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Beginning to Bloom

Tis the season for transition.  For moving.  For meeting new people.  God is opening my heart.  He is opening me like a flower that is blooming.  The season is changing.  There are lots of prophecies coming forth.  Lots of confirming words.  Lots of things to look forward to.  I share my struggles with my sisters.  With my roommate.  With our cat.  I’m going to miss him when I leave, but I’m grateful they will not be too far way.

After five years I’ll be saying goodbye to my landlords.  The same ones who came to my 30th Zumba party and my first book release party and gave me a job when I was laid off.  Such love.  Such favor.  Such family.

I’ll be saying hello to the woman who raised me.  The woman who needs me in this hour.  The tables have turned.  I am honored to be there for her.  I recognize the sacrifice that is shown on my part.

Sacrifice displays love.

There is a sacrifice of another sort in my belly.  It has been there for quite a while.  He has been there for quite a while.  And even in the messy way I have responded to the sacrifice, He, like a loving Father moves towards and not away.

At His nudging, I practice opening my heart.  I practice having conversations and being open and letting new people in.  I do this because I realize the only way we can receive a gift is to open our hands to receive it.  Open our hearts to receive it.

Hoster-Flower_Blooming

It is almost June.  It is almost summer.  The season for blooming is here…

Father give us grace and courage to be open.  Give us grace to bloom.

SHALOM

After The Storm

There is a quiet these days.  Each morning I wake up and its not like the mornings of years past but its not like the mornings of months past either.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed with the Father’s love, or being tormented with fear (which has been the case), I feel–quiet.  I feel stillness.  I feel a victory from overcoming this season and an encouragement to keep moving forward.

I’ve been writing a lot lately.  Not on this here blog, but on my laptop, with the cat, under my fleece.  My roommate has been so gracious to listen each evening as I share the short story I’ve been working on.  She is so affirming.  A fellow writer and with much more experience, her compliments and feedback hold even greater weight.  This story I’m writing (which is actually almost complete) brings me such joy.  There are some prophetic elements to it as well which has been very interesting.  Hopefully I’ll be able to share more on that in the future.  I’m reminded that a while back Jesus told me to fight for joy.  He said, You need to find things in life that give you joy.  A naturally melancholic personality, this didn’t come easy.  But we can do all things through Christ and I have learned (am still learning) the art of joy. 

Writing brings me joy.

My bestie visited me recently and we stayed up ’til 4am.  I haven’t done that in YEARS.  We reminisced on college days, when we were just teenagers and in love with Jesus.  Now we are in our 30s.  She’s a mom and a divorcée.  I’m an author, still single with no children.  We have come a long way.  “We are the best of the best” I told her.  And I meant it.  I believe God desires His best to be manifested in our lives.  And I believe that best can only be manifested if we stick with the path He created for each of us.

She and I have stuck with that path.

It has not been easy.  Anyone reading this blog sees clearly my ups and downs, but always He sustains me.

Writing my short story shows me how the author uses circumstances and people  to get the protagonist to where she is going.  I’m sure that’s how the Father is when He writes our story.  He puts people and situations in our lives, ultimately to bring out the person He created before the fall.  Before the womb.  Before the dysfunction.

There was a period of time where I was shocked by the storm.  Shocked by the darkness.  Now looking back, I can see that it was just a shadow, it was not death itself.  If it were death it would have taken me out.  I thought it almost did, and maybe it almost did but I know to Him, it was just a shadow.

Now that I’m on the other side (still fighting of course) I can see I was bigger than that storm.

And I wouldn’t be a better version of myself had I not gone through it.

I pray the same for you.

A few things that bring me joy…


SHALOM

More Than A Conqueror

girl on mountain 3

This weekend has been full as they normally are.  I met with my brothers who I share tender memories with of hitting the streets with the gospel when we were young and full of zeal.  The only female surrounded by guys, I was just as bold and fearless.  Those were fond days with night long fellowship, bible studies and witnessing.  Now 15 years later (where does the time go?) we rivaled our times of fellowship, choosing to leave after 5 hours of conversation.

Some things never change.

It is an answered prayer that I have prayed for godly men to be once again on the scene.  There was a season (a very long season) where I had to let them all go.  I had to detox.

Some of the most powerful spiritual fasts I have been on have indeed been from men.  

I struggled like a feen needing a fix, but Jesus strengthened me through the withdrawals. Somehow, some way, He kept me from (another) toxic relationship that would destroy my self esteem and thwart my purpose.

