SLAMMING DOORS: Trusting God Through the Unexpected

God opens doors and He closes them. Some slam shut so quickly that we question our gifting and character instead of trusting the Creator of our story. The One who knows every day of our life written well within the beautiful book He keeps close to Him, the one called life. We don’t know what each day will bring to us (or what will be taken away for our well being) but God knows because He ordained it. There are times where doors won’t open to us and we feel like we did something wrong, “Were qualified, I’ve worked for it, I REALLY WANT it.” But alas that knob will not turn, no matter how hard we twist. There are other times the door opens and right when we start take a step through it, it slams shut and we are left broken hearted, kicking ourselves and others around us wondering HOW we didn’t measure up… Instead of looking upward, we look outward or inward and lash out. We trade truths for misconceptions and lies that have infiltrated our hearts and motives. We become ensnared.
There are times when heavens gentle, “No.” feels like a slap, like a rebuke. We question Gods care and concern for us, when the truth is He is preserving us, keeping our feet on the God given destiny for our lives. It is at this point where we have two choices, we either rebel and lash out, or we quietly and (truthfully sorrowfully ) submit to His will. We learn to trust what we cannot yet see and walk in blind faith where there is need for understanding. We learn to trust the author of our lives and He leads us on…

So many times in my life I wanted things, I worked for them but I was still denied them. I failed to see how those things led me AWAY from my God given destiny. I was SO ready to settle for the comfortable and the mundane than to grab hold of my truest form of me. A good example of this was my position as a lead in preschool ministry. I was home there, to a degree, I felt accepted there, to a degree I thrived… to a degree… but you see that is wrong. God didn’t want me to settle for ” to a degree”, truthfully- I was falling short of my potential. These are the times where we don’t hear or heed God’s “it’s time to let go and move from here.” That we start to fall into the snare of complacency and mediocrity. Satan’s perfect trap is for you to serve but miss your mark. I once heard a dear friend say, “Real hell is meeting the truest form of who you were meant to be, and seeing those you could have impacted.” I don’t want that as my end game, I don’t want my life to fall short of the Glory of God and ALL He has for it.
So I have learned to embrace EVERY closing door, I have learned to know that every door closed brings me closer to my calling and to my truest destiny. And as you can see, it has not failed me- not one bit.
When the church I belonged to since I was 4 moved into conflict with my identity, truthfully I spiraled. I could not see that God was releasing me INTO something, and NOT taking it away. It felt like a divorce, it felt like I was suddenly unwanted, rejected, and pushed aside- which was NOT the case. Truthfully though, God led me away… What was once a safe place for me to grow, had become toxic to my future identity. I had tethered myself willing to mans words, instead of Gods. I was willing to perform for a sense of identity, instead of learning who I truly was IN Him. I wanted to belong to a crowd, a sea of people who felt like home. instead of standing out and shining for the Glory of God. How many of us know that when we “Kick against the goads” God never takes them off. Instead He leads us on until we submit. Me leaving the church of my youth was a submissive acceptance of the goads. God cut my tethered chains and opened new doors to me. I tasted freedom for the very first time.
Three years, that’s how long it took to adjust… Three years is how long I needed to figure out who I was again. To dare to chase down my truest calling, the me, God intended me to be. In solitude I found my Him. And it was there I learned what I already knew (catch that, don’t miss it). I learned to trust IN Him. That when my eyes fail me, to trust in blind faith the character of God. Things are not always going to make sense, we will go through painful things in this life, we will be rejected and dismayed by people who are leaders of the church, of a movement, of our home groups, even our closest friends… that doesn’t mean God fell off of His throne, rather it means that we are human, THEY are human. We all make human mistakes and God will one day hold each one accountable for them like a good Papa does. And when those mistakes happen and when you cannot see the will of God default to the Word of God. It will NEVER fail you, rather it will SUSTAIN you in the hard times.

There is something about the Struggle, nobody likes it. We all buck against it, but yet it brings such beautiful results… There is a verse in Job, near the very end of the book, after all was done and said, Job as an old man… says the MOST profound thing. He says, “My ears heard OF You, but NOW my eyes, they SEE You. Job 42:5. The struggle, Jobs struggle produced this in his life… Job knew of God, of His character before all of the trials in life, but after? After Job saw God, he understood on such a level that brought him face to face with the very essence of God, all derived understanding went by the wayside as he stood face to face with the very being of God. It was upon reading this passage that I learned to embrace all of my trials and tribulations, for I knew what I thought I knew and heard about the character of God was going to be removed, my former identity shaken. A new understanding of who I was and what I was made to do would come forth as I saw God for the very first time. God doesn’t carry a big stick, He carries Calvary. And with that comes healing, freedom and restoration, and identity.
When I was a little girl I remember telling God, “I’m nobody to no one, and no one really loves me. But to YOU I’m somebody. God remember me when I am older, let my life count.” And it has, and He did. God didn’t forget the frizzy haired little girl in all of her loneliness, so why would He forget you? Why would He slam those doors shut on her to keep her from harm and failure and not you? He won’t, He loves all His children. He will preserve you for your destiny just as He has preserved mine, He’s a really good Papa like that.
The frizzy haired little girl grew to trust God at His word, every pained rejection wasn’t really rejection at all but rather an end of a season in her life, an ending of an old thing and a beginning of a new one. And every time I begin to question things God is always faithful to bring clarity, and correction if I am willing to receive and hear it. Fast forward to the night of my birthday in 2016, my friend had a word for me. A REALLY strange one, he said he saw a vision of my guardian angel who was dressed as an Elvis Presley impersonator, donning his famous jump suit pointing at me with both hands and nodding with the famous lip curl saying “uh-huh” in the way Elvis did. He said that the guardian angel was really excited that I was in his charge and care. He asked me if Bubby meant anything to me, nope… later I looked it up and Bubby is a famous Elvis impersonator. Weird right? Or does God SO care about my heart that He uses a love Language that only I can understand? So days later when I went for the job interview with the fashion designer and landed it was it coincidence that simultaneously across the street was an Elvis impersonator? No it was God winking at me, reminding me in His playfulness that HE lights the path under my feet, and I just walk it out.
Fast forward to my starting the Old Globe, 2 weeks in and I was having cold feet… Steven was slammed at work, I was his help, and I was gone. He was playing perpetual catch up, our invoices got behind because I was working too… I weekend worked with Steven, I was missing my kids and reeling from the lack of support I had been to Steven as of late. I questioned my job at the Old Globe, I was sure in my mind I had rushed ahead of God and made a mess of our lives and my family and company was bearing the brunt of my selfishness. It was a Sunday, and my boss gave me tickets to the Old Globe that night. I went with Steven to run copper on a burn Job. We stopped to get Panda for dinner for everyone. I sat down with my tea and a fortune cookie and thought, “Lord I’m certain I’ve made a mess of things, I rushed ahead of You and walked through an open door thinking it was You, but now I am not so certain. Please speak to me.” I cracked open the fortune cookie and read it, a single tear fell from my eye and I suddenly felt His mighty hand upon my shoulder. It said ” You are right where you are supposed to be.” (Let me be clear, I do not think every fortune cookie carries the absolute voice of God [if so I would have played those numbers and won every time, joke] but I do believe if God can use a donkey to correct a king He can speak directly to my need through a piece of paper tucked into crappy tasting cookie.) I knew it was God responding to my unbelief. I was suddenly reassured and ready for tonight’s date. Excited to see my first play as an employee at the Globe we sat down and took it all in…. I had NO idea that God wasn’t done laying to rest every care and concern I had for the things that weighed heavily upon my heart. Steven reached my for arm, the lights went dark and we began to laugh….
The play was about Picasso and Albert Einstein having drinks in a bar at the turn of the 20th century. And art dealer walks in and says, “Picasso I hope you keep drawing women, and not men. Works of art that are of men NEVER sale, except for the ones that are messengers. For some strange reason those sale, I just hope if a messenger ever shows up at my door I’ll recognize them. I mean if heaven sends me a message, I would at least hope that the messenger would be distinct in someway so I know he is a messenger like a satchel. That way when an angel knocks on my front door I know it’s him because low and behold he has a heavenly satchel.” The art collector takes a long drinks, lets out a long satisfied breathe and slams his cup back down on the table. Picasso picks a fight with Albert, ” I do great things with my art. What do you do? You scribble numbers on a paper and call it work.” Albert fires back, ” My work is better than yours, you… you draw in 3 D, but I equate in 4 D. My math is art too!” The Bartender says, “you both are doing incredible things in the 20th century, they both are important and have value, they are just different looking.” Then the art dealer says, things happen in threes, if there are two amazing men who are going to change the 20th century here then who is the third?” I had no idea that God was about to blow my doors down and off their hinges. God was about to blow the doors so far open I couldn’t doubt His hand upon my life right now…. Picasso argue with Albert… The lights go out, pitch black in the house and a disco light starts to spins and strobes appear. Then pitch black again, a single spot light forces the audiences focus onto a table top. I grab Stevens arm…. Hot streams of tears pour out of my eyes… Every doubt was about to become unhinged. For standing upon the table was Elvis Presley. He looked at Picasso and Albert and he said, “I am a messenger sent from above, I’m here to let you know that you both will do great things that will have impact.” God had just showed up at the Old Globe and I was undone, I spent the rest of the night sobbing in comfort at the majesty of God and Steven just kissed my hand, my forehead, my cheek. He knew it was another God moment left for the books of my life. I knew in that moment and in this season of my life and our lives, Steven and I, and even the children were right where we are supposed to be. We are not early, we are not late. Nothing’s rushed, it’s all as planned. He is holding us in His grip of grace and with His funny sense of humor, God is unfolding the details of my and your life one door at a time. So when we arrive at the end of our journey we can, like Job say, “I heard of you, but now I behold you.”
Now Dear Reader this is where I leave you, not in the middle of the struggle of your life, but with a sharpened weapon that was forged through my experience and journey. For the truth is in this life doors are going to slam, and doors will be held wide open. And when they do, remember the frizzy haired little girl whom God loved so much He handed her her dreams, remember her story of letting God guide her. And remember Job, and trust the author of your life. Remember to trust IN Him when you cannot see Him. Do that and the day will come where you too can say. “Behold, I now SEE Him face to face.”
With Love,
Nichol

