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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

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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

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

The Exception

I have a friend who notices patterns.  He’s pretty analytical and I like that about him.  I too notice patterns.  I’ve noticed that I attract certain personality types.  I’ve taken a few personality tests and know that my personality tends to be more “melancholy”. As a result I attract the opposite personality type in my close circle of friends.  That would be “the sanguine”.  Sanguines are upbeat and positive.  They tend to see the glass as half full even when its half empty.  I have noticed that in both friendships and dating relationships in my life the Sanguines are there in full form.

But recently I’ve attracted someone even more melancholy than myself.  That forces me to be “the sanguine one”.  Now its not that I’m never upbeat or happy or positive, its just that I’m used to taking the more serious, analytical, deep thinking role in my close relationships.  So it surprised me that I would become close to someone whose personality did not fit the mold of my close circle.  That’s when I remembered that I had one very close friend who also did not fit that mold.  She too is “melancholy”.

And as I thought about it, I remembered a saying my new friend says often.  As much as he likes patterns he says that there are always exceptions.

At the end of the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You the main character finally gives up on this exciting, romantic, passion filled love and settles for the safe, dependable, responsible relationship.  She was told by another character that she was “the rule” and the rule did not get the kind of love she dreamed of.  But at the end of the movie that same character pursues her.  He lets down his guard and bears his soul.  She looks at him hesitantly, unsure of weather or not she should trust his display of affection.  After all, he was the one who coached her through the whole movie about men and how she couldn’t believe they were really interested in her because of their lack of pursuit.  So she says to him, “I thought that I was the rule.  You said that I was the rule.”  And he reaches for her, leans in and counters her statement.  “I was wrong.  I was wrong, you are not the rule.  You are the exception.  You are my exception.”

There have been a surprising turn of events these last few months in my life.  I’ve allowed myself to be open and being open makes room for new people to come in.  I have followed a set of ideas and ways for most of my spiritual journey and I’m not throwing it all out the window but I see the need for change.  I’ve felt it this past year.

So instead of choosing the rule, I’m now choosing the exception.

My exception.

SHALOM

Time, Music and Loved Ones

Last night I had a blast with some good friends at a 90’s throwback concert.  It was a last minute, spur of the moment sort of thing but it had been on my radar for months.  I have been trying to have a good concert experience for years now and finally I got my wish.  We belted at the top of our lungs and swayed to all the popular songs.  We cheered on the artists and reminisced about “back in the day”.  I really enjoyed that many of the artists did cover songs and tributes to other artists who were not actually performing.  It made me feel like they had the same experience growing up that I did with music and those songs meant the world to them too.

I was even more blessed to get to see one of my besties who decided to make the four hour drive and witness what may be a once in lifetime event.  We were only able to spend a few moments together but seeing her is just a reminder of how blessed in the friendship department I really am.  15 years strong…

She is a teacher and actually ran into a former student at the concert.  You know you are getting up there when the 22 year old sitting next to you is your best friend’s former student.  How does that happen?  And where does the time go?

Time seems to stand still in my waiting but hurry fast when I’m not.  I look back and see the painful moments of surrender but also have to admit the pain does not ever last.  More and more I am aware of how temporary this life is and how fast moments go.  I guess the test is to not believe the lies of the difficult moments.  It also feels like it will never end but it always does.

Last weekend I got to spend time with my god daughter.  We made gingerbread houses and played cards all night.  She sits up front in the car with me now which has never happened and she is almost just as tall as I am.  I kept having flashbacks of when she was three, sitting in the backseat and I was taking her to one event or another.  The preteen years are now here…

That same weekend I went to a friend’s birthday party.  She just turned 50.  I thought about how fast 50 will come for me, if I am afforded those years.  I thought about time again and how it seems so slow but flies by.  I think it is a mystery that God created.

I’m preparing to make a difficult decision soon and go into another period of transition.  I recognize the cycles in my life and though I don’t think it’s wise to project the past into the future, it gets hard not to sometimes.

There are new things happening though for people I love and that is both good and weird.

Life is both good and weird.

I think the mid 30s are teaching me that.

SHALOM

The Problem With Stereotypes

About a month ago I took a poetry workshop downtown. I love how my city offers these free opportunities to learn and grow in writing and I find it interesting that I have a gift of writing poetry. I never thought of myself as a poet. I never thought of myself as a writer either…

At the workshop I made note, it was a diverse group. A mixture of blacks and whites, young and old. Then the facilitator came. She was late and entered with her body mostly hidden behind an occupied stroller. She was dressed in jeans and an old Tee and I was surprised she was the teacher. There was a young man in the group who seemed to be “off” and I figured he had a mental illness. There was another woman in the group, older, black and talkative. She told a lot of jokes and seemed (in my opinion) a little “off” as well. I made a conscious decision to be open and receive because I know from experience God can use anyone. We shared our writings and our hearts and the man who I thought was “off” was actually pretty “on”. Turns out he had a syndrome that caused him to seem different but he was intelligent and articulate and his poem revealed the gift that he is to the world. The woman who was talkative brought me to tears with her heartfelt letter to the Lord and I feel myself tearing up right now at the memory.

And our instructor, who appeared to be uneducated (in my opinion) was very knowledgeable and skilled in her craft.

I recognized the Father showing me my own stereotypes in this group and how inaccurate they can be.

I too was being stereotyped. I was dressed in a collared shirt and showed up with my mac computer while everyone else had pen and paper. The instructor made comments about my preferences and social life. I knew that she thought I was “middle class” and did not really know my story. On paper I’m sure it would look the way she assumed…

I recently met a man who challenged more of my thinking. In this climate of racial tension and social injustice I thought those who would be most aware (or “woke”) and sympathetic to these issues would need to share the same color of my own skin. Certainly they would not come from “privileged families”. But then I met him and he did have that background but had a heart to help urban communities heal and transform. We spent 2 hours talking about such things and I realized I had misjudged him.

In my career I have always been favored. I have always been “seen” and valued for who I am eternally. But then I wasn’t. I was met with the stereotype and a picture was painted of me that couldn’t be further from the truth. I learned a valuable lesson that day, when someone doesn’t know you they can easily misjudge you.

The problem with stereotypes is that they keep us from getting to know the true identity of someone. We like to categorize and put people in boxes because it makes us feel more comfortable, but sometimes those boxes limit us in expanding our mindset and views. We miss out on opportunities to learn and evolve as a result of interacting with someone who is different.

It’s easy to fall into using stereotypes. It’s kind of our default. But the Father has intentionally made us all diverse because He is diverse. And I believe the only was to truly see Him is when we all express our diversity.

I look forward to that day of seeing every tribe and every tongue worship together the One Eternal Being who created them. It will surely be a sight to see.

Revelations7:9

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

In other news, congratulations to my best friend who recently got engaged!!! More to come on that front😊😉. #newseasons…

SHALOM