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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

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A Sunny Day

Today is my 36th birthday.  When I look back on my life journey these 35 years (and 1 day) I have lots of thoughts and feelings.  I am in awe of how the Father manifested Himself to me as a 19-year-old.  Even though I believed since I was a child, it wasn’t until college that my intimacy with Him exploded from being a believer, to becoming a follower.

For 13 years straight, everyday, I woke up to intimacy.  It was an intimacy I had never known.  It was what caused me to leave my fiancé, move in with my mom, and wait for the next steps.  As a college grad that is what He told me to do, so that is what I did.

I did not know then, that that was just the beginning.  That along with His intimacy, I would learn sacrifice.  I would learn that,

Love.

Is.

Sacrifice.

I am so blessed to have had such an amazing experience with the Most High.  That He would count me, a lowly black woman of a single parent home, born out of wedlock, to a hardworking family who made ends meet by whatever means necessary.

That He would call me, Daughter.

I counted it an honor to be His child.  To receive His love when I was so undeserving.  I counted it an honor to be His.  And in the midst of a dark and broken world full of pain, I was sheltered.  Not that I myself hadn’t experienced pain, but He was always there.  Showing me how to overcome it.

Applauding me when I did.

In the midst of that journey, He was producing something in me.  He was creating wholeness and a legacy that is still to be revealed.  At the same time, He was teaching me something.

He was teaching me how to suffer long.

In this season the lessons have intensified.  The stakes have gotten higher.  No longer have I wanted to be a student in what felt like an advanced course.  No longer did I want to die.

I realized, while standing at my mother’s grave last month that the path will always be too difficult.  There is a strength in me, an inner strength.  And it has been passed down in my bloodline from one woman to the next (our family is made up of strong women).  But no matter how strong I have been, I do not have the capacity to make this climb in and of myself.  It will always be too difficult for me.  I need Him.

In so many ways, now is my future.  As a teenager when I laid down my life for Him and surrendered my passions and desires, I hoped for my future.  I hoped for what is now.  I had an idea and an expectation of what that now would look like.  I believed “If I do things Your way, then eventually You’ll do things my way”.  But He doesn’t.  It is His way.

Always His way.

This last season has changed me.  Trauma does that.  In some ways it is a good change.  Now I know the compassion of Christ like I have never known it before.  Now I know what grace really is.  It sustains you when you face your darkest fears.  It covers you when you make your greatest mistakes.

I was talking to E recently and I told him that every year it rains on my birthday.  As much as I love birthdays and I love to celebrate, its discouraging that every year it either rains or snows in Cleveland, Ohio.  “It is at least always grey,” is what I said to him.  E being the eternal optimist responded, “But what if it isn’t?  What if its sunny and warm?”  I just shook my head at him and rolled my eyes.  “I have been on this planet for 35 years and every year it is rainy and cold.  Trust me.  I know.”

It is going to be 52 degrees today and sunny.  52 degrees in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3rd.  It has never been 52 degrees in my recollection of birthdays.  Ever.

I miss my mom.  I miss her because she was always the one who celebrated the loudest.  I miss her because I never imagined she would not be in my future.  She would not be in the now.

But it is 52 degrees today.  And I am enough of a prophet to know when He is showing me something.  “The season is changing”, E said.  And my heart lifted a little.  But not too much, for fear that it would be broken again, but just enough to where I was open.  Kind of like me saying, “If that is the case God, then show me”.

I welcome a change in season but struggle with expecting it.  I have had so many false expectations and did not realize it until they did not come to pass.  I guess that is apart of maturing.

I will spend time with loved ones today.  I’m keeping a small circle because my heart can’t handle a large one.  There are already people celebrating my birth and that is such a blessing when the one who gave birth to me is no longer present.

I’m grateful for His provision and His sustaining power.  It really is supernatural that I have never went without, even when I have not had a job.  I’m grateful for Him teaching me so many things in the past and maturing me to this point.  I would not have become the woman I am today had I not listened to His leading, especially when I didn’t agree with it.

I know that He is faithful and right and true.  It has just been difficult after such a long journey to trust.  Job was able to trust even though he was being slayed.  That is the level of faith I feel He has required.

I’m grateful He is more gentle with me than with Job.  He handles me with care.  Even in the midst of the storms and tests, He protects, only allowing so much, though it was more than I would have preferred.  He surrounds me with His people and meets me with His Word.

He guides me with His eye.

I am grateful for the foundation He laid, to sustain me through the journey.  We can never fully comprehend what lies ahead.  But we know that He is there.  Always there.

Now is my future.  And I don’t know what the next season holds.  But I can look back and see He has always sustained me.

And I know that is one expectation I am safe to have.

SHALOM

 

 

 

 

I Wish That God Would (Just) Say Yes

There are memories now. They catch me off guard when they make their way from subconscious to consciousness. From the recesses and dark crevices of my mind. From back then to now as if now were  just minutes from then, instead of years.

The memories consist of her and I, always alone. And though the situations and circumstances change, the thing that stays the same is my longing for more.

