Thanksgiving Post 2018

It’s Thanksgiving season once again. The time when Turkeys roast in the oven and Santa Clause makes his way across New York for the Macey’s Day Parade. The time when we visit family and the weather starts to get just a little bit cooler. And, in honor of Thanksgiving being just a little over a week away, I have made a list of things that I am thankful for.

So, without further ado, here is my 2018 Thanksgiving Post! 

  1. Growing stronger in my faith – This year, I have made so many spiritual breakthroughs, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the ways that I have grown closer to God. I have found so much joy in the Lord in 2018 and am constantly blown away by the ways that I see Him working in my life. I have become more intentional in my faith and have seen the impact of this on every other area of my life, including my struggle with OCD and anxiety. I am truly blessed by all of the things that God has given me – but most of all, I am blessed by the ways that He continues to reveal Himself to me! God is so good y’all!
  2. My family – My family has been there for me through the good and the bad. They’ve supported me in my dreams and ambitions and have helped shape me into the person that I am today. They are the people who know me the best and who have seen me grow from a tiny human being into the young woman that I am today. I am thankful for their support, their guidance, and their example. And I am thankful for each and every member of my family.
  3. My friends – I am thankful for both my old friends, who I have grown up with, and the new friends that I have made this year (you know who you are!). God has surrounded me with some of the most incredible friends that a girl could ask for, and I am thankful for all of the people that He has brought into my life. If any of you guys are reading this right now, I just want to say, you all are the BEST!
  4. My church – This year, I have started attending a new church that’s literally ten minutes from my house – and I absolutely love it! The people there are so awesome and they have truly become my church family. I wrote a whole post on them, which you can read about here! God has blessed me so much as I have gotten plugged in at this church, which brings me to my next point…
  5.  Becoming a youth leader – This year, I have become a leader at my church’s youth group! I have wanted the chance to do this since I was about twelve, and this year, it all came to pass for me! Growing up, I was inspired by the example of the college leaders at my own youth group, and I always wanted the chance to be the example and role model to younger students that my own leaders were to me. And through my leadership at this youth group, I have had the chance to pray with students and encourage them in their walk with God. I couldn’t be more thankful for this incredible opportunity!
  6. Getting healthy – I have made a point not to remain silent about my struggle with OCD and anxiety on this blog. I am a big believer in being real and sharing our struggles with the intent of encouraging some else. However, over this past year, I have noticed it lessening way more than ever before. I have been dealing less with anxious thoughts and I have been making a conscious effort to move past stressful patterns of thinking. I have started combating my OCD with prayer and have begun opening up more to those around me – which has greatly helped me in my battle with OCD! I am thankful for this progress and believe that I will get even healthier in 2019!
  7. My education – This year, I have started taking my BA classes through Liberty University online and my AA classes through a local community college. When I first decided to go to Liberty, I was under the impression that my community college credits wouldn’t transfer, but this year, found out they would and have begun working on both parts of my degree at once. It has been a little crazy, trying to keep everything with school together, but God has walked with me through it all! And He has given me incredible opportunities with my education that I am truly thankful for!
  8. Writing – As always, I am thankful for the chance to express my thoughts, beliefs, and ideas through the written word. I have always loved writing, and this year, I have begun making an intentional effort to post more! Earlier in the year, a bunch of my friends started reading my blog, and through their encouragement, I decided to start posting something new each week! It has been an incredible blessing to hear their feedback on my posts and I am thankful for their challenge to write weekly! It has truly been incredible!
  9. Everyday blessings – There are so many things in our day-to-day life that we legit take for granted. Food. Water. Clothing. Shelter. Clean air. Life itself. I am thankful for all of these things and more. I am thankful for warm tea on cold December nights. I am thankful for the smell of the ocean at the beach. I am thankful for moments of laughter, joy, and wonder. I am thankful for the night sky. I am thankful for memories, tucked away in old scrapbooks. I am thankful for these everyday blessings. And I want to do my best to avoid taking them for granted.
  10. Freedom – I am thankful for the freedom that our soldiers have fought for so that we can live for and worship our God above. I am thankful that I live in a country where I can blog about my faith, and express it freely. I am thankful for those who have paid the ultimate price for all of this. I am thankful to live in America.

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How about you? What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below! Also, I am taking next week off from blogging for Thanksgiving – but I hope you all have an awesome holiday!😃

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Your Story Matters

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved stories. 

