Archive | October 2015

Choosing the Cross

John 6:15Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone”.
I came across this passage in a blog I follow and it really stood out to me. Jesus could have been king but chose not to be.

Luke 22:42Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done”

Christ did not want to go to the cross. He did not want to endure the pain and trauma to his body and He did not want to be separated from the Father, even for a moment, to bear the sins of the world. But He did. He chose the brutal cross instead of an earthly kingdom of comfort and lavishness and exaltation. Wouldn’t it have been justified for Him to allow the people to make Him king? He is a king after all. Wouldn’t it have been right to receive their worship and adulation? How easy would it have been to justify this earthly crowning to Himself and to justify forsaking the cross given the fact that no one would have known but Him that He was out of the Father’s will if He chose the crown? It would have been so easy.  

If He was not One with the Father that is.  

This morning I had quiet time with the Lord and in that time I realized how desperately I need to meet with Him daily. At least in this season while I have the time. I need to meet with Him b/c He designed me for intimacy with Him and when I am not functioning as He designed then I have needs that go unmet. This makes me easily prone to discouragement, fear and a lot of other negative tendencies. I realized during my morning quiet time how powerful His love is. He does not just love me but He loves me in spite of myself. He loves me in my mess. He loves me not because I am so good, but b/c He is so good.  

I know it is this love that led Yeshua to the cross. There is nothing else that is that powerful. It is His love for us that covers a multitude of sins. It is His love for us that bears with us through the worst of offenses. That hopes the best for us even when we demonstrate the worst of atrocities.

Like Christ I was faced with a decision to receive what God had already promised from a premature and carnal source. Thankfully He helped me to make the right decision and to wait on Him. Still, the cross is never easy. Making choices to lay down our will for His is never easy. But when I focus on His love and experience His love, I feel secure and safe and protected. I feel like all of the promises in Him for my life are “yes and yes and amen”.

SHALOM

Being Kind

Lately I have been thinking about how little I focus on the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Honestly it feels weird for me even to reference God as individual parts: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The thing is when I think of God I normally think of Him as Father. I understand in my head that even when I am interacting with Him daily it is the third part of the Trinity who I am interacting with (Holy Spirit), but in my heart to me He is still–Father. But lately I’ve been thinking about Jesus and I’ve been re-reading the book of John to focus more on Him and his life while here on earth.
Recently, I was told to “be kind to myself”. I have heard that I can be hard on myself and therefore hard on others, but I will be honest and say that there is still a part of me that doubts this. Am I really too hard on myself? Are my expectations really too high? Because they seem pretty realistic to me. Except I and others usually fall short of them. But when she said to “be kind to myself” there was a realization that dawned on me. There was an awareness of a burden I was carrying. One I seem to always carry w/o knowing it. 

The burden of perfectionism and performance-based faith.  

She asked me what Jesus told the woman who committed adultery (John 8) and the first thing that came to my mind was “Go and sin no more”. But really the first thing He told her was “You are forgiven” (paraphrased from “Neither do I condemn you”). His focus was on forgiveness while mine was on the sin itself. Then she said that even in the Lord’s command to “Go and sin no more” it was less from a place of judgement and more from a place of his concern for the woman. When He looked at the woman, he did not see an adulterer; he saw a woman with a history of abuse and pain and trauma. Because let’s be honest, who escapes this life w/o experiencing abuse, pain and trauma? So He saw the whole of her and really He was telling her to not commit adultery again for her own sake.  

Because it was an unhealthy form of escapism.  

Because it was just a coping mechanism that was causing her even more pain than the pain that led her to the sin.  

Of course God hates sin, but could it be His hatred for sin stems from His love for us? Could it be He understands that sin hurts us and He does not want to see us hurt?

It is with these revelations that I began to understand why I must be kind to myself. Because Jesus is kind. He is compassionate. And if I function as an unkind, compassionless person to myself, how can I have any hope of being kind to others? How can I have any hope of demonstrating the true purpose of the gospel? 

To be forgiven.  

And to sin no more.  

Because it hurts us.

Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”…

SHALOM

 

When You Want A Family

  
This weekend I felt the desire to be around people. That was such a vulnerable place for me. I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. Most only children are probably used to being alone. I even more so as I experienced periods of time in my childhood when there were simply no friends. No people. So I hid in my books and grew closer to my best friend at the time–my grandmother. That was a way that I coped with not getting needs met. When I became a believer one of the gifts God gave me were real friends. People who loved unconditionally and who stuck by me no matter what. But there is a season for everything and some of those friendships have ended. Still, I am surrounded with community and people close to me who I do life with. This weekend when I felt in need of people I could very easily have reached out to any of these people that make up my community. But it wasn’t just a person or persons I was desiring. It was a specific kind of community I was desiring.

It was family.

