Going to the deep end. Of my heart, that is.

We're gonna get deep today ya'll. I know I'm not from the south but saying 'You guys' just doesn't sound as cool. It sounds so... northern. So southern friends I'm gonna borrow your lingo for a sec, ok? Besides, I've always claimed to be a southern girl at heart. 

It's Tuesday. Tuesday is my "mommy day". My three-year-old goes to a friend's house from 9am-3pm and I get to do whatever I want with those six hours. It's glorious. It makes me a better mom and a better wife to have intentional space to breathe. So today I'm at Starbucks reading, writing, staring out the window, watching people come in and order venti frappachinos, with music in my ears and a chai latte in my belly. It's fall-ish weather here in Northern Illinois today and the air has a certain crispness to it. I am a summer girl myself, but I can't deny the beauty and newness of fall. 

So friends, I've been in a season. Like a long and hard one. It started last October and I'm happy to say that I think I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  It's been a year full of insecurity about who I am as a mom, wife, and daughter of my heavenly father.

We all have junk, right? And by junk I mean emotional junk. We'll save the physical junk for another day. Some of our junk might have been dumped on us from other people. Some of it we acquired ourselves. And while some of us have 'carry-on luggage' sized junk, others of us have eighty pound, can barely pick it up off the ground, sized junk. The last year for me has felt like I've got more junk that I know what to do with you. More junk that I can bare to lift. Have you ever felt this way?

A lot of my junk comes from the absence of an earthly father in my life. I did not grow up knowing my biological father. As a kid I don't remember being mad at him specifically, just mad that there was a huge hole in my life. For many years I sought affirmation from men I thought might love me like a daughter. Some of those relationships were healthy, most were not. It really took me up until I got married (at the age of 24) to not feel the need in my heart for that kind of affirmation anymore.

But there's still a struggle that I'm working through. A struggle that only my heavenly father can fix.

When it comes to my relationship with Jesus, I am learning to believe and rest in these truths:

There's nothing I can DO to make Him love me any more or any less. This one is huge. And also, hard.

He created me, to love me. And He wants to me love Him back. 

He is the ONLY one who can heal my broken heart. 

There may be some plans He has for my life but it doesn't mean that I'm ready to walk in those plans. I need to trust in His timing, not my own. 

I took a pause from this post to let it all just sit. I closed my laptop and starting driving home. As I drove, I began to think about how maybe one day I'll talk to my biological father again. I thought about all the questions I'd ask him. A part of me still cares about him not necessarily because he's my dad but because he's a person. A person who God loves, just as much as me. I find it hard to believe that he doesn't wish he knew all four of his kids more than he does. And anyone who's a parent can imagine the possibilities of that kind of pain. The pain of not knowing your own child. I wondered what it would be like to ignore one of my own children not just for years, but decades. Three decades, to be exact. I thought about all the seasons of my life in which I, myself, had been the ignorer. And then God said to me, "Courtney, even if you ignored me for 30 years, I'd still love you." 

Because THAT is the magnitude of how much He loves us. And isn't it interesting how sometimes God uses the failures of this world to show us how He is NOT. How His character, actions, love, faithfulness, truthfulness is nothing like ours. Like actually, it's the opposite. 

Have you ever ignored God for months, years, or maybe even decades? Well here's some good news... He still loves you. 

I'll be 31 in a few months and there's still a lot of cleaning to do in the 'junk' department of my heart. But I rest in the HOPE of the one of loves me the most. 

A Fellow Warrior Needs Our Help.

Hey friends. My heart is heavy today. It's heavy for a friend. And I even hesitate to do what I'm about to do because I just ended a month of bombarding you all with posts and requests for support to help me raise $1000 for clean water. 

But I'm here today with another request on behalf of a friend. This is my friend Vashti Downs. Vashti and her husband Martin live in Durban, South Africa with their two adorable sons, Joe & Jesse. 

I met Martin and Vashti about 10 years ago in Brooklyn, NY. I had the privilege of working alongside them at Metro Ministries, an inner-city children's ministry. Martin and Vashti are some of the most passionate and Jesus-loving people I have ever met. After working at Metro for many years they felt God leading them to move to South Africa to love and serve orphans, the homeless, and at-risk women who work the streets day and night. They have been doing this amazing work tirelessly for many years and it's starting to take a toll. 

