Our Journey to Victory, Part 2 . . . Grief to Transformation

This post is the fifth in a series of posts about victory through Jesus, and “what if” the victory doesn’t look like we think it should. They can be found, in order, by clicking on each of these titles: The Victory, But What If, A Mirror, Dimly, and Our Journey to Victory, Part 1 . . . From Joy to Grief.

Grief is a weird thing. It’s equal parts terrifying, and awful, and also extremely necessary. When we go through a life altering loss, we need to grieve. It’s the way God made us, but it’s so very uncomfortable too. And like anything else, I tried to check off the stages of grief as if they were part of my “to do” list. Only, the stages of grief aren’t sequential. You don’t pass through one to reach another. Instead you bounce all around, back and forth, between the stages of grief. I had to reach a point in our loss where I learned to accept and sit in my grief, where I accepted it was okay to be mad . . . sad . . . whatever . . .

I was so angry in the midst of the grief, and God wasn’t immune to that anger, but instead of pulling away, I pushed in more. One thing I learned, through the ups and downs of grieving is God can handle our anger. Tell Him you’re angry. Tell Him you’re hurting. Tell Him you’re devastated. Just don’t turn away from Him. I prayed more, cried more, and sought Him more than I ever had before. And God never fails His children when they cry out to Him. Never. We may feel like He’s failed us, but thank goodness, our feelings do not define reality. It was in those days and nights of wrestling with the deepest grief I had ever felt, God brought very familiar scriptures to life in a whole new way.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV

These words, these scriptures, became my very life. I had no closure regarding the child that I thought was going to be mine. I had no idea what would happen to her or if she’d be safe or loved or cherished. But I knew, that the only path to healing was through Jesus. And not only did He, very slowly, bring healing, but He began to change my heart in ways I never imagined. I found myself shifting from crying out to Him from a place of deep pain to crying out to Him from a place of deep desire. And rather than asking for a perfect child, I found myself asking Him to bring us the child that needed a family more than anything. I found my heart being opened to needs that I never dreamed I’d be okay with.

Through pain, God transformed me. And after almost a year of daily praying for God to bring us our child, we received another referral. This time it wasn’t so pretty. Our little one wasn’t so neatly packaged. She wasn’t chubby and smiley. She was malnourished and terrified, but she was also beautiful and exactly what our hearts needed.

While, the referral was in and of itself a victory, and sometimes we do have victories that occur in a single moment in time, I’m finding that more often than not our victories aren’t static but found in our ever changing and growing through Christ. We continually have challenges to meet and overcome with our daughter, and bringing her into our home has made my knees hit the floor more and my reliance on Christ grow in ways I never imagined. I know more than ever that I cannot make it through this life without Him, and it’s in Him and Him alone that I have victory.

So no, our victory didn’t look like I thought it would. It’s so much more than I ever dreamed it would be, and the best part is, it’s not done. It’s still happening. With each new challenge, we find a new path to victory, a new chance for God to show Himself strong.

Copyright 2019, 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.

Our Journey to Victory, Part 1 . . . From Joy to Grief

This post is the fourth in a series of posts about victory through Jesus, and “what if” the victory doesn’t look like we think it should. They can be found, in order, by clicking on each of these titles: The Victory, But What If, and A Mirror, Dimly.

“I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” Psalm 16:8 NKJV

Andrew was three when we decided to pursue adoption. After praying for direction and talking at length with our adoption agency, we settled on adoption from Bulgaria. We knew that once we were registered with Bulgaria the wait for a referral would be at least three years. First, we had six months to get all of our paperwork in and our dossier submitted. Always one to see a deadline as something to be beat, I set about checking off each part of our paperwork as quickly as possible. Within five months our dossier was on its way to Bulgaria to be translated and submitted to the Bulgarian government for registration.

And then, with the exception of yearly updates, we waited. I’m very good at doing, and I’m equally terrible at waiting, but there was nothing to do but wait. So wait we did. We waited and prayed and praised for the victory we knew was to come.

Just over two and a half years after we were registered, I was driving home from my sister’s house one evening when Hillsong United’s “Oceans” came on the radio. As I listened to the words, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders … Let me walk upon the waters … Wherever You would call me … Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander … And my faith will be made stronger … In the presence of my Savior …” I felt like God was telling me we were about to go on a journey that would require more faith and trust than we ever imagined. The very next morning, we received “the call” that would forever change our lives. Not only had we only been waiting for two and a half years, it was the referral of our dreams, a chubby, smiley, 14 month old baby girl. Fourteen months old! A baby which was virtually unheard of. The victory felt very real, and I was convinced that this was the journey God was talking to me about mere hours before.

