Monday, April 24, 2017

I Know that I Know, and It Doesn't Matter
By Cortney Donelson


It's a declaration. A shaming statement. The one I know isn't true but for some frustratingly elusive reason, I still get ensnared and agree with it. Recently, I even started to own it. 

"I'm not good enough."

And, there it is. It doesn't always approach me so directly or reveal itself so clearly. Sometimes the source is manipulative, sneaky, or the lie is simply masked as something easier to digest. 

It can be fleeting ungratefulness. I wish I was more (extroverted, funny, personable, eloquent, nurturing ...)

It may be a me-versus-her comparison. I can't do what she just did. 

It could be a veiled judgment. You're swimming in the wrong pond. You aren't skilled in this area.

It might even be a soft threat. It's taking you away from your real responsibilities and making you fail at them too. 

It's an identity crusher. Who do you think you are?

I look backwards in time and try to determine when I started to embrace the thought. Yes, I know it's not truth. I always have and always will know this. In fact, it's the oldest enemy-promise in The Book. Yet, it still charms me in the darkest sense of the word. It slithers around my insecurities, takes hold of my weaknesses, and pulls me under as oil-thick waves of doubt close around my heart. Actually, it starts as a thought, but it soon morphs into a feeling. I realize I've been "had" when the feeling rolls into a choice. 

I can't do this. Why am I still trying? It's hopeless. (Insert helpless self-condemning sigh.) I should just give up. 

And, I almost did. 

I can't believe I'm sharing this. But, I must. If I continue to sit with it in my secret places, the devil will win. It's where he wins all his battles - in the dark. 

So, I'm bringing it to light. 

On two occasions these past two months, I had this thought: I wish I had never even written this book.

I struggle with perfectionism. In fact, I'll be discussing this in greater detail on the stage later this month. For now, know that my whole life has been filled with the weight of expectations. Growing up, life wasn't easy but it was smooth. I worked hard, and it payed off. Though, most assumed that everything was easy for me. I made the straight A's, excelled on all the sports teams, joined all the clubs, and so on. Their labels and expectations turned into my own labels and expectations. So much so that if anything was difficult, I thought I wasn't supposed to be doing it. 

And, that's where the world and a life following Christ intersected with a sonic boom. 

In order to write Clay Jar, Cracked, I spent three years staying up late at night while the rest of my family slept. I needed the quiet ... the space to write. To cry. To write again. I had never been a very good writer and have no formal training, so I had to learn how to write. My ever-patient editor and I spent hours on the phone painstakingly going through each paragraph to ensure my story flowed well for the readers. Three. Long. Years. 

That was the easy part. 

It took another two years of self-publishing and then for the more traditional publishing process. There were covers to design, back cover contents to write, photographs to take, a biography to write, genre comparisons to make, price points to research, copyrighting to work through, phone meetings, marketing calls, fundraisers, book launches to plan,  .... 

That wasn't the hard part either. 

No, the "Not Good Enough Lie" was reserved for this third stage. The enemy was waiting for when I was the most deeply invested and the most fatigued to snake into my mind and wreak havoc in my soul. As we all know, it's when he's most effective - when we're at our weakest. 

This third stage is the most critical. It's the point when most authors fail, for it's when we're most likely to give up. This segment is the on-going, long-term commitment to promote our stories and our messages, despite the needle on the gage moving up only tics at a time. Sometimes, the needle even falls back to zero. It's the most disheartening point of an author's journey. I hate it. 

All I ever wanted was to share my story in order to be a source of hope for others, but this world of books, publishing, competition, and other stressful activities dragged me away from my purpose. I had become so focused on numbers, finances, what other authors were or were not doing, and on what book buyers were thinking and doing, that I lost site of the WHY. I actually forgot why I had written my book. I forgot that God was in control. 

I started minimizing God's power and plan as I bought into the lie that it was all up to me, and that I wasn't good enough. Not good enough a marketer. Not dynamic enough a speaker. Not extroverted enough for interviews. So, I almost quit. The wrong side almost won. 

Thankfully, I'm not alone, and God reminded me from where my strength and power can come if I just let Him do His work. 

