December 19, 2013

Christmas Courage

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:54 am by Broken & Brave

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand. Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13

Christmas time, full of activities, festivities, decorations, wrappings…

…You see it everywhere; Christmas is in the air. The TV screen, email inboxes, billboards and flyers all advertising deals, sales, and what you should buy.

Just this week I had a woman contact me wanting to know how to explain suicide to her children, for there is a rampant rate of teen suicide in her area right now. I spoke with another woman on the phone, encouraging her as she tried to figure out how she was going to afford to “do” Christmas. As I spoke I recalled a story of God’s Faithful Hand of Provision. Even though this story isn’t about suicide or money, it is one that I pray inspires Hope for anyone struggling in the area of Courage this Holiday Season. May God bless the words and it would reach the heart of whoever needs it most.

When I was in my mid twenties, I had one small child, and I became friends with a woman about my age who also had one small child. When I met this woman (who for this story will be called Jamie) I was immediately drawn to her. She was joyful, spunky and she oozed love and happiness all over the place. I didn’t know many people like that, so she intrigued me. I had only known her a short while when I learned that she had a very rare disease that only affects women. To look at her, she looked and behaved absolutely “normal”. She was high functioning and no visible evidence that anything was wrong with her. Jamie was in the very early stages of her disease, so rare, there was no known cure. I recall her telling me there were only 400 documented cases in the USA of this sickness. Rare indeed.

I was friends’ with Jamie for many years. She was consistent and true to the character attributes that drew me to her. I was in awe of her positivity. Her physical attributes consistently began to show evidence of her sickness. Her disease affected her lungs and her ability to take in and utilize oxygen. After a number of years Jamie would begin to require to have breathing treatments. Over more time she was getting oxygen delivered to the house and required to use it as needed. The need grew more and more and over time Jamie had tubes in her nose all day long. Everywhere she would go she’d have her little boy and her oxygen tank in tow. Even still, her attitude was brilliant. She radiated pure Hope and Joy all day everyday. I won’t say she didn’t get scared or wonder of her future because she did and I recall being the listening ear and prayerful partner she needed. She and I both had tremendous faith and belief that God was going to heal her and she wasn’t going to die.

I’d say at this point I had known her for five or six years. Jamie’s condition progressively got worse and worse. Even so, her heart burned brighter and brighter. God was using this woman to prick my heart with the power of a positive attitude. I had no comprehension of how she could possibly remain so extremely joyful, positive and grateful for every breath of life as she suffered with so much pain and uncertainty in her life. If you’ve read much of my writing, you know I have huge faith for miracles and supernatural intervention that can only come from God. But at this point in my life I hadn’t a tremendous amount of evidence in seeing God do amazing or crazy things to support such a faith as I do now (browse my blogs, there are several writings about God’s unique and creative and ridiculously amazing provision through faith…and my greatest stories I have never put to pen). Jamie was my first real jump-start into long term believing for something BIG.

As the years past and Jamie’s condition looked hopeless, more and more of her family and friends began to pull away or lose enthusiasm for her “unrealistic” belief for healing. I don’t believe, outside myself, she had many others who continued to believe with her. Jamie was down to her final weeks or even days of life. I went to visit her, as she didn’t get out much anymore (required too much energy for those wilted little lungs to handle). We sat on her couch and I drank in her beaming smile. How could she be so happy? I loved it.  I found her Joy intoxicating and I craved it more and more, even though it was hard to see her in this condition. I hadn’t a clue how to encourage her. I drew close because she didn’t know was how much she was encouraging me. I remember this day vividly. We sat and agreed that we both still believed, despite the evidence and the doctors, that God had a miracle in place for her and if she still had breath, life wasn’t over yet. The doctors told her she could die any day and we knew this. For all I knew it was going to be the last time I saw her, but still, we chose to Believe, to Hope, to Rejoice.

Just a few days later I received a call in the middle of the night. It was to let me know that Jamie was on her way to the hospital to receive a double lung transplant. She had been on the waiting list (over 300th in line), but tonight was her night. God had provided while death stood on the front porch.

