Unfailing Love

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I treasure the days when I get to spend quality time with my niece and nephew. They are still at the age where it is cool to hang out with older people and before long that will change. Due to busy schedules and distance, those days are few, far, and in between. Yesterday, I went home to attend a tea party that was held at my sister’s Church. After that, we went back to their house and went swimming. It was pretty late in the day and I had to drive back to Nashville, so I wasn’t jumping at the seams for late afternoon swimming. But the thought occurred to me, and I’m glad it did, life is no guarantee and I need to make the most out of every situation. If that requires me swimming late in the afternoon on Sunday, getting sprayed in the face with with toys, and having my body be converted into a diving board, then I will! Those days are what my niece and nephew will remember most. Those days shape their foundation and provide them with examples of love.

My niece is three and really is discovering what life is all about. She loves swimming and showing off her newly acquired tricks. Over and over you can hear her saying, “Watch this Aunt Nichole, watch me!” I find no other joy than saying, “Madison, that was awesome!! Do it again!” Without fail, she does it again and again and again.

Just as children desire attention, love, acceptance, adults crave it just as well.  Words may not be spoken, but our actions say, “pick me, choose me, love me!”  Proverbs 19:22 says, “What a man desires is unfailing love.”  A love that has no end, is certain, and will not fail.  So what happens when a child’s needs are unfulfilled? You are left with an adult still desiring for those needs to be met…an empty cup so to speak. They go off searching for other human beings to fill those needs and usually that search leads to disappointment, heartache, betrayal, devastation, and so on.   Something that I am familiar with all to well!!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing one of my favorite preachers. He moved to Orlando to start a Church and came back to our Church for a quick visit. He moves me like no other. His message happened to be on the filling of our cup and how God is the only source to do that. First, you must go to God everyone morning and ask him to fill it up. In Psalm 143:8, David cried out saying, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

I have learned first hand that what was preached to me yesterday, is the absolute truth.  Jim Eliot once said, “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.”  Why not let Him fill you with unfailing love?  You can experience the joy just as David once did. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalms 90:14).

Love in Christ,
Nichole

Need Work

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The contracting job I have will expire in about 3 weeks. To be honest with you, I have no worries. People keep asking me what the next step is, will this turn into something permanent, and if not, do I have a backup plan. The truth is I don’t have an answer to their questions but I do have a back up plan. I have an emergency fund saved and resumes posted, but am not letting anxiety and worry seep its way into that plan. For once in my life, I’m trusting God and waiting to see where He takes me next. It’s actually kind of freeing!!

This may be a bit off subject, but my heart has been heavy for the homeless. It never fails when I come across someone in need, I am not prepared. I don’t have any cash or food on me. This morning on the way to work, this one man was walking up and down a busy road leading to I-65. His sign was different. It simply said, “need work”. It did not say he was homeless, tired, or hungry. I’m sure all those elements existed, but he simply communicated the need that would benefit him the most. It hurt my heart that I did not have any work for him, but what I did do for him was give him my respect and prayed that someone could honor his request.

How many of us have the courage to boldly state what are need is?

In a few short weeks, I could find myself in the same predicament…Unemployed – Need Work.  But I pray for God’s favor in my job.  I have already faced many months of unemployment and am not quite ready to visit that again.  Just like that man I encountered today, I have to come boldly with my requests. 

Matthew 7-11 (The Message) says, “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”

I ask you this question.  What are you in need of today and have you made your request be known?

Love in Christ,
Nichole

~Free as We’ll Ever Be~

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There is no denying that I am an avid fan of music.  Music moves me; stimulates my soul.  I especially love to tie my favorite songs into my writing.  I think the message is better portrayed.   The latest song by Zac Brown Band titled, “Free as We’ll Ever Be” is one that plays over and over in my mind. 

We’ll end up hand in hand
Somewhere down on the sand
Just me and you

Just as free
Free as we’ll ever be
Just as free
Free as we’ll ever be

No we don’t have a lot of money
No we don’t have a lot of money
No we don’t have a lot of money
All we need is love
We’re free as we’ll ever be
Just as free
Free as we’ll ever be

Maybe the portrait portrayed doesn’t symbolize freedom to you, but it sure does to me.  Living on the beach, relying on love, is exactly where I want to be.   I know that is not an ideal situation and there is so much more to freedom such as not worrying about the opinion of others, not worrying about how you are perceived, being debt free, expressing yourself they way you want (like a tattoo of your favorite scripture), wearing what you want, no longer being concerned with pleasing others.  The beauty of freedom is you get to decide what it is for you. 

Oscar Wilde once said, “A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

My whole life, I have been trying to gain freedom from my past; a past that was controlled by my emotions, other people; a past that resulted in the influence / effects of damaged and hurting people. As a young child, I took the vow that no one, I mean no one, would ever hurt me again. That vow led to me to the constant need of being in control. I became independent (almost too independent), and closed off from deep personal relationships. I did not share much information and had a private life.

