Daydream

Disclaimer. None of what you are about to read is real. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very real experience for me. But the following did not happen in real life. I’m thankful for the imagination God gives us and how He speaks to us through it.

 

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon. I walked along the wooded trail, orange maple leaves crunching with each step. Just off the trial was (for lack of a better word) a treehouse. It didn’t have a roof and was pretty rickety. You could tell it had been there for quite a few years. At least the log bridge connecting the treehouse to the trail had a new rope railing next to it. It made it feel safer as I walked across, the grassy hill pulling farther and farther away until I stood far above the ground, hand on the tree that supported the little fort around me. I took a deep breath and looked around, smiling at the bits of a crystal blue lake that could be seen through the thick pine forrest. If I swayed back and forth, it looked like a puddle of glitter as the sun danced across the gentle waves.

Finally. A moment of peace.

I sit on the lone bench – the only thing occupying the small platform besides me. I close my eyes for a minute and soak up the warm fall sunshine on my face and for one second feel my body completely relax. A feeling of true peace.

The tree begins to sway a bit, setting the whole treehouse in a slight rocking motion. I open my eyes and look up at the man walking across the bridge towards me. And all at once, He’s right in front of me and I’m staring into His eyes. I don’t recognize the face, but I know in my heart who it is. This is the moment I’ve been longing for. The moment when I can look into His eyes and ask the questions that burn in my heart each night. There’s a moment of silence and we just look at each other, breathing the same air. It’s a moment filled with peace and expectation. It’s the safest I’ve ever felt. The amount of love I can see in His eyes is intense and I almost look away. It’s overwhelming.

But instead of looking away, I put my hands on either side of his face and say the words that I’ve hidden in my heart for so long.

Why?

It’s almost painful to say them.

Why am I over there while You’re here? Why can’t I just be here with You? Why?

He mirrors my stance and reaches out His scarred hands to touch my face.

“I’m not stuck here.”

The response enters my heart like a whisper and the reality of what He said begins to hit me.

“I’m not just here.

But… I know that… so why does it feel like that? And why am I over there?

And just like that, a rope swing appears from the middle of nowhere. In true Tarzan fashion, He wraps an arm under both of mine and jumps onto the rope, holding me close as we swing across space together.

Suddenly we’re at the top of a mountain. I know this mountain. I’ve spent countless hours skiing, laughing and enjoying life on this mountain.

“You’re here so I can teach you how much I love you,” He says.

Tears begin to fall as I start to understand.

“My love for you is deeper than the clearest lake and higher than the tallest mountain. And you’ve only begun to realize that! I want to show you more. So that’s why I’ve asked you to be here.”

“And you’re not alone. I didn’t abandon you. I’m with you wherever you go.”

“Let me teach you how great my love is for you.”

 

I open my eyes and look around. I’m still right where I was to begin with, in the middle of a lecture at YWAM Davos in Switzerland. I smile as I look out the window and see the mountains standing outside. That’s how great, I remind myself. His love is higher than the tallest mountain. 

 

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I See Jesus in You

“Let’s move all the chairs into a circle,”

The classroom erupted into momentary chaos as everyone grabbed their notebooks, Bible, water bottle and chair (all at the same time) only to then struggle to make a vaguely circular shape. There’s a sense of excitement but also slight apprehension as people settle back into their seats and try to quiet down. There’s nervous giggles and quick glances around the oval ring of chairs. Everyone wants to know what the speaker is going to do. We all know that the speaker must have a good reason for causing such a disruption. He sits and waits patiently for everyone to settle down, place their things back under their chairs and hush conversations.

“I want you guys to look around the circle and pick a person. Once you’ve picked a person, I want you to think about how you’ve seen Jesus in them this past week.”

The atmosphere changes and people realize that they’re about to be encouraged. A slight tension still lingers as they quickly realize they also have to give encouragement. For some reason we all love to be encouraged, but it’s hard to give encouragement. We feel too vulnerable in that moment. Awkward, even. We feel like we might get it “wrong” – like encouragement could be a bad thing. So there’s a long pause. No one wants to speak up first and yet everyone wants to be the first to get encouraged.

