I know the meaning of life…

by Courtney on June 29, 2012

…and it is to glorify God.

So, before I begin, I have a confession to make….I really don’t want to write this blog post.  I would really like to just keep my blessings and my gifts, my awakenings and my testimonials to myself, because, really, that would be easier.  Also, because I know that the things I will say here will probably make me sound like one of those crazy, born-again Christians.  Although, maybe they aren’t really as crazy as I once thought…

I also don’t want to talk about this stuff, because I don’t come from a family that ever talks about this stuff.  We did not go to church growing up (I only ever went to church with my Granny, and I count the number of times she took me on one and a half hands).  We didn’t talk about God or Jesus or grace or blessings or sin or any of that stuff.  However, for as long as I can remember I have had this feeling, this internal pulling towards God, even though I didn’t know much about Him.  I believed in Him, but I was a sinner, I made many, many mistakes, and I figured God was probably way too disappointed in me to really care much about what happened to me.

So, I didn’t grow up knowing God or hearing about God.  Obviously, this means I know next to nothing about the Bible.  I still to this day have never read it all the way through.  I’m not sure I could, even now, have an intelligent discussion with a non-believer about who Jesus is, why He loves us, and what His death on a cross was all about.  And yet, I know it in my heart.  But I have now come to realize that that’s not enough.  It’s not enough for me to just know that Jesus loves me, to live quietly with the revelations I have had about Him, because of Him.  I have to share them.  I think I now know that one of the ways I can bring glory to God is to share my story, even though I am very, very reluctant.

OK, so why reluctance?  I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.  So there’s not wanting to sound “crazy”.  There’s the “we just don’t talk about that kind of stuff”.  There’s the “people will judge me if I talk about this kind of stuff” thing.  When you proclaim your faith openly you really subject yourself to others who will judge all your actions in light of your being a “good Christian.”  If you make a mistake, if you sin, if you don’t do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, people will say, “And she calls herself a good Christian?!!”  Am I a good Christian?  I don’t know, probably not.  There’s the whole not knowing the Bible thing.  There’s also the fact that I don’t talk enough about Jesus with Nate and Will (I want to, I really do, but I don’t know what to say, it feels awkward or something, and this makes me really sad.  I feel like I don’t know enough to talk with them.  That has to change.)  Also, Matt and I don’t talk much about our faith with each other.  Again, something else that I hope I can change.  So, you see, most definitely not a good Christian.

As far as reluctance, there’s also the thought among many people, that religion and faith are private, and should stay that way.  That one shouldn’t try to impose their views on others.  I think I thought that way for a long time, too.  But I now see, for me, that my faith has become such a large part of who I am, that it’s becoming harder to hide it.  And that’s a good thing.  I also don’t think I’m trying to impose my views on others, but, rather, I’m simply sharing my experiences.  Yes, I suppose I am hoping that by sharing my experiences others may know the power and the love and the hope that is God.  Is this imposing?  Nah, I don’t think so…just a hope and a wish!

But despite all my objections, all the reasons I kept telling myself that I should just keep quiet, not rock the boat, just maintain the status quo, I am here to tell my story.

(OK, now after all that buildup, I’m quite sure my little story is going to fail to impress!)

My story:

Matt, Nate, and I moved here from Austin exactly three years ago.  Both my family and Matt’s family live up here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so even before we were married, we talked about wanting to move back up to Dallas once day.  Well, I did most of the talking.  I think Matt was mostly on the fence, if not silently opposed to the idea.  His job was in Austin, his brother lived in Austin, all his friends were in Austin.  He was very happy there and saw no real reason to move.  All my friends where in Austin, too, but I thought, “Hey, we can make new friends!”  I knew that one day we would have children, and I knew how nice it was growing up near family.  I was especially close to my Granny, and having her as a constant presence in my life (since she lived so close) was a blessing.  I wanted that for my children.

