Growth Is.

Growth is …

… not a sudden, overnight transformation.
… not a steady incline, nor a perfect line on a graph.
… not looking over one’s own insecurities and doubts.
… not always a happy smile.
… not comfortable.
… not easy.

Growth is …

… hundreds of baby steps in the right direction.
… like the ocean; it ebbs and flows like the tide.
… looking at oneself with raw, authentic honesty.
… often watered by tears.
… seeing the pain, the struggles, and loving her anyway.
… not easy.

But it is patient.

Growth is learning to embrace the process. It is walking forward, one day at a time.

 

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S C A T T E R E D

S C A T T E R E D

Even my white Converse turned color over time,

picking up scattered pieces of earth

on the soles and laces.

My mom calls them ‘dirty,’

but I can’t.

 

I look at them, and I remember where I’ve journeyed.

I remember where I’ve been, and how far I’ve come.

 

c.s.

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The River

“The river tells a story,”
You say to me, “so listen
to the way the water moves
as she kisses the sandy shore.

“Do you see the push and pull
As the lady stirs, restless,
Waiting to hear a whisper
That may change her course, completely?

“She is lovely, but relentless.
She will create waves
So that her children may learn to sail.

“She blazes forth, unchanging,
And chases the light of dawn.
Born to tell a story, she
was destined to share her song.”

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Fishing Lessons

I was always the one who struggled to get a catch when we would go fishing with my Grandpa Dale as kids. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed hopping in the back of his truck and taking that drive down to the pond whenever we could. Some of my favorite memories were made there on that bank. I remember one day when Kassi was about four (and I was five and a half), she reeled in a fish when we noticed that somehow she had caught it by the eye. Another time, when it was too cold to fish, Grandpa took us “skating” on the frozen pond. We stepped out onto the thick sheet of ice in our winter boots and laughed as we would slip and slide all over the glossy pond. It was always a good time when we were with Grandpa.

It’s been three months since he passed away. I knew that this year, everything would be different. Holidays, especially.

Today was the first Thanksgiving without Grandpa Dale. There was an empty space as we ate around the table, one that could only be filled by the man my sisters and I called grandpa, my dad and my uncles called dad, my grandma called “dear,” and many other people called friend.

So today, my dad took my sisters and I fishing.

And though today was our first Thanksgiving without my grandpa, now, it’s the day I can say I caught the biggest large-mouth bass in his pond.

It was the biggest fish I’ve caught, ever. As I held that ten pound beast in my hands, it seemed as though all of those fishing lessons finally paid off.

I know that Grandpa would have just been beaming over this catch. Knowing how proud he’d be is the best gift this holiday season. I’m so glad that he shared his passion with me all those years ago, and I’m thankful for the reminder on this first Thanksgiving that we’re never truly alone.

Rest Among the Five Thousand

“I’m tired.”

This has been my answer to almost any question I’ve been asked over the past couple weeks. Are you looking forward to school starting back up? Is your job going well? How are you, lately? What’s new in your world?

“I’m just tired.”

Some days it feels as though I have become a broken record, repeating the same words over and over to anyone who even attempts to start a conversation with me. I am realizing that those same words that have become my own personalized ‘answering machine’ have also become bricks that I have used to build up a wall around myself; a go-to response to prevent myself from taking a step back and asking myself the same questions. Courtney, how are you?

If I was to be honest, I would tell you that life is good. It is genuinely good. I am getting ready to start my second year at ICC, continuing my education and figuring out what I want to do with my life after college. I love being a barista, and my friends and family would agree that I am thriving at my workplace. I am healthy, and I am happy.

Yet, I am still tired.

Tired physically? Without a doubt. Even the fact that I work at a coffee shop doesn’t allow me to escape the reality of that. Tired emotionally? Ask me that, and now I start shifting uncomfortably in my seat, twirling my hair around my finger, and avoiding eye contact altogether.

