The Story of A Hopeless Heart

Hope is one of the most risky things we’re asked to hold on to as Christians. 

That might sound like a bold statement.

But hope is often met by pain and disappointment and it is one of the biggest risk we are asked to consistently take.

So why hope? Why is the Bible filled with both faith and hope; two necessary factors in walking with Jesus? Why must we choose hope time and time again?

My heart has been sick since January. Somewhere in the process, I let go of hope. I stopped believing for the best. I numbed myself to dreaming.

The pain that came from having expectations and hoping only to see them shattered or unmet was too much. And so I retreated back to my own personal limits; my own well-kept yard of not-risking. And my heart began to wither. I let go of dreams, desires, expectations… and the vibrant life in my heart began to dull. I couldn’t feel God. I couldn’t hear Him clearly. I felt abandon, dry… like I would die of hunger for Him. I  became cynical. Practical. I hated love. Didn’t believe in it.

I was physically ill most weekends from February – March; my heart often anxious and unrest in the midst of this.

Hope was too risky. And keeping my heart safe within its walls was surely the way to keep it unharmed. Right?

But God.

God, concerned for the health of my heart, pressed on it, ever-so consistently. I felt everything I didn’t want to feel as He begged my heart to hope again.

Cynical.

I filled my world with busy-ness and activities. I ran myself weak.

He continued to press.

“Why love? Why hope for the impossible best? Why hold on to dreams that are so far out of reach?” my heart fought back to Him.

But God.

Around three weeks ago, He found me at my breaking point, weary, anxious, desperate. And He crawled into the narrow gaps I had left open for Him.

He breathed, “Faith sees, and hope FEELS. And my precious one, when you choose to not hope, you choose to not feel. When you choose to not hope that there is the best in store for you, your heart becomes sick. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, my love. Choose hope. Believe the best. Believe I’m that good.” 

And I gasped for air. Alive. My heart began pumping again.

Undone by my sudden light-ness, I became aware of the necessity of hope.

Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how many times I had been disappointed, regardless of the impossibilities that stood before me or the lack of visible breakthrough, I had to decide to choose hope. 

Hope was better than the outcome. Hope was the thing keeping my heart alive.

So, friends, while hope seems risky, don’t cut it off because you don’t see the breakthrough in the timing you imagined.

God is a God of “And suddenly.” In moments, He changes the course of events. In minutes, He brings the fulfillment. In seconds, He arrives in a better way than you ever thought possible.

Saul became Paul in an instant.

Lazarus was raised from the dead in a single moment.

It only took 3 DAYS for the sins of EVERYONE IN THE WORLD (past, present and future) to be paid for for eternity! 3 Days! 3 Days is not a long time, friends. In 3 days, Jesus was crucified and rose again and EVERYTHING CHANGED. 3 Days!

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Hope paves the way for your breakthrough. You must develop a lifestyle of unbreakable hope in your life. 

Hope that is not swayed by situations or circumstances. But hope that is founded on the truth and goodness of The Most Holy One.

Follow the calling of His voice. Risk when He says risk. Dream when He says dream. Hope when He says hope. It will never be in vain. And you will never be unprotected from His grace.

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I Think I’m Normal: 3 Post-Breakup Thoughts

There are things that happen on the other side of a break-up. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this. I guess I had forgotten about it since my last breakup when I was 19. But there are consistent things that happen… thoughts that go through your head.

I am still unaware of how to deal with many of them. I post this to let you know that if you, too, are dealing with the healing after a break-up and are experiencing some of these things, you are not alone.

I don’t have the answers for this. I still fight the tension between who I was when I dealt with a break-up as a teenager and who I am now that I’m dealing with a break-up as an almost 25 year old.

So here’s a little glimpse into my mind lately:

The thought: 

I LOVE BEING SINGLE. *10 minutes later* I HATE BEING SINGLE. 

