Work Hard, Work Smart . . . But You’ve Got To Do The Work

Hard and smart are not mutually exclusive . . .

It is not an either/or situation . . .

Not for most things in life and definitely not for marriage . . . yeah, I’m back to that whole “marriage” thing. Whether you’ve been married two years or twenty years, or maybe you’re still waiting for “the one” (that’s another discussion for another day), I think we need to understand the value of both hard and smart work in all of our relationships, but especially in marriage.

We live in society that equates hard work with “bad”. We think if it’s hard there’s no way it can be good, and if it’s good, and especially great, it should never be hard. We say things like, “Work smarter, not harder . . . ” (credit: Allen F. Morgenstern) and use it as an excuse for not working hard. We’ve somehow twisted this saying (which is more about time management in the work place than anything else) and applied in ways it was never meant to be applied. How about we instead use our brains, our smarts, if you will, whilst also working hard? Working hard but not smart will just leave you spinning your wheels. But working smart while working hard will make a world of difference.

Circling back to marriage (because I have a point), I was listening to a marriage and family podcast the other day (and I honestly cannot remember which one), and the hosts were talking about the fact that if you see a great marriage then you see a marriage that was sometimes hard, sometimes easy, but has always had a lot of time and hard work invested in it.

Marriage is hard at times. Marriage is work most of the time. Marriage is hard work. Hard work done smartly is one of the most satisfying things on the planet. The issue we run into here is this isn’t a super romantic notion. When we walk down the aisle and stand next to the love of our life and vow our undying devotion and love and commitment for all time, we think that because we love one another it should all just magically happen. That this married thing should be easy. That the passion and romance and love should just flow. In essence we think the honeymoon should never end. To which I say, “Hahahahahaha! Ha!” Honeymoons never last forever, and the second things become hard, the second we have to put our hands to the proverbial plow in our marriages, many of us want to jump ship. This is most certainly not what we signed up for. And we’re left thinking maybe the person we thought was “the one” really isn’t???

Newsflash:

If you’re married to him/her, barring abuse, infidelity, or abandonment (*as always, see my disclaimer at the end), he/she is “the one”. And temporarily sidestepping the hard work, and going shopping for a new “one”, isn’t going to set you up for success. In all honesty, it’s probably going to place you right back in the same situation in a few months or years once the newness and excitement wear off.

I could throw a bunch of scriptures regarding marriage and hard work at you here. But I’m just going to give you one.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

“Heartily” here means “with your breath/soul” (Strong’s 5590).

In other words give it all you’ve got and then give it more.

Which y’all, when your spouse is getting on your last nerve, and your kids are climbing the walls, and you really don’t feel like giving it one ounce of energy (that you probably don’t really have) much less pouring your soul into it, is HARD.

Hence the HARD in hard work.

And this is what it took me a super long time, like embarrassingly long, to learn. I often worked hard, but I didn’t always work smart. I have a good husband that I’ve always loved and who has always loved me, and for that I am abundantly grateful, but y’all, I can work hard at nagging, and whining, and complaining, and picking a fight with the best of them. And I typically felt justified in doing it. But the reality is, even if I’m justified in my feelings (because let’s face it sometimes we’re wrong, but sometimes we’re not), I’m never justified in behaving badly. And what God brought to my attention some time ago was that if I wasn’t going to put the effort into my marriage that it deserved then I was essentially putting “bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (from Isaiah 5:20), and I was working hard at tearing down what God had built and created.

So what’s the answer?

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit . . . it’s that simple, and it’s that complicated . . . that’s the answer for everything in life, including marriage. Without God, we aren’t going to ever truly get it right, and that is 100% where the “smart” comes in because there is no way I’m doing this in my own power.

As my eight year can often be heard saying, “Help me Jesus to make good choices!”

Help me Jesus to respect and love my husband well. Help me Jesus to think before I speak or act. Help me to pour myself and my soul, my time and my effort, into my marriage. Holy Spirit help me to prioritize my life in such a way that it’s always God first and marriage second only to God. Teach me to be a good wife. And equip me and enable me to work both hard and smart.

Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no marriage expert. I’m often hesitant to write about marriage because I’m still learning and a work in progress. I still mess things up more than I care to admit. But I’ve lived it both ways. I’ve sown contention and reaped more as a result, but I’ve also worked hard, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to sow love, respect, peace, and joy into my marriage, and the fruit of that is so very sweet. And the more you do it, the easier and more effortless and enjoyable all that “hard” work becomes.

