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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Why Breaking Up Is Okay

So early writing about this, yes I know.

Wise to post about my dating journey for the world to read? Who knows.

But I hold on to the foundational belief that vulnerability brings freedom. In me… but also in others.

Therefore, I will continue to be vulnerable on this blog. 

I am aware my students read this. It’s frightening and slightly nauseating to write personal revelations and have students approach you about them the next day. But I have nothing to hide. There is no shame in the journey and process. And I don’t just teach with my words… I teach with my life. It holds me to a higher standard but also makes admitting my failures even more important. If I reveal the real me, they will learn how normal they are… that their failures do not define them. If I share my revelations with them now, they could miss entire difficult seasons that I had to walk through because of my choices. It’s why I will talk to them like I’m a person and not just their teacher who they know nothing about. I will be authentic with them. I will answer their questions when they ask them, using discernment and discretion along the way. And I will continue to write.

I am on the other side of a break-up. A very recent, 4 days ago break-up.

And I’m okay.

I really am. I’m not saying that to be in denial or stuff anything down or numb myself. I really am, 150% okay.

This is the most peaceful breakup I have ever experienced in my life. Not pain-less, no. It was painful. It hurt in a deep pain that resonated through my chest as he mustered up an “I’m so sorry” on Monday night; An “I’m sorry” that I was bursting at the seams with as well as I listened to the pain in his voice. I was sorry. It hurt us both and I cried and still do cry about it sometimes. But my spirit is at rest within me. I am full of hope and resolved that this was and is the right thing in this season for both of us.

My plans took a slight detour. They were redirected in a way I didn’t anticipate. Our relationship had the best of intentions but was just not working. And it was no one’s fault. Both of us were giving it our all. But after a weekend of conversations, we realized we were just on two totally different pages. And God was saying “let go.”

This is why breaking up is okay. 

Because the revelation that “all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purposes” means that these past 5 months haven’t been in vain. For either one of us. 

Because obedience to God above all things is what we both value the most.

Because He has our best intentions in mind – He will not leave of forsake us. Breaking up was hard for both of us. But obedience to God is completely worth it.

And the truth that God can be trusted and wants my best in the midst of my pain and risking changes any perspective I might have on this situation. In places where I feel exposed, I am somehow covered and protected by the One who knows my heart best.

There are no disappointments with God. There are things that happen in unexpected or painful ways. But I can choose to grab on to them as a disappointment, or I can choose to believe that it’s just another step – it’s another part of the process. It’s another piece of the journey. It’s another season I get to choose intimacy with God. And it must mean this isn’t the end of the story for me. 

I am taking the time to mourn the things when they come up. Realizing Valentine’s Day is next weekend or that I won’t be getting unexpected flowers or taken on dates for a while is sad and painful in moments. But every time a new memory comes up, I choose to feel it all. To let it bubble to the surface. To mourn it. To cry. And then to release it. And to embrace the new season. There will be days where I’ll miss those things more than others. But that’s just not the season I’m now currently in. I won’t be forever in a season of not being pursued. But for now, I am. And the pain just means that I was actually fully present in that relationship – it means I opened my heart and was giving myself to the thing God had placed in my life. And that, in spite of the pain, is so worth it. And by the grace of God, I am less afraid of pain than I’ve ever been in my life.

So for now, my days will be spent investing in my friendships and lifegroups and students.

Neither the previous season nor current season is better or worse. Neither season is lived in vain. 

A life lived obedient to God will never escape what He has for you in that exact perfect season. He knows you better than you know yourself. Trust Him when it’s painful and uncomfortable. Embrace the fullness of the season He has for you right now.

