For All Those [Post-Grads] Transitioning:

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Hi, friends. I’ve been a rather poor poster; life’s happened pretty fast round these parts (jobapartmentsecondjobnewfriendsbillsflattires), and writing hasn’t been high on the list.

Speaking of, I’ve created a big old list of my observations (and longer riffs from time old-observations from wiser and older adults) from the first month our two living on my own. I wanted to post it for those sisters and brothers who are about to venture out.

1. Invest in health. Set up some basic appointments; dentist, doctor. Cut your hair if it’s getting a little, well, ratty. Join a gym. During the more difficult times of my first post-grad year, I was frustrated because of a lot of things were occurring in my life that I couldn’t change. What I could control, however, was how I treated my body, and I made healthy eating and exercise a priority. It made such a difference!

When you do move out, a note of caution: buy some healthy food for you refrigerator immediately.  You will be weirded out and tired because of all the “new” happening, and will suddenly realize you have Dominos on speed dial and all the work from your spring workout sessions are pretty near ruined because you were overwhelmed and hangry. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Spiritual health counts, too. I was inspired by a sermon on Perry Noble’s website in which the guest preacher talked about how he made a change in his spiritual life that had monumental impact. He simply got up a bit earlier and spent a solid chunk of time with Jesus before work.  That’s it! I’ve made this my routine of late. I hate mornings, but I’m learned to love coffee; it helps soothe the sting of an early alarm.

A favorite quotation from The Hope Quotientan incredibly impactful book by Ray Johnston, addresses the life-giving importance of spending quality time with Jesus.  “…to say, ‘I don’t have time’ is another way of saying, ‘I prefer to be drained and hopeless.'” Preach!

2. Find a church. One of the best things I ever did my last year in college was a Campus Outreach retreat exclusively for seniors, which had workshops about spiritual issues and the new responsibilities facing graduates. The main point they continually drove home, however, was the importance of finding a church and getting involved in said church when you’re out on your own. That changed my life! I have the good fortune to have a solid, Bible- believing church nearby that I really enjoy. It’s given me opportunities to serve and lead as the head of the kids department at for a season. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people whom have become friends, and heard some heart-changing sermons. The influence my local church has had on my life has been immense.

3. Get a big old journal. I love stationary and pens and journals- especially the big leather-bound ones that look like they have the potential to contain a piece of Voldemort’s soul. [Side note: during the apex of my 6th grade Harry Potter phase, I had a red leather journal that I wrote lines from the book right in the middle pages. My goal was to make it look as though the journal was Tom Riddle's diary; a pretty red prop. The implications of my copy-cat Horcrux are...puzzling.] Knowing this, my sisters got me this gorgeous journal- leather-bound (just how I like it!), embossed with flowers- and a silver-tone pen engraved with my name. It was a spectacular graduation gift, beautiful and, as I’d come to learn, incredibly useful.

The book is HUGE, well over 300 pages. I started it last July, a month or two after I finished college, and still have thirty pages to go. It’s a cathartic space where I speak to God and pour out my heart, uninterrupted and uncensored. I needed-need- that vast space to chronicle the bevy of sadness and angst and confusion and happiness during what I deem my “Order of the Phoenix” year. (HA!)

4. Read all the time. Absorb wisdom. I love (and am very thankful for) Paul Angone and his book/blog All Groan Up. He had an article about how small choices add up to big ones, and one simple line spoke to me, which I’ve paraphrased here: choose to read. I’ve taken the free time I’ve had to just devour books, may they be about my faith, about the world, or are those fictions I’ve had on my shelf for ages but haven’t had the time to consume. I got a library card and relish Friday afternoon trips, each one so beautifully free of charge. My favorites thus far? Anything Erik Larsen (although they’re a bit dark; read on a sunshine-y day), the Hope Quotient (SERIOUSLY), North and South (favorite fiction EVER; better, I wager, than Pride and Prejudice!), The Ragamuffin Gospel (life-changer alert, seriously!), Just Do Something, and Adulting

I also like using my journal as a place to transcribe quotations that speak to me. It’s for that reason I love finding journals from years past, because I can see what I was reading by the pieces I copied down. It also offers an interesting glimpse into my state of my mind at the time.

At work, I like to listen to sermons or podcasts. I love Perry Noble’s sermons, as they are truth-filled and approachable (as well as funny).  Dr. Lane Craig’s A Reasonable Faith series is a bit more lofty and intense, but I like it equally as much as Noble’s work. As a thinker who has a considerable intellectual curiosity, it’s been fascinating to hear Lane Craig’s take on tricky questions individuals have about Christianity.

