It's an evening in July when I scratch it down, right there on a page of my journal.
It's the three-thousandth entry in the gratitude journal, and when I write it out, I only know this: That number seems too big and too small, all at the same time.
It was the last month of 2010 when I began a journey I didn't understand. A journey I didn't even know I needed to take. I just knew that I wanted things to be different.
That I wanted to be different.
And maybe I had no idea how to change and maybe I didn't even know if I could change. But it only took 7 months for me to figure out what I really did need to know: There's only one thing that can ever change us at all and it's Love.
Being loved, it can change everything.
But believing we are loved? This is what really does change everything.
The first thousand entries in the gratitude journal, they open my soul to what I spent a whole life desperately seeking. For the first time in all my broken years, I know it now without any more doubt at all--God loves me with an everlasting love.
And when I write this down on paper--
#1000 - I am loved
--I'm broken and made whole, all at the same time.
I keep on counting because I never want to go back to the days before I knew Love. But the second thousand is harder than the first, and it's 17 months before I figure out what living loved might mean. Because life comes hard and fast and I break deep and often, and I start to wonder if God's walked right out on me at long last. But then He shows up in a deserted parking garage on a Friday night and He spares the life of a father and I catch a glimpse of what it is to be loved.
And it's nothing like I thought it'd be and somehow everything I need it to be, all at the same time.
Gift number 2000 might be the strangest one of all, but I write it down anyway: #2000 - Figuring it out at last that it's the holes in a thing--a life, a soul--that let the light shine through.
Yes, living loved means all the aching, broken places lead us straight to God. And all the cracks in a soul bleed only Him into a world in desperate need.
This is what the second thousand entries in the gratitude journal teach me--and also this: If I want to live, really live--I've got to keep counting for always.
I want to live. So I keep on counting.
The third thousand gifts, I count them in some of the hardest months of a life. Those 6 months, they're the ones in which I fall ill again and again. The ones in which I can barely breathe through all the upheaval. The ones in which I nearly drown in a darkness I name Hopeless. But I count on, and I don't even know how, but I live.
I'm sure of it now that the real living is only found in the counting--the counting on God. Because that's what the third thousand gifts teach me--that even in our darkest days, God hasn't abandoned and He's not going to. That we can still keep counting on God even when we're not sure if we can keep on breathing. That even in the pitch-black night, there is hope and there is life--because there is God.
I record gift number 3000 on a night in July: #3000 - Not feeling alone anymore, in my struggles, in this journey, in this whole mess of a life. But now it's 6 months and 500 gifts later and I see it plain, how the end of one thousand is always just the beginning of the next. The next chapter of a life story. The next revealing of Grace and Glory and God.
And maybe there are still things I don't understand any more now than I did at the beginning: How the goodness of God can be endless, how Love can be endless, how the gratitude journey can keep a heart beating right on through all the dying mess of a life.
But there's this one thing I've learned 3,502 times over:
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.
When we look for God in our beautiful, hope-filled hours--we find Him.
When we look for God in our fiercest, darkest, most terrifying nights--we find Him.
When we look for God--we find Him.
And when we find God, we're the ones who are really found.
I'm happily, gratefully, and wholeheartedly taking The Joy Dare again for 2014--the dare to find God a thousand more times before year's end. Join me?
Awesome post girl. Yes He is found by us when we seek Him. My pastor said this past Sunday that God isn't playing hide and seek with us. Yet at times it can so feel that way, right? The realization that He wants to be found and intimately involved in our lives is so reassuring and burden lifting at the same time. I'm happy to be staring this journey of counting blessings with you. Even when it feels like I'm counting them in darkness at times. Love you girl!ReplyDelete
Courtney... I'm so glad you're writing again. God's given you a way with words. I just clicked through to this post from your new one and it took the breath out of me. Wow. I don't know what to say. God is so good. I'm so glad your father was kept safe that day.ReplyDelete
(Also, this seems trite in context of what you've shared and what I'm feeling, but I've been listening to Sara Groves all month long on repeat. Her words definitely hit me where I am.)