Vashti wrote on her blog recently...

"We KNOW that He has called us here. We KNOW that quitting is NOT an option. He KNOWS that we will do what it takes to see His will done in our lives. We have proved this over and over. We could have quit a thousand times and no one would have blamed us... but quitting is NOT an option as far as we are concerned. So why do we spend our days holding our breath? Not knowing if we will make it to church or to take the kids to school because the petrol (gas) light is on. Not knowing what I am going to feed my family because the fridge is empty and all we have is lentils and a bag of flour. I thank Him for my hens that feed us with their eggs every day. (we definitely get enough protein). We do not get to take our children on vacation. We do not even get to shower with hot water. We live on a beautiful property that we believe God has placed us on but the reality is we could loose our home at any moment. I have no certainty in my life other than we will NOT quit. That is the one certainty that I hold onto. The knowing that HE has called us and He will not let us fall."

I know that the needs of this world are endless and maybe you already know or support a missionary or sponsor child or organization. If you don't feel God tugging on your heart to give to these friends of mine then it's totally ok. But, if you do have the desire to give to this family then I say YES & THANK YOU! 

This breaks my heart, friends. It breaks my heart that Martin and Vashti are serving the lost, broken, and forgotten so tirelessly and at the end of the day they struggle to provide for their own family. And please know that Martin and Vashti don't even know I'm writing this blog post or making this plea on their behalf. My intention is not to make you feel sorry for them but that we might be the answer to someone else's prayers. 

Here's how you can give to help the Downs family with food, gas (or Petrol as they call it in SA), and other basic necessities: Just click on the link below to give DIRECTLY to the Downs family. Any questions, feel free to ask away!

Influence Conf is Coming!

In just a little over two weeks I'll be heading to The Influence Conference with my friends Caroline, Karrie, and Reeve. Karrie and Reeve both live in the Charlotte area and I don't get to see them very much so I'm super excited to spend some car time with all three of them!

The ladies over at the Influence Conference blog are doing a link-up for all the women who will be attending the IC. The goal is to get to know each other a little and be able to put some names to faces for when we actually meet in "real life" soon. So here it goes...

1) Two things you will be sure to have packed in your bag:

  • My iPhone/laptop. I'm sort of a social media addict and will definitely want to be tweeting/instagramming the WHOLE weekend. And don't worry, I will be doing a social media fast soon so there's no need to plan an intervention. :)
  • Fall clothes! I'm really hoping for some fall-like weather the weekend of the conference so I can finally bust out some of my favorite fall clothes. (It's 95 here in Illinois today that might be a long shot. Here's hoping.) 
Sorry there's no spiritual answers like my bible or favorite devotional. I have a bible on my iPhone, ok? 

2) Two (or three) things you are most looking forward to during the conference:

  • Worshiping with hundreds of women. (And by worship, I mean musical worship). REALLY looking forward to that. 
  • Meeting some women I really admire and learning from them.
  • Hanging out with my roomies! 
And here's a picture of me. Please come give me a hug once you see this face at the Influence Conference! 

He Pursues.

A few weekends ago I went to a Women of Faith conference with my dear (and most hilarious!) friend Kathy in Peoria, IL. Kathy is 21 years older than me but you'd never know by the amount of fun we have together!

At the conference I was introduced to Lisa Harper (not personally) who is the Director of Ministries for Women of Faith. She played the roll of the emcee for the weekend as well as a speaker.  I loved her SO much! Kathy bought a few of her books and gave me one entitled "Untamed : How the Wild Side of Jesus Frees Us to Live and Love with Abandon". I started reading it a few days ago and came across the most amazing story that I just have to share.


     "Several months ago I was invited to be on the Life Today television show with James and Betty Robison. During the interview they asked me to relate a story that happened many years ago at the end of a large Christian women's conference event in the Midwest. Kathy Troccoli was leading worship at this particular event, and she concluded by inviting women in need of prayer to come forward to the platform while she sang a song based on Psalm 23.

