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2 Years Later

It’s been 2 years but it feels more like one.  Every day I think about you and since that day life hasn’t been the same.  Things moved swiftly foreword yet at the same time stood still.  So many days I thought the pain would never end.

It hasn’t ended but it’s dimmed.

I see you at the store, on tv, while running errands. You are everywhere and anything can trigger a memory; a time when we were together in the physical.  I realize how quickly my childhood passed and how you and gramma were the bulk of it. 

And its over.

Somehow God saw fit to surround me with so many who are not blood related but who love me just as fiercely.  Sisters who are steadfast, spiritual parents who fill the gap, brothers who care…  I still yearn for my own but I so appreciate that they are there.  I never would have made it if they weren’t there.

Just a few moments this past year…

I moved.  And moving was bitter sweet.  I laid in your bed for as long as I could before I had to pack it and relocate.  I kept the mattress. It’s like laying in your arms.  And literally this home is hugging me with its warmth and comfort.

God is the best comforter.

He comforted me these last 2 years for sure.  Using people and circumstances and financial blessings.  I have been so blessed.  But there has been so much emptiness and loss.  It feels like the holes are just now being filled.

And now we are struggling with a virus.  The whole world is struggling.  They call it a pandemic.  And it’s kind of crazy to me its a virus that is related to the illness that you yourself battled some 20 something years.  Those last few days were horrible.  I don’t even like to think about them.  And some would say you lost the battle, but I know better.

You won.

I saw you in your glorified body in a dream I had right before your passing.  I had no idea what was to come, but the dream has been one of many comforts.

Thank you for being great.  I would not be who I am without you.  I wouldn’t have made it this far.  I’m so grateful for your sacrifices and how you poured out your life for me.  Even when things were rough between us, you were always for me.  I appreciate that now.  I didn’t know our time would be so short and the only regret is that I didn’t know.

But even in the not knowing we knew.  And spent those last few months together.  And I will forever treasure them.  It is a gift of the Father who knows when we don’t know.  Who sees when we don’t see.  And who is always for us.

Thank You Father for providing these 2 years.  For keeping my mind and teaching me mental strength. For being with me even when I felt alone.  For being the net when I jumped by faith.  For catching me when I fell.  Over and over again.

Your love is miraculous.  And it is that love I pray that somehow others will experience in the midst of such uncertainty.  Such difficult things happen in this life and yet You are the hope.

You are the light in the midst of darkness.

And now we are the light.

Forever and always Alayna Miller, you are loved.

SHALOM

Thoughts of An Introvert

I am sitting in my living room on an overstuffed cream chair with a cup of green tea and a book on grief. The crackle of the candle on the window sill is almost drowned out by the ocean wave sounds coming from my speaker. I can smell the scent of pumpkin roll coming from said candle and wish once again that it would never run out. It’s the perfect setting to wind down to.

I had a networking event today of which another introvert called me out on being introverted. She voiced my inner thoughts on being grateful that I had made it out and yet I was simultaneously looking forward to when I would leave.

I did get involved in a few good conversations on travel and such and was encouraged enough that I only left a half hour early. But then, so also did the host…

I am becoming very aware of my introverted ways particularly when I compare myself to my more extroverted friends. When I receive lengthy texts flooding my phone with information I get overwhelmed. When I am invited to several events at once I feel the same. I even do not scroll often on social media because taking in so much information on a variety of people (most of which I never talk to in person) is too much for me. Normally I post. I post about me and the people in my direct sphere. I can handle that. But anything more, feels too much.

Still I love connecting. Usually it happens in small groups like this past weekend when I hosted a friend to share on Mary Kay products. I was able to offer appetizers and a warm and cozy space. I love hosting. Especially in this house which perfectly fits me.

This house has been such a comfort. It is cozy and warm and I feel like I am being hugged at all times. I finally got my bookcase up and tomorrow my loveseat will be delivered. The living room will be complete and all the furniture is now purchased. It is just a matter of wall decor…

I never dreamed I would so enjoy interior decorating or have such a knack for it. But God knew. I stand in awe that He had a place for me. I think about all the places I wanted before I found this house and they were not for me. But it was not because there wasn’t a home for me, there was. It was because they were not the right fit. There was one particular home I really really wanted. I had fallen in love with that house. It hurt me when it did not work out but there was a lesson in that. He was teaching me something even in it falling through.

He has purpose in all things.