I have always loved the feel of the pages in my hand. I have always loved journeying with a character through the chapters of their life. I have always loved the feeling of crisp new pages in my hand, and the smell of a brand new book, just waiting to be opened. I learned to read at the age of three and I haven’t stopped since.

However, stories do not just exist within the pages of a poem or novel. They exist within in our lives. And every day, as we live, we are adding a new chapter to the story of our life. 

I have always felt that life is, in some ways, like a story. We are the characters and God is the author. He creates us and molds us into the person that He wants us to be. He places dreams, hopes, and desires within each one of us that we can use to serve His Kingdom. And sometimes, he allows us to face trials and plot twists—all so that we can grow and experience character development in the grand story that we call life.

Chances are, you likely have quite a few chapters in your story that have already been written. If you are in middle, high school, or college, than there is a good chance that you have already experienced God’s faithfulness in various points at your life. You have likely already had experiences that have shaped you. You likely already have a testimony. And if you are alive and breathing as you read this today, than I fully believe that God wants to use your story for His purpose and glory—and that you can impact lives right where you are, all through choosing the brave path of sharing your story. 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking to yourself that your story isn’t very interesting. I’m here to tell you otherwise. The belief that your story has to be big and dramatic to impact those around you is a lie straight from the enemy. Though those big, dramatic life-altering testimonies are inspiring and powerful, they are not the only stories God can use to impact lives. Sometimes, even the most ordinary examples of everyday faithfulness can speak volumes about God and His power and presence in our walk with Him. 

In fact, just the other day, I saw this truth in motion as I had an old friend text me out of the blue. We haven’t talked in months, so we had a lot to catch up on. I asked her how school was going, and she said it was going well. She told me about her involvement in a campus ministry at her university. I told her about the church that I’ve been going to ever since just before summer. She told me about her boyfriend, who she’s been dating for over a year now. Basically, the typical stuff of college and life.

However, as we talked, we eventually got into more personal details of our lives, and I had the chance to tell her about a situation that I’ve been dealing with over this past school year. When I finished, she texted back a response. She told me that she thought it was so cool that I could see that this situation was for God’s greater glory, even though it has been hard for me. I had the opportunity in this moment to direct the praise back to God, noting that He has been teaching me to trust Him more through this situation.

After we finished talking, I couldn’t help but let that conversation play over and over again in my mind. Never once would I have thought that I would have a testimony in the midst of this situation, but God turned that moment into the chance to inspire a friend in her faith. He used my story to impact another story. And this is really the essence of the Christian life—changed lives changing lives. People spurring each other on in the faith. Christians lifting up the name of Jesus through their life!

And I’ve had so many people encourage me in my faith through their own lives. I can still remember one incident a while back, where I felt like I was so behind on being an “adult“. I was still in the process of trying to get my driver’s license and I felt young compared with the rest of my friends. I felt like I was lagging behind and I was far from where I always wanted to be at that point in my life.

During this time, God spoke into my life through someone who said that they also felt behind on “adulting” and where they thought they thought they would be at this stage of life. Here they were, older than me and dealing with many of the same struggles. God spoke through this person and helped me to feel more OK with everything—just through this individual’s obedience in sharing their story. And if I were to think long and hard about it, I know I could come up with a thousand other incidents like this—where someone else’s story has impacted my own. Where I have been encouraged by another believer’s testimony. Where someone else’s faithfulness has impacted my journey.

This week, I want to encourage you to let others into your story. To share about the times that God has been faithful—in the midst of the good, the bad, and the ugly. To live your life as a testimony to God’s love, power, and faithfulness.

To inspire others through the power of a story. 

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How about you? Have you ever been impacted by another person’s story (or testimony)? Or have you ever had the chance to impact someone else through your story? If so, feel free to share about it in the comments section below—I’d love to hear your story!😃

 

Pumpkins & Faith

When I was little, my family used to go to the pumpkin patch every year to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween. 

Though we didn’t usually go Trick Or Treating, or do much else remotely Halloween-related, I always loved carving the annual pumpkin and personalizing it to put in front of our house. I would draw a face on it with a sharpie and my dad would carve it. Sometimes, I would even take it a one step further, and personalize the pumpkin with a bow. Yes, I was that kid.

