December 27, 2012

The Golden Rule

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:39 pm by Broken & Brave

Everyone wants people to like them and to get along well with them. Everyone wants to be esteemed and loved. I don’t think anyone wants conflict or enjoys conflict. With this being said it makes me wonder?

How can you ever expect others to be gracious and forgiving to you when you walk around harboring bitterness, resentment and  are lacking  forgiveness toward others?

If you struggle with another or maybe more than just one other…here is a strategy for you. Most of my life I am quick to forgive and do not hold onto offenses. Through the years the Lord has buffered and refined my ability to walk in grace with others and not get offended. All of this is by God’s Grace and design…he made me and wired me, fashioned my thinking and heart. I also have a strategy for grace. Sort of my own personal guidelines for unity  with the rest of humanity. Nobody taught me to do this, but I have been doing it as long as I can remember. I will also attribute this to God, for as I said, He made me and if there is any good in me it is because of HIM. Maybe my personal strategy is something worth passing on. Maybe what I do could work for you, too. Let’s start this New Year out right and not just sweep your offenses under a rug, burying the hurt down deeper in your heart as though it were a trash compacter. Let us sweep them up and clean them up for good!

Forgiveness can be hard when a hurt runs deep, but it is possible.  If I am hurt by another, or tempted to become offended and remain offended, I place myself in the offenders shoes. I try to see the situation from their point of view. Many times people do thoughtless or inconsiderate things and are completely oblivious to the fact that they have offended. This is the easiest for me to spot and so I just grace it over. I let it go. However, other offenses can run deep and cause tremendous heartache and pain. What to do then? I do the same. I place myself in the other persons shoes. I try to see things from their perspective. I try to evaluate or understand the filter (perception) that they are looking through.

Ultimately, it is the filter that is the issue. We all have them. Our perceptions are based on previous experiences, expectations, hurts and ideas. Perception is not always Truth, but perception is one’s reality. Given this knowledge, I ponder in my mind, “what is going on in their own life that could be influencing their reactions/behavior? What is going on in their own heart? What internal battles to they face that prevent them from being amiable?” I may not know all the details, but by noticing behavioral patterns and then with the active help of the Holy Spirit (intuition, discernment, revelation) I can narrow the scope of observation and connect my heart to theirs (even if they are completely unaware). You heard me…I connect my heart to theirs. I do so through prayer. It is hard to dislike someone you are actively praying for.

This may not help them at all, but it helps me to guard my own heart from walking in un-forgiveness or spite. Though I am not a mean spirited person by nature, I actively work to allow no room for malice, envy, bitterness or strife to form upon the tablet of my heart. I do so by first finding my compassion for their heart…their hurts…their struggles or insecurities. I’m telling you this works! I say it works, but I also admonish you that it will require a generous act of your will to try. I cannot teach anyone how to walk with others in peace, but I can hope to at least be an example by my own conduct and standards for myself. The essence of integrity is caring enough about your own behavior that it is accountability enough for good decisions.

I recognize that this blog might make others feel uncomfortable or edgy. I am not trying to speak to anyone specific. I am merely observing many, many people get offended and taking up the offense of others quite easily. I am witnessing a tremendous amount of competition that is not healthy, among “family” members, which ought not happen. In fact, this very thing breaks my heart. If my own personal strategy gives another an idea about how to tackle a hurt they have battled, then I have been successful. I desire to see all love and live at peace with each other. There are so many things to be celebrated together that are far more rewarding, enjoyable and joyful than squabbling over idle differences. Everyone is different, that’s what makes each of us unique. There is a beautiful but delicate balance to be found between holding with passion and intensity to all that you value (for it is hard to separate passion and intensity…I believe it impossible to have one without the other) and getting along despite differences of passions and pursuits.

Be a  Peace Maker. Live at peace with others. Make right your relationships before partaking at the communion table together. You will sleep better and enjoy greater blessing and prosperity in all you endeavor. I believe this with all of my heart.

Blessed Holiday Season and a Happy New Year. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Greet each new day with a smile on your face and commit to making it the best day of your life…and better yet, the best day of someone else’s life. Make your life count. Create a legacy that others can believe in and hold on to with passion and zeal.