* Disclaimer: I will always cheer for, fight for, and champion marriage, but I feel like I have to say this because I’ve seen too many spouses (mostly women but also men) pushed to live in dangerous and unhealthy marriages by the church itself. When I talk about marriage, I’m talking about a marriage that, while it may be imperfect, is not one that is abusive or that has ongoing infidelity (and that covers more than just a physical affair). And obviously, if you’ve been abandoned, then the marriage vow and covenant has been severed, and you’re not responsible. This is not something that is going to work in an abusive marriage. A marriage rife with abuse and infidelity needs professional help to say the least. If you are living in an abusive situation (physical or emotional – and there’s a lot of ground with emotional abuse which is why professional help is so important) or with an unfaithful spouse, please, do everything you can to get to safety, and seek true, qualified help. Can marriages recover from abuse and infidelity? Yes, they sometimes do, but it takes two willing spouses, and that’s not always present or possible. Regardless, you are worth being treated with love and respect, and abuse is breaking the marriage vows and covenant with God. God does not intend for you to sit or stay in an abusive or unfaithful marriage with a spouse unwilling to change.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Good News of Great Joy! It Is Finished!

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished! And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30

It is finished . . .

The thousands of years battle against death and sin.

It is finished . . .

The trying to measure up and failing.

It is finished . . .

The never ending, never satisfying sacrifices.

It is finished . . .

The chasm between God and man.

It is finished . . .

The work of Jesus on the cross finished it all and gave us a path toward completeness and redemption.

Jesus wasn’t just a “good man” who gave up His life for us “just in case”. He wasn’t just a prophet, or a teacher, or a leader. He was, He is, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Messiah, our Hope. He was God incarnate. He was fully man, but make no mistake, He was and will always be fully God as well.

And on that Good Friday a little over 2000 years ago, He took on all the sin, the destruction, the pain, and the heartache of mankind for all eternity, and He gave up His spirit, and He said, “It is finished!” His work and our salvation were made complete in that moment.

Satan, for just a few hours, may have thought he won. He may have thought he defeated the Son of God, but he didn’t know what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit knew. Sunday was coming.

Jesus would rise again.

It is finished . . .

In a world that is desperately lost and searching for anything and everything to fill the void.

It is finished . . .

In a culture that chases pleasure at all cost and serves self to the point of self destruction.

It is finished . . .

In a hurting, broken, and dying world.

It is finished . . .

“For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2

Do you know what this “good news of great joy” is? Do you know why the most horrible day in the in all of history is also so very “good”? It’s the story that started in a manger . . . that culminated on a hill called Golgotha . . . Calvary . . . and ended with an empty tomb. It’s the message of the cross. The good news of a Savior born as a baby, sacrificed as a man, and risen as our Redeemer. There is nothing on this earth that can fill the void, but there is nothing that needs to because Jesus is ready and willing and waiting. All you have to do is ask. Ask Him to be your Lord, your Redeemer, your Savior.

“Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Today is the day of salvation!

It is finished!

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

The Goal is Not Misery

For much of my life I felt like I was failing God. I thought if I desired or wanted something, God always wanted the opposite. And He was just waiting to snatch that dream or desire away from me. He was continually disappointed and mad at me, and nothing I did was pleasing to Him.

I felt like there was this standard to which I was expected to measure up and yet, it was humanly impossible to actually reach it. So being a christian was as much, if not more, about behaving well as it was about grace, and I was a complete failure at it because no matter what, I could never get it right.

That’s a miserable way to live. But it’s also a lie from the pit of hell.

God’s goal is not our misery.

Let’s say that louder for the people in the back.

God’s goal has never been our misery.

What our Heavenly Father wants is a personal, intimate, relationship with us through Jesus Christ.

That’s the goal.

Yes, He wants us to grow . . . to do good . . . to be sanctified . . . to change and transform . . . He wants all the things that are good and holy for us because He is a Father that knows what is best for His children. He knows how to protect us. That’s why, when we read Paul’s letters, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we see that he is never soft on sin, sin is so very destructive, but he’s also heavy, hugely heavy, on grace.

The starting and ending point of it all is a relationship with Jesus Christ . . . with the only Way to the Father, and ultimately to eternity in heaven, being the One who sacrificed His life because He knew I could never measure up to that impossible standard. None of us can.

I think we get afraid. Afraid that if we don’t come down hard on sin and are too free with grace that people will abuse that. And I’m sure there are those that will, willful disobedience has always and will always exist, but let’s not forget Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head- Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16

“Though I speak with tongues of mean and angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass of a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

Without love we are just loud and obnoxious.

Without a relationship, we are just trying to earn our way to heaven.

