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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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.

 

 

Some Lessons From College: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last week, I started my first day back to college for the fall semester—after a summer that flew by way too fast.It was also my first day of my third year of college, which feels funny to say, considering the fact that it seems like just yesterday that I started my first year as a nervous and excited college freshman.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot. About myself. About life. About my faith. And though I still have a long ways off until I graduate, I feel led to share about what I’ve learned so far, and my personal journey as a Christian college student. Hopefully, if any of you are going into college, or in the midst of the insanity of college life, you’ll find this post insightful and helpful!

So, without further ado…here is my list on how to survive as a Christian college student! 

  1. Find a community of believers who share your faith – This is so important y’all. I cannot emphasis this point enough. As Christians, we weren’t meant to do life alone. This is a point that’s emphasized time and time again in Scripture, and through the example of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Furthermore, Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”                    Depending on the college that you’re attending, there is a very good chance that you’re going to be a minority in your faith. Even if you’re going to a Christian college, it is a good idea to get plugged into a smaller club/Bible study/church where you can meet people on a more intimate scale. College life can get pretty hard, but it is so much easier when you have a solid group of Christians in your circle to do life with.
  2. Stay close to God This is an important one for any stage of life, but when you’re in college, it takes on a whole new urgency. College is a time filled with changes. Odds are, you’re probably going to change your major at some point, and a lot of people even change their career path during college. You will probably also have a lot of changes to your schedule and sometimes, even your state. This can be pretty hard for a lot of people (especially if you’re and ENFJ like me!) and staying close to God will give you the security and solid ground that you’ll need to endure these changes. College can be a time for real growth in our faith, but if we don’t actively pursue God through prayer and Bible reading, it can be all too easy to miss out on the lessons that He is trying to teach us.
  3. Ask Questions – For many people, college is a time when people really start thinking about what they believe and why. Many Christians see this as a bad thing—but it doesn’t have to be. I have learned so much through the questions that I’ve dared to ask and the answers that I have found. I would never detour someone from asking hard questions about their faith – because there is no question too big for God to answer. So dare to ask questions and think critically about the world around you. Read books. Listen to lectures. Engage with your faith and make it your own. Asking questions doesn’t mean your losing your faith – it means that you’re growing in it.
  4. Life probably isn’t going to go as planned…and that’s OK – When I got to college, I thought I knew exactly what my plan was. I was going to do two years at a local community college and than transfer to one of my state’s universities. I was going to major in teaching or psychology and than become a teacher. I was going to work at one part-time job all through college. However, when I actually got to college, everything changed. I still am taking classes at the local community college, but rather than going to the university I was planning on, God led me to get my bachelors’ through Liberty University Online with a double major in Linguistics and Theology. I still am working towards becoming a teacher, but there was a journalism detour along the way. And I did get that part time job—but it closed down a few months after I started working there—leading me to a brief office internship and later, to a position at a different store in the same mall. Long story short, nothing turned out the way I thought it would. But God’s plan was better than my plan (isn’t it always?). And now, as chaotic as it was, I’m thankful for every experience that God has given me.
  5. Stay true to your convictions – In college, you’re probably going to meet people who live pretty differently than you. That’s almost inevitable. And as we probably all know, sex, drugs, and alcohol aren’t exactly a rarity on most college campuses. But as a Christ-follower, you have the power within you to stand against temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.Through Christ’s power within us, we can stand courageously against peer pressure and the attacks of the enemy – and dare to live original and be a light in a world surrounded by darkness.
  6. Study what interests you – In college, we have an opportunity like never before to study the subjects that we find interesting. You need electives for your degree anyways, so why not take the time to study things that you care about? You want to become a better communicator? Take a public speaking class! You want to improve in your creative writing skills? Do it! You want to learn more about politics and policy in America? Go for it! You’re only in college once, so take full advantage of the opportunities that God has placed in front of you!
  7. Schedule, schedule, SCHEDULE! – If there’s one thing that any college student will tell you, it’s that time is valuable because in college, you don’t have a lot of it! Between part-time jobs, classes, and church activities, your schedule is going to be full! The good thing is, if you’re careful to plan out your time, you can usually get everything done with some free time still available. Make a to-do-list, or get a daily planner. Prioritize, and decide what’s important and what you can do without. In the words of a quote I found online, “You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.”*
  8. Have a healthy view of your GPA – Grades are super important in college. Many of us know this and have been preparing all through high school to succeed in college. And for those of us aiming to get into a post-bachelors program, the pressure is all the more real. However, never let your grades define you. There is so much more to life than getting that A+ on your exam or making the dean’s list. You have inherent worth as a Child of God that is not rooted in your grade point average—and there is nothing that you can do to change that! So work hard and study hard, but never put your grades in the place where God should be.
  9. Find Godly mentors – 1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[aHumble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Having godly Christian mentors is such a blessing, and I am grateful to all of the older women who have spoken into my life through my transition from high school to college. I would highly recommend finding someone (or a couple of someones) who can speak into your life, and help you through the ups and downs of college life.
  10. Have fun – You’re only in college once, and one day, your going to look back on these days as a faint memory in your rearview mirror. Make them count, and take advantage of the blessings and opportunities that God has placed before you.
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My first day of college back in 2016.
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My first day of college this year.

