Panera

I stood in one of my favorite places.  Panera.  Not sure why but I’ve always found comfort in its wooden booths, warm fire place, and doughy aromas.  At least, I have since grad school.  This particular location was truly a reminder of my time in school because it was the very one I often visited near the campus.

I stood there and had flashbacks of working diligently, pouring over debits and credits for hours on end, and drinking lattes to stay energized.  So many hours and months and years, working towards a goal I would eventually achieve: my MBA in Accounting.  But while I was driven and excited and encouraged at this endeavor, I still felt the longing of a single soul awaiting companionship. 

The longing burned within me.

No matter what I did to ignore it, it lingered.  I thought about this and how many years have passed.  On that day at Panera I didn’t feel the intense, burning, longing that I felt in my 20s, and even in my early 30s, but I still felt…alone.

I liken my desire for a romantic relationship to fasting.  When first starting a fast the hunger of food feels overwhelming and the task nearly impossible.  Yet as time goes on the desire simmers.  It’s still there, but it feels “dulled”.

With fasting, you learn how to be full off less.

The stomach shrinks and with it so does your mindset.  As a friend once told me when not having enough for a meal, “Well, there’s always water.” She said this because she has experienced several 21-day “liquid only” fasts.

Water becomes enough.

Memory after memory visited me as I waited for my order.  The painful ones.  The hard ones.  I thought about how time had moved but my circumstances had not.  I also thought about the guy I had met recently.  We were in the early stages of getting to know each other and I had not yet received a phone call.  I started debating on initiating the call but decided against it.  That just wasn’t me.  Within moments I felt my phone vibrate.  It was him.

We talked that night for the first time.  I sat and ate my food while looking out the window and being very much aware of the Father’s provision.  I had reached a place of understanding that we do not always get what we desire in this life.  We are not promised that.  I understood self denial and waiting and humbling one’s self for the sake of the kingdom.  In fact, I am still learning those lessons.  However I think there are new lessons He is teaching me, hence He is moving in a new way.  Because in that moment, while sitting in Panera, looking out the window and having the first of many to come conversations with a man who has great purpose in my life, I knew the Lord was saying, “See Nicole, your circumstances are changing.”

And more importantly, “Nicole, you are not alone”.

To prove it He brought me, Emmanuel…

SHALOM

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Nothing Like Job’s Friends

Job 8

Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

“How long will you say such things?
    Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice?
    Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him,
    he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
But if you will seek God earnestly
    and plead with the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright,
    even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
    and restore you to your prosperous state.
Your beginnings will seem humble,
    so prosperous will your future be

In the above passage Job’s friend Bildad is responding to Job’s suffering in the only way he knows how.  He is seeing through his lense.  He is pulling on the information that he has thus far acquired in his life journey and offering that as a resolution.  The only problem, is he is wrong.

Bildad had never been through anything Job was going through at the time, thus he was not qualified to offer advise or counsel or insight.  Unfortunately he was not wise enough not to know this.  And so he spoke out of his ignorance.  He put the blame on Job.  He made it seem like it was something Job had done to experience all of this loss.  That is the deception in religion.  It puts the burden on the person, instead of giving it back to Christ to carry for us…(Matthew 11:30).

In this difficult season I have been navigating I’m so grateful to have people around me, friends around me, who are nothing like Job’s friends.  They do not speak on areas they are not familiar with.  We have all had our difficulties, but none of us are the same.  I have never been through a divorce or faced a physical life threatening illness or lost a child.  And so it would be inappropriate for me to speak on these things.  And even if I had gone through these things I would have had my own experience with them, so what may have helped me through those hardships may not help another person.  My counselor told me something similar recently: we are all different and no two people respond the same to similar circumstances.

I remember the morning of her funeral, 5 women were in my home, waiting.  They were silent.  They were silent because they were sensitive to my needs.  And really, what could be said?  They sat in silence as we road in the limo.  And I felt very much like none of this was happening.  Like I was watching everything happen around me but I wasn’t really apart of it.

Job’s friends were silent initially.  They were silent for 7 days and then they opened their mouths and spoke about things they knew nothing about.  I’m glad that was not my experience.  How painful is it to endure such difficult circumstances and then on top of that to feel condemned and accused and persecuted from your loved ones?

I have had some experiences where selfishness and judgement have been tossed my way and it has been hurtful.  But even those experiences have been few and far between and never from my core circle.  For that I am grateful.

I also know there have been times I have been the judge.  I have been the one condemning and pointing the finger and saying the wrong thing.  I’m grateful for a repentant heart and an increase in self awareness.  I’m grateful for growth.

