winter

editor’s note: I wrote this blog post a few months back. I wasn’t sure I’d wanted to post it, but as I was Spring Cleaning the blog, I decided this was worth sharing.  Because even if we are living in the Texas Spring (helloooo blue bonnets), the reality of winter is still very real to many of our hearts.


I was driving through the Interstate this weekend, on my way to one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in, to meet one of my favorite people on the planet.  I was struck by the lack of color on my drive.

It’s been a cold winter, and our little part of Texas has seen snow, sleet, ice and all the things indicating the return of Jesus is imminent.  Our trees, our grass and all things green have basically turned brown and for the first time in my life, I understand the deadness of winter. I had forgotten how full of color the world is, until a green patch, in the middle of an incredible dead area.  And when that little patch of green caught me by surprise, the weight of it forced me to see how much my soul longs.

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There are seasons in our life, where just like the Winter, we are surrounded by dead things.  We stand in the middle of it, and all we see is brown and dead. We become accustomed to it and allow ourselves to live in the middle of it, and continue on.  We forget the promise of Spring, the joy that resonates in our hearts with the splash of color that surrounds us.  It’s easy to live in survival mode in the Winter.  It’s easy to forget what color feels like.

But I want to encourage you today.  If your heart longs for the Spring of the Soul the way mine does in the dead of this Winter, remember the vibrant color of Spring. Allow your heart to remember the joy blue bonnets will bring and breathe in deeply the scent of fulfilled dreams and hope accomplished.

Winter is only a season friend.  It doesn’t define you or me, it doesn’t make us, and it most certainly won’t break us.  Keep going. Stay strong.  And hold on.  Those blue bonnets and wildflowers are coming and they’re going to make you feel alive again…

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worship.

There is one question I always dread answering. And it comes. All the time, from caring, well meaning friends and family members who want to know.

“Hey! How’s Texas?”

Well.

It is simultaneously the most difficult and glorious season of my life. I talk about it a lot on this blog (when I actually blog).  How awesome and hard Texas has been.  And you know what? I’m gonna keep talking about it, because it just has been.  Nothing has forced me to trust more than this move, this season.  Nothing has demanded more from my faith muscle than the last year and seven months.  Nothing.

In the latest installment of my life, I was sitting at the kitchen table, Bible open, and “Even When It Hurts” blasting in my ear.  And I was just, crying.  I was weeping before God. Praying over certain life circumstances and feeling completely undone.  I begin reading Hebrews 11:1-3 in the Passion Translation Bible and I start weeping even more.

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for.  It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen… Faith empowers us to see that the universe was created and beautifully coordinated by the power of God’s words! He spoke and the invisible realm gave birth to all that is seen.”
(Heb 11:1,3)

Believing God brings my hopes into reality.  Believing God becomes the foundation I need to acquire that which I long for.  Here’s the thing about the Christian walk… much like Israel in the desert only had enough manna in the desert for today, so is our grace enough for our today.  We spend our lives, efforts and prayer focused on tomorrow’s problems, or even today’s problems that aren’t meant to be fixed today.  We often focus our prayers on solutions to our prayers.  As type-A personality American children of God, we need, nay, demand solutions.  We hardly practice prayer without allotting to God multiple choice answers to choose from.  God, I need this… I think You should do this or can do that. It sounds crazy enough and miraculous enough to be You.

But, friends.

Worship, praise and adoration of our Heavenly Father ARE the solutions and answers to our prayer(s).

“The miracle of worship strengthens our souls… Worship always sets the stage for miracles.   In our wilderness we tend to be so self-focused and consumed with our needs.  But true worship is the worship of God, not just singing about our needs or our blessings.  Worship is God focused, taking us out of our need into the glory fire of who He is and what He has done for us.  Worship will release miracles in your life!”
– excerpt from “The Wilderness: Where Miracles are Born” by Brian + Candice Simmons

What does it mean for me to *only* sing His praise? What does it look like for me to sing and dance and worship until the miracles come? How do I posture my heart?