I remember we were at someone’s wedding reception. It was one of her friend’s kid’s. We had been to so many it’s hard for me to remember who’s what we went to. But I do remember we were there, and how much I wanted my own.

I was 27 then, around the age where elders told me I was an old maid, but when the average of my generation were just pairing up. Marrying off and settling down to have their children. Apparently millennials were waiting longer to get married.

Still, I’m pretty sure they didn’t wait this long.

At this particular gathering we had a good time. We put on those silly costumes and masks and dressed up for the photo booths so many people have at these parties. We were mother and daughter and this was a moment of bonding. It wasn’t easy back then, celebrating for others when my own desire nawed relentlessly from the inside, but I did it. Because I had hope.

I remember sitting by her side, at the park, discussing our future. Or rather my future. It was unsaid that mine was really hers and that she would be there when our dreams were fulfilled. My dreams were her dreams so I think it’s safe to say they were ours. We sat there and talked about my grandma and I felt the pain of there just being us 2. I thought nothing could be worse then there just being us 2.

I was wrong.

I read C.S Lewis’, “A Grief Observed” recently. I read it within 2 days. I highlighted every other page, text messaged my friends the parts that resonated and then gifted my pastor her own copy.  She is grieving too.

I was so in awe of Lewis’ transparency. I couldn’t believe a theologian scholar could be so in touch with his emotions, and that he could adequately express exactly how I feel in this season. (To me) It’s like he’s swinging at God, taking punches. The religious mind would be horrified at such a picture but I think once a level of suffering is experienced, one understands that God Himself gets it, allows it, and just dodges the swings.

A flood of questions have come to my mind since I stopped running. They take turns pouring out like the memories that push themselves to the front of my mind. Mostly they start with, “Why”.

Why did You do it this way?

Why did you take Your presence away when I would need it most?

Why could you not have just said ‘yes’?

I’ve been on this journey long enough to know He is not entitled to us.  He does not have to answer to us. But sometimes, He wants to. Sometimes (and in my case, most times) He responds because we are in relationship together. So I keep asking the questions even though I don’t have many answers. Still, I think apart of Him (and maybe all of Him) is happy I have made this step.

Now atleast we are talking and I am not running.

At least not as fast.

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

Heartfelt

This weekend I had a hot date. With my mom that is. We played pool and had drinks and had fun. She won 2 out of 3 games but the fact that I even won 1 and came really close to winning another is impressive. She’s a pretty good player and I, on the other hand, am not 🙄🙄. But even though I’m not the best pool player that did not keep her from rooting for her baby girl😊. I marveled at her heart for me. She wanted me to win even if it was at the sake of her losing. That is the heart of a parent. A good parent that is…

In my Healing the Father Wound class someone shared a word of wisdom I marinated on. She said that parents are just adults who do not have it together. So true. As children we want them to have it together. Even as adult children. But who can say that they have perfect parents? No one.

I was so blessed by my mom’s heart to be “for me” and the fact that she would want me to do better than she did. The Father looks at the heart.

I’m grateful to have a mother with a good heart.

And there are so many around me with good hearts. There are so many who are “for me”. In this difficult season of waiting many continue to reach out. I know it is really the Father’s hand reaching out through each one.

Still, often He has seemed so distant, like an onlooker objectively observing. But then I think of my mom and feel His love for me. The kind of love that causes you to want your child to do better than you did. And whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, is worth it.

That is the love of the cross.

That is agape.

From this weekend…

SHALOM

Dating Has Purpose

Once upon a time I believed I could not and would not date.  If dating was the antonym of courtship, then I chose courtship.  I even share this in my first book.  But then things changed.  I changed.  The years rolled on and I found myself walking out what my friends and I call, “extended singleness” (dun-dun-dun).

God says very clearly in the opening book of His Word, “It is not good for man to be alone”.  Then He brings Adam a help mate.  We can interpret that statement many ways.  Was He saying it’s not good for man to be without a spouse?  Or was it not good for man to be without a community in general?  If the latter, then why wouldn’t He just create a community (a group of people who can support and relate to Adam) instead of a spouse?  But let’s not get too far off topic.  Having a theological discussion is not my intent.  I simply want to share how my ideas on dating have morphed…

This last year has been interesting.  Early at the beginning of it I ran into “the ex”. You know the person it didn’t work out with but it was so significant that now they own a piece of your history and even a title: “the ex” (dun-dun-dun).  So I ran into the ex.  And he had a date.  And I was feeling some kind of way about that.  Because I myself did not have a date.  Instead I had a friend.  (AKA, I had community). So I let Jesus know I felt some kind of way about that.  It involved some tears and venting and frustration on my part.  Which is nothing new for Him because I feel that’s the benefit of being His kid.  We can be REAL.  Even when REAL isn’t as pretty as we want it to be.  So I vented, and the response I got was, “I am already moving”.  Hmmm, what does that mean? I wondered.  Well that was early 2017, and here I am at the end of 2017 and I think I have an idea of what He meant:

In the course of this year I have had more dates and dating activity than I have had in the whole 13 years of my singleness.  I can’t say that they were all positive experiences.  There were definitely times He had to deliver me from my foolishness and heal me from my pain, but there was movement nonetheless.

