Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seriously, Green Flowers?

I used to love romantic comedies. I love watching as "fate" made a handsome hunk fall helplessly in love with a perfect, dainty beauty that he would do for. It was so ROMANTIC but I've come to find that it is so not real life.
Derek liked me. He liked me a lot. He gave me a promise ring about 2 months after we started to intentionally date/court. Now he tells me, he wished he had just proposed because promise rings are pretty stupid. They say, "I promise to eventually engage you then promise to eventually marry you..."

Through our dating season though, Derek didn't give me flowers, or any special gifts other than the expected holiday stuff. We were both poor college students at the time, which was super understandable why I wasn't being showered in romantic symbols, but that didn't stop me from wanting to be shown this form of love.

My heart got pretty bad for a season. I began to wonder if Derek really even liked me. He would spend time with me, have great conversations with me, and tell me I was pretty from time to time. But for some reason, I just wanted him to surprise me with notes and poems, and sweet things like flowers and I was unsatisfied I wasn't getting that attention.

During our first year of marriage, I had such a hard time dealing with unmet and truthfully, unreasonable expectations that I held on Derek. He wasn't acting like the movies I watched growing up that said he would if he really loved me. I finally opened up about it, and Derek was hurt that I felt so neglected. I felt pretty stupid saying any of it because I would be reminded of all the sweet, whole hearted things he would say and do daily to show his love for me. But my words continued to fall out of my mouth, "I JUST WANT SOME FRIGGIN' FLOWERS!!!"
A couple days past and I came home to Derek's smiley face. "Welcome home, honey!"

As I hugged him, I could see over his shoulder a small vase with bright, neon orange, yellow, and green flowers.
Wait... What?
Neon orange.
Neon yellow.
Neon green.
The first flowers Derek has ever bought me.
Cue internal struggle between my brain and my heart.
Brain - "Shut up, he got you flowers."
"Awe, you got me flowers." I said in my soft, girlie voice. His eyes lit up, proud of his accomplishment. "Thank you so much." I whispered.
Heart - "Does he not know me, at all...”
Brain - "You asked for flowers, you were not very specific."
Heart - "Did I have to be?"
Brain - "Let it go and be grateful. Be patient."

So I thought I had let it go by not saying anything about it, but inside, I despised those flowers and mocked Derek for ever getting them.
Three hours later, we get into an argument about something minor and out of my mouth rolls, "YOU BOUGHT ME GREEN FLOWERS... REALLY!?"

I couldn't be grateful. I couldn't see the fact that he was trying to love me in my "language of love" which is very different from his, which is service and quality time. I made it about what I was getting verses the fact that my husband was blessing me and trying to show his love for me.

It was rough and my heart didn't change immediately.

For a while I used this story as ammo for how I thought Derek needed to step up his game. But I have since realized that I was the fool. I was the one so bent on the color of the flowers that I couldn't smell the sweet aroma of his love for me.

I apologized to him, about a year and a half later, for holding expectations over him (some that I didn't even realize I did) as to how his "real love for me" should look. Derek is not a Hollywood character, nor are we here to write my dream love story. We are a part of God's story, which is more romantic and pure then any "true love" tale ever told. He is kind, gentle, and patient despite our broken gifts and ever wondering hearts.

It has become a running tradition, and a never-failing-laughter-starter, to get some type of green flower in each bouquet that Derek gives me. It reminds me of God's pure love for me and intends for me to experience and give. It reminds me that,
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13

Monday, April 7, 2014

Houston, We Have A Problem...

I was scared.
Geniunely, fearful.

Derek was diagnoised back in 2011 with multiple sclerosis (an amazing story which I'll share later). His amazing doctor started him on a great medicine called Copaxone. The side effects were small and quick, if any at all, compared to the other treatments available. Derek was 24 years old at the time and was covered by his dad's insurance, but we both knew that that would end on the last day of November of 2013 at 11:59 pm. We knew that day was coming and we had no clue what we were going to do about it. So we prayed and kept living life.

Moving to Seattle was so exciting! We came to realize that we were doing something pretty out of the ordinary. We would get strange looks when people would ask what was taking us to Seattle and our answer would be "Jesus." We didn't really have a plan. We just knew we were supposed to do it.

