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Do You Want a Cat?

Sometimes God is just funny. Like, I normally think about Him in terms of being loving, and gracious, and kind. Caring, and gentle, and intimate…but not really funny. Today, I had to literally laugh out loud though, because I realized, He really does have a sense of humor. The Guy is a straight up comedian.

About a week ago, I was not in the best mental space. Let’s face it, we’re in a pandemic, and no one really knows how long this thing is going to last. 2020 has been one shock after another, and I feel like, as a collective whole, humanity just could not catch our breath. We took one big gasp in January, and have been holding it ever since.

The first shock was Kobe. I sat there on the couch in my well-furnished basement, with a good friend, and watched CNN, for hours. We were told that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter had died with several others in a helicopter crash. We were horrified and entered into a period of grief along with the whole world at the sudden loss of a well-known superstar. We were all suddenly reminded of the brevity of life, even if we weren’t avid sports fans. For months, Kobe and his family, (and those other poor souls), were the talk of our conversations. Were the topic of our heartfelt prayers. But then, the senseless injustices of the Black community came to a head, (once again). For me, it was Ahmaud who gripped my heart. Ahmaud Arbery was a young Black man who was gunned down while running in his neighborhood by three white men. He was unarmed. He was vulnerable. And he was killed. I laid out on the floor, weeping profusely. I could not stop. I couldn’t believe he was so young, and I kept imagining his mother finding her son. Dead. Bleeding. Lifeless. But then I didn’t have much time to even grieve that, because George happened. George Floyd, whom the nation responded so loudly to, was murdered by a white police officer, while his fellow officers stood by, and watched him kneel on George’s neck, mercilessly, while George cried out in agony, weeping for his mother. I could only watch (stomach) some of the video footage.

And somewhere in between these men, was Breonna. Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her own home, by police officers. A horrifying case of mistaken identity. The police officers were released by the way. No charge. No justice.

Throughout these atrocities, there were riots, and looting, and chaos. Grief, and fear, and sorrow. Not to mention, a recent presidential election which usually has folks up in arms in general, but would now have them even more so, during this particular election.

And all of this has happened in the midst of a world wide pandemic, of which the United States is leading in cases. I don’t even want to get into my own feelings of personal loss. My own personal grief. I just shared all this to explain why finally, after the last eight months of walking around with a mask on and dousing my hands in hand sanitizer at every moment’s chance, I felt the heaviness seep in. I felt it, and I recognized it from a past experience I didn’t think I would make it out of.

Well, that particular morning while feeling the heaviness, I decided I needed a pet. I have looked a few times in the past for one, particularly a kitten, but every time, it just never panned out. One time, my bestfriend and I went to the animal shelter near me. This was right when the pandemic hit, but they were closed due to the new crisis. Another time, I looked on Craigslist, but whenever I spotted a cute furry creature I could fall in love with, they would already be sold, once I reached out to the seller. I remember even over a year ago, my old roommate and I looked for a pet, but I didn’t find one I connected with, so I waited.

This particular morning while looking online though, I figured it was time, because of what I was dealing with. But I had a lot of work to do, and so after 20 minutes, I needed to switch gears from online perusing for a furry companion, to bookkeeping for clients. 5 hours later, I was spent. I actually remembered that I was looking for a kitten that morning once done working, but was too tired to go back online. I just wanted to veg out. Interestingly enough, within minutes of me having that thought, I heard a knock on my door. I was confused. It was the middle of the day. Who could it be? Anyone who visits normally calls first. Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t they ring the doorbell? These were all the thoughts swirling in my mind as I made my way, cautiously, up the stairs, to the door. I peeked out, and saw this little light brown kid. He was holding a black kitten in his arms and peered up at me with large eyes and disheveled black hair. “Hi. Do you want a cat?” he asked.

Now, call it my upbringing with a single mom who was from the streets of Toledo, but my brain was racing. Is this kid in cahoots with a rapist, or mugger, or killer who is going to pop out while I’m distracted by his cuteness with this kitten and knock me out cold? So I start praying, Lord, please don’t let me be a victim in my foolishness to open this door to a stranger! (I’m serious too. I really did pray that.) Then I’m channeling my discernment, feeling for God, because what are the chances that someone is going to offer me a kitten on the very day I was looking for one? I looked at the kid, confused, and he explained, after glancing over his shoulder down my driveway, “My aunt is giving them away.” I stood back, assessed him some more, and knew I had to make a quick decision. I also knew it was God, and that this was my time to commit—or not to commit—to being a pet owner. Did I really want this? But never one to miss out on a blessing, I opened my hands, and he dumped the scared little fluffy bundle into them. I said, “Thanks,” and that was that. He left, and I was in awe.

