get back to normal. And I’m fully aware some of you may quit reading my blog after today and that’s ok. Thanks for sitting in my headspace for a few minutes.

-Courtney

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Everyday Heroes

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(This has nothing to do with my post but I fear this could be a real scenario from my life.)

While I was at work yesterday I got the privilege of caring for a man that had suffered a stroke. The stroke had left him with weakness down his right side so much that he was in a wheelchair. He had also lost the ability to talk. When I looked to see how old he was, his chart said he was 58 but his face looked much older. He had had the stroke just last year. Prior to that his chart indicated he was very active and outdoorsy. It said he participated in things like cycling, hiking, and other sports. Knowing only this much of his story made me sad. This once vibrant human being was now confined to his debilitated body. And even if he wanted to talk about it he couldn’t use his voice to do so.

Then I met his wife. She looked healthy and strong, like one of those women in an REI ad. She was chipper enough and had kind eyes. We didn’t talk much outside of her husband’s health history but I did learn that they had been together for 15 years and married for 4. As I watched her take care of him, I noticed she was strong and tender. She talked to him with the care of a wife but also as a caretaker. He would make a noise and she would ask him questions in order to figure out how to ease his discomfort. It was so touching and I left with a sense of awe at their relationship.

As I thought more about it later, I tried to imagine that being my situation. Kyle has a stroke or gets in an accident and I’m the one left to care for him. I’m going to let ya’ll in on a secret. I may have a degree in nursing but I am not good at being a nurse to my husband. I know he’s reading this and wholeheartedly agreeing. I tell him to suck it up. He does tend to overdramatize, as I know other men do, about the state of his well-being but still, I stink as a wifenurse. But what if he really did need me to take care of him? Would I resent him? Would I love him more? Would I live in a constant state of self-pity? I don’t know. I hope my love for him would deepen obviously but I know how selfish I am and I wonder if parts of me would secretly be resentful. I hope never to find out.

I’ve watched women, amazing women, care for their husbands’ when God has taken them at their vow of “in sickness and in health.” They are doing what they said they would do. They are choosing their husbands even in sickness. They are choosing the harder path. They are choosing love. This is what commitment looks like, ya’ll. This is what a covenant is. We choose our spouse.

So many times we allow our circumstances to steal us of our choice. We always have a choice. We think we don’t but we do. One of them is usually easy and the other is hard. Sometimes they’re both hard. They are both rarely easy. In the situation of caretaking, I feel like the choice for these women wasn’t whether or not they would stay. No, that was the easy choice. They made the choice to love their spouse. This was by far the harder choice. I think it would be much easier to grow bitter towards your circumstances and grow resentful towards your spouse. These women are more connected to their husbands now than they were before the health issues. This is some sort of miracle.

If you know someone who is taking care of a spouse/loved one be sure to encourage him/her. They are brave. They are choosing the hard thing. They are telling the other person, “I want you in sickness and in health because both of those things give me you. And all I want is you.” This is a precious gift to give someone.

-Courtney

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Movie Love

Love. Books have been written about it, songs have been sung about it, movies have been made about it, yet we still get it wrong. We all want it. We all need it. We all go about it differently. How you grew up is a big factor in how you view love. The world also likes to tell us what love is and what it looks like. Everyone has an opinion on love.

 

Confession: I love a good romantic comedy. In real life I’m not a super gushy person. The Bachelor, while being a riveting train wreck to watch, makes me want to hurl when they start getting cheesy on each other after one date. But when you pair a little cheesy with a little funny, I’m hooked. The movies play into our need for romance. Many women want to be swept off their feet and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them. When a man goes to great lengths to prove his love, it’s hard not to fall for him. I mean, what’s more romantic than the guy who is fighting the bad guys to get to his lady? He swims the ocean, climbs the mountain, loses his legs in battle, kills the villain, and he does all this just for a kiss from his true love. Swoon.

 

That being said, let’s switch gears. I’ve been doing a bible study during this season of Lent that has been awesome! You can get it as an app on your phone. It’s called She Reads Truth. It has lots of different studies on there that are either free or just a couple of bucks. So good. Anyway, so I was reading about when Jesus was praying in the garden before He was arrested and I was struck by something. I’ve read/heard this passage many times but never really thought about it like this before.

 

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:41-42

 

I always knew Jesus said this but I guess I never considered what it meant, really. I always thought Jesus wanted to die. In my attempt to make his sacrifice more romantic, I let myself believe that He wanted to hang on a cross and suffer for my sins. After reading this, I looked back at the other gospel accounts to see if they all said the same thing. The 3 gospels that mention Him praying in the garden all include Jesus asking God to take the cup from Him. So basically, asking God to get him out of dying on the cross. Hmmm. I didn’t know what to think about that at first. You mean, my Jesus who loves me didn’t want to be mocked, humiliated, spat on, whipped, and tortured for me? My self-centered nature immediately thought “Well, that can’t be right because He loves me! He should’ve wanted to do those things for me!” Oh sweet love, I have so much to learn. I can’t deny what Scripture says. He specifically asked God to take the cup, or “cross”, from Him. It states it clearly 3 times. This was not the movie love I thought it was.

 

Then I read what Jesus said after He made His request to God. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Not my will, but yours. Hmmm. He loved his Father so much He would rather do what his Father wanted than what He wanted. Swoon. There’s the movie love, guys. Self-denial is love. Putting someone else’s wants and desires above your own is love. It goes against every single thing the world tells us about love. The world tells us to make ourselves happy. The world tells us if it feels good do it, if it doesn’t then we should bail. The world gives us a version of love that is completely self-centered. By the Bible’s standards, that’s the opposite of what love is. No wonder our world is so disillusioned. We’ve been sold a faulty definition of love.