Finally, the first brave student breaks the silence. And slowly but surely, the affirmations start to make their way around the circle. People are taken aback by sincere words and the general morale of the group is lifted.

Then someone says my name.

I snap my eyes over to look into their face. I have no idea what they’re going to say and my heart is pounding like crazy. For some ridiculous reason, I’m nervous. What could they possibly say? How have they seen Jesus in me? It’s almost as if I begin to doubt that Jesus lives inside of me. A thought just about crosses my mind: there’s no way they’ve seen Jesus in you…

I have to shove down the lies that come up to take away the kind words that haven’t even been spoken yet. It’s a never ending battle. I have to coach myself to receive the encouragement this sweet girl is about to give me.

I sit there and study her face, nothing but genuine care in her eyes, as she talks about how she’s seen Jesus in me through the past week. There was no spectacular moment she mentioned; no act of great kindness or display of love that she pointed to. Instead it was a simple, “I see Jesus in you just by how you live each day. It’s like you’re walking through your day, holding God’s hand and before you do or say anything you look up at Him and ask if it’s ok. That’s how I’ve seen Jesus in you.”

I was blown away.

There is no way she could have known.

There’s no way she knew that that has been my heart’s cry for over a year. I’ve longed to have a relationship with God that is simply seen in how I walk through the house, how I speak to people, how I make decisions. There’s no way she knew about all of the hours I have spent praying and asking God to give me a heart like that. There’s no way she knew.

I had to sit in shock for a moment.

Slowly, I began to believe what she said. Could it be true? And in that moment, it all became worth it. All the struggles, all the victories, all the hours spent silently sitting with God. I felt like a little girl who had just created a finger-painted masterpiece. She runs up to her Daddy and says “Look Dad! Look at what I made!” I wanted Him to be proud of me, to show Him what I had made. But really, I know that it was all because Him inside of me. And I was so thankful and in awe of how He allowed Himself to be seen through me.

As the encouragements continued, I was just amazed by how God reveals Himself through His children. It’s just like biological kids. Some might have their Mom’s nose, another might have their Dad’s eyes. The same is for us as Children of God. We each reflect a different piece of His character. Some of us show God through how we work. Some of us show Him through how we treat others. And others show Him through their joy. I looked around the circle, realizing that we’re all unique and yet we’re all Children of God and He is seen inside of us – even in ways we might not realize.

So let this story be an encouragement to you, my friend. Keep striving to become more and more like Jesus. You may not even realize how people see Him through you!

9 Days Alone

Last week, my husband visited another YWAM base for 9 days.

9 days.

That’s the longest stretch of time we’ve been apart since December of 2015. Before that, I think the longest time we had gone without seeing each other was around 20 hours. So 9 whole days was a bit of a stretch to say the least. But it was good for both of us. We both had time to think about things we tend to ignore as well as time to simply read a book or journal. (Or paint my nails. Another one of those things that gets put off… 😉 )

It’s also amazing how much cleaner a house stays when there’s only one person living in it. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, while my husband was gone, I learned the beauty of alone time. I wouldn’t classify myself as an introvert, but I definitely need some time to myself every once and again. The usual tell-tale sign that I need to take some time alone is when I suddenly become overwhelmed with people noise. Generally it gets to the point of not being able to hear people breathe. That’s when Courtney knows it’s time. Time to withdraw and hear the sweet sound of silence. But with an empty house for 9 days, I had enough time to conduct an experiment. What would happen if I didn’t wait for the “panic” moment?

As it turns out, alone time can actually be healthy. (Who would have thought?) Especially in the “preventative” sense. Instead of waiting for the crisis, when I end up almost crashing, it was actually way more satisfying to spend at least an hour or so each day alone with my own thoughts and Jesus. No music, no TV, no podcasts, no other sounds. Just the heaters clicking every so often and the sound of my own breathing.

It was actually magical.

But I realized something.

