Through the Lens of Grace

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Maybe if we focused on being light & less on the dark, we might actually see things change.― Michael M. Rose

Here this week, I have been challenged each and every morning with a daily devotion titled, The Value of Knowing Jesus. After I read the lesson, I am left with these closing thoughts.

It’s easy to only think about things from our limited perspective. Jesus pushes us to see differently. Allow yourself to be challenged. Allow your eyes to be opened. Allow your life to be changed. Go now, and let the value of knowing Jesus change the lens which you see the world.

Throughout the day, I keep hearing these words play over in my mind. Allow yourself to be challenged. Allow your eyes to be opened. Allow your life to be changed. 

A recent unexpected turn of events is currently challenging me and my way of thinking. It was brought to my attention that I have several blind spots concerning beliefs and my way of thinking. A little time has passed and my mind has cleared itself of the thoughts and emotions that once caused me grief, and now I am starting to see his point of view.

This new-found knowledge did not come easy. I was truly not aware of my blind spots. I shed many, many tears over the last 24 hours. The truth hurts. I felt so bad that my limited way of thinking made a negative impact on someone very dear to my heart. The truth of the matter is that I do have some blind spots. I suffer from a black and white mentality, the left brain approach. How I see it is there is a problem and there is a solution. There is no gray area, no in-between.

I reason with logic, I focus on facts, I identify the problem, I find the solution, I am practical, and I am safe. I tend to side with the left side of the brain because I have been hurt very deeply by the world. This way of thinking protects me, keeps me safe, because I can define it and control it. I think this way personally, and I think this way professionally.

I would not say I am 100% left brained. Behind this curtain I have created for myself, lies a right brain girl. I am a believer. I am a dreamer with a wild imagination. I do at times find myself taking risks. Actually, I long to be more of right brain person which leads to a constant tug of war in my mind; which side of my brain gives in? Can’t I just live in both? Can’t I be logical, yet risk taking?

As I work through my questions and my hurts, I realize the answer lies in grace. Grace bridges the gap between the logical thinker and the risk taker. Grace gives an opportunity for the gray area. Grace opens itself up to imagination, possibilities, and belief. Grace leaves room to breathe, for the impossible, and the unknown. Grace gives you a way out.

Getting to this point, cost me a great deal. It cost me a precious relationship, one very dear to my heart. While I cannot change the past, I can only move forward in hopes there lies forgiveness and a little grace itself. And now that my eyes have been opened, I realize that I no longer want to live this way. I want to live in the gray, the unknown, the what-ifs. I don’t always want to know the answer or the outcome. I don’t want to define or control. I want to be impetuous, reckless, and I want to see the world through the lens of grace.

If my words resonate with you, may I leave you with this.

Allow yourself to be challenged. Allow your eyes to be opened. Allow your life to be changed.

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In the Gap

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If you cannot fill the gap and emptiness in your heart, don’t be disappointed. If you had already filled it, your life would have meant finished.
― M.F. Moonzajer

My one word resolution for 2014 was release so it should come to any surprise that I find myself having to let go of something again; something I was not quite ready to let go of. It was sudden, it was a shock. It still is a shock to my system.

Letting go did not come easy. It was everything I wanted, everything I dreamed about, hoped for, and waited for. Why would I let it go so easily? So I didn’t. For weeks I fought it. With every ounce of power I had, I did not loosen up on the grip. I reasoned with it. I questioned it. I got flat-out angry with it. I wrestled it down to the ground until there was absolutely nothing left, nothing left to feel. And in that moment, I let go of my grasp and fell letting the air below me break my fall.

After the release, I find myself caught somewhere in the gap, between the two trapeze, wondering where to go next. I don’t like this feeling, this feeling of uncertainty. I have nothing to hold on to and it terrifies me. I’m left with the questions of what now?, what if?, and will my heart completely heal?

This is the part that kills me the most, not knowing. It’s not in my genetic makeup not to know. I am always the one who has the answers, who knows what to say, who knows how to fix. I cannot fix my situation and I feel completely helpless and lost.

Through this process of the gap, I have my ups and downs, my good days and my bad days. There are days I find myself reaching back trying to grab a hold of what once was and then there are days I feel uplifted and hopeful for what lies ahead.

As I sit here in the mess, and begin the healing process, I am reminded that while I’m in a gap, I’m not at a complete stop. I’m somewhat like a comma and something new is in reach. I just have to wait, trust, and believe.

