It’s been a month since we started hanging. I knew I was attracted but had no idea God could use that attraction. I had no idea you would be a safe haven. A place of restoration. There are so many things I marvel at: the treatment of respect, the understanding of my value, the seeing of my true self.
For so long I knew I longed for love. As women we long for love. But what I’m learning in this season is that I also long for respect. I believe we have a deep seated longing to be pursued in such a way that causes a man to rise to the high standard our Father has set. But it’s only high because we are royalty. And it’s only high to those who are not.
I learned how to play the game. He made his move and I made mine. Check mate. It took everything I had but I sent the text, forfeited the date, knowing he was a fool.
But then you were there. Again. And when you speak I know it’s sincere. I know your words are true. And I think fondly of our budding friendship.
“You are my gift,” you say. And I don’t tell you, but I feel the same.
I sat in the Starbucks location 10 minutes from work using my early arrival as needed time to recoup from the day. I was meeting an old high school friend and would need the short break to gather energy for the meeting. Not because my time with her would not be enjoyable but simply because that is what introverts do: they gain energy during down time. When she arrived I was flooded with friendship from her smile to her perky nature. She made it known that she was outgoing, friendly and extroverted, all of the qualities most of my close friends have.
Over my standard café latte and her sweet treat (which turned out not to be sweet enough) we caught up on life. She advised it had only been a year since our last convo but I’m pretty sure it was longer. I need to look up the pictures on Facebook to confirm that though… She mentioned not having friends past certain seasons and I can identify. I don’t have too many I keep in contact with from before college. Most of my close friends are from that time of academic and spiritual endeavors on Miami’s campus. I shared I think that mostly has to do with me having a shared spiritual experience with those folks. When you become born again it changes you and sometimes old relationships do not carry over after this change. She too is a believer, like several others from back in the day. Our connection is always easy and comfortable probably because of our shared faith.
After about an hour of deep conversation she said, “Wow Nicole look at you compared to your high school self!” I believe she was inferring I had come a long way. I was too afraid to get more feedback on that statement though I wanted to ask for her to elaborate. I can’t even picture my high school self from an outsider’s perspective and how different I am now. I only know the process I have gone through for that transformation to take place. I assume she sees a more polished, mature version of myself. It is truly the work of the Father to polish and polish and polish those rough places around me and cause me to shine.
He is still polishing…
We talked about the ex and I was tickled at how distant that time frame of dating seemed. I thought back to how deeply my feelings were for that man back then. I thought I would never get over that breakup. But last night I sat in front of her, experiencing a greater level of wholeness I have never experienced before. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get this far. It took a lot of faith walking and fearful courage. But some how, some way, the prophecy I received long ago came to pass:
“You have come leaps and bounds” the prophet said. I knew at the time I had not but that the word was for a future time. To God His work in us is already finished so His view was that it had already happened. In my time it would take another 10 years…
Somehow the 10 years came and went. And then another year. And another. Now I am here, removed from heartbreak, still developing, still learning, and still walking by faith. But now I have something I didn’t have back then. I have a history with God. I have a history of Him showing out for me. Doing the impossible for me. And creating a masterpiece out of a life that was at one time in shambles.
He is faithful.
“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet [able to stand firmly and tread safely on paths of testing and trouble]; He sets me [securely] upon my high places.”
This week was full of both rest and fun. Rest because I had 5 days off work (3 of those PTO) and fun because many days were spent with really good people. For Thanksgiving my mom and I went out to eat. Normally one of us cooks (usually her) but this time she wanted something different. After dinner we treated ourselves to a movie and then met her friends for bowling. It was a full day and I was thoroughly stuffed. Then Friday I had some alone time. I went shopping on Black Friday at my favorite mall and marveled at the crowds. Still, it was nice to be around so many yet be “alone”. What can I say, it is the introvert in me that appreciates such an occurrence…Later on I relaxed with a 90s flick, only to meet up with a good friend for a latte at Starbucks. I enjoyed a grande and even a chocolate chip muffin. Then Sunday my friend and I made our way to the Browns’ game. I will admit I have lived here over 10 years and have never been to a game! Lucky me the tickets were free, the weather was nice and our seats were phenomenal. It hardly mattered we didn’t win. We had fun anyway…
But even in the midst of all these blessings I would be dishonest to say this holiday was not without its own difficulties. The lack of family was evident for me while watching my mom’s friend’s daughter and her fiancé interact. I glanced at her ring once or twice and stuffed down the never-ending longings…There were moments I was home alone when I really didn’t want to be. Instead I wanted people, I wanted companionship, I wanted love. But as I told my friend last night on the phone, even with all the people who do love me, they will still choose family over friendship. It is natural. God does set the lonely in families, but I often wonder, when will He not need to? When will I have my own?…
The holidays are here and they are festive. They are a mixture of fun and rest. They are a mixture of enjoyment and lonelineness. That is life. The movie my mom and I saw had a character who was facing a divorce. She was freaking out and said “What will I do now?” My mom replied at the large screen in front of us, “Keep living”. She was right.