Wow, imagine the possibilities.

You can do it, I know you can. You have all that is takes to be magnificent.  ~Nicole

December 21, 2012

A Bride For Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:38 am by Broken & Brave

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Prov. 31:25, 26

 

“Here comes the Bride, all dressed in white…”

That’s how the song goes, “here comes the bride, all dressed in white”, the wedding march. Weddings are beautiful. I had a very traditional and formal wedding. I do not think all weddings need to be formal, but ought to reflect each individual and their uniqueness…special in every way.  I made a facebook post earlier this week about how I selected Ode to Joy Beethoven’s Symphony #9 as my wedding song. I actually felt God had lead me to it, the story of how it was selected was unique (I had not ever heard the song before). But that is a story for another time. This story, is about THE Bride. I’m not writing about the bride because it’s my anniversary (that would be a very good reason and would make more sense actually) and I haven’t been to any weddings recently. This has been on my heart for more than a month. I have had several friends celebrate anniversaries recently and I celebrate with them, for theirs are true examples of God’s blessing of marriage. Though I honor my friends, near and far, (I am amazed at how many people I know who got married in December) this is not the reason I have the bride on my heart…

I have the bride on my heart because of Christmas.

Christmas, as most people know, is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Christ came for His Bride, also known as the Church or Christians (followers of Christ). My story tonight, is about this Bride…the Bride of Christ.

So, here we are. Approaching Christmas, a day that forever changed the life of one young girl who had the Light of a Star in her eyes. Mary saw all that the Lord has promised come to pass that day, as she held baby Jesus in her arms. The angel had prophesied to her of this event. She walked through much to get here, but held tightly to her courage and kept her eyes on the One who is Faithful.

We are the Body of Christ, those who Believe in the One who is Faithful…JESUS.

  • Just as Mary had to follow the Star, keeping her gaze upward for leadership and guidance on the path to Bethlehem….so we shall keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
  • Just as a bride, all dressed in white, keeps her gaze upon the groom waiting for her at the end of the aisle, neither looking to the right or the left, she has her eye on the prize….so we shall keep our eyes, not fixed on others and what they are doing, but we keep our gaze upon the One who is Faithful and sent his Beloved to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. He was born under the scorn of illegitimacy by the worlds standards, but under a promise of salvation by the King of all kings standards. We keep our eyes on Jesus.

Keep your eyes on Him…be of pure and wholesome talk and absolute cleanness of heart and the motives within…we are the Body of Christ…the Bride of Christ, all dressed in white.

“Love… even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-28

Below I would like to share a resource offered at my wedding. We had a program with all of the usual information plus a little something extra…the explanation of the traditions of a Christian wedding and how they grow out of God’s covenant with Israel and his relationship with His Bride, the Believer (someone who believes Jesus is the Christ, Son of God).

HERE YOU GO!:

The Seating of the Guests

Ushers seat guests of bride and groom on opposite sides of the sanctuary to provide a covenant setting. “…She is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant” (Malachi 2:14)

Seating family and friends on each side of the sanctuary or room symbolizes the sacrifices they have made in order for the bride and groom to enter into this covenant.

How does a covenant differ from a contract? A covenant is based on trust. A contract is based on distrust. A covenant is based on unlimited responsibility. A contract is based on limited liability. A covenant cannot be broken if new circumstances occur. A contract can be voided by mutual consent.

The Aisle Runner

The white runner in the aisle is a symbol of walking on holy ground. A covenant is not made of merely between two people and their witnesses. It is made in the presence of God, and He is actively involved in the agreement, since it is God that joins them together (Matthew 19:6).

When Moses was in the presence of God, he was told to respect that presence with the command, “…put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5

Special Seating for the Parents

 

The parents of the bride and groom are part of the marriage covenant. The commitments they make during the ceremony are just as binding as the vows of the couple.

The final responsibility of parents for their sons and daughters is to determine with them God’s will for a life partner. Thereafter, they serve in a chain of counsel for them and their children. Parents enter in as authority, and are a line of counsel.