I don’t want behavior modification in my life. I don’t want to just “be good” because I’m scared of getting in trouble. I want the transformation that comes from knowing my Savior intimately. I want the change of heart and mind and soul that only comes from knowing I’m not good enough, I can’t measure up, and that’s the point. Because Jesus is far more than “good enough”, and He did and does “measure up”. That’s where true transformation begins. It’s not in good behavior. It’s in leaning into the God that loves you so much He only wants the absolute best for you, and He was willing to sacrifice His only son to give you that.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send HIs Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18

My lack of condemnation comes not from anything I do or say, but from everything Jesus did for me in giving His life. And that’s true for all of us. The only qualifier, if you will, is to accept Jesus and submit your life to the lordship of Christ. And then allow that relationship to grow. Pray, read the word, and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to help. That’s the beginning and the ongoing work of transformation, and it’s far better than being compelled to do right out of fear. It’s far better than behavior modification which doesn’t really work. We don’t have to try to act better. We just have to let Jesus in. God is not mad at me or you, and He finds pleasure in our relationship with Him.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Long Days Flow Into Short Years

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

Gretchen Rubin

Today is my youngest’s 8th birthday, and in two weeks, my oldest will be halfway through his 13th year. This morning I did what I do on every single one of my kiddos’ birthdays, I took a moment to reminisce. I looked back through my memories . . . through old photos and videos of days that seem like just yesterday, and yet, seem so far away. Chubby baby and toddler photos . . . wobbly first steps . . . toothless grins . . . first bites of cake . . . first words uttered . . . so many firsts and also, a few lasts . . . the last bedtime tuck in . . . the last time I swung them up on my hip . . . the last time I rocked a crying baby in the middle of the night . . . .

My babies are growing up, and there is most definitely a bittersweet component to that. And while there may be a moment of sadness, make no mistake, I do not wish to go back. I do not wish for those earlier years. Not because I don’t cherish them. I do. But because I know what an absolute privilege and honor it is to witness these two precious souls grow into the people God created them to be. To be entrusted to care for them, to lead and guide and help them as they figure out their own path in life. That’s not to say it’s always easy . . . that we never experience heartache or hurdles . . . that I never mess up, get frustrated, or have an occasional meltdown. But every day . . . the hardest . . . the easiest . . . the most challenging . . . is a blessing even when I don’t recognize it in the moment.

So today, I will look back, not with longing but with thankfulness. I will look forward, not wishing the days away but with both excitement and anticipation for what the future will bring. But most of all, I will embrace and be present in this moment, this hour, this day because I know how fleeting these days are.

These long days that flow into the shortest of years are a beautiful, wonderful, and yes, at times, bittersweet blessing.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

On Empowerment and Celebration . . . A Christian Wife and Mother’s View of Womanhood

The Virtuous Wife

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:10-31

These words written above are the epitome of what I want to be as a wife, as a mother, as a woman. They are the picture of a woman who is strong, solid, supportive, and hard working. (Important note: while this particular passage is speaking of a “virtuous wife”, the word wife comes from the Hebrew ishshah which is defined as “woman, wife, female”, and I feel this is applicable to all women whatever their current role is . . . Strong’s Concordance 802)

There is a common misconception that Christianity demeans women . . . that the bible doesn’t hold women in high regard. Make no mistake, that is a lie, sadly perpetuated both in and out of the church, but a lie none the less. Godly women are neither less than nor are they to be regarded as weak. While I do believe in very traditional roles in marriage (and in life), and my husband is the leader of our household, we are also side by side, equal partners. Neither of us dominates. Neither of us controls the other. Domination and control are not part of a Godly marriage or life.

I am a stay at home mother/house wife by choice. It is the hardest job I’ve ever held. Being a wife and a mother has also been the most important job I’ve had . . . and ladies that’s true regardless of whether you choose to work outside of the home or not . . . you and the role you hold . . . in your family, your church, your place of work . . . are irreplaceable and invaluable.

I am an educated woman (I say that not to brag but purely as a means to an end in explaining the choices I’ve made) who chose to leave my career to raise my family. Until I had my son, my personal plans had me moving upward into school administration as the years progressed, and my husband supported me in that as he also supported me staying home (that took a little more time and prayer to get us comfortable with the one paycheck thing). I continued to work full time for the first five years of Andrew’s life (and part time until Anna came home at the end of 2015) because at that time we did not have the luxury of making any other choice. I fully realize that it is a privilege to be able to stay home, but I also want to acknowledge it was and is a choice. It was both my desire and prerogative to change the path I was on. But there’s also this perception in the world’s economy that I somehow settled . . . that because I’m not “using” my degree in a capacity that brings home a paycheck, I’m somehow wasting my education (I actually use it more than you’d think . . . hello home school 2020 and 7th grade pre-algebra). I do not, for a second, regret the time it took to receive that education as it was important in shaping who I am, but I also have no regrets in laying that aside and making sacrifices to be able to do what I do now. That’s not everyone’s reality or choice nor should it be. And I want to be clear that regardless of whether you choose to stay home or work outside the home there is room for both.

