September 30, 2012

Forgiveness

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:56 pm by Broken & Brave

“But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw this they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.’ But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds…” Acts 28:3-6

 

I have been blessed with the tremendous opportunity to endure, with effort, to conduct myself as Paul would. What a privilege it truly is when we face trials of many kinds. I know this sounds peculiar, but I have come to appreciate that everything does happen for a reason and God does make beauty from ashes. I need to briefly recap a story, my story, and how the Lord has grown his Love, Grace, and Forgiveness in me at a new and deeper level. I feel these have always been virtues that fit into the category of my “strengths”, but God and his Word are True. He says, “whoever has will be given more so that he will have an abundance” (Matthew 13:12). He just doesn’t always tell us how He will be delivering it.

I have been bitten by a poisonous bite. I cannot use the word enemy, for I do not consider it so, but I have a person in my acquaintance who influenced another to take a great deal of things I hold dear away from me. I was deeply slandered. I was shunned. I lost business as a result when one of my clients was approached and asked to stop training with me. Yet another friend received an email which suggested that I was someone she should not be friends with. I became unwelcome in a select circle of relationships that I value and hold dear. Others were recruited to try and find things out about me (looking for my shortcomings I guess). In all of this, I was never actually accused of anything to my knowledge. Emotional anguish for sure, but on top of it all, it began when I was nearly six months pregnant. Pregnant women are already emotional, but to handle this all on top was much to bear. I am not perfect and I didn’t know what to do, but I did my best to follow my guidelines, the Bible, for direction in handling the situation (Matthew 18:15). For many months I endured agony and became insecure in many of my friendships. Many people shied away from me because they were afraid of being rejected themselves or they simply didn’t want to know, though they could see that something was not right. I’m not sure which hurt more, what happened to me, or the revelation of who truly loves me and sincerely calls me friend (and those who didn’t that I thought did). But, as I said, my Lord has worked it all for the good, His good, in me.

As time lapsed I was indeed like Paul with the viper bite. I was never poisoned. I did not fall “dead” and the friends who pulled away have come back to me, seeking my forgiveness and apologizing for doubting my character. Through it all, my God gets the Glory, for I have lavished my accuser with love and forgiveness, grace, mercy and blessing. What should have been disdain and bitterness growing in my heart, has actually blossomed with deeper love and conviction to pray for my accuser and that the Lord would indeed bless this individual. I have compassion and empathy for truly the hurts must run deep within. Though I petitioned for forgiveness of any perceived offense and was denied, I will yet bless again.

I share this story from a place of obedience. I dreamed of this all through the night, only to awaken by the scriptures of Paul running through my head. The Lord whispered via the Holy Spirit, “This is you, Nicole, you have been bitten, just as Paul, but you were not poisoned…you did not die. You have chosen to bless where others might have cursed.”

Through the duration of this difficulty I have been asked time and time again by those close enough to see, “how can you be so full of love and grace Nicole? How can you have so much forgiveness in your heart?” I reply, “It is not I, but the Lord in me”.

Through it, I am actually grateful. The pain has been enormous, wouldn’t want to repeat that again, and my children hurt as well (that for me was the hardest part).  But the Love I have received is amazing! I literally feel I have become a conduit for Healing Virtue to flow. I think I can help you overcome and become a conduit, too. Here are a few basic, starting guidelines:

  1. Sit with a pen and paper. Pray and ask God to bring to your recollection anyone (even if it was 20 years ago) you have not forgiven. You need to ask God to help you for there will be folks who get some name floating through their mind and they will think, “But I forgave them a long time ago?” Maybe you thought you did and God wants to get that vessel totally clean. Don’t worry about the length of your list, some people are quick to forgive and don’t carry it, while others struggle in this area more. Do not compare yourself to others. We all have areas of greater strength and weakness.
  1. Pray a prayer of forgiveness for each one and the offense you need to release.
  1. Repent and ask God to reveal and relieve you of any sin you have committed against another, even if it was without knowing you caused offense (sometimes you’ve done nothing and it’s just the other persons issue, but still, let’s cover all the bases!)
  1. Worship. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness, for his healing power and the opportunity to extend to others the same grace and forgiveness he extended to you.
  1. Pray through Ephesians Ch. 6 the full armor of God…EVERYDAY! You have to be guarded every day. People are NEVER your enemy. The powers of darkness and principalities are what you are contending with, they just target and utilize defenseless or unsuspecting people. But you are not defenseless! You have God on your side and he can protect you from offense. You can choose to not let people offend you. This does not mean you won’t have hurt feelings, but it’s what we do with the hurt that causes us to turn a healthy or unhealthy corner. Choose life! Protect your thoughts, attitudes, feelings with God’s armor and his garment of praise. Worship will do so much for your state of mind. Trust me.
  1. Read the Bible everyday. You heard me…every day. If you can read the label on a can at the market, the newspaper, a road sign, then you can find time to read one bible verse a day. The goal is to increase, but if this is an overwhelming idea to you, let us start with something.
  1. Pray for those who have acted against you, if you have unresolved conflicts (Ephesians 4:26). Pray blessings upon them not curses. Apologize if you are at fault. Sometimes, even if you don’t feel you are at fault, you should apologize because your strength to do so may run deeper than those you are in conflict with. Apologizing does wonders for all of us, it frees us from any clutch pride might try to grab at our heart.  Here is an example of praying blessings, if you are not sure what I mean. Bless ________ with a deeper grace and compassion for others. Bless _________ to see as you see Lord. Bless ___________ to have a deeper and more intimate walk with God. Bless _________ to see all the beautiful blessings in their life. You can pray specific. If the head of your homeowners association won’t stop harassing you for the length of your lawn you can pray they would look at your lawn and see perfection! I’m being light hearted now, but you get the idea. You can pray the blessing, within the context of God’s Holy Word, specific to your situation. It is also important to pray God’s will be done. If that requires God blessing everyone to see what that is.

There now, you have seven pointers for living at peace with others… one for every day of the week. We are called to be salt and light. The world is watching and they will know us by how we love one another. I know it will be hard at times, and when you commit to being a deeper version of Love, Forgiveness, Mercy, Grace, you will indeed receive opportunities to fail. Do not be discouraged, with Christ you are more than a Conqueror and you can do this! When my difficulty began, I already knew God was grooming me to heal through unconditional love and acceptance of others. It was like a huge test where the enemy of my soul, the Accuser of man, was taunting me and saying, “So, you want to love people healthy and strong? You want to encourage people to do and become more? How badly do you want to do that? ….ZAP!”

God likes on the job training. So I think he understands that we are going to make mistakes, but if we persevere we will eventually get it right.  God is faithful and he is the One who began a good work in me, and in you. He is more than faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

 

Life is a tremendous journey to be embraced and enjoyed, but we all know that life also has difficulty and hardship. Who we are and what our character be, is presented when we face trials and how we respond. Paul’s life is an example of one that was, after his conversion experience (salvation), became completely and zealously sold out for God. He was committed to spreading the Word and Truth of who Jesus was and how we can be forgiven. Paul’s life was one full of suffering and trials, yet, he did not waiver in his commitment. He did not lose his zeal or fervor for what he so ardently believed. We can all learn from his example and live the life we were called to with zeal, fervor and conviction. If God can do it in me, he can do it in you. I believe in your moral character and conviction to make a difference, be a difference.

The Word of God says that he (Jesus) did not come that we should suffer wrath. The Great Shepherd, comes with his Staff to gather every sheep that strays, becomes lost, or becomes injured….gathering them unto Himself..

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ Luke 15:4-6

“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9

 

“The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression…” Numbers 14:18

September 24, 2012

Great Leadership…servant leadership

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:15 pm by Broken & Brave

“In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and it’s gates have been burned with fire.’ When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.” Nehemiah 1:1-4

Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of the Persian Empire. A cupbearer is a very noble and trusted position. Nehemiah was a close confidant and servant to the King. Imagine the kind of man Nehemiah must have been. It is documented that he was a man of action who possessed strong leadership skills. Nehemiah was also known to be a man of prayer. He had been given a noble place and position on earth. In modern times he would be a leading political advisor or cabinet member. How prestigious to be in such noble standing. Nehemiah had what many dream about…prestige and power. There is no doubt people paid special attention to him and treated him special, because he was! So, why would a man of such position request to leave his post to go to a people who were facing hard times and harsh conditions?

Nehemiah understood that God had gifted him, anointed him and called him. He possessed all the leadership and skill that was required to go and help these people, his people, get back on their feet and rebuild their homes. Rebuild their lives. Rebuild their city. Nehemiah was willing to sacrifice his own will and wants to serve others who needed him. I wonder if he had reservation? He was reluctant to ask the King (Neh. 2:2) and though we don’t know, I would venture to believe he probably didn’t want to go. The luxury and comfort of palace life was much more enticing I am sure. He knew his life was about something bigger. He was apart of something bigger than himself. He gave up so others could go up.

“…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

Have you ever known someone who was incredibly gifted and talented…successful in a specific field or trade? Have you ever seen someone squander what had been given them?

Last night I watched a movie from the 90’s with a few family members. We chatted about the actress in the movie. This particular actress was very popular in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s, but then she sort of disappeared from the movie scene. So, we got online and looked her up. Everything we read said that in the early 2000 she had several plastic surgeries and that her appearance became so unnatural looking, she could no longer get jobs. Then, we saw several other stories of actresses of all ages (not just aging actresses, but younger one’s as well) who had ruined their career because of too much plastic surgery. The world loves movies and actors. They have power and prestige and fame. I’m not saying I think the American fascination with Hollywood is healthy, but it is very real. How sad, people who have been gifted to entertain, for theater, for acting, squandered or missed the mark because their focus became too much on how they “look” rather than their art, their skill, their gift and how they can use it benefit others. What these actresses thought would help their career, ended it. I use actors as my example, but how many other examples can we think of? American politicians are another example where people have become cynical because Americans don’t find our political leaders to be believable. It doesn’t matter how much charm they have if no one believes they are looking out for the best interest of the country.

However, the key to Nehemiah’s success, the key to our success, lies in our ability to walk with continual self-reflection and with a repentant heart. We are who we are because God has made us. He gives and He can take away. We do not always understand the ways of God, but we can trust that they are best and he has our best interest at heart. We must continually die to our own wants, desires, ambitions and will to take up his. He cannot use us to attend to the things that break his heart, until we allow him to break our own. Our heart is full of selfishness, that old sin nature. Before Nehemiah petitioned the King to leave and go to Jerusalem, he prayed a prayer of repentance on behalf of himself and his brothers and sisters in Israel. Nehemiah understood what it was to use his gifts, talents and anointing to go where God would send him, and to do what God would have him do and say. He did not concern himself with what others thought, or how he “looked”, or what he wanted personally. He died to himself and his own selfish wants or desires to do what broke God’s heart. Nehemiah understood that to be a great leader you must forfeit your own rights to take up the rights of others. Sacrifice.

Each one of you has a purpose God has planted deep within. God has given you talents, gifts, and life experiences to help shape and cultivate the right atmosphere for those gifts to be used as He would like to use them. Venture to dig deep within yourself to pull out all that He has hidden inside of you. Finding more than you thought you had or could do. To give more than you knew you could give. To become more than you ever dreamed you could become…not for self glory, but for God’s Glory. Even if things look good with you on the surface, the really good stuff is down deep. A whole deeper level of greatness God has waiting to unearth inside you, like a hidden treasure to be shared. We must enter His Courts with a humble and submitted heart that first praises Him without forgetting to search out our own heart and pray prayers of repentance and submission to the King. We are all called to lead, but do so in different capacities and levels.  Let us, each and every one, aspire to be a great leader, a servant leader, with a heart of compassion and mercy that is willing to sacrifice ourselves for the better of those God wants us to serve and lead. Together, we can rebuild the “walls” of broken people…just like Nehemiah.

“Change our hearts of God, make us ever true. Change our hearts oh God, make us more like you.” Kenny Carter lyrics

September 17, 2012

Trust+Faith=Obedience

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:24 pm by Broken & Brave

I was 23 years old and I was leaving to Northridge, California, to pursue a Master’s degree. Five years of college lead to this path, this pursuit of my dream to help people. Helping people was all I really cared about. I had an intense interest in nutrition, fitness and counseling. I was at school to become a Marriage and Family and Child Counselor (MFCC) with an emphasis in school counseling. I connect with people pretty easily and I am empathetic. I can hear people’s hearts. Hearing a heart is something more than just hearing someone’s words. But really, even though I was excited about this leg of my “life plan” journey… I was running from God’s design on my life.

I know the Lord was alright with me counseling and having an education. He is the Dream Giver and placed those desires and the ability for it within me. It was how I was going about the call on my life that he wasn’t so thrilled about.

Not here.

Not now.

Not this school or town.

He wanted me in Stockton.

I was called to Stockton.

I AM called to Stockton.

I think I knew all of this is the bellows of my being, but ran away,  anyway.  I partly ran away because of John. I knew he was God’s plan for me and I was afraid of marriage. I was afraid of that kind of commitment and that would interrupt my plan to finish school and marry closer to 30. I didn’t want to marry until I was 30…that was the “plan”. So, I ran. I was also running away from my hometown, Lodi. Lodi is the cutest little town ever, but not all that exciting to a girl fresh out of college. I even convinced a dear friend, also pursuing a Masters in Counseling, to choose Northridge as well. Guess what happened…God made me miserable.

Oh, I was having fun. There’s a lot of ways to have fun in Southern California. I also have family down there and family makes my heart happy…but I had no peace. I would dream these challenging dreams and have troubled sleep. I felt anxious for no reason. I had a few issues with my job- I didn’t like it and the pay wasn’t enough. I couldn’t find another one. I began to pray about what to do. I was recongnizing that something didn’t feel right.

I wasn’t all that versed in following God’s lead at that point in my life. I tried to hear him. I needed direction because this discomfort I didn’t like. I was willing to try something to get rid of the discomfort. You know that feeling, I think it’s called, “conviction“. So I prayed a few weeks and  decide to leave and go back home- peace would flood my heart. Then, I’d change my mind because I didn’t want to move. I loved my apartment. I loved my roommate. I loved my relationships down there and I was having so much fun. What about the inconvenience of trying to get out of a lease? (Aren’t we humans so good at rationalizing and justifying our choices?) I’d lose money- money from my security deposit (which wasn’t cheap because I lived in a very nice apartment building). I’d lose money from my investment in school. I’d lose time to reach my goal as I’d have to quit school and start all over the next semester. This was a very valid reason because my program was a two year academic portion with 3,000 hour requirement for practical experience, thus average time of completion would be 3-5 years. Aside from all of this, I’d have to go through the process of applications, interviews, etc. required for this type of graduate program.  I definitely didn’t want to do that again. Yet, the peace….it was not there. So, I’d pray. I sought wise counsel. I decided to move home. Ah, there was the peace. Then I’d change my mind back, no peace. Then..well you get the idea.  I finally made a decision and stuck with it. I wanted to do what God wanted. Even when I wasn’t doing a whole lot to serve God I always had this deep desire to please him. Just like how a little child wants to please their parent. I was just always really soft to God that way.

I was wise enough to know that He could see what I could not. He knew my future and all the details I did not know. If He was leaning on my heart to leave, then I should listen. So, I moved home. It wasn’t easy. First, my landlord didn’t get it. Then, my roommate didn’t get it at all. She was not a Christian at that time (but she is now Praise God!) so she couldn’t understand why I would just pack it in so far into the plan. She rebuked me pretty sternly. I probably deserved it. But I was in now, I wasn’t turning back because that peace hadn’t left since I decided to leave, so I knew…I knew. I had friends to explain all of this to also. My professors didn’t get it, no one did. But I was blessed that John was there for me to be strength in a season of my life when I can honestly say, my strength wasn’t so resilient. My parents were easy, they always try to be very supportive of my decisions (I am so blessed that way, they are a true blessing). My roommate actually decided to move home also. Boy, did I feel awful. I had convinced her to move with me and here I was moving home. God is always in control and sees everything we cannot. It was a huge blessing in the making and I had no idea. I can list many blessings from my obedience to that still quiet voice that was only measured by the presence or absense of peace. Here was the greatest blessing…

I moved home right around Halloween. The following January, only two months later,  a very massive earthquake hit the Valley and my apartment complex was at the epicenter. My decision to follow the still and subtle peace in my heart saved both my life and that of my roommate. We had lived on the second floor and the entire complex collapsed. God is so good and he knows. He took care of all the details and fears and inconveniences of my decision and he saved me in so many ways. Imagine the impact all of this had on my roommate and her family. It was a pivotal point in her becoming open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever had a situation or circumstance that you tried to walk away from or get out of? Have you ever had something bigger than yourself direct and reroute every path you chose to only bring you back to the thing he called you to in the first place? I have, many years ago…what did I learn? I learned it was an expensive and time wasting side trip to just move on and do my will. But through it I learned more about listening to God direct my steps. I didn’t hear God so clear as I hear him today, but it was a beautiful beginning to much growth in being still, listening, hearing and obeying.

I’m there again, on a road I’d love to jump off of. I cannot escape what I am called to. In my shallow thoughts it would be easy to sprint away, but I know better…when you live a surrendered life you have to follow the steps he orders…like it or not. Then you just pray that what looks impossible, difficult beyond my strength, challenging beyond what I can persevere, requiring more courage than I can muster…I remember that it all works together for God’s Glory and He can see what none of us can. If we would only just listen for the Voice of Peace and let him handle the details. Everything is going to be all right. If he has put you to it, he will guide you through it….that is a promise.

“But my righteous will live by faith and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. ” Hebrews 10:38

September 11, 2012

How fast does a Red fern grow?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:25 pm by Broken & Brave

How fast does a red fern grow?  These are the words I would hear in the quiet of the night. The first time I heard this question was February 14, 2001…Valentine’s day. Then, I didn’t hear anything of it for another six months. How fast does a red fern grow? I would hear it again while performing the mindless little tasks of the day. How fast does a red fern grow? I thought to myself, “Lord, you have asked me this before” as I recalled to myself, but enough time had lapsed that I had forgotten all about the puzzling question. Then, I heard this question over and over at random points of time over an approximate 18 month period. I would hear the question run through my mind, but then nothing, no additional comments came with it. The whole thing got me curious and more than just a little perplexed. I never bothered doing any research on the plant. I would only reply in prayer, “I don’t know, how fast?” I will be honest, I would also wonder why this was important and what it had to do with me. However, I am sharp enough to know that if the Lord was whispering it, it was for a purpose and it had complete relevance in my life. Then it came…the question once again, asked in the same manner it had been asked every time before, “Nicole, how fast does a red fern grow?”  Only this time I heard more. You better believe, when the Lord whispers something perplexing into the stillness of your heart and then permits it to linger there for a time, you pay attention when it arises again. I quickly got my journal and pen…

How fast does a red fern grow…as fast as I tell it to.”  You’re probably thinking, “that’s it?” I know I was. Then, came more…

A red fern is a unique, flowering plant that only grows in the deepest, darkest portion of the forest. Even though it receives minimal sunlight, it manages to get ample ultraviolet rays and nutrients. This plant is unique in nature and rarely found by man. This plant is special. All of these words flooded my heart and flowed through my pen. I was bewildered, inspired, aroused and amused all at the same time. I knew nothing of this red fern, so how was it that I “just knew” all of these facts? Were they actual facts at all?

At this point, I was definitely curious enough to do a little research. What I found was that everything I had written in my journal was absolutely true! John and I even found a photo of the red fern that was taken at Volcano House National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii in May of 1999. This is significant because the red fern was thought to not actually exist. John and I found a forum of botanists who discussed the fern and learned that there were purple ferns and autumn ferns, but no red fern, or so many thought. The fact is, the red fern is so rare and the color shows bright but only under the perfect conditions, so the chances of capturing it by the human eye (or camera) are small. This entire process, of hearing the Lord, receiving the insight and then finding the research was from 2/14/01-4/10/02. It was a season of my life where I was growing in my relationship with God by leaps and bounds through trial and dark things and much pain. But my God gives beauty for ashes and this was some amazing fruit showing itself in the form of spiritual gift of Knowledge. I was more than happy for all I had endured to receive such a unique and specific gift. However, I do not write of the red fern to tell you of my journey to hearing God’s voice, though I believe it is important for you to know because I am asking you to trust me to encourage you. You are reading this and therefore you are giving me your time and attention and that is valuable. So, it is important you understand my credibility to hear the Lord, not just my credibility to love and encourage your heart as I know you can see is true. I want to impart Pure Exhortation to you. Pure exhortation that first and foremost comes from the inspired word of God and secondly comes from the Wonderful Counselor he has placed inside me. Did you know you are like this fern that turns red? You are! Allow me to show you how.

This plant is rare, unique, special…just as you are. The Lord knit you together in your mothers womb (Psalm 119). It was not by accident or happenstance that you should exist on this planet. You were designed with purpose on purpose. Every experience of life, both the good and the bad, are allowed and are used to shape you and develop you to grow, to shine, to add color to this world. You are special. God made you and if you are in darkness, he will find you. He already has found you. He found you in all of your darkness and wants to rescue you from this pit. Your darkness may be any number of things, you know what it is and you are probably thinking of it right now. He wants to rescue you, like a Knight in Shining armor (men need that too you know!). Despite a lack of light, he wants to nourish you, even in the dark place, heal you, love you and he wants to watch you grow. All gardeners love to see their botanical gardens flourish and grow! Fix your eyes on him, Beloved, fix your eyes on him. Allow the Maker of Heaven and Earth be like ultraviolet rays upon your wilted leaves and petals bringing out your luster and unique color. He will be like a heavy moisture, just like the damp soil of the tropical rain forest. As the moisture increases, so does the shine of your leaves…your heart…your thoughts. Your countenance becomes radiant. The leaves of the red fern will lean toward the soil around it that contains the most moisture. Lean into Him today, he wants to soften that thing that has made you hard. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, leaning not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your path straight” (Prov. 3:5-6). He wants to bandage that ache and pain that has plagued you all of these years. He wants to erase and change the perspective of that hurt that stung so deep as a child. He wants to raise you up and showcase you just like the Red fern. He sees the past, the present and the future. He has created all things and knows all things. Let him create a new heart in you. He is full of Hope for you. He wants His Hope to shine in you and through you…for there are still countless others out there who have no Hope at all. I BELIEVE IN YOU! Shine true, Shine bright, SHINE ON in everything you say and do! His thoughts are upon you and so are mine.

