August 29, 2013

Fortune In The Follow Up

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:57 pm by Broken & Brave

“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”  Romans 15:5-7

The above passage is a passage I love and it has been close to my heart since 2007, when God opened my eyes to my need to pray these verses fervently on behalf of the entire Body of Christ. God was preparing and moving His Church to a deeper level of Community and Unity for the days grow darker and the need for us to be like a unified force is at hand. However, I had something interesting happen this week and I felt it was a great practical example of the execution of this passage. I was merely the recipient and observer, but found myself impressed by another’s deliberate act of unity and love displayed in front of me.

As many know, I have written a book and am in process to publish. People ask me all the time when will it be out and what is the title. Believe it or not, no one knows the title besides my husband. I’ve not told another soul. I don’t plan to until the manuscript is to press and all is agreed with the publication company. I feel a deep need to protect it. I sometimes get funny looks over this, especially because I’ve already written it, but I am quite sure I will refrain.

I’ve been researching  and gleaning from the other side of writing…the business side (publishing). There are so many options. I believe I have ultimately decided to self publish. I originally thought I’d like to sell it and see what happens. However, the more research I did and the more friends I spoke with who are published authors and professional writers for large ministries…I realized, I would rather self publish so I may retain the rights to the book. For me this is so important because some of my stories are so full of the Presence of the Holy Spirit and they are like Old Testament stories come to life in modern day…I didn’t want them taken out by a publisher. So, here I am, currently speaking with two sources who have committed to publishing for me. One is a business associate in the industry who made an offer (I did not even know they were a publisher!) and another is a large company well known in Christian Literature. I’ve been talking to the larger company since the springtime when I first began doing the footwork. Without going into tremendous detail, I was not feeling any sense of rapport with my contact person, though they were incredibly informative, professional, thorough and insightful. Then I began to dread the calls actually. I finally expressed my feelings to my contact and he apologized for any discontented feelings I may be having. He followed up with an email and then….totally unexpected, someone else from the company contacted me. This person was very attentive and relational, like myself. (The other person was attentive also, but very nuts and bolts to the point.) She did such an excellent job of connecting with me and hearing my heart. Yet, she validated her coworker and expressed regard for how he does business. After listening, I agreed, I respected his professionalism, but I just needed a bit more “flower” to the relationship. Though it is a business relationship, I am definitely an person who appreciates  and tries to express value of others and desire to be valued myself.  I don’t really need a lot of accolades or praise, that actually embarrasses me. But I do want to feel “connected”. I recognize that not everyone is like this, but I am. By the time I was finished speaking with her I was ready to sign on the dotted line!

Here is my point. We all have different personalities and some connect, others don’t. However, we can all be diplomatic. We can all communicate with effective listening and clarification when necessary. I witnessed this company not only go above and beyond to reach out to me and keep the relationship alive,  but they never once compromised their integrity and supported and upheld each other as they supported myself as well. I have nothing but the utmost respect for this company as I saw their true character in action. It was a blessing to witness and it was a blessing to be pursued as they pursued me! It is but too true, the fortune is in the follow up!

Continue to pray as I close this book deal. I have no idea of projected dates, but I promise I will share dates and details….AND the title. It is all in God’s hands and I have kept the entire thing submitted and surrendered to him. I even told the Lord that if I only wrote it for myself (the process was very cleansing and freeing) I was ok. It will publish in Gods perfect time. I know for me, it was only the beginning. I have already begun a second book that I am very excited about. I am also getting glimpses in my Spirit of writing I will do for others to be published as well. God is good…so good to me…so good to YOU.

