August 28, 2012

My Father is a Gardener

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:14 pm by Broken & Brave

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch in me that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1

I love to garden. For me, time spent in the  garden is a time of reflection, meditation, worship and prayer. I can allow my thoughts to go to deeper things while I achieve the work that needs to be done in the yard. I get many thoughts of the things I see in the garden, the green, the furtile soil, the color, the bloom, even the weeds, that I can relate to life. I love gardening analogies for there are so many that pertain to life and the condition of the human heart…the contents of our soul.

Some weeds are beautiful to the eye, if you don’t  know your garden well, you might consider them a flower and let them be. But if they remain, they will grow at a faster rate than the plants they nestle near, thus growing around the plants and choking out their life. So you must pull the weed, ever so slowly, for every gardener knows that if you pull a weed from dry soil quickly you will break the roots. If you moisten the soil and then pull gently, you get the whole root and eliminate the entire weed. Allow me to relate this to life.

The weeds in our heart are the undesirable traits. The flaws and shortcomings, bad habits that we would like to be rid of but struggle with. When we don’t manage them, they get out of hand and seemingly control our thoughts, attitudes and actions. We need to carefully tend to these issues, addressing each in a healthy way. We can do so by reading, learning, praying, growing. Remain  teachable and glean from the wisdom of those who have overcome. This is when we become successful at pulling the weeds from our heart. If we do rash or hasty things to curb our shortcomings or cover them up altogether, then they only re-emerge at a later time.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

We live out in the country. We have neighbors, but everyone has a 2 acre plot of land, so our gardens do not touch. However, if I do not stay on top of my garden I may find a spontaneously sprouted oak tree in my flowerbed. Our old house was in the middle of town, so the lots were smaller and our yards touched our neighbors yard. I recall that my neighbor was a wonderful woman, but she was a single mother who had very little time to care for her yard. She would perform two big yard cleaning days a year. As a result, even though I was diligent about the care and maintenance of my yard, I would have to contend with weeds that would germinate and migrate from her yard to ours. In essence, my weeds were attended to, but I was having to deal with her weeds as well. This could have been a source of frustration for me, but I had grace and compassion for her, for what could she do? She had minimal help to speak of.

Have you ever been in a spot where you are doing great in your life, things going well, but someone who’s life is full of weeds comes along and “disrupts” things for you? What do you do? The closer you get to a person, the greater the chance of their problems affecting you. Do you build a wall around your garden so you can ignore their need for help? Or do you shoulder the burden and show love?

It is a whole lot easier to love those who love us back or are easy to love. It is true, some people are more pleasant, their lives more attractive, making them much easier to love. But God wants us to love those who are hard to love also. We are commissioned to love the unlovable. By doing so you will bear fruit, fruit that will last. What is good fruit?

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.” Luke 6:44

I mentioned we live out in the country and get some “spontaneous” growth in our yard. Just a few days ago my husband picked five pumpkins for me. That’s right, pumpkins. I didn’t even know pumpkins grew in the summer, but there they were. Five very attractive pumpkins!  We have this spontaneous patch growing in the back of the house. Last spring we had some dirt brought in to build a hill. Some of the dirt must have come from a plot of land that grew pumpkins because this is where the pumpkins grew. Now, I did nothing to nurture or care for these pumpkins. They look amazing, but I can’t imagine they would taste good to eat. I’d say they were “ornamental” fruit. Some trees or vines bear good fruit, fruit that is pleasing to the eye but also good to eat and nourish us. Some trees bear ornamental fruit. This type of fruit looks really good, but tastes terrible! I think this type of fruit is an example of the areas of life that are for “show”.  Things done for show are good deeds, but are done because we feel we have to or are aware that people might be watching us and we want to look good. As Christians we are always being watched to see if our actions match our words. I want to be the kind of person who does good… producing good fruit that others can eat…fruit that I can share. I don’t want to ever do anything for show. There is truly no reward or personal satisfaction for such acts of kindness. I think people can tell when our kindness is done with a genuine heart, maybe not at first always, but eventually, yes, our heart shines through.  Let us do all things for the right reason, because we truly care.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22

It is my desire to be a Watchman of Compassion. To love a people strong, to help them overcome the weeds in their life, to prune the garden of their heart, that they might break forth and bud into new growth, new life, and experience the exhilaration of the Abundance in the God I serve. Let us not only produce good fruit, let us produce such a harvest of it that our branches hang low under the weight of the goodness we produce!

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

 2 Cor. 3:3 & 4

August 25, 2012

True Beauty

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:14 pm by Broken & Brave

“The greatest treasures are those invisible to the eye but found by the heart.” Unknown

Women are so beautiful. We were created soft and delicate, yet immeasurable strength lies within each woman. We love to feel pretty, to look pretty…and we are, for we are the apple of our Lord’s eye. Did you know that? You are the apple of his eye.