I have been the proud owner of a small black kitten since that day (it will be one week tomorrow). His name is BJ and I named him that after the suggestion of a good friend who said to name him after a character in my book. (That is, my newest book, and first novel, that I’m still working on.) But people kept asking me what “BJ” stood for and I would cringe because I really didn’t know. It bothered me greatly because I’m someone who values words, values names, especially. I wanted some weighty, deep name that meant something, but all I came up with was, “BJ”. I loved BJ in my novel because he is a loving male friend to my female protagonist, but that couldn’t be enough. I needed a deeper meaning.

So here is the funny part. Remember, I said God was funny? I was driving today from making my normal daily Starbucks run (this began during the pandemic to get out of the house). A venti coffee with light cream sat in the cup holder, while I was thinking about God giving me a black cat, and thinking about how He had done the same thing before and gave my old roommate a black cat. She had named him Benny (short for Ben-Samuel, a nice, strong, Jewish name), and if you’ve been following this blog for a few years, you’ll remember a couple of blog posts about him. He was definitely an interesting character! So I was thinking this, and not for the first time you see. I was thinking about its significance. That God was doing something twice (usually in the Bible when He says something twice like, “verily, verily”, this means to pay attention). And then I thought, Isn’t it funny that God gave us two black cats whose names both start with B? Then it dawned on me! I had to laugh, and I had to share the laughter with someone whom I knew would understand its humor, so I called my old roommate Lianna. I told her how I just realized what “BJ” stood for! “Benny Jr!” I exclaimed with glee, and she laughed with me, and told me that was what she had figured when I initially shared his name!

Lianna, Me and Benny, 2016

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. Of course she thought I already knew, but I didn’t. It was plainly in my face and I couldn’t see, I guess, until the time was right.

I laughed hard, and it was a good laugh. A needed laugh. And I think God held that little secret from me for a whole week just so He could see me laugh that hard. Just so He could see my face fill with joy.

Which it does, every time I look at BJ. AKA Benny Jr.!

God is so significant in ALL things. He is an amazing provider, and loves giving us the desires of our hearts. He also loves a good laugh, I’m convinced.

Meet BJ (Ben-Samuel Jr.)

SHALOM

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

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

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

An Open Letter to My Precious Jewel


I picked you up yesterday like I have so many times before. Still, it had been a while.  You’ve grown and I had flashbacks of when you were a baby: an aggressive round little brown girl.  I never had a brown girl of my own and even though I wasn’t chosen to be your godmother by your mother, you chose me.  And so did God.  

So we bonded.  An easy bond.  I loved you.  An easy love.  And somehow I ended up being a role model and praying for you constantly that you would break the generational curses.  You had a hard way from the start and I knew every prayer would count.  You’re smart, perceptive, resilient, and a survivor.  I can see easily how God has given you the gifts and talents to overcome the deficit of resources you were born into.

Yesterday we road on a hay ride, ate junk food, danced and I stood in a line for 40 minutes for you to get your face painted.  

You had never ridden on a hay ride and I love introducing you to new things.  It did not escape my notice that when I dipped my fries in bbq you did the same.  And when I took a chair in that 40 minute line, you did the same.  You follow me and that reminds me of the responsibility I was given.  The one I never asked for but couldn’t help but say yes to because of the fondness I have for you.

Pretty soon you’ll be 10 😮.  You’ll be a preteen.  I’m seeing the changes in you each time I see you.  Now you no longer make goofy faces at the camera, you actually smile at it.  You’ll be hitting some important milestones and I am in awe that I got to be a vital part of your story.  Without me even realizing it, I had a special assignment in your life.
And you have a special one in mine.  On mother’s day when I get those calls they warm my heart.  As a childless women in her mid 30s I recognize that God gave me a spiritual child.

I look forward to our continued journey together, watching you grow and praying for your wellbeing.

I know our connection is a confirmation that you will do great things.


Always cheering for you

Love,

Nicole

Building Slowly

I admit I can be an impatient person.  Even after all these years and all the tests God has used to develop patience w/in me, it is not my preference to wait.  But in the world of getting to know new people and developing relationships, I have come to value a person that takes their time.


