Why I’ve Stopped Guarding My Heart

There’s something on the tip of my tongue.

I don’t know what it is but it’s burning in me. I think it could be the thing causing the migraine right now.

I can barely sit still as I think about what I want to say but don’t have language for yet. So here’s to hoping that somehow, as I write this, my words with transform into what has actually been wrestling inside my heart for days.

I wasn’t made for the waiting room. 

For my whole life, as I’ve grown and walked with Jesus, one of the things I’ve been trained in is how to guard my heart. Guard your heart, Courtney. Guard your heart. Guard your heart.

What does this mean?

In my mind it’s meant protect yourself. Keep yourself safe. Don’t give your heart away.

Hear me out – There is validity to this. 

We aren’t called to flippantly throw our hearts towards passions and people that are not from God. Especially when it is the wrong time and they are the wrong things.

But what happens when they are the right things?

What happens when Love begins to beg you to let your heart lead?

I’ve realized lately how risky Love is. And as a woman who struggles with wanting to maintain control over her life, I fear the totality of allowing Love to lead. Who might I be if I wholly surrender to It? What kind of decisions might I make if I let Love lead me instead of my own logic and reasoning? 

This is a terrifying reality to me.

Can’t I trust Love? Can’t I allow It to lead me into the good and pleasing will of God? God who is Love?

I still want control. And I realize it’s because I don’t completely trust my own heart. It has led me astray in moments before. It has been persuaded by beautiful words and empty promises and manipulated by false romance. How, then, can I allow Love… Love that is a matter of the heart and not the mind… to lead me? 

I can’t reason out falling in Love with Jesus. I can’t lay out enough evidence for why I should fall in Love with the Most Holy. I love Him, surely. But have I risked allowing that Love to consume me? To surrender my control and fall hopelessly into Love with Jesus?

When I fall in Love, there won’t be a logical reason for why I follow. I won’t be able to soundly prove why I will follow Him wherever He urges my heart to go. I won’t be able to argue my point for why I will obey His calling no matter what. My heart will be controlled by Love and nothing else. I will have lost control.

But He’s worth my whole heart.

He’s worth the surrender.

He can be trusted to lead and guide me into good and pleasing things.

My heart can be found completely safe within His calling.

Sometimes it feels safer to stay in the waiting room. 

We get into a comfortable place of waiting on a promise – interceding for the breakthrough. We know that we’re kept safe in the waiting room and at the right moment, the promise will come. So we gather in words and visions and promises for what might be on the other side of the waiting room. We develop expectancy. We foster unbreakable hope in the waiting room.

This is all well and good. It’s what we’re supposed to do in that season.

But how will we respond when Love calls our name? 

When He begs us out of the waiting room and into the promise? 

We must risk to believe.

We must risk to let Love lead.

We must risk to follow His calling – that He will keep us safe.

Sometimes, we are no longer called to guard our own hearts. Sometimes, when Love calls, He promises to be the One that guards our hearts instead. Sometimes, we’re supposed to open it up to whole-heartedly believing the fulfillment has arrived.

At the right time, we’re called to step out of the boat. And to maintain focus on the One who called us out of what felt so safe and comfortable. And into the risk.

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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.

Date A Guy Who…

“He’s cute, and sweet, and funny, and has GREAT hair.” 

These would probably be things you would find in my 6th grade journal, written about whatever guy of the week I had a crush on. And that would probably be the extent of the list. The fact that he had talked to me at least once that week was also a major qualifying factor. Bonus points if you chatted me first on AIM.

Gratefully, my list of things I look for in a boyfriend has become a little less… superficial. But even now, the things I’ve realized I need aren’t the things I’ve expected.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned while dating The Boy is that dating doesn’t look how you think it’s going to look. Such is life, though. You can be as prepared as you can be, but there’s no formula for your exact relationship. You’re going to have to undergo many rounds of trial and error, finding out what works and what most definitely doesn’t. And along the way, you’re going to discover qualities about the person you are dating that you had no idea were so important.

So women, through my process, here are things I believe I should’ve added to my list…

1. Date a guy who is patient. One of the thing I am continually blown away with is The Boy’s patience. He is by far one of the most patient people I have ever met. Even when things irritate or frustrate him, he never raises his voice or yells. And I am a woman who needs a handful of grace. Unfortunately, I do have stereotypical mood swings. I am not always nice. And I am not always loving. But he has shown countless amounts of patience towards me when I am not so deserving.

2. Date a guy who isn’t afraid of your emotions. This one is huge. Women’s emotions are a lot for guys to handle. Very rarely, if ever, do they feel things as deeply as women do. So living life in close proximity with a human who feels things on a totally different level than they do is probably…. honestly… a little draining at times. Date a man who isn’t intimidated by the fact that you have emotions. Date a man who won’t run away from them, but instead will sit there and listen to what you’re feeling. And later, you can admit you were acting crazy and you can both laugh about it together.

3. Date a guy who doesn’t pursue you perfectly. Because where’s the depth in that? Now hear me out about this one. I didn’t say “doesn’t pursue you well.” But a perfect pursuit is overrated. And honestly, there’s only One who is the perfect Pursuer. Date a man who pursues you as best as he personally can, and who is consistently trying to learn more about how to pursue you better. Date a man who is a student of your heart… who is willing to take the risk and time to fail and get up and try again. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly will teach you how to communicate in ways you didn’t know how to before. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly will allow you to understand your own heart better. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly, but pursues you with vulnerability, enthusiasm and teachability is a game-changer. Do not compare your pursuit with the relationships around you. This.. this right here in front of you… this is YOUR pursuit… YOUR relationship. Date a man who learns the keys to your heart and remembers them.