I had gotten a job with Princess Cruiseline over a phone interview while still living in Houston. The program was a temporary position and would begin May 15th and end October 15th. I didn't care. It was a job in Seattle, our next season, and another reason to give people instead of "Jesus" when they asked why we were moving. Plus, it sounded pretty official. "Oh, I got a job working for a cruise line, you may have heard of it. It's called Princess. Princess Cruiseline."

We made it to Seattle, and began to settle in. Derek applied and was accepted to do an internship with the church. That meant he would only have time to work a part-time position. But, I was excited! This is what we had been praying for and it was happening. We were both in agreement that I would be the primary source of income, (funny, huh? see Sailing to Seattle.) and Derek would continue to work part-time as a Segway Tour guide. Yeah, my Texan husband was giving folks a tour around Seattle. :) Jesus is hilarious.

I thought surely I could work my way into Princess. I thought I could show them I'm a good worker and have something to offer the company. But when I got there, I noticed I was one of about 2,000 other temps hired for the Alaska season. They seemed to be favoring others around me and I just couldn't get "in." We all know when we are "in" and when we are truly just temps. This temp position didn't offer any health insurance either, just a nice discount on a future cruise with them.

What am I supposed to do? Derek's medicine costs about $4,000 a month without insurance and God forbid he get hospitalized again. That's about $40,000 we don't have. We needed health care. We needed a good job.

The pressure fell on me like a heavy sack of potatoes. I felt like it all depended on me. So what does Courtney do when she needs to get something done. She does it. Quickly. With not alot of prayer or thought. She jumps on whatever seems fastest and most logical.

So I quit Princess.

I found out that Starbucks gives health care to part-time employees and they just so happen to be hiring down from my house. I applied and got the 25 hour a week job.

It was fun at first. I really enjoyed be a barista. But honestly, we could barely pay our bills, how the heck are we going to pay for health care too. I couldn't just get healthcare for him, I had to pay for mine also... And that was going to end up taking our whole check!! I realized quickly that I had messed up. WHAT HAVE I DONE!?

I was at my breaking point. Fear consumed me. Lies and condemnation flooded my mind.

"What are you going to do now?"
"Your husband will pay for your selfishness."
"God's going to punish you for being disobedient."
"You're done for."

I didn't realize how I saw the Lord until that moment. I began to realize that I saw him as some sort of karmic deity, that would punish me at any slip off of his harshly thin tight rope of righteousness. I couldn't handle it. I believed he would let us fail and crush us because of my fear, hasty decisions, and lack of faith. Oh how, I didn't understand the Gospel.

I believed I was a broken, unprofitable product that was once again failing the expectations of the One whom I just wanted to love me. What I didn't understand was, yes I am. I am all of that. But all of those expectations were fulfilled by Jesus. His righteousness is now my righteousness. His faithfulness is now my faithfulness. And I mean, I knew that. But I didn't really believe that. My mind said, "Oh, yeah, yeah, I got that." But my actions said, "No way. I'm all alone in this." Is it really something you believe if you don't do what you are saying you believe?

"Hey, there is poop in that cookie."
"Oh, okay thanks for the heads up."
Yeah, you didn't believe it.
I cried out. I repented for running in any direction I thought would be my salvation rather than turning to him. I repented for turning to this world in hopes that it would save us from our sure demise. 

I saw no where to go from where I already was, so I stayed at Starbucks. I was determined to be faithful where he has allowed me to be, and really trust that he can bring water out of this seemingly dry rock. I had to trust that God cared for both Derek and I, and that he would provide a new job or sustain us where we were. I would apply to local jobs as I saw them posted online, staying open for any new oppurtunities. I could breathe. The pressure began to lift.

August came quickly, and I noticed one morning I had an email replying an application I had filed. I was requested to contact the HR who had a couple questions about my resume. She made me aware that a couple hundred people had already applied for this position and that this would be a multiple step process that would take some time.

September rolls around. I do a phone interview with this company. I heard alot of "Oh, perfect!" and "That's awesome!" which was pretty encouraging. By the end of September, I, along with 5 others, were requested for an in person interview.

October 3rd, my 24th birthday, I go in for a background check.
*Super intimidating.*

October 7th, I heard "You'll hear from us Friday."
*I'm getting nervous.*

October 18th... I hear, "Monday."
*I am so scared at this point.*

What was happening? Was I going to get this job or not? It's an admin position and I was great at that and November was getting so close. Could I still trust God? Was this all going to worth it?