When I take the time to come to that place, to sit in the quiet with my own thoughts, I actually start to think. I think about how my day actually was. I think about the good things that happened and the hard things. I think about the proud moments and the disappointing ones. But I don’t whine. I don’t gloat. I just think. And I pray. I talk to God about the ways I saw Him move. I ask Him why I feel so crummy after a sarcastic comment. I tell Him how much I miss my husband. But there’s an internal process that happens. Suddenly, I’m not looking for the right word to say. I’m not looking for a reaction from someone else, because they’re no one else there. I’m not worried about how my words will affect the person I’m talking to because it’s God! And let’s be real… I really can’t say anything that’s going to cause Him to turn His back on the world. He’s God and He loves us all too much for that!

But taking that time to actually think about what’s going on inside of my brain, to pray about it and process it with God, actually helps me to really know how I’m doing.  This kind of surprised me a little, to be completely honest. I’ve always said I’m an external processor. I always feel like I need to talk about things in order to really understand them and to understand what I think about them. And sometimes that’s true. Sometimes we need another person to bounce things off of. But there are also times when it’s good to just think. To talk to God about what I’m thinking and feeling. Not just run to the nearest friend to “vent” about what’s going on, but actually thinking about how I feel and taking the time to gain God’s perspective. And before I know it, I’m not actually upset about something that seemed like a big deal in the moment. Or the mountains I feel like I’m facing turn into prairies.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s still important to talk to other people. Relationship is what we are created for, so by all means we should live in relationship! But I know for myself, I can get so caught up in talking about things that I never actually take the time to think about things. Do you get what I’m saying? It’s so easy to say words. But how many of us say things before we think about them? I know I do that. More often than not, if I’m honest. So my challenge to myself is to take some time to be alone. Yeah, sure. FOMO is a real thing, I guess. (For those who don’t understand Generation Z language, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.”) But I’ll sacrifice missing out on some things so that my heart and relationship with God can remain healthy.

I Surrender

Like many people around the world, I started the new year off with a few resolutions and good intentions. Here’s to a fresh start, right? As my good friend Sarah will always say, “New year, new me!” Sounds like a good plan, right? So, of course, I covered my most practical bases. For example, I’m going to try to clean my house once a week, do my laundry more often than once every three weeks, and try to motivate myself to actually work out.

[For that one, Sarah and I actually came up with a good slogan: “Monday’s run day!” And yet, here I am on a Monday afternoon… typing out a blog and not running….]

A few weeks into the year and I have already realized: Good intentions only get us so far.

So I’ve been struggling to find a way to make these things stick. Because even if they do sound like silly New Years resolutions, I actually want to change and grow in 2017. But how can I do that when my life runs on a schedule that I can’t really change that much? Yes, I can manage my time better than I do (add that to the list of resolutions and good intentions) but sometimes the days just seem to slip away. I drag myself out of bed at six and it seems like only a few moments pass before I’m dragging myself back into bed at 10:30 that evening. I sound like my mother when I say this, but there aren’t enough hours in the day! I tell myself to prioritize, but no matter what it always seems like the things that I want to get done never actually get done and without even realizing it, it’s been a month and I still haven’t cleaned the bathroom once. (Gross.)

As I sit here typing this, I still have no good answer for how to do this better. But this idea begins to form in my mind:

If I can keep my focus on Jesus throughout the day, the things that need to get done will and the things that aren’t important… won’t. And that’s ok! But if my main priority is to glorify God in all that I do, then my priorities will line up with His. And from my experience, God is really practical. If we ask Him practical questions, I believe we will get practical answers! Even down to how to manage our time and organizing our days. (I mean, I believe He even has some good advice on what to wear today, but… maybe that’s just me… 😉 ) So maybe this should be my new resolution – to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, to keep my ear tilted to hear his voice, and follow his leading through the day.

Lately I’ve been hooked on All Sons and Daughters’ album Poets & Saints. The second song on the album, called “I Surrender”, catches my heart every time I hear it. The bridge goes like this:

Not my will,
but Yours be done.
Not my strength,
but Yours alone.
Nothing else,
but You, oh Lord,
I find everything in You.

I find everything in You.

Everything.

I want to 2017 to be the year that I learn to live a life totally surrendered to God. Then maybe I’ll finally be able to live up to those good intentions I have. Then again, maybe not.  But that’s ok. Because if I’m busy surrendering my plans to God – giving Him my good intentions – then all I’ll be concerned with is doing what He has called me to. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Not my will, but Yours be done.