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My heart has been so full through this holiday season. Full in every way. Right now I have a loved one who is hurting physically, struggling through major injury and the difficult recovery that goes with it. I have loved ones hurting emotionally fighting through some of the most difficult seasons of their lives as they face unknowns, wounds, the past, and struggling relationships. I know those looking for work and those who have recently found it. Those fighting financially to stay afloat and those pulling out of a monetary hole. I love some who are celebrating new life and some who are grieving fresh loss. We have recently said lots of goodbyes and are now in the process of saying those reunion hellos. Change has been the recurring theme of our holidays. All around there is stress, pain, hurt, longing, peace, joy, hope, need, and fulfillment. But as I worked through some of these things over this holiday season, in every single situation and conversation I began to feel a running theme. God kept showing it to me over and again until I began to notice it more quickly. Through all of it, in all of it, there was Immanuel. I think that Name may have become more precious to me this year than in all my life before. I have always loved those verses that spoke of a Savior, of redemption, of God becoming flesh. I have thought of that Baby as Immanuel and worshipped Him. But this year I think I worshipped Him in a new way as Immanuel, God with us NOW. Not God who was with us when Baby Jesus was born. I have always felt His Presence in my life, always seen Him surrounding me, but it is almost difficult to describe what I have sensed over the last few months. Not just God close, or nearby, or watching, or present, but WITH us. Not against, or disappointed, or keeping a slight distance from our slimy muck, but WITH us. WITH us. I don’t know if that’s as beautiful to you as it is to me, but I can’t even type it without tears. I am someone who struggles with wanting to be with those that I love during every struggle. I want to be there for my kids, my family, my friends. I want to crawl through that phone when my friend is crying on the other end or that text screams of far more pain than you would think a little phone screen could contain. I want to take away the physical pain or bring rest for someone who can’t rest. I want to guard, protect, shelter. And I can’t. But He CAN. He is with me, with them, with you…WITH US.

Many years ago I was encouraged to find a purpose for my life. Not something achievable, not a goal I would reach and then have to find a new one. Not something that would end here with this world, but a purpose that would lay up treasure in Heaven and could be a constant focus throughout other smaller goals. As I searched and prayed for that purpose, God gave me one that went with my name. Courtney means, “From the king’s court.” So I set forth as my purpose that my life’s calling would be about that. Ever since then I have continued to focus there, always imperfectly, but always looking to return to that path after my many failures and detours by the grace and mercy of that King. It is the goal of my marriage, my motherhood, my friendships, my ministry, my teaching, this blog, or any other endeavor I undertake. My ultimate prayer is that each person I meet would feel that through our relationship, our conversation, our contact that they had been in the King’s court. It is only through my Immanuel that such a purpose is even possible! What a King to be on His almighty throne and yet reaching down to us! This has been a difficult season but one that I see as a turning point for me in my journey toward that goal. While my understanding of a God who is with us still has so far to go, it has come so many, many miles in these last months of change.

I hope that during the holidays you were full of a sense of His presence in all you celebrated, but I especially pray that this year is a time of your most certain and absolute assurance that God Himself has chosen to be Immanuel and to be with you. For us 2011 was full of the unexpected but hovering all through these events and changes that we couldn’t have prepared for or predicted, there was this sense of familiarity and comfort. It was not the situation but the One who was WITH us in it. You do not have to ask Him to be with you, He is. You just have to look up and see Him. May 2012 be the year we worship in awe and adoring love our Immanuel, God WITH us!

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

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