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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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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.

 

 

 

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

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

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

Dating Has Purpose

Once upon a time I believed I could not and would not date.  If dating was the antonym of courtship, then I chose courtship.  I even share this in my first book.  But then things changed.  I changed.  The years rolled on and I found myself walking out what my friends and I call, “extended singleness” (dun-dun-dun).

God says very clearly in the opening book of His Word, “It is not good for man to be alone”.  Then He brings Adam a help mate.  We can interpret that statement many ways.  Was He saying it’s not good for man to be without a spouse?  Or was it not good for man to be without a community in general?  If the latter, then why wouldn’t He just create a community (a group of people who can support and relate to Adam) instead of a spouse?  But let’s not get too far off topic.  Having a theological discussion is not my intent.  I simply want to share how my ideas on dating have morphed…

This last year has been interesting.  Early at the beginning of it I ran into “the ex”. You know the person it didn’t work out with but it was so significant that now they own a piece of your history and even a title: “the ex” (dun-dun-dun).  So I ran into the ex.  And he had a date.  And I was feeling some kind of way about that.  Because I myself did not have a date.  Instead I had a friend.  (AKA, I had community). So I let Jesus know I felt some kind of way about that.  It involved some tears and venting and frustration on my part.  Which is nothing new for Him because I feel that’s the benefit of being His kid.  We can be REAL.  Even when REAL isn’t as pretty as we want it to be.  So I vented, and the response I got was, “I am already moving”.  Hmmm, what does that mean? I wondered.  Well that was early 2017, and here I am at the end of 2017 and I think I have an idea of what He meant:

In the course of this year I have had more dates and dating activity than I have had in the whole 13 years of my singleness.  I can’t say that they were all positive experiences.  There were definitely times He had to deliver me from my foolishness and heal me from my pain, but there was movement nonetheless.

I talked to a friend recently and his experience of singleness has been the opposite of mine.  He has spent most of it dating and now he just wants courtship.  He wants to just meet the person, commit to them and get married.  In a perfect world I think that is ideal.  But we do not live in a perfect world.

As one who spent most of their singleness not dating and being a proponent of courtship I told him I see the benefits of dating.  Dating teaches social skills.  Dating teaches you about the opposite sex.  Dating, if done with respect, can help both parties develop emotionally, mentally and maybe even spiritually.

I look back on this last year and I think of the joy I had when I was pursued.  It was affirming.  I got to see how men rise to the occasion when they see a woman of value.  It was a reminder that I am a woman of value.  I got to enjoy companionship from the opposite sex.  I got to learn more about a man’s world which can be very different from a woman’s.  And I also got to see the Father’s desire to give me good gifts.  Even when He knows I will ruin them.

In the garden Elohim tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He tells him this knowing he will do it anyway.  Knowing that once he does he will have to be kicked out of the garden.  But for a period of time Adam and Eve enjoy the garden.  They enjoy the gift.  In my own life I can see how the Father gave the gift knowing that it wouldn’t last and I think He did that because the joy I experienced in the interim was so great it outweighed the grief that would eventually entail.  That speaks to me how much our joy means to the Father.  As difficult as this path has been for me I can see many times where He has brought me joy in the midst of it.

Dating has had purpose in this season of my life.  I have not expected it too.  I did not think I would be one who would date.  I also did not think I would be single this long.  But alas, life is never how we think it will be and the evolution of who we are continues to unfold as the years go by.  At least, I hope for me that is the case.

My inner circle is changing.  I have close friends moving into different stages of life while I stay in this one.  And in the midst of the pain I experience from these changes I see the Father’s compassion.  He has never left me alone.  There are many times I feel alone however I have never lacked in the area of companionship these 13 years.

One of my very good friends confided in me about how difficult this season has been for her, especially around the holidays.  In the midst of our conversation she realized it was in part due to a lack of friendship.  Yes she had community, but she did not have peers who were in the same season who could empathize with her pain.  I have had that in abundance and talking to her made me even more grateful for this gift.

It is not good for man to be alone.  Thankfully I have yet to have that experience.

SHALOM