Pain is a delicate thing.  And when faced with it hearts are tender and should be handled carefully.

I was told last night from a new friend that I am a safe place for him.  He has been through lots of pain and I am honored to be a safe place for someone who has experienced that much pain.

But I know to be safe has to be learned.  I learned it from the women around me and from Holy Spirit using them.

They are nothing like Job’s friends…

SHALOM

Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost

10 months of bliss came to a sudden halt as a few turn of events made it clear I had to walk away. God is funny in that way, making His presence known so mightily even when He is speaking so quietly. I did the hard thing once again. But this was hard for so many other reasons than it had been in the past. Being single is one thing. Being single and jobless and grieving the loss of a loved one is another. I am in the midst of that grief and a few others and wonder often if I will come out on the other side.

As I stood in my bathroom over the sink with a bleeding heart I had one simple prayer: “God meet me here.”

And of course He did.

He made sure I wasn’t alone. Even sent a dear friend to stay with me that night which is a great comfort in an empty home. And as the difficult weekend rolled by and it became more and more apparent I was unappreciated, undervalued and taken for granted, I let the pain roll over me. I poured over scripture, listened to worship music and laid on my face. One by one 7 friends called to check on me, knowing the grief I was facing.

7 friends and 7 women who walked with me down the aisle as I laid her to rest. 7 women (and then some) who covered me as we stood near her grave. I was in a fog that day and really for several months after. I felt nothing and that was such an odd feeling to feel nothing for one who has always been such a deep feeler.

But now I am surely feeling. I felt that weekend when I chose to let him go and try to do this season without the crutch. I chose to walk the unseen path laced with doubt and uncertainty. The pain was horrible and in some ways worse then I remembered from past breakups.

I have asked God why has He allowed so much loss and trauma in such a short time? To which I feel His response has been, “I’m entrusting you with it.”

I think we can be entrusted with suffering. And there was a time I would have counted it a great honor. Even James encourages us to do so (James 1:2-4). But I have never felt pain like this.  So now I don’t feel very honored.

I go to counseling tonight and I look forward to it because before when I went I was told that I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to talk about the deep things. The things of her passing and the suddenness of it and her being the only family I really had.  So God gave me Time.  He gave me a distraction which was sufficient.  Until it wasn’t.

But now it’s time.

All of these changes happened suddenly and coincided with Rush Hashanah the Hebraic New Year and that was not lost on me since He had taught me years ago of the significance of the Hebraic calendar.  It is clearly a new season.

I was driving not long ago and kept praying about this new loss but the whisper on my heart was that it was not mine but his. His loss because I am the one of great value. Not that he isn’t but I did value him, yet he did not return the favor.  At least not at the very end.

I talked to my friend and told her even though it hurt like hell I’d still rather have loved and lost.  To have nothing, to feel nothing is in my opinion a greater loss.  I value feeling, at times overly so.  But still there is value in it.

I know it’s been a while since I poured out my heart on this blog but so much has happened that vulnerability and intimacy through writing to the public felt overwhelming. Though God stays the same I’m changing and life is changing and I’m trying to navigate it all at once.

I know there is grace to navigate but that doesn’t exempt us from the pain of doing so.

SHALOM

7 More Days

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:1-3‬ ‭NKJV

I am reminded of this passage as I count down the days. 7 more til I am released. I am comforted to know that they also did not see my Savior for who He was. He was a Healer and yet they called him a demon. He was kind and they returned his kindness with persecution. If He is our Master how can we expect to be treated any differently?

I am comforted but my heart still hearts. To have poured out so much, given so much, and to still be passed by…but His response through me is to honor. Honor like David honored Saul. The very man who loved him and had taken him in, eventually sought to end his life.

If God is for us who can be against us?

I believe God uses trials to shape us into His image. I believe we can grow and be Him in the earth.

Still, my heart is tender. I must move slowly in my demonstration of His character. 7 more days and I will once again be in a transition. This time I have no expectation.

Just one day at a time.

He will open a door in His timing. And it will be purposeful. It may not be the reward everyone keeps hoping for me, but it will be purposeful just the same.

His grace is sufficient.