 

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Ramblings on Love

My first valentines day with Steven, I snuck into his bedroom when he wasn’t home and hung curling ribbon, hearts, balloons & streamers from his ceiling. I stuck super hero valentines all over his walls and left a basket full of homemade chocolate chip cookies on his desk, I sat down on his bed and waited… When he came in there was the biggest smile on his face. He told me later that it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him, that nobody loved him the way I do. Fast forward to last night. I asked him what it was that made him pick me… Out of all the girls he knew why did he choose me? A girl from a store he knew nothing about… He told me, “Our paths just kept crossing, I ran out of reasons not too and I could keep fighting our destiny or embrace it. So I reached out for you and you did not disappoint. You smiled a lot, were happy and seemed to glow, I had to know what it was you had that I did not. And you were SO different… Some people say they go to church and love God, but they never talk and walk the walk. You did both. You were a weirdly religious “goodie goodie” and I had to know why you were who you were. So I pursued you and once you let your guard down, I fell in love with you…
Tons of people say they love God, they love Jesus. But you, you REALLY DID, I have never been to church before you, and when you brought me there my world was rocked, I was amazed that there were buildings FULL of people like you, people who LOVED Jesus as much as you did… It made me want to know Him too. I was curious and my desire to know you was somehow intertwined in my wanting to know Him, too. You were Christ first to me, I met Him because of you. You ARE the best thing that happened to me if for only that reason…”
Love is not an easy road, it is tumultuous, hard, and upsetting as much as it is passionate, caring and considerate. Love is NOT an emotional response, love is an ACT. When I met Steven I KNEW, it was he whom I would spend the rest of my life with. I saw the unlovely and I saw the beauty within him. I grabbed his hand and have never let go…. We have weathered many things, poverty, adversity, other people, ourselves. And no matter the whirlwind, we outlasted the storms together… His hand in mine, we’ve NEVER let go… And we never will… Because Christ is our Truest North and He steers the ship we built together. Christ is our rudder, our anchor, and our compass in this life. He IS our Polaris. He blazes away brightly in our hearts. We are never really lost even when we lose our way…. He forever lights our path…
Love says, I love you no matter the cost… And it has cost us… and it has hurt at times… Our love wasn’t the easiest love story there was, it tore us from all we knew, it took us headlong into the face of adversity, and into two graves… his and mine. Together we died to ourselves and we learned to live for each other. At times all we had was our covenant and promise to one another, we were bankrupt, emotionally and physically, but we dared to dig deep rather than scratch at the surface of who we were together and it has never disappointed me… Our love is not a fairytale, it is rocket fuel, that ignited two hearts long ago… binding and bonding us into one…
Love is an unending vow, a covenant, a bond that holds two hearts forever together. Love is not a holiday, flowers, or chocolates, or the heat of a moment… Love doesn’t quite, it doesn’t give up, it doesn’t let go. Love holds on, it sustains, it says even though… I am yours… Love is vulnerable and transparent.
Christ is our best example of love. For Christ, He bares the marks of love, Christ, He knew before the cross happened, that it was coming… He didn’t shrink away from Golgotha, rather He faced it head-on He stared it down, and for you, for we, He climbed that hill. He didn’t run, He didn’t give up… He didn’t say you are not enough… He didn’t say THIS sacrifice its too great, it comes with too much a cost… One that I am unwilling to bear… No beloved, rather He BORE it, He walked it out. He went to the very edge of the darkness that was trying to consume the world and He screamed Light into it, the very essence of who He is came echoing back from the darkness and it was done… Loves response to the cross was passionate act, it was His love for us… He climbed up on that splintered cross and embraced death, and in doing so He defeated death for us all… He embraced the mockery, the nails, the thorns and the suffocation of the world for our sakes, because He knew… He knew death could not keep Him in his crypt, He knew life would echo back to correct death and that from HIS tomb healing waters would break forth and flood the entire Earth…. He knew that love would find you, it would seek you out…
That from Him would be a glorious light, that resurrected He would be brought forth and shine forth in a greatness that would make darkness shutter and shake, that the whole Earth would groan for His coming.. For HIS righteousness. That on this Earth would be those that would hear of His restoration to the Father and they would LOVE Him for it… kinda like a girl in a convenient store who loved Him so much that she did not hide her lantern but rather let it shine for all of mankind to see… She knew His love wasn’t just for her sake but for others as well… She wasn’t great, she was simply faithful…
And that faithful love was seen by many in a dark world… and it pulled on the heart of that one boy who lived in the darkness who had to know…so he grabbed hold of her hand… and in finding her, he would find HIM… and they would truly learn to love and be changed…
Now Dear Reader I pray that you have a boldness to shine bright in a dull world, you would love loudly and passionately with unshakable faith in Him… And if you’re lost you would look up to your true north, let this love find you as it found us, not just on this day… But everyday…
Happy Valentines Day!
With Love,
Nichol

BEHIND THE MASK: LETTING LOVE IN

 

“There is no other like you on this Earth, you are the only you God created. If there were no you, there would be a vacuum, a void left on this earth, God’s words He has you speak would not be there, something precious would be missing, YOU are more valuable than you know… Come out of HIDING, stop lurking in the shadows, step out of the shadow of death.” ~ GOD.

I could not feel the water, was it hot? Was it cold?… Steven was gone with the kids, he would be gone for hours, it’s was a rare moment to be alone in my own home. That night, I should not have been alone, that night I should have been with my family surrounded by those who loved me… I cannot say that it was premeditated, for I did not plan it. Rather the opportunity presented itself, it was a moment of weakness and of absolute deceit… In that moment I had no desire to carry on in life. I didn’t want the pain to continue… It was a deadly cocktail that opportunity had mixed for me… Down the hatch… What was done was done… Thick heavy tears fell with a great sigh of relief, my pain would be over soon… I longed to feel nothing… I longed to not struggle daily with illness any more, I wanted to be numb, but I had over shot it… In a moment of weakness I was about to self exterminate… Was it postpartum? Was it self hate? Truth be told it was both…

I could not feel the water…. Was it hot? was it cold, was it wet? I just felt pressure, I just felt pain, I hurt… Like my heart hurt… It had hurt for so long…I couldn’t even tell you what wholeness felt like, I was so fractured…always had been… I didn’t measure up in life, everyone and I mean EVERYONE rejected me, my mother, my father, my mother-in-law, my siblings, my peers, the church I grew up in… Even my new baby I fought for life for… If ever there was a screw up it was me… I HATE me….
Is it hot? Is it cold? I just feel pressure….I cranked the knob up higher… Nothing, numbness… I knew it was hot but, It didn’t FEEL hot… I was spiraling downward, I was past danger I was on self destruct and nobody knew… NOBODY had known… You see I hid it so well, with a pretty little mask, I was “okay” and “fine” fake smile nothing to see here folks…Truth be told I was far from okay, and in a few short hours I was to be dead… Desperate to feel something I turned the shower up hotter… Until the burn itched my legs… Finally, I feel something, I leaned my nakedness against the tiled wall, “You deserved this… You deserve every bad thing that has ever happened to you… What a meager existence it has been, what a perfect ending to your sad, pathetic life…” I started to cry, the pain inside was unreal… I STILL hurt… I am no good, I break EVERYTHING I touch… You’re fat, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re insignificant… Steve hates you, like he REALLY hates you… Your were his plan B, he married you out of pity and a sense of duty…”

Hot salty tears stung my eyes… I hated me… The record replayed over and over again…I deserved to die…I was pink all over from the burn… It was almost scalding, most would pull away…But in that moment the burn was comforting and I sat under the spout with the broken record playing over and over again FEELING something other than devastation for a change… Letting the enemy rip me to pieces with his “truths”, it was like he held a mirror to my face to force me see what I longed to forget. Like my mother who withheld favor and love from me that I, as a little girl and young lady so desperately needed, every slap of her words and fists… Her rejection had rocked me to the core… I longed to feel something more than my smashed to pieces heart… So many tears… I hate me, I HATE me, I hate me so much… My eyes were heavy, the pain had stopped, I could barely breathe the air was so hot and my lungs felt heavy… It was time, I turned off the water and somehow found my way into my bed…I don’t remember much of what happened next…. But I laid down and fate stepped in… As I tried to extinguish me, God had a different plan. THIS was not how I was to go, this was not the end of my story. In my misery and self hate, in the middle of my sin, He came to me. He chose to love me in my unloveliest hour. There in that bed He came to me and picked me up and said, “You’re not done, you are down but you are not out. He loved me even though. He drew me close to Him and in my darkest hour He found me, in the enemies camp He unchained me, picked me up, and carried me to safety… In my ugliness He called me beautiful, and it was there that He took all of my ashes and He showed me how to make them into something beautiful. It was when I was full of self rejection, He loved me all the more and He accepted me for who I am. In my wrath and destructed He spoke kindness to me, diffused me and taught me to love again….