Tomorrow I have a long day ahead and I know I will need to get as much rest as I can. I know myself. I know my energy levels. I know when I will reach my end and when I have the capacity for certain engagements.

There are so many joyous times in this season and still sad times. A friend said that watching my life is like reading a good book. I concur. I feel that way sometimes. Like when I go on amazing trips with friends or shopping and catch a good deal or meet with a new client for my business. It is a fabulous life indeed. But still not without its difficulties.

I realize the difficulties have made me more compassionate. I have such a heart for those who experience tragedy or loss or suffering in a way that I did not before.

Again, He has purpose in all things.

Even in the hard things.

Especially in those…

SHALOM

Eyes To See

As I mentioned previously on this little blog things are moving quickly.  Yesterday we did the inspection on the house and while there were several things brought to my attention I was assured by the professional (the inspector) that these items were a given for a house of this age.  In fact, it was in good condition given its age.

An interesting phenomenon occurred yesterday.  I found that while the inspector was highlighting certain things my eyes became open to them also, either while he was speaking and sometimes even before he spoke.  I told him that just being around him was giving me “eyes to see”.  It is an interesting occurrence that we can be influenced to that capacity by people around us, even those we have just met.  I can see this as being symbolic of my spiritual journey.  Being “around” Christ these 15 years has greatly influenced me and helped me to “see”.

Recently I had an interaction with a family member and I was greatly discouraged to find that they did not “see”.  It had been a while since we had spoken and the reason for our disconnection was due to their own narcissism and selfishness.  I felt that I was called to implement strong boundaries to focus on my own health and healing during a season of recovery.  I had hopes that one day the relationship could be restored, so when they reached out I was surprised, but hopeful.  Unfortunately upon interacting with them I soon learned that they had not grown.

They had not healed.

They were (still) toxic.

I did not understand why they were still in the same place.  How could all this time have passed and they did not see?  But I was reminded of the gift I have in community and the teaching I am under.  I am surrounded by people who value healthy relationships.  I am surrounded by people who desire to grow and change for the better.  I am influenced by those around me.

Maybe one day that relationship will be restored but for now I must continue on my own path.  The Father has given me all the tools needed to accomplish His purpose on this path and I am grateful for the greatest tool He has given:

His love.

Now I understand so much why He revealed Himself to me as He did.  He told me years ago He would be anything that I needed and I so have needed Him as Father, Husband, & Family.

I pray that God brings forth His desires in the earth.  As an intercessor I can’t help but to do so.  But I also understand we all have choices.  And I choose to value myself above someone else who will try to devalue me.

I choose to protect myself from others who may bring me harm.

I choose to see myself as He sees me.

SHALOM

A Quick Turnaround

So I have some good news!  I bought a house!  Literally within days of writing my last post about the process, I made an offer and it was accepted.  No one was more than shocked then me!  Prior to seeing the house I was on the phone with one of my besties and was sharing with her about my revelation of the process and how much peace I now had being in it.  I simply was not pressed and also did not expect to purchase a home that day.  My mindset was, “It’s going to be awhile”.  When you’ve walked out long seasons it can be easy to have that belief system.

Last night I was watching some old videos I had posted on Periscope (is that even still around?) and I marveled at the things I discussed that I am now walking in.  One in particular talked about entrepreneurship.  I was talking about ways to identify that you yourself are an entrepreneur.  Now at the time I was in a sense an entrepreneur because I had published my first two books.  However I still had a full time job.  It is like God was slowly easing me into the idea and now, it’s full throttle.

Me at a Speaking Event on Financial Literacy for Small Business Owners

It was obvious to me that the insight I had back then was prophetic and was from the Holy Spirit.  I was reminded of this gift inside me.  I think because I am surrounded by so many with this gift I can take it for granted or think it’s normal.  The Father has manifested Himself and spoken so loudly to me so many times, I assume that is most believer’s experiences.  But I have learned (and am still learning) He manifests Himself according to the identity of the individual.  With me He manifests Himself prophetically.

This house search has been symbolic to me of a search for a spouse.  It seemed every house my realtor and I looked at had some type of obvious flaw.  Some would look good on the outside but then have very serious issues such as large appliances being rusted or foundations being cracked.  It seemed God was making it clear: “This is not the one”.  I spoke with my counselor about it and she agreed that I needed to find a house, (and a spouse), that I was willing to do minimal repair work with.  “Do you want to have to replace a whole hot water tank Nicole, or just tear up some carpet?”  Her point was that there would of course be some type of work needed in a person but that level of repair needed to be less rather then more. I knew that I wanted a house that was, “move in ready”.  I also new that I wanted a man who was the same.