A month after answering that phone call, Patrick and I were on a plane flying to Bulgaria to meet our sweet girl, and to say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. We fell in love with this sweet baby who was to be our daughter. For five days, we spent hours each day rocking and playing and holding her while she slept. Then, through tears, we handed her back to her caregivers to return home and finish our paperwork. Once again, we found ourselves waiting. Only this time we waited for a court date and ultimately, our pick up day.

As hard as it was to leave her, I had a goal in sight. I had boxes to check off, and plans to make, and preparations to undertake. So, while I desperately missed our girl, I knew it was just a matter of time. Then, on Friday, September 12th, we received a call that would turn our world upside down. A man claiming to be her biological father had filed for custody, and we were in danger of losing the referral. Our attorney in Bulgaria immediately left her family to travel to the city where our little girl lived to find out exactly what was going on. We spent the longest weekend of our lives waiting and praying for God to deliver her into our arms. How could He do anything less for this little girl who had been abandoned at birth? How could He do anything less for us? By Sunday night, I was completely, emotionally spent and could do nothing but sit anxiously waiting for news. It was in those dark hours of the night that I felt God telling me I needed to let go, and Monday morning brought the news I never wanted. Our referral had been pulled. We had a conference call with our stateside agency and our Bulgarian agency and were assured that they were actively pursuing another match for us. But I didn’t want another match. I wanted our girl.

The victory I expected had not come, and the grief and anger I felt was all consuming. I was mad at everyone involved from our agency, to our attorney, and straight up the ladder to God. I didn’t think for a millisecond that God had caused this catastrophe, but I was so angry that He hadn’t stopped it. How could He have allowed this to happen?

I recently saw a quote from Christine Caine, “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” I had no idea, in those darkest moments of my life, that God had planted me and was getting ready to grow me in ways I never imagined.

Copyright 2019, 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.

A Mirror, Dimly

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 NKJV

Before I ever had children . . . before I was ever married . . . probably even before I met my husband, I knew somewhere, in the deepest part of me, that I would adopt someday. But had you asked me what that would look like, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a clear idea of what adoption would even mean in my life. It was just a desire that was there as far back as I could remember, and that desire was deeply intertwined with my desire to be a mother someday.

Fast forward many years, I was married, I was ready to be a mom, and the desire to adopt was buried beneath all of the worries and concerns of daily living. It’s not that I never thought about adoption. I did, but once I became pregnant with Andrew, I figured we would go down the road of having children the biological way, and maybe one day, in the distant future, entertain the idea of adopting. I just couldn’t see how adoption fit into my perfectly laid out plan.

Of course we all know that even the best laid plans . . .

I ended up having very serious third trimester complications with Andrew which resulted in an emergency C-section at 35 weeks gestation, and soon afterward, my doctor stood in my hospital room and explained to me that, yes, another pregnancy was possible but would be very high risk. And suddenly all of my plans were completely upended.

I’m normally not the type of person that pivots quickly from one direction to another, but in this instance, what should’ve brought me grief instead brought a new found sense of hope and purpose. Because that seed, that desire to adopt, that had been planted so many years before began to grow, and there was a clarity regarding adoption, that hadn’t been there even 24 hours before.

I don’t believe God does harmful things to us to teach us a lesson or lead us in a certain direction, but I do believe that He uses the things that happen to us, both good and bad, to mold us and grow us for His good. And I believe He knows. He knows the end from the beginning. I don’t know have all the answers as to why things happen, and I can’t always wrap my mind around exactly why God allows certain things. But I know without a doubt that He sees what we don’t, and He is good and does good.

Over 20 years ago, God planted the desire to adopt in my heart knowing that one day that dormant seed would come to life. It would be another three years before we decided to take the next step towards adoption, but Andrew’s premature birth started us down a path which would change our lives forever. It was to be the hardest, most beautiful, earth shattering, and life changing journey we would ever take . . .

Copyright 2019, 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.

But What If?

In the last post, I talked about the four keys to victory: seek, believe, praise, and bless. But what if? What if the victory doesn’t look like we thought it would? What if the “victory” doesn’t meet our expectations? What then. Has God forsaken us?

“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 NKJV

If God is love (1 John 4:8), and love never fails, then why do our victories not always look like victories to us?

First, we live in a fallen world. I’d be remiss if I did not say this. Jesus, himself, tells us in John 16:33 that we will have tribulations in this world, but to be of good cheer for He has overcome this world. If you live here on this earth, you will not escape trials and tribulations, but you can face them knowing that through Christ, you will be victorious. That may not look exactly how you think it should, and it may not happen on the exact timeline you think should. But in Him you have the victory always and forever. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Not our purpose but His.