So how?… How was I spared? Well He sent me Steve, Steven came home early… He knew something was wrong… He sat me up and quickly my body responded to being jostled by him, it let go, and let go, and let go… I was so sick, things spun around like the wheel of a kaleidoscope, I was gasping and fighting for my life, in a dream like haze I remember him asking me what I took, in a haze I remember him telling me that he loved me and I don’t get to do this to him. I remember him trying to sit me up and that only made me more sick and up it came…all of it…every lie, and all the poison, and the realization of what I had just tried to do… I was so sick… I could barely lift my head for a whole week, I laid there so ill that I could barely move. In that week, I had a lot of time to think about things, and Steven had a lot more to say to me. It was time to be real, the masks had come off… For days it all came up… For days I was so sick I couldn’t lift my head, for days I laid in bed, I wrestled with all of it… I became very aware of my self condition and I didn’t know how to hide it anymore. My mask of being “okay and fine” had just come off….And I was far from both.
Dear Reader, I do not expect you to identify with my whole story, but I feel as though there will be different parts that speak to you as you start to see the fracture in your own mirror… We all wear masks, we are all afraid of something, to show the unlovely, the thing we don’t want others to see… This blog is my mask coming off… I am not afraid anymore… I am set free… My story is my testimony, the good, the bad, the unlovely…. It is a road to redemption marked by love along the way. My life reflects the mercy, grace and power of God. Not the condemnation and judgment of man, I hold no fear of judgment. For I AM beautiful and lovely, I have GREAT worth in my own eyes and in the eyes of my Creator. He made me beautiful, He made me in HIS image and THAT is something to behold, that is something I had to own… “He knitted me together… I am fearfully and wonderfully made… Nothing has EVER been hidden from Him, not in my past nor in my future He knew me well (Psalm 139)”… He knew all of it… He KNOWS all of it… and He STILL loves me and with that I am set free….

This blog started in 2013, in a coffee shop with a friend named Jena, and a friend named Melinda. Separately they met me one on one… as normal for coffee and catch up… But this time, this time the focus was mainly on me….I Had just let a very large cat out of the bag, I hated myself and they just found out many months earlier I had attempted to end my life. Melinda gripped her cup, she and I would meet consecutively over the next few weeks and months at Denny’s…. In that season she was faithful to call me daily, her little hands gripped her coffee, she sighed deep , looked worried and leaned back into her seat… “So… How are you today?… Good?…” Long pause, so much had changed, I wasn’t at church anymore, I had no desire to go. In their eyes I had gone rouge… The truth was 3 years of church counsel didn’t touch my hurt… The truth is, I still ached after every formulated way known to mankind to just “give it to Jesus.” had been done… So there Melinda was gripping her cup with so much grief on her face knowing my truths…
And then there was Jena, with her “I love you honey, you know that you are special to me… I fight for you, I don’t let anyone say anything bad about you… I just wish you could see what a treasure you are to others around you… I just wish you could see how much you mean to them too… Your spunky, your feisty, Scarlett she’s just like you… I wish you could see the you i see… take off your mask Nichol, your not alone in this… I cannot wait for the outcome of this journey. Im kinda excited.” Jena has always been a spin doctor, she can tell you the hard truths you need to hear with out the hurt. She knows how to meet you where you are at and pull you up and reset you… and Melinda well she loves without borders. These two have loved me so well, through that season, and even still… THANK YOU LOVELIES….
And then there was my Steven, he was the first person to love me well, he loved me for me. He loves my persona, my fight, my spunk… He is the gravy in my mashed potatoes, and the glue that’s hold this family together when it all falls apart… He makes my life palatable.
And then there was Kevin Lumsden with his word of knowledge, the catalyst that began the undoing of me… “There is no other like you on this Earth, you are the only you God created. If there were no you, there would be a vacuum, a void left on this earth, God’s words He has you speak would not be there, something precious would be missing, YOU are more valuable than you know… Come out of HIDING, step out of the shadow of death. God knows your heart, He knows your every thought, your every intention, what you’ve done, what you did, and what you hide…”
There was so much in my past that made me want to hide, there was so much devastation that I became so weary from it all… My hands were limp from fighting for so long… Every abusive moment from my childhood taught me to hate me and reject me. I became good for only one thing, it infected the very essence of who I was and I filtered everything through that process. It haunted my life force and identity, it dwelled in every relationship and my marriage. I learned to EARN love and to despise my heart and my body… To the core I hated me, so how could I love? Let alone receive love the thing I desperately needed.

The truth is dear reader, that ever since I had met Steve I had always asked him, “Do you love me?” His response was always, “Very much.” But for whatever reason I never allowed it to penetrate, HIS love never got in… Truly all love never got in, I was too afraid of it and in fear I hid, I kept people at arms length… Most saw this as a slap against them, but the truth is it was self preservation… The walls around my heart were iron clad and fortified. For years when I opened my Bible it would willing fall to Psalm 139, a heavenly message wrapped in love to me, but it would not penetrate, it never got in, I would scribble it out like an angry lover… “HOW!? How do you love me?! YOU CALL THIS (my life He gave me) LOVE”… My self condition was a ticking time bomb… I was ready to detonate.
“Love your neighbor as yourself…” Mark 12:31
God commands us to love… He commands us to love our enemies, to love Him, to love our neighbors, and to love ourselves… But what if WE are our own worse enemy? And HOW on earth can we love others when we don’t even love ourselves… I believe it is impossible to genuinely love others when self hate and self loathing is a condition set deep within our hearts. It stains everything we see, hear and understand. Self loathing is a state of being, an emotional, but more importantly a spiritual condition. When we self loath, we are rejecting what God designed for us, we are rejecting HIS design for us, His creative act of us… We have somehow grabbed hold of the lie from the pit that we are unfit in every way. We reject God’s truths and believe that God makes mistakes, because “I” am an error, a blemish, something that should not have been… Self hate is a dangerous condition to be in, it’s destructiveness reaches into all aspects of thought process we contain, it makes us believe that EVERYONE else is better than us and deserves more than us. We wallow, we reject ourselves and therefore reject others and their words towards us… We believe that others pity us and it perverts every true act of love as an act of pity. We think others just say things to be nice, or they feel sorry for us… Self-loathing brings upon self pity, a lack of self worth, and a often spirit of rejection. You become your own worse critic, you ARE your own worst enemy…. and it is all an assignment against your identity straight from the pit of hell…
THIS is what I started to realize as I lay sick upon that bed… What Steve had helped me to see… and I realized that the pretty mirror that I so willing gazed into was horribly flawed, it was ugly and fractured and far from the truth of who I really was. The mirror was a dark one and it lied straight to my face for all of these years. In that bed I was rescued from the Hydra’s lair my Him found me there and started to undo the barbwire that pierced me so… It was in that bed that I started to see that I mattered to those around me… That I truly had value, weight, and worth. It was there I started a journey INTO LOVE and began to let love in.