I pray that this day you receive all of the encouragement, validation and support you need. For it is but too true, no matter what your love language or personality style, we all need to be pursued, to feel special, loved and needed. You are needed…rest assured. There are people counting on you and looking to you to lead them with strength and consistency; People who will probably never tell you how they appreciate you. I don’t know why…sometimes people don’t think their encouragement to another matters so they don’t say a thing. But even the strongest of the strong need a little follow up. Smile BIG! It’s a great day to be alive…

By His Grace…

~Nicole

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August 21, 2013

Crab Grass

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:00 pm by Broken & Brave

I found many years ago that when I linger in the garden, it is a form of being still for me. We all hear God best when we are still. Life is busy and the demands of life are a regular facet and can draw the best of us when God wants the best for him. I don’t sit still well and I found when I lived in a little house with a little garden on the other side of town, on my knees in the flower bed was a great place to be. Not just because I love plants and flowers and decorating the yard. It was also because every time I ventured out to the dirt it became my oasis…my escape…a refuge. My garden became the place I could always count on for refreshment of my soul. I could still move and be active while I prayed, worshipped, meditated and listened. Every time…God would whisper to my heart the things He needed to speak. It was, always has been, and is still a place where He enlightens me and teaches me.

I learn from the Master Pen as He scripts His plans for me upon my inward man.

Over the summer I spent very little time in the garden. I still spent time with the Lord, but again, something extra special about that time in the yard. Something else I like to do is bring my ipod out  with me and I almost always select Rick Pino. Today it was “Angels Awakening”. I knew it was going to be a big task so I got after it early, before it got hot. I was equipped with all the right tools for the job and I knew what I had to do. ..

My front yard is sculpted like an English garden. It is beautiful, when properly cared for. An English garden, if you don’t know, has a lot of plants that need shaping and molding on a regular basis. Manicured to say the least….it is not a low maintenance yard style. If I had designed the yard, it would be a little less work with lots more flowers. But I love it just the same. It is a beautiful gift and I am grateful.

In the midst of all its beauty, while I was away, some crab grass decided to imbed itself into the Fortnight Lily that nestles right on the front walk of my garden. It is a very large and mature Lily. Fortnight Lily is one of my absolute all time favorite garden plants. It is so interesting to look at, spiking stems with tiny white flowers at the end. Not to mention the best part, they are super low maintenance. The crab grass has been trying to take root in this plant for a while. I had been managing it, but hadn’t taken the time to truly dig in at the source of the root and get it out. I hadn’t done so because the plant is enormous and is seated right next to a large rock and a small sculpted pine tree. To dig the crab grass out would require digging up some of the plant. I knew it would be a task.  I was prepared now, ready with the right tools and up before the heat of the sun. In the garden I went.

The plan was to dig out the entire plant in two or three large sections to be transplanted to the back yard. This plant spreads and multiplies so it is easy to divide and replant somewhere else.  As I began, I had to manipulate all the leggy ends of the crab grass (it was so bad it was branching out and digging burrows into the dirt spreading to the neighboring ground cover plants). It was a tangled mess. First I cut away at the crab grass and de-rooted the outer edges. Now, I had my spade in hand, ready to get a workout!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the plant would be very challenging to dig at for a few reasons. First, the tree and rock were so tight against the plant I couldn’t get the spade in between. Second, the opposite side of the Lily was a thin wood border that separated the edge of the flowerbed from the lawn, clearly showing the boundary lines. I did not want to damage it at all.

I eyed the project closely.

I monitored my options.

I poked around each side looking for the best angle to get into the dirt at the base of the plant.