I say all that to say this (I promise there is a point). The world and society do not see or value women the way God does. What should be regarded as the most honorable and empowering of all roles, the role of a Godly woman (however that may look for you as long as it’s biblically sound), is often seen as a compromise and a concession and a settling for “less than” in today’s culture. The world’s idea of empowerment is not God’s idea of empowerment. The world’s view of a strong woman is not God’s view of a strong woman. (Completely acknowledging I’m side eyeing a certain Grammy performance which I did not nor do I have any plans to fully view other than what I’ve seen and read in the news . . . that is not “woman power” folks . . . that is purely demeaning and degrading to everything God lovingly and masterfully created us to be as women. . . and that’s not up for debate with me . . . not even a little.)

March is Women in History Month. March 8th is International Women’s Day. And with the deluge of social media posts about empowering women and strong women, I find myself reflecting on the kind of woman I wish to be . . . I find myself looking inward and outward and most importantly, to God’s word to define both what kind of example I want to set for my children and the type of women I want to celebrate in my home.

I want to celebrate and emulate the Proverbs 31 woman. I want to celebrate women of the bible like Ruth who forsook her own home and family to stand by her mother-in-law and who played an integral role in the lineage of Jesus (book of Ruth). . . like Deborah the prophetess, judge, and warrior who heard God’s voice and led the children of Israel into battle against Sisera and his army which ultimately led to his death by the hands of Jael, another woman worth mentioning (Judges 4-5) . . . like Esther, the queen who bravely saved the Jewish people from complete annihilation (book of Esther) . . . like Anna the prophetess who had been a widow for decades and did not depart the temple until she bore witness to the birth of the Redeemer (Luke 2:36-38) . . . like Mary the mother of Jesus who found favor with God to be the mother of the Most High (Luke 1:26-38) . . . like Elizabeth, Mary and Martha, Rahab, Mary Magdalene, Hannah, Sarah . . . the list goes on . . . in a time when women were not often given praise or deemed worth mentioning in the annuals of history, the bible gives us no shortage of women to imitate.

And modern day history has left us no less rich with Godly women . . . from Lottie Moon to Corrie Ten Boom to Elisabeth Elliot, to name just a few and continuing on to women living and working for Christ, today, known to me from a distance through their ministries and known to me in my own, personal, everyday life . . . I won’t even try to start naming women in either of these categories as I’m sure to leave someone out but know they are both single and married . . . they are young and older . . . they are mothers in both the actual sense and surrogate mothers within the church and their communities . . they are nurses, teachers, ministers, counselors, business women, missionaries, friends, sisters, and leaders . . . they are strong, beautiful, women of God. These are the woman I will hold in high regard . . . these are the women I want to celebrate . . . these are the Proverbs 31 women.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Living a Sacrificial Life in a Self Serving World

For the past few months, I have been focusing on and studying the epistles (letters) of Paul to the early church. I’ve been reading them in bible order rather than the order in which they were written, but I decided to work my way through them all starting with Romans. So far I’ve read Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians.

Reading and studying Paul’s letters in this way has allowed certain recurring themes to jump out at me. It’s no secret that Paul’s instructions to the different churches hit on a lot of common topics and struggles, but I think what stands out to us often has to do with both the state of our world as a whole and what is happening in our lives personally. That’s what is so amazing and refreshing and life giving about the Word of God . . . it is what makes it living and active . . . the fact that we can read the same thing a thousand times, and it’s applicable to our current life situation every single time . . . the fact that we can find it convicting and transforming in a different way each time we read it.

So what keeps hitting me square in the face this time around? What have I found both convicting, transformative, and encouraging as I’ve studied? None of these are unfamiliar passages of scripture or new concepts in my life. Yet, as I read I realized, I have come a long way, but I still have a LONG way to go.