Second, we do not know what we do not know. The passage at the beginning is from 1 Corinthians 13, the infamous “Love Chapter”, but it is so much more. The bible is not a set of 66 separate, isolated books, but a collection of writings, spanning over 2000 years in time and penned by multiple authors, that was divinely inspired and intricately woven together by God. We know love never fails because 1 Corinithians 13 tells us so, and we know God is love because 1 John 4:8 tells us that. Both scriptures use the greek word “agape” for love . . . the perfect, sacrificial, unconditional love of God. And God never fails us. He sees us, not just our present or our past, but our future as well, and He knows what we need when we don’t even know ourselves.

I’m nearsighted. Since I was eleven years, I’ve worn some form of corrective lenses, but on the off chance that you catch me without my glasses or contacts, you’ll see me squinting, trying to make out faces and images. Without correction, I can’t see clearly. I see in a mirror dimly. I need help. I need guidance, or I will make a mistake, at best and possibly be hurt, at worst.

And we’re no different. We don’t see the full picture from beginning to end like God does. So often times the thing or things we think we want and need the most will bring us far from victory and lead us right down the road to defeat. And often when we feel like we are defeated that is where the victory is beginning.

In the coming days, I am going to share more about my own walk through some very hard places, and times where I cried out to God. I’m going to share about victory from a place of grief and defeat, and how He absolutely never left me or failed me.

Copyright 2019 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 Victory . . .

Rather than including an entire passage of scripture, I will be posting the scripture reference for you to read. Unless otherwise noted, I use the NKJV bible, but there are a number of different versions out there. If you do not have an actual bible on hand, no worries. Youversion is an awesome Bible app and Bible Gateway (linked here) will give you direct access to via your search engine. You can also look up multiple translations on both of those.

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Background: At this point in history, the United Kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, and Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of Judah.

As Chapter 20 of 2 Chronicles opens we find that a number of people groups have gone to battle against King Jehoshaphat. Verse two actually says “A great multitude is coming against you . . .”, and in verse three the Bible tells us “Jehoshaphat feared”.

I think we’ve all been here. Maybe not literally but without a doubt, figuratively. We’ve felt like all the odds are stacked against us, and no matter what we do, there is no way, in our own power, we’re going to win. We fear what may come upon us.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can paralyze us. So what do we do when we’re faced with what appear to be insurmountable obstacles? Verse three tells us that “Jehoshaphat feared . . . ” but it in the same sentence it immediately gives us the answer to those fears. ” . . . and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.”

  1. Seek God – Verses 5-13 show us the people of Judah standing before God, from the youngest to the oldest, and crying out to Him. When you feel you are at your weakest, it is in this place that you’ll find yourself standing in the most powerful position. There is no place more powerful than the place of seeking God. When it looks like everything and everyone is turned against you, the first thing you need to do is to cry out to God. It removes the weight of the burden from your shoulders and places in squarely on the shoulders of the only One who can save you. There’s no special formula or blueprint for crying out to God. Sometimes you may not even have the words, and that’s okay. There is no shame in whispering or shouting the three simple words, “God help me”. Romans 8:34 says “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” When you don’t have the words, Jesus does, and He knows exactly what you need. Just cry out to Him.
  2. Believe – God will answer. In verses 14-17 God answers the people of Judah. Twice He tells them not to fear for this is not their battle but His. Verse 17, in particular, speaks to this, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” One of the hardest lessons, that I’m still learning, in this life is when to stand still and when to act. I’m a doer and a problem solver so when God tells me to stand still and let Him fight that can be really difficult for me. But you know what Jehoshaphat does? In verse 18, he bows his head to the ground and worships God. In a moment when he could be doing all the things, he does the only things that matters, he worships. Verse 20 goes on to tell us, “So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe his prophets, and you shall prosper.’ ” Jehoshaphat’s belief came through seeking and worshipping God. Belief always comes through seeking and worshipping.
  3. Praise – Don’t wait to see the victory before you praise. Praise ahead of the victory. Verse 21-22, “And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as the went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.’ Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.” Can you imagine how crazy this must’ve seemed to the enemies of Judah? Here they are coming into battle, and instead of drawing swords and shields, they’re praising and singing. More enemies can be been defeated in a moment of praise to God than in a lifetime of trying to fight our battles on our own.
  4. Bless the Lord – The passage goes on to tell us that their spoils were so great they could not carry them, and it took them three days to gather them. Yet, after all of that, in the middle of the frenzy of an overwhelmingly victorious battle, verse 26 says, “And on the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berachah, for there they blessed the Lord . . .”. It starts with God and it ends with God. He always sees us through, and when it’s all said and done, we need to bless Him for what He has done. Do not discount the importance of blessing God for the victory.