I really wanted to keep it in tact so I could plant it in a better location. It was no use, as I worked I was getting small chunks of the plant out. At that rate I would have a thousand small Lily plants and there is no way I’d bother transplanting all of that. I was afraid I was going to lose my plant. I walked to the garage to retrieve yet another tool…the electric garden clippers. I decided the best way to find the right placed to dig would be to cut all the spiking leaves of this botanical delight. This was the only perceived way to save any of the root base. It would be ugly for a while, but it is truly a resilient variety. I knew it would bounce back. Something happened as I walked to the garage. I heard the small whisper of my heart give me an instruction. There was a way! I did not have to hack the plant down to make this work…I was to find the path of least resistance and with small and deliberate action I could dig up the plant. So that’s what I did. One side had an opening to the base of the plant. I did lose a lot of little sections, but as I kept going it began to seemingly cooperate! The plants roots loosened more and more with each portion I penetrated with my implement. The soil began to cooperate too as it became looser and looser…softening….softening…responding to the lead of the tool. The best is what happened next. As I dug into the last portion of the plant, the part that was the true heart of the Lily, it came out gently, in tact, one heaping portion of my plant! I carefully pulled it out and loaded it into my yard wagon. With my surgeons gloves (gardening gloves) on my hands I carefully combed my fingers through the heart of the plant and removed the crab grass that had fixed itself so close to the heart without hurting the plant itself. I was so happy I listened to the quiet Voice…I was overjoyed!

Of course I have an analogy for my story. I have learned from God so much about people from gardening. Things come along that are meant to entangle us. Crab grass looks like grass. To the untrained eye or in the beginning stages of growth, crab grass can pass itself off as lawn. But it isn’t…it is a weed. Sometimes weeds come into our life and move in close to our heart. We allow it in because we don’t reognize it as a weed (or something bad for us). Over time as crab grass grows it becomes obvious it is a weed…because it is ugly. Weeds that sprout in our life eventually show themselves for what they are…ugly. This “weed” can be anything. It can be our own thoughts, attitudes, actions. It can be a relationship that isn’t healthy. It can be a situation at work, a health issue…any problem.

This is why it is so important to regularly check our own heart and ask God to search our heart, expose any weeds in us and to also pray over our heart, our mind, and our relationships. God can bring you friends, bring you wisdom and guidance, bring you solutions, bring you Peace, Comfort, Rest. He can and will bring you all of these things. He will bring your heart Joy and Love. He can make you laugh and He can be your best friend. God wants to protect you and bless you. Maybe you don’t feel you hear God so clear, or when you do hear him you lack the confidence to know. Do you find yourself having a crisis of belief? Do you ask yourself questions like, “was that me or was that God?” Those questions are good to ask, but ask God to reveal or confirm to you what is you and what is him. As you practice this discipline He grows your ability to discern between the two and strengthens your confidence in his voice. It is like speaking to a very close friend. If they call on the phone…okay if they call on an old school phone with no digital recognition (ugh…technology)…you would recognize their voice because you are close and you know their voice well. The same is true for God. You will also know if it is God by the fruit. When it is from God it will never ask or require you  do something outside the heartbeat of God. It will always protect your purity and innocence so to speak. Like my garden, He won’t require you to cross the boundary lines when making choices and decisions. He will give guidance and protect you, like I did my plant. Just like a true friend, God won’t ask of you anything or put you in any situation or temptation you cannot handle. He will, however, give you access to himself, his resources, his help, provision, vision and His tools. God is just good that way! He wants to help you, not hurt you.

One more thing before I close. The Bible says you have not because you ask not. I’ve learned myself, as one with a lot of Belief. Sometimes I don’t ask because I believe it will happen so strongly, I skip steps in the process. Does that make sense? I know something will happen so I stop praying about it or asking God about it. I am quickened and realize I need to ask, not just believe. The same is true if you are doubting or struggling with something you did ask for but haven’t received. Don’t walk away from God. He is still listening. He is still there. When you approach the Throne of Grace think of the Bible story of Moses. Moses was told of God to speak to the Rock and it would pour out streams of living water for the people to drink. Imagine that!

God is the only Rock you can drink from!

However, Moses struck the rock and God became angry and removed Moses from entering the Promise Land. After every thing Moses did for Israel and God he was done. Many people struggle with this but I think God had many reasons. Ultimately he is God, I try not to question because I have not his mind. There is a valuable lesson for all of us to hear today. When we approach the Throne of Grace God responds favorable when we speak to Him. He doesn’t want to be struck or demanded. He doesn’t want us to be stiff and rigid like that stick Moses used. He does not want to be commanded as though we had authority over him. He doesn’t operate like that. Though He has all the wealth and power of the land…he is gentle of heart and tender of speech. Lace your requests with moisture to the King of Kings. Give him His due praise and see what the Mighty hand of the Father gives to you. The gift is much better than you realize.