“My heart, O God, is quiet and confident, all because of You. Now I can sign my song with passionate praises.” 
– Psalms 108:1

Surrender. Remain undone and bury yourself in all that He is. In other words… worship.
To posture our heart to worship, we choose to worship.

Worship is our solution.

don’t read if you’re easily offended

Guys. This is getting ridiculous.

First off, Hi. I know it’s been a while.  Second, I apologize in advance for this post, because I am going to speak a lot of truth as graciously as I can, but the possibility of it hurting is still a little bit high.

Guys.  We have GOT to get it together. Like, fix it Jesus, let go and let God together.  We are getting a little bit much in the name of Jesus.

Our current culture and generation is operating under this “feelings first” ideology that demands coddling and fuzzy feelings to thrive.  This is false and incorrect and absolutely infuriating. Let me explain.

Once upon a time, constructive criticism and accountability was part of every day life.  Teachers in school corrected us, coaches corrected us, bosses, coworkers, heck… parents, husbands, wives.  Correction was an unquestioned part of life.   Nobody loved it, it hardly feels fuzzy wuzzy, but man… it grew us, made us better people and taught us personal responsibility.

NOW, these days… any statement outside of “You’re Great” is considered bullying and mean and irrelevant.

WHAT. THE. WHAT.

Guys. I don’t love hearing that I’m doing something wrong. Legit. I don’t love hearing “Hey, you dropped the ball, kid. This could’ve been better.” I also don’t like seeing that I did a crappy job or could’ve done better or just didn’t know to do better.  I don’t like hearing my husband tell me I got it backwards and I need to check myself.  It is not a fun feeling.  I don’t like owning up to being too sassy and unable to control it at times (working on it) or that I may not actually have all the answers to a problem that frustrates me.  I have a right perspective on it, I understand that it’s necessary, but much like going to the dentist, it’s just not something I am going to celebrate… in the moment.

 Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it.” (Romans 12:11 TPT)

Let’s do better, let’s be better.  Let’s talk about the hard stuff, let’s be honest, in love. I’m not writing a call to arms for jerks to be jerks and allow them to get away with it. But let’s be open and willing to receive praise and correction, accolades and feedback.  We’re never going to grow if we don’t. We are getting way too hurt, way too easily and it is a burdensome (and frankly, disturbing) sight.

Recently, someone I work alongside gave some criticism on some elements and responsibilities that fell on me.  I was peeved, at first. I won’t lie. It stings, it hurts, it SUCKS.  I had my moment, I considered all that he said, and then realized that he didn’t have the full picture from where he was standing. But in that, there were *still* some things he said that showed me, I had room for growth, I could tighten up.  I heard his constructive criticism, I didn’t take it personal when he processed information from a different standpoint, and I look for the bit (as in part, not as in teeny) that made me grow as a person.  I’m good. He’s good. Our working relationship is good. And we moved on.

Boom. Done.

Listen to me Millenials (yes, all of us).

Correction, Feedback, Criticism (to an extent) isn’t a dig at who you are, and it does not equate to a lack of love and support*. If anything, it supports the commitment to love and to the relationship (whether professional or personal).  It’s good, and right. And it produces the right kind of fruit.

Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, for He is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who never had to be corrected? We all should welcome God’s discipline as the validation of authentic sonship. For if we have never once endured his correction it only proves we are strangers and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:6 TPT)

We will never embrace a full identity as a Son (or daughter) of God if we cannot and will not allow ourselves to be corrected.  Let’s start changing the world, by actually growing in our character and allowing godly, loving correction to mold us.

Yes. And Amen

That is all.

*I would like to point out that I am 100% aware that there are individuals who will punish, and abuse in the name of correction. Correction is not punitive nor abusive and if you are in a situation where this is the case, get out and seek help.

2017

2017. What a great year it’s been.  It was a *hard* year, but man… it was good.  I can’t for the life of me remember the “word” God gave me for it.  Serves me right, since I always refuse to write it down… that being said, I can’t remember the word God gave me, but I can tell you the word I’ve lived.

Faith.  I have been walking with Jesus for years, but this year was the year that I learned and really activated what it means to live by faith.  There was measure of faith in my life, sure.  But it was wrapped up and mixed up with worry, concern and a lot of doing to get things done to earn it type of work.  But this year? This year, I learned what it means to rest in His goodness and believe that everything in His hands, and at the beginning, middle, and end of the day… He is Good. 

Because I’m feeling slightly nostalgic, here are seventeen things about 2017 that I learned, I experienced, or lived.

  1. 2017 was the year we completed our biological family. Mia Rose arrived late March and filled my heart with wonder and joy a new.  She was and continues to be my redemption baby.
  2. 2017 was the year I saw the miraculous at 11:59:59.  It started out rough, but I purposed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, to seek His face even in the mess of the poo-poo-caca circumstances I was living.  And man, I wasn’t disappointed.
  3. Speaking of poo-poo-caca, in 2017, I gained a brother.  That particular phrase is his saying and I would not be fair to write about this year without mentioning him.  If you’re reading this Bubba… You have been a highlight this year and have truly been a God-send to our family.  I appreciate the way you are with my kids and the way you challenge and support my husband.
  4. 2017 was the year God parted the Red Sea for me.  The Old Testament story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt resounded with my heart and was thematic all year long for me. I completely, wholeheartedly, understand Israel in this story, and have myself cried out “You have brought us here to DIE” (I tend to lean towards the dramatic) many many times this year.  But each time, the Lord reminds me where I am in this story, what He did, what I can have confidence in that He will do, and who to follow.
  5. 2017 was the year I went back home and realized, it wasn’t home anymore… Florida is a beautiful state that I will forever treasure in my heart, and it is no longer home.  It holds some of my favorite people that I will forever miss, never forget and always pray into Texas. This year, I let go of what was and embraced of what is.
  6. Speaking of what is… 2017 was the year we found our Church home, our Church family and an outstanding community of human beings we intend to do life with for a very, very long time (sorry Freedom. You’re stuck with the Arrazolo’s!).  Freedom Fellowship Church (soon to be juuuust Freedom Church, hoorah!) has been an answer to my prayers, water to my soul. She is a praying Church, an action Church, a Word Church, a friendly church.  Freedom is an answer to prayer from my heart and Husband’s. She isn’t perfect but she hosts some of the most incredible, vulnerable, God loving people I have ever met.
  7. 2017 was the year I met a great host of people that have forever changed my world.  I have been challenged to be increasingly gracious, I have been presented with a new perspective on community and friendship, I have been supported by practically strangers.  I have had to build relationships and navigate the funk and the joys of what it means to start a fresh and building new bridges.
  8. 2017 was a year of new beginnings and fresh gardening.  Starting over in new soil after spending 10+ years digging down roots is tough. But man, oh man, is it cool and so worth it.
  9. 2017 was a year of answered prayers.  After spending a little under 10 years in a House of Prayer, this year… I learned what it means to pray.  This year I understood the two-way street God sets up as prayer.  I didn’t do it on a mic, or in a room full of people, with fancy language… it was in my car, between pick up and drop off at the kids school, while doing dishes, while seeking the Lord and asking His will at 1:42am, mainly in mumbles and fumbled words of “I DON’T KNOW GOD”.  This year I prayed. And God answered. 100% of the time.
  10. 2017 was also the year, I got a job. I’ve had jobs.  Many jobs.  But this year, I got the job. A job I feel fulfilled in and genuinely enjoy.  A job I both intimately understand and feel completely lost in. It simultaneously comforts me and challenges me. It’s epic.  I’m not a hireling there. I’m a steward.  And I love it… in case you didn’t catch that.
  11. 2017 was a year of catastrophic failure.  I made a LOT of mistakes this year.  When I reflect on it, I see my ineptitude as a Mama, my less than joyful submission to my hubs. I see a potty mouth, and quick to judge heart posture.  Man oh man. There are so many places that could use a whole ‘nother bucket of His grace.
  12. 2017 was a year at home.  I’d planned on adventuring a whole more outside this year.  But it 100% did not work out that way.  We wore out our home this year and spent a lot of time in it.  We watched movies and attempted to make meals together.  We played a lot of board games and snuggled.  It was a year of “breaking in” our here-in-Texas home, and yano… I don’t mind it.
  13. 2017 was a year of  relational restoration.  After years of praying and feeling the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit, 2017 ends with the first few bricks of an old bridge being rebuilt.
  14. 2017 was the beginning of what I know is the beginning of an international adventure that will play out over the course of our life.  We finally got passports, we traveled outside the United States, and we dreamed that we will do it again, very, very soon.
  15. 2017 was the year I got to know my extended family… the mafia most commonly known as the Arrazolo’s (mostly kidding about the mafia statement guys… mostly). After 8 years of marriage and having spent a couple of hours with half the Arrazolo gang, this year I got to spend almost every major holiday with them… birthdays, loteria nights and everything in between.  And I am so thankful for them.  My husband’s extended family is the warmest, kindest, latest brood in all of Texas.  They have made a very large state feel a whole lot smaller.
  16. 2017 was the very first time I saw my husband experience loss.  And man, was it hard.  We have grieved together over catastrophes in our nation, over broken marriages and lost babes of both friends and acquaintances, and a dozen other scenarios that life has thrown our way.  But this year, loss made it’s way from out there, to directly in front, and man… it sucked.
  17. 2017 was the year I became a Texan.  As Harvey assaulted this city and this state that I have grown to love, there was a weaving of heart to it that I could never fully explain. My heart demanded justice for it and I knew… it’d become home.