This one sucks. I feel flippant. I feel unresolved. I feel easily swayed. I feel discontent one minute and completely content the next. There are moments I am so confident that this was the right thing and am hopeful for my future. There are other moments where I am miserable, full of doubt and second-guessing, wanting to do anything it takes to mend my previous relationship. Unfortunately… I’m pretty sure this is normal. I think this is part of the process of dealing with a break-up.

The Truth:

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8 (AMP)

“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind…” – Ephesians 4:14 (ESV)

I am not one who believes truth according to her emotions. I am proclaiming that over myself, being the emotion-filled woman that I am. The truth of the situation is that in want or plenty, in singleness or dating, I am content. I am right where I should be. I am not exempt or escaped from God’s will. Even if there are moments it hurts more than others, I am content. Because God is still good. And that means His plans for me are good. Just because something is painful in the moment, doesn’t mean it’s not exactly where you need to be. 

The thought:

We totally broke up because he thinks I’m fat and ugly… he just didn’t want to say that. 

I mean… yea. That thought crosses my mind more times than I’d like to admit.

The Truth:

Really, Courtney? Haven’t we already dealt with this?

Because God says “You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless” – Song of Solomon 4:7 (MSG).

And I am enough. Just as I am. In my places of too much and my places of not enough, I am enough just as I am. We did not break up because of my physical appearance. That is just stupid. Next.

The thought: 

I missed God. I missed it. I messed everything up. This could’ve been it but I was too prideful, too controlling, too over-analytical. I ruined something good. It’s all my fault. 

Honestly… this one feels like truth more times than it doesn’t.

The truth: 

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored….

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” – Most of Romans 8 in the Message.

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Bottom line: I haven’t missed anything. His will for me is perfect. And I haven’t escaped it. It’s not possible for me to escape the will of God for my life when I am seeking Him. It’s just not possible. I choose hope. I will believe the best. I will allow the joyful anticipation to deepen, even in the midst of a momentarily painful season.

Whale Watching

This is an old post from almost 2 years ago. I recently found it for a friend and thought it’d be worth a re-post if you find yourself at the beginning of 2015 still waiting for breakthrough. 

Mystery (noun):
– One that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding.
– One who arouses curiosity.
– A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and is knowable only through divine revelation.

God is all that is mysterious.

And that is difficult for someone like me who loves to understand. Because that’s the point of mystery…it’s not supposed to be understood.
Realistically, there is probably more that I don’t understand about God than the amount of things I do understand about Him. And the question I’ve been asking myself lately is “Am I okay with the mystery?”
Am I okay with not having the answers to everything?
Am I okay with not understanding why things happen the way they do?
Bill Johnson says, “In order to have the peace that surpasses all understanding, you have to give up the right to understand.”
That makes my heart ache. I insist on knowing the answers to things more than I accept this peace in the mystery. It’s funny because the verse before that one that talks about this peace starts off with “Do not be anxious about anything.”

Despite our anxious worries, and our vain strife of trying to understand the complexities of His mystery, God pleas with us “Learn to be okay with the mystery. Release your right to understand.

The hardest thing about living in the mysterious is balancing it with expectancy. Believing for big and mighty moves of God, hoping for the impossible, but accepting the mystery when it doesn’t happen like you expect to or it doesn’t happen at all.
This season…actually this past year…has been marked by God pleading with me to maintain expectancy for really big things. That sounds fun. But it’s terrifying. And Proverbs 13:12 has been eating my lunch. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”
Which can only mean one thing. Expectancy makes the heart healthy.

This is hard for me to grasp. God is saying it is better to hope and be expectant than to have no hope whatsoever. He doesn’t say disappointment makes the heart sick. He says a lack of hope does.
But disappointment hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. And I hate pain. Yet I will trust God when He says that not hoping is worse for my heart. And I will relinquish my right to understand.

The picture I keep getting in my head when I talk to God about expectancy is whale watching.

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I’ve never seen a blue whale. The only evidence I have that they actually exist is what I read on the Internet and in books. They are the largest animals on this planet. Yet I’ve never seen them. And for most of their existence, people have known very little about them. The biggest animals on the planet are extremely mysterious.