I truly believe that the trials I endured from March of 2009 until March of 2010 were allowed by God so I could finally experience freedom. Up until that point, I never asked for help unless in a desperate situation. When you find yourself unemployed and barely making ends meet, you have no other choice but to ask for help and rely on others. The sense of control was quickly removed. As painful as it was to let go, the reward (freedom) was far greater. David cried out in Psalm 118:5, “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.

As I closely watch the actions of another, one who is in need of constant control, I know I want a life a freedom that much more. That need for control is unpleasant and it causes stress on others. It saddens me to know that I was once that person, but I also find great comfort in knowing that I will one day I will be totally set free from that bondage.  “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

So will it really matter if the house is not perfect for my guests? Will it really matter if I spill something or break something? Will it matter if the bed isn’t made everyday? My answer is no.  I use to be so consumed by these petty things that it squeezed the life out of me.  That need for control robbed me of relationships, growth, happiness, peace, and joy. 

In Psalm 86:12-13 David said, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”  As Beth Moore frequently says, “I pray that you learn from me in the laboratory and not the field trip!”  If something is robbing you from a life a freedom, cry out and let your Father set you free!!

Love in Christ,
Nichole

Plan B ~ A Parallel

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In the literary world, Plan B is all the rage. People upon people (women’s group, blogs, Church members) love this book! So since I hate being left out of anything, I checked it out for myself and I have not been disappointed one bit!! Pastor Pete (this is how my friends refer to him) uses simple text to convey a mighty big message.

In Plan B, Pastor Pete poses the following question: What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would? I can give a plethora of answers just in my own experience and I’m sure you can as well.

In the place I find myself in the book (early stages), King David is the primary focus. You see, when David was just a shepherd boy, he was informed that one day he would be appointed King. After David defeats Goliath, he goes from nobody to a hero. Then, he starts believing that God is going to make the King thing happen. As the story progresses, things start to change for David. Saul becomes jealous over David’s popularity and wants to kill him. Fearing for his life, he takes off running…leaving God behind. I’m pretty sure in David’s mind that the chance of becoming King is slim to none. He probably also feels that God has deserted him and so he needs to take matters into his own hands. Can anyone relate??

I’m sure David was expecting God to show up in a different way than the way He did. I’m sure his version of Plan A is a far cry from God’s version. In our present day world, for us ladies, we plan on graduating (either high school or college), find the perfect career, marry Mr. Perfect, have the perfect 2.5 kids, and have a house with a two car garage. It is always raining in abundance and sickness and disease is no where in sight!

Plan B usually takes a more difficult, painful, and enduring path.

Plan B is my story in a nut shell. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one child/woman could endure so much pain…all in a short 34 years. After dreaming of becoming a teacher, I took the leap of faith, and pursed a Masters degree in Education. I lucked up and found a great student teaching position, which only catapulted my dreams of teaching. Then it all went down hill. I failed (by one point) my final Praxis exam two times. This failure cost me a few important opportunities. Then the waiting game happened. I graduated in January of 2007 and finally landed a teaching job in July of 2008. This was it or so I thought!! I put my house on the market, fully expecting God to allow the sale of my home in a quick fashion. Set out with a strong mindset that driving 1.5 hours each way would be a breeze, but I never imagined that gas would rise to $4 a gallon. Long story short…my dreams were short lived. One mistake on my part brought those dreams to a halt. As a result of those actions, I was told that I would either be suspended for 2 weeks without pay or have my contract non-renewed. After all the sacrifices I made and the trials I endured, I knew that God would turn this all around in my favor. I prayed feverishly for the suspension only to find that my contract was non-renewed. This decision happened in March. I had to carry out the rest of the school year in shear devastation and disappointment.

Pastor Peter, rather often, brings up these questions: So what does your Plan B look like? What happens when your dreams are not coming true?

Maybe you have been incessantly praying for God to restore your marriage, but still find yourself served with divorce papers…Plan B.

Maybe you have been incessantly praying for God to give you primary custody of your kids, but find that the Judge awarded the father as primary custodian…Plan B.

Maybe you have been battling cancer and praying for healing, but find that the cancer is not in remission…Plan B.

Maybe you are a shareholder in your company, counting on your investments to secure your retirement, but a scandal such as Enron is exposed, leaving you at a complete loss…Plan B.

The list of Plan B’s can go on forever each with its own devastating side effects. At times, the pain is too great to bear. But I am slowly (emphasize slowly) realizing that the outcome of Plan B may be better than Plan A ever would allow. I am still in the heart of Plan B, career wise, so I cannot give any insights there. However, God has given me a man that I am wild about! I honestly believe he was made for me. He would have never fit in Plan A, because my idea of “perfection” holds no weight/value in comparison to God’s idea of perfection. So if He can exceed all my expectations in that area, what else can He do?

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV) says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” As any child loves his own, I’m sure it is painful for God to watch me live out Plan B. However, He knows best. He knows what I need and what I desire.

So if you are struggling with where your life is at the moment, maybe you need to find out what Plan B is all about. You may find that you are exactly at the place God intends for you to be.

Love in Christ,
Nichole