     Now, I truly believe that inviting individuals to pray is almost always a good thing, but you know how people sometimes get whipped into an emotive frenzy in spiritual settings? Well, this was one of those times. Over a thousand women surged foward and began to cry and carry on and loudly express their distress. Personally, I'm a firm believer in weeping before the Lord -- even whining if you need to. And I appreciate God's assurance that he counts our troubles and stores tears. Scripture makes it clear that no sincere grief on our part is ever ignored by the Heavenly Father.

     However, much of the sorrow expressed at this conference seemed to be more self-induced than Holy-Spirit-generated, and I found myself thinking, Wow, we need to do something to shift the focus back to God's goodness and away from our misery! Kathy was thinking the same thing, because she wrapped up the song, she marched over to where I was hovering at the edge of the stage, shoved the microphone toward me, and said authoritatively, "Pray, Lisa!"

     A little flustered by all the drama, I wasn't sure exactly where to begin. But I've found that even much smaller groups of women typically include a few who are struggling in their marriage, some who are worried about their prodigal children, others who are suffering with cancer, and sadly at least a handful who recently lost someone they loved. So I simply started praying some of God's promises: that He's near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, that His name is a strong tower, and righteous can run to it and find refuge. Just as I was getting on a roll, I sensed God tap me on the shoulder and tell me to pray something else. Now I didn't hear God's audible voice as Abraham or Moses did, but the voice in my head was unmistakably His. John 10:1-5 assures Christians we can recognize our Redeemer's voice. And I couldn't ignore it.

     I have to admit, however, that I wanted to ignore it, because I was certain the words he was impressing on my heart to pray would be about as welcome as a vegan at a National Cattleman's conference. I couldn't help thinking, They killed prophets in the Old Testament, Lord. May I please just say "Amen" and be done with it? 

     Yet God's spirit continued poking me so insistently that I knew it'd be overt disobedience to refuse His request. So I prayed for women who were struggling with their sexuality and living in lesbian relationships. Yeah, I know. It's not a prayer you hear very often in a setting where most people are wearing matching purses and shoes. I don't remember any details about what happened immediately after my prayer that day. At least no one pelted me with rocks, and within a few hours I was safely on a plane headed back to Nashville.

     A few weeks later I received a letter from a young woman named Karen who'd been at the event. She explained that she'd been attending that conference for years, not because she enjoyed it, but to appease her mother. Karen had been raised in a Christian home but rebelled in college through excessive drinking, promiscuity, and homosexual relationships. Since she lived on the other side of the state from her conservative mama, she'd been able to keep her prodigal ways a secret. Karen wrote, "I don't know if you remember, but the prayer time at the end of the conference was really emotional."Yeah, I remember!

     As all those women gathered around the platform that day, Karen had stayed put in her top-row seat at the back of the convention center with her arms crossed and thinking, Ugh, I hate this! These women are a bunch of dramatic hypocrites, and nothing that's been said all day applies to me. In that moment, she wrote in her letter, she sort of dared God to show up by silently praying, God, if you're real, I dare you to make that lady - she had no idea who i was - say the word "lesbian," because I've been here for seven years in a row and haven't heard anybody talk about what I'm walking through. 

     Seconds later, when I said that word in my prayer, she was so shocked that she bolted out of her seat and escaped to the bathroom, where she stayed until the conference was completely over. Then she walked out to her car by herself, feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and unsure of how to handle what seemed to be an answer from a God she'd nearly stopped believing in.

     A week later Karen was driving down the highway in anguish because she'd lost her job and her latest girlfriend in quick succession. Despairing of her very life, she cried out to God and basically asked Him the same thing she had the previous weekend. "God if you're real, please help me find you." After her candid request, she absent-mindedly turned on her radio and was surprised to hear Kathy Troccoli singing the same song she'd sung at the end of the conference. Karen explained that she never listened to inspirational music and wasn't sure how her stereo got tuned in to that station! Then, even more astonishing, instead of a dee-jay's voice or a commercial coming on when the song was over, the station aired my prayer, and she heard that word a second time. She described the experience as being so unsettling -- and so unmistakably God -- that she felt compelled to pull her car over to the shoulder of the road and ask Jesus to forgive her and take control of her life.


