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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

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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

The Problem With Stereotypes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revelations7:9

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

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

SHALOM

Summer Reflection:2017

There have been a lot of changes for me this year.  I posted a collage of pictures from the summer with the title: “What a great summer!” My friend/old roommate commented, “Was it really a great summer?!” 😳 She reminded me that we moved out of our old home this summer and we submitted to the move, both resigned 😑 .  “Oh yea, I forgot about that,” I said, but went on to explain that I was only thinking about the highlights.
Contentment is a difficult thing to practice and I have had my bouts with it.  God has put me through certain spiritual obstacle courses to develop me in this area but it seems like my humanity continues to oppose that particular fruit of the Spirit.  It takes some real effort to focus on the positive when the negative is still present.  I think even though social media can be abused/misused it does allow for us to celebrate the positives and the highlights of life.  I can honestly say that even though I find this season very difficult with its changes (and with its lack of change), God has given me many desires of my heart.  


And even when I have thwarted his gifts and misused his presents He replaced them with more gifts.  More presents.  The love He demonstrates is a love I do not understand.  I simply can’t fathom His mercy and grace and love but I have glimpsed it so much in this season that I feel I’m gaining some knowledge.

This weekend I’ll get to promote the books He gave me.  Writings that show how He used very difficult times and made purpose out of them.  I’ll also get to visit with some dear sisters who I have been on this journey with for 15 years now.  I’ll have more opportunities to experience His love and goodness in the form of community and social events.  These are things I have desired but did not know that He would so frequently lavish them upon me.


Even in the midst of heartbreak, pain, and suffering, there is His hand.  Leading me and guiding me and ordering steps that have been difficult to take.  My own testimony shows His faithfulness and how when we are weak, truly He is strong.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

SHALOM

 

 

 

The Path


My old roommate and I took a bike ride in Peninsula last week.  For the uninformed Peninsula is about 20 minutes south of Cleveland.  I had never visited there prior to and it was cool to do a little road trip in the middle of the week.  We intended on renting bikes and catching the train back but the next stop for the train proved to be further than anticipated and we didn’t make it in time.  Instead of cutting our ride short we opted to go the distance and ended up biking over 10 miles!  Not too shabby for a couple of folks who hadn’t biked in years! 😊😏 As soon as my feet hit the pedals the serenity of nature engulfed me and I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  I know my friend felt the same and we peddled forward with grace and peace.

At one point we stopped for directions and were told that if we kept along the path the next train stop would be about 7 miles out.  We kept that goal in mind but as I shared earlier, we didn’t make it.  Still, I watched as we passed sign after sign, paying attention to the names of the paths.  There were so many!  It was clear to me that we needed to stay on our path in order to get to where we were going.  It was also clear God was giving me a picture of this spiritual race.

There are so many paths in this life.  There are so many arrows pointing this way and that way.  Some look appealing and inviting but not all will get you to where you need to be.

In this instance we stuck with our path and we made it back safely.  Sometimes sticking to the same path can get boring, especially when you are called to go the distance.  It can feel like you are missing out.  You can even get weary.  But every time I get off the path I end up in pain.  I end up functioning as a lesser version of myself and experiencing a shame I know my Father never desired for me.

One thing I’m grateful for is His grace to get back on the right path and to have a friend (or several) to ride it out with.

Thank You Lord for bringing me Lianna and so many who stick closer to me than a brother.  Your grace is sufficient and I am not deserving.


SHALOM

Getting Aqcuainted With Grace

One would think grace would be something to be received and understood at the onset of Christianity.  If only it were a class you took at the beginning of your enrollment on the path of truth.  I would have surely signed up, checked off my checklist and aimed for the A that decorated my academic career (prior to college that is). But there was no class and after 15 years on this journey, I’m led to believe, grace is ever unfolding. 

As a recovering perfectionist (recovering because I am at least aware which is the first step to truly recovering) I have spent most of my journey trying and doing and accomplishing.  If I don’t do it who will? But what I’m learning is that God will.

God still will. Somehow, someway, even when I fall short and miss the mark and send the text when I shouldn’t, His promises still stand.

He still stands.

I went running this summer and I paced myself up a steep hill.  It was hot that day. Too hot for a run but I was determined. Funny thing was that when I got to the hill the sun was no longer my enemy and shade became my friend. Shade kissed me with each step forward and offered a relief to my burning skin as my thigh muscles flexed and thrived. It was in that moment that I had a picture of grace.  Grace does not remove the obstacle you are called to overcome, instead it offers the ability to overcome it. It travels with you during the hard parts of life and manifests in a breeze or a cool shade on a hot summer day.


A friend sent me a message from Graham Cooke and I think he had a great revelation on grace. “Grace reminds you of who you are”, he said. That is the training I have received and continue to receive: identity. 

Who am I? 

Who are you?

Often our behavior reflects our perception of identity. I asked God recently, “Why does this (insert your this) have to be a big deal?” I have asked this question numerous times but this was the first time I had received an answer. “Because you are a big deal”, He said.

We are a big deal. Whether we want to be or not. We are because we are made in His image and He is a pretty big deal.

SHALOM

The Trade (Poem)

Can I trust you with my mess?

The bruised brokenness of smelly sweat?

The scarred woundedness that oozes green gross disgusting stuff?

The pores on my skin open with it and no matter how many bandages I try to cover them with, there just never seem to be enough

Enough

I’ve had–enough

I’ve come–to the end

And hang on this rope by a thread

I loosely dangle over a pool of grace

But I am afraid

If I fully let go You’ll flee from me

The blood and gook and ooze will be too much for You

My lust

My shame

My feelings of inadequacy caused me to hide in the comfort of another

Lose my sanity for a while

Even all the while–You were there

My blood

My sweat

My tears

You traded them for peace

You nailed them to a cross and they oozed out of Your feet

Your hands

Your sides

You became my mess

A bloody mess

On a cross not fit for a King

And now I am a Queen

Beauty is more than skin deep

And still you made this brown skin beautiful

And still you clothed me in royal clothes

Still You attracted me to an attraction that was more than just physical

Intimacy is more than just physical

And now I know, because it never sustained me

And now I know, only You can sustain me

Me and my mess

You are my mess

And I am your Queen