I am good enough because I have the Holy Spirit. I am good enough because God equips those He calls. I am good enough because I don't have to figure it all out; He already has. I am good enough because I don't have to be perfect; He already is. 

2 Timothy 4:17 --

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.


And, He stands with and strengthens you too.  


Influenced by rest and relaxation, Philippians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 13:9, 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, my story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.




©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

"For the Humility"
By Cortney Donelson

Image Cred: Unknown













Humility is perhaps the most mysterious of all the moral qualities for which we strive to understand and embrace. One could make a compelling argument that for someone to claim humility for herself might indicate its absence. As I prayerfully considered my word for 2017, this virtue emerged to color the lens through which I am now viewing the world for twelve months. I never appreciated the many facets of humility – until now. 

My simple mind had a simplistic definition. Humility would entail setting others above or ahead of myself. “No, friend ... you first” became my mantra. I used Philippians 2:3 as the foundation of my word of the year. It’s the Scripture that suggests we “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” 

Never could I have anticipated the full measure of the meaning of humility – the very fullness that God was hoping I would discover through the circumstances that were ahead. Not once had I considered that humility would have little to do with my book launch, speaking engagements, and other possible “look at what I did” traps. See, that was where my fear lay. When you put a personal and provocative story about yourself and your marriage out into the public eye where it is praised, it becomes all too easy to fall into the snares of pride and self-significance. I expected that God strategically placed “humility” on my heart in order to remind me that my story was for His glory, my book was written through His gifting, my forgiveness was His first, and love and grace are meaningless without the cross. 

As Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered publishes today, I find myself in the most humbling of circumstances, and they have nothing to do with a book or a heart-wrenching story of redemption from five years ago. Before I get excited and start checking sales numbers, before my big red carpet event in Nashville, Tennessee, before I begin scheduling more events and sharing my testimony in the most public of ways ... before all that, I am being forced to position myself even lower. Apparently, I must not just get lower; I must dive down to the depths. God has shown me it’s necessary that I experience a facet of humility in which I never imagined having to engage – especially not RIGHT NOW. My jar has cracked again and I have been reminded of the poignant messages within my book. 

God has effectively (and lovingly) lowered my position in order to wholly humble my condition. Through circumstances beyond our control, my family and I are now homeless. I prefer the term houseless. After all, we have options, and I do not want to trivialize the condition of those who are, in fact, homeless in the truest sense of the word. None-the-less, we are somewhat stranded. We own one and a half acres of unprepared land and a few pieces of furniture. Oh, and we do have one and a half cars to our name. At this very moment, as millions of people have access to our broken story and I am actively praying they find a hope and a joy that eclipses any human understanding despite what circumstances scream out, this family of four is living in a rented two-bedroom apartment with our somewhat big and absolutely needy dog. One of my littles is even sleeping on an air mattress. My circumstances are less than ideal, and I had started to lose some of that hope and joy I so articulately describe in my book. 

How did we get to this position? My husband and I had a dream. A goal. It was quite a God-sized goal. In fact, I believe it was a God-honoring one. My husband and I had decided to sell our ample-sized house to build one half its size. Our objective was three fold. First, down cost – not because we necessarily had to, but because we wanted to. God had impressed upon our hearts to give above the level we had been giving, to travel on mission more often, and to serve in a greater capacity through our financial position. Together, we created a life goal that purposed us to gift others each month with a greater amount than our monthly mortgage. Second, we aimed to downsize. We were tired of time wasted during yard work, house cleaning, and all the upkeep that comes with a larger home. We wanted more of the “3 F’s” – family time, fun time, and free time. Third, we desired out-of-doors space. We wanted our kids to play in and explore nature, enjoying more privacy, peace, and quiet than our neighborhood could offer. Our dream was to build an ultra modern and ultra small home. 

So, we found 1.4 acres and bought it. 

Then, we sold our house. 

Then, we gave away all our d├ęcor. 

Then, we sold all our furniture except for a few items such a kitchen table for the apartment. 

Then, we hired a builder and an architect. 

Then ... construction costs skyrocketed. 