October 24th, my phone rings. I hear "Congratulations! Check your email."

I read the offer. I was floored. God provided. Derek's insurance would end November 30th, 2013 at 11:59 pm and the new insurance began December 1st, 2013 at 12 am. Derek and I danced and sang and cried.

Literally to the minute, God provided.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dating One Last Time - Part 3

"Which way are you going?"

"Hey, so what do you wanna do with your life?"
"I really like music, I like telling people about Jesus, and I really think I'm going to travel."
"Hmmm... Me too..."

Are you both going the same direction? Does the mission you feel called to seem to walk right next to theirs? Don't get me wrong, Mr. Derek is polar opposite from me. He is a take-it-as-it-comes, wise introvert while I'm a control-freak, quick-to-talk extrovert. And, technically, Derek and I do not look simialiar to anyone from our dating past, so you could even go as far as saying we aren't really each other's "typical type". But we, by God's grace, work. We both love Jesus, and we both want to see his name known. We both enjoy teaching and music, and neither of us mind picking up and leaving when Jesus tells us to. And we really love and enjoy each other. We are super good friends!

Wanting similar primary things will be fundimental for your relationship. By primary, I mean, do they know, love, and serve Jesus.

1. If your friend has not repented from sin and turned to Jesus, then based on scripture, this is not who you are supposed to be with... right now. Missional dating is not impossible and I've hear stories of good marriages that started missionally, but it really isn't your job to convert "hot stuff" by dating them. I would like to remind you that you are not the Savior, you can't save anyone, nor are you responsible for their salvation. You, as their friend can hang out them, invite them to church, pray with them, and rejoice with them as they progress. Then, maybe you can consider a future together.

This can save a lot of unnecessary heartache. So if you have the expectation that, since you are a Christian, if you date "Shorty" and get them to come to church with you, maybe they then will become a Christian, you have a sour motive and this could lead you somewhere you don't necessarily want to go. This person could building their foundation on you and not Jesus, and if you break up or the first time you let them down, they'll probably stop going to church because you were the only reason they came. Remember, we make horrible gods.

2. If you are a Christian and evidently so your friend is too and you KNOW that you are going to be a missionary in South Africa, and home-boy wants to be a CEO of a multimillion dollar company in downtown New York City, then this is probably isn't going to work out. I say probably, because God can do anything and shorten your missionary years and reunite you on the top floor of the Empire State Building and you get married and on and on.

But that being said, pay attention. Sometimes you just know, "yeah this isn't right." Sometimes your prayers may have to be, "help me see truth because I can't get past the fact that he is so fine!!!" If you know you this isn't right, it doesn't make you better then them and it doesn’t make this person second best, it's just, he's not yours (listen to Not Mine) and that's okay.  It just means ya'll aren't going in the same direction. That is good friendship material, but not good spouse material.
I'd like to pray for you.

Thank you for your design. Thank you for your plan to bring your people unto you and unite them with yourself and with each other. Thank you for friendship. Thank you for marriage. Help your children decern which is appropriate for which relationships. Help us let go of what is not good or right for us, and trust that you will preserve any gift (relationship) that you mean for us to have. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dating One Last Time - Part 2


This is where you begin to see what people are really made of. You learn what they laugh at, what they constantly talk about, any allergies, all their favorites, and even how they like their coffee. Friendships tend to take the pressure off of trying to perform in order to woo. This allows you to show yours and to see people’s worldview and character.

"We are all pretty fruity people."

I've always hear,

"if you squeeze an orange, you don't get lemon juice."

As a friend, you will be there to see this person go through daily life and even walk with them through some pretty hard stuff. You get the chance to see the fruit this person bares for what it really is, and skip that sugar coated topping that a sexually-driven, typical dating relationship adds to an already not so tasty fruit. Last thing you want to do is to get into covenant with someone that is NOTHING like they said they were. With a friendship, you see are able to see them more clearly as a sinner that is repentive (saved by grace) or a sinner that doesn't really care and requires you to like it or leave it, in which you should probably just stay friends with them.

This doesn't mean that you can't be their friend, you (if you are a Christian) want someone who has an understanding of grace and is progressing. You will never find a perfect man or woman to call your mate, but you are looking for someone who is striving to be quicker to repent (turn from sin) and turn towards Jesus in all things. That is worth the wait.