HAPPY NOVEMBER from our little multi-cultural "family"! (L-R: YoungMi, Me, Beth, InHye)
Anybody else having trouble believing it's already November? I'm sorry it's been such a long time since my last post. The past month included, but was not limited to...

-A boat-load of relationship-building (my favorite!) - with church members, elderly, teens, members of the community, even deepening those within our team.
-A "seminar week" back at base during which we learned more in-depth about topics such as apologetics and ethnocentrism, presented cultural projects we did about each of our respective teams, and caught up with members of the other teams.
-Planning, Praying, Discussing, Ministry, then more planning, more praying, more discussing & more ministry...phew!
-Korean lessons: cooking, language, customs - you name it, I'm learning about it!

(YoungMi: after teaching me how to make my new favorite Korean dish - Tteokboki...SO good!)

Aside from the "logistics" of what's been going on, the Lord has been stretching me to new extremes. I have had to learn in new ways - sometimes the hard way - how to rely on Him alone, how to lay things at His feet instead of taking them on as burdens, how to rest in Him...the list really goes on...and on...and on. Whatever I'm being taught at any given moment, I am sincerely thankful that this is a relationship rather than a one-sided worshipping of a seemingly-unattainable "higher being." I think I would give up entirely if I did not know and trust that God listens to me, walks beside me and even carries me through the most difficult of times.
All of that said - I think I set myself up for difficulty by going an entire month without posting...I know with all that my heart and mind have been taught, I cannot possibly share it all on here. In light of that, I will share with you one thing which really stuck out to me:

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," -1 Peter 3:15

I will admit that back at home in the "Bible belt," with friends who share my beliefs, I am rarely challenged to act out this passage in my own life. In the context I'm in now, however, my faith and beliefs could be challenged at any given moment. I am so thankful for this opportunity to not dwell in my own safe bubble, but to really own what I believe and why I believe it! I know that some who even read this do not agree with or understand "the reason for the hope that [I] have," but I am glad to say that I'm ready to give an answer to any and all who ask! It's easier to be bold when in a foreign country with the purpose of sharing my faith...however it really is my prayer that my heart's desire is to display and give an answer for my faith in my own city and culture as well! I love the end of this verse..."But do this with gentleness and respect." I am so sad to say that this is not often displayed in interactions between believers and non-believers...this is something I've had to realize is due to the fact that although we serve a perfect God, we are not perfect, but are in fact hugely flawed! This is not an excuse, but something many have brought to my attention even in moments here in which I've shared my beliefs with others...I sincerely hope that I can remember the need to "give an answer to everyone who asks" in a gentle and respectful way regardless of how the person I'm speaking to feels about the faith and beliefs I claim. I hope this can become more and more natural to me here and will translate as I make the move back home eventually. Well folks, this concludes yet another installment of "word vomit by Courtney"...just kidding! But really, I am thankful for those who take a genuine interest in the process that is taking place here and the work the Lord is doing in England, as well as in my own heart. I covet your prayers and hope you know you all are in mine.


"Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me"

"Such is the confidence we have through Christ toward God.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as

coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God"

-2 Corinthians 3:4-5-

I can't believe it's already October! The other day somebody was lamenting the fact that I would be "leaving soon" and it threw me off completely - however, in the grand scheme of things, they're right! I'll only be here for just over 10 more weeks, which as we all know, flies by before we even blink an eye! That said, it also feels like things are just beginning as so much has changed since my last post...

Oh where to begin??
My adventure has now landed me in a new city in a flat with three girls from OM and working side-by-side with a Baptist Evangelical church in the neighborhood. Our team church is so vastly different from my home church, but it's refreshing to see God equally alive and at work in such a different environment! The church has around 100 members who all know each other by name, some younger/middle-age families, but mostly elderly people, and nearly every person I encounter unwittingly battles for the title of "most genuinely sweet person I've ever met."
Our ministry options are all over the spectrum, from elderly lunch/fellowship group to teen outreach, a free coffee & biscuits ministry outside of the primary school, prayer meetings, English-learning club...you name it, we'll probably have our foot in it! The challenge there of course is to learn what takes priority so we can truly invest instead of spreading ourselves too thin. Our prayer is that God would be working through us to reach the people of this city whenever we step foot out our front door and in whatever ministry He sets before us - incredibly humbling, as we know this certainly doesn't come from our own abilities or strength!!

The Lord has been teaching me daily of His faithfulness...He's been revealing it to me in everything from conversations with strangers to ministries beginning to take shape as well as encouragement from the church body. What's even more exciting to me though is that He's revealing His faithfulness to me in the small things...the fact that He's given me three incredible roommates, the safety He blesses us with everytime I sit behind the wheel of a car(trust me, that's a big one haha), beautiful days or even blessed conversations with friends or family back home. It's been amazing to sit back and have His faithfulness revealed to me in this new way and I want to encourage you all to do the same! Even if it seems you can't see Him moving in big ways, look for His faithfulness to you in the everyday things: companionship He's given you, a job, a peaceful morning with a cup of coffee...His delight in us and His faithfulness to us shows up in even the little things and He is worthy to be praised for all of it, big or small!