One thing I have learned in this season is the importance of resilience and the ability to keep moving forward. Someone near you dies? You keep living. You lose your job? Keep living. Depression hits? Keep living.
It has been a year where I have practiced this concept to “keep living”. It has been the fastest year of my life. There were nights I didn’t think I would get through, but I am here. And you are too. And that means there is a hope for the future.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Wanna know what my favorite part of the day is these days? It’s coming home. When I come home often I am greeted with “welcome home!” And those words ring beautifully in my ears. Living alone has hardly been a thorn in my side. I’m an introvert, raised an only child, so alone time is precious to me. But there is a blessing in having companionship in your home and I have that gift in this season. My roomie of 1 month serves as that companion. We walked into this arrangement by blind faith, only knowing of one another through blogging and the few dinners we shared since meeting. But though we did not know one another very well, we knew His voice…
Not long after her arrival, we had another companion join us. Ben-Samuel.
Now this is an unusual name for a pet but he is not your typical cat! This cat LOVES people. He LOVES to be petted, touched, fed, and included in all household activities. He makes that very clear when we are home that he is to be apart of the conversation. One time he even moved a bag off the kitchen chair just so he could sit at the table with my roommate! It is a given that if we are eating dinner at the table, he will join. Literally.
Ben (aka Benny, aka Ben-Samuel) has gotten into a ritual of sitting on our laps when we are in the living room working on our computers in the evenings. He will even sit on the keyboard! I cannot help but allow him this treat as it clearly means so much to him to have this time with us. He does this whole ritual with picking out and perfecting his spot. It’s always difficult when I have to move him to get up for tea.
My favorite memory thus far is having him come in my room at 5am this morning to sleep with me. I had just finished working on my book and was laying back down when I felt the presence of little paws on my comforter. It was Ben. He was in heaven as he made his spot and I put my arm over him. We both drifted off to sleep.
God has been so faithful to show me His love through others in this season. I see it in the grace and forgiveness my friends offer. I see it in His financial provision through my landlord and roommate. And now I see it in Ben. Ben loves people. He is trusting and loving and all he wants to do is cuddle.
Ever have a time in life you feel lost? You struggle with your identity? Highlights of life and Jesus seem like distant memories and yet were only months ago? I could not relate to people who did not feel His presence or experience a continuous expression of His reality. I could not be there for my friend when she reacted to the perceived darkness and cried out for help in the only way she knew how; coldness and rejection and anger. I could not relate b/c I did not know the darkness. I have since experienced the darkness.
Now I know how to respond.
I know to respond in love and support and grace. That is how my friends are responding to me in this season. They are continuously there and once again, I am learning love through them. Even when I can’t connect with Him I have their faces before me reminding me He is there b/c they are there.
He gave me them.
I walked out yesterday. My emotions were high along with my insecurities and I walked out. I had never done anything like that before. I had never quit anything in my life but I was ready to change all that. I was wounded from the past and the journey and I was overwhelmed with the constant stretching and testing and so I left. But then I came back because God gave grace to do that. And I apologized, because He gave grace for that too.
When I can’t connect and I don’t feel His presence and it feels like I’m lost, I remember the words He spoke over my life. I remember His promises and His plans that have yet to come to past. I remember that HE is eternal and the fact that HE sees the end from the beginning means the words He spoke over me must come to pass because He saw what has not yet manifested. That means He is not done with me. And that truth comforts me.