Also, I’ve really enjoyed taking a few minutes out of my day to read the headlines and understand what’s going on in the world around me. I remember reading somewhere- I forget where- that the author’s dear friend would read the news before he went to a party; that way, he’d have things to discuss when there. It’s a fabulous, albeit rather so-obvious-I-should-have-thought-of-it-on-my-own habit, and it really does make social interactions and work functions decidedly less uncomfortable.

5. Social media? In small doses. I hate Facebook, and I had to give up Instagram for a bit because I was *gasp* jealous of the fabulous nature of everyone else’s lives. I know, I know; it’s all filters and editing and who knows what’s really happening in anyone’s life, but the fact of the matter was that the snaps looked perfect and were inspiring envy in me. My heart couldn’t handle it, and I was happier without it.

Currently, I’ve had to say no to Pinterest. It’s not necessarily comparison this time, but rather discontent. Money’s tight for me these days, and seeing cute clothes and yummy foods and perfect couches and all the places I’m dying to travel  to makes me not appreciate the fact that I finally moved out and have a lot of good in my life right now, even if one of those things isn’t an overflowing bank account.

6. Finances. Speaking of $$, the best thing I ever did was read Robert Morris’ The Blessed Life and got pointed towards Dave Ramsey’s financial wisdom right off the bat. The former gets your mind in a great, Biblical place about managing your money, as well as how to tithe and why it’s important, and the latter shows you how to do it all well. I’m a far way off to being where I want to be finacially, but the Lord was good enough to put the right resources in my hands ot help me see how to handle it, and for that I’m so grateful.

7. Give yourself grace. I realized pretty quickly there was a lot about commons sense stuff I had no idea how to do, nor did I know a lot of adult terms actually meant, nor whom I ought to talk to about it, nor when to pay my water bill, and how does the process for ordering a new tire WHEN YOU POPPED IT ON THE CURB THREE MINUTES FROM WORK start? STOP. It’s okay. Breathe. This is a time for learning and mistakes and feeling silly and young  rather frequently. Pray, ask questions, and don’t hate on yourself as you figure things out, make friends, and establish yourself as a bill-paying-on-time adult.

8. Realize you might be sad, and that’s ok. This was a sad year. I don’t like feeling inept, I don’t like not knowing things (I’ve been struggling with life direction since graduation), and a combination of other factors have made my time of transition from Davidson into fledgling adult a bit rocky. I’ve been bummed. I’ve had some good cries and did my fare share of angst-y, confused real talks late at night with any friend that would listen. But, as Paul Angone and Ray Johnston exhort in their works, please please please don’t stay sad forever (and if it’s a melancholy you can’t shake, there’s no shame in asking for medical help; mental and emotional health is so important.). Perry Noble says it best: “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.”

9. You’re not alone. Hey, there, friend that’s having a rough go of it: you’re not alone. I’m working out what I want to be working towards, too. I feel frustrated and confused (and poor!). Not everyone got glittering, six figure jobs and adorable apartments and student loans paid off straight out of college (although I know a few people from my alma mater that did; trust me, don’t dwell on it.). You’re not alone- please don’t forget it!

Know this: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” -Psalm 32:8. It’s a truth easier read than believed, I know. But the Lord, our love and our lamp and the One who knows us, will also be our Teacher and our Guide.

Also, this for listening.

Best,

Courtney

In Life & In Literature (Rough Cut)

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What do we do when it seems our story stalls?

It is so easy to take a happy ending for granted. Oftentimes suspense doesn’t seem to come from the conclusion but rather the actions that bring the reader there. The Ring will get to Mordor- but how? Harry will defeat Voldemort- but at what cost? Sherlock will uncover the truth- but what could that be? It seems silly and nihilistic to spend thousands of words on the triumph of darkness (the greatest fiction). Humans were programmed for hope, after all, and the story of our race and the God that made it- the one from which all stories spring- indicates that evil will not have the final say.

As a reader who favors certain fictions to the point of exhaustion, it oftentimes becomes essential to sort of- feel- with those beloved characters, to step back from their situations a moment and try color it in with my own experiences. It helps to understand better what I am reading and, to be truthful, to keep the material fresh. It is in moments like these that you realize that Frodo did not trek with inherent confidence in his success; Harry did not assume that Voldemort would fall at his hand, and Sherlock- well, Sherlock was probably quite certain of his abilities, but that is beside the point.