We live in such a fast paced society that the idea of “taking a break” or “slowing down” can easily become a foreign concept if we don’t prioritize it. We are always moving on from one thing to the next, figuring out the fastest route to get from point A to point B. But how long has it been since we’ve really stopped to “smell the roses,” so to speak? When was the last time we’ve made the choice to take some time to admire their beauty? How often do we just snap a picture to post on social media, rather than just taking a moment to truly appreciate the view that’s right in front of us?

Does ‘rest’ mean taking a step back from the everyday hustle and bustle? Isolating ourselves from responsibilities? Gluing ourselves to a screen, maybe just to zone out for a bit?

Or could it mean something more?

I recently stumbled across the story written in Mark that tells of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand. As I have been exploring what it truly means to rest, this specific passage began to minister to my heart in the most unexpected form. For the first time, I read this passage with eyes to see how the Master, Himself, led His disciples to experience true rest.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. o they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Mark 6:30-44

Jesus, in His kindness, allowed the apostles to experience what it means to rest in Him. After a long day without food, these men came to Jesus with the desire to find rest, and to be filled. Although the Lord invited the disciples to spend some alone time with Him, we know that this plan soon took a turn in what looked to be the opposite direction. While the apostles were looking for solitude, they instead encountered a crowd. A large, hungry crowd that also sought to spend time with Jesus.

I can’t imagine what the tired apostles were feeling, as they watched the numbers grow before their eyes.

As the night wore on, the disciples (even more tired and hungry than before), finally approached the Lord again, asking Him to send away the crowd. But Jesus simply replied saying, “You give them something to eat.”

Um,  w h a t ?

I can hear the apostles in shock, asking, “But Lord! We are tired. We are hungry, too. We came here to be alone with you, and now you want us to a crowd of over five thousand?” More questions begin to pour out: “Where will we find enough food to feed all of these people? How will we gather the finances to provide?”

Yet Jesus had another plan. He asked His disciples, “What do you have?”

The disciples had five loaves of bread and two fish. But they also had obedient hearts.

Even though they were weary, the disciples chose to trust that their Master would provide. And, as the passage says, by the end of the night, all were satisfied.

Can you picture it? Over five thousand men, plus women and children…not only fed, but completely satisfied.

I believe that we can apply this story to our own, personal lives. The Lord longs for us to find sweet rest in Him. He gives us the invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

It may feel that in this life, where we are found trying to feed our own ‘crowd of five thousand,’ we only have five loaves and two fish to offer. The enemy would seek to fill your mind with doubt and anxiety, as you think, “I am at the end of myself. How can I find rest in this chaos?” But the One who provides is faithful. The Lord simply desires for us to give Him what we have, however little it may be, and let Him do what only He can do.

This is how we can experience true rest. Yes, rest can come in the form of solitude. It can come through times of intimacy, where we experience a sweet refilling. But more times than not, rest comes with obedience.

And it’s amazing what the Lord can do with hearts that obey Him.

As we choose to obey our kind, Heavenly Father–allowing Him to go to the broken and tired places of our hearts–He will begin to refill us with peace. When we trust Him fully, we open the door to let the Lord’s rest wash over our lives…and overflow into the lives of others. Because the disciples obeyed Jesus, they were able to not only be filled themselves, but also help feed those who also looked for satisfaction. The disciples did not feed the crowd out of their own strength, or by their own might. They simply had to trust, letting go of what they had, and place it into the hands of their Provider. And out of that place of obedience, the disciples found their rest.

…even among the five thousand.

Seek First

Just like that, we’ve hit the halfway mark for the year 2017. So much has taken place over the past six months. For me, 2017 has welcomed many moments of joy and victory, as I’ve witnessed the baptism of my best friend, finished my first year of college, and have met some incredible people (whom I now consider family). Inevitably, there have also been moments of grief, loneliness, and distance. The hurdles were high, and some were more difficult to jump over than others. Yet, as I look forward to the coming months ahead, I am filled with a new sense of excitement and the hope that even greater things are in store for the second half of 2017.

The beginning of this year has been a time of stretching, preparation, and listening to the Lord, as I continue the journey that comes with seeking His will for my life.

As for July of 2017,  I believe that His will for me includes Dr. Arroyo, Mexico.