Sow seeds of love deep within your heart. Soften the soil. Do not become hard to the things and ways of God. You are His Beloved and you have captivated his heart.

~Nicole

August 19, 2013

Orange Blossom or Orange Crush?

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:27 pm by Broken & Brave

This post has been welling up in me for three or more weeks. I have scribbled in my journal, dreamed of it, lingering my thought life and prayer life through it as I hear the Lord penetrate my heart with instructions on what I should say. This post is straight from the heart with the purest love and intention to heal a wounded heart and introduce you to the love of a lifetime… and so I write…

I grew up in church.

I think I “accepted Jesus in my heart” at the age of six. All I remember about this experience was that it was in a small, kind of dimly lit, Sunday School classroom. There were barely any kids in my class. In fact, I recall frequently being the only kid. My teacher was old. When I prayed the prayer she gave me a gift. It was a small mirror, circular in shape and on the back was a picture depicting Jesus. I still remember the warm feeling this older woman gave me (I liked her though now I can barely remember her) and that mirror became a prized possession. I think I knew exactly where it was always until the age of 17. That is how much that memory meant to me.

I have incredible parents. I am completely aware of how special it is to have been born into the family I was. I love my family, each and every member, and I have deep loyalty to each of them. My parents did not grow up in church. My Mother was a bit of an uptown girl, raised by some pretty incredible people, in my opinion. They were not rich but they were comfortable and as a family they made beautiful memories together, but they did not know God.

My Dad grew up on the “other side of the tracks”. His Father was a commercial fisherman so was out to sea for long periods of time, leaving my grandmother, the Mom of four children (one girl and three boys) to raise them alone. She did her best, but the boys grew up with very little adult supervision. To say the least, three boys down at the docks, my Dad and his brothers have a lot of stories of the mischief they made. I am sure it was God’s grace they are all alive and well today for us to enjoy the stories. God was irrelevant in their home and my grandparents never came to know God in a personal way before passing.

It was when I was of preschool age that one of my aunts went with a friend to a home Bible study. She was changed. God touched her heart and she experienced His love and presence. Many of my relatives…aunts and uncles…grew up together in San Pedro, CA, my birth place, and were friends as adults.

Within approximately a six month period, the Holy Spirit did a sweep through both sides of my family and nearly everyone became a Believer in Jesus Christ. God is good and He was very good to my family.

Both of my parents had incredible and extreme salvation experiences. Baptism of the Holy Spirit, knocked out on the floor speaking in tongues kind of a thing. God definitely had their attention and had their hearts. My Mom got saved first and my Dad just watched with skepticism. Over time, God had so touched him through the changes he saw in my Mom that his heart softened also. The final result is seen in the fruit…we are a Christian people and I have aunts and uncles who have served as ministers and missionaries all of their adult life. This is where I come in, the little girl with the Jesus mirror.

Though my folks had Pentecostal encounter with meeting God, they chose to raise us in a Baptist church environment. I believe this is a gift to me because I believe every church that calls on the precious saving blood of Jesus has a unique offering to the entire Body of Christ. A definite strength of the Baptist Church is their knowledge of the Bible. So, I grew up with that and God put His Truth in my heart. However, as an adult I was drawn to more charismatic fellowships because this is where the heavy emphasis of my spiritual gifts lie…the power gifts, which are seen in operation in Pentecostal and charismatic non-denominational or charismatic Catholic churches.  However, growing up, though I had nothing against church, it wasn’t until I was grown that I developed an appreciation or love of church.