Thank you for your continued support as I continue to learn, grow and face what the Lord has for me day by day on this adventure!


A Necessity of the Human Spirit


If you told me a few months ago that in September I would be driving through the Welsh countryside, hiking the biggest mountain in the country and feeling simultaneously the most exhausted and most exhilerated I've ever been, I probably would've said something along the lines of "do you even know me??"

You see, I like to talk about adventure, growth and "living life to the fullest," but as a creature of comfort, I've always tried to find ways to do these things while still staying relatively safe. What I've learned over the past few weeks, especially last week, is that it can't be done. If you want adventure and exhileration you must be pushed, prodded and at times shoved out of the proverbial "plane" because how else will you know that your parachute works, the rush that comes after the jump, and the feeling of accomplishment when you land safely on the ground?

The Lord has never been so real, so evident in His creation and so obvious in how much I need Him as during our team's "adventure week" in Wales. I felt mentally and physically exhausted (not to mention paranoid, as I knew our leaders were watching our every move to figure out who fell into what type of team-role, how we handle pressure, etc.), but the incredible part about feeling completely unable to rely on your own strength is that you have no choice but to rely on God's!

Being in the wilderness last week, with others as well as alone with the Lord, was absolutely a necessity for me. I know those are moments I will never forget, encounters with the Lord that will forever affect how I see/communicate with Him, and growth that has probably (hopefully) changed me as a person.

I agree with what Edward Abbey said and encourage all of you - if you haven't experienced your "wilderness" yet, whether it be mental, physical, what-have-you - find it. Seek it. Don't fear what your heart and spirit need - jump out of your "plane," whatever it may be, and as helpless as it feels at times, try to enjoy it. You'll see so much more fruit in that one moment than you did during millions of "safe" moments and, hopefully, God will be glorified in the process!!


As He Pleases...

This past week has been full of learning and growth.

I have been pushed, pulled, challenged and realized how important it is to allow those things to occur instead of staying comfortable.

We have had 5 days of seminars, learning about everything from "Testimony as a Gospel Tool" to "Muslim Culture" and "Kids Training." We also each visited a different church with an OM staff member and had lunch with complete strangers (mine was a 15-member church...SUCH a change from my 3,000+ member church back home!) Every experience has put me out of my comfort zone, some more than others, and as much as the Courtney you all know would typically avoid these types of situations altogether, I'm growing increasingly grateful for squirm-inducing moments...it's quickly become my firm belief that it is the uncomfortable that produces change.

The most important thing the Lord taught me this week, however, actually has very little to do with the seminars I've been in but has shown up everywhere else and yet it still took me until lastnight for it to finally sink in...

"Our God is in the heavens;

He does all that He pleases."

-Psalm 115:3

God is sovereign over all and I am realizing how clearly that is seen in my life. Every detail of my life is because He determined it: where I was born, when I was born, the events of the past year of my life, the fact that I am here right now...all happened because. He. said.

No accidents...nothing surprised Him...all of it was His divine will.

People all around me have been telling stories of how their brothers, friends, churches, etc. were involved with OM and that was how they ended up here...it never even occurred to me amidst all of this that I'm here because my roommate gave me a book which mentioned OM's website...and that's it. That's not an understatement... that OM is involved in worldwide ministry is in fact all that I knew of this organization and something (ahem, Someone...) made me visit the website and apply for this program days later. Wow.

So what that means to me is He put me in this city with these people at this time for His purpose, not because He needs me, but because He is gracious enough to be willing to use me.

The Father has placed me, you, every individual exactly where they are at this time for a very specific purpose. So as I am learning to live in that, I would encourage you to do the same...we may not know or understand why we are where we are, but that's not what matters! Because the sovereign Creator of the Universe knows exactly what He's doing and why and that should be more than good enough reason for us to walk in trust and faith of His master plan.


The beginning...

Well...here I am! I'm sitting in the "lounge" with one of our leaders, thanking God for the awesome gift of technology. It's pretty amazing to me that I can sit on my bunkbed and read emails from friends/family before falling asleep (on my phone no less!), post blogs, check twitter, etc. It's good to feel like I still have some idea what's going on back home even though I'm 1000+ miles away.

Travels went smoothly, and I arrived in Birmingham at 10:45 on Friday morning to the smiling face of Atonya, one of the staff members here. On our way to base I quickly got to know her open heart, and passion for sharing the Gospel with people - something I hope to learn from! Since arriving here I've settled into my room, explored the town on foot, eaten meals, enjoyed community, etc. Only 3 of the 12 people on my team are here - the rest arrive today - so it's been good getting to know each other before the craziness begins! There's another team of 10 English-learners also here for the same amount of time as us so it's been really exciting getting to talk to them about the different cultures they come from, etc.