Then we had Nate.  Our families visited just two or three times each in his first year and a half.  We made trips up here, too, although it was quite the scene with all the stuff we had to bring with us just to get through one weekend with one little baby!  I was not happy with the amount of time we were seeing our families, and I wanted more, wished for more, for Nate.  It seemed, to me, that the time had come for us to move to Dallas.  Matt was reluctant, but after a return home from a Thanksgiving trip to Dallas he changed his mind.  We had hit major traffic, and then had Nate scream at us for the last two hours or so of the trip home.  Matt vowed that he would never do that again, and so he agreed that we should move.

After that, things moved right along.  We started de-cluttering and cleaning and then we put the house on the market.  We fully expected the house to sit on the market for several months, but it sold in six days.  The buyers wanted to close in three weeks, so we had to find a new house in Dallas right away.  We got very lucky and found our house, which we love, and we were able to move in within the scheduled time frame.

Everything was falling into place!  My plan of our little family moving to Dallas was a success!  We were here!

And then…

Exactly two days later I realized I had made a mistake.  A big mistake.  I chalked it up to being in a new neighborhood which I knew nothing about, a husband who had to go out of town for a few days for work, an 18 month old to entertain and keep busy, and a big house full of boxes that all needed to be unpacked.  I chalked it up to being overwhelmed and exhausted, but it was more.

I dealt quietly with my thoughts, on my own.  (Who tells their husband, who they had to convince in the first place to move, that you made a mistake and wanted to move back to Austin?!!  And all the family members who were so excited that you were now living so close??  Nope, just keep your thoughts to yourself and keep moving forward.)  But I was terribly unhappy.  Things weren’t like I thought they would be.  I had had visions in my mind of our new life in Dallas, and it wasn’t turning out like I thought it would.  I was disappointed.  Yes, I was happy we were now living closer to family, but I just wanted to move back to Austin.  I wanted our friends, our big backyard with all the trees, the grocery store where I knew where everything was…I just wanted to go back.

But I stayed quiet.  I prayed.  I prayed that God would help me to “get over” my feelings and help me to just be happy here, because I did have so much to be happy about.  The prayers only worked sometimes.  I would have periods of being so sad and depressed that I made us move, and then I would have periods of contentment and thankfulness for all that we had in Dallas that we never had in Austin.  But it never lasted, and it was so frustrating.  But still I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed that God would change my heart and help me to fully embrace our life in Dallas.

Matt, I think, knew something was wrong by all my crazy mood swings, but I certainly didn’t want to tell him.  Until six months later.  I waited six months, desperately trying to get rid of the Austin feelings, but to no avail.  I remember Matt and I were in our master bathroom, and I just lost it.  I had a complete meltdown and told him everything.  I told him that I had made a mistake, that I was terribly unhappy, and that I wanted to move back to Austin.  My dear, sweet husband had no idea that was coming!  I have never seen him look more shell-shocked!  And rightfully so, because what I was saying was crazy.  He, of course, kept cool, calmed me down, but basically said there was no way we were moving back to Austin.

That was six months after we moved here.  I didn’t say another word to him about moving back to Austin for another two years.  For two more years (two years!!) I had the same relentless feelings about Austin.  I would go through periods of happiness, but then I always succumbed to the Austin feelings, too.  And I never said a word to anybody.  I didn’t tell Matt, I didn’t tell my mom, I didn’t tell my in-laws.  I just kept it to myself, because I knew that I was being crazy and ridiculous, but I just could. not. stop.  I remember distinctly when I was having a “good” time, and I thought I had gotten over all my crazy wanting-to-move-back-to-Austin thoughts, a random thought or memory about Austin would pop up, and that would be it.  I would then be in a funk for several weeks, having thoughts like, “Remember when you were happy in Austin…”

It was awful.  I was a mess.  For two years I did this seesaw.  I tried my best to hide my craziness and mood swings from everyone, but of course that meant that Matt got the brunt of it.  Poor Matt.  He was way more patient and loving to me than I deserved.  I don’t think I would have been as understanding as he was if the roles had been reversed.