How about you? Do you have any advice that you would give someone in college? Or any experiences from your own college days that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below! 

*This quote is by Riche Norton, whoever he is.

Salt And Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “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.” – Matthew 5:13-16 

If you’ve been in church for a while, it is more than likely that you’ve heard this passage before. You’ve probably also heard variations of it – with faith-based tee shirts and song lyrics by Christian bands and artists. But what does it really mean to shine your light? What does it look like to impact people for Christ at your school, work, or area of influence? 

In short, shining a light means being bold. It means stepping out of your comfort zone and letting others see that you’re a Christian sold out for Christ. It means being open about your faith, and sharing it through your actions and words with those around you. It means offering to pray for a co-worker who’s struggling, sharing your story to encourage others, and being aware of the needs of those around you—even when you feel as though you are at a deficit. It means daring to be brave through God’s grace and strength in us.

This has been something that I’ve been thinking about and praying about a lot over the course of the last couple of months. It has been one of the many things that God has been speaking to me about and something that I’ve been striving to make more of an effort to do—both in my writing and in my day-to-day relationships and interactions with the world around me. Little by little, I’m learning how to be more bold—stepping out in faith and being brave for Christ in my actions and words.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the status quo. To get so caught up in the things of this world that we loose track of the one thing that we are ultimately chasing after. It’s easy to stay quiet—and keep our light hidden under a bowl. But as Christians, we are called to something greater than this. Something big, and scary, and wonderful, and amazing all at the same time. We are called to boldness for Christ. We are called to take risks in sharing our faith for the sake of His Kingdom. We are called to look a little crazy sometimes, as we seek to live to change lives through the power of the Gospel.

And as Christians, we are never in this alone. 

In John 14:15-21, Jesus says, If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, to give us courage, peace, and bravery as we seek to live for God. He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves—He is always with us. And if we continue to press into God and seek His will, the Holy Spirit will lead us in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. He will bring us closer to who God intended us to be and guide us towards living confidently for Him! And He will help us to be bold for Christ and make an impact on the lives around us.

We don’t know everyone’s story. There’s an old quote that says, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” There’s another quote that says, “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads”. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and broken. There are so many people who are looking for hope—and something to hold onto. There are so many people who have the wrong idea about Christianity—and feel that they can never be good enough for God.

In a world filled with the wrong voices, we are called to be a bold voice of love. We are called to show people what it really means to be a Christian. That it’s not a list of rules and orders. It’s not a contract with an impersonal god. It’s not a life without joy. It’s an invitation to a table where everyone is welcome. It’s a joy beyond reason. It’s a a heart for the broken, the outcast, and the marginalized. It’s a love that changes our lives.

This world will someday fade away, and it will take with it our possessions, our accomplishments, and awards. The one thing that will never fade away is the souls of the people around us—and the difference that we make in their lives. I don’t know about you, but I want to invest my life into something that will matter. I want to make a difference and leave a legacy—something lasting, that moths and rust can’t destroy.

I want to shine with my life. I want to be bold for Jesus. 

And, I want to challenge you to do the same.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 

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Joy In Christ

Hey everyone, I just posted a new vlog at the request of my awesome Instagram followers! Vlogging’s a tad new for me, so it’s a little raw – but I hope you guys like it! I just started a YouTube Channel here, so hopefully I’ll be posting more of these in the future!😃

If you have any thoughts, feel free to post them in the comments section below! The format may be a little different this week, but as always, I love hearing from you guys!