I’m in a season now of going back to the beginning and I’m learning how vital it is to be born into this world surrounded by love and acceptance. But really how often does that happen? And even if we are born into affirmation of purpose and identity, that does not mean we will be raised with these assurances. Most people experience a breakdown in their family structure due to life. Some have even more extreme circumstances then others. Whatever the circumstance, our personality and life decisions are influenced by the environment we are raised in. God knows this and still uses all things to work together for our good.

I often think of Moses who was given up by his family for his own good. And then somewhere down the line he reconnected to his people. He was used to deliver them b/c he had been separated from them and his separation led to his own freedom. And theirs. I can relate to that story in a lot of ways.

I was blessed to connect with family this weekend. It wasn’t my blood family but they are so saturated with love that they don’t make a difference. There is a scripture that says God will set the solitaire in families. I will be honest and say I have despised that scripture. Often He has put me in others’ families but I have so desired a family of my own. But then I remembered, no person can complete me. No person can fulfill me. No person can meet all of my needs. Even if I had my own family, they would not be able to fill this hole I feel in my heart. Instead, they would just be there to enjoy, just as I am enjoying this community of people God has placed in my life in this season.

Maybe one day, when that hole is filled, there will be others I can call my blood family.

SHALOM

Back To The Beginning

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”- John 1: 1-4
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. Genesis 1:1-4

My pastor has a saying he’s been sharing for years now, “God’s original intent is His eternal intent”. I appreciate that revelation because often I get distracted by what is not God’s original intent. I get caught up in the dysfunction and the temporary.  As an intercessor it is my call to stand in the gap so that the eternal is manifested in the natural. So that the original intent is demonstrated instead of the dysfunction. For several years now I have been in training to more effectively use this gift of intercession yet my own dysfunction has caused me frustration with the training. The good news is, there is grace and God equips the called.

So many times things happen in life and we are caught off guard. We are shook to our core as we repeat the same negative experiences. We don’t understand why they keep happening. I am learning one great bit of wisdom in this season if that is the case.  

Look back to the beginning.  

What was the foundation of your relationship before it ended? Where were you emotionally, mentally, spiritually, when it started? Where were they? That will give you insight into why it ended. It has given me insight.  

Even more insight has come into looking at the family of origin. We are all born needy people. In the beginning the first man and woman were privileged to have their needs met by the Father. The Source. The only One who can possibly meet all of their needs. He designed the family to be a community united with Him to tend to the needs of children. Clearly, since the fall of man that has not happened. We all had unmet needs. And therefore, we all began choosing relationships and trying to get our needs met in those relationships that were not met from the family structure.

We were made “image bearers” of the Creator. The Creator is Light and Love. We were made to reflect light and love but often we reflect pain and selfishness and pride. We look at false images of the world to sustain ourselves and to fill the emptiness, but they never do. So we run an endless rat race toward emptiness until we find that all is vanity.

I am in a precious season of stillness. The Father has sat me down and turned my face to look upon His so that again I can be reminded of who I am. So that I can remember I am the apple of His eye and the desire of his heart. The passion of His cross.

I am favored and graced to have this experience in spite of not wanting to be still. I am blessed He once again carved out space and time so that I can look back not only to the family structure but even further to the Source of the family. To the Original Image that I was created in. The Image of Light and Love.  

Here is a sermon that speaks on man remembering who we are.  

SHALOM!

 

Walking in Purpose

Last week I was so honored to be a vendor at a major poetry event. Janette ikz, Ezekiel, Jackie and Preston graced the stage with their presence and rocked the mic as they are so well known to do. Their style of gritty transparency and truth and God’s unconditional love is what makes their lyrics so powerful. Not only did I get to see their performance but my vendor status allowed me access to a time of Q&A with the artists as well as a pic with them on stage.    

They took pics with every single VIP audience member. I was so blessed b/c I had no clue that this was all included in their performance. If not for my friend hosting the event I would not have even thought about selling my book there, let alone paying extra for a VIP ticket. Yet it was so worth the extra funds. I really felt VIP sitting in just the 2nd row, and getting to ask the poets my question about their ministry. It was definitely a sacrifice as I had to leave work an hour early, drive 45 minutes across town and stay an hour after the show to sell books after a 3 hour performance. But again, it was so worth it.   

Imagine my elation when one of my fellow blog readers was also at the event and stopped by my table to say hello! I was so blessed and am looking forward to connecting more with her. I knew that God had called me to this event but had no idea how significant it would be. I sold a few books, was poured into spiritually, encouraged in my faith and was able to encourage others in theirs. I just love the manifest presence and refreshing of the Lord. I had received a message just the night before. An opportunity to be distracted and detour from this path of faith but in His grace (and encouragement from my support group) I stayed focus. I ended the evening in awe, winding down with tea and looking at pics from the evening. I texted back and forth with friends about the night and was so comforted by the Father’s love and devotion. There is no feeling like having purpose and finally, I am seeing purpose in this season. It did not look at all the way I thought it would. I wanted it to look in accordance with my culture’s perspective and similar to that of my peers. But I am unique and God is dealing with me uniquely. Finally I see. There is purpose. And I am awakening to it. And walking in it.  