As of December, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip and serve with a small group from my church, as we partner with Dayspring Ministries. The thought of traveling outside of the United States, let alone flying for the first time, was enough to make my stomach twist. Yet, after seeing photos of the orphanage that we would be ministering at, I had an immediate desire and passion to be the hands and feet of Christ to the people of Dr. Arroyo. It was as though a fire started to burn in my heart, and the fear of traveling seemed to melt away instantaneously. Since that day, I have prayed, asking God to show me if this was His desire for me, too.

And He did.

The cost of the trip was originally $475 a person, which did not include a plane ticket. Although I knew that I would be stretched in the area of finances, I still felt a peace about my decision. Come to find out, within weeks, money seemed to multiply in my church’s mission funds. Thanks to generous donations, each person on the mission team only had to pay $50 of the original $475. This means $415 of my trip’s cost had been covered completely. How’s that for an open door?

As we are almost a month away from the trip, donations are still coming in. Now, even the cost of buying a plane ticket has continued to drop! Seriously, how great is the God I serve?

I am reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? . . . So do not worry . . . But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:26-33

As I have made the decision in my heart to serve the Lord this summer, He has provided for my every need. My Father knows how to take care of His children, and He is faithful until the end.


Please keep the team and myself in your prayers, as we continue to seek first His Kingdom and prepare ourselves to be a voice of hope to the nations. Blessings to you!

Use my hands, use my feet,
To make Your kingdom come.
To the corners of the earth
Until Your work is done.
‘Cause faith without works is dead,
And on the cross, Your blood was shed,
So how could we not give it away so freely?

And I’ll…
I’ll follow You into the homes of the broken,
I’ll follow You into the world.
Oh, meet the needs for the poor and the needy, God,
I’ll follow You into the world.

Leeland, “Follow You Into the World”

Giving Your “Yes”

Taking a look back, as I am nearing the end of my second semester of college, I am realizing how easy it has been for me to give away my “yes” to the things of this world. By saying yes to more people over the last eight months, I have met strangers who I now consider friends. By saying yes to new adventures, I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone, and I have learned a lot about who I am as a person. By saying yes with mustard seed-like faith, opportunities that once seemed impossible are now becoming a reality.

But I have also found myself becoming tired.

“Yes, I will cover that shift at work…”

…even though it’s my day off.

“Yes, I will come over and study…”

…even though I have other assignments.

“Yes, I will give you my time.”

…even though I feel weak.

“Yes, I will believe what you’re saying is true.”

…even though I have my own questions.

I am a pleaser. I have convinced myself that it is better for me to give my yes than be honest about how I feel. I have started to believe that by saying yes, I will be making things easier for other people. I will be liked by more people if I just say yes. I will be a better person if I say yes.

Yet, this is not the case.

I stumbled across a verse in Galatians that has challenged my ways of thinking. It says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

People, we are not called to be pleasers! Our focus should be on the One who created the world, not on the opinions of those who occupy its space. When Jesus entered this world in the flesh, He ruffled a lot of feathers. But in doing so, He always stood for the truth. He gave His “yes” to the Father, and we are called to do the same.

It is okay to say yes to people, adventures, and opportunities. It is okay to say yes to the unknown. In fact, the Lord can use a simple yes to change the world. Think of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, and Mary. Their open hands created a path for the Lord to work mightily in and through them.

Yet, when our “yes” begins to take our eyes off of our Savior, then we need to take a step back and reevaluate our intentions.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Like Martha, I often find myself retreating to my busy schedule. Sometimes, I even find myself placing my identity in the busyness. Too often, we try to “work harder” or “do more,” when really, we are just called to be still.

Yes, being still can be a difficult process. In the silence, we are vulnerable. In the quietness, we listen. But in the stillness, we also rest. Let us rest in the truth of our Savior, as we seek to please His heart above anything else.

The more I seek you,
The more I find you.
The more I find you, the more I love you.

I want to sit at your feet,
Drink from the cup in your hand,
Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heartbeat.
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.

Kari Jobe, “The More I Seek You”