This summer has allotted me with several occasions to meet new people but no matter the person, the outcome was the same: things moved fast.  There were frequent phone calls and text messages and connections made, but always a tone of urgency and even insincerity.  This time however I am intrigued to have a different experience.  In the short time of our meeting, he takes his time.  There is careful balance of showing interest, but not diving in too deep.  It is nice when someone can correctly match the emotions and physical boundaries of a relationship with its developmental stage.  I have been in so many situations where that was not the case and for that reason I appreciate it all the more.

I heard it said recently that women lose their mystery quickly these days.  As Christian women that can be easy to fall into because many of us do not get pursued often so when it happens we can get so excited that we give away too much too fast (I have always struggled in that area).  Then afterwards, often the man does not feel the need to earn what has already been given.  He does not feel the need to rise to the occasion, because instead we lowered ourselves to it.

I’m trying to learn from my past mistakes.  All things are redeemable with God and He makes all things new.  I want to use this new opportunity to value myself better, stay true to my identity, and enjoy the slow building in the hopes that taking our time will produce something a little bit more longstanding.

SHALOM

 

Poetry Slam!

Hi guys! I think I’ve mentioned I’ve been branching out in my writing more. One of the ways I’ve been growing as a writer is by taking a poetry workshop. To celebrate the completion of our class we are having a poetry slam this Saturday!  If you’re in the area I’d love for you to come! Details are below😊.


SHALOM

Navigating The In Between

I realize that I am an “all in” type person.  When it comes to relationships, work, or any other project I dive in full force and do not loosen my reins until that thing comes to completion (go me).  This character trait has helped me immensely in my career when in spite of 3 bouts with unemployment and an attempt from one company to sabotage my move to the next, I thrived (go Jesus).  It has caused me to complete 2 college degrees regardless of the battle I faced in my academic endeavors.  It allowed me to write 2 books in the midst of battling anxiety and depression.  It has helped me to be one that endures.

Well as you may have guessed, there is a negative side to being an “all-inner”.  Though my intentions have been good and sincere, I have a history of leaping blindly and foolishly into unhealthy relationships, giving my all when it wasn’t safe to do so.  Thankfully Holy Spirit intervened and pulled me out of the cycle of dysfunction many never escape from.  My ancestors never escaped from.  But there have been consequences to my over-zealousness.  Now I am in a place where I have to learn how to not be “so extra”.  I have to learn balance and boundaries.  I have to learn how to properly navigate a relationship that was so badly bruised that there seems to be no bandaid big enough to heal it.

I sat across from my good friend the other night.  She shared her relationships woes.  I encouraged her to believe God for His best.  I feel very strongly He brought us together for me to share my story on waiting on His best.  She looked at me with pain in her eyes, bit her lip and murmured what was on her heart.  “But you did wait”, she said.  You did know Him deeply and intimately and yet you are still waiting”.  She is right.  I am still waiting.  I told her about how this world is passing away.  I told her our relationship with Him has to be of the utmost importance.  I rattled off the scriptures He put on my heart and even texted her a few.  But I knew that the spiritual blessing of doing His will was not enough.  I realized that He created the earth to reflect the heavens and that means the reward that we have in heaven must be manifested in the earth.

Mark 10:29-30 (NIV)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

I have received the word about my reward coming 6 times thus far in a span of only a few weeks.  God is being very loud and clear: for those who have waited, for those who have endured, you will REAP.

I told my friend this as we sat across the table over appetizers and drinks.  It wasn’t enough to offer her encouragement about her spiritual reward.  She needed to know that yes, we do get blessed this side of heaven.


I am in between my blessing.  I have surrendered, I have endured, I have obeyed.  I have yielded and agreed and walked by faith but I do not yet have the promise.  I am learning how to live in between the demonstration of my faith through my works and the manifestation of HIs promise.  It is a vulnerable place but I feel His grace to navigate this area of life.

In other news…

If you’re in the area I have exciting news!  My book release party for HTOHB2 will be Saturday, March 11th which also happens to be the start of Purim!  I hope you are able to make it!

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And if you’re not in the area join the Twitter party for HTOHB2 Sunday, March 12th!

And if you have fallen behind on my Youtube videos feel free to visit my youtube site here.

SHALOM