SHALOM

Enjoying the Moment

I started making a power point of all of the highlights from this year. I know, I know, this is super Type A. But that’s what happens when you’re type A and come home every night with energy to spare. What can I say, I always need a project. Every year at the end of the year I do a blog post summarizing my life and what I learned from Jesus and Jesus’ hand on my life. This time I wanted to do something a little extra b/c I felt ridiculously overly blessed by all these experiences. I love love love to keep a record of life. Whether it’s through writing or taking pictures. There is something in me that wants to capture the moment. I am all too aware of how quickly life ends and therefore I want there to be some way to capture it. I also want to leave some type of legacy for those who will come behind me, whether its family or strangers. If in case they ask the questions, “What was important to Nicole or what was her purpose and what did she live for?” I want there to be something here, this side of eternity, that explains the answer.  The great thing about keeping a record is that you can relive those experiences over and over again. I simply pop open the photo album I made of my pics from Haiti and instantly I feel like I’m there all over again. 

  
 
 Haiti is forever in my heart.

Now, I have my little power point (half finished) that I’ll probably share with close loved ones sometime in December. And every time I play it I am there, living out those happy times with loved ones. Social media is great for keeping a record too. Facebook has these Facebook memories that I sometimes look at. Sometimes I don’t b/c there are some memories I would rather not remember. But in the case that there are those that I would, it’s there.  

I guess that’s the downside of capturing memories. Sometimes there are pictures that remind you of a different time and a different life that is now no longer. But even then, I’m learning as I get older, that is just a part of life. There is loss. And there is gain. And God is in the midst of it all.

I love music too. And I love that music can mark a time frame, like 90’s r&b. I listen to songs almost daily and it totally takes me back to my childhood. Music can capture a period of time and then remind you of that period years later. I’ll be incorporating music in my power point as well.

Life is a gift. There have been times that has not been my view and I’m sure there will be other times ahead where I’ll struggle with that view. But for now, I understand, there are times and seasons and like a wise man once said, there is a season for everything. And everything is for its season.  

To you my reader I say, find joy in this season. Find joy in this gift.  

Or at least in the Giver of gifts.  

Please check out my latest guest post at Abundantly You!

SHALOM

A New Perspective 

I was asked recently if I would prefer to be a full time writer. I toiled over that question for about 24 hours and came to the conclusion that “No, I would not want to be a full time writer”. No diss to all the writers out there, it’s just that I realize I am wired a certain way and that way causes me to NEED to use my left brain professionally. If I spent 8-10 hours a day using only my right brain and my right brain skills then I would be ACHING to crunch some numbers and think logically and analytically. That’s when I had an epiphany. Could it be that the Lord has given me this season so that I could have the best of both worlds? As PAINFUL as it has been for me to wait for movement in my career, I think the pain has come because of my own limited understanding of how I am even wired. Disappointment always comes from expectations not being met. Did I have unrealistic expectations because I have only a glimpse of who I even am? Could it be that I was putting myself in a box when really I am multifaceted and there is no label for me? I was told I am not only a writer but an entrepreneur, a young professional and a respectable and capable young woman. Wow. Those are descriptors I would not have used to describe myself and do you know why? Because for me, it is never enough. If I go for a run and I make my goal of 2 miles, at the end of those 2 miles it’s no big deal b/c I did not run very fast. If I get an advanced degree, it is no big deal b/c all of my friends have advanced degrees and some of them have more degrees than I do. If I write and publish a book it is no big deal b/c there are so many around me who do the same thing and have bigger platforms. I compare myself and I fall short. Even when I compare myself with myself, I fall short.

I was listening to a testimony of a married couple who almost threw in the towel. They were trying to keep up with the Jones’. They had multiple businesses, multiple children, a big house, several cars, and the list goes on and on. They were running the rat race of the American Dream until they burnt themselves out and divorce entered the conversation. I could not deny, that would have been me.

God has been merciful to me to slow me down and even as I type that sentence I know that some (my mom for 1) would look at my life and think it is anything but slow. But He did. He slowed it down. And in that slowness He cultivated some things needed in me and is still cultivating. I didn’t realize that it was unique to my personality to become involved in other outlets when I did not receive fulfilment in my career. I did not realize that other personality types would not have done such a thing. While waiting on the Lord it can feel like He is against us. At least, it has felt that way to me. But now I wonder if really what I thought was Him withholding was really Him blessing. Right now I have the best of both worlds. I have time to indulge in creativity and utilize a gift I never would have had I climbed the corporate ladder (think Accountant meets Writer). At the same time I get the perks that stable jobs offer. Having that perspective aligns more with a view that we do not serve a God who is against us. But instead, a loving Father who is always standing in our corner. Cheering us on. And creating a path that will bring out our very best.