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4. Date a guy who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings. In my mind, there’s nothing more irritating than someone who doesn’t tell you how they’re really feeling because they’re too scared they’ll offend you. You can’t have an intimate relationship with that person because you never know what’s really going on. Date a guy who tells you what he really is thinking and feeling and isn’t afraid it’s going to hurt your feelings. I’m not saying he communicates his thoughts with anger, bitterness or finger-pointing. But he isn’t afraid to tell you he doesn’t agree with you or that how you acted earlier that day really hurt his feelings. Or even better, date a guy who isn’t afraid to call you out on your junk, but calls you up to the woman God created you to be. Date a guy who challenges your thought patterns. Date a guy who calls out when you’re believing lies.

5. Date a guy with flaws. There’s an episode in Parks and Rec when Ann Perkins is first dating Chris Traeger and likes him but can’t find anything wrong with him. She says “He’s like a perfect human person. I can’t find anything wrong with him.” Then, not long after that, Chris gets embarrassingly sick with the flu and Ann has to take care of him in all of his.. well.. mess. And she is relieved that she has finally seen some of his flaws.

THIS IS REAL LIFE.

Dating someone who is flawless is both unrealistic and dumb. I’m not saying major, red-flag flaws here. But I am encouraging you to date someone who isn’t afraid to let you see their flaws. It takes vulnerability and a ton of bravery to let someone see the places in you that aren’t perfect. Dating someone is…

their flaws + your flaws = your relationship (iron sharpening iron)

When someone allows you to see their flaws, it also brings out your own. And with flaws out in the open, you go into situations together fully dependent on God to be the Perfect One and make you stronger. Meanwhile, you press in and sharpen each other, making each other look more and more like Jesus. Sure, it’s a little difficult at times. But it’s good. It’s soooo good. Don’t be afraid of the flaws. You have just as many. Learn to work through the mess with someone, not alone. Their flaws rubbing up against your flaws is just part of the process.

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.

My Boyfriend’s Girlfriend

After months of single-Christian-girl posts, this was bound to happen, right?

I was bound to start dating someone… the waiting time was bound to end… and my posts were bound to turn into “how to rock at dating” posts.

So let me just put this out there.

After not dating someone for 6 years, getting all sorts of wisdom and revelation about it, finding contentment in my singleness, developing patience, going crazy deep with God, getting healed from all sorts of stuff… I just assumed that I would be the best girlfriend ever. 

Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve had 6 years of waiting. 6 years of being patient. 6 years of watching friends date, learning from their mistakes, hoarding wisdom.

I was going to nail this whole dating thing.

Folks.

That is not what has happened.

I am not the perfect girlfriend.

Despite my surplus of stored knowledge, I have failed on more than one occasion. And the vast majority of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing.

I have had my feelings hurt by things that are so minor and insignificant. And yes, before this, I would’ve considered myself extremely secure and confident. If a girl would’ve come to me a few months ago, telling me that her feelings had been hurt by the things my feelings have been hurt by, I would’ve laughed. “Get over yourself,” I would’ve smirked at her. “You’re just being insecure.”

You see. My boyfriend’s girlfriend has been the furthest thing from perfect. She has not been entirely patient. She has given her insecurities and doubts room to run around in her brain. She has felt needy and therefore more insecure. She has whined. She has cried for a whole Sunday afternoon because of a bad dream. She has been annoyed. She has believed lies.

My boyfriend’s girlfriend is not who I thought she’d be.

I thought she’d be perfect. I though would be perfect.

I realize this sounds ridiculous… no one can be perfect. I get that.

But I thought this would come easier to me.

The reality is that dating is wonderful. It is so incredibly wonderful and fun. But it is so refining…allowing someone to come into the mess and imperfection of your life.

When you are single, your mess and imperfection affect your roommates and close friends and that’s about it. The majority of the time, your mess and imperfection are something between you and God. When you get moody, you get away and get with God. If you don’t want to talk to people for a while, that’s fine. You don’t have to. If you need a weekend to yourself, sure. Go for it. Your schedule is yours.

When you are dating, someone is in the mess with you. They are unashamedly walking into your insecurities, fears, doubts. They are doing life WITH you. And there’s no running away. There’s no hiding from your mess… your selfishness… your pride. It all surfaces and makes itself known pretty quickly.

It is the iron sharpening iron. 

It is the moments you realize how you’ve spent a good portion of your life only thinking about how things would affect you… you’ve never considered how they would affect someone else.

It’s after conversations and interactions realizing how much of you is still not yet there… how much of you still doesn’t look like Jesus.

Being single was a wonderful thing. Being single was actually way easier than dating.

But I had no idea how selfish my heart had become… how unwilling it was to share… how independent and self-sufficient I had grown to be.

I am being refined in the most marvelous way in this season. Insecurities I thought had been conquered are revealing themselves to need even more victory.

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And I am walking through it all with the most patient, servant-hearted, steady man I know. I am honored to be sharpened and pursued by him. And if there is one phrase we have continued to encourage each other with in this season, it’s this:

There’s grace to figure it out. 

We must extend patience to each other in the process of learning how to date in a God-honoring way.

We must forgive and offer grace for those moments of miscommunication and unmet expectations.

Perfection isn’t expected from either one of us.

Pursuit of Him is.

And in the process of figuring out how to be my boyfriend’s girlfriend, I am learning how desperate my heart has been to fully embrace His grace all along.