 

Now, do I think because Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross this means He didn’t love us? Absolutely not. You do hard things for people you love. Sometimes I don’t want to discipline, sometimes I don’t want to forgive, sometimes I don’t want to serve, sometimes I don’t want to listen, but these are things we do when we love others. Clearly, these examples pale in comparison to the hard thing Jesus did. No one’s asking me to hang on a cross for a bunch of people that hate me. Jesus wanted to be obedient because He loved his Dad. And because his Dad loved us, Jesus loved us too. They were one.

 

For a long time I thought Jesus asked God to take the cup because He didn’t want to go through the physical pain. After all, He was human too. I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago His anguish was much more about being separated from the Father than it was about the physical pain He would endure. I can’t remember what book it was that I was reading that talked about this but I remember it blowing my mind. That Jesus would be more sorrowful about being separated from God than the pain that was about to take place on the cross was news to me. He knew His Father was holy and could not be in communion with that which was sinful or unholy. He knew His Father couldn’t be near Him on the cross, He couldn’t comfort Him; He couldn’t take His pain away. This was heartbreaking for Jesus. Jesus, because He was God incarnate, could’ve gotten Himself off the cross. He could’ve gotten out of it. But it meant more to Him to do what God wanted Him to do, even if it was agony.

And to think, God did this because He loved us. Jesus did this because He loved us. He wanted us. He didn’t want to die but He knew He had to get to us and this was the only way. Forget movie love give me Jesus.

If you’ve got a minute, listen to this song by Thad Cockrell called Oh To Be Loved. It reminds me of an old church hymn. Let it run all over you. You won’t be sorry.

-Courtney

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Then There Was Jesus…

04c4d28e413135f4cd01e4b0ef1726eeHow do you start a post about Jesus? It’s been rather daunting to say the least. Especially when it comes on the heels of my last post about my yellow chair, which was sooo profound. The tone is slightly different here. It’s like I want my words to do my heart justice when I express my gratitude toward the man that changed everything, but I’ve come to accept that my words will fall short…I’ll do my best.

Jesus.

Even His name evokes emotion. He might just be history’s most polarizing figure. You love Him or you hate Him. You believe or you don’t. At some point, we have to deal with the question of Jesus. Growing up in a Christian home led me to deal with this question early on. I’ve known the gospel as long as I can remember. I feel unbelievably blessed to have been raised in a home that taught the love of Jesus. I’ve always known that He came to Earth to die for my sins because He loved me and wanted a relationship with me.

You know how something becomes commonplace when you’ve heard it your whole life? Ya’ll, don’t miss this. Jesus, who did nothing wrong (ever), DIED for you and me who screw up all the time! Can you even imagine? In our culture, the norm is to pass around the blame and never accept responsibility. Heck, I won’t even take the blame for a fart I didn’t commit, much less an actual crime against humanity. We are a world full of excuses for our bad behavior. Never wanting to admit that we, in fact, are the problem.

Then came Jesus.

A hero who rode in on a donkey to save us. A hero who endured beating after beating on our behalf. A hero who had a crown of thorns pressed into His skull. A hero who willingly let people who hated Him pound nails into His hands and feet. A hero who hung on a cross for hours for crimes He didn’t commit. A hero whose blood poured out as freely as His forgiveness. A hero who was obedient to the wishes of His Father even when it meant death. And He did all this while being mocked and ridiculed and spit at. The story of Jesus is not one I want to become numb to. Even as I sit here writing this, I’m struck by my inability to express what my heart feels for my hero.

This Jesus. He wrecks me with His ability to love a sinner like me. When I became a believer at the age of 11, it wasn’t really some dramatic transformation. My heart was transformed, certainly, but my day-to-day didn’t look that different. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood my need for grace. I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: Being raised in the church, led me to believe I didn’t need as much grace as other people. I thought I was a pretty good person already and God probably liked me better than some of those other sinners.

Basically, I was a Pharisee. My sinful nature had distorted my knowledge of Jesus into self-righteousness. The truth is, if I had been comparing myself to Jesus rather than other people all along, I would have clearly seen my need for a Savior. Thankfully, in God’s loving-kindness, He gives us the Holy Spirit to gently lay the smack down when we’re royally screwing it up. And because I’m a slow learner, the Holy Spirit still convicts me of my self-righteousness at 34. I know, I learn at a snail’s pace. I may seem alright on the outside, but inside, I’m an abyss of judgmental thoughts, underlying motives, thoughtlessness, selfishness and a slew of other horrible things. And because of these things, I need a hero. I need someone to take my crap and put it to death. I need someone to show me the way. I need forgiveness. I need I need I need.

You wanna know something awesome? Jesus doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need our praise, because in Luke 19:40 it says the rocks would cry out if we were silent. He doesn’t need our good works. He doesn’t need anything from us.

He just wants us. I don’t think we even get how beautiful that is. Not to be needed, but to be wanted. I need Jesus for life, but He wants me for love. He has nothing to gain from wanting me. He saw my ugly and chose to die for it, because He knew I needed a hero. He knew I needed a way out. He knew that sin leads to death and He wanted better for me. He loved me and wanted to give me life. He didn’t want me to be defined by the things I do wrong. He wanted me to be defined by redemption in Him. So my abyss full of nasty I told you about? Yeah, He’s working on that. The Holy Spirit shows me my junk and shows me a better way. He’s constantly trying to teach me to see the world through grace goggles so Judgy Judgerson doesn’t rear her ugly head. Some days are better than others.

So today, I’m thankful for Jesus who wants me because He loves me. He loved me as a sinner and He loves me as a believer. The love never changed, the relationship did.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!! I hope your hearts are as full as your bellies!

 

-Courtney

 

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