SHALOM

Facing Disappointment 

I did not get the job I applied for. I kind of knew that would happen but it’s still a letdown. Even applying for it tugged on so many heart strings. This journey of surrender and waiting never gets easy. When I was told there was another more qualified candidate I did a quick debate in my head. Should I fight for it? Should I believe in myself, interview and list all of the great reasons why I could do the position? Instead I chose to view it as “not the right fit” and continue on the current path I’m walking.
My mom asked recently if I had applied for the job she had suggested for me. I had honestly forgotten about it. It’s out of state and I don’t feel called to relocate. It’s difficult explaining to others how practical things in life actually pertain to a calling. I can’t just get up and leave just b/c I want to. There aren’t very many things I can do just because I want to.  My natural tendency would be to bottle up my disappointment, stuff it down, and keep moving forward. I would not have written a blog about it. I would not have written about it at all. But I’m learning the “buck up” attitude is linked to perfectionism and type-A-ism and so many other isms that keep me from walking in grace. Instead I’m putting it out there. I’m writing on social media and I’m letting you, my faithful readers know. I’m disappointed. Not necessarily because I feel like this job was a perfect fit b/c that is not the case. But because it never feels good to have a door close even if there’s a better one that will one day open.

I got to spend the weekend with loved ones doing something new. We visited Disney World and saw so many of the highlights you hear about in advertisements and media. There was one highlight though we did not get to see b/c we were too late to see it. I was disappointed. We all were. But in that moment I knew, it is not about being disappointed, that is inevitable in life. It is about how we respond to disappointments. And I think we all responded well, choosing to enjoy our remaining time together, rather than sulk about the missed event.

My friend told me I was resilient. That was something I always wanted to be. People who can bounce back from adversity and keep moving forward have a special place in my heart. I always wanted to be that type of person. But I’m learning, it is not my resilience, it is His. It is not my strength it is His. So I’ll let myself be disappointed, so I can rely on His strength instead of my own to keep moving forward. 

  
 SHALOM

Thoughts on Being a Writer

This weekend I spent time catching up with a good friend. She is a wife, mother of 4, works and is studying to be a nurse. Talk about a full plate! Our lives could not be more different and I think part of the gift of our friendship is the pleasure we take in that difference. She is definitely someone I consider a “cheerleader” in my life and I’m always reminded of the Lord’s blessings when talking with her. I caught her up on my trip to Haiti and she oo’d and ahh’d over my pics just as I had hoped. We ate at one of our favorite spots and because it was the first day of fall I indulged in pumpkin pancakes, completely ruining my 2 mile run that morning.  
We played a game of back and forth, filling each other in on our lives, trying oh so hard to stretch the 2 hours we had together. This was her only free Saturday for the next few months and she needed to get back to her hubby. I was so blessed she shared her time with little old me and of course had to capture the moment with a pic.    
After a quick stop at the store to pick up a few items we lingered at my car soaking up our last bits of conversation. I shared about my journey in emotional healing and how much my writing has played into that. To which she replied that my journey in healing was inspiring her in her own. I was shocked. I never think about how my actions and me just living my life is influencing those around me. I only feel my own weaknesses and the difficulty to push forward. She only sees the progress. That, again, is why I like talking to her. So often I feel I am behind or struggling and then God uses others to help me see the success and the fruit. She called me a “writer” and chastised me for downplaying my writing. I explained I don’t think of myself as a “writer” b/c it wasn’t a calling or title I was chasing after. I pursued business and therefore that was the way I assumed God would use me. Writing was birthed out of the standstill in my career. It was fruit from the waiting. But I kept her words in mind and then when another person called me a “writer” shortly thereafter I had to turn that word over in my mind a few times. Am I a writer? Doesn’t it sound silly for a published author to ask such a question? But I must ask it because there is somewhere in my heart that I have not thought of myself that way. And if I have not then that means I am not fully seeing myself as I truly am.  

She and I parted ways and I went back to my fabulously full existence in this season and she went back to the grind of family, work, and school. My day was full of conversations like these with friends and family and it was so evident to me how God was bringing forth wholeness. After experiencing so many broken, unhealthy relationships ending in trauma it gets hard to believe I could have anything different. So often I feel the losses. But in the midst of those losses is the gain. The restoration. The overflow.

I have had such peace and joy since realizing I need His grace. I have been able to let go of the burden of unknowingly trying to earn my calling. I’m awakening to the truth that any gift He gives is undeserved and that is in fact the purpose of a gift. So how could I possibly work for His blessings? I can’t. He just gives them b/c of who He is.  

It’s not about me.

SHALOM