But how stupid would it be of me to go blue whale watching and not be expectant to see one? How idiotic would it be if I refused to peer off the edge of the boat into the vast spaciousness that is the ocean? How much would it affect my experience and the experience of those around me if I looked at my feet the entire trip, content with what was inside the boat, instead of scanning the horizon in the hopes of seeing even a spout of water?

I would be an idiot to get in that boat without expectancy.

Expectancy allows you to see so much more than your normally would. People who go whale watching and expect to see a whale, jump at any slight wave, any bubbles breaking on the surface, any foam of water. They’re more likely to see everything the ocean has to offer. They see more than people without expectancy.

So maybe that’s the point.

You get to see more.

So I will keep my eyes on the horizon, at the ready for a spout of water. I know there’s a blue whale out there. And I’ll keep watching till I see him.

Men, Eggplant, and Fat Coats

I haven’t blogged in a while.

I like to write when I have clarity about what season I am in, what God is doing, or after major revelations or breakthrough.

But in efforts to maintain the mission and integrity of this blog, I have always felt the conviction to write about the process. The middle and in-between stages of life. The normal… at times, mundane… things.

So this is an in-process post.

I don’t have major revelation or breakthrough. Just small ones… little bits and pieces that God is teaching me in the small moments.

This post might seem like a ramble. But I’ve decided to write the small revelations I have gotten in the past month. Not just when the breakthrough happens, just the learning and the in-process moments that I am currently in. Because for some of these, the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. The truth and revelation are there. But the sinking in and accepting it as a reality in my heart hasn’t occurred yet.

It will. In time.

But for now… I process.

#1) We have to let men be men. My goodness, have I received and realized this conviction in the past month. My relationship has recently taken a “re-vamp,” if you will, after a few hard conversations, followed by a couple of weeks on a break to let God speak and work on us. I had become frustrated that he wasn’t leading how I wanted him to… Was his work ethic an issue? Did he have ambition or drive? Follow-through? These questions surged as I forced my hand into his life, bringing about my own motion to things I felt he should be working towards, trying to make him the guy I would want to be with. I led. I controlled and didn’t let go. Until I broke. And realized that what was happening wasn’t sustainable. If we wanted a successful, kingdom-minded relationship, he didn’t just have to lead. I had to let go. I had to take a step back… let him grow… give him space to step up.

And this is the moment. Because, women – the moment you let go, real men will step up and lead. As women, that is often the most terrifying part; letting go and trusting someone else with the plans. Trusting someone will take charge of their life and therefore lead you well. Real men will do it. They will shape up, get their life together, chase after their dreams and goals, and pursue you with everything they have. They just need to be given space to do it. And you must make the choice to relinquish your control over his life or keep trying to take the lead. Show him you believe in him enough to lead you.

Men don’t need more mothers. They need best friends, supporters, believers, cheerleaders, partners. Women who will be with them in the trial and error, the failure and the success. 

#2) Shame is stupid. I’ve realized there are two things that keep us out of the Throne Room of God – our sin and our shame about our sin. Shame is just as much of a hindrance to intimacy with God as our sin. It is our sin that puts a barrier between us and God, but when we realize our sin and are too shameful to run to Him in it, we are refusing to walk out of a jail cell that isn’t even locked. God is the safest place to go to in our mess. It is why David is considered a man after God’s own heart, despite being an adulterer and murderer. Because in his darkest and most shameful sin, He RAN, broken, unhindered and unfiltered, into the Throne Room and the arms of a loving Father, full of repentance and desperate for forgiveness.

#3) Comparison makes me want to vomit lately. Last week a female co-worker looked me up and down and then asked if I wanted a winter coat. She had bought it when she weighed 180-190 and was “very large” and now it simply was way too big on her (she AND her dog fit in it)…so she thought I’d want it. I looked at her wide-eyed and smiled that I would love the coat, later sulking in this realization that this woman not only thought I was much larger than she was, but also assumed I weighed around 180-190 lbs. It was a comparison trap – bait that was sitting there, waiting for me to take, telling me that I should absorb the words into my being, compare how my beauty measures up to the women around me, and immediately begin dieting. Women! We must put an end to this! Be the most complete version of you that you were created to be! You are enough! Stop provoking comparison out of other women by self-promoting. Rant over.