I think of Elizabeth Bennet’s despair after it seems to her that she’s lost Mr. Darcy forever; I consider Anne Shirley lamenting her potential return to the orphanage from which she was so recently freed; of Cosette afraid to fetch water from the well so deep in the woods. In moments like this, with a cup of tea in one hand and the resolution to all these (conveniently) far-away problems in another, we forget that these characters had no idea of their happy endings.Their resolutions were as mysterious to them as our tomorrows are to us. Their lives were difficult, unknowable, and oftentimes incredibly hard.

Yet- and this seems rather- indelicate, but it’s true: A good story is good because there is conflict and there is resolution. We are not necessarily entertained by tales of happy people in a constant state of delight. Comedy is astute and honest observation; tragedy is the inevitable, and life mixes it all. Even the frothiest fiction composed for babies has  its own kind of anguish, or at least a muddy puppy, a formerly white sofa, and a mother at the end of her rope. I say this with much sensitivity: in our own realities, the frustrations, heartaches, and unknowables are what makes our story readable.

I would describe this strange time of transition in my life as not necessarily a conflict but most definitely a time of deep frustration. Most seems stagnant, where very little changes and nothing much improves. I am constantly battling my emotions-a topic for another post- and reminding myself of two truths, an amalgam of book-born common sense (my pastor once said that “we often learn better from parable than from principle”-PREACH) and Biblical reality.

1. I am not the Author. I do not have the final say. Acknowledging this is and letting go of control is incredibly hard. Trust me. But imagine if “Pride and Prejudice” was written by it’s heroine, the aforementioned Elizabeth Bennet. Her faulty “first impression” (wink) would have rendered one of literature’s most-adored romances a disastrous disappointment. Jane Austen had a plan. So does God. And unlike Lizzie, I have the luxury of knowing my Author, of being forthright with Him, of looking to His word to see what He says about me. He knows intimately the hearts, words, and ways of all His characters (Psalm 139 vs 4-5, 15-16; Proverbs 5:23). He promises “to work all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28), a good that He understands better than we ourselves do. He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)- these verses aren’t niceties!

2. Remember: a good story resolves its conflict. I am not pretending that life is flawless, nor that all our issues find themselves conveniently wrapped in a precious little bow. However, as sure as I am told by the Lord that I will have trouble (John 16:33), I’m also told that He is preparing rooms for me in Heaven (John 14:2), is a source of rest and peace on the other side of it (Matthew 11:30), and that He is with me always (Matthew 28:20). Furthermore, the Bible assures me that He can do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)  Indeed, I believe that Eternity, seeing the Lord face-to-face, and the complete and utter defeat of evil is an incredibly satisfying end. However, I think that the Lord wants us to have victory and resolution before that day comes. If He didn’t, why would we be instructed in Philippians to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (4:6)  Consider the Fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control. All wonderful, good things. Why would the Lord give us His aid, share with us His character, strength, and wisdom if He wanted to keep us in conflict? The Lord’s work is indeed the opposite. Said Jesus, “”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…’” (Luke 4:18)

These truths give me courage at a time when I am honestly waging a war for the belief that the Lord will eventually change my situation. Yet perhaps the most important thing I can do when it seems like my story has stalled  is to be reminded of the biggest, best, most beautiful story of all: that of an Author loving his characters with such passion that He became intimately involved in their plots, taking their conflict and making it His own- dying on the cross to rid me of it, and you of it, and defeating death three days later in the biggest twist in history. One of the things I love about Jesus, a God-man who was fond of stories, too, is that He can’t mess anything up.

And He doesn’t let anything stall.

An Update

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I went back to my school about a week ago. I had crammed everything from the past four years that wouldn’t fit into two suitcases in a 5x5x5 storage unit a town over. Five months later, I finally found time to pick it up.

Although the brief visit was lovely, and seeing places and friends that are so very dear was a delight, there was a considerable amount of collateral emotion that I need to sort through; in short, the basic melodrama of change, starting over, and saying goodbye. I am bad at these things. I always have been.

I guess it’s important to provide y’all with some context. I graduated this May and moved back home, without a job or, seemingly, purpose. As much as I love my family and the town where I live, I was afraid to tackle the new dynamics returning to my childhood home would inevitably bring, loneliness, and the feeling that  I would spiritually suffocate in a place not so overwhelmingly Christian-friendly as the South.