The process was thus, the first person I needed to let love me, was me… As a little girl I used to look into the mirror and tell myself over and over, “I hate you.” Inwardly I would recite things that I heard at school, and in the home, that made me start to reject me, my body, my persona. This is where I started, I needed to undo that. So the first person I faced every day was me, I looked into the mirrored reflection I hated and I stared at her… And She stared back, I looked at her every curve, her every flaw, her every scar, and I said, “You’re beautiful, and Im sorry….” Her sad eyes would look back at me and I would go on… “I am sorry for not loving you enough, for not loving you well, and I will learn to love you.” And so I did. I learned to gaze into the mirror and learned to love every scar, every blemish, every flaw. I would sit and say to my reflection, “I love you.” And in the beginning it didn’t register, it didn’t sink in… it felt fake but I did it just the same. I looked at her, who I was taught to hate, and eventually the hate fell off and love came… Love started to sink in… My words grabbed root and became truth. I faced my every fear by letting love in… I learned to set boundaries with people, and I learned to navigate people them. I learned to trust few and love most. I even learned to receive love from others. How? By allowing them to serve me, by allowing them to spend time with me, by believing their “I love you”s. Even when their actions didn’t back up their words. I took my power back from toxic people. I learned that even if they are family NO ONE has the right to hurt you emotionally, sexually, spiritually or physically. I left people and places behind that were toxic to my well being and a new self respect grew out of doing so. Truthfully, in the beginning it hurt, it was hard, but Steven and myself learned to stand on our own two feet despite all adversity. And I loved myself all the more, I developed a self identity I had never known… I went from orphan to heir…
I learned that people who love well are not afraid to be real with others, they can be themselves and if people do not like it, its a flaw within the other person and nothing against you…
But above all of these things I learned that my salvation doesn’t hinge on good behavior, that if I don’t go to church for a year, I don’t automatically forfeit my salvation, that NO ONE can take that away from you. It was bought at a price of a life and given to you, it and you have weight and great value to God the Father, and Holy Spirit loves you deeply for it. I hit the ground running, got plugged in elsewhere and discovered what true community looks like. For the first time I was free to be me, and I was surrounded by people who do not let one another fall… For the first time I was in a community that was a family to me… I was affirmed… It started to sink in, I was indeed well loved by Steve, by God, by others… and by me… I had no need for a mask any longer… My mask has come off. I am set free.

For you see, I have been on a journey, a voyage of discovery, learning to not only love myself, but love others and to allow them to love me in return… And at the start of my 36 years I think I finally have arrived… I LOVE me for me, I LOVE myself, The silly creature God made me. For the first time in my life I love me, I AM COMFORTABLE in my own skin, in all the feisty, fiery, and spontaneous plus sized roller coaster I am… I LOVE ME!…. I look in the mirror and I am realistic about WHO I am … I am plus size and I rock it. My value and worth doesn’t come from my pants size, or what others think of me, it comes from deep within, it comes from my Heavenly Father and from loving who I was created to be even if that still remains to be seen. I no longer hate the girl in the mirror, I love her, she is lovely, she is a survivor, she has purpose, and weight, she is stunning, she glows from the inside out. The truth is I still see me for me and I am not unrealistic about who I am. I see myself in the mirror and do not despise myself any longer. For I am beautifully flawed, my back bares scars of youth, my face bares scars of abuse, my navel bares scars of illness, and my lower abs bares scars and stretch marks from child birth and weight gain… not to mention all the unseen scars upon my heart. And I love every imperfect morsel of me… It doesn’t matter what shape, scar, or bulge I bear, I am beautiful…I am the me I am supposed to be. I rock her well in the world… Because I am the me HE created me to be… HE made ME perfectly… I compare to no other, for there is no other me. I am a beautiful work of art straight from the throne of grace… For I AM the very essence of HIM… Because HE made me, because HE dwells within me…. And all of my scars are battle wounds from the journey…. Every single one of them marks a victory, a memory of overcoming the world, and overcoming the dark one….
I left the enemies camp, and there I left my little mask behind… I started a new journey with my Him, out of self destruction and hate into self love and acceptance. I have started to heal, my illness has even started to self correct, it seems to be controlled with the new level of nutrition I have found… I am on a new journey of becoming a better me. But that is another story for another time…
Now Dear Reader, This is where I leave you… reflecting into your own mirror… What is it you see? Where is your self condition? Who has lied to you? Its time to take off the mask, to come out of hiding…. What is it you see? I see a lie there that was never meant to be believed. I see a fracture that needs resetting to heal… I see a mask that hides the real beautiful you… I see a you in you that someone else can never be… I see an ancient love song written before time came to be… I see Eden’s garden and Eve restored… I see the power of an old rugged cross, its three nails, and the resurrection story of an empty grave dwelling within… Behold! Beloved, He comes! My Ancient One with healing in His stride… Behold and beheld, He never left you behind… Reach out and see the YOU, you were meant to be… Let Him write His name upon your heart… That lie? Toss is down, the Serpent is dead, THE HYDRA’S NO MORE… Step out, step out love is at your door… He loved you then, He loves you still… He loves the you, you refuse to see, He loves you, you were ALWAYS meant to be. I break shame, rejection, and self hate off you now… You SEE?!?…Come… take my hand… You are free… Come be free with me… You are a slave no more…

With Love,
Nichol

P.S. If you need a friend I am here for you… Reach out to me… come out of hiding…

Brick by Brick….

Egypt, man I LOVE Egypt. There is something beautiful and romantic about THAT ancient city, maybe it’s the countries refusal to die… I dunno… But I have always wanted to know what it was like to be there, to help build it….

AND…. After five weeks in Anaheim I feel like I was given a window into their world… Complete with a Pharaoh… And bricks made with (and without) straw….

If you know me, you may know my story… Kinda… If you know me you may know what Steven and I have gone through. If not its okay, For I am about to tell you… Steve and I tried to start his business in 2005, with big hopes we fell right on our faces… Our nation entered into a recession big time and I feel that it started in California a couple years sooner than the rest of the USA… The heart of the construction industry was sucked out leaving many unemployed… Leaving us unemployed, and when a job came it quickly ended, I never thought God would take us through this season in our lives, I was left wondering what we did so wrong to have calamity brought upon us in this way…. I think my lowest of lows was applying for food stamps, at the welfare office… As a small girl I promised myself I would never let myself be brought back there… I promised that that humiliation would not befall me the way it had my mother… And at 27 here I was, standing in line, clutching my purse, not able to lift my eyes because of shame… I was there, it was bad… like REAL bad… I think one year Steve and I made 16k and that’s it… He was home a solid year, nothing tests your marriage like staring at the whites of the eyes of your spouse whom is unemployed against his will for an entire year…

One time he found work, and while he was employed he had to lay off about 300 men, it got to be where just the foreman and the superintendents were left, he would lay men off and one day he was laid off…. He went from being a plumber to security guard it was so bad… But it was still Good, because God was working in it… Many times the WORD of the Lord came to us through others, you are right where you are supposed to be, you are not early, you are not late…. That was a hard truth to hear ring through your ears in the food stamp lines… God THIS IS YOUR WILL?…

But it WAS and it still IS… But brick by brick He took us apart…He took us through hard things to rid us of ourselves, He took us through ravines so deep and dark so that we would learn to project a brighter light… He showed us what dirty business looked like, He showed us what bad management and ownership looked like, He showed us what poor money managers we had been. And in true Bible fashion the impossible happened, Rivers started to flow from the desert place and the wasteland finally gave up all of its streams it held out on us…. And in Steven and Myself a truer light bore forth from within, a lantern burned bright in our hearts to lead others from the darkest place of their own nights….We walked hard roads so that when night befell others we could shine and say this way… But it was hard, and it hurt, it left me marred… it left US marred…. But we ARE indeed better for it….

One day in my struggle of knowing who I was, I was crying (literally crying) on my knees asking God if He cared for me, and my desires for a home and financial security…. That night I had a dream, I was face to face with God asking my HIM the very same question, what do YOU think about my desire for a home? His response was a heavenly smile as He glowed brightly and took my hands and responded, “What do you think about this home?” And suddenly, He and I were transported to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. We were standing in the White House and as I stood there with God, I encountered a POWERFILLED woman dawning a salmon colored pencil skirt and jacket, she was signing things into being and giving executive orders to those around her, she was called Madam President… That woman was me… I looked at God in that moment speechless and He just smiled… We were suddenly back in my Livingroom again… I awoke and jotted down that dream, wondering what the heck it meant… I had it interpreted and sure enough it was that IF I had the courage to go against the flow (salmon color, they swim upstream to give forth life) I would find myself in a place of power and position that gained respect from others. I had no idea that this was to be placed upon me in a few short years….