Jamie got her lungs and God spared her life. It was a long journey back to normal and her normal became an entirely new normal. When she was in the recovery a few weeks after surgery and was well enough to speak on the phone she shared with me her miracle story. It blew my mind…

Jamie’s husband was into motor-cross. One of their last outings as a family (pre-surgery) Jamie ran into someone she knew from her past and had not seen in a very long time. The friend learned of her illness and was moved with compassion. She told Jamie that her mother was an organ donor and she was going to tell her mom (who was in perfect health) that she needed to designate her lungs to Jamie so if anything should happen to her before Jamie died, Jamie would receive her lungs. Now, Jamie had told me this part of the story shortly after it happened and we both found it a bit odd, but thought nothing of it after that. Guess who’s lungs Jamie was receiving? The friend’s mother, in perfect health, had suddenly and unexpectedly died of a brain anurism that killed her instantly. Apparently, for someone receiving an organ donation this is an excellent way for the donor to die (sorry if that sounded morbid) for it does the least amount of damage to the organs that are being donated.

Jamie believed and lived a life full of Hope and Joy and God restored her health. Though her life permanently altered by the need to take life long medications that had some side affects that affected her appearance…through it all, she never lost her Joy.

It’s funny, they say God only gives you what you can handle. I guess Jamie could handle a lot. God equipped her to walk through something that required much strength and perseverance. I would tell her how I marveled and was blessed by her continual countenance of Hope and happiness. In all her glorious humility, she would reference a specific trial of mine that had some longevity to it and she would tell me how God used me to inspire her, she didn’t know how I did it. Isn’t God funny? My trial, though hard, felt so insignificant compared to life and death.

God has a purpose for everything under the sun. If you still have breath in your chest then He isn’t finished with you yet. You’ve got a life purpose to complete. Hold on, Dear One, hold on. It is a blessed season and the Father gave His Son that we would have the Power over Death to proclaim Life and see our Victories won. Jamie’s donor had fulfilled her call on life and God took her home. Part of her life purpose was to save Jamie’s life. God can save your life, too, from whatever afflicts you. He can walk you through it and this too probably has purpose to it. Adopt an attitude of Hope, Optimism, and Joy, infectious Joy! Believe with all your heart. He is going to put the spring in your step back.

“…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

Never give up. Don’t lose heart. Allow courage to drive itself deep within your chest. God has given you breath…you’ve got more.

~Nicole

December 12, 2013

A Time for Mary

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:01 am by Broken & Brave

I have a beautiful, hand painted clock in my home that I bought about five years ago. I saw it in the window of a clock store. Have you ever seen something and the second you lay your eyes on it, you knew it was you? That’s how I felt when I saw this clock.  I love clocks, watches, and timepieces anyway. This clock is an upright standing floor clock. It has interesting curves to it’s frame and beautiful hand painting on the surface with a two tone finish…beautiful. I peeked at the price tag through the store window and knew I couldn’t afford this clock. It would cost more than I thought I could afford or had the money for. So, instead of giving up on the idea, I stood right there and said in my heart a little prayer. I asked God, should He desire I have this clock that was so my style and my personality, then could He please make a way for me to get it and that no one else would buy it.”

Sometime later, maybe that day or that week (I do not recall) through a Word of Knowledge, the Holy Spirit instructed me that, indeed, I prayed well and I would receive that clock so I should believe. I continued to hear that not only would I get this clock,  I would have the money to purchase it, but I would pay much less than what the sticker price said. Then, I received a monetary denomination in my heart and mind. This clock was very expensive, but I was told I would get the clock for much MUCH LESS. I had an exact dollar amount in my head. I had no idea how I would even have that much money in the near future to spend on a clock, but I received it and believed it.

Within a month my husband was going with me to the clock store to purchase my clock. It was still there. No one had purchased or inquired about it. The store was relocating and the price of the clock had been reduced three times over the course of only a few weeks. The sale price now…exactly the amount I had been given in prayer. John and I had some business blessing over those short weeks that I did not anticipate, thus providing the finance to spend on a clock. Even the Store Owner was surprised the clock hadn’t gone yet, especially with such a reduced price. It is a great clock.