We all have our flaws.  We all are a work in progress.  However Holy Spirit has taught me (along with John Townsend & Henry Cloud) that some of the keys to being a “safe person” is someone who values humility and taking responsibility.  Someone who is mature and doesn’t just point the finger.  Someone who wants to grow.  I am surrounded by people on this similar journey of becoming a whole person and manifesting our true eternal selves.  How could I not be paired with someone of that same mindset?

My Sister and I Celebrating My Mom’s Birthday

He is also showing me that I need someone who has a similar starting point as me.  I can’t be with someone who is “behind”.  I have often chosen people who were behind, but that was due to a lack of self value.  I am learning.

Now things are moving QUICKLY.  I have a lot to do in a short period of time.  But that is the pattern I can see in my journey.  Slow, slow, (sometimes another “slow”) and then quick.  I think He does that to teach me not to get comfortable and so that I know it’s Him allowing things or making things happen and not me (because I can easily default to being controlling).

I still have some questions to Him concerning this house, but I know without a doubt He orders my steps and I trust Him to guide me with His eye.

It is a new season.  It is a new day.  And it happened suddenly.

Feel free to check out the video I referenced earlier on entrepreneurship!

SHALOM

Finding Value In The Process

These days I find myself looking for a new home. The journey (as always) has been interesting. About a month ago I fell in love with a house. It had all of the stuff I wanted and then some. It checked off my check boxes and created a few new ones. The seller was an investor and had remodeled, it seemed, with me in mind. I was initially disappointed to learn that the taxes were significant. I’m a first time buyer and have been coached and supported by others around me who are more experienced. This tax situation, I thought, is going to be a problem. But when I ran the details by my closest and dearest who are more experienced on the matter, instead of being deterred, I was encouraged. Apparently the issue of taxes was minimal compared to what I would be receiving in return. Well I was surprised and pleased by this response. I had let go of the home and laid it down. I have been trained to do so and I think that is my first line of thinking because of this training. But even after revisiting the idea and then getting excited at the prospect, I still held it loosely.

“Is this my home Father?” I asked. In response all I received was peace. I didn’t feel like He was saying it was. I feel like He was saying “Regardless, I’m with you.”

That house didn’t work out. Though it had been on the market for months and the seller kept dropping the price (probably from desperation) a day before I would have made an offer it was taken off the market. Someone got to it first. I told my realtor it wasn’t mine or else nothing could have stopped me from getting it. I have wavered back and forth in that thinking as we have looked at one house after another after another. I can’t seem to find one comparable in my price range.

Now God has confirmed the character and trust worthiness of my realtor. And He has made a way for me to take the first time homeownership classes that initially fell through. And He has not stifled this desire for me to have my own. So the promise must be there.

But so is the process.

When I shared my exasperation with my realtor her response was, “Welcome to home ownership. This is the process.”

A couple of weeks ago I needed to get my fingerprints done for the upcoming tax season for my business. It seemed like a simple feat until I got the run around and ended up going through a few hoops to get it done. In the midst of the chaos I said to myself, “Why is this such a process?!”

And immediately I heard, “Why are you surprised?”

I knew the Father was speaking to me that I have been through other processes before and I have seen how they have prepared me for the promise. Specifically with my business and where He is taking me with it. I can look back and see His intentionality with using waiting to cultivate trust in Him and humility. He worked on my character when I would have been ruled by self and pride.

Often we do not like the process. It can be painful and difficult. In this season I have been shocked at the depths of the process.

However I know there is value in it.

A while ago when talking to a friend about waiting she said, “Nicole the promise does not negate the process.” So true. And to that I would add, “The process prepares you for the promise.”

Looking at the life of Joseph, he went through so much. More then I would ever want to go through in all honesty. Yet eventually his circumstances changed and he was promoted for the final time.

What Joseph was given to steward was greater then he could have possibly imagined.

Looking back on my journey I see that I thought I could do the works. I could check off my checklist and fulfill my call and make my Father proud. But I overestimated myself and underestimated the path I would walk. Thankfully, even in my naïveté I was guaranteed that He would walk with me. It was Him that would complete the work, not me.

And the body, the cloud of witnesses, the ecclesia, well, they would be there too.

“You are not alone”, someone said today in the midst of the prophetic flowing. It was the first time I felt His presence in that way in 4 years. I was in awe.