When Steven and I were married, I didn’t really like him that much in the beginning, we had gone through a whirl wind of….? Well?… of crap… and I was left feeling exhausted from it all… But I found myself on my knees right before we were to meet at the altar, I was crying out to God for HIS will, and I heard Him say, “Go ahead, marry that boy, you’ll see I’m in it.” So I did… AND in 2002 we did, and I resented him (Steve) for being a bit of a mama’s boy and a stinker…

 Ha-ha, but God, HE was not done… No not in the lease, and one month after our wedding vows a preacher found us in IN & OUT by our home church and he prophesied over Steve (and myself) that God was going to bless our marriage (and my obedience) and He was going to use us hand in hand in ministry together that I would be his perfect help meet, and that we would be equally matched, and a well-oiled machine. AND that he could see love wasn’t really in our relationship right now but it would be there, and there would come a time where we would genuinely love each other with a passion… (I gritted my teeth at the last part, smiled and said, we will see)…

And we did see… in 2005 brick by brick everything tumbled apart and I tried to leave Steven. Angry I scribbled a note… I took the last $ 20.00 that was ours and packed before he got home from work. I placed my ring on the table and told Steven in the note that his drive for success overlooked me and our marriage… He had killed our family and I was done… And I was…. I packed Brenna, she was 3 months old, and I put the 20.00 in the gas tank of my sedan and I told God, I’m leaving him and you’re not stopping me… You were WRONG to tell me it would all become right…For I DESPERATELY LOVE STEVE but he doesn’t give a flying rip about me… Not just tears, but hot tears flowed uninhibited from my eyes… sunglasses help keep the stares at bay…. Especially at a gas station… I was broken, and alone…

WORD OF ADVICE: if you are running from God, don’t keep your radio station on KLOVE or ANY Christian one at that… My first mistake in my flight from Egypt was… KLOVE… For as soon as I turned over my car engine Charles Swindoll came on the radio station… and as I drove HE through Charles ministered to my angry heart… Ol’ Charles asked me, “Friend are you angry right now? (yes, I am), are you about to do something that will ultimately change the course of your life (maybe, what’s it to you) are you about to do something out of unforgiveness and spite that will ultimately change Gods will for your life and for others’ lives as well? IF so my friend I INVITE you to pull over and reconsider what it is you are about to do.” (DANG IT…) God could not have been more clear if He had dropped an angel onto the hood of my car and said, “DON’T GO…”

I cranked that wheel into a hard right… ONE BLOCK… that’s it… that’s how far I got from the gas station… I parked on the side of the road and cried, and cried… and cried, I hit my steering wheel over and over and over again until I was sure it would fight back with an angry airbag as a response to my abuse.. but it didn’t.. and I broke… My fists lay limp on the wheel as sobs poured out of me and I asked God to change my husband and my marriage into something that honored Him….

And dear Reader, do you know what I heard Him say? He NEEDED to CHANGE ME first…. He told me that I had made an Idol out of my husband and an Idol out of what I thought a Christian marriage should look like, that I WAS WRONG, and guilty just as he…it was right then and there brick by brick, I built an altar, and I laid my marriage and Steven upon it… It was right then and there I too climbed upon it and laid me down… and in return I gained the strength to try again…To face Steven…. And so I did. My car pulled up and there was a log in my throat wouldn’t swallow… Steven was home early, and when I walked in he was reading my crappy note. He held my wedding ring in his hand and turned to face me, he said “if you are gone, why are you back?” I mumbled some half poor excuse of “God made me.” and Steve walked over and shoved my ring back on my finger twisting until it fit and said “don’t ever take it off again.” Those next few years were doosies… hard times beget harder times… like I said above, welfare…16K, security work, and all the while God was STILL on HIS THRONE, HE WAS STILL KING… God was taking us apart brick by brick, taking what could be shaken and making it unshakable… I used to tremble when bills were due, I wondered how we would survive the “red” bills… but we did… and now when things are tough I don’t shake, I stand firm knowing that my God is still seated on His throne even when things don’t add up…. And Brick by brick my faith in Him became a fortress of peace…

Life moved on for Steven and I, we dug down deep and forced ourselves to face each other. I stopped resenting him for not being “Christian enough” and realized that his walk with God didn’t (and wouldn’t) look like mine. I learned to accept that. I also learned to accept that he will drop swearwords loudly in church during a sermon as he grasps for his ringing phone and when it does happen it doesn’t affect his salvation, though it does cause a ripple of whispers and shrewd looks, maybe everyone just needs to get over themselves and lucky us get to be the instruments to help them see that (haha… wow, thanks Steven for that gem). I also realized he was a loaded cannon all the time, like a land mine ready to explode with the wisdom of the Lord but he often restrains because he was more private in his walk than mine…but when he talked people listen because if he wasn’t swearing, he is pretty darn profound…

And through my yielding, we faced each other… He let go of the past damage that was done by a manipulative mother and learned to trust ME and to SEE ME for who I really was… and that brought us closer to each other… Brick by brick we rebuilt our relationship, we were willing to face each other unrestrained for the first time… it was PAINFUL, and vulnerable… but SO POWERFUL… sharing with each other for the first time somethings and together we healed, together we learned that darkness has NO POWER when light shines through, and that was our marriage, we learned to let God open a flood light within our hearts and change occurred… I found myself hopelessly in love with Steven again and trust backed it up this time around… Steven found himself willing to let his guard down to a woman knowing that she could do harm but chooses not too… She chose love over spite… (Finally)… and we moved on… we grew as a family… we gained steam… and learned to become equally yoked…. A well-oiled machine, we learned to work in tandem to find a harmony between the two… we flowed…

And we like the economy started to recover. So naturally, when Steven told me in 2014 it was time to start up the business again I rebuked Satan from him…I told that DEVIL TO FLEE….

 I was certain Steve was NOT hearing God correctly, how COULD HE take me through that again… But as it turned out… THIS, THIS WAS DIFFERENT… And I submitted to my husband’s deep sense of knowing the seasons for our lives (reservedly) and I watched and waited…And sure enough Brick by Brick we built a business and we thrived, with the rhythm of new ownership in our steps… Steven not only had his bosses blessing, his boss GAVE him our first big client. And on Jan 1st, 2015 we leaped out on our own… We were business owners… And Steven thought it would be funny to make me co-owner…

Without prompting him he gave me a title… President…. He said “you’d make a good President. And besides I want to call you Madam President, and serve you coffee and junk.” I stopped dead in my tracks… My dream just came full circle… The craziest thing is I never told Steven my dream, heck I hardly tell him most of my dreams… but there I was with a title… but what good is a king without a throne or a kingdom… I didn’t sweat the title… it was just that… or was it? Steven made me an email… it started with Madam President… and when we argued about plumbing (which I knew nothing about) I would throw my leverage in and say to him “HEY, EXCUSE ME SIR… I think I know a thing or two about plumbing (I didn’t) for I happen to be the President of a Plumbing company… People just don’t hand these titles out for free!” This would always cause the biggest smile to form on his face in which he would stop what he was doing and grab me and kiss me right then and there, and I would cry sexual harassment in the work force will not be tolerated which only spurred the man on into a game of cat and mouse….

We gained employees, and then well I got tired of the games and fired them… I mean after all I was President right?…. So Steven informed me that since I fired everyone it was now my job to work alongside of him in the field, plumbing… Yes there I was chasing down dreams I didn’t know existed as a plumber (Me and my big mouth)… I turned wrenches, I hated it, I soldered (okay that IS fun), I lugged toilets (JOKE, no I didn’t but it makes my story sound good so I am adding it), and I climbed under houses (okay REALLY…? I mean who am I kidding? I don’t GO under houses… I held the flash light) and we worked for a year in tandem… as a team…

Suddenly all the prophetic was coming true, I was etching out a new level to the term “help meet” Not every woman’s calling is to be a home maker some are called into the field… Side by side…and that was honor to her husband just as much as it was to be at home… Could it be that our life’s ministry was actually our work? I mean not everyone can be a Pastor right? Someone has to work to keep the lights on and the water flowing right? So here we are living in the moment… trying to get up the slippery slope everyone knowns as entrepreneurship… and we were doing it!!!

Little did I know that EVERYTHING that I had learned in plumbing in the past year was preparation for what was to be unleashed upon our lives… Heck little did I know that all my years as a preschool ministry lead was about to be put into full effect as well….So here it comes… The day Egypt entered our lives….

Steven and I were headed up to Anaheim to walk a job, I wore ballet flats and skinny Jeans (you know my usual plumbing attire). More than halfway up there we get a phone call, we were not walking the job, we were DOING the job, it was ours… We scrambled, I mad dashed to get a hard hat and work boots. Steven and I had no idea what was about to befall us… He told the man in charge, I brought my wife along to help… his only response was I hope she is more than arm candy… I fired back with, “Look just because I have a vagina doesn’t mean I cannot plumb…” Steven quickly put his hand over my mouth, laughing he shushed me and kissed me on the cheek… “Cool it, hot head…” In that ONE moment it was on like “Donkey Kong”…. I was about to school the man in workforce etiquette and the powerful persuasion of a woman in the construction field…. He never saw me coming…

Detach 300 vanities, center them and reattach them in the right place… Easy right?… No not… The copper pipes were plumbed in the wrong spots and we had to solder it into the right place without burning down the hotel or scorching the wall paper… “Hey girl, you sweatin’ dem pipes?” “Ya, man… I do…” I was on prefab… I built for Steven and another plumber the extension of the arm that was too short, over and over and over again… and I heard every time I turned on the torch, “WARNING… a fire has been detected in the building. Please go to the nearest exit, do NOT use the elevator…. WARNING….” To the point that my prefab became an outside thing where there were no alarms to set off…. Steven and I were suddenly working in tandem… all was becoming fulfilled as promised… minus the mini fires set by yours truly…

Then the game changed again and we met the Pharaoh… He was Indian, and a Patel… He owns half of Anaheim… it’s what he does… HE is not a flashy man, but humble and powerful, with a streak about him that demands respect… He stopped and asked Steven one day.. What do you think of my Hotel? Steve mentioned something that he saw that would cause a catastrophic flood…The man said, thanks I’ll take that into consideration, not three hours later after we left the fourth floor all the way down to the first had flooded… exactly like Steven predicted, he now had the pharaoh’s ear and his favor…. We were asked to stay…