I talked to a friend recently and his experience of singleness has been the opposite of mine.  He has spent most of it dating and now he just wants courtship.  He wants to just meet the person, commit to them and get married.  In a perfect world I think that is ideal.  But we do not live in a perfect world.

As one who spent most of their singleness not dating and being a proponent of courtship I told him I see the benefits of dating.  Dating teaches social skills.  Dating teaches you about the opposite sex.  Dating, if done with respect, can help both parties develop emotionally, mentally and maybe even spiritually.

I look back on this last year and I think of the joy I had when I was pursued.  It was affirming.  I got to see how men rise to the occasion when they see a woman of value.  It was a reminder that I am a woman of value.  I got to enjoy companionship from the opposite sex.  I got to learn more about a man’s world which can be very different from a woman’s.  And I also got to see the Father’s desire to give me good gifts.  Even when He knows I will ruin them.

In the garden Elohim tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He tells him this knowing he will do it anyway.  Knowing that once he does he will have to be kicked out of the garden.  But for a period of time Adam and Eve enjoy the garden.  They enjoy the gift.  In my own life I can see how the Father gave the gift knowing that it wouldn’t last and I think He did that because the joy I experienced in the interim was so great it outweighed the grief that would eventually entail.  That speaks to me how much our joy means to the Father.  As difficult as this path has been for me I can see many times where He has brought me joy in the midst of it.

Dating has had purpose in this season of my life.  I have not expected it too.  I did not think I would be one who would date.  I also did not think I would be single this long.  But alas, life is never how we think it will be and the evolution of who we are continues to unfold as the years go by.  At least, I hope for me that is the case.

My inner circle is changing.  I have close friends moving into different stages of life while I stay in this one.  And in the midst of the pain I experience from these changes I see the Father’s compassion.  He has never left me alone.  There are many times I feel alone however I have never lacked in the area of companionship these 13 years.

One of my very good friends confided in me about how difficult this season has been for her, especially around the holidays.  In the midst of our conversation she realized it was in part due to a lack of friendship.  Yes she had community, but she did not have peers who were in the same season who could empathize with her pain.  I have had that in abundance and talking to her made me even more grateful for this gift.

It is not good for man to be alone.  Thankfully I have yet to have that experience.

SHALOM

When Your Best Friend Gets Married

My best friend got engaged.  We knew it was coming but then again we didn’t.  We talked about the possibilities and played out the scenarios but nothing makes it real until it really happens.  Well it really happened.

And all of a sudden, memories of our shared singlehood flash across my minds’ eye.

Like that time we laid in bed giggling all night about her then boyfriend and the possibility of them getting married (they didn’t by the way).  Or the time we lay in bed on my trip to her beloved Haiti sharing the sorrows we had of walking out extended singleness. I prayed for her that night, feeling the weight of her longing and pain.  I had such an amazing time during my visit.  If only I would have known that would be the last one, where she would be–well–alone.

Or the time she turned one of those early 30’s numbers and I talked to her for 2 hours on the phone (because she was in another country and that’s all I could do) about how God was trustworthy, and extended singleness was hard, but He was still good.  Only a few years later would her season change.  But we didn’t know that at the time…

I never knew this woman would become so dear to me.  She entered my life when things were questionable and I didn’t think I needed any more friends.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I have needed her desperately especially in this season.  I have needed her to intercede for me and war when I couldn’t remember my own identity.  When I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the face staring back.  I needed her to call me each morning when I was recovering from one breakup or another.  I needed to hear her voice when I no longer could hear the voice of our Father, and I questioned His existence…

She was faithful.  Faithful to be with me regardless of my choices and decisions.  Faithful when I wasn’t sure if I was coming or going.  We walked out a difficult time, but our sisterhood added sweetness to it.

We are like minded.  We have similar values and a similar desire to manifest true wholeness.  We share a call to stand out and be set apart in this generation.  And for the first time since we met (a nice summer day in 2007 that we both remember) we are in different seasons.  Very different seasons.

God is purposeful.  And I believe each season is to prepare us for the next season.

This has been a season where He has not ministered to me directly by His Spirit.  Instead He has used people and circumstances to reveal Himself.  She is one of those people He has chosen over and over again to do so.  Her pureness of heart, vivacious appetite for life and fierce loyalty are character traits I admire and am not deserving of.

When your best friend gets married you have a host of emotions.  SO much change.  So little time.  The time you waited for has finally come, but when it comes, it comes suddenly.  It is a reminder that seasons do change.  And that we must cherish them while they are here for that very reason.

When your best friend gets married, you wish her the best because she is so worth the best.  You are reminded that as similar as you are, and as close as you have been, you are still two different people.  I have my path and she has hers.  And God willing, we will still walk together on this path of life.

Congratulations to a woman who has been more than a friend to me.  She has truly been a sister.

Always rooting for you Ji❤️.

Love,

Nicole