If you are disenchanted or lack interest in going to church or church people, then this blog is for you. I’d like to touch your heart with my own personal story, as one who was raised in the church,  shying away from going to church and still deeply in love with the church.

I feel my Christian church experience is so unique from the average church experience of a believer…or maybe it isn’t? I can only speak for myself and so I do. As a young adult, maybe 22 years of age, I smacked face to face with God in such an intimate way that I was completely changed. See, I have always had a soft spot for God…always. Though I didn’t think about it or even understand it, I knew he was my friend and I could feel him with me always. Even though I spent very little time doing things like reading the bible or being super involved with Christian or church activities. To be honest, by the time I was in Jr. High, but especially high school I felt like a church “misfit”. I didn’t fit in.

I grew up in a small town that had two high schools. There was the town’s name-sake school and then there was that “other school”. I went to the “other school”. My entire church youth group, minus maybe a couple other kids (who didn’t attend regular) went to the preferred school. So, though the youth pastors did all kinds of things to be cool and make it fun for us, EVERYTHING revolved around the social calendar of the other school. Literally. It was incredibly awkward for me. Everyone would tease me bout it, but honestly, it hurt. I felt very left out most of the time though I was included. Have you ever felt that way, included yet excluded? Yep, that was me. Many kids who feel awkward or left out at church shy away or maybe get into the party scene at school. That wasn’t me either. Though I was very shy and quiet, we were faithful attenders at our church and I think my Dad was a deacon most of that season of life. At school I was maybe known of as a bit of a “goody-goody”. If I ever did venture into a party with my friends, the kids that were there would get uncomfortable and ask what I was doing there? Didn’t fit in there either. Party scene just wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t really attracted to that type of lifestyle. So, I felt like a misfit even though I could get along with virtually anyone and was involved at both church and school. Didn’t feel I had a true place at either place.

In my adult life I had 3 different occassions where 3 different women slandered me, shunned me and then recruited others to shun me as well. I’m over all that and I have no hard feelings to any of them, but when it happened, it was hard. The first time it happened I literally became sick to my stomach the pain was so deep. If you have ever been shunned it is the most excruciating pain, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But even this, I see how God used it to blossom even deeper love in my heart for the misfit, the outcast, the rejected. I think that is how Jesus approached his ministry life anyway. So, if I truly want to be like Jesus, I must be willing to lay down my reputation, dignity and pride and take on his countenance, his transparency, his vulnerability and touch the hearts of others with pure and true empathy. For this purpose is the absolute only reason I even mention my hurts or pains from the church experiences growing up.

The point I am leading up to is clear and it is this…

Allow God to be the mender when your heart bleeds. Do not measure your Hope in God on people.

He alone is the reason we have church to begin with. Our hope is not in a church, it is to be in God alone. The people who go to church are people just like you and just like me. We are all moving through this journey hoping to not stumble, but we do. We are all trying to honor the One whose Love encompasses our heart, bringing Delight, that right there is a picture of my love, Jesus Christ. Just like my little mirror.

All sin is equal in God’s eyes and he is the respecter of no man but the intimate lover of all. If you are hurt, bitter, offended – let it go. Place your hope and your focus on God alone.  I guarantee there is someone out there who has hurt because of something you’ve done and the same is true for me. We all fall short. We all are capable of disappointing others. That is what makes His loving Grace so amazing yet for so many too difficult to comprehend.

I know I have endured very extreme scenarios of hurt in my life for I have only mentioned a few. At least, they are extreme to me. I am sure there are thousands who have had it tougher. But through it all I have learned to trust in Jesus alone and how to lean on God.  I don’t share any of this so you will think the church is awful. No! The Church is BEAUTIFUL!  For I can also share stories of the incredible relationships I have been given because of my faith connections.

There are many who have walked away from God or from a church because they got hurt. God bless my message, yes he blessed me, with each of these encounters so that He could work it to your benefit.

I understand if you are hurt. But let me take this time to implore you to hear my heart and learn by my example and I ask you to do the same. Love those who hurt you and bless those who persecute you.