Groom’s Entrance

By entering first, the groom signifies that he is the covenant initiator. This is important because whoever initiates the covenant assumes greater responsibility for seeing it fulfilled.

God initiated covenants with Noah, Abraham, and David. Christ initiated the covenant of salvation with us. God is still at work to fulfill His covenants, and Christ will soon appear with the sound of trumpets to consummate the wedding with His Bride, the Church (1 Thes. 4:14-17)

Father Walking the Bride Down the Aisle

 

This has twofold significance. The father is saying to the bride, “I am endorsing this young man as God’s choice for your husband, and I am now bringing you to him.”

At the same time the father is saying to the young man, “I am presenting to you a daughter whom I have earnestly endeavored to train up as a pure bride.” In Scripture the father is responsible for the purity of the daughter before marriage. Paul illustrates this responsibility in his preparation of the bride of Christ. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The White Wedding Dress

The white wedding gown symbolizes the purity of heart and life for the husband is responsible in life of his wife. During marriage, he is to cleanse her by the Word of God, just as Christ purifies believers by the Word. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives…” (Ephesians 5:25-28)

Who Gives This Woman?

This question and its response symbolizes not only the full blessing of the parents, but also the transfer of responsibility to the groom by the father. A daughter is under the authority and responsibility of her father until she is married. It is, therefore, the father who transfers this responsibility to he groom. “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well…” (1 Corinthians 7:38)

Holding of Right Hands During Vows

The open right hand offered by each party symbolizes their strength, resources, and purpose. By clasping each other’s right hand, they are pledging these to each other. Just as we depend upon the “saving strength of God’s right hand”, so each partner can depend upon all the resources that the other brings to the covenant relationship. (Psalm 20:6)

The handshake goes far beyond sealing a contract. It symbolizes the cleaving together of lives which is to be accomplished in the marriage covenant. (Genesis 2:24)

Vows

The groom makes the vows first. He must be the leader and assume the greater responsibility to fulfill the marriage covenant. As covenant initiator, he must commit himself to the purposes of marriage God established in the beginning. These must be reflected in his vow.

The six purposes of marriage are:

  • Companionship. True companionship grows out of a oneness of spirit. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3
  • Enjoyment. The principle behind enjoyment is self-control. “Marriage is honorable (of great worth) in all, and the bed (should be kept) undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” Hebrews 13:4
  • Completeness. God designed Eve to complete what was lacking in Adam’s life. “And Adam said…she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23
  • Fruitfulness. God’s first command in Scripture is, “…Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” Genesis 1:28
  • Protection. The husband is to protect the wife by laying down his life for her. Ephesians 5:25 The wife is to protect the home (Titus 2:4-5). Parents are to protect their children to raise up a Godly seed (Malachi 2:15, Psalm 112:1-2)
  • Typify Christ and the Church. Marriage is to be a human object lesson of the Divine relationship between Christ and believers (Ephesians 5:31-33)

The Wedding Ring

The wedding ring symbolizes transfer of authority, strength, and protection. There is difficulty in saying that it represents eternal love, since the marriage covenant ends at the death of one partner and since there are no marriages in heaven.

In Scripture, the ring is a symbol of authority and the resources that go with it. In a covenant relationship, the ring symbolizes identification. The belt has also been used in Scripture as the token of a covenant. The belt represented the initiator’s strength and pledge of protection.

When God made a covenant with Noah, he put a symbol in the sky, a rainbow. When viewed from the sky, the rainbow is a circle. It was to be a continual reminder to God of the covenant that He made.

Pronouncement

The pronouncement of husband and wife establishes a definite point in time for the beginning of the marriage. These words are to remove any future doubts in the minds of the couple or the witnesses about the validity of the marriage.

The establishing of a point in time is also important in salvation. When we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we are united with Christ in salvation. (Romans 10:9-13) Public baptism and the authority of His Word then give the official pronouncement that we are saved. “but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12

Introduction

The introduction of the new couple establishes their change of names. In the marriage, the wife takes on the name of the husband, and the man becomes known as the husband of the wife. This name change is clearly illustrated in the covenant between Jehovah God and Abram (Genesis 17:4-5)

God combined Abram’s name with the promise represented in His name to form the new name Abraham. He is now known as “the father of multitudes”, and Jehovah is known as “the God of Abraham.”