After spending a summer back at the camp I so love, blitzing out my resume to corporations around my school, applying to jobs on campus, and sort of spilling my angst about the future onto anyone who would listen, I found myself still in New Hampshire. My tail was firmly between my legs, and I was ashamed and frustrated that to seemingly hundreds of companies, that I wasn’t “enough” or worth hiring. I repeatedly thought about how awful it would be to tell people that no, I wouldn’t be living in Charlotte like I planned; how others would undoubtedly be disappointed in my lack of “success,” and that I would live out my days as some sort of washed-up townie, perpetually wistful and dissapointed.

I was being self-centered and silly, and was selling those who loved me short.

God in His goodness provided. I had the absolute joy of spending a few extra weeks at camp during conference season, during which I got to know some great people a bit better who have since provided a social outlet for me. I realized how many friends I had in Boston or just a few minutes over the border in Mass. Women in leadership from camp, women whom I respect and love, reached out to me for encouragement, offered their homes and afternoons for coffee dates if I ever needed them, and emailed and texted me with their support. I am surrounded by awesome ladies and gents who love God- and who are also pretty fun, too.

I’ve been able to find a friend in my littlest sister, Britta, who is equal parts hysterical and precious. We’ve been out of step for too long. I love laughing with her or getting excited over the newest Nancy Drew game.

I was concerned about finding a church that was vibrant and passionate as my one in Davidson. My family brought me along to NextLevel Church, currently have services in my local movie theatre, and I have fallen in love. It’s laid-back, come-as-you-are-and-we-will-feed-you-big-time attitude has made me more excited to go to church (in jeans! I love it!) than I have in ages.

As for the big stress, the job, the Lord provided as well. I work at a jewelry store in town. It’s not a career- it’s a job to get settled- and I honestly cannot believe how wonderful it is. I feel as though I’ve been adopted into a fun family who takes really good care of me as an employee. It’s also fun-and I am so serious- to help people pick out gifts and offer my opinion on what goes and what doesn’t. My favorites are the beleaguered dads who are so overwhelmed at the thought of making fashion choices for their wives that they bring their little little daughters as sounding boards. They are so relieved to have help!

I’m happy to see the trees change and eat apples and lose it like the fair-weather fan I am when the Sox win a post-season game. I love Boston being so close, and the ocean, too, and I’m telling you there’s nowhere better come Christmastime than the Northeast. I got a warm pair of slippers, painted my room egg-shell white, and have stacks of books everywhere. I’m also looking at the first at-home Thanksgiving in four years; mom might even (squee!!) let my little sister and I do most of the cooking! I’m saving money and working towards a car. I’m reconnecting with high school teachers that I adore. Pumpkin Muffins all the time. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: It’s the little things, y’all.

I’m not saying that I am in a perfect place. I’ve made some missteps with spending time with Lord and consistently being a friend to those who are far away; that is hard for me. I’m learning to be better at self-grace giving, and I have to understand that adjustments aren’t meant to be flawless; that “success” isn’t necessarily a big job and a shiny apartment, as I taught myself to believe at my very competitive undergrad. I really do need to reprogram and rest, and continue to listen to what the Lord says about me. I’ve been hearing and believing everyone else’s opinions for far too long.

The summary of this tangent is this: I was afraid of being home, and I am learning to relish it. The Lord provided in big ways; to Him be the glory!

Anyways. Being at school again was both great and incredibly sad. It wasn’t the place I remembered; I didn’t fit there anymore, and if I had gotten what I wanted- a job nearby or a fellowship on campus- I would be miserable. I suffer from Fear of Missing Out syndrome like nobody’s business, and I would feel as though I was dropped in the middle of some time-capsule, unchanging where everyone else went and did them. It was time to close the door.

But I couldn’t see that six months ago amidst the sentimental haze of graduation. It’s so so so right and wise and true when people say that God gives us not what we want but what we need. A friend in a beautiful sermon drew lines between this statement and the fact that the Lord sees our needs and how the stretch into the future; that our wants tomorrow will be different, and thus oftentimes our current desires have no place in the life God has ahead of us. I felt that keenly a week ago in Davidson, walking past all that brick. What I needed is this- home- my dog Darcy on my bed and that huge plastic Jack-O-Lantern glowing in the window and a Dunkin Donuts nearby.

I am comforted by the fact that my Savior knows my heart, my moods, my future, and it’s impact on all those things. I can’t pretend to have that kind of insight. As I sit typing this, I am thankful for closed doors and Davidson, and the good change that I am fortunate enough to experience. It means, I guess, that I am alive.

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Newsflash, y’all: I am immature, over-emotional, selfish, and ridiculous, and I am begging God to allow me to realize He has made me enough (even though life right now is saying that I am a not.)