I’m talking like 100%. 

Now, we are without a builder. Without an architect. Without furniture. Without a home. Without a plan. That last part is the worst part for yours truly. No matter how carefully we had calculated and double-checked resources against budget through the initial stages of the process, the plan backfired. Few expected construction costs to rise as sharply as they did. High risk, high reward ... or, in some unfortunate cases, the greater the disappointment. 

As we sold the house we had lived in for 13 years and now have lost the house we were planning to build, I have been introduced to humility in the most tangible sense of the word ... the most worldly sense. After the inevitable journey through shock, anger, and despair, I believe I’m now feeling "okay." True, our dream was kinda crushed. Like a bug. We have no viable strategy and housing prices and interest rates continue to rise. Even the apartment lease price is going up in August. (I think I’m typing myself back out onto the ledge here...)

BUT ... THERE’S GOD ... We do know the One who does have a plan. We intimately know Him. Our goal was to give more. Serve more. Help others. Love others more. Isn’t that the position and condition God has, in fact, already placed us? Isn’t this where true humility is found? Being in a position and a condition to love others more than self because we have little left to distract us? Letting go of our possessions to be free from worldly idols, self-appointed dreams, and do it the way God sees best? Living in a community of all new people, many of whom don’t know the Lord? Isn’t this what my husband and I were aiming for? Don’t we trust God's promise that He will not forsake us? 

Isn’t this facet of humility unexpected but perhaps worth it? 

I’m learning the answer is yes


Prayer: Father God, You are the one true God, the only One from whom lasting hope, peace, and love come. While circumstances seem to break us, we know that as long as we are anchored in your hope, in Your Son, we can rest in the promise that You are a good God and One who has a plan so much better than our own. Thank You for this lesson in true humility and for not letting me get by with the surface level lesson. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. 


Influenced by my prayer life, the parable of the rich ruler in Luke 18, James 4:10, Matthew 6:19-21, Mark 10:24-25, Hebrews 13:5, the book Radical by David Platt, and my book Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered. 

©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Desiring Justice
By Cortney Donelson

"Stolen" from publicdomainpictures.net














I think we all desire justice. I wonder if we truly recognize what justice is in the eyes of Jesus? What if the real meaning of justice can be found by experiencing it from a Holy perspective? What if it isn’t about righting wrongs or punishing the guilty? Perhaps the justice Jesus introduced to the world is more about the reconciliation of relationships rather than about the consequences due...

Every time someone asked Jesus, “How can I get to heaven?” he replied, “Love God and love people.” He never responded with “Pray a prayer” or “Stop doing wrong.” Jesus is all about love and relationship. God sent His Son to die in our place in order to reconcile us to Him, to mend the broken relationship caused by our sin. Jesus took on this sin, despite being sinless Himself.  He was tried, punished, and killed in the name of “justice.” Despite these injustices, God’s true justice prevailed. Death was overcome. Christ is risen and continues to be our truth, our way, and our life – our gateway to eternity with God.  

Love God. Love people. Justice among each other can be achieved in the same way. Think about it. When someone hurts us, can the wrong ever truly be undone? When words slice our hearts, can they be taken back with revenge? When trust is broken, will separation repair it? When someone intentionally takes another’s life, can we punish him or her enough to bring the person back to life? The simple answer is no. Rather, justice can be achieved through the reconciliation of that broken relationship, when hearts are made whole and love prevails. Justice is forgiveness. Justice is mercy that leads to redemption. Justice cannot stand apart from grace if we are to love people the way God intended – the way He loves us.

While there will be a day when we all face God as judge, Jesus provides us with the promise that true justice has already been won if we put our faith in Him. Forgiveness. Repentance. Mercy. Perhaps these are the foundations of true justice, one in which loving rightness redeems so much more than punishment ever could. 



Prayer: I am so thankful that You are the Father of justice. I pray we all realize that the gold standard of justice was found when Jesus bridged the gap between You and us.  May we always seek reconciliation, making ourselves less and You more. In Jesus's name, I pray. Amen.

Influenced by Micah 6:8, my story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.


©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly.