I had a quick chat with a perfect stranger today. She is 20 years my junior and has the great privilege of sharing my birthday month 😌. Though we didn’t talk long, the conversation was still significant. I told her not to rush turning 18, even though I felt really old saying it. “Once you’re grown, you’re grown,” I advised, in my now late 30-somethings’ voice. She laughed and nodded, then said, “I just hope it’s not as horrible as everyone says it is.”
Hmmm…interesting. I interpreted her to mean that “growing up” was horrible. That “being an adult” was horrible. Speedily, memories raced in my mind of my own experience, and in the little time we had to chat at the Walgreens register, I shared, “I definitely don’t think it’s horrible, but there is responsibility. You will, however, have opportunities that you wouldn’t as a kid, and hopefully you’ll grow and mature.
We went our separate ways shortly after; me, to my 2017 Ford Escape, her to her register as a cashier at Walgreens. Still, her statement lingered with me. I reflected back on the last 20 years, which were far from horrible. I felt that most of my greatest experiences were actually happening now, in my 30s. I realized that, though life has been far from easy, the experiences and opportunities I’ve had are probably very unique from many outside of my community, and academic acquaintances.
Even during the pandemic, I went whitewater rafting with the guy I was dating, spent Thanksgiving cooking a full course meal for him and another loved one, decorated my home and Xmas tree with the same guests, in addition to my new kitten, and even last month, hosted my dear friend of 18 years, along with her lovely family. For a single living alone, it’s been pretty action-packed, (even if there were ample lonely nights and grief stricken days woven in between the action.) And, let’s not forget I have written over 900 pages within the last year! Yes, life has not been stagnant, even if it hasn’t been what I imagined.
So, what would I tell my 18-year-old self who was engaged to a man she thought was the man of her dreams, but who ended up being just short of a nightmare? Well, probably that things do get better. God has a way of answering prayers in His own way. Life will be filled with people, and love, and really good experiences. There will be more heartbreak, more pain, more laying down of her desires, but she would grow, and evolve into a classy, sweet, compassionate individual who somehow, someway, was still walking with Him. And really, He was still walking with her.
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!
“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.
Psalms 139:1-3 NKJV
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.” God is acquainted with all of your ways. Do you know what that means? That means He knows stuff about you, you don’t even know! He knows your inner workings. He knows your mindset, your tendencies, personality and desires of your heart. And He loves you in a way He doesn’t love anyone else because He tailor made you in your uniqueness to be loved in that way. He fashioned and formed you so that only you bear a certain aspect of His image and His heart. Only you can demonstrate the heart of God in your community, family, work environment, school and place of residence in just that way that you do.
God is into you.
He’s into you like no one else could possibly be into you.
My mom is super into me. I’m an only child so I think she’s into me more than even other moms for that reason alone. But even her love for me fails in comparison to the Father’s love. I’ve seen this love. I’ve felt it. I’ve been overcome by His adoration and passion and intimacy. But I also fight the lie that tells me He’s distant. The voice that says He’s this pie in the sky dream, Someone not intimately involved with His kids. But that voice opposes my experience. When I remember my experience I remember His promise to me:
“I am going to hook you up Nicole!!”
He said this through a friend. He said this in my spirit. He said this through divine sets of circumstances. He spoke in my language because my language is apart of me and He is apart of me and I am apart of Him.
I’m grateful we have a God who is not distant or aloof or uninvolved with every aspect of our lives. Instead He is ALWAYS working thing on our behalf to reveal our identity in Him. He is always fighting for us to remove the false and unveil the true. He is a good Dad with good things in store. He is just waiting to hook us up with His BEST.
Now that I’ve walked some with Jesus I can look back on the path and see His hand, working, molding, shaping and developing. I kicked and screamed during most of that development but still, He had His way.
A friend of a friend had to give up a relationship recently. She cried, he cried and maybe even God cried. But she gave it up because God told her to. I was super impressed she obeyed so quickly, thinking back to my own similar experience nearly 2 years ago. It took me more than 2 wks to obey. I have never heard God so clearly in my life. Before that time I really thought I could choose. I had waited so long, surely it did not make a difference at that point if I settled? Of course I didn’t call it settling back then. Instead I justified and reasoned and ignored the red flags.
Thank God for His mercy.
The decision to lay down that relationship was probably the most rewarding decision I have ever made but at the time it felt like one of the most painful.
God met me and did not leave me hanging when asking for my obedience. He manifested His presence and revelation like never before. In the coming year I experienced His love in a way I didnt even know existed.
Now I think about His love and struggle to receive it. It is so overwhelming and intense its hard to believe someone could love me that much, especially the Creator of all things!
I realize in this season that knowing His love is the foundation of wholeness. He is after me to know this love regardless of my thoughts on the matter. He has been after me since birth I just didn’t realize it. All gifts He gives are to keep directing us to His love. He tests us and matures us and calls us higher. He calls us to the deep.
It is all to know His love. To be satisfied by it. And to offer it to this lost world.