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The Beautiful Challenge

I’m in Arizona right now visiting friends. The same friend I was maid of honor to just last year. The same friend who has relentlessly pursued me in the course of my grief and devastation.

When I learned my mom passed away she flew in from Haiti within days. 1,633 miles. She was on a business trip and instead of returning home to be with her new husband she came to be with me.

I’ve known this woman for several years and knew that her heart was of a rare purity, one that those who have it, also have a promise to see the Father (Matt 5:8).

During a time of recovery and healing my emotions have been everywhere, my thoughts equally as such. Her understanding and loyalty have been a great comfort.

These last few days we lived. We went on a Gondola ride with her hubby. We climbed the bear willow canyon on a fierce Jeep excursion. We laid out by the pool they have in their own back yard.

In addition to that I was treated to deep pools of bubble baths, wine and delicious meals. I have been catered to. And all in the name of my birthday.

E told me a while ago that when he has a difficult day, instead of using the word difficult, he says, “It was beautifully challenging”. I can look at my life and see that same theme. So many unexpected difficult hard parts. So many amazingly beautiful ones.

Yesterday while we made our way up the mountains my breath was taken away with the deep red browns, sharp rich greens and picture perfect blue skies. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now.

God is an Artist.

I knew what I was experiencing was something my mother and grandmother never did and maybe only dreamed of. I knew that my life was touched with beauty and that beauty was connected with the people He had sent to me when I didn’t know that I would need them.

I previously asked a question, “Lord, why did you take away Your presence when I would need it most?” But now I see He provided me people when I didn’t know that I would need them. And that now is when I would need them the most.

The Father places the solitary in families. I remember reading that passage of scripture years ago. I remember back then appreciating it, but still my heart yearned for my own.

It still does.

I’m realizing this life is “both and”. It is both the highs and the lows. It is both the light and the darkness. It is both the cross and the resurrection.

I have been in a season of recovery and therefore am more sensitive than normal (who knew that was possible?). My heart is tender and I need to be handled with care. God is so good at that, handling us with care and putting us around people who get our journey. Even if they don’t understand it, they love us enough to try.

I can look back on my life and see His intent towards me. He made His call clear from day 1. The call was to die. He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. He knows those things that are near and dear. He knows when we are truly sacrificing.

I haven’t experienced this amount of pain ever, at least not without His presence.

But even that isn’t true.

His presence is everywhere…

I am grateful for these people who call me family. I am grateful to be adopted into the Father’s household of faith.

To have Sunday dinner and eat birthday cake and hear loved ones celebrate me. Like family. That is the care and tenderness of Him.

My heart is still aching every moment of every day. But part of that I know is good. It means I’m feeling when for so long I wasn’t.

It means I’m closer to healing.

My counselor has been so great and my friends have been so great and even though I don’t know when my healing will come I know He is surrounding me with His care.

At 36 my life doesn’t look at all the way I anticipated. Still, there is beauty in the midst of brokenness.

There is love in the midst of pain.

There is hope.

SHALOM

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A Sunny Day

Today is my 36th birthday.  When I look back on my life journey these 35 years (and 1 day) I have lots of thoughts and feelings.  I am in awe of how the Father manifested Himself to me as a 19-year-old.  Even though I believed since I was a child, it wasn’t until college that my intimacy with Him exploded from being a believer, to becoming a follower.

For 13 years straight, everyday, I woke up to intimacy.  It was an intimacy I had never known.  It was what caused me to leave my fiancé, move in with my mom, and wait for the next steps.  As a college grad that is what He told me to do, so that is what I did.

I did not know then, that that was just the beginning.  That along with His intimacy, I would learn sacrifice.  I would learn that,

Love.

Is.

Sacrifice.

I am so blessed to have had such an amazing experience with the Most High.  That He would count me, a lowly black woman of a single parent home, born out of wedlock, to a hardworking family who made ends meet by whatever means necessary.

That He would call me, Daughter.

I counted it an honor to be His child.  To receive His love when I was so undeserving.  I counted it an honor to be His.  And in the midst of a dark and broken world full of pain, I was sheltered.  Not that I myself hadn’t experienced pain, but He was always there.  Showing me how to overcome it.

Applauding me when I did.

In the midst of that journey, He was producing something in me.  He was creating wholeness and a legacy that is still to be revealed.  At the same time, He was teaching me something.

He was teaching me how to suffer long.

In this season the lessons have intensified.  The stakes have gotten higher.  No longer have I wanted to be a student in what felt like an advanced course.  No longer did I want to die.

I realized, while standing at my mother’s grave last month that the path will always be too difficult.  There is a strength in me, an inner strength.  And it has been passed down in my bloodline from one woman to the next (our family is made up of strong women).  But no matter how strong I have been, I do not have the capacity to make this climb in and of myself.  It will always be too difficult for me.  I need Him.

In so many ways, now is my future.  As a teenager when I laid down my life for Him and surrendered my passions and desires, I hoped for my future.  I hoped for what is now.  I had an idea and an expectation of what that now would look like.  I believed “If I do things Your way, then eventually You’ll do things my way”.  But He doesn’t.  It is His way.

Always His way.

This last season has changed me.  Trauma does that.  In some ways it is a good change.  Now I know the compassion of Christ like I have never known it before.  Now I know what grace really is.  It sustains you when you face your darkest fears.  It covers you when you make your greatest mistakes.