Blessings, Nicole

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” Numbers 6:24

September 5, 2012

Besotted

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 pm by Broken & Brave

Have you ever heard the story of  “Cyrano de Bergerac”? It was a play written in the late 1800’s about a man in the French army, named Cyrano. Cyrano was a soldier. Cyrano was a passionate and strong-willed man known for many pursuits and ambitions which included magnificence as a duelist, poet and musician. However, Cyrano had an enormous nose that he was extremely self-conscious of. He was hopelessly in love with a woman named, Roxane. Cyrano had little hope that she could ever have interest in him for she was both beautiful and intelligent. He had so much self-doubt because of his appearance, that he failed to acknowledge his own worth as a man by the measure of all he was gifted in. He didn’t feel he was good enough to have her love. As a result, instead of realizing the love he could have had, he battles his three greatest adversaries of life; falsehood, prejudice and compromise. His story ended in tragedy that could have had prosperity had he shown genuine sincerity to himself first and also to Roxane.

Do you ever feel like Cyrano? He slighted himself the love of a lifetime because he had self imposed limitation. Isn’t it true we are our own worst critics and some never learn to get past the pain of self induced limitations.  I imagine this is because we know ourselves the best. We know our own private thoughts about ourselves. We remember every hurtful word ever spoken over us. We know our darkest secrets, or maybe not so dark secrets. We keep a hidden file in our minds of every bad deed or blunder we have ever committed. We know our every flaw and shortcoming. Sure, we are aware of our strengths as well, but most people, even if they never verbalize it,  tend to measure themselves by their areas of weakness instead of staying within their strengths. For some people this painful awareness becomes a major stumbling block to true victory in life. Let me now transition to another man by the name of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah, like Cyrano, was a man of action. Nehemiah was not a soldier like Cyrano, but he did serve a King. In fact, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the King of Persia (Neh. 1:11). Nehemiah was of Jewish descent and longed to go the aid of his people who desperately needed help rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah sought the King and received permission to go to the people and build a wall. What he did was so much more…he built an ever-enduring legacy of leadership amongst a people who were broken down in heart and spirit. A people much like Cyrano.

What was the difference between Nehemiah and Cyrano (aside from one being a character in a play and the other an actual figure in history)? Nehemiah revered his King, but he also knew that he had FAVOR with the King. History states that Nehemiah was very frightened to speak to the king of this matter. So he prayed, mustered up the courage, and acted despite his own self-doubts.  There is a King in heaven who favors you and you do not need to muster the courage to approach His Throne. Would you like to know how?

Yours is a heart that intoxicates Him. When we seek him out it’s like our prayers begin to cloud the judgments of man, which tend to be harsh, and open the gates that release healing waters. Waters so pure and clean a path is carved in the darkness for God’s pure light to pour out with such force that it breaks free all who are bound by captivity. The result is freedom from the past, freedom from broken heartedness, freedom from heaviness, freedom from issues of worth, freedom from self doubt…freedom from pain. So may I ask, “why are you so hard on yourself?” Maybe it’s time to look fear in the face and just stop being so afraid. It is time to stop being like Cyrano, focused on his nose attached to his face, and to look out and beyond the shortcomings of the flesh or circumstance and look to future things. Who said you weren’t enough? Why can’t you be a person after God’s own heart? Why can’t you have an unspeakable love that so edifies your soul you feel content at last? Why must you continue with this doubt and shame? You can have favor with both God and man. Favor is favor and is as blind to flaws of humanity as romantic love coerces the heart.

God is respecter of no man, but lover of all. We do not need to earn his Favor. We do not need to convince him to love us. Imagine, for just one moment that you, too, were like Nehemiah.  YOU are cupbearer to the King. What kind of drink offering would you bring?

He longs for your praise and adoration of who He is. Not because he has ego that needs to be engaged, that’s not it at all. Journey through your imagination with me for a moment and dare to dream of a love so deep because the Lover of your Soul is enamored with you. This love is a reality. You don’t have to hide your flaws and imperfections because he knows them, each and every one. His eye and mind are on something entirely different. He is captivated when he catches your gaze and He is enamored by your smile. Like a mother with a newborn child, she glows with radiance as she looks upon her child. She knows the child isn’t perfect and the child will have setbacks and failures in life. SHE DOESN’T CARE. All she is focused on is the love in her heart and the desire to care for and nurture a love so rare it must be Divine, it must be Sincere, for why else would her heart swell? Why else would her joy be so grand? Why else? She is in love.