If your future seems uncertain, and you feel stuck inside the gap, may you be reassured that something new is on the horizon, and it will be even better than what you left behind. God said that He would not cause pain without something new to be born (Isaiah 66:9) and now it’s up to us to believe. Keep moving forward. Keep pressing on. Don’t ever give up. Your next place of promise is in reach :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyMhvkC3A84

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The Hand that Holds You Up

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Nothing in this world compares to the comfort and security of having someone just hold your hand. – Richelle E. Goodrich

Life is unpredictable. One moment you are high up in the clouds, free, and in love, and the very next moment, you are lying face down on the ground from a blow to the head you didn’t see coming. You are left completely blind sighted, with a broken heart, and shattered dreams. It’s quite possibly the darkest moment of your life.

I know this because I was just there seven short days ago. I did not think I was going to make it, but by the grace of God I did. Fortunately, I had a women’s retreat previously scheduled tucked away in the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg TN. The solitude, the seclusion, and the support of Godly women were exactly the medicine I needed to soothe my broken heart. I took that time to grieve and just be.

Time moved on and now I find myself fully standing on my own. In looking back, I can clearly see God’s provision in this trying time. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God knew this attack would come. The night before this all happened, I felt His peace wash over me. It was the peace that kept me moving, dragging forward. He sent me the truth in the words of a song, in the words of a friend. If I needed to grieve and fall completely apart, He just let me be. Once I cried out for that peace again, He swiftly came to my side. He was the hand that held me up.

Through this song by Shane Harper, Hold You Up, I am reminded that there will be times when the world breaks us and we honestly don’t know how we will be able to go on. God will usher in during our time of need and hold us up until we have the strength to stand again on our own.

Wherever you are at this very moment, God is right there waiting to take you by the hand and comfort you during this difficult time. He will never leave your side. He will carry you through to the other side. I assure you. I would not be sitting here typing out these very words without that very hand keeping me together. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone and someone out there is thinking and praying for you. And remember this, God will not allow pain without allowing something new to be born (Isaiah 66:9).

I’ll see you on the other side.

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When the Sun Fails

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It is the artist’s business to create sunshine when the sun fails. – Romain Rolland

It’s the week I have been looking forward to for months. I’m off to Madison, WI for a very close friend’s wedding, but first, I’ll make a pit stop in my beloved Chicago, my former home. I love Chicago. I love its vibe. I love its wonder. It’s such a big city filled with the unknown and many, many possibilities.

When I woke up this Thursday morning, I was greeted with gray skies and dreary rain. It was not quite the conditions I was hoping for. I was looking forward to playing tourist and rolling through the streets of the city to H & M, my favorite coffee spot, and then my favorite sushi spot.

As I sit here typing, the mood outside is trying to affect the mood inside. It is trying to bring me down, to cover my internal sunshine. So in order to stop it, I look away from the window. I think if I look away that will help.

If you were to look outside the world’s window, you would find the conditions to be the same – dreary rain and cloudy gray skies. It’s hard to find the sunshine. It’s hard to smile when there is so much turmoil (riots, the violence, natural disasters) happening in our world today. So at times, we turn away. We turn off the t.v. We turn off the radio. We turn off the emails. We in turn, hide from the world.

I believe that hiding goes against our design. We were created to deal with the rain. The rain is what makes us grow. The rain changes us into better people. If we hide our sunshine, then the world will suffer too.

As I take another sip of coffee, I turn back towards the window. The conditions are still the same, but my mood is not. I’m not going to let a little rain stop me from enjoying my day or making an impact on another.

I’m going to create my own sunshine and I encourage you to do the same. The world needs us now more than ever. It needs a little sun.

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Tug of War

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It’s an interesting combination: Having a great fear of being alone, and having a desperate need for solitude and the solitary experience. That’s always been a tug of war for me. – Jodie Foster

Part of my nightly “wind down” routine is to sit on the couch, turn the lights down low, and listen to Pandora. The Lumineers, The Lone Bellow, Mumford and Sons, and Need to Breathe are a few of my friends that accompany me and my wandering thoughts.

In the last few nights, I have heard the song Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars. It’s the kind of song that makes you stop and take notice. Their voices are sharp yet, harmonious, and you can hear the conviction in their voices as they repeatedly sing this line.

I don’t love you, I always will.  

They are torn in the fight of loving someone.

I don’t love you, I always will.  

For some reason, my mind keeps drifting back to playground days where the game of Tug of War was actively played. I can still feel the earth as my body is being dragged across. I can feel the stinging, the burning of the rope peeling away my skin. The pain, the scars are reminders of the fight. I can’t let go.

I dig my feet into the earth and make my stance. I fight hard to hang on. I refuse to loosen my grasp and let go. Why do I hang on so tight? Is the fear of losing too great for me to bear? Does surrendering into something more powerful than me show weakness?

It’s the same with love and with relationships. Why do I fight so hard to hang on to this image, this impostor of a girl who really does not exist? Why can’t I just let go and completely be myself with the one(s) that I love?