I asked my brothers, “How have I changed these 15 years?” and they responded, “You love God more”.  I was shocked.  How could I love Him more when I feel so far away from Him?  When I no longer have that zeal?  Those exciting, “Yes Lord’s!” that I kept giving in my 20s.  And even early 30s.  How could that be?  It wasn’t until the next day when I pondered more on their response that I heard God’s answer: “You have demonstrated greater sacrifice now than you did as a new believer.  True love is sacrifice“.  

True love is sacrifice.  We see that on the cross.  Christ demonstrated His love for us by submitting Himself to horrible torture and unimaginable pain.

I have not resisted unto bloodshed.

But I have given my all.  Over and over again.  And He has rewarded me diligently.

There is a woman in scripture who only had 2 mites.  It wasn’t a lot in her day.  It didn’t compare to the big givers in her local synagogue but her giving astounded Christ because she had given her all.

I spoke with a dear friend on the phone yesterday.  We talked for 3 hours.  We began a friendship—a sisterhood, at the age of 14 not having any idea we would have more than a friendship; we would have a covenant.  Christ did revolutionary things in our lives so even when we were not in contact we were still transforming into two souls who would shake the kingdom.

She said “Nicole, you’re an overcomer”.  I needed those words.  I needed to remember all that I had overcome.  The fact that I am going back to the beginning, giving up my independence, facing memories that once threatened to be the death of me has stretched me further than I ever wanted to be stretched.

“Only an overcomer could go back”, she said.  She’s right.  I now have authority in what I overcame.  I now have authority in that territory, in those relationships, in my family.

It has been a rocky road.  This has been a rocky season.

But the transformation is magnificent.

And the manifestation of my transformation is still being revealed.

After my morning run…


SHALOM

Living Without The Reward


This year has been full of blessings.  A great roommate (shout out to Lianna), our cute little cat Benny and a host of social activities with lovely people who feel more like family then friends.  I admit I am spoiled with favor from the body of Christ.  So much of my journey has been walking closely with like-minded people who serve as friends, pastors, mentors, etc…  It is rare that I have felt alone.

I think God is specific in the gifts that He gives us.  I think it has to do with our calling and purpose and identity.  Those are exciting words right?  There were so many great men and women in the Bible with exciting callings.  But every time I read those stories I see that what makes them great is what they overcame.

I keep thinking about Sarah and Abraham.  Three years ago Holy Spirit hit me hard with a word regarding their story.  He showed me that my journey in waiting would be similar.  Surrounded by love and strengthened with His intimacy, I was encouraged.

That was three years ago.

It takes a unique person to wait on the Lord.  I mean really wait on the Lord.  Scripture makes it clear, when you wait on the Father, it is not by your own strength;  it is by His.

I remember asking Him why He had us wait, to which He responded, “So that I will get the glory”.  When things happen according to the “culture’s” time frame then its easy to say that man made it happen.  The world will say that there was no supernatural force or outside component aiding in the events.  But when Abraham and Sarah got pregnant at 90 and 100 years old respectively, who got the glory?

God.

This couple was blessed in the end like so many men and women of the faith.  God made it worth their sacrifice.  But before the reward came, there were many days the reward was not there.  There were many times of doubt and fear and loneliness, hope deferred and faithlessness.  These things happen while waiting.  It is in this in between state I find myself in.

Many of my friends do too.

The Word says that God is our reward.  I realize that Word was much easier to believe when I actually experienced His love and intimacy.  I can look around and see many kinds of rewards in my life.  Many areas of reaping.

But I feel more like Hannah these days:

1 Samuel 8: Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”

Hannah had a husband who loved her and favored her over his other wife.  She was a blessed woman but she desired a child and her husband did not meet that desire.  He was never meant to.  God put that desire in her for a specific purpose; to bring her closer to Him and to lead the children of Israel.

I do not know what my future holds.  I only know my past.  My past is full of met desires and amazing gifts and God’s faithfulness (in my life and the ones I love).  And I understand that even if He never did another thing He has already done too much.

But there is a place for living without the reward.  There is a place for grieving the sacrifice of “Lord, not my will but yours be done”.

And that is the place I find myself in.

SHALOM

When You’ve Come A Long Way

I sat in the Starbucks location 10 minutes from work using my early arrival as needed time to recoup from the day.  I was meeting an old high school friend and would need the short break to gather energy for the meeting.  Not because my time with her would not be enjoyable but simply because that is what introverts do: they gain energy during down time.  When she arrived I was flooded with friendship from her smile to her perky nature.  She made it known that she was outgoing, friendly and extroverted, all of the qualities most of my close friends have.