SHALOM

Heartfelt

This weekend I had a hot date. With my mom that is. We played pool and had drinks and had fun. She won 2 out of 3 games but the fact that I even won 1 and came really close to winning another is impressive. She’s a pretty good player and I, on the other hand, am not 🙄🙄. But even though I’m not the best pool player that did not keep her from rooting for her baby girl😊. I marveled at her heart for me. She wanted me to win even if it was at the sake of her losing. That is the heart of a parent. A good parent that is…

In my Healing the Father Wound class someone shared a word of wisdom I marinated on. She said that parents are just adults who do not have it together. So true. As children we want them to have it together. Even as adult children. But who can say that they have perfect parents? No one.

I was so blessed by my mom’s heart to be “for me” and the fact that she would want me to do better than she did. The Father looks at the heart.

I’m grateful to have a mother with a good heart.

And there are so many around me with good hearts. There are so many who are “for me”. In this difficult season of waiting many continue to reach out. I know it is really the Father’s hand reaching out through each one.

Still, often He has seemed so distant, like an onlooker objectively observing. But then I think of my mom and feel His love for me. The kind of love that causes you to want your child to do better than you did. And whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, is worth it.

That is the love of the cross.

That is agape.

From this weekend…

SHALOM

Healing Fast

I remember years ago a dream I had. The details are fuzzy but what stands out to me is that I was in trouble and a dear family member came out of nowhere to rescue me. The interesting thing about it was that she was in a wheelchair when she did it! She literally flew out of the air in a wheelchair and came to save me! The message to me was that this person deeply cared for me and would allow no obstacle to hinder her from getting to me in my time of need.

The issue with the dream is that I felt the exact opposite in real life about our relationship and there always seemed to be a battle between us. Isn’t it interesting how God sees one thing and it looks totally opposite in real life? He sees the end from the beginning and as an intercessor, I have been taught that His heart is to manifest heaven in the earth.

I believe in heaven everything is perfect and that includes our relationships. There is no offense or hurt or sorrow. We have perfect relationships with everyone.

At the turn of the year the Father started moving rapidly in the area of this relationship. I had given up. I was so deeply hurt and wounded I did not believe it could be repaired. I was wrong. Not only did He repair it but He did it quickly! Decades of pain were healed in one conversation!

I accredit my loved one with her heart of repentance. Sometimes we have hurtful tendencies but that does not mean we intend to hurt. It just means we are broken.

It is beautiful to watch so many years of intercession being rewarded. To see the unfolding of a flower that has withstood so many wars.

It is a new season between us and I do not take this experience for granted. The weight has been lifted from my heart and I am grateful for it. Sometimes we can carry pain for so long that we do not even know it is there until it is removed.

Thank You Father for removing my pain and giving me a deep desire of my heart.

SHALOM

Baby Steps

I’m taking a class called “Healing the Father Wound” based on the book by Kathy Rodriguez. I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to join the small group. I had so much teaching and growth and healing in the area of father wounds and I was tired 😴 . But The Father used one of my faithful sisters to keep inviting me until it was clear I was supposed to join.

Today the instructor asked me a pointed question that I really struggled with answering.

“Do you love yourself Nicole?” Love myself? Ummm I guess. I mean I know I like myself. I think I’m fly and intelligent and attractive💁🏾. I’m caring and loving and loyal. But do I love myself? Hmmm🤔. Not so sure 🤷🏾‍♀️.

So I answered in a round about way: “I think the Lord is having me practice self love and learning my value when I choose to walk away from toxic relationships.”

There, that oughta do it. But I didn’t fool the instructor. She revisited the subject and gave me some “homework” regarding self love.

So I’m thinking about this concept of self love. I know the difficulty for me has been in receiving and believing I am unconditionally loved. Even after all the Father has done. But I haven’t really focused on the concept of self love. I guess now is the time.

I made a difficult decision this week. Thankfully I had community and friends and family to support me. I was able to stand up for my worth and value. I knew that was the heart of the Father. I have had community supporting me relentlessly these 15 years of walking with Him. But to the instructor’s credit, what if one day I do not? What if one day I am located far away from community? Do I have the self affirmation and love to endure? David encouraged himself in the Lord. I too have had those moments but even in those moments I had His presence.

As God matures us the dependencies are removed. The crutches and coping mechanisms He allowed in past seasons are no longer available. Instead we are called to walk forward without them, similar to a child learning to walk. The child can only hold on to the table for so long before they have to let go and walk on their own.

For now I’m grateful for community. I’m grateful there is always something to do, someone to spend time with, someone to see. Especially when the hard decision is made to let someone go.

And the loss is felt everyday.

Even though it was the best decision to make.

The gift of community is what He uses to keep me moving forward. One step at a time. Until the table is far behind me and I am standing strong once again on my own two feet.

SHALOM