  1. Love . . . others over self . . . as Christians we are called to love. Specifically, agape, unconditional love. We are not going to bring others to Jesus without love. I have “loved” (pun totally intended) 1 Corinthians 13 since I was a child, but here’s the thing, I cannot honestly say that I’m always great or even good at walking in unconditional love. I could say I’ve done a lot “right” things by the church’s standard, and I was/am a “good” Christian by my outward attitudes and actions, but Paul reminds us over and over again that without love none of our outward actions really matter. As we are told in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no not one . . .”. So all the “right” things and “good” Christianity on the outside aren’t getting me very far. Further, as Christians, we are not called to selfishness . . . we are called to put others ahead of self. And, I’ll be honest, this is so difficult sometimes. Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.” Long story short, I am my brother’s keeper, and my the attitude of my heart matters far more than the outward performance.
  2. Paul is neither soft on sin nor light on grace. He calls it like it is and he’s pretty straightforward regarding sin. Throughout his letters you will find Paul calling the church out on sinful behaviors, and he’s not soft on behaviors that sadly are commonplace within the modern church. Galatians 6:19-26, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” There’s a little “ouch” in that passage, if I’m being totally transparent. But here’s the other thing, there is no way I’m capable of walking in the Spirit without the Spirit. There’s no way I can live up to those standards without Christ and His sacrifice and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Our works cannot and will not ever save us. We just can’t be “good” enough, and without God’s amazing, unearned, undeserved grace and mercy we’re completely lost. But it’s that grace and mercy that should convict and compel us to do good. Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . “. Ephesians 8:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not yourself; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We cannot earn God’s grace or our salvation, but we are called to good works, we are called to love, because of that grace.
  3. Suffering . . . sorry y’all. The church, especially the American church, really doesn’t like this one. But Paul wrote four of these letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) from prison. He was imprisoned for spreading the gospel. He did nothing wrong, and he suffered without complaint. I have a long way to go on this one. Philippians 2:14-16, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” That passage is a double “ouch”, and I have never professed it to be my favorite. Just being real. And just a few verses later in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Full stop here. First, look at the context of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Paul is saying I can both suffer and abound because of Christ. Either way I’m good. Period. Paul’s joy and contentment were not based in his outward circumstances. He was cool no matter what. Can I say the same? Full disclosure: No, I cannot, and God is working on this in me.
  4. Unity vs. Division . . . it was an issue then. It is an issue now. There are so many scriptures on this (all of what I’ve already referenced apply here . . . again, we are called to love and put others ahead of ourselves). As awful as persecution from the outside is to the church, it’s division, contentions, and quarrels from within that are the most destructive. Ephesians 4:1-6, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

These four things are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There is such a wealth of applicable and practical knowledge, wisdom, and instruction in Paul’s letters to the early church. So many of the issues they faced then are the same ones we are facing now, and we have to remember that our enemy is not readily seen. Ultimately, the things we wrestle against here on this earth, in our current culture and society, are being fueled from a much deeper, spiritual place. And the only way to war against it is through the preparation that we find through the grace of Jesus, the word of God, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18

At the end of the day, our goal is neither self preservation nor is it self promotion . . . it’s not to get our way or prove our point (which I love to do) . . . it’s to minister the gospel of Christ to those around us, not only with our words but also, with our actions. It’s to be a walking, talking, breathing testament of God’s goodness and grace, and it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of us can do this.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Great Does Not Equal Perfect

Parenting ain’t easy. I don’t think that’s a secret, but I do think that it has its ebbs and flows. As with anything in life, there are easier seasons and there are harder seasons . . . there are seasons of rest and seasons of growth.

I am raising two very strong willed children. I love and adore them both, but if you know me, you know I tell it like it is even when it comes to my kids. Both have strong opinions, strong minds, and strong emotions all gifted to them by their Heavenly Father.

My youngest has the added twist of a very traumatic background which often affects behaviors and reactions . . . both hers and at times, mine, and parenting her has been a learning curve from the day we picked her up. Sometimes I get it right. A lot of times I don’t, and I have to pray, regroup, and try again. But at the end of the day, she very much loves and needs her mama and daddy, and she still wants the simple things like kisses and cuddles and bedtime stories.

Enter my oldest and all of life’s changes that come with growing up. In the past year as my, now 13 year old, son has entered a new a phase of his life . . . as he grows from a boy into a young man and begins to assert his independence, I’ve also found myself butting heads more and more often with my once very compliant little boy. It’s not that he’s a bad kid. He’s a great kid (maybe a little too much like me at times . . . but still great), but the shift in our relationship, a very important and God ordained shift (sorry moms our kids are meant to grow up), definitely threw me a bit off balance and a different learning curve has entered my life in regards to him.

I was hesitant to write about this. First, because I am NOT a parenting expert. I mean I only have 13 years of experience so I’m far from an expert. I fail daily . . . have to apologize to my kids often . . . am short tempered and impatient far more often than I care to admit. That is not said as a self deprecating bid for sympathy or a way of fishing for compliments on my parenting skills. I say it because the reality is it shows my need for the Holy Spirit to step in and guide my every action and interaction with my children. The second reason I was hesitant, is simply that I do try to respect and protect my children’s privacy. So I always want to proceed with caution when my writing involves them.

Having said all that, nothing as helped me more than other Christian mamas, some in the trenches like me, and others on the other side, saying, “I get it. I’ve been there. I’m there right now.”

This morning as I was working out, which is both my biggest source of stress relief and a time I often use to pray and process, I was thinking about what God’s word says about parenting and what our goals as parents should be. The bible is full to the brim with scriptures applicable to parenting. Yet, there are a few specific scriptures that stand out to me and point out directly what is expected and necessary of us as parents.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

“Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

So how does this play into what our goals as parents are to be? I found myself going back to all that I’ve learned and studied about building a great marriage, and I realized so much of what I know about marriage can also be applied to parenting. First and foremost, God is first in our home, then our marriage (unless you’re a single parent . . . aka, rockstar parent . . . then just drop the marriage component of this), and then, our kids. We do not have a kid-centric home (more on that in a minute). Second, love and respect. We all need both. And I honestly don’t think you can have one without the other. But what I know from being married is my husband first needs respect and then love while I need love followed by respect. Newsflash . . . my kids are the same. I’m not sure why it was so earth shattering for me to realize, that as he grows into a young man, my son obviously needs his mama’s love, but where love used to come before respect, there’s a shift that tells me love and respect are changing positions. He needs my respect and for me to guide and discipline and treat him in a way that is respectful (which we should be doing anyway, but even more so with our teenage sons . . . ).