This clock has a piece of my heart because of the story behind it, but when I got it home I discovered something about this clock I hadn’t known prior that made me love it all the more. This clock chimes, and when it chimes it plays “Ava Maria”. That pierces me. Do you want to know why? Because… though I believe Mary to be flesh and blood and not of Deity, I have deep regard for her level of obedience to the Lord. I had been studying her obedience in the Bible and in prayer. God took me on an in depth study of her pure obedience to God.  Shorty after I had done so much study of her (all on my own, no formal Bible study…just me and the Holy Spirit), I received this clock. God’s beautiful and poetic symbolism and timing.

Just as I love timepieces, I also know and understand the value of time. Time is a precious commodity and once spent, can never be earned back. Mary gave God the gift of her obedience and her time. How might her life have been if she didn’t obey? God knew her heart ahead of time and He knew what she would say to His request, but still, what if? God would’ve found another to carry out His plan and she would’ve had a radically different life. She would’ve stayed in her hometown and probably still married Joseph, but her world would not have been so radically altered. She would’ve been comfortable and her life would’ve been fairly predictable. Instead, she gave it all to God for His Glory. (Luke 1:26-38)

Many people marvel at the obedience of Mary and say things like, “Oh, if I could obey as she did…” but they leave it at that. My thoughts are analytical in nature and I drift to other places of depth and probing with questions I may never know the answer to.  One such question is, “Did God use Mary’s circumstance to not only do the obvious, bring the Messiah to Earth, but was she used as a form of sifting of the religious people?” Think about it. The Bible says that the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro through out the earth and he separates the wheat from the chaff (2 Chron. 16:9, Luke 3:17). God is a Great Economizer, He usually accomplishes more than one task with every action He makes. Most everyone, to our knowledge, in Mary and Joseph’s hometown decided Mary is bad and they want to stone her. If it weren’t for revelation of God, Joseph would have thrown the first stone, but he didn’t. He heard the angel and he received the Word of Knowledge from God and he helped Mary. While Mary was pregnant she went to stay with her cousin Elisabeth, whose spirit and baby leapt with Joy at the arrival of the young girl who was pregnant, but maybe not “showing” yet. Elisabeth was full of happiness and prophesied over Mary. (Luke 1:39-45)

So, why did some receive Mary and others didn’t? Were there others not mentioned in any Bible stories that knew Mary was a vessel being used of God, but maybe they caved to peer pressure? Or maybe they kept it in their heart, but never spoke out for Mary? Just because the Bible story doesn’t go into these details, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or did.

Ultimately, it is a story that blesses my heart. Mary, a young girl who was probably a little bit naïve to the magnitude, breadth and depth that this journey would change her life, stepped out with willing faith to be used of God to fulfill and magnificent purpose. A purpose less about being pregnant and more about giving Life to the Way, the Truth and the Life. She truly gave it all for a call that came with no accolades or fame, but had a destiny to change the world. No high praise or exaltation, yet remains, to this day, to be the most glorious act of obedience to God outside of the her baby growing up to sacrifice His Life as a Lamb unrecognized by the world for who he was. King Jesus…the Savior of the World.

Someone told me once that my greatest Christian strength was my obedience. That is a strong and very humbling statement.  So when I implore others to Trust God and obey the call of Destiny He has for them, I am asking as one who does the same. All I know is that I am crazy in love with a God who reached down from Heaven and touched me, changed me and fills a void in my heart that nothing or no one on earth has ever been able to touch. For that, I am loyal to Him no matter what my obedience may bring me to.

So, every time I hear my little clock chime, it is like a moment with the Love of My Life, reminding me of how much He loves me and cares for the intimate details of my life.

He loves you like that, too.

Merry Christmas, 2013.

Never lose Hope in a God who does everything so completely different than we could ever dream or imagine.

He loves like none other.

His methods are like none other.

He protects like none other.