We all fight battles, both large and small. Your battles may not look like mine, and mine may not look like yours, and because of this, the directions God gives us while in that battle are not going to be exactly the same. His fighting for us will look different every time, and that’s why it’s so important to start by seeking God, cry out to Him and seek Him for direction and wisdom, and follow with believing, praising, and blessing.

Copyright 2019 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. 

Father Knows Best

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you . For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:9-13 NKJV

My youngest daughter is adopted from Bulgaria. She spent those first key years of development languishing in an orphanage that did anything but actually meet her needs physically or emotionally. As a result she came to us at almost three years of age with so many emotional and physical needs and developmental delays. But you see, I had a plan. A plan to fix this . . . to fix her . . . sounds kind of gross when I write it down. I taught school for 10 years. I worked with many kids with emotional, physical, and developmental disabilities, and I knew what to do. So I dove right in. We started with in home therapies. Only, those were a complete bust. After six weeks of disastrous sessions, frustrated therapists, and no progress, we realized that therapy was too much too soon. So we backed off. We worked on bonding and attachment, but I still had a plan. After about eight months home, I re-initiated the therapy course. Only this time it was to be out patient therapy. I took her to the therapy center for evaluation, and not surprisingly, she more than qualified. Clearly my plan was the right one. I had absolutely no intentions of ever seeking public school therapies. Surely, God agreed with me . . .

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. I never once sought God on whether this course was the best course because I just knew I was right. Long story short, door after door was shut, no slammed, in our faces. Insurance wouldn’t cover therapy, and to my dismay, the way our policy is written, they didn’t have to. I did pray . . . I prayed God would get them whomever they were (very Christlike of me) . . . He didn’t. Instead, I looked up one day, and the only open door was the one route I had zero intention of following. The public school route. So then I prayed, finally, not for God to do what I wanted, but for God to show up, to give us wisdom and guidance, to open the doors that needed to be opened and shut the doors that needed to be shut. And I admitted the one thing that I struggle to admit more than anything, I don’t always know best.

This story is my story, but it’s not just my story. It’s everybody’s story at one point or another. Maybe it’s not a child with special needs where you find yourself lost for a way to go forward. Maybe it’s a relationship or a job or a health decision or a million other things. The particulars of the story may be unique to me, but the issue isn’t. How often do we think we know best when we don’t? How often do we look up and think, “How did I end up here?!”

Go back and re-read Luke 11:9-13. The scriptures tell us to “ask, and it will be given”, “seek, and you will find”, “knock, and the door will be opened”. But what is “it”? What are we finding? What are we seeking? Which door is being opened? It goes on to say, “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Wait! What?

Back up . . .

The “Holy Spirit”? I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to say “how much more will your heavenly Father give you what you want” . . . right? But that’s not what it says. See we throw around pieces of scripture and scripture out of context to make it fit our agenda, but we often fail to look at what God’s word as a whole, in this case Jesus’s actual words, are saying.

Someone needs something . . . “Ask, and it will be given to you . . . “

Someone is looking for answers . . . “Seek, and you will find . . . “

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. God does want us to ask. He does want us to seek, but it’s so much bigger than treating Him like a dispensary for the things we want. God isn’t looking to be our proverbial piggy bank (be that money, or things, or choices in life), He’s looking for a relationship with us. So when we ask, when we seek, when we knock, He sends, has already sent, the Holy Spirit to guide us.

“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts [and taken complete possession of them]. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].” John 16:5-7 AMP

Look at the words used to describe the Holy Spirit . . . Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby . . . if you’re a parent, even if you’re not, you know we don’t just give our kids whatever they want without any thought to consequence or purpose. We, instead, work to help them learn to seek what is good for them, to make wise choices, and to know when to say “no” to things that will ultimately bring harm. And that’s what Jesus is saying here. If we know how to do this, with all our imperfections and faults, don’t we think the Father definitely knows even better. That’s why He sent us the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, to guide us, to counsel us. Not to just give us things, but to help see and seek what is best for us.

So if you’re at a loss for a way to go forward, if you need something, or think you need something, but just aren’t sure, ask . . . ask for wisdom, ask for guidance, ask for the right path to be laid before you, ask for the things to be removed that need to be removed and for clarity of heart and mind. And I promise the Holy Spirit will answer. He has yet to let me down, and I don’t see it happening any time soon.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Final note . . . My daughter did end up in public school, and despite my own mistakes and our false starts, she is thriving. Sure, there are bumps in the road, and challenges to face, but God is so so gracious. Even when we mess up, He’s still right there, waiting for us to ask and seek and knock.

Copyright 2019 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.