So practically speaking what are my goals as a mother, and what are our (speaking of my husband and me) goals as parents together?

  1. To raise our children in a God centered home that leads them on the best path for them (not us). Our children are not here to fulfill our own personal dreams. They’re here to walk out God’s plans and dreams for their lives. Obviously, that will mean looking at their interests, aptitudes, and giftings and how those fit into their futures. It will mean us helping them stay on course and have realistic, God centered dreams. That’s why it’s so important that in doing that, we give them a solid foundation in Christ and the word of God and show them what a Godly home and marriage look like. This is why our home is not kid-centric. One day our kids are not going to be here, and we want to be as happy and as fulfilled in one another without our kids here as we are with them here. Plus, if my husband and I don’t teach them what a great (not perfect) marriage looks like, then it’s going to be a lot harder on them in their own marriages and relationships. So in our home, it’s God first, marriage second, and kids third. Another key component of this is teaching them how to both make mistakes with grace and treat others with grace when they’ve messed up (something on which I have to work daily).
  2. To launch our children toward independence (as much as is possible . . . this is often going to look very different if your child has special needs, and I think that’s important to note). One thing I appreciate so much about my son’s school is the preparation that they are giving them to move out of Mom and Dad’s house one day and become actual, productive citizens (the middle school boys recently had a brilliant lesson on this taught to them by the school’s pastor). Independence should be the goal for most (again, special needs complicate this greatly) of our kids. With Andrew, his personal path is definitely headed toward college, but beyond that, we know it’s headed toward starting the transition out of our home at 18 (not every kid is ready at 18 so don’t feel like it’s the magic number). If I’m honest, I think the transition toward independence has already begun for him which is why respect has taken such a place of importance. It’s not that he no longer needs discipline or guidance, but it needs to be very thoughtful in its execution. I need to be very thoughtful in how I respond to him. The “how” of this transition is going to look very different for different kids with different levels of needs and emotional maturity and development. That’s why Proverbs tells us as parents to “train up a child in the way he (or she) should go.” My parents did a fantastic job of helping me transition from those late teenage years into full fledged adulthood. What started as me moving out and into a dorm with a very large safety net my freshman year in college, ended with me living alone and paying most of my own bills my senior year. With each year my independence grew and the safety net shrunk. And while it isn’t exactly the same for every kid, it gave me a good blueprint for how it might look.

The other day, after a particularly challenging day with both of my children, I found myself feeling utterly defeated and asking God why I feel like I’m failing more than I’m succeeding. And immediately I heard in my mind, “Good and great do not equal perfection.” Too often I’m looking for picture perfect . . . picture perfect kids, a picture perfect home, a picture perfect marriage, picture perfect parenting . . . when I should be working toward great relationships with both deep love and respect. And the only way to do that, or any of this I’ve written about, is with God’s help through the Holy Spirit. It’s absolutely the only way, I’m getting this right.

Will I mess up again? That’s pretty much a certainty, but I’ll pray and use that to teach my children that all of us need mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and we’ll keep moving forward. Not toward perfect but toward great.

And don’t worry . . . I’m not becoming a parenting writer/blogger anytime soon . . . I think I’ll keep my “day job”. 😉

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

The Best Laid Plans . . . Hindsight . . . And All That . . . Lessons Learned in the Midst of a Literal Storm

Longest title ever . . . sorry about that. My brain is pretty much fried this evening.

Last week was wild . . . that may be the understatement of the century. I live in Central Texas, and unless you’re living under a rock, then you’ve probably seen us, the whole great, fantastic state of Texas, in the news. What started as a lot of very unusual winter weather . . . five winter storms bringing ice and ultimately anywhere from 6-10 inches of snow, depending on where you happened to be standing, along with unheard of temps in the single digits . . . quickly devolved into a major crisis situation with power and water systems failing statewide because long story short, we. weren’t. prepared. Not even remotely.

I mean if we’re going to have a catastrophe we may as well do it right . . . can I get an amen? Everything really is bigger in Texas.

All jokes aside . . . and in complete fairness, in this part of Texas (and southward) a quarter of an inch of snow/ice is a major winter event so preparation is a very relative term.