We are all married, one to another, in the Body of Christ. We need to fight for each other like a loyal relative. It is no good to fight with each other. We need to protect each other, not malign or misrepresent one another. Bless and respect, love and protect…by these virtues the rest of the world, the one’s who are curious about this Jesus we boast so firmly of, will see His brilliant light glisten through you and through me. God bless the Over-comer!

He is like my Orange Blossom…pure, sweet, and satisfying. An orange is full of healing properties, anti-oxidant vitamins, nutritious a side from being delicious. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

What I came to realize, as an adult, was that as a child I was so consumed by being good and doing good, following the rules and the establishment, I was unintentionally stifling my own gifts of the spirit, talents and the unique creativity that resided in me. I was trying to fit the cookie cutter of how Christianity was being painted to me.  I think it is an innocent mistake, but many people, not just myself, have picture of how they expect ministry or church or Christian people to be. The only common thing to God’s methods are His LOVE. God woke me up to the reality of who I was in Him and how he had gifted me and wanted to use me and it didn’t look very traditional at all! I felt like a misfit because I knew I wanted more or that there was more than what I was being fed, despite the fact that what I was being fed was good. God woke up my senses, for my heart had grown dull, and his love and joy began to burst out of me! At first I had trouble controlling it because it was a bit supernatural. But it was glorious and it made me fall in love with Jesus all the more. All of my senses became on fire…like the blue flame of His Holy dwelling being stoked in me and for the first time in my life I could see with crystal clear clarity and a deeper vision was birthed in me.

When you are hurt. When you are weary. When you have nothing left.

With what will you fill your heart?

You can choose the one who is holy and founded the Church, Jesus (the Orange Blossom). Or you can choose to turn to people, to possessions, to self-pity, to the status quo or religious mold (Orange Crush). You can be a victim or you can be a victor. When we fill ourselves with things that cannot satisfy…which is pretty much everything outside of Jesus, then the satisfaction or edification doesn’t last. It is like the soft drink, a cheap carbonated experience that tantalizes for a moment but really is only empty calories that will make you fat. Choose to live the life of an overcomer and choose to feed on the one thing that can satisfy…Jesus.

This post, as I mentioned, has been stirring in me for weeks. I say again, I love the church and have no desire to point out flaws. We all have flaws. I do however, want to draw back to the church those who have walked away and would say,

“Yes, Nicole, I’ve been filling up on Orange Crush instead of the Orange Blossom.”

Are you ready for something deeper that will satisfy and comfort and heal all those aches and pains that are weighing you down? Then, Beloved, turn to Jesus…it’s the sweetest name I know. Step into His presence and have a true and pure encounter with him.

Do not just wield the name of Jesus like a magic wand (paraphrase from my pastor this morning, James Byrd), but when the relationship is right, the POWER of Jesus is out of sight! Drink deep of his love tonight. He is the one who put me up to writing this, so I think it is safe to say, he is waiting for you. He loves you that much. Maybe today is your day of surrender. For truly…the best is yet to come.

God wants us to see him through the fresh new eyes of a child…full of celebration and delight. God’s love is the key and it is unbreakable, unfathomable, unquenchable, admirable, capable and oh so unique. Perfect in performance and undeniably good beyond human reason. Isn’t this all reason enough to take a drink? Let it steep…allow it to sink in deep.  Amazing, refreshing, like the orange nectar…His Love.

He has promised his love and he has pledged it eternal. Do not be distracted by the things that leave you empty. When you shift your focus, even from the promises of God, to the Giver of the Promises…that is when you move into abundance.

God bless each and every one of you in all you say and do. May it be not by your own effort, might or strength, but in the quiet submitted place of His Power and Peace that your true rest comes. Allow Him to restore the broken pieces of your heart…because you’ve got more.

I love you…

Nicole

 

“In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” Psalm 62:7