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Chess Moves

I’ve been playing chess off and on for 15 years now. I remember in high school a coworker at an after school job taught me the game. He was 30+ my senior. I won after the first game. I started playing online at college and my then boyfriend and I enjoyed playing with his glass-piece set. Those were good times.

The cool thing about chess is that the harder your opponent, the greater the opportunity you have to improve.

I played with a friend one summer and every time I beat him. Every time. It may seem odd but I realized then that it wasn’t fun winning all the time. I realized it was because I wasn’t being challenged. Not everyone enjoys a challenge but I definitely do.

Now I play with Emmanuel and have finally met my match. He wins most of the time. And while there’s a part of me that hates to lose, there’s a greater part that strives to win. I have become a better chess player playing with him. I’ve started learning how he thinks. One sure way to beat your opponent is to out think them.

Yesterday at fellowship I was thinking about chess. And I was thinking about how we are all like different pieces on the chess board. Each piece has its own way of moving and not every piece can do what the other pieces do. For instance, a knight can only move in an “L” shape while a rook can only move horizontal and vertical. I was thinking how I felt limited in my movements in life. There are certain boundaries the Father has placed and I have struggled against them. I have looked around and compared and have been frustrated, feeling confined while others appear free.

Within moments of me having these thoughts the prophetic came. I was told that I am a jewel to the Father and that I cannot do what others do. I have questioned Him on this and He is saying they are the boundaries placed because I am the standard. All of this was confirmed in my heart, but still I have been frustrated. The call has seemed too great. The standard too high. How can I be the standard in my place of weakness?

But even now I am reminded that when we are weak, He is strong.

I shared these things with Emmanuel. I told him about the chess pieces and feeling like a knight, limited in my movements. He looked at me lovingly and with care. “You are right that there are only certain moves you can make, even the Queen cannot do what a knight can do. But really you are not a knight, but a queen”.

I was blessed by his affirmation though I fought to deny it. Sometimes it’s easier to minimize our role when the road gets so tough. But I remember the Father giving me the same word 2 years ago when I needed it so I knew it rang true.

And really we are all Kings and Queens in His kingdom.

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.

 

 

 

Kingdom Business

I’ve always known I would one day start my own business.  I just didn’t know when or even what it would be but it was something that stayed in the back of my mind as a “one day” thing.  Then “one day came”.  After my fourth season of unemployment and about 9 months of waiting, it came.

I’d like to say I “waited well” but the truth is I dragged my feet.  I kicked and screamed.  During the course of applying and interviewing and resume-updating, I resisted His nudging to move forward in creating an LLC. Until finally all of my options were none and I could no longer resist His nudge.

I took the steps but still in my heart wondered if He could really be leading me to do this thing full time?  Certainly not!  Everyone knows entrepreneurship takes a while to reap a profit when getting started!  Clearly God knows this as well! So of course I need to be trying to find something to supplement this vision?  But circumstances said otherwise…

During the time of my unemployment (before I got my first client) a dear friend of mine lost her mother.  I was the only friend who could be there for her physically because a work schedule was not an issue.  It was of course significant for me to be the one walking with her through a difficult time because I myself am still in recovery of my own difficult time.  I was with her when I found out my client had hired me.  We stood in the middle of the craft store and I cried tears of joy as she embraced me in her arms.  It wasn’t until I received that offer did other offers from other companies come through.  They came flooding in.

For several months the doors were closed.  Now they were swinging open.

Initially I took an offer but realized it would take away from building my own business.  I would actually be getting paid more working for myself and logically it made no sense to reduce the hours for my client.  By faith, I declined it.  And by faith I started building for my client a system that I hoped would meet her needs.

The beauty in not only seeing the fruit from this step of faith to be a small business owner is that my first client came through a woman who has had so much purpose in my life.  First a blog follower, then a roommate, then a friend, and now a sister.  Working side by side with her shows me the Father’s love and care.

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His provision is consistent in every area.

I have struggled so much in my career and yet never have I went without.  Often I have felt the “downtimes” were too long.  The seasons of unemployment.  The constant feelings of rejection when hearing “no” and facing closed doors.  Even when knowing it is for the best, it still hurts.  Now I can look back and see HIs perfect timing.  9 months living with my friend/now sister.  9 months living with the woman who loved me more than life itself.  And 9 months of “rest” and recovery before my business began.

He cares.

And I’m honored to be continuing the legacy of the women who made me who I am today in a field that was once my weakness and is now His strength.

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I am grateful for ABN Bookkeeping LLC.

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

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

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