Wedding Papers

The couple signs the wedding papers to establish a public document. It is a continuing public record of the covenant. God wrote out the testimony of His covenant in Scripture. When Laban made a covenant with Jacob, a heap of stones became a witness.

(Genesis 31:43-55)

The Guest Book

The guests become the official witnesses to the covenant. By signing their name they are saying, “I have witnessed the vows and I will testify to the reality of this marriage.” The witnesses can also serve as God’s reminders to the couple to be faithful to their marriage vows. Because of the significance of signing the guest book, it should be done after the wedding rather than before.

Special Invitations for Reception

The invitation for the reception symbolizes the invitation to salvation. In the teaching ministry of Christ, he used the invitation to the wedding feast as an illustration of inviting people to partake of salvation. The wedding feast was free to the invited guests, just as salvation is free to all who will receive it. (Isaiah 55:1)

All who respond to Christ’s invitation, both good and bad, must enter on his terms.  The man who came without the proper wedding attire in the parable was cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 22:1-14).

Reception

Food is part of the covenant celebration. One of the root meanings of the word covenant is “to feed”. Following the marriage, a feast was customary to further symbolize the unity of the couple. Entering into a meal is itself a form of covenant. It is significant that the first event of Christ’s ministry was attending a wedding feast, and His first miracle took place during that occasion (John 2:1-11).

Feeding Cake to Each Other

This act symbolizes the couple becoming one flesh. By feeding cake to each other, they are saying, “This represents my body. As you eat it, I am becoming a part of you; and as I eat the cake that you give to me, you become a part of me.”

A New Testament illustration of this type of symbolism is in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “…Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you…After the same manner also he took the cup…”

(1 Corinthians 11:24-25)

 

Throwing of Rice

This gesture symbolizes marriage fruitfulness. When a covenant was completed, both parties often established a memorial garden.

In the marriage covenant, the garden represents children who are to grow us as olive plants around the family table. (Psalm 128:3)  It is in the children that the two parents achieve their ultimate oneness, and it is through the children that God desires to enrich and reward the marriage covenant.

“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” Psalm 127:3-5

I don’t know about you, but I was very blessed to learn all the significance to the varying traditions seen at a traditional wedding. My mother did a beautiful job of putting all of this together for me on that day. Her resource was James Dobson. (www.focusonthefamily.com)

I was strongly lead of the Lord to put this together, so I know it is for someone, maybe you. Be blessed and highly encouraged. The Love of God is with you. His power, love, joy, courage and strength can be yours and you can have them to overflowing in your life. Have a Merry Christmas. I love you and bless you in my heart and in my prayers. ~Nicole

December 10, 2012

Just One Smile

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:35 am by Broken & Brave

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”

3 John 1:13-14

I mentioned in my previous writings about how I am not only a people watcher, but I am a noticer of people. What does it mean to be a noticer? Andy Andrews wrote an entire book devoted to this topic, simply titled, “The Noticer.”  I understand that all people are different and noticing may not come natural to everyone. That’s ok. Everyone, however, is capable of becoming a noticer, and a good one at that.  It is a good skill to develop and it would be well worth the time and energy to practice “noticing” others. I promise you it will improve the quality of your relationships.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Generally speaking, most people want people to pay attention to them. Some people enjoy the center stage or spotlight more than others, but everyone wants someone to pay attention. When someone knows things or makes little observations about you, it makes you feel special. It communicates to the one being noticed that they matter, you care enough, to pick up on the little details. How special…when it is sincere and from the heart.

“You can always hear somebody’s heart if you listen.”

~Joyce Meyer

I read this quote from Joyce Meyer this past week. When I read it I knew I could take it even a step further…

Sometimes you have to probe for someone’s heart so you CAN listen.

People are guarded. This truth is fairly universal. That is why the Bible tells us to have faith like little children. Children are still innocent and haven’t had a lot of heartache, compared to adults. They are wide-eyed and optimistic. They are open. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, as we age, life does offer it’s share of tough times and hard blows…taken by our hearts. Every wound a heart endures only causes the heart to crust over a bit and develop a callous. The callous, ever so slightly, makes us a little harder, a little more aloof…distancing our vulnerabilities from others. It is the subconscious mind’s way of protecting ourselves from further heartache or pain. As we age we become less and less open and vulnerable with others. We put on our “life is great” mask and tell everyone everything is “fine” when they ask. Many people have things that weigh on them over time and are so suppressed even they are not aware of how guarded they have become. If you are at all identifying with anything I am saying…It’s ok. You are not alone. Many people have very well protected comfort zones. I guess the first step to becoming an effective noticer is to first notice your self. I know it’s what I had to do.

I want to share two quick stories about noticing in action. Both stories have to do with a smile…this is purely coincidence on my part, but then I wonder, “is it?” Though I selected both stories before realizing they both involved a smile, I wondered, “How many people misunderstand or make a judgment about someone because of a smile or lack of a smile?’ I tell you, it happens all the time.

The first story is my own. It happened at church, maybe 3 ½ years ago…2009 I guess. There was a woman at church I hadn’t seen before. The church I was attending was a decent size church. It would be easy to not know everyone or miss a face from Sunday to Sunday depending on where one sat. This gal was sitting in the last row or two for several weeks. I did not know her. So, the first Sunday I saw her I went to say hello and I introduced myself. Maybe she was brand new and didn’t seem to know anyone. She was not smiling. I walked up, smiled and made the introduction. She shook my hand and looked at me, but said nothing…not a word. No smile. It would only be natural feel a bit shut down and walk away defeated, vowing not to say hello again. But that wasn’t the choice I made. I admit, I was a bit puzzled and had many questions about her somewhat strange reaction to me.

I saw her again the next Sunday. Once again, sitting in the very back, all alone…no smile. I went up to her again, said hello and gave her a big smile. Again, she shook my hand and acknowledged me, but no response or smile. Never even told me her name. I was really puzzled now. Maybe she didn’t speak English, but no smile? A smile is a universal communicator. We don’t have to speak the same language to communicate friendliness. I was not discouraged. Instead, I made a pact with myself to win her over! I was going to say hello to her every single week, regardless of whether or not she ever responded. Do you know what happened? She still never smiled or spoke, but I began to notice that she would seem to look forward to my coming over and saying hello. I could tell by her body language that she liked it. Sometimes I even saw her looking for me. This made me happy. I had noticed also that not many people said hello to her other than myself. Most likely for the same reason I kept saying hello. Then, I got my answer…

I went to a ladies event on a Friday night at the church. It was a small group, more intimate than a church service. The woman had come with a few of her friends. I happened to be sitting right in front of her at this event. The Pastor’s wife said something funny and EVERYONE smiled. You better believe I glanced over my shoulder to see if my friend was smiling, too. SHE WAS! She smiled a big, beautiful smile all across her face. Then, she quickly covered her mouth with her hand. See, my new friend at church who brought me so many questions, had many teeth missing. I got my answer. She was self conscious about the fact that she was missing teeth to the point that it hindered her from stepping out and reaching out. She was confined by her smile, or lack of one. I’m sure many people thought her unfriendly or even rude…making minimal effort to continue saying hello after the first appearance of rejection. How sad. We need to take the time to notice. People have so many reasons why they do the things they do or behave the way they behave. We need to step outside our own perspective and try to notice theirs.

My second story is that of a friend. She shared this story with me at the beginning of this year (2012) and I loved it! I asked her for permission to share it…thank you my friend! I knew you’d say yes!

This friend of mine is a noticer for sure! She and her husband are amazing people. They truly invest in others and give back to their community. However, they are never showy or extravagant with their generosity, but rather demure and quaint about it. I LOVE IT!

With this being said, they are a big football family. Their boys play high school ball and their father is a football coach. One of their sons had a friend who they help out so he can play ball, too. Things like helping with expenses of the sport and all. Ok, great, lots of people do things like that, right? Well, they notice even the smallest details. This particular boy spends a lot of time at their home and they know him pretty well. The wife in the family (my friend)…we will call her “Gina”. Gina noticed that the young man seemed to lack confidence and it was affecting him on the playing field also, despite his giftedness as an athlete. Gina couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was affecting his confidence. “What was it?”, she would think to herself.  After observing and wondering for a while, she realized he didn’t smile much. He had a great smile, so she couldn’t really nail in her mind the issue. However, she did notice his teeth were grown a little bit crooked. Gina shared with me, his teeth were not really all that crooked, but after much observation on her part, she was sure this was his issue. He was self-conscious and losing self confidence because of his smile. Gina called the boys mother and inquired. See, Gina and her husband were very interested in paying for him to have braces should this be the case. They knew the family couldn’t really afford braces and they wanted to help this boy overcome his confidence break down.

After making the effort to investigate, Gina did receive confirmation that the young man was wishing his smile were better. Gina got permission from the mother to make the offer for braces and take care of all the details. Can you imagine how overwhelmed that sweet Mama was to have Gina call and make such an offer? Wonderful! When I confirmed with my friend this last week if I could share this story, she agreed and made sure to tell me again…he rarely smiled before but he smiles all the time now and his confidence went through the roof! What a difference a smile can make. What a difference my friend Gina made in the life of a young man. She first cared enough to notice.

Imagine all the little details of our lives and the lives of others and circumstances all around us. Everyone has a story. Everyone has many, many stories, the events of our lives that shape us into who we are and who we will become. Let me give you a quick analogy for noticing.

Have you ever heard of a widow’s peak or widow’s watch? It is a piece of architecture found on homes built in the Northern parts of North America in the 19th century. The name references their purpose to give wives a view of the sea so they could watch for the return of their mariner husbands, who were frequently lost at sea, thus making them a widow. A noticer is like a woman or widow on watch over the sea. Though I have never seen a widow’s watch in person, I can only imagine the view. Seated in such a prime position, one could be on the watch and see what others could not. Not just ships returning from the deep, but also storms on the horizon. Optimal view. A “seer” (as the Bible calls them. Someone who is a noticer of spiritual things) or “noticer” as Andy Andrews calls it, is someone to perceives, discerns, observes things that others do not. Maybe even detecting them before they occur. It is a source of wisdom I believe. I know for me this skill or gift from God has enabled me time and time again to make a difference for my children as I can detect things before they occur or see what is not spoken.

Becoming a noticer is sometimes making the effort to probe another’s heart, to love people more deeply than just the surface hello. It truly is the place where trust can begin. It is not for the faint hearted for it will require sacrifice, patience and tender care on your part. But the fruit of the blessings and the joy it brings overwhelms my heart. I pray it could do so for you as well. Take the first step to become a noticer…

…It all can begin with

Just.

One.

Smile.

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

Philemon 1:7

 

Be a refresher of man. Be a noticer of people. You can do it!

~Nicole

December 5, 2012

A Man Without A Home

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:39 pm by Broken & Brave

I was driving home this morning from dropping my children off at school. I pulled up to the light, stopping, as it turned red. I looked up to see a man crossing the street directly in front of me, in the cross walk. He was older, but I suspect his well-worn and weary face was not an accurate description of his actual age. He had deep lines and creases upon his face and his eyes were tired. He wore dirty clothing and a hooded sweatshirt that covered his head from the rain. It was raining outside…it had been all morning. I just happened to look at him as he came to the front of my car. He had been looking straight ahead, but in that moment, he turned and looked at me. Our eyes locked and I gave him a smile. He kept his gaze upon me and then waved his hand, with little expression on his face, but his countenance was somber. I watched as the man continued to make his way across the busy intersection to land himself safely on the sidewalk. I continued to think about him after he was long out of sight.