I am haunted with this question. What do I have to offer? The answer frightens me. All I have to offer is myself and that should be enough, but for some reason it (I) am not. What am I so afraid of? Afraid they will see the real me and reject me? Afraid they will turn and walk away?

As the song continues on, I hear this and I find myself agreeing.

I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you

I don’t love you, I always will. 

Over the course of my life, I have played the game of tug of war and I have played it well. I have the scars to prove it. If I am ever going to experience real, amazing love, then I have to lay the rope down and surrender to what is and what always has been. 

Myself.

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Release

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One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it is guilt, anger, love, loss, or betrayal, change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go. – Unknown

Release is defined as allowing something to move, act or flow freely. It is also defined as to set something free. By definition, the process of releasing or setting something free should be pretty simple, right? You release the grip you have on the attachment, whether it is a person, place, or thing. You simply let go.

I have spent my whole life trying to let go. Let go of past hurts, my broken heart, the effects of a traumatic childhood, those who abandoned me and left me to defend life on my own. But what I have learned over and over is that “letting go” is a process.

I read in the article, 7 Ways to Let Go, that in order to “let go”, you have to trust the process. For the longest time, trust was not in my vocabulary so I’m not quite sure how I was going to exercise this, but I kept on reading.

So much of letting go is finding the right timing. You let go too prematurely, and your process is going to be harder and more time-consuming than it needs to be. You wait too long and things spoil… the relationship or the project. In Dennis Merritt Jones’ book The Art of Uncertainty, he includes this great quote about timing by Gary Zukav:

Fruit drops from the tree when it is ready. Staying too long, or moving too early, misses the mark. The mark is the appropriateness that causes the fruit to fall when it’s ready…. The process has its own timing, and it creates changes in your life when those changes need to happen.

In the place I am in now, I am dealing with something I should have let go of a long time ago – unforgiveness. I have put this off and put this off for years actually. I kept thinking, I deal with this later. Well, it’s 30 plus years later.

Why is the timing right, you ask? My little childhood baggage, the effects of this unforgiveness, was trying to sabotage my current relationship. I was asking someone to pay for something someone else did to me 30 plus years ago. It was not fair to him.

For some reason, I wanted to hold on to what my dad didn’t do, like not showing up when he said he would, keeping his promises, and honoring his word. I guess holding on to the pain, the resentment, the anger was comforting. It made me feel secure because pain was all I knew.

So in order to “let go”, I wrote my dad a letter. I dug through every painful and not so painful chapter of my life with him. I was completely transparent with my feelings. No stone was left unturned. With each letter I typed, each tear drop that fell, I felt the pain lodged deep into my heart, start to release. And it fell, and it fell, and it fell until there was absolutely nothing left to feel.

Not long ago, I was posed with this question. Nichole, when are you finally going to let it all go? As I choked back the tears, I responded with I don’t know. Because honestly I didn’t.

Life is a process. Forgiveness is a process. It pretty much all comes down to timing. The change that needs to happen indicates when to let go. For me, that was yesterday and so I did.

Knowing what I know now and if asked the question again, I would say when the time is right. Just like the fruit drops when it’s ready, we will let go at exactly the right time and exactly the right place in our life. All we have to do is trust the process.

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The Blind Spot of Love

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Love is blind and love can be foolish. Our heart doesn’t always love the right people at the right time. Sometimes we hurt the ones that love us the most and sometimes we love the ones that don’t deserve our love at all. – Unknown

On this particular Wednesday, I left work and was heading north up Briley Parkway to Church. I was knee-deep in my thoughts with the music blaring from the radio.  My mind was relentlessly trying to decompress the day. I was just trying to get to the next place, when all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a green Ford S-10 merging into my lane. The truck was heading right into my right passenger side.

I immediately served to the left and was headed right for the retainer wall. My heart was about to leap out of my chest. In that next second, the driver of the green S-10 realized what was happening and thankfully was able to merge back into his lane without causing a wreck. I however was a wreck emotionally.

I equate this to love. You are cruising right along, consumed by its comfort and its care, oblivious to your surroundings. All you care about is how love makes you feel. If you are anything like me, then you love how love makes you feel special, like there is no one else on the planet. You are completely blindsided. You don’t care about the warning signs that have been dancing in front of you along the way.

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But something happens, and without a moments notice, something or someone  unexpectedly merges into your life awakening you to your surroundings. As time moves on, you realize you have been living with blinders on. You couldn’t see the real picture, the dishonesty, the secrets, at times how you were being used, because you were too consumed with feeling special.

As you move towards this unexpected something or someone, you begin to let go and eventually you release the grip that this love once had on you. And finally, you can see exactly where you are headed.

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