How amazing are the ways that Jesus pursues us? Has He ever pursued you like this before? Or maybe used you in His pursuit of someone else? 

I am grateful for a father who would go to the ends of the earth just to pursue ME. And YOU. 

Introducing 'Story Hope'

If you haven't already noticed, I've been doing a little rebranding around here. What used to be www.courtneylaib.com is now www.storyhope.com. You'll also notice a little design change as well. What can I say? I guess I just like change:)

Lately God has been putting dreams on my heart and deepening the ones that are already there. One of the dreams is to do more intentional writing. And to maybe even one day write a book. So rather than just write about 'whatever' on this blog, I'll aim to be a little more specific and purposeful.

The idea behind the name change is simple. I desire for my life to be a story of HOPE. I want to tell stories of hope that might inspire hope in others. I'll tell my own stories and maybe even other people's stories (with their permission of course). Some may be deeply spiritual and others maybe not so much. I'm not a very poetic writer so the stories may be straight to the point but the goal will always be that they will be stories filled with HOPE.

There's a great story I read in a book recently that I will be sharing in my next post. Although it's not my story, it's a GREAT one and gives me goosebumps every time I read it.

Happy Friday Friends.

I Need Africa.

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time then you've probably caught a glimpse of my love for an organization called The Mocha Club.

"The challenged Africans face today are as diverse as HIV/AIDS, access to clean water, and the vulnerability of women. Mocha Club is committed to locally developed projects where the community identifies the needs and the response." -The MC

I've been supporting their clean water project for over a year now through the sale of Story Hope Tees and through a monthly donation of $9, also to their clean water project. It's very easy to get involved with the Mocha Club because they're simply a community of people giving up the cost of a few mochas a month to support development projects in Africa. Pretty easy, right?

Well today the Mocha Club launched a NEW campaign called 'I Need Africa'. Check out this short video to learn more...

There are a few ways to respond and get involved...

If you're not a current Mocha Club member, JOIN THE CLUB and then pick one of the 2.0 products (an exclusive fashionABLE INA scarf or the INA pocket tee) for FREE. If you're already a member, now's the perfect time to INVITE your friends to join you! When they join, you BOTH get to choose a FREE product! The INA 2.0 products are also available for purchase in the MC store.

Last year at the Influence Conference I had the chance to meet and talk with Barrett, who is the founder of Mocha Club, as well as Marisa, who is one of their amazing staff, and let me tell you that they are REAL people who are doing REAL and amazing work in Africa. 

If you're looking for an opportunity to do something outside of your own world, this is a great one. You won't regret it. 

25 things you might not know about me

My friend Megan over at She Does Justice did a '25 things you might not know about me' post and it was so fun I decided to do one myself. So here it goes...

1) I was born in Iowa. 

2) I've lived in 5 states.

3) The first time I saw the ocean, I was 19 year old. 

4) My first job was de-tassling corn. And it was a terrible job. 

5) I LOVE big cities. 

6) I'm kind of a neat freak. 

7) I'm a big fan of country music. 

8) I was born of Christmas Eve. 

9) I have four older brothers. 

10) I'm an introvert who borders very closely to extrovert.  

11) I have a HUGE sweet tooth. 

12) I'm a wanna-be vegetarian. 

13) My favorite actor is Denzel Washington. 

14) My favorite actress is Hillary Swank. 

15) I have two tattoos and I will probably get more. 

16) My favorite shows are Parenthood and Law & Order SVU.

17) I would drink Mountain Dew everyday if it didn't make me feel so terrible.

18) My husband and I are licensed foster parents. 

19) I really like to run. 

20) One of the things on the top of my bucket-list is to go to Africa one day.

21) I have a deep burden for the "least of these". 

22) I am a night-owl. SO not a morning person. 

23) I'm going to run my first half-marathon on October 12th, 2013.

24) I'd like to write a book someday.

25) I can't stand having long finger nails. 

Whew! That was way harder than I thought. Thanks for reading!