“The new is here”, came another word.

It is a new day. My hope is that the process is ending and the promise is coming. My good friend Lianna Mueller did an amazing blog on this topic. We are learning to hope without expectations.

I know that God will do it. I just don’t know how. And that is faith. If He said it, He will do it. And if He doesn’t then it wasn’t what is best for me. But regardless, we must believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

SHALOM

Unparalleled Peace

I was walking with a friend outside.  It was midday summer; perfect and sunny.  We had just come from lunch where we had the benefit of eating outside.  The venue allowed dogs because we happened to be in a “dog city” so folks were happily bringing their dogs to this particular restaurant.  My friend is becoming a dog lover so this setting afforded her the opportunity to “ooh” and “aww” over the cute k-9’s strolling with their owners who passed by our table. 

As we walked, we took in the scenery.  It’s a gentrified area and those have their own pluses and minuses.  Pluses because they get “redone” with the money that’s flowing into the city.  Minuses because the previous residents get kicked out when they can no longer afford the new amenities being added.

As we walked, my friend even stopped to smell some beautiful flowers at a flower shop and I took note.  We had been talking about contentment and enjoying the moment.  I knew God was working in her.

“Do you feel peace?” she had asked me at some point.  We had already been together for over an hour and were catching up on each others lives.  I had told her about the ups and downs in my romantic life as well as this season of recovery.

I thought about her question.  “Peace?” I asked as I mulled that one over in my head for a sec.  Did I feel peace?  I asked myself.  I struggled with that.  Because in all honesty I did not feel peace.  I did not feel ok with this journey of surrender and submission.  I did not feel ok with grief and loss and trauma.  I did not feel ok. 

What I eventually told my friend was the truth.  I did not feel peace.  But I could not disregard my past journey of God showing His faithfulness.  That when He had me do hard things in the past, it was actually for my good.  So I said something to the effect of, “No, I do not feel peace.  But He must see something that I don’t.  I also understand that I am an eternal being and this life is fleeting.  I understand the importance of living for the eternal even when in the natural I am not rewarded.”

And that mindset is a mindset that I have carried.  To do what is eternal over what is natural.  But as I am growing and evolving, the Father is expanding my mindset.  He is showing me the “both, and”.  That there is a dual dynamic with His ways.

I will be teaching a workshop soon on bookkeeping.  I started my business this time last year and though it hasn’t grown as fast as I had wanted, there is growth.  In the class I will be debunking accounting myths.  I realize many small business owners confuse bookkeeping and accounting and I want to shed light on this topic to help them become more successful.  I realize that is what God is doing with me.

He is debunking my myths.

I believe there are lies we all believe and depending on your journey, your family history, your DNA, your “wiring” so to speak, you may have more false beliefs than others.  Or may have those false beliefs in certain areas of life.  For me, I have struggled with trusting God and others.  And I have had limitations on that trust.

I did not realize that the reason I did not have peace when my friend asked me that day was because I did not believe wholeheartedly that He was for me.  I did not believe that ‘He would withhold no good thing from me.’  I believed that I was missing out on something good.  In some far off way I did believe He had something better, but at this point in my journey, I would take the good.  I thought that was a reasonable request after all I had experienced.  Little did I know, it may have been good for someone.  But it would not be good for me…

Now I see His ways are for us, even when they are hard.  Even when they are long.  Even when they are not the “ideal” of what we think our life should be, or what other people’s lives are.  He knows us intimately and He knows what is best for each us.  That realization has given me peace.

I now have peace.

I am so grateful He has given me peace and He has exposed the lie.  I have not felt this trust in so long, it is a wonder to me that it is here so freely.  We are all wired uniquely and He leads us on the path that will bring out our transformation of our true eternal selves to be manifest in the earth.  He takes the good and the bad and somehow uses it all for His end purpose.  It is truly amazing.

I pray the Father reveals to you your false beliefs, and keeps leading you along His path of righteousness.

After the storm…

SHALOM

 

Thoughts on Suffering

Today I got to spend the day with a woman who has been used greatly in my family.  Decades ago she became one of my grandmother’s very best friends.  When my grandmother passed away, she was there, standing in the gap.  She and my own mother grew closer and I knew she was like a surrogate mom for my mother.  A godmother.  Since my mom passed away, she has been faithful in sending me cards and pictures and other tokens of her affections.  Always reverencing their love for me (my mother and grandmother), reminding me of what I struggle so often to remember.