I love your pictures. They are breathtaking.ReplyDelete
@mamagriffith: Thank you, Friend! It brings me much joy to photograph the up-close beauty of flowers and plants. This is a photo of my amaryllis plant, faithfully blooming every winter in the happiest shade of peachy-orange. I'm glad you're back in the blogging world, Friend!ReplyDelete
@Krystle Ridout : Thank you for reading my words here and taking the time to respond. Yes, sometimes it does indeed seem like God is hiding Himself from us. But I think it's more that the things and people around us are distracting us from seeing God, clouding our vision and keeping us focused on our circumstances and our struggles. The choice to keep a gratitude journal is the choice to SEE God even in places no one else sees Him, even in place we're not sure we *want* to see Him. So proud of you, dear Hope Sister, for making that choice with me. I'm standing with you even in the darkness. Love and hugs!ReplyDelete
@Kim Fernando : Dear Friend, thank you for taking the time to come here to this post and read about the incredible mercy of God sparing my father's life. I never want to forget this--how God spared us that night, how every single day is a gift, how sometimes we get so caught up in what God doesn't spare us from that we forget how much He *has* spared us from. And, by the way, I'm listening to the Sara Groves song in this post while I'm writing to you. Yes, her songs have long been the soundtrack of my days. Fireflies and Songs is probably my favorite album, but Invisible Empires (which this song "Mystery" is from) is also amazing. And then there's her Christmas album....yeah, okay, I just love them all! And I love you. So much. Always, always grateful for you, Dear Kim.ReplyDelete
Courtney, this post is beautiful. You're truly blessed to put into words the workings of the Spirit like you do. I'm so amazed at how you can look back at your years and see God's hand moving through it even when it was hard to see. I want that kind of closeness again, and I've found the same thing. He's always there when we draw close. It blows my mind.ReplyDelete
"Gift number 2000 might be the strangest one of all, but I write it down anyway: #2000 - Figuring it out at last that it's the holes in a thing--a life, a soul--that let the light shine through." <-- amazing. just such deep truth there.
I love you, friend.
Courtney, I could read your words all day. Thank you for your openness, thank you for your vulnerability, thank you for your honestly. We need people like you. You have so many gifts to give us and one of those is showing us we can live our stories openly and be loved. Love you, friend.ReplyDelete
Courtney, I hope 2013 was a year of refuge for you, friend. I should have asked before. I know I read this a year ago, but I'm reading it again now and I want this new year to be everything you hope it will and more, because God is good and He's bigger than we can ask or imagine.ReplyDelete
Dear Kim, thank you for leaving such grace words here in my corner of the world. One of the reasons writing is so important to my journey is because it is *how* I make sense of what God is doing. He reveals His work most when I wrestle through the telling of my story, which is really the telling of His story. Mostly, I don't know where I'm going when I write a piece until I get to the end of it. And maybe that's why I resist the writing so much? Because I want to know how it works out in the end? But as always, God asks us to step out into the water before He parts the sea. I am still learning, haltingly, how to do this.ReplyDelete
Wow, really? You could read my words all day and not be tired of them? Thank you. You make me feel deeply loved and appreciated. Yes--it's taken me too many years of a life to figure out that I can be myself *and* I can be loved. That being myself is actually the only way to really know love at all. I am so grateful to God for pursuing me all the years of my life and never letting up until I knew it through and through that I was loved. You, Dear Friend, are a part of my "new life." The one in which I have real relationships, the one in which I love and am loved. And it's amazing. So grateful you are a part of it.ReplyDelete
I hope to write a kind of wrap-up post regarding last year's word, Refuge. It was nothing like I thought it would be (of course) but I see it now how Refuge was really a promise from God rather than a description of the year to come. I might've thought I wanted a year that was like a refuge--but instead God gave me a year in which I desperately needed a refuge. And God was that refuge through and through. I don't know what to expect from 2014--thank you for encouraging me to believe that it can more than I even hope or imagine. Yes. It can be. Because God is at work. Praying love and grace and deep hope for your new year, Dear Kim.ReplyDelete
Oh, don't you just love how the words He buries in our hearts are NOTHING like what we imagined they would mean. I'm jumping into "Follow" and trying to be intentional, because it's been the most active word He's planted in my heart yet. And still I can already tell that I've got so much deep soul learning ahead of me. I'm only one month in and He's reminding me that if I follow that means He leads. And sometimes that goes where I'm not expecting it. I know it's good, but it's so hard to bend my human will around it sometimes.ReplyDelete
Oh, friend, if you're learning haltingly then God is making beauty even out of that. I am right there with you. Half of the time I have no idea what I wrote until I get to the end and read it and think, "Wow, God's really teaching me something here!" It could never come from myself. And the times I try to do it on my own? It shows, and it's not pretty.ReplyDelete
I'm so grateful that you're telling His story for us to share in as we watch Him work in your life. Big hugs to you!
More and more I am grateful for the "not knowing." About the future. About what God's going to teach me. About how things are going to work out. Because I don't think I'd have the courage to do what needs doing, to take the path He's chosen for me, to go through the hard things He's using to teach and shape and make me new. But it doesn't really make it easy, the not knowing. There's still a whole lot of fear and struggle to work through, but I guess this is how we learn to trust? And isn't that the only way we'll ever really follow Him, by trusting His leading? Looking forward to seeing what He does in all of our lives this year--and so grateful to be sharing the life road with you, Dear Hope Sister!ReplyDelete
I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one writing in the dark! It's a crazy thing to try to explain to someone who's never experienced it before--how God teaches you through your own writing, writes a story you didn't even know was there. Yes. Of course it's the same for you. Because we're kindred spirits. So grateful for that. But mostly grateful for you!ReplyDelete