He provides like none other.

And He is so in love with you…take the time to notice Him.

He reveals Himself in strange ways, so think twice, when He sends a person or a situation like “Mary” your way…you may be entertaining angels.

~Nicole

December 2, 2013

“I Beg Your Pardon”

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:06 am by Broken & Brave

“When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennersaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick, and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well.” Matthew 14:35, 36

In late September of 2010, it was a Sunday or Monday evening. My husband and  I were roused from our usually evening routine by the voice of one of my children, calling for us to come check on another of our sons who was making unusual noises in his sleep. My husband was the first to enter the room. What we found was one of our sons in the middle of what appeared to be a very severe seizure. He had never had a seizure before and I had never witnessed a seizure before. My husband immediately jumped onto the bed with my son and prayed out loud, speaking the authority of the Word of God over my boy. My son immediately stopped seizing, but lay there disoriented. We called our Doctor and immediately met him over at the ER.

I spent that entire night in the hospital, sitting beside my son, as we did a whole lot of waiting. I was so afraid for him. I was so afraid. I watched as my son was given a CAT scan. They placed his small body onto the machine and slowly put his head into it. I stood in the hallway and all I could do was pray. I had tears in my eyes, but the words that came out of my mouth may not be what you expect. I began to thank God for all the promises He had spoken into my heart about the call and purpose of this child’s life. See, I knew this son of mine had a great call on his life. Plans so great, the Lord began speaking to my heart about the details of his appearance, personality and purpose while I was just in my first trimester of pregnancy with him. He was now in the early middle childhood years and everything the Holy Spirit had spoken into my heart about his character and person had been right on. I am confident in God’s Voice in my ear. I am confident in the Word of God. I am confident that He is a Healer and is delighted when I draw near with the burden of my heart and ask to touch the hem of his garment. So I stood and made prophetic declaration and I worshipped God for the miracle he was going to give my boy and the protection of his health; I didn’t pray the problem, I prayed the solution. I reminded God of His Promises for my sons life and that I had not forgotten them. All through that night, as my little boy  lie in the hospital bed,  he would reach over and stroke my arm to comfort me. I was blessed because in that dark hour I saw just how strong my little boy was. I saw the early stages of all  God had shown my heart for his future…a Mighty Man of Purpose full of Tenderness, Comfort and Compassion.

God healed my little boy. He hasn’t had any issue since and he is an intelligent, endearing and strong young man who my heart finds tremendous delight in. I frequently refer to my children as my Tiny Treasures, but I know there is nothing tiny about the size of my heart for them.

I just shared a very personal story to help show you how to touch the hem of His Garment in modern day. When we read such a passage in the Bible many might gloss over it.  After all, it is only one small paragraph in a very large book. Think about how much smaller the hem of a garment is. Think about how low to the ground one must be to touch the hem of another. A proud person would struggle to come to God and ask for a healing, but when we are meek and humble and we earnestly seek healing the Father notices. His Power comes to us and takes what was broken, wounded or crippled and He restores it to its original condition. He uses His Authority and He gently reaches for us. It is a concept so simple, but so hard for so many to understand because usually one with such great power is expected to Lord it over others, especially the wounded. But the Heart of the Father is so different from the natural thoughts or inclination of Man. He is Gentle. He is Patient. He is Kind. He is Family. He is Forgiveness. He is Healing. Restorer. Deliverer. Friend.

It doesn’t matter what you are going through. It doesn’t matter where you have been or what you have done. God is not ashamed of you. God is not out to get you. He is not punishing you. God is still on the Throne of Heaven and HE LOVES YOU. Whatever your need, He is there to answer. Wrap yourself in the hem of His Garment. Hide yourself in the Shadow of His Wing (Psalm 91). He is betrothed to you…committed to your well- being. His Promises are for you and your loved ones. He is Faithful and True. Lavish His tremendous Pardon over You. Call out to Him, He will answer.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:4

If you have a need, He has an answer. Reap the benefits of trusting in Him.

~Nicole

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in Peace.” Luke 8: 48