#4) Joy the Baker’s new cookbook is changing my life. Changing my life is an exaggeration. But I’m totally in love with it. It’s worth every penny. Buy it.

#5) Spaghetti squash and eggplant are secretly delicious. I’m obsessing about these two things right now. I made this recipe for a friend and it was TO DIE FOR. I’ve also been eating too much eggplant parmesan because Trader Joe’s sells these breaded eggplant cutlets in the frozen food section and they are unbelievable. Pan-sear them, sprinkle parmesan on them, the serve them over spaghetti and a tomato sauce of your choice. SO good.

This ended up being more of a top 5 things that are on my mind right now. Pick and choose which one you’d like to hold on to for your week.

I’d Rather Be Surprised

4 weeks ago, I sat in my discipleship group… crying.

Pathetic, woah-is-me, sack-cloth-and-ashes tears.

About boys.

And how I had prayed for everyone to start dating and then everyone (well.. a lot of people) had started dating. Just like I prayed for. But I must have been overlooked because there was just no one for me. I must have been exempt from my own prayers. Forgotten. Left behind.

I must have a fatal flaw. I must be too ugly. Too fat. Too emotional. Too… whatever. Because clearly… no one was coming to pursue me.

It was a low… being a 24-year-old woman and crying about boys.

“I must have missed it.” I cried to them. “I must be forgotten. It’s like it’s everyone BUT me.”

How many times do we feel like that? “It’s everyone BUT me.” We look around at our group of friends and see movement and provision. But that one tender spot of our own hearts, that place we’ve been believing for for years, is still left as a desire unfulfilled.

So we ache. And groan. And sometimes cry for this thing. Hoping and fighting, but often discouraged by the lack of any forward motion we see in front of us.

One of the biggest desires in my heart over the past 6 years has been to be pursued by a man of God.

Despite sounding superficial, it has been a very significant thing in my heart.

I haven’t dated anyone since I was 18. So for 6 years, it has been pushing in and believing for a man of God to pursue me, often when nothing looked hopeful. It has been filled with liking boys who haven’t liked me in return, boys asking me on dates who I wasn’t interested in, and seasons of God saying “wait.”

Waiting is freaking hard.

And a part of me thought I would be waiting forever.

But God is good and kind.

Waiting is not a forever kind of thing. 

There wasn’t some secret formula to having a desire fulfilled. But there was a release.

After that crying session, I went to a Heidi Baker conference that night. And something shifted during it. Where I looked at my circumstances and had this realization…

I had no idea when things were going to change. 

I became so hopeful that at literally any moment, things could change. Circumstances could shift. A man could come walking out of the wilderness and start pursuing me. I had no idea what my next moments would hold!

That night felt like Christmas Eve. I could hardly sleep. I was on the edge of my seat… thrilled at the potential and hope for every future day of my life.

“I have no idea when things are going to change.” I kept giggling to myself. Today could be the day. TODAY COULD BE THE DAY!

He’s the ultimate surprise artist. It’s the reason we’re not told the date or time He will return. He lives in the unexpected, surprise moments simply to delight us. Sure… He could tell us every detail. But He doesn’t. He doesn’t for the sake of our tender hearts and the magnification of His kindness.

He delights in us. It is His great pleasure to surprise us with good gifts.

So I became thankful for my season – knowing that at any second, things could change.

And three days later, I started talking to this boy. This boy who loves Jesus whole-heartedly. This boy who is Spirit-filled, Spirit-lead, joyful, tender-hearted and compassionate. And a week later he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Friends.

You never know when things are going to change.

He’s the ultimate surprise artist. Give Him a chance to prove it.