When we pray to God and offer simple gratitude, our heart to his, it is like a fragrant flower releasing its sweet pollen…an aroma so pleasing. Your prayers do not have to be long or wordy. There is no need for impressive vocabulary, religious rituals or even a hint of eloquence to our speech. It simply needs to come from the heart. Try it and see for yourself. You are the one who will feel blessed and lifted up. Your mood will lighten. Your perspective will begin to brighten. Your heaviness of heart will dissipate as you begin to anticipate more time with Him. You may begin to believe in yourself and see past the nose upon your face, the circumstances of your life, past failures and mistakes, into the realm of unlimited potential.

You are a glorious crown in the hand of a King. There is no shame, no defeat. No awkwardness of appearance like we see in the example of Cyrano. There is only a covenant of Love He desires to keep. So, approach His Throne and approach others with the confidence of Nehemiah. God loves you and longs to lavish grace and tender mercies upon you.

He is besotted.

“Lord, bless us, each and everyone as we thank you for who You are and that you made no mistakes when you made each of us. Bless us to see ourselves and to see each other as you see us. May we dare to dream the biggest dreams our minds eye has ever seen. Thank you for life and that you know the answer, every last one, to every question we have. Thank you for loving us. Amen”

Blessings be yours this day, and forevermore. -Nicole

September 4, 2012

Grace

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:29 pm by Broken & Brave

 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace. Such a small word, but containing so much power. It represents gentleness of heart. Grace is softness. Grace is moisture in a sun scorched land. What does it mean to have grace? Receive grace? Show grace? Grace is a peculiar thing, because many speak of it, want it, need it, yet it illudes so many who crave it. Grace by itself is impossible without God. The word of God says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God…

We cannot earn grace. It is a free gift. We are not good enough for it, none of us. We are altogether unworthy of it. Romans 3:10 says this, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” I don’t say this to depress you, but rather to encourage you! It is wonderful that we do good deeds. We feed the poor. We give to charitable causes. We are polite to people. We demonstrate courtesy, but still, the fact remains…no one is righteous. We cannot earn the grace that God bestows on us.

I have been refined by the Fire of Affliction and God had developed in me His heart for grace. I believe I have a supernatural anointing for it. That may sound boastful to you, but it is not intended so. I’m sure I still have a lot to learn about grace, but I press forward everyday. For truly, I have nothing to brag about but hear my heart in this…

when you are gifted in a specific area, you get regularly tested in that area. Here is what my God has taught me over the years. When we show others, through love and grace, they have value and they are not the sum of their past mistakes, something unexpected and supernatural happens inside them. It is like a tender shoot of a seed that you have planted and watered and now you see the shoot, the stem, the bud come forth. You nourish and cultivate an atmosphere of love and that flower grows and blossoms and becomes a shrub…or even better the acorn becomes the oak. Just like the acorn, with the hardest of shells, much moisture penetrates the tough exterior and new life comes forth. People are not much different. The toughest of hearts can become moist, soft, new. The toughest of people are frequently the softest of heart, but the cares and wounds of life has made them covered. I believe it is an unconscious form of self-protection.

I look at people and see what God sees…the heart. I choose to view people through the eyes of “possibility”.

“God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only son, that whoever should believe on His name should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

One of the all time most quoted verses. But what does it mean? It means when God could have looked down on creation and decided to forsake us all for our mistakes, flaws and shortcomings, he didn’t. He looked down and said in His own heart…”I want to have relationship with them.” So, he made a way where there would otherwise not have been one. He showed favor. He showed grace, amazing grace, and he saved me. He saved you. If you don’t know Him this way, you can, today. He takes all the “ick” inside that makes us hurt, that makes us feel badly about ourselves. The things that cause some to not like themselves. He takes it and throws it into a Sea of Forgotten. God will never remind you of your past. All we have to do is lay it at his feet, apologize for it and learn from it. But that’s it. It’s gone…forever. Sometimes, there  will be a tug on your heart, encouraging you to go make things right with people, but either way, he loves you with an unspeakable love that brings Him joy.

Now, allow me to apply these truths to daily life and relationships. Sometimes it’s hard for people to get along. People have so many different personalities. Humanity has so many different cultures and backgrounds. There are so many different ways of being raised, and how we are reared as children shapes our perspective…good or bad, or just different. So many things to disagree on…but getting along is possible. We have to look at each other always filtering our perception through the eyes of grace. Join me, as we practice each and every day, how to look at others with eyes of forgiveness, eyes of compassion, empathy and humility. Let us love others as we long to be loved. We may make mistakes and fumble at times, but when we are vulnerable, one to another, there is a myriad of opportunities to enjoy each other and experience a true communion of heart with others.