Disclaimer: This post is probably one of the more vulnerable things I’ve written and I’ve questioned posting it. You should know that I hold my most recent relationship and the guy I was dating in the HIGHEST respect. It was one of the most fun, intentional, and refining seasons of my entire life. I learned a TON. And I still, to this day, think he is an absolutely fantastic man of God who honored and pursued me well and gave our relationship everything he had. We are still friends. There are no hard feelings, no bitterness, no resentment. The reason I chose to post it is because I have been shocked at the process and how peaceful and hopeful it has been. It makes me believe that dating in the Church can survive and withstand breakups and that gets me really excited. 

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.

The Glorious Now

Around 3 years ago, this lovely little thing called Pinterest came into my life.

And I don’t know about you guys, but Pinterest is straight up, my jam.

I love it. 

I love it for being a teacher. I love it for decorating my house. I love it for cooking. I love it for exercising. I love it. I’m very “pro-Pinterest.”

It gets my mind dreaming and creating. It allows me to see things according to their potential, and not their current chaos. It gets me stoked to take on a new project. Like lately I’ve been doing some  furniture rehab. Not that I’ve gotten super crazy with it, but still! Pinterest is there telling me “Hey, Courtney. You’re so creative. You can make your house look like anything you want it to look like! You can be as organized as this teacher on this blog right here! You can do ALL OF IT.” 

And I’ve tapped into this whole other side of myself I didn’t know I had. This girl who loves the potential of what things could be – who lives for the “will be one day”. 

There is SO much value in dreaming. There’s value in seeing the hidden beauty in things when they aren’t there yet. It gives us hope for what’s to come. If a day seems bad, we have promises and words and dreams to hold on to about things to come. And we maintain hope. 

As prophetic people who can hear the voice of God, we see things that aren’t yet as if they were already. We get promises from God about situations around us or victories we’re GOING to have or the person we’re GOING to be. 

We need this. We need the dreaming and the promises for a hope and a future. We need it to live.

But sometimes, these fulfillments don’t come immediately. And as receivers of the promises of God, when things don’t happen when or how we want them, or how we expect the promises to pan out, we gather up disappointment by the fistful. 

We then shove them up to God, pouting “BUT YOU PROMISED.” Another day goes by where the promise didn’t happen. And we disappear from the present; sulking and persevering and pressing in for what isn’t yet.

Our days become occupied with what is to come and what isn’t yet. We work FOR something or TO BE someone we aren’t yet. Because we’ve heard “the best is YET to come.” So we look forward to tomorrow or maybe even the day after because then, maybe then, the best WILL come then. Just not yet. 

My life seems to be full of “not-yet’s.

My house is not-yet put together quite how I’d like it to be.

My classroom is not-yet as organized as I’d like it to be.

My family has not-yet experienced the major breakthrough they need.

I’m not-yet dating someone after what seems like a while of waiting.

I caught myself occupied in them this morning. I held these promises from God tight in my fists, swarmed with pressing in to the ‘not-yet’s’, disappointed and heartbroken by the middle time.

And then it was like I rubbed my eyes and woke up.

I’d been missing it. 

I’d been missing the glorious right now. 

If every day has a greater glory than the day before it, that means every day HAS glory. And it’s my job to see it – to find the glory in the now – to absorb all of the glory that’s wrapped up in today.

And then, go to bed knowing that tomorrow is going to hold even more.

Dreams were created to give us hope for AMAZING glories to come – not bind us to an obsession with the future.

When my life is occupied by the ‘not-yet’s’, I miss the oh-so glorious now. I don’t see the glories in the moments that pass me. I’m too busy thinking about “what could be” or “what isn’t yet.”

So on my way to school… I danced. A lot.

I blasted music and jammed.

I noticed a gorgeous bush full of red flowers at my school I’d literally never noticed before.

I became overwhelmingly thankful for a lot of friendships in my life. 

There were glories… I just had to look for them.

But “He will complete what He appoints for me…” 

He will bring about fulfillment to His promises.

It’s my job to enjoy the glorious now.

Yes, the best IS yet to come. 

But the key to contentment is knowing the greatest glories of my life so far are happening today.

It’s our job to find them.