However, there was one part of carving the pumpkin that I always hated—cleaning it! I was never a big fan of the scent and the stuff inside of it always used to gross me out. It was wet and slimy—and sometimes it would take forever to pull it all out! Nonetheless, if we wanted to carve it, and put a light inside of it at the end, we had to do it. Cleaning the pumpkin was all part of the process of turning it from an ordinary pumpkin into a masterpiece. 

It’s a lot like that with our faith journey, isn’t it? Sometimes, in our own life, it can feel a lot like God is “cleaning us out”. When He is bringing us through a season of tremendous growth. When He is working through our baggage and old habits. When He is freeing us of strongholds or allowing circumstances that force us to grow.

These kinds of seasons can be hard, and they often aren’t pleasant, but they are absolutely essential in the life of the Christian. We must let God “clean us out” so that we can shine brightly for Him and become all that He intended for us to be.

1 Corinthians 5:17-21 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God loved each and every one of us when we were still in the “pumpkin patch”. When we were dirty, and plain, and filled with pumpkin goop. But He also loves us far too much to let us stay there! Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, OLord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This point is further illustrated in Ephesians 2:10, where the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians that, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.As Christians, we are all living in the process of sanctification, where God takes ordinary “pumpkins” and turns them into a masterpiece!

He puts a “light” inside of each one of us so that we can shine for Him and live for His Kingdom!  Matthew 5:14-16 says,You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Like pumpkins, God calls us each to shine our lights so that we may point people to Him through our life, our words, and our love!

This fall, as you walk past pumpkins in the grocery store, or in your neighborhood, take a moment to remember all that God has done and is continuing to do in your life! Take a moment to be thankful for how far God has brought you in your faith journey. And, never stop shining your light for Jesus!

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20.

How about you? Have you ever gone through a time where you felt like a pumpkin—when God was taking you through a season of growth? If you have, feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear your stories! 

Prayer – This Is How I Fight My Battles

A while back, I heard a really cool worship song called Surrounded by Michael W. Smith. 

It mostly repeats the same two lines throughout, but it’s such a great song with such a great message that I felt led to share it on this blog. It says, “This is how I fight my battles…it may look like I’m surrounded by I’m surrounded by You.” It’s a song about prayer as spiritual warfare. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.

Over this past summer I challenged myself to go deeper in my prayer life, and doing so has helped me so much in my daily battles, challenges, and concerns. It has given me peace in the midst of hardships and joy as I approach each day. I used to struggle while praying, because that’s when my OCD would typically kick in the hardest, but lately, it has been through prayer that I’ve been better able to combat it.

It is through prayer that I have been able to fight my battles. 

The Bible talks about this very subject in Ephesians 6. It instructs us to put on the full armor of God to fight our battles and live victoriously. It says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:14-18)

As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the enemy every day. And the only way that we can effectively fight it is through seeking God consistently through prayer. 

The other day, I started reading a book by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word. And in this book, she notes of the above passage…

Only one piece of the armor is actually a weapon. The figurative belt, shield, breastplate, shoes, and helmet are all defensive pieces of armor intended to keep us from being injured by the weapons of the evil one. The sword of the Spirit, clearly identified as the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God. Second Corinthians 10:3 uses the plural, assuring us we have weapons for warfare. What would the other primary weapon be? Perhaps additional weapons might be identified elsewhere, but I believe the other primary weapon of our warfare is stated right after the words identifying the sword of the Spirit as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17. The next verse says “And I pray in the Spirit in all occasions.” I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.

Prayer, along with regular time in the Word, are our best bets of defense against spiritual attacks. And when we do these things daily, seeking God with our whole heart, we’ll have so much more strength to fight the battles that we face each day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it doesn’t have to be anything long, it just has to be sincere.

If you’re not sure what to pray about, try making a list. Write down the things that are concerning you and start talking to God about them. Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety, or being bullied at school. Ask God to give you peace and the strength to endure and love your enemy. If you have a good friend who doesn’t know God, pray for her, and ask God to reveal Himself to her. If you see a lot of darkness at your school, pray over it—and ask that God would bring redemption and hope to the people there.

Lastly, don’t forget to praise God! Thank Him for all that He’s done for you and praise Him for who He is. You can do this by simply talking to Him, or by putting on some good worship music and praising Him through the lyrics.

The important thing is to stay connected to Him, and the way that we stay connected to anyone is through regular conversation with them!

To conclude, if any of you guys have prayer requests for me, feel free to contact me through my DM on Instagram or Twitter @authorcourtney1 or through my email address, at courtneyloves2read@gmail.com. Just be sure to title it “Prayer Request” so I know what it is! I’m always happy to pray with/for you all!

