When Everything Falls Apart

Long before the new year even begins, I sit down and christen each month of 2013 with a piece of God-breathed truth.  And I choose the familiar promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to undergird all the days of January because it seems like the only way to really enter into a year.  Believing in a God Who's always at work, always for our good.  Believing we have a future and we have a hope and we're not lost and we're not abandoned.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

But it's not until the fourth week of January arrives that I feel it strong, how God's chosen these words to mark this month of a life and He's speaking this promise right into the marrow of me.  Because it only takes two days and one phone call and one appointment and the whole world starts shaking and shifting and I start wondering who I am and where I'm going and what all this is really about.

I welcome the new year with a new name and I declare it loud that God's the only refuge for a life and I'm choosing to build my home right into Him.  And now I stand here just one month later with everything falling clean apart and I think maybe I'm just a fool to believe this year's going to be a story of rebuilding.

All this falling apart, it feels like the worst kind of deja vu, and I think back to the days of summer when I let grief bury me in silence and I refused to speak this one awful truth out loudI felt abandoned by God.

And some things, they really are the same.  My job hangs once more by the tiniest of threads, frayed and worn and closer to breaking than ever before.  My beloved kitty remains mysteriously ill, only marginally improved after the options have run out.  And a piece of my own treatment has been ripped out of my hands overnight and I'm left grasping about for wisdom and courage and peace.

Just like last summer, I pick up my needles and my yarn and I knit for hours without end, try to keep on breathing while everything else spins out of control.  I stop writing, too, and the irony's not lost on me, how the topic is "Yes" and I say "No," just keeping on knitting and breathing instead.

It's a bit of a broken record--me, this life, all the loss and the grieving and the I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-again's.  And, yes, maybe there's this one long moment when I feel like a fool, caught off guard and thrown off course just when I've begun a new path.  But there's one thing that's different than before, and that one thing?  It changes everything.

I don't feel abandoned by God.

I'm hurt and I'm scared and I'm angry and I'm a bit lost and knocked off my feet.  But God's near and I feel it strong and I'm leaning hard into Him, counting on the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 to carry me through.

Yes, God's got a plan and I've got a future full of hope and suddenly I don't feel like such a fool at all.  Because I've named 2013 the Year of Refuge, the year of learning how to take refuge in God alone.  And who learns to take refuge at all when they're not actively, desperately, wholeheartedly in need of refuge?

When I dig a little deeper into the Hebrew translated "refuge," I look up the verb form and I find this:  to take refuge in, to trust in.

Trust.  For me, right here and right now, trust means this:   Taking Refuge Under the Shelter of the Throne.

The year's only a month old and this is what I'm already learning.  That I'm not stuck in the past, stuck in the old life, stuck in the woman I used to be.  I've grown and I've been changed and I'm learning to take refuge in God, learning to trust Him in the middle of the hard days and the pitch-black nights.  And I don't know how any of this is going to turn out but I do know this:

God's got a plan and I've got a future full of hope and the Year of Refuge might just be the most important year of a life.

Linking up a day late and sharing in community over at FaithBarista.com this week as we consider the word "Trust."  Join us?


  1. I'd encourage you dear friend to also read the two verses that follow Jeremiah 29:11. I believe that you will find they can inform you even more as to the reality of verse 11. Grace to you Courtney! :D

    1. @Lover of Christ: Thank you, Daniel, for so faithfully pointing me back to the Word. It's been a long road of struggle, but finally the scriptures are feeling accessible to me again and I am finding much comfort, courage, and nourishment there. In reading Jeremiah 29:10-14, I am actually most struck by the fact that God is speaking this to His people in the midst of their captivity, assuring them of a future full of hope even when they are in their darkest hour. And even as God is allowing judgement to come for their sins, He *carries* them into exile (vs. 14). Even in judgement, God's compassion is unfailing. Sending grace right back at you, Friend!

  2. love you, friend. praying for you - and sometimes knitting and breathing? that's saying "yes" too.

    1. @my name is kimberley: Such joy to find your words tucked here in my corner of the world, Dear One. Thank you, with all my heart and soul, for prayers and love across the miles. Still knitting and breathing here, trying to live the "yes" even when it's hard. Love you like crazy.

  3. I loved your Taking Refuge Under the Shelter of the Throne. Beautiful!

    1. @Sandee Story: Welcome, New Friend! Thank you for taking the time to read my scratched-out story here and offer kind words. I'll come by your blog later today and say hello. Much grace to you on your journey with Him.

  4. Courtney, I don't know where to start. First, this is beautiful and honest and so full of surrender and what it is to be a follower of Christ in this broken world. Second, Jeremiah 29:11 has carried me through so many years. It is hands down my life verse. God has used this to breathe hope and trust into my life over and over again when I have no words of my own. I think that one verse encapsulates so much of the hope we have in this life in Christ. A year of refuge. That is beautiful. I don't know your exact circumstances, but I've also been through over a decade of illness and have had the bottom fall out several times. If you'd ever like to talk, email me (kimtrick [at] gmail). These times right now feel so dark and scary, but the pruning is always the hardest part. I kick and scream through it and am only slowly learning to "be still" and know He is there (He's using Ps. 46:10 and Exodus 14:14 to teach me a ton). The last period of pruning I went through hurt baaaad, but I kid you not when I say it was a turning point into new life and a much deeper faith for me. Hugs to you!