So here we stand on the other side of what might have collectively been one of the most stressful weeks in the history of our great state. The snow has almost all melted. The roads are back to normal. Supply trucks are filling our grocery stores again. The power is back on. Water has (mostly) been restored (although, I can now add “boils water like a boss” to my resume), and repairs are underway from top to tip and east to west of the state.

And all I can say is, I’ve never been so glad to see sunshine and seventy degree temps.

This storm hit after a series of events in our personal life had already left me spent and stressed and feeling very much out of control as of late. And as anyone who has been around me for more than a minute can attest, I’m kind of a control freak. I always have a plan A and then plans B through E just for good measure, and I will admit, I put way too much confidence in my own ability to plan and keep things under control. But this past week reminded me of one the most valuable lessons I’ve yet to master here on this earth, life and the weather do not always, or even often, comply with my plans. Control, at least in the human sense, is very much an illusion. And that’s not really my jam . . . being out of control. But there’s also so much blessing in the lessons taught to me in these moments. Because the reality is, I may not be in control, even when I think I am, and placing my trust in my own ability to control things is never going to work out well for me. But I know the ONE who is completely in control. And once again, in the midst of a series of hard and stressful situations, I had to let loose of what I was holding onto and turn it all over to Him. I had to trust that when I can’t do a thing about the chaos around me, He totally and absolutely, has us.

That’s not to say we don’t use wisdom or prepare for what’s to come . . . that’s not to say that everything is always going to go perfectly and we’re never going to face anything worse than a hangnail or a headache . . . but what I do know is in the deepest valley or the highest mountaintop, I’m never alone.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

And that’s all this mentally exhausted mama has for you today. Here’s to sunshine and warmer days.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

On All Things Mushy and Gushy This Valentine’s Day . . .

23 . . . it’s the number of Valentine’s Days I’ve spent with Patrick.

There was a time when I would’ve said I wasn’t big on Valentine’s Day . . . that mushy declarations of love, both public and private, weren’t my thing. There was a time I would’ve said that I don’t buy into the commercialism of it all. There was a time when I let a little bit of cynicism and snarkiness creep in. But love . . . true, enduring love . . . isn’t built on commercialism and cynicism, and it doesn’t grow and flourish in the absence of nourishment.

23 Valentine’s Days together . . . almost 23 years of ups and downs . . . of fights and apologies . . . of laughter and tears . . . of grief and joy. . . of pushing through the hard and reveling in the wonderful . . . it’s all worth celebrating . . . on Valentine’s Day and every day. It’s worth cheesy cards and flowers and candy and date nights . . . whatever floats your boat . . . but it’s worth giving up the cynicism and snarkiness and honoring the love of your life.

A while back I decided good wasn’t good enough, and we weren’t settling for less than great in our marriage (pretty sure I stole some variation of that line from Brad Paisley’s song Remind Me). In a world that continually pushes for self fulfillment in relationships . . . that says, “As long as it’s good, as long as you’re meeting my needs and making me happy, I’m here, but I’ll hit the door running the second that changes” . . . I wanted to put in the work, and I wanted to pour into what we have . . . to love selflessly and give without expectation, both of which are impossible without God’s help.

I’ve written about this more than a few times. I’ve watched as marriages of people I love fall apart, and I’ve wondered why. It grieves me to see people hurting, and it grieves me to see it happening over and over. Why did something that started out so well, with so much love, not endure?

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:20-21

And this is what I’ve realized. It’s easy to look at what you have and who you’re with and see all the faults . . . all the cracks . . . all the mistakes . . . all the brokenness . . . to miss all that is good. It’s easy to call what God says is sweet “bitter” and to decide to walk away from it the second it isn’t fulfilling you anymore. . . to look for something or someone better . . . what’s not easy? To realize that true love isn’t something that just happens, and being “in love” is a choice. It’s not a magical feeling or an accident. It’s an action that takes a whole heck of a lot of hard work.

One of the most quoted passages of scripture . . . at weddings, at vow renewals, and so many declarations of love . . . is from 1 Corinthians 13 . . .

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a

The English language just doesn’t do justice to the word love. There are multiple words for love in the Greek language, and the kind of love that Paul is writing about here isn’t the “Eros”, romantic, kind of love. Nope, he’s talking about “Agape”, the unconditional, God kind of love. And this passage of scripture is all encompassing for and applicable to all relationships. But do not be mistaken, it most certainly includes marriage, and yes, that absolutely can and should cover the “Eros”, romantic, kind of love which is very much an integral part of marriage, but it covers so much more. Because this is love in action. It’s the same love talked about in 1 Peter 4:8, ” . . . love covers a multitude of sins.” It’s the love that’s willing to do the work in the good times, the great times, and the really hard times. It’s love that endures the test of time, and it’s love that only God can equip us to give.