I am a people watcher for sure, but I don’t just watch people. I think I notice people. To me, there is a world of difference. I began to ask myself questions about him. Questions I knew I would never collect an answer for, but still, I wondered. Who was he? Was he homeless? He certainly “looked” homeless, but appearance is not always a good indicator of someone’s circumstance. What was his story? From there my thoughts drifted to the homeless in general. The weather has been rainy here in Stockton and we have had several storms in the past few weeks. The life of a homeless person is hard. Every day for the homeless person is a new opportunity to survive. Winter presents an entirely new set of hurdles. Staying warm. Staying dry. Staying nourished. The homeless person is dependant on the good will of the community, the Churches and agencies in town. But they are also dependant on the well-meaning citizens who give them a little spare change or even something to eat. I suppose that when it is raining there aren’t as many people out and about on foot. Therefore, the homeless person has fewer opportunities to receive.

I already know what many of you are thinking, because many years ago it was what I thought. I am sad to confess that until about ten years ago I was a bit lacking in compassion for the homeless population. I didn’t understand it. I figured they were all on drugs or unwilling to work. Each had made a series of horrible decisions…leading them to the local bridge. When I saw them sit with signs asking for help, I used to think it was a poor use of their time. I thought of a certain large fast food chain and how great they are at letting people work their way up in the company and have very successful careers with minimal background. Why not try that instead? I don’t share this because I am proud of my past thinking…it was fueled most likely by lack of information/understanding (as most judgments are) and maybe a smidge of personal discomfort. It was also shaped by the fact that such hardship had never even remotely touched my life. I had no way to identify and I had no real desire to either.

It is important to mention, for those of you reading who don’t really know me well or at all, I am a very compassionate person. I have a soft heart for many, many things. I am especially soft hearted for people. So, for whatever reason, my compassion was dull, rather than nonexistent, when it came to the homeless. I don’t think I disliked them or was against them in any way. I think I thought like many people…I was inconvenienced by them.

How drastically my thinking has changed…

Let me tell you about Tim.

Tim is homeless. He lives in my city and is probably in his mid to upper forties (he may be fifty…I am horrible at guessing people’s age). I met Tim around 2005 or 2006. I met him at the Post Office, where he used to sit all day with his dog. He was always very polite and would, only on occasion, ask for money. He usually just kept to himself, petting his dog, and saying hello as the people walked in and out of the Post Office. There are always homeless people outside that particular Post Office, so why was Tim any different? I don’t know…he just was. When I would look at Tim his eyes would pierce my heart. It was like Jesus looking right at me. It makes me think of the verse…

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

I began to see Tim everywhere, not just the Post Office. Then he got a bike. I saw Tim almost everytime I was in the car. I would see him all over town, riding his bike with his dog right beside him. My attention was  captivated. This is the type of moment when you realize that God is trying to tell you something. I had already known, by the way his gaze touched my heart, that God was using me in Tim’s life. Or was it Tim God was using in mine? I know the answer is, “yes”. It was both. I was helping him and he was helping me.

I was helping Tim survive and he was helping me grow. As usual, God likes to use relationships to help us grow. He is a very relational God.

I began to ask Tim questions about his life. I learned that he was newly homeless back then. He had a job and had injured his back while working. He had to stop working, but was receiving workman’s compensation. When the workman’s compensation expired, his back was not well enough to work. He lost his job. He had minimal skills outside manual labor, but seemed to be an optimistic person. I guess he has only a few relatives, stayed with them a while…but over time his welcome wore out and he had to leave. So, here he was…on the streets.

In a way, I guess my family adopted Tim. We’d speak and try to speak Hope into his heart and provide what we could. I couldn’t give him a place to live, but I could encourage and I could help meet his needs.

I next to never gave him money, but I would walk him over to the grocery store and buy him breakfast and when I would dine out for a meal with my family…we, as a family, would take our leftovers to Tim for something hot to eat. We would buy him gift certificates to the fast food place right next to the Post Office. So, I guess we mostly fed him. This went on for several years, then Tim sort of disappeared. I had worried about him and what had become of him, but just a few weeks ago I saw him riding a bike, with a beard as long as my forearm.

One of the things that impacted me most about Tim was watching the metamorphosis of a man, healthy, young…to that of a man without a home…sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, straggly hair. He must have aged twenty years in two.