    1. @Kim: Thank you for coming by and offering such deep encouragement to me on the hard road. It strikes me first that you see surrender here in my story because I guess I hadn't really thought of it that way. But you are right--I've given up the struggle *against* God in the grieving days, chosen instead to lay myself right down in Him and trust that He'll hold and He'll carry and He'll make a away through the impossible dark. Thank you for showing me a bit more of the growth He's bringing about in my life--it gives me strength to keep breathing in and out, waiting for His purposes to be worked out in me. You mentioned a chronic illness group on (in)courage (I think) in a previous post and I've been meaning to look into that--it's immeasurably comforting to connect with others on this very specific kind of hard road and I hope to connect more with you in the near future. Thank you for reaching out a hand across the miles. You are Gift and Grace, and I am so grateful.

  5. p.s. Courtney, are you familiar with the singer Audrey Assad? Her song "Even the Winter" reminded me of a post you wrote. But even more than that I ask, because I've been meaning to suggest her song "Sparrow" to you for what feels like weeks. I think it may speak to you right now. It's one my favorites.

    1. @Kim: It's funny because I love every song I've ever heard by Audrey Assad--and yet I still do not own a single bit of her music. I will have to remedy that one of these days :). I had not heard her cover of "Sparrow" before and just listened to it this morning. My favorite line? "I rest on His goodness/in my doubting, in my fear." Yes. I'm a little shaky and I'm a little scared (or a lot), but I'm resting on His goodness. Thank you, Friend, for sharing this. Music is my soul language. Grace to you this day and always!

  6. oh Courtney,

    i'm sorry to hear about your kitty and your job and your treatment! i'll be asking God to cover you in mercy on all those fronts...

    you're right about the one thing that's different making everything different. what we all want is not to have to take refuge *from* anything, and thus not to have to take refuge *from* anything *in* God. & our Lord has promised us that, if we give ourselves to Him in love, in the end we will get what we want: when (as Julian of Norwich says) "all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well", God won't be our refuge from anything else, but simply and gloriously our Home. in the meantime, though--and especially in hard times of the sort you're going through--we do need a refuge. and there's all the difference in the world between needing but not being able to take refuge in God (because we feel abandoned by Him), and being able to take the refuge we need in our Emmanuel (God with us). I am so thankful that, even in the midst of your trials, you can say with St. Paul, that you are "hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned"!

    1. @chris: I must apologize for the long delay in replying to your words here...really truly the only thing I am spending my days doing right now is breathing in and out, trying not to drown. I am exhausted in every sense of the word and the days seem too long and too short all at the same time. Thank you for prayers. There are no words. Just..thank you.

      I love what you say here, that in the end God won't be our refuge from anything but rather "simply and gloriously our Home." I hadn't pondered that before, and oh, what hope! To not need refuge. To be with and in God because of Love and nothing else at all. You are breathing courage right into me and I am immeasurably grateful.

  7. My Courtney,

    Holding you in my heart. Tight. Close.

    I am far away, but I am with you.

    Still flying my flag of blue. and holding it right up to my face where I close my eyes and think of you and pray.

    Hold fast, friend. We may be in for some rough seas, but Christ is our mast and the cross is sure.

    I'm so sorry that you are hurting, but so grateful that you are not crushed: not abandoned.

    Reaching for your hand,


    1. @Bernadette: Dear Friend. You have been on my heart and I've been wondering how you are doing. Wishing we could at least share a boat as we're tossed about on the stormy waters but thanks be to God that "Christ is our mast and the cross is sure" and there's enough of Him to cover all our battered ships. Why did I think that the verses I chose for 2013 wouldn't need to be so gut-wrenchingly lived out? I am still foolish and flailing. But Psalm 27:14 couldn't be more needed in this month after the falling apart. Grabbing hold of your hand and praying for us both to be strong and take heart in the long wait. Love and prayers and grace to you, My Dear One.

  8. Hello, sweet girl~
    It stunned me to see this has been sitting for 2 weeks before I'm attending to it. Please forgive my tardiness. You have not been out of my prayers despite my silence here. (I know a bit of what you mean in your reply to chris about the days being too long and too short all at once.)

    How trying for you to have circled back to the same sorrows again! My heart goes out to you in your suffering. Yet praise be to God for making His presence known to you in it. The pain will be worth it all when we can know Christ truly through not just the power of His resurrection but the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3). I pray that is your experience: growing relational knowledge of Christ and a definite fellowship with Him in sufferings, for--as you are in Him, a member of His body--your sufferings are His. He is with you and will never, never, never forsake you.

    May the good and true Shepherd guide you through the valley of deep darkness you walk through and provide for each and every need the job changes, kitty care, and health treatment changes create. May He make His name glorious in you, friend!

    Enjoy the comfort of that yarn in your hands and the pleasure of creating beauty out of sticks and string, one stitch at a time.


  9. @tinuviel: Dear Friend...there is no need for apology. I know the depth of your care and the faithfulness of your intercession on my behalf--and all of that while you manage your own road of chronic illness. Even so, it is a breath of grace to find your words here and I am so grateful.

    Thank you for the reminder of the "fellowship" with Christ on the path of suffering. I am weary, yes, but the realness of His presence here whispers all manner of hope even in the darkness. And to know that this walk through the valley will produce deeper relationship and truer knowledge of God is a hope like no other--a reason to press on even when I feel I cannot.

    I am still knitting endlessly here--so much so that a day without knitting feels incomplete. Maybe even this is a quiet submission to the God Who takes every last day, even the messy and the broken, and weaves it into His Glory.

    Love and grace to you, Dear Christina.


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