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“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther.

How about you? How has prayer impacted you in your own life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

Change

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when leaves change along with our wreaths. When we pull out our sweaters and jackets and head over to Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice. When stores put out their Halloween and Christmas decorations side by side. And when the weather finally starts to cool down to something more tolerable.*

For most of us, this is a change that we welcome. It’s exciting to bring in a new season and all of the activities that come with it. It’s a pleasant change—one that we mark our calendars with and anticipate until the day of its arrival. It’s the kind of change that we as humans actually like. However, as most of us know, there is another kind of change as well. One that is far more disruptive and far less pleasant.

And for most of us, this is the kind of change that we could do without. 

I’m going to be honest. I’ve never been the kind of person that welcomes change. I thrive on schedules and routines and things staying the same. I’m what some people would call a ‘creature of habit‘—and in most cases, I avoid change like the plague. But sometimes, change is exactly what God uses to help us grow. And that’s what I want to talk about in this post. 

A while back, I posted a quote to one of my old blog posts that I believe is fitting here. It reads, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”- C. S. Lewis. In order for God to be able to use us, He has to first grow us as people. And often, the way that He chooses to grow us, whether we can see it at the time or not, is through change. 

This growth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it looks like a breakup, or a change in jobs. Sometimes it’s a difficult season where we can’t see a clear path. Sometimes it means graduating high school or college, and moving onto the next chapter of our lives. These kinds of things are usually really hard—but they’re also some of ways that we grow the most. And God never takes something away unless He has something better for us down the road.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” As Christ-followers we can have full confidence in God’s plans for us, and that He knows what He has in store for our lives—even when we can’t see the big picture. We can wake up every morning believing and declaring God’s goodness, and knowing that He is a God who never changes, and who we can always turn to and lean on in times of trouble. And He is the one who guides our path, even when we can’t see where it leads. 

Because of all of this, I’m slowly getting better at handling change. I’m learning to trust and have faith in what I cannot see. I’m learning what it means to leap—even when it feels like I’m going to fall. And I’m learning to embrace life fully—whatever it chooses to throw in my way.

This week, I want to challenge you to face change head on.

And trust that our God, who is a good, good Father, has great plans for us in the midst of every season and every change. 

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“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8. 

How about you? Have you ever gone through a difficult change in your life? If so, how did you get through it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! 

*Or as my friend says, unless you live in the south—in which case, “you’re still wearing shorts and taking your bf to the beach”. Quote courtesy of Jenna. Hi Jenna.

 

 

True Beauty

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

For many of us, we see things that we don’t want to see. Acne. Weight. Hair that’s too curly/straight/some weird combo of the two. A nose that’s that’s too big or small. etc. etc. etc. Odds are, if you look closely enough, you can find something that you don’t like. And in the world that we live in, we’re told that’s the norm. We’re told everyone hates the way they look. In fact, we’re told that unless we look like an (airbrushed) model on the cover of a magazine, we should hate the way that we look—and do everything in our power to change it.

But God’s word says something different. 

Psalms 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

In our world, we have a very narrow definition of beauty. To the world, beauty means being a size two with perfect hair and a flawless complex. To God, beauty means being you—because every single person that He created is beautiful in His eyes. Every perceived imperfection that you have is beautiful, because it is part of what makes you you—and when when the God of the universe looks down on you, He doesn’t see anything less than someone who is beautiful, worthy, and loved!

Furthermore, despite what our society tells us, beauty is so much more than skin deep. 

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean that it’s wrong to care about your appearance – it is perfectly OK to enjoy dressing nice or wearing makeup and jewelry! But our self worth should never come from these things, and we should never use these things as measuring sticks for our beauty as human beings! Ultimately, the most important thing about us is our heart; and God values the state of our hearts far above our appearance or outward beauty! When a person is truly kindhearted, compassionate, and caring, it makes them a billion times more attractive than someone who just has their looks! 

This week, as you go throughout your days, I want to challenge you to see yourself as God sees you. To wake up each morning that you are loved, beautiful, and cherished by your Creator! To see your self-worth and be able to praise God, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! And to ultimately, focus on your inner beauty—choosing every day to be the kind of person that you would want to have for a friend!

In the words of the old song by Johnny Diaz,

There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do. So there could never be a more beautiful you.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with the way you looked? If so, what helped you to see your worth? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!