And during all that, I got pregnant with Will.  But my thoughts of wanting to move back to Austin never ended.  About a year ago I went and saw a therapist because I was so tired of it all (I still hadn’t told Matt that all my mood swings were about Austin and wanting to move back….maybe he knew, but I never told him that that was the reason for all my craziness.)  I only saw the therapist twice.  She was a lovely lady, but not very helpful.  Not helpful, because I knew that my thoughts were ridiculous, I knew that our life here in Dallas was good and all that I had dreamed of for our family, I knew all of that, but I just could not stop my obsessive thoughts.  But I kept praying, daily, that God would help me and would quiet my head and my heart.

Then, about six months ago, 2 1/2 years after we moved to Dallas, I had my second breakdown with Matt.  We were in the kitchen, and I basically rehashed the last two and a half years of craziness I had been trying to contain.  I told him that I just didn’t understand why I was still feeling the way I was feeling, why I still so desperately wanted to move back to Austin.  It just didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t control it.  I was telling him that I just didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. I was telling him about how wonderful it was to have family close by, how much I had enjoyed being able to attend church regularly, and how I had grown closer to God since we moved up here. I had all these things to be happy about, and yet I wasn’t happy. And I was so tired of it.

And then, the very next day (seriously), God “spoke” to me and changed my life forever.

In my moms group at church we had been reading Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman (a book I had heard about and actually suggested to our study leaders months and months prior).  The day following my second breakdown with Matt, I was at the gym, on the elliptical, reading Grace for the Good Girl on my Kindle.  In one of the chapters Emily was talking about watching her 4 year old daughter light off smoke bombs for 4th of July, and then she wrote:

Watching those smoke bombs light from a spark and then fog up the yard in a matter of seconds, I thought about the crazy way our minds work sometimes. …. I feel bad about myself just like she does [her daughter]. I feel insecure and listen to the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough or don’t measure up. It starts like a spark in my mind, quickly ignites, and fogs up the truth. The emotions burst forth from their familiar hiding place and run around aimlessly, untamed and unruly.

The smoke bombs will go off. The sparks will come. The emotions will swing from high to low. That is normal, neutral even. The challenge comes in knowing what to do in the midst of the smoke, in remembering that my identity is secure in Christ even if my emotions imply otherwise, and in setting my mind on truth even when it doesn’t make sense.

We saw in Chapter 10 how dangerous it is for God’s children to forget truth. Eve was made in the image of God, but she didn’t remember. When faced with the liar himself, she couldn’t recollect what was true about her. And so often, neither can we. As good girls, it is generally easy to resist the big stuff. The challenge comes in the everyday, living-life things. When the truth doesn’t feel true is when we begin to believe it isn’t. Satan’s biggest most effective weapon against good girls may not be lust or slander or adultery or addiction.  It is forgetfulness.

I know how crazy this sounds, but I am now convinced that the devil was planting those seeds in my mind, like “Remember when you were happy in Austin?”, and that’s all it took, for me to have that one thought, and then I would just spiral downwards.  I know it’s crazy to say “the devil made me do it”, but the thing is, Satan didn’t make me do it.  I did it to myself.  He just got me started.

After I read that passage in Grace for the Good Girl, I let it process for a bit, I then became really, really angry. For 2 1/2 years I had been so miserable, and made a lot of people around me miserable, too, because that is exactly what Satan wanted. Every time my depression came on, it was always triggered by one thought, one little memory of Austin. That’s all it took for me to become depressed and angry about living here.

I believe that God directed me to that book, to that passage, and that in so doing He saved me and changed my life.  With the direction I was headed, with the mood swings and depression, nothing good, at all, was going to happen.  My marriage was in jeopardy.  My role as a mom was seriously lacking.  I was beginning to doubt that God really loved me, because I prayed all the time that He would change my heart about wanting to move back to Austin, but yet the thoughts still remained.  And all along that was the goal of the devil…to destroy everything.

God has a plan for my family, and I now believe that being in Dallas is part of that plan.  I am now happily accepting that and not trying to fight it every day by wishing we were back in Austin.

