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Beginning to Bloom

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

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

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

Sacrifice displays love.

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

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

Hoster-Flower_Blooming

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

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

SHALOM

More Than A Conqueror

girl on mountain 3

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

Some things never change.

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

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

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

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

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

I have not resisted unto bloodshed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the transformation is magnificent.

And the manifestation of my transformation is still being revealed.

After my morning run…


SHALOM

Living Without The Reward


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

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

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

That was three years ago.

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

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

God.

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

Many of my friends do too.

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

But I feel more like Hannah these days:

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

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

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

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

And that is the place I find myself in.

SHALOM

Back To The Beginning

In just 2 months I’ll be moving back in with my mom.  Whew.  To say that I am shocked by this prospect is an understatement.  The shock is probably only slightly overshadowed by my pushing my mid 30s and life looking exactly the opposite of what I pictured.  But I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.  My roomie has the same shock and she is 6 years my junior.  My besties have the same shock and we are all the same age.

This weekend I drove around the new neighborhood which is not too far from the old one.  I talked to old friends I have reconnected with in this season.  So much of the new resembles the old.  It’s weird.

I am reminded of a revelation God gave me a few years ago after a big test.  He said my life was like a helix.  It wasn’t that I was walking in circles over and over the way I felt I was.  Instead, I was moving forward in a circular motion.  It seems living with my mom again is a part of that same pattern.  No matter how hard I tried to make choices that would position me in a certain place at this point in my life (husband, 2.5 kids and dog), I still ended up here.  Back to the beginning. 

We went to church for Easter (mom and I).  I know this is a new beginning for her and I’m blessed to be a part of it, I just wish it hadn’t cost me so much. 

On Easter I was reminded of why it costs.  It costs us because it cost Him.  We are not above the teacher.  We are not above our Master.  If He sacrificed, we too shall sacrifice.

My roommate gave me a card on Easter which read, “Nicole, just as Christ died and resurrected, I look forward to seeing the resurrection in your life”.  That is what I too am desiring.  To see the resurrection from all the death.  To see the fruit from all the pruning.  To see if the wait was really worth it…

SHALOM

Writing, Family & Time


The mother and daughter sat across from each other in the small diner.  Both adults but as with every child-parent relationship the child is still the child to the parent–no matter how old they get.  The daughter took a sip of her latte and typed feverishly at her keyboard.  She had brought her laptop so both could handle some unfinished business.  The mother took her turn typing (although a little more slowly and a little less confidently) and was pleased with the outcome.  They discussed their future plans to move in together.  They compared the properties they had looked at; some good, some not.  The deadline for moving was drawing to a close and both were walking by faith.  The daughter had been down this path many times so panic had not yet kicked in.  It would take a little longer for that to happen, if it did at all.  Though their meeting was about the future they reflected on the now.

“Can you believe I’m this old?” the daughter said.  The mother responded in equal amazement, “No.  It’s crazy!  I remember when you were in the womb…” and then as was their custom she reminisced about that time of pregnancy 30+ years ago.  Her eyes glazed over and she held a far off daze.  There were family members who had passed and many who were distant.  “I never thought I would lose my whole immediate family”, the mother said.  “Well, you have me” I replied.  We sat in silence for a moment.  It was just us.  I never wanted it to be that way.  I always wanted a family.  I told her just as much that day.  I told her how grateful I was for a spiritual family, these spiritual sisters that keep multiplying, but how I still desired blood relatives.  “I wanted that for you too” she said.

I ran into a brother that day and teased him about being alone.  He explained his wife and children were at a party and he had just gotten off his 2nd job.  I was reminded of how different our lives were–his full with mouths to feed–my mouth sipping a latte.  It’s easy to covet what one doesn’t have, to see the gift each season holds.  Still, some seasons last too long…I told him about a writer’s class that I’m enjoying.  “It’s finishing up soon but I’ll keep you in mind for the next one!”  “Please do!” he said.  Then I teased him about not having room in his schedule.  He assured me he will make room.  Funny, even with all the things I have going on in this season, I always seem to have room…

For the first time in my life I literally feel “older”.  I’ve been thinking about the past and wondering about the future.  I don’t have any goals set or big ticket items to check off my checklist.  There are responsibilities to carry out and finances to build.  There are a few trips I want to take and people I want to see.  But no goals.

I think reality is setting in.  Maybe that’s what happens in your mid 30’s.  You realize though you have much ahead you have a good chunk that is behind and for the first time I have found myself second guessing past choices.  My dad assured me on my birthday I had made the right choices.  Then why do I not have what I want? I thought to myself.  I wrestled with that question for a while.

I’m still wrestling.

The past cannot be changed, only our present.  Our now choices will create our future.  And as I told my friend last night, all we can do is walk in the light and understanding that we have today.  I believe we are only held accountable for that much.

SHALOM

 

 

Getting Older

 

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People have been asking me what I’m planning for the big 3-4.  I honestly have no plans.  My emotions have been up and down (ok, mostly down) about the upcoming event and I don’t know how I will feel when it gets here.  Will I have a series of bursts of energy and strength that I’ve often experienced when the enemy has tried to come up against me?  Or, will I give in to the quiet stillness of my soul that has marked this season with Christ? 

I told my friend recently that I’m allowing myself to experience both.  I’m allowing myself to be grateful for the ground the Father and I have gained together, the victories and the wholeness He has created.  And also, I’m allowing myself the disappointment, confusion and frustration at the waiting.  I’m a numbers person and I do believe I am supposed to be, working in Accounting and all.  I believe numbers mean a lot to God as well.  He taught me a lot a few years ago just how important they were.  What I learned then was that His ways are not our ways.  His view is not ours and often He wants us to come up higher to see things from His perspective.  For a while there I was seeing but then the darkness came and I found myself lost, questioning very foundational truths that had guided me these 15 years.  I was tormented with fear and anxiety and I didn’t have time to think about singleness, I was just trying to choose life.  But I did choose and one day at a time I made it to where I am now: more soundness of mind.  More peace.  More grace.  Now that I’m here, singleness is a focus again.  I honestly never thought it would be this long.  I don’t disagree with the Master’s hand and plan.  I know without a shadow of a doubt His way, His timing is best.  But I need to process the fact that his timing is longer than I imagined.

For most of my journey I felt a security in my future.  I felt confident of His path.  Much of that confidence stemmed from my emotions and feelings; the perks of being less mature in the faith I suppose.  But now He has said I am more mature and He has treated me as such.  Instead of doing things for me He is teaching me to do them for myself. That’s been a paradigm shift.  One I haven’t welcomed freely.

The Father has been faithful in all things.  He has made promises and I have no doubt He will deliver.  But there is a process involved before the manifestation of those promises.

Psalm 105:19

Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.

Like Joseph my friends and I know this testing.  We have each encountered our own paths of being formed by the Master’s hand and we have overcome many things.  But it seems no matter how many victories I’ve experienced, the next level is even more fierce than the last.  I believe this to be true with marriage.  I believe the tests will get more difficult and that is why the process in singleness is so needed, to create a sturdy foundation.

I am a blessed woman.  God is faithful and my cup runs over.  But I am still waiting and I did not know the wait would be this long.

The process this thorough.

The mountain this steep.

SHALOM