I’m preaching to myself here. The ellipsis of life (who wrote that? I wish I could take credit) is the absolute worst. But I guess it’s the suspense that amplifies the sweet satisfaction of a long- awaited conclusion; after all, no one like a story where everything happens rightly for the protagonists. Where’s the juice in that? 

 

 

 

Be Aggressive

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I watch “The Passion of the Christ” every few years. As someone who has been programed to hear God best through movies and literature- coupled with the ability to learn visually- it’s a supplementary reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and a film that the Lord uses greatly in my life.

So I’m watching it today. And the beginning starts in the Garden (for you visual learners, it’s this part here.) And I’m amazed how new life started in a garden much like the old did- Gethsemane, Eden. And how our Lord got it right and changed everything.

And I am struggling with temptation and stress. It is comforting to see the God of All right there, right in the middle of the most overwhelming event in history, face splotchy with blood and sweat, and still talking to God. Still willing to to whatever it takes.

But what’s really hitting me is how Jesus deals with Satan.  When the devil shows up, Jesus keeps praying. He keeps conversing with His Father, whether He responds or not. He clings, emotions aside. This action speaks of knowledge and confidence in a truth that supersedes all.

When Satan asks whom He belongs to, Jesus is still praying, “Adonai, Adonai.” Father, Father. Sometimes getting rid of Satan is as easy is stating your identity- a child of the King.

When Satan semi-manifests as a snake, Jesus gets aggressive- literally stomping on it’s head with one decisive strike, not even giving it a chance to tempt (another rectification of Eden). We too can do this. One of the best things I’ve ever heard is Pastor Perry Noble instructing his congregation to tell Satan to “go to Hell, the only place he belongs,” when under temptation. Do it! It’s effective. Throw some Scripture at him. Be feisty- do not take him lying down.

I also love that Satan is the only thing here that receives Jesus’ wrath. Notice how he peacefully goes with the soldiers came to arrest him, who taunt Him. Instead of throwing lightning bolts, he heals after Peter’s violence leaves one ear-less. “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword, ” he says with all the patient exasperation of a parent. Yet remember how the Armor of God includes the Sword of the Spirit (“the word of God”; Ephesian 6:17); our aggression is for the evil in the spiritual realms. If Peter really wanted to help, he could have stayed awake to pray as Jesus had asked.

Lastly, I found it powerful that here Satan is depicted as using simple taunts to depress Jesus. When describing the futility of Christ’s mission and his ability to succeed, Satan just says, “No. Never,” unblinkingly and with incredible focus. Satan, who (for lack of a better term) sucks, knows our weakness, can hone in on them with the precision of heat-seeking missile, and oftentimes works in really simple ways to throw us off. Indeed, he is a roaring lion waiting for the opportune moment.  (1 Peter 5:8, horribly paraphrased.) The good news? He will not win. The only place for him is Hell and that is where he will stay eternally. Jesus wins! Remember this, cling to this on bad days. It’s true!

While “The Passion of the Christ” is by no means a replacement for the Bible, I see it as a conduit to spiritual understanding and growth. The knowledge of our Lord Jesus can be found anywhere, I believe; we’ve just got to look.

My prayer is that you revel in the beauty of our Savior Jesus this Easter.

All my love,

Courtney xoxo

Study Break

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Today. Wow. What a day. Work. Act. Drink copious amounts of Diet Coke to stay functioning. Eat on the go. Repeat.

But I’m taking a study break RIGHT NOW and making a joy list. Of good things that I’m reveling in today. Er- of yesterday, (what? when? how? so many question words!) rather.

Ahhem. (Voice clearing noise).

1. I discovered how to make sweet tea in the Union. Not rocket science, I know. But I did it, I feel like a genius, and it has brought a bit of instant summer to my day.

2. Singin’ in the Rain

3. Laughter. Today was full of laughter.

4. This is probably one of the best things ever.

5. 8tracks. If you have not been, go. It’s what gets me through papers, room cleaning, and the process of getting ready for stuff when my own music just won’t suffice. It is better than Pandora, it is better than Spotify- just go.

6. To the person in Greece who decided one day, “Hey, let’s make some yogurt,” I thank you. Seriously, what.an.invention.

7. SPRING IS COMING.

8. “Remind Me” and “Defying Gravity” on full blast.

9. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

10. The encouragement of friends.

11. I am alive and breathing and here.

Love y’all- back to work!
xo,

Courtney