I still occasionally have those thoughts about Austin that used to send me into a depression.  Like just the other day I was thinking about how pretty our backyard was with all the trees.  Normally just that one thought would send me into a depression that we had ever moved, but this time I just smiled, thought, “Yes, it was a pretty backyard. I’m glad we got to live there for as long as we did,” and I moved on.  I didn’t dwell.

I have always been skeptical when people would say things like “the devil made me do it.”  I have come to realize that that’s not it at all.  Instead it’s, “the devil put this tiny idea in my mind and I did all the rest all on my own.”

I am now, as crazy as it sounds, thankful to God for those 2 1/2 years of mood swings and depression.  Thankful that He stood by me as I suffered through all of that.  It was only through that suffering that I could come to realize how precious my relationship with Him is, how precious my marriage is, and how precious my boys are.  I now see how heavily I must guard those things, for Satan wants it all.  I never, ever would have come to understand that if I had not endured those 2 1/2 years.

My father-in-law (who is a preacher, by the way, and one of the biggest factors in my now close relationship with God), says that you can’t believe in angels if you don’t also believe in demons.  I never gave that idea much thought until this all happened.  The devil is at work trying to create chaos and destruction and suffering.  It is only through God that I am now aware of that and working daily to fight against it.  I know that I’m not a “good” Christian, but I am trying to always walk in a direction that leads toward God and not away from Him.

So, that’s my story.  For me, it has been life changing.  God saved me, and he continues to save me daily.  For that, and for His endless love and grace, I am forever thankful.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom June 29, 2012 at 8:15 am

Awesome !!!! I love you !!!!

Leslie Newman June 29, 2012 at 9:18 am

Courtney,

You are amazing! I never seem to have time to read everyone’s post but the babies are napping and yours just pulled me in. .. Please don’t ever feel like you are alone! You are a kind, sweet person and I wish, wish you were in our MTM group (lucky Tuesday!). I can completely relate to your feelings about Austin. I really struggled when we left all of our friends and family to move to Dallas. It took us a long time to finally feel that it was our home. We have gone through so many trials, but also such great joy, since living here.

I feel the Devil puts throughts in my head everyday and I just have to push them out and pray that God will help me. I think that everyone goes through the same thing, they just don’t want to talk about it or even know how to identify it.

I am so glad that you wrote your story. It makes me feel like I know you better and I think that it will help me be a better mom, wife and daughter.

Blessings,
Leslie

Grandma Susan June 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

WOW !! I have been praying for quite some time that God would intervene in your life and He has done it!!!
I too have had the feeling that you wanted more of God in your life and I knew that He would come to you Courtney ‘on His own time’ when He knew you desperately needed Him. I am so very happy for you and I will continue to pray that God gives you the strength to continue to grow in your faith and that you will feel confident in sharing your faith with others (especially Matt, Nate, Will, and other close family members!)
I am always willing to talk about God and His grace with you at any time!
Love, GS

Haley June 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

Oh Courtney! We are all only human. Be kind to yourself. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL & GOD LOVES YOU MORE THAN ANY OF US CAN COMPREHEND. Keep trying. Keep reading. Keep talking. Keep praying. Keep sharing. Ask questions. Dig deep. It’s all worth finding. I LOVE YOU. I *believe* in you. The day will come when you won’t have any awkwardness talking to your boys & telling them the stories that matter. Last night, I was lucky enough to tell the story of Noah’s Ark to a girl who’s going into 3rd grade. We stopped in a church that used to be a liquor store & they were having VBS and I immediately remembered the songs that told the stories as i HEARD them sung by all their precious little voices. I felt blessed. And the plan is to go back to the Living Spirit Chrurch this Sunday. I’m excited. It’s been a long time since I found a place & a pastor that were so open minded, non- judgey, & who seemed genuinely happy to see me & Josh & Jack. I’ll tell you more as this story unfolds. You are in my prayers, Lady. LOVE

Scott June 29, 2012 at 10:27 am

Courtney — Know this: We love you. You have been a blessing to us, to Matt, and to your sons.

Patti Engle June 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

Courtney
Wow…I’m so glad you shared your story. I love you and I am so grateful you are in my life.

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