I was listening to a sermon today about taking captive your thoughts and meditating on what is true. The preacher said to hold on to one thought that is true. To just hold on.
My thought is “He is not done with me yet. He will complete the work He started”.
These last few days I have been OVERWHELMED with people and their love. I know Christ is the One who gives good gifts and these people in my life are that good gift. In spite of my history of unhealthy relationships, drama and brokeness He flooded my life with love. My experience on this journey is such a testimony of His faithfulness. For some reason I believed a lie that I had anything to do with this faithfulness or His blessings, but no. He is faithful because He is faithful. That will never change and He doesn’t need a reason to be faithful. It is who He is.
2 nights before New Yrs I had a little gathering at my house. I served sweets and shared the slide show I made for 2015. The group that came were from various parts of my life and I was so touched they came to celebrate with me. Opening up my home was an act of faith and Im so glad I obeyed. We ended the gathering with powerful prayer and I know the Lord was pleased and heard us. A few scragglers stayed behind and we fellowshipped in my kitchen until well after midnight.
The next evening I kicked it with my girls and we brought in the New Year with old school 90s music on the dance floor. It was perfect. I just love when God gives you the desires of your heart😉.
Then my good friend came over the next night. We talked for 6 hours over a bottle of wine. We talked about the past, present and future. We talked about our desires and God’s faithfulness.
Just last night after a day of rest 2 more friends visited, one purchased 3 more of my books. I was so touched by the blessing of this unexpected ministry. To speak healing and hope to the brokenhearted is quite an honor when I myself have been so brokenhearted.
And I ended the evening with a last hurrah with the bestie from Florida. This woman whom I have known over 13 years. A woman who has loved me like a sister. I have been susceptible to the lies of the enemy regarding this friendship but am now healing and seeing truth. It is beautiful to see us coming into our own and manifesting true identity. Healthy boundaries and maturity go a long way. So does love… I know these blessings are a result of answered prayer. He is giving wholeness and abundant life. He is preparing me for the new season.
2013 was a rough year. For the 2nd time in my life my world was turned upside down and the thing about it was it had nothing to do with me. But I felt like it did. Because I had unhealed wounds. I thought I had healed. I even was in the process of writing a book about it at that time. But there are so many layers to the human heart and anyone who thinks they have “arrived” has to think again.I was out for a run and in my mind I was thinking about current events and I was pointing the finger. I was blaming and casting judgement and not being a friend. I was being a Pharisee. And God in His grace showed me that the very one I was judging had in the past responded to my sin in love. How could I not do the same? But I did not know love then. I only knew pain and I had let my pain respond instead of love. It was during that run that He challenged me to look inward. I did not want to. I was afraid and knew I would see something ugly. But I did it anyway b/c He asked me to. Because who can say “no” to Jesus? That decision was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It was making that decision and so many thereafter that set me on a path of wholeness. Up until then I had known His salvation and I had even known His healing but I did not yet know that even with His salvation and healing I was still a very broken person.
After that run I had many other runs and so many of them felt hard. I was running but I was empty and I could not run away from my emptiness. Instead of choosing to numb my emptiness with alcohol, attempt to fill it with food or another unhealthy, toxic relationship, I went cold turkey. I let it burn. I had no idea if the emptiness would ever end but one day I cried out to God in the midst of it all. And I realized He is what I need. I had been looking to others to fill me and meet my needs, but He was the only One who could.
I spoke with her recently and she said that every day she is learning to love herself. I am too. We realize now what we did not know so long ago, that we are broken. That knowing Christ was not a quick fix to life’s problems. It did not exempt us from the need to heal and get healthy and be whole. But it did promise us that eventually we would get there.
I function now differently these days. I have carved out a life for myself. I do not put people in that place in my heart. Again, I have not arrived but I am better than before.
Each day I learn wholeness.
I learn that my Maker is my Husband and He is for me no matter what I think or believe. I learn how to receive and give love. This will probably be a lifelong lesson, but I am so grateful He helped me to choose the more narrow way. I am so grateful that even though it has been so painful and humbling to face my brokenness, I chose not to self-medicate. I chose not to hide like Adam in the garden. But instead I turned to look inward and see what God was pointing at.