That I am loved.

me and linda

Today she spoke about her battle with breast cancer.  She has in fact battled this disease three times.  She was honest in her speech, sharing that yes, emotionally she struggled with this 3rd diagnosis.

“Lord, again?  Haven’t I already been through this?  Haven’t I already passed the test?”

This resonated with me greatly, as I thought about my own journey in waiting, and relationships, and surrender.

“Lord, haven’t I already passed this test?” I’ve wondered so often.

But His answer to her may not be the answer you hear in the pulpit, or online, or at a popular mega church, because it’s not a popular message.

It’s a message of the cross.

“Yes daughter,” He says to her.  “But I got you!  I got you!” 

I am discovering that one can experience and overcome various tests, trials and tribulations.  Even in the same area.  They can have those experiences and keep going through them.  Again, and again, and even again.

We see this in the Bible.  What does God say to Paul when he asks to have the thorn removed from him three times?

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Cor 12:8)

And even with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to the Father to remove His cup.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ (Matt 26:36-39).

I can’t imagine the depth of sorrow Christ felt to ask to be removed from this experience of physical suffering.  I can only imagine it must have been so great because He also knew all the world would be saved through it, and yet it was so painful that He  still did not want to experience it.

And in both cases (Paul and Christ’s) God basically said, “My will is for you to suffer.”

We do not like suffering.  Our flesh hates it.  Whether it is physical, emotional or mental.  When we are hungry we want food.  When we are tired we want sleep.  When we have to use the restroom we find the nearest toilet.  We do not like being uncomfortable.  And suffering is, in my opinion, the worst kind of uncomfortable.

But suffering in the kingdom, is highly regarded.  We cannot get away from that fact, and any gospel that is preached without the teaching of suffering is erroneous.

2 Timothy 2: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…

One of my struggles in this season is not the teaching of suffering.  I think I understood that early on in my faith, that I would need to do hard things for Him.  That I would need to lay down my life.  But I didn’t know about long suffering.  I didn’t know about the lengths and depths that He could call one to.  I didn’t know that He could call you over and over (and even over) again to experience difficult circumstances.  And I didn’t know He could give you power to sustain you through it.

I got to speak with some women today who are related to my grandmother’s friend.  They too are in seasons of recovery from loss, grief and trauma.  They too are overcoming things they never imagined they would go through.  And I can see the changes.  I can see there is more humility, there is more kindness.  Our hearts are tender now…

Suffering changes you.  But if you know Him, it can change you for the good.  He can work it for the good…

When Paul cries out to have his thorn removed, we find out why God said ‘no’.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Cor 12:7).

He was humbled through this thorn.  He was sustained by His grace.

I realize the Father has been after something in me in this season.  Something that I didn’t know was there.  It was distrust.

I have known that the way I have related to the Father has always been intimate and passionate, zealous and possessive  (on both sides).  Yes, I have loved Him.  But I have consistently struggled with trusting Him.

Looking back on my journey, I would trust Him to a certain extent.  And with my singleness I would only trust Him up until a certain number of years (we have passed that number of years by the way).  Of course, consciously I was not aware I was doing this.  But He knew.

At the service today my friend Linda testified about her “thorn”.  She testified that the Father would not remove it, but that He would keep her through it.  She also testified that she would worship anyway.

Wow.  To worship Him anyway.  Even after the third time.  That is the faith He is after.  That is the call for His chosen.

I am grateful that even in my pain and grief and anger, He has never changed.  His love and loyalty are steady and even though I don’t experience the high feelings of emotions I did all those years in my journey, I sense His love as strongly as I used to.

And for the first time, in such a long time, I trust Him.

I trust Him like I used to.  I trust Him like I did as a babe.  I trust Him like before the tests and trials.  Before the losses and setbacks.  Before the confusion over my identity.  I trust Him.  Because now I can see (as I have in the past but forgot) that He really is for me.  That His choices really are in my best interest.  Especially when it comes to relationships.

He protects me.  Like a good father does His child.

I am His.

What I know now, that I didn’t know earlier in my faith, was that His way somehow feels/is harder and at the same time protects.  I also did not know that His way does not negate (long) suffering.  That though He is for me, pain is inevitable.  And in life pain is inevitable. But at-least with Him it can be used for our good.

Because in order to reign with Him we must suffer.

That is the cross.  That is being a disciple.  That is being His.

SHALOM