I'm not going to lie - I was so proud of my lack of nerves/homesickness, probably too proud because the Lord quickly humbled me after I got here. It wasn't until my roommate (and fellow-American) expressed her homesickness that I suddenly wanted to cry and jump back on a plane home! Thankfully the Lord is the ultimate comforter and He loves to show us that He is more than enough. Although I love my friends and family and the comfort of home, those are not necessities in order for me to feel joy and comfort. I met a guy who has been serving here for a year and as I remarked on how long that was, he said "no, it feels quite short" - instant perspective! Yes, I am at the very beginning of what feels like will be a LONG 4 months, but I know in reality how quickly that time goes...I'm hoping to soak up every minute instead of longing for the day I'll be on a plane home. Yes, I miss my friends and family, but they will still be right where I left them come December. In the meantime, I'm going to welcome this chance for the Lord to grow and challenge me. Today, I'm choosing to dwell on the truth of Isaiah 41:10:

"I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."



First Things First

Lately I've experienced a great deal of mental tossing & turning, much like my sleep-life, unfortunately...

Thinking about the 4 months to come has me giddy, anxious and admittedly terrified (I'd rather keep that one under wraps, but let's just go with honesty for now). I'll be encountering the unknown from the moment I board my flight from DC to London...that airport will be the last scrap of anything familiar to me. And while I feel exhilerated by this thought, I simultaneously want to crawl into my bed with a certain giant stuffed monkey (which I'm not ashamed to admit still plays a large role in my aforementioned sleep-life) and not come out...ever.

Whle this range of emotions is expected and completely understandable, the one thing I'm battling that I genuinely don't want to take up residence in my mind is the inability to live in the present.
Because I'm leaving the country I'm having to make plans for when I return - nothing concrete, but certainly heading in that direction. This is causing me to look forward to December 21st more than I would hope to. My desire to jump to that specific date is not only so I can begin whatever my new life will look like, but also because I know how much transformation will take place while I'm away...I'm anxious to know who the Lord will shape me to be, what He'll do in my heart, etc.

Despite this tendency to look ahead, I'm trying to harness those thoughts and be in the present moment. This has manifested itself in so many ways, some I didn't expect. From simply soaking up these next few weeks with my sweet friends in my beloved Nashville...to trying to no longer dwell on the frustrations of being a 22 year old living my parents' home...to accepting different relationships as they are at present - not in a negative light or even a hopeful light for that matter, but just as they are.
Speaking of hopeful, I'm hopeful that despite my moments of mental time-travel I will be able to just be...to breathe deep, love well, and accept things as they are at this very moment.

As I've said to a couple people who have witnessed this tendency in me - and more importantly, to myself - first things first.


These are a few of my favorite...shows

Last week I had the amazing gift of seeing one of my favorite artists at one of my favorite venues. Bon Iver...at the Ryman. Be still my heart.

I don't think I can really explain how or why (and whenever I try I end up sounding crazy), but Justin Vernon's music evokes an emotional reaction in me unlike any other artist I've heard. It's haunting yet bright, stunningly beautiful and even sad at times.

Maybe it's because so many distinct moments of my life are forever attached in my mind to his songs or it's simply due to his absurd amount of musical talents...either way, I found myself so wrapped up in the show that it sped by and before I knew it I was in the middle of the encore wishing it would never end (that hardly ever happens to me).

But I'm not going to ramble on about this forever because you either a) already know exactly what I mean or b) could easily listen to his music and quickly decide for yourselves whether you agree with me or think I'm out of my mind.

Leaving the Ryman that night I found myself repeatedly telling others that it was my "favorite show I'd ever been to." Which got me thinking...I've been lucky enough to see some pretty great stuff! So I decided to write a list of the top shows I've seen...some fantastic ones have undoubtedly gone forgotten and I'll kick myself in an hour when I remember them, but here it is anyway!

Top 10 (wait...11) Shows I've Seen

1. Bon Iver at The Ryman - July 2011

2. The Local Natives at Cannery Ballroom - October 2010

3. The Swell Season at The Ryman - May 2010

4. Fleet Foxes at The Ryman - May 2011

5. Ray LaMontagne at Chastain Park - August 2010

6. Sleeping At Last at Lincoln Hall - February 2010

7. Dear and the Headlights at Exit/In - October 2009

8. Andrew Bird at Austin City Limits - October 2009

9. She & Him at The Ryman - September 2010

10. The Local Natives at The Muse - January 2009

11. The Civil Wars at Grimey's In-Store - February 2011

Honorable Mentions: Ben Sollee at Grimey's In-Store, Coldplay at Bridgestone Arena, Avett Brothers at Austin City Limits, Kings of Leon at the Ryman, John Legend at ACL, and every Delta Saints show I've ever been to...

Hopeful List-Additions: Mumford & Sons, Sufjan Stevens, MORE Bon Iver!, Radiohead, Sigur Ros (or Jonsi), Adele, Maclean, Laura Marling, James Vincent McMorrow, Patrick Watson