So today, I will tell you, I very much love and am in love with my husband, and he loves me, and I’m proud of that. Not in a boastful way, but in the kind of way that realizes that it’s only by the grace and mercy of God that we are able to love like this. And yes, we have all those mushy, gushy feelings (and I’m not even embarrassed to say it) . . . sometimes . . . and sometimes, we get irritated and annoyed . . . sometimes, we argue and don’t agree . . . sometimes, we’re exhausted and stressed and worried . . . sometimes, we’re distracted and busy and we just forget to stop and acknowledge each other . . . but sometimes, more and more, we remember . . . we remember that what God has given us is very very good, and we have a responsibility to nurture and fertilize and water what God has given us in one another.

On this Valentine’s Day, that’s what I want for other couples and marriages . . . for you to know that no matter how dismal your situation may look today, if you’ll turn to God and turn it over to Him . . . if you’ll let Him lead you and guide you and equip you . . . He can and will do amazing things in your marriage. And if you’re single, the “curse” of Valentine’s Day for so many, let me tell you this, that Agape love is not exclusive to any relationship, and God is the author and the perfecter of that love. He loves you totally unconditionally . . . so much that He sacrificed His son for you . . . for me . . . for all of us. So as cliché as it may feel and sound, single or not, let your Heavenly Father love you well on this Valentine’s Day and every day because no love will ever compare to or fulfill like His.

* And, as always, please read my (rather long) disclaimer . . . it takes two to tango, and when I talk about marriages and relationships, I’m talking about two people that, at the very least, have a minimal level of respect for one another and are willing to show that respect. Abuse, physical or emotional, is always a no-go, and make no mistake, love doesn’t hurt others. Loving someone doesn’t mean you allow them to harm you. “Suffers long” in the above passage of scripture means you persevere and are patient, but it doesn’t mean you are abused. You need to get help and remove yourself if you’re in that situation (there are resources to help, and depending on where you live, I can direct you to websites and organizations with more info). Wise counsel can help you determine what your next steps should be. Same goes for infidelity, especially with an unrepentant spouse. Sometimes, the only safe and wise course is separation and ultimately divorce, and if you are being counseled to stay in an abusive, damaging relationship find different counsel (and that may mean finding a different church . . . but fighting for your marriage does not equate to submitting to abuse). Also, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . .”. I never want to make anyone feel condemned for past mistakes or choices. I want to offer hope and a path to healthy loving, Godly relationships in marriage and in life and most definitely, with God. Start where you are today and move forward. Jesus loves you, and if you know Him, you’re forgiven so don’t sit in guilt and condemnation for what is behind you.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Carrying it Forward . . .

We closed the door on 2020 and marched, face forward, into 2021 thinking, “surely this year will be better”. But with the changing of the year, one year slipping away, another entering, all that is hard, all that is challenging, even all that is good, does not automatically evaporate. Fresh starts are beautiful. It’s a beautiful and necessary thing to move forward, but the reality is, most of us were moving forward carrying the hard, the heartache, the grief, the exhaustion . . . into the New Year with us. It’s not as if the turn of the year magically erased all that had transpired in 2020.

2020 was not the worst year of my life. I actually refuse to give any year that title because nothing, no year, no month, no day . . . nothing . . . is all good or all bad. But 2020 cannot even get the title of “Most Challenging Year”. Although, I think it ran a very close second. Still it brought with it growth and sweet, precious moments that I will forever cherish, and because it brought me those things, even in the hardest moments, I wouldn’t change it.

Like so many of you, I carried some of the hard of 2020 into 2021. We didn’t get to totally start a new book or even a new chapter because as the new year entered there was grief and heartache and unanswered questions that plowed straight past December 31, 2020 and into January 1, 2021.

And you know what? That’s okay. That’s how life is. That’s where lessons are learned. That’s where growth happens. That’s where I get to stop, and turn, and say, “Jesus, this burden is too big. I need You to carry it for me.” This past year, and in particular, these past few months, have brought with them so many questions, so many prayers, and so much opportunity to lean into Jesus. Some resolution has come, but not every question has been answered. And I know that this side of heaven, I may not ever fully understand. Not every situation turned out the way I wanted. And not all the heartache and grief have completely lifted.

But still, I will continue to press into my Savior. I will continue to say that God is good and does good (Psalm 119:68).

Jesus . . . He also came into 2021 with me, and He’ll continue with me, sometimes walking alongside me, other times carrying me, always my ever present help, as long as I walk this earth and straight into eternity.

I will ask hard questions. I will seek His comfort. I will trust Him to heal the pain, and bring peace when it doesn’t make sense. And I will praise Him and thank Him for all the good He brings even in the challenging times. Because, as I said before, nothing is all bad or all good, and 2021 will be no different. It will hold it’s hard beside it’s beauty. We will find sweetness in grief and joy in heartbreak. We will make beautiful memories and laugh and love in the midst of the imperfect, and we will carry all of that forward with us as well.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved 

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.