I was talking to E recently and I told him that every year it rains on my birthday.  As much as I love birthdays and I love to celebrate, its discouraging that every year it either rains or snows in Cleveland, Ohio.  “It is at least always grey,” is what I said to him.  E being the eternal optimist responded, “But what if it isn’t?  What if its sunny and warm?”  I just shook my head at him and rolled my eyes.  “I have been on this planet for 35 years and every year it is rainy and cold.  Trust me.  I know.”

It is going to be 52 degrees today and sunny.  52 degrees in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3rd.  It has never been 52 degrees in my recollection of birthdays.  Ever.

I miss my mom.  I miss her because she was always the one who celebrated the loudest.  I miss her because I never imagined she would not be in my future.  She would not be in the now.

But it is 52 degrees today.  And I am enough of a prophet to know when He is showing me something.  “The season is changing”, E said.  And my heart lifted a little.  But not too much, for fear that it would be broken again, but just enough to where I was open.  Kind of like me saying, “If that is the case God, then show me”.

I welcome a change in season but struggle with expecting it.  I have had so many false expectations and did not realize it until they did not come to pass.  I guess that is apart of maturing.

I will spend time with loved ones today.  I’m keeping a small circle because my heart can’t handle a large one.  There are already people celebrating my birth and that is such a blessing when the one who gave birth to me is no longer present.

I’m grateful for His provision and His sustaining power.  It really is supernatural that I have never went without, even when I have not had a job.  I’m grateful for Him teaching me so many things in the past and maturing me to this point.  I would not have become the woman I am today had I not listened to His leading, especially when I didn’t agree with it.

I know that He is faithful and right and true.  It has just been difficult after such a long journey to trust.  Job was able to trust even though he was being slayed.  That is the level of faith I feel He has required.

I’m grateful He is more gentle with me than with Job.  He handles me with care.  Even in the midst of the storms and tests, He protects, only allowing so much, though it was more than I would have preferred.  He surrounds me with His people and meets me with His Word.

He guides me with His eye.

I am grateful for the foundation He laid, to sustain me through the journey.  We can never fully comprehend what lies ahead.  But we know that He is there.  Always there.

Now is my future.  And I don’t know what the next season holds.  But I can look back and see He has always sustained me.

And I know that is one expectation I am safe to have.

SHALOM

 

 

 

 

High-Highs, Low-Lows

It’s the New Year.  And normally I would do a summary of the old year.  I would reflect on all He had done and how He had moved and how far I had come.  But I won’t do that this year.  Not because He hadn’t moved and He hadn’t done and I hadn’t come.  But because it still hurts.

When I think about this season I realize it is the pattern He has always used with me.  A series of high-highs and low-lows.  Except the lows were exceptionally low this time.  And maybe, in some sense, the highs were exceptionally high.  I guess it is a result of the advancement in the journey.  The “greater levels” Church culture speaks of.

I ended 2018 on a “high” note.  I spent 2 weeks in the Caribbean with a dear sister and friend.  A woman who has been by my side for over 20 years.  We are amazed at that fact by the way!  She is the only one who “knew me then”, and I her.  She was the one who stayed the longest when my mom moved on to glory and she was the one my mom loved the most.  Growing up she didn’t have a close family and unbeknownst to me, mine became hers.  My grandmother and mother invested in her immensely and I don’t doubt that the fruit of her accomplishments and successes will be distributed to their heavenly accounts.

As we traveled to Mexico and then Honduras and then Belize, I thought about these great women who came before us.  They were the reason we could lay on white sandy beaches, swim in clear blue waters, ride on beautiful stallions and visit the Mayan Ruins.  They were the reason we could live life so abundantly.

So often I think back on my childhood.  I realize there is no one on this planet who will appreciate it as much as those two women.  Who will “oooh” and “awww” over my baby pictures.  Who will be more excited then me for my next birthday.

These are the lows.

I realize I must process it all in order to move forward.  Healing can only come through truth.  And the truth is, life is both.  It is high and low.  It is dark and light.  And I don’t know if we really appreciate the light unless there is darkness.

After my cruise I met with a different sort of companion.  We exchanged late Christmas gifts and made up for our time apart.  We watched movies and had dates and went ice skating.  It was clear the Father was giving me what I longed for, for so long.  And on New Years Eve, I got my New Years’ kiss.  Something I had never before experienced.  Another high.

 

 

I was asked what I wanted in 2019.  What was my goal?  What did I want to accomplish?  “Healing”, I said.  Knowing it was not necessarily what I wanted, but what I needed.

“Healing and restoration”.

I have always been someone very sensitive to times and seasons.  I was excited to see how the Father was working in my life in the earth.  I enjoy seeing the purpose of numbers and calendars (both Hebraic and Gregorian), but time seemed to have stopped this past year.  And maybe if it didn’t necessarily stop, it didn’t seem to matter as much.

Going into this new season I look forward to building my business.  I have already received my first paycheck which overwhelms me with encouragement.  I look forward to enjoying my loved ones and being grateful for those who are here to offer comfort and support in this journey.  I truly don’t deserve the love they have demonstrated.

 

And I look forward to the moments I have with him.  The man who treats me better than any man has ever treated me before.

The Father is full of surprises.  He knows those hard things and though He doesn’t exempt us from them He offers support and strength as we walk through them.  Through it all I know one thing is certain, He is there.  And He cares.

SHALOM.

 

 

 

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

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