The man that saw me as “arm candy”, quickly saw my value, ate humble pie and was using me to run teams of men around the job… and here I was back in my preschool position managing large crowds of people making sure everything and everyone was in their place, making sure all the men had their “goldfish”, their “licorice” and their “water”. I was told to be job superintendent, and to not work but to supervise, and to be the eyes and ears of a multimillion dollar company. I need Nichol STAT he would scream and I would reply “If you ask nicely…” He would then say please… and I would comply…

I could tell I unnerved some men, and I could tell others tried to figure me out, whom I belonged to… At one point when the service elevator was up and running I needed to cart our stuff up a floor and the elevator was packed full of men, I wasn’t going to fit but they insisted they make room for me. I squeezed with them. They were 8 including the elevator operator, one guy asked, “Yous a plumber?” I said something like that… The elevator guy told on me, he had been talking to Steven… he said, “No she’s not just a plumber, she’s is the President of a plumbing company.” Almost in unison all the men looked amazed and stepped back to give me even MORE room and bowed low… I laughed (and blushed) the door dinged, it was my floor the elevator operator raised his Hard hat and said your floor Madam President… I giggled and backed out of the elevator… “Thanks boys, it’s been real.” I think about that moment, it was a fun one… God really has fun with me at times… I still giggle about that one…

So in Anaheim, 5 weeks passed, and the Hotel was built (and restored)…And we have been asked by the Pharaoh to go to San Francisco and to Colorado to do it again… and we may… and we may not for we known how politics go…

In the end who knows where life will take Steven and myself… back to poverty, or deeper into prosperity, neither frighten me… both I will embrace… But NO MATTER where I go I know one thing is for certain, God holds me firmly in the grip of His hand… He holds me, and my marriage… He holds Steven… and just as He cares for me and Steve God care for you too… and ALL of your dreams are there because God puts them there, He WANTS to give you the desires of your hearts… He wants to give you every dream you did (or did not) dare to dream, he wants to unleash what is hidden within, but YOU… You must be willing to let HIM do a good work within yourself… You must be willing to be vulnerable enough with your spouse, with God, and a few trusted friends to become undone… and when you become undone, you may just find the YOU, you were always meant to be….

Now this Dear Reader is where I leave you not with a salutations no, but with a great wonder and an awakening to your spirit for more, to become more… to stand in a new identity, or point of view whether it be your marriage or place of position… let go and live fully… I promise you, you truly CAN DO all things in Christ our Lord…. Just look at us…Oh and Dear reader… remember… swearwords do happen… just roll with it… I do.

With love, Nichol

The Gypsy Camp

Monday was ballet, not for the girls but for me. In my class there are 3 others, tiny in framed individuals, none standing taller than 5’4” petite on all accounts, then in walks me, bright magenta hair, big in stature from all accounts, and bigger in personality. My first instinct is to hide, but there is nowhere to go. I am a plushy sized woman desiring to be normal, wanting to not be so tall, or so big….My deepest desire since I was little was to fit in, rather to blend in… even better to hide…But here, there is nowhere to go, that I cannot be seen, I quickly think I should leave, maybe I am not wanted because of my stature. Then in an ocean of negativity, a thought pulled from my inner core, “NO, I WILL NOT HIDE ANYMORE… I will stay and fight… I was MADE to stand out, I would not be SO tall and larger framed than the rest if it were not so… SO I will stay and shine from the inside out. I dodge the eyes of judgment from the others for coming in late (seems like I am always late these days) and I quickly join the ranks at the Barre, refusing to hate my own appearance in the mirror I get into first position and start to warm up with the others, shaking off all of the negative thoughts sent from the pit, I begin to dance.

As I am doing what seems to be my four hundredth squat (plié) for the night, I realize that I am NOT being corrected like all the other ladies are, it hits me… I actually AM GOOD at this, and this truth starts to go deep, and to erase another word spoken over my persona as a small child, clumsy and a battle begins. Plié’ into second (not clumsy), Grand plié into fifth (not clumsy!), plié back to second (NOT CLUMSY!), switch sides. As I am repeating this pattern over and over again, tears start to fall from my eyes, I AM graceful and on point. I can DO ALL THINGS…. Then it hits me, I am FULL of grace inside and out. Both given and received, both natural and supernatural. Tears, and more tears… I start to shine as I find my rhythm and my place. And then revelation comes through the tears and the pain in my thighs, HE is there, in this and through this again guiding my steps in this class, through the art of dance and in life… grace, grace, and MORE grace… So I dance on…

As I Grand Plié my night away I realize that my whole life God has always been there seen and unseen… and in all my years on this Earth, I can never boast that I found Him, rather HE has always found me. He has always been there awaiting my call to Him and given me the grace to walk out whatever crossed my path. There is a beauty that can be found in a life surrendered to the Lord, even an imperfect one… AND YES, I AM imperfect, I AM flawed, but I am beautiful for it, for I am NOT cookie cutter, not in looks, nor in shape, not even in my Faith… A Stepford I am NOT…BUT HE finds me still, in the middle of a thousand Pliés, in the mist of my self induced trials, in the midst of my flaws, He finds me in the midst of all my imperfections, and He even finds me in the midst of my Screw-ups or Naively being led astray… and what does HE do? He gives me a DO-over, He picks me up, dusts me off, tells me I am lovely still then sets my feet back on the ROCK, and focus’ my eyes back on Him…

I AM a dancer, I am an artist, I am a daughter, I am an heir, I can do ALL things… I SHINE, I glitter, I glow…. I am unashamed, I am full of grace, I am a mirror image… of,…. Of?….. OF HIM!!!… I know WHO I AM….

But there was a time where in my life where, who I was, was unclear, I thought I knew, knew for sure…I mean I was a warrior right? Or was I not? I fought down many spiritual things had I not?… But yet my identity was quickly shadowed by others and their need to control the supernatural. I was told to comply, told to obey, to not ask questions…. To know that my well being was being considered… But was it?… Somehow I was convinced that freedom was actually slavery to fear , and that unconditional LOVE was given to those who were compliant…Feeling a deep loss of not having a mother, I gave my heart to a woman who said I could call her mama, she took me in, helped me (she DID help me), fed me HER truths, allowed me to feel love (CONDITIONALLY)…Feeling a false sense of security I put down my sword, traded it for a tambourine, hid my armor deep in a rustic chest, and left my KNOWING HIM, for a rogue Gypsy and her promise to mother me…

Her skin was like golden leather kissed by the sun, her hands LOOKED like work, thick with experience, aged with knowhow. She bent low into the wash basin, plunging a muslin shirt into the water sending soapy suds spilling over the basin onto the Earth creating a subtle layer of mud beneath her bare feet. Her hands beat a rhythm across the washboard, and with the rhythm of the board there was a humming…. A low song sung in beat with the board. The tune was hummed with a raspy but sweet voice, letting an occasional word escape from her reticent hum. Being a larger woman her hips and bottom were swarthy and bending sent the backside of her skirt into a ruffled tizzy of objection. Her knees cracked with age as she bent. She was the Matriarch of the group, beautiful and powerful, with aged set eyes that told a story, many stories. Her lips spoke freedom but her actions would prove far from that… She moved in what looked like power and authority, but she was far from it… She was manipulation and control… and she was known as Mama Gypsy.

I was fifteen, my family was in the process of being ripped apart due to an unfaithful parent, I was just saved and raging with anger deep inside from all of the injustice in my home and done to me by others. I didn’t just hurt, I was on fire. Because I didn’t accept the divorce I was seen as rebellious and noncompliant, I was taken to Pastoral authority and they were told I was so, but not why… Church discipline is never fun… Not when you are 5, 15 or 30… It was thought best that I should be placed in counseling and given a mentor. My mentor ended up being a woman who was a free thinker, she treaded upon the hydra herself once and won. I liked her, no, I LOVED her… She taught me to warfare, she taught me rightly, I learned to expel dragons from the land, I received love and for a short moment it was healthy… She was free to be, so it seemed… She was my Gypsy Mama.

Labeled as rebellious I was set in her care, I was her charge with the hopes that she would round out the rough edges… She took my hand and my heart and I learned what she knew. I was the only 16 year old that I knew who willing wrestled with dragons, drove serpents from the land, and learned to breathe fire. For a moment I knew who I was, I was a hand maiden for HIM….For a moment I could rend the Heavens and the Heavens eagerly responded… For a moment I was blinded by a false sense of love and righteousness… I let down my guard and took off my armor, for bangles and sashes, for braids and I danced in drum circles with ribbons spinning around me… “’Hear O’ Israel’…what? I dunno, I cannot finish it…” The words seemed distant to me now, I was caught up in the smoke and mirrors and loving every minute of it… That is until…

Her eyes were sharp; the scarf clutched her hair… It was the color purple a true royal color, she swore it had magical Christian powers to draw her closer to God…to hear HIS words… I should have seen it coming, I didn’t, I was plunged deep into spiritual abuse and control… the bells on my ankles sang the same bellowing hum she did, I was under spell. Mama Gypsy had gone rogue, I and others were caught in her wake… She fought tooth and nail, I heard it, I saw it… She painted the Pastors of the church as Hating and Self serving individuals to be feared, hungry for control, eager to rebuke. I was warned, steer clear… STAY FAR AWAY…., “But?…. What if they are right?…” “THEY ARE NOT!!! My child…” she seethed… “Come; let me pray over you, you must have a serpent hiding in the ruffles of your skirts.” COMPLIANCE…. Every time… I learned to speak little and to think much, I learned to ask HER what my HIM was saying, instead of just asking HIM… I had a mama, I was LOVED for the first time in my life… But why did this love leave me so empty?…. Why was I aching worse than before….? I didn’t know who I was anymore… I needed to get away.