Over my standard café latte and her sweet treat (which turned out not to be sweet enough) we caught up on life.  She advised it had only been a year since our last convo but I’m pretty sure it was longer.  I need to look up the pictures on Facebook to confirm that though…  She mentioned not having friends past certain seasons and I can identify.  I don’t have too many I keep in contact with from before college.  Most of my close friends are from that time of academic and spiritual endeavors on Miami’s campus.  I shared I think that mostly has to do with me having a shared spiritual experience with those folks.  When you become born again it changes you and sometimes old relationships do not carry over after this change.  She too is a believer, like several others from back in the day.  Our connection is always easy and comfortable probably because of our shared faith.

After about an hour of deep conversation she said, “Wow Nicole look at you compared to your high school self!”  I believe she was inferring I had come a long way.  I was too afraid to get more feedback on that statement though I wanted to ask for her to elaborate.  I can’t even picture my high school self from an outsider’s perspective and how different I am now.  I only know the process I have gone through for that transformation to take place.  I assume she sees a more polished, mature version of myself.  It is truly the work of the Father to polish and polish and polish those rough places around me and cause me to shine.

He is still polishing…

We talked about the ex and I was tickled at how distant that time frame of dating seemed.  I thought back to how deeply my feelings were for that man back then.  I thought I would never get over that breakup.  But last night I sat in front of her, experiencing a greater level of wholeness I have never experienced before.  It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get this far.  It took a lot of faith walking and fearful courage.  But some how, some way, the prophecy I received long ago came to pass:

“You have come leaps and bounds” the prophet said.  I knew at the time I had not but that the word was for a future time.  To God His work in us is already finished so His view was that it had already happened.  In my time it would take another 10 years…


Somehow the 10 years came and went.  And then another year.  And another.  Now I am here, removed from heartbreak, still developing, still learning, and still walking by faith.  But now I have something I didn’t have back then.  I have a history with God.  I have a history of Him showing out for me.  Doing the impossible for me.  And creating a masterpiece out of a life that was at one time in shambles.

He is faithful.

Psalm 18:33

“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly and tread safely on paths of testing and trouble]; He sets me [securely] upon my high places.”

SHALOM

 

Giant Slayer

I remember at the beginning of this very difficult season Holy Spirit said “fight!” and I responded “I don’t want to”.  I’m usually honest in my responses to Him because that’s what happens when you have a close relationship with someone.  And He already knows my heart anyway so there’s no reason to dabble in pretense.  He was telling me I would need to walk out this season and I knew it was going to entail some horrors that I did not want to face.  And that I would feel so very alone when facing them.  But I made my decision long ago to follow Him so even though I said, “I don’t want to” that didn’t mean I wouldn’t.  It just meant that I was once again choosing to do things His way over my own.

The real reason I didn’t want to was because I didn’t trust Him and I didn’t trust myself.  Though we had been through many battles and I had seen victory every time I knew this particular battle would be a doozy and I was tired of the fight.  I wanted to rest.  But recently I heard a sermon where the minister advised that when you are called and chosen there is usually one thing after another that is going to come up against you.  I don’t like to have that view because it seems so negative but I couldn’t refute the fact that this was what had been happening in my journey: one thing after another.

Well, I have experienced much victory in this season though I am still walking it out, and upon reflection I can see that the Father was confident that I would be able to slay this giant when He called me to fight it.  He was confident because He knows who I am eternally.  Whereas I was insecure and fearful because I knew my weaknesses.

I remember a scene from “Hook” where Robin Williams who is Peter Pan, is standing in front of the lost boys and his competition Rufio opposes him.  Robin doesn’t remember he is Peter Pan.  He thinks he’s this old man who lives for his work and doesn’t spend enough time with his children.  Instead he is the leader of a group of zealous, bright boys who seek adventures, fly and fight pirates.  So Rufio says for all who think he’s Peter Pan to stand on one side of the room and all the lost boys go to that side.  Well, Peter starts to go to that side too because he himself doesn’t believe!  But Tink brings him back to the other side and eventually one of the boys convinces the rest that he is really The Peter Pan.  Well, I see myself in that moment of confusion over identity that Robin displays.  I didn’t see myself as being a slayer of a giant of this magnitude.  I started to go to the side of the room with the rest of my naysayers.  But God (symbolized as Tink in this analogy) pulled me back to the right side.

And I’m glad He did.

I was right about the horror and the darkness.  I was even right about my own weaknesses.  But I forgot about His strength in me.  I forgot that He who is in me is greater than He who is the world.

I am thankful that He promises in His Word victory every time (2 Cor 2:14).  It may not look the way we thought it would or come about in the time frame we desired, but it is promised.

No matter how great the giant, He who is in you is greater.

You were created in His image and nothing can conquer the Creator.

 

SHALOM