As woman, we spend money on our beauty. We all have some sort of beauty regimen we go through to prepare ourselves for the outside world. We buy cosmetics to paint our faces and highlight our strong features. We purchase bath soaps and gels to make us smell good. Please don’t forget the hair products, to get each hair in just the right place. Some of us wear a lot of make up, some of us little. This makes us unique and special, a true reflection on the exterior of who we perceive ourselves to be on the interior. All of these things are so fun and wonderful, but don’t you know that the truest of beauty comes from within?

For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This is why I want to take a quick look at Esther and draw an example or two from her life.

Now, if you don’t know the story, Esther was a common Jewish girl who lived in the Persian Empire. Xerxes was king and had summoned his wife, Vashti, to come to him. Vashti failed to submit to her husband’s wishes, refusing to come to his court. Xerxes thereby banished Vashti, declaring she was queen no more. Wow, that sounds harsh doesn’t it? But this is not the focus of my story. This is where Esther enters the scene. The king pronounces the need for a new queen. All the young women of the land were gathered to be prepared to meet the king and have the opportunity to be chosen as the new queen. Before meeting the king, each girl had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments. (Esther 2:12) It was time, her time, to go present herself before the king. I wonder what she was thinking? She was probably frightened. After all, this was the king of an Empire! I would have to imagine she felt a little self conscious and insecure. She was being ushered into a room to be looked over for her physical appearance. That sure could make a girl feel inadequate. I cannot imagine what that would feel like. The closest glimpse we have today is the continual bombardment of the media, placing pressure on women to feel they have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, be a certain dress size in order to be beautiful or accepted. Rubbish!

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor…” Esther 2: 17

This is where the story truly gets exciting to me! Esther was a mere “nobody” by the standards of the Empire. Esther was chosen by the king as most beautiful of all the women. This, my friends, is how a God of all Creation…the King of all kings looks upon you. It’s true! This idea may take some time getting used to. I know it did for me.

I grew up in a home with a very tall standard of excellence. I am so grateful for this, for it truly taught me what excellence looks like and it set the bar high for my expectations of myself. However, this is the perspective of the Nicole who has been through the “beauty treatment” of the Lord. My whole life I felt, “invisible”. Yep, you heard me, I felt invisible. I was very shy growing up and not very outspoken. That alone could make someone seem invisible! I tend to have a perfectionist mindset, so instead of learning to try and accept failures as a growing process, I would be too afraid to try and so I became apathetic under the assumption that sounded a bit like this…”You’re just Nicole. You can’t do it perfect, so don’t bother doing it at all. You are not enough.” I really had subconscious thoughts like that! Sad, I know. But I think everyone has negative thoughts float through their head about their shortcomings, real or perceived. Thoughts that are deleterious to our self worth. Fortunately, I serve an amazing God who brought all of this to my attention while in my early twenties. He took me through some “beauty treatments”. He lavished me with loving soap that cleansed my self perception and then cloaked me in a covering of His perspective. He spoke words of affirmation and affection over me and healed this brokenness of feeling invisible that lingered in my heart. Beautiful. He made me beautiful, just like Esther, just like YOU.

The King of all heaven looks down on you from his throne. He climbs off of his throne to come to you, to adore you, to look into your eyes and call you, “Beloved, come to me, I chose YOU and I want to make you queen of my heart. All you need to do is let me inside of yours.” He takes the old self out…the Vashti inside all of us, and replaces it with Himself…Pure, Perfect, True. Our beauty treatments change us and make us more like Him. He enables us to see ourselves with unveiled faces in His image and humility. Truest beauty comes to life. It was there all along!

You are beautiful in so many ways. Allow the God who cares, care for you today. Give him all the things that make you feel badly inside and allow him to display you, like a fine piece of art, for Him to adore. You are beautiful. You are beautiful. I love you…Nicole

August 23, 2012

I made it!

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:11 pm by Broken & Brave

Just a little note to get things up and running. Just set up my blog account and trying to figure it all out. So bear with me! It may sound cliche, but I am truly inspired by anyone who is willing to spend their valued time reading my posts. So, I will do my utmost to make it time well worth your while. It is my goal to inspire, encourage and pour value into every human being I come into contact with. You are valued, loved and blessed beyond reason. Sometimes, life gets us down, when the majority of the things we encounter daily are negative. So, let me put a little positive into your day. I have a lot of stories…A LOT OF STORIES! No doubt will they blow you away.

I do not shy away from sharing my faith in an incredible God who has brought me so far in this journey of life. It is an adventure! I guess I am a closet thrill seeker. I would much rather take steps of faith and dare to live the impossible than to play it safe and watch others do it. Let’s Believe together. Your dreams, my dreams, let us dream together. For a strand of two or more is not easily broken. Thanks for taking a moment to check things out and let’s get this blog thing started! Blessings be yours today and every day…Nicole

Oh, I almost forgot! I would LOVE feedback on anything I post or anything you would like me to write about. I can’t promise I will always be able to deliver, but with the right inspiration I know I can pull out something of worth. Couldn’t do any of this without the inspiration you all provide me. I thrive on people… YOU ARE POWERFUL!