I ran…, from the edges of the Gypsy encampment I ran… Far away I ran, through the thick of the woods, my feet hitting the ground smack, thud, smack, thud, with a panicked song coming from my bells and bangles. Curly brown hair stuck to my tears as I ran, I needed to know the truth… I am so confused… WHY does God HATE me so? Where is my HIM?… I don’t know anymore who I am… I DO NOT BELIEVE IN HIM ANYMORE, HE IS NOT REAL…He CANT be… can HE?…. I am lost… I got off course… Panting I stop at the edge of a lake, kneeling in the twilight I stare deep into my own reflection searching it for answers, I lean forward to see a gypsy staring back at me, a face I used to know… I used to be a warrior; I used to have a home and an Identity, now I am a nomad… Staring deeper into the water with loneliness and a deep sense of loss, the water clears a bit and then another set of eyes, I was NOT alone….

Startled I turned, His eyes met mine, they were NOT the eyes of my HIM, but they were big, and gentle. “Here, let me help you up.” He glowed a soft glow, just a man, yet so much more… young and stout hearted… He was Dark and Handsome, Innocent yet alluring… and gentle, and kind, and…

His dark clothes were the same color I wore before I had met my HIM. I asked the young man if he had known my HIM, he said he had not. He said he had never even HEARD of HIM and was interested in knowing what I knew about HIM… I told the young man of my story, my gypsy mama, my flight and what a free spirit I was. We sat at the edge of the lake for the longest time, laughing and giggling, in the light of the pale moon. The fireflies twinkled in the night, calling to the one who was meant for them… Giving a reply with the twinkle of their own lights… We sat bare foot on the muddy marsh, we sat giggling into the night, I sat twirling a little purple flower plucked from the river bank by the young man. My toes and soles were muddied, my dress muddier… “Do you not believe in shoes my little gypsy princess? Here let me help you up… Your HIM you speak of? I have never met HIM per say, but I think I saw Him once high on a mountain top, let me take you back to HIM, you need Him,.” He took my hands, lifted me up, wiped the tears and curls away from my face, he leaned in and kissed my cheek… He was warm and soothing, his sent brought me comfort. I breathed him in deep and he embraced me for the first time, I knew it was to be just one of many more to come, for I knew in THAT moment I was to marry this man…. I was now 19.

And this is where I leave you dear reader, to dance upon injustice, to have purpose and identity, to know WHO YOU ARE because you know WHO HE IS… To be reunited with HIM however that may be, to have a voice, to shimmer, to glitter, and to shine from the inside out…

TO BE CONTINUED….MOST DEFINITELY…

With Love,

Nichol

 

 

THE DEADLY HYDRA

I am writing this blog out of promise to a dear friend, she said to write something real, something raw…So here it goes.

My life has been a road less traveled; in my soon to be 35 years I have seen the highest of high’s and the lowest of lows…I have fought toe to toe with Satan, lost a couple of times, and won a few times too. I have had the Lord use me as His mouth piece over a church that brought 300 to their knees with His gentle call. I have rebuked a spirit of death out of a women whose heart had stopped, only to see her come back to life, I have spoken in known languages of man unknown to me but known to those around me and caused an increase of belief in God the Father and the gift of tongues. I have witnessed the hand of the Lord in the wooing of a single broken heart to His with 800 roses and a single prayer…But what I have seen most is His STEADFAST LOVE for a broken little girl…who grew up to be still broken but a WILLING vessel…And this girl is me…

Many people see me, and when they look at me, I am not sure what it is they see (to be fair and honest). I think some see a girl who has befriended one too many cupcakes, some see a rebel, some see one who is unrelenting, or confident, some may see beauty of a different kind, or vanity, talent of many kinds, or arrogance. But no matter what, what I HOPE they see IS the heart of the FATHER through me… Truth be told what I see when I look at me is someone who is war-weary, shell-shocked, with feelings of exhaustion and loneliness, wondering when the battles of life will be over. I see someone who wrestles with sickness, fatigue and a deep sense of self-loathing. But no matter my condition in life, the truth is HE has never left me, though I have left HIM a time or two…He has been a sustaining force in my life, a constant companion wooing me back to HIM… With words so tender and real…”I got you, your safe, I’m here, I’ve never left you, you are not alone, you ARE loved, I will protect you, I will guide you, My hand is upon you…” Words dear friends I hope you hear Him say to you even now as you read this wherever you may be…

Many times in my life it has felt as though I am fighting the deadly Hydra, sent from the pit to destroy me, sent to keep me out of the healing waters of Lerna. To keep me focused on it, and not on Him. To cause illusion, to disorient with its toxic breathe, to make me feel hopeless, fearful, and alone. When that is in fact the opposite of what I am… There has even been a time or two I, in weak kneed moments allowed it to lure me into its cave disoriented and confused; I tried to drink the cup of death, to drown out the pain of life with its ferocious bite, to let the poison course through my veins… But that only caused more misery and took me farther from HIM and brought me closer to the Hydra and its many heads…

When I was a little girl I grew up in a sinking ship of a home with little love, to make matters worse I was abused by 2 men, one lasting for 7 years. The abuse would happen when I was asleep, I would awake to a nightmare, frozen in fear I would play possum hoping it would end… Finally at age Ten, I found the courage to end the affliction…But Satan’s deadly reign in my life was far from over… In a 7 year pattern I became withdrawn, depressed, confused, shamed, angry and fearful. I developed self-hate and destructive patterns lashing out to anyone who drew near. I took up cutting, self-mutilation in other forms, including forced insomnia. I rejected people out of fear that people would see how marred I really was (something I still tend to do, sorrowfully)… As a young girl I bought the lie that I was no good, something hated, that I was dirty, used, and that no one wanted me. In my pain, I turned to things that made me feel powerful at a young age. But little did I know that the “power” I had attained brought me into the clutches of the deadly Hydra. The deadly gases of the cave paralyzed me with fear, kept me from reaching out for help, I thought in my isolation I was safe, but little did I know I was farther from the truth than I had ever been, I was about to be exterminated from human existence, I was about to be consumed…

Wrapped and tightly coiled in death’s grip I felt the last of my life source leaving my body, numb I lay my head against the deadly Hydra’s forceful scales, feeling its muscles constricting life from mine, I with the few last breathes I had, I whispered HIS name….”Jesus”… and went limp against the beast giving into my fate… it was here in the fumed filled darkness that I saw a brilliant blinding light, a light so profound that with a great shutter and release I was free from the hissing serpent. Gasping for breath He found me in that dampened grave… It was then that HE carried me, and I felt the MIGHTY beat of His gentle heart, like down was the robes of His chest, soft and warm. In that moment He carried me away from that deadly cave, away from the ugliest of snakes. For the longest time He carried me, and close to Him I found healing.

When I was safe He set me down besides His still waters. It was there that I laid myself willingly upon Abraham’s Altar and it was there, Jesus took my place. I allowed my Maker to truly remake me into something new…Though the memories of the trauma still lingered…and the fight of self-taught things stayed…My heart changed, it learned to trust Him (ONLY HIM), it learned that HE was not bad, but rather beautiful and in a way, lonely too… I drew near to HIM, my sweet Him. It was then I learned to warfare, to shake the Heavens and the Earth for Righteousness to come down (though I was told I wasn’t supposed to), it was there I learned who I was in Him, though reality of my self-condition told another story.

The moss of that riverbank in that season of my life was so soft, the waters so cool and healing. I sat with my Him and His Father many a night, face to face learning and gleaning from the Ancient of Days Himself. His white hair flowed like His robes did, it seemed to almost come to life, to flurry about in tuffs of storm and then rest again. The stars dusted His unruly hair and beard, they twinkled and bore forth light with every word He spoke. Staring at Him was like staring into the face of eternity… He was more than a sage of time, HE was the VERY essence of time, but not ruled by it, rather HE ruled time; time bent around Him swirling like rainbows that whispered His name as an Everlasting witness. When we walked together in that season His feet shook the Earth around us causing all of creation to tremble and quake with the realization that it was about to be invaded by something Terrible and Mighty all in the same breath. With every step He took, the Earth Shouted GLORY in unison and it seemed that every living plant, tree, and creature glowed with saturated Hues in the presence of His righteousness. And as quickly as the life came into creation as He approached it was silent again as He moved passed them, going back to being unanimated as before.