I will forever be grateful to God for bringing Tim into my life. I may not have made the world of difference in his life, but no doubt he made a world of difference in mine.

So, as I watched the hooded man walk across the street in the rain, I thought about the provisions a homeless person needs, especially this time of year. I am hoping to inspire you to make a difference and be a “noticer”. There are many organizations who specialize in caring for the homeless. You can donate or get involved with your time at any of them. No matter your community, the need is there and you can be a part of the change necessary to impact the life of someone who is less fortunate than yourself.

Here are a just a few I know of, right in Stockton, that you can utilize and assist:

*Helping Hands (an outreach of Lakeview Assembly Church)

429 E March Lane, Stockton, Ca

(209) 477-2645

*St. Mary’s Interfaith Dining Hall

545 W. Sonora St., Stockton, Ca

(209) 467-0703

*Gospel Rescue Mission

445 South San Joaquin St., Stockton, Ca

(209) 466-2138

*LifeSong Church Homeless Ministry

(church office contact information)

3034 Michigan Avenue, Stockton, Ca

(209) 943-6604

I know there are probably other wonderful services offered in Stockton, but this is a good start! Wherever you live, there are people in need who need your help. Do a little research and find out what you can do. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. It doesn’t have to be big. If we all join hands and work together…making a difference, much can be accomplished. Be a Difference Maker. Live a life of Purpose, on purpose. It could make all the difference in the world!

~Nicole

December 3, 2012

Moving Out!

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:33 pm by Broken & Brave

Well…I guess that’s it. It is time.

I knew it was coming…

I saw the signs.

I began to mentally prepare and then physically prepare…

I knew it was coming.

I guess I had just hoped it wasn’t so soon. I like it here. This is my home. I’ve lived here a long time and it is cozy and familiar. This house has given me everything I could ask for, everything that could make me content. I’ve been content, so very content, here. I know that it’s time to go. I don’t really have a choice anymore…what is done is done. I must look to the future to better things. I have a pretty clear vision and path charted out for where I am going. The house is bigger, the view is brighter, and the prominence of the change is much more tantalizing I suppose…but it’s not home, yet.

It is funny how we can have apprehension even when we clearly see a greater blessing on the horizon. We feel anticipation for the newness, the freshness, the awareness of change that excites. Even though I am one who likes structure and order, I guess I also like adventure and to take the risk. Everything in my head says, “No! Don’t do it, don’t take the risk! Risk is scary and full of un-certainty.” All of these thoughts are true. Still, down deep, away from my head, but in my heart, is yet another voice whispering my name. It beckons unto me and bellows to me, beneath my breath, between my intellect and my fears…

“Do it! Take the risk. Step out…everything is going to be all right. No, more than all right. Everything will be better!”

A wise man once told me, “For things to change, I had to change. Otherwise, everything will always be the way it’s always been.”

I will never forget those words. They pierced me, stirred within me, changed me. Sometimes change comes because we are sick and tired of being just that…sick and tired. Sometimes change comes out of a hope for something better. Many times change comes by force as circumstances change our path unexpectedly. But still…change.

I’ve been through a lot the past several years. Those of you who know me may be thinking, “Oh, she is talking about this.” Others may think, “She is speaking of that.”  I tell you it is none of the above. I tell you it is all of the above. I have walked through a vast wilderness that left me feeling more alone than I have ever felt in my life. The thing about being alone is the time with God is incredible. It makes perfect sense how the Disciple John could have written from the Island of Patmos, books of the Bible. He was alone….alone with God.

I knew it was coming. I had been prepared. I didn’t know exactly how the change would look, but I knew it had purpose. In these moments I feel God’s favor even stronger than usual. How He gently leads, directs and speaks to me. I love how He does this for me. He protects me so when the change comes, I am not totally blindsided, even if I am alarmed.

I am ready now. The taste in my mouth is bitter sweet. I will miss this place, this home, that for so many years I have known. I cannot deny that within it’s walls I have grown. No more time here alone. I’m moving out.

Goodbye Comfort Zone…I am no longer calling you “home”.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

~Neale Donald Walsch