The power to change somebody’s life lies upon our tongue. Will we bless or will we curse? Abundantly, shall I shower blessings upon those who’s hearts have been hurt, tattered and torn, for I desire to be a gardener of man’s heart. I want to see the bud, the blossom, the acorn pour forth and raise up a harvest of goodness in others, just as I desire the same shown back toward me. But grace is only grace if you give it without knowing if you will indeed ever receive it back. Though it is hard, with God all things are possible, because he gave Grace first and so I Believed.

Blessings be yours today and forevermore. -Nicole

“You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” Psalm 45:2

September 2, 2012

Exuberant Joy

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:39 am by Broken & Brave

 “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.” Is.60:5

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What does it mean to have joy? To love is to have one’s heart set afire with joy. Exuberant joy reaches through the narrow crevices of soul, entangling the senses and provoking the mind to delicate things…things that stir us…things that move us. Joy exudes out of us through the soul. In the words of Mother Theresa,

“Joy is the net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Joy, I believe, is so different from happiness. Joy comes with the deep satisfaction of loving others through serving them. We can serve people in so many ways. Someone once told me that “love is in the details”. That resonates with me. The possibilities to love through the details are endless. How beautiful.

Love is in a friendly smile. Love is in checking on a friend just to say hello or dropping a note in the mail to say, “I’m thinking of you.”

I truly love handwritten notes and I’ve been known to write them frequently. I have a friend who is so good at it, I am inspired by her thoughtfulness displayed to others through her deliberate monthly, weekly, daily efforts to love others through note writing. Think of the money and time she spends just to express appreciation and add value to the life on another. I am so blessed to be a recipient of her encouraging notes that always come right on time. How beautiful. When was the last time you wrote someone a note? Not an email or text or facebook message…but a handwritten, stamped envelope note. This is only one example of joy expressed through giving. Joy of serving can come through hospitality or acts of service. Giving of your time and talents to bless another for no personal benefit except the benefit of the joy that comes with giving.

I used to have a neighbor who was a very generous woman. She loved Christmas. She would buy endless amounts of presents for her family. It was a bit overwhelming actually. Then, one year there was a child of a family they knew who became terminally ill. She began giving tirelessly of herself through fundraising and her own generosity to help the family pay for all the medical expenses associated with the illness. She told me later that it had been her best Christmas ever. She had been so busy helping this family that she bought very little for her family that year, but  “Something was more satisfying this Christmas.”…she pondered to me out loud. I just listened as she drew her own conclusion, “there is more satisfaction and joy in helping others than blessing ourselves.” She vowed to never have big gift Christmas’ again. Instead, they would serve in the community others in need. How beautiful.

People who give love to do so, it brings us great joy. It is an adamant expression of our heart. I find great joy in encouraging others. When I edify another’s heart it strengthens my own soul and fills me to overflowing with glee. It is the joy of seeing others excel. It is being more concerned about lives changed, hearts touched than it is about who gets credit for it. We, who encourage, delight to polish the luster of the gifts of another and allow their time in the spotlight to shine brightly and gain adoration.

As some of you may have seen on facebook, my husband posted about a person who had taken my previous two blog posts, in theme and exact analogies, and wrote her own post. This person is a repeat offender toward me in this capacity. The oddity is that in the past I have offered to share my creative writings for her use. So why would anyone steal what has been offered for free? This baffles me and I do not declare to understand it. At first I was hurt by it, but then I thought to myself…”focus on the positive, Nicole.” It is always about making a difference. I do not give this person permission to liberate my creativity. Though the manner it was done is not all right, my God can gain Glory through lives changed, hearts touched. My reach is expanded either way.  So, it didn’t matter that I wrote it and she took credit, my God can still use it.

Now, my purpose is sharing this particular story is this…

I find great joy in writing, inspiring, encouraging through the written word. Those posts were a joy to create. I guarantee the woman who took my thoughts and re-penned them had satisfaction of personal attention gained from her postings, but she still lacks the joy found from the process of creating. The irony was that God works all things for our good and rewards us in public for things we do in secret. The controversy of it increased my blog followers. Can I just add, I really don’t like the term “follow”. I’m not Jesus, I need no disciples, but I long to reach out and disciple hearts, creating disciples of men to bring Glory to my God. This too, brings me joy.

So, may it be so, that my Lord would set my soul afire to serve others in such a way that my joy would be made complete. I would be captivated by the melody my heart stirred up in the process of serving others and bringing God Glory. I will continue to use my pen, to speak to men, to encourage through creative liberty of heart, soul, and mind.

May the God of all Comforts bring you Exuberant Joy and Peace that stretches beyond your human understand, this day, and forevermore. -Nicole