It was in those times where I learned the most about the character of God. The reality was I did not have many friends or family then and so God became my friend and Father. While others were out having fun with each other and their families I silently grieved and drew close, I was home with My Him and the Great “I am”. Many nights I sat and cried because of the trauma and rejection of my youth, many nights He met me there and held me in a sweet embrace. He taught me of the power of forgiveness and letting go. He taught me that turning the other cheek is Mightier than taking up the sword of vengeance. It was in those quiet teenage years I learned to lay down my right and allowed Him to fight for me instead. It was there He started my journey from feeble girl to mighty warrior… The anger stained face became softer and more forgiving, I was learning to live again. All of this time of healing brought me into a sense of wholeness. I was moving forward, bolder now than before with focus and zeal… I was ready to live again.

It was in this moment, He bent down and lifted my chin with His nail scarred hands, looking me straight in the eyes, He spoke, “You will fight the Hydra again, and you will win. For I will train you, and every failure of yours will become a great victory through Me. The little girl who shook with fear at things that go bump in the night will courageously stand with confidence in the darkest of nights… Lean on Me fix your eyes upon Me. For I am life and there is GREAT healing in My wings.”

And this my Dear reader is where I leave you, not with a sad song to sing but one filled with hope and endurance. For if HE could take a wreck such as I and change her, He surely can take you. Please lean against your Papa’s chest, close your eyes and hear His heart beat, breathe Him in deep, tell Him all of your cares, concerns, and woes. It is here He will find you as you are, come to Him for there is GREAT healing in His wings…

With Love,

Nichol

TO BE CONTINUED………

Abiding in HIM

“For the Lord your God is with you, He is Mighty to save. He takes great delight in you; He rejoices over you with singing, and He will quiet you with HIS love” (Zephaniah 3:17,NIV).

This year has been a vast ocean tossing me to and fro in the sea of life. There has been tears, SO many tears, and hardships, quiet ones that echo from within. They are reminders that I am not perfect, and with all of my strengths and gifting’s, I am still human, and I am not bullet proof.

This year 2014, began with a grim diagnosis, my mother who had been battling carcinoma since 2012 was not going to make it. She had months left to live. I sat in the Oncology office with her and my brother as we listened to the doctor speak, the words “MONTHS LEFT TO LIVE.” They were the first and last thing I remember him saying, it was as if the air was suddenly sucked out of room…Life was suddenly a vacuum and we were left gasping, in want of air. I sat in that office, with my mother and my brother Sean, I looked at him. Head down, nonresponsive, staring at the floor only to blink his eyes quickly as if the answers to the hard questions would not compute. He cared for her, he had been caring for her for a year now. My mother seemed oblivious of her fate, complaining to the doctor about the smell of bacon. The radiation to the brain had done that to her, she was not herself for some time now. My thoughts were on the months that were left…what would those be like? How would this impact MY heart? My children? I was about to find out…

Fast forward to May 5th, a phone call. It was Sean, “Nichol, come quick. She’s dying.” I arranged for sitters, and raced to her home to see an ambulance about to take her away, peeking through the rear window I could see her head down strapped in, on her way to Hospice. I let her go, conversed with Sean, contacted all that needed to know and headed home to meet my husband. We loaded our children into the car, for what would seem to be the longest and the shortest car ride of my life. It was as if time had stopped, and sped up all at the same time. The dread and anticipation of what we were about to see a sense of foreboding lingered along with how my children would react ,hung solidly in the forefront of my mind.

It’s time to say goodbye. With that I had mixed feelings, for my mother had been a source of frustration and disappointment to me my whole life. I was always the black sheep to her, we NEVER saw eye to eye. It seemed that confliction heralded our relationship all of our natural days together. And though we conflicted, I loved her still, and though I left her home at 15 my desire was to still have a mother who loved me completely. The truth is she loved me the best she could, the truth is her capacity to love was there but injury from her past and childhood hindered it, and marred her ability. She was a broken person, but who isn’t? The truth is she wore her heart on the sleeve where some people are good at hiding it she was not.

So we were at odds, but in the end it was me she called when she could not feel Jesus in her heart. A day after brain surgery she called me panicked. “Colie, I pray. But my prayers are not getting through, would you please come and pray with me?” I left my home immediately to be with her and held her hand. I sat by her side and watched the tears stream down her face as she re-familiarized herself with an old acquaintance. She held onto Jesus’ hem once more, but even more beautiful was He held onto her.

So we arrived at the Hospice home. Welcomed in by a nurse, steve held onto me, his arm was so strong and encompassing. His other arm wrapped around our youngest, with the other two at our hips. We walk in the room, there sits my brother head down alone with her. My mom lay in bed, breathing so shallow, so ragged, and unresponsive to the people around her. It WAS time…Sean steps out, my girls bury their faces into my body, they are scared. That’s not Papa (their nickname for her), at least that’s not how they wanted her to look, but I assured them it was her. Brenna steps forward, to face her with my arms around her. “Papa.”, her soft voice called out to her. “It’s Brenna.” A single tear fell from my mother’s eye. It was my mother’s way of telling us she knew it was her. Brenna reached out to her and held her hand. Brenna closed her eyes and started to sing, my heart broke as this child’s heart poured out the love that was in it into the form of a song. “…How to be brave, how do I love when I am afraid?…I’ll love you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more.” I was undone by a child’s rendition of Christina Perri’s pop song. When she finished she whispered things so low I could not hear, into her Papa’s ear. Brenna kissed her goodbye and stood at my side, allowing my other girls a chance to say bye. Hours later at 6:02 to be exact my mother took her last breathe.

Days and weeks raced by, her memorial came and went. Life sped up, we were starting a business, ducks were being neatly placed in a row. We are expecting number 4, And then in a span of two weeks the steady pace of life went tilt, and more shaking began, my youngest about lost her two front teeth in an gnarly accident. Our SUV the day BEFORE we were to go on vacation to Arizona blew up. My grandfather stepped down from a curb and cracked his head open almost losing his life because he lost his footing, having to have emergency surgery (he still is not the same). School started for the girls, one smooth day followed by stubborn wills and defiance. My two year old decided that in all of this chaos, now was a good time to try out tantrums to see if they worked. Our business didn’t just grow it took off! My husband hardly home working 15+ hours a day. Then a phone call, my body is rejecting my thyroid medication (the ONLY ONE I have felt good on). Then a doctor’s visit, your baby’s breech let’s talk C-section…I buckled, absolutely. I was suddenly a puddle on the floor, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It was all so real, so in my face. I leaned on my husband and his strength sustained me for a moment. But then I called out to HIM, and there He met with me.

I was walking through a parking lot and it was there that the Holy Spirit drew near. He spoke such truth to me that it resounded, echoed, and then sank solidly and firmly into my heart. “Nichol, if you can relish in your husband’s strength then how much more can you rest in MINE? Give me your cares, lay them at MY feet, and see if I AM enough”…Tears flowed, followed by a song I loved as a young girl…”Say to those that are broken hearted, do not lose your faith…The Lord your God is strong with His loving arms when you call on HIS name…He will come and save you! He will come and save you, oh He will come to save you…Say to the weary one your God will surely come! He will come and save you…Say to those that are fearful hearted, do not be afraid, for the Lord your God is strong with His Mighty arms He will come and save…(Joshua Mills) such TRUTH and so many tears!

HE is enough, He knows my future, HE sees my outcome. He is guiding me through this storm. I think of the old German proverb, “Fear makes the wolf seem bigger.” And how true that is. When we focus on the what-if they illuminate. True, this IS indeed a time of shaking for me, SO many good things are at hand and so many unknowns. But there is one thing I can stand on, and that is the Word of God, His truth can reign and rule if I CHOOSE to let it. But see that is the truth I must CHOOSE to accept HIS STRENGTH, I must operate in HIS AUTHORITY, and choose to walk in HIS peace. For the Bible says that, “That the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:17b). But if we fail to pray and to take HIM at his word, how effective are we? If we lose our focus, then we fail to rest in HIS strength and let the ocean’s waves pound against us until we are reduced to sand. How then are we abiding? How then are we resting? How are we allowing HIM to pour into us? We are reduced, we are ineffective, we are shell shocked by life and seeking refuge ANYWHERE… by forgetting just how strong HE is. But it is time to refocus, for HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE, HE IS OUR REFUGE and our FORTRESS,  HE is indeed a STRONGHOLD IN TIMES OF TROUBLE. HE is all we need.

Now, this dear reader this is where I leave you, at the feet of the one who sits in the mercy seat. The one who invites you to climb into the lap of God and to hide in the fold of HIS garment. THIS my dear reader is where I leave you with a question? Where are you abiding? Are you abiding in the Ocean of life or are you ABIDING in HIM and HIS strength? Remember to lean into the promise of Zephaniah 3:17, For He will come to save you.

Much Love,

Nichol