2018, I’m excited that you’re almost here.  I have a clear word from Jesus for it.  I have confident expectation that His goodness will continue to lead and prove itself faithful on my behalf.  I’m filled with faith and expectation at all that 2018 will bring.

Here’s to new beginnings 🙂

xoxo,
Nicole

the miraculous

“I will destroy the wisdom of all who claim to be wise.
I will confuse those who think they know so much.”
1 Cor 1:19

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I’m up at 4:44 in the morning, praying.  I’m standing in front of a mountain that feels too high to climb and impossible to move. I’m asking Holy Spirit to show up and provide strategy… or the miraculous. I have a ton of ideas of how to fix the problem.  But let’s face it… it’s been my/our ideas that have brought us this far… which, isn’t about 32 steps in the opposite direction.  And in all of my praying, and seeking…. only one thought is impressed upon my heart.  Only one thought comes to mind, and with it, the answer to my burning question(s) and absolutely zero resolution at all.

Let me explain.

I’m up praying. And before I can get 4 words out… I hear the Lord say “Don’t remove the option for my testimony to be displayed.”  And just like that. He answered my prayer. He quieted my soul, but gave me absolutely zero to go on.  I have His Word to hold on to, but I have nothing to do to fix my problem. I have to sit, I have to wait, for this mountain to be removed.  Not because I’m lazy, or complacent… but because I’m filled with faith that my God provides and is alive and well to do miracles so great. Awesome.

IMG_7173We just returned from a pretty miraculous trip to Cabo, San Lucas, Mexico.  From beginning to end, this trip was surrounded by supernatural leading, provision, and testimony.  One of those testimonies was that this trip was prophesied over us… two years ago.  Two years ago, God had this trip on His agenda.  How frivolous and wonderful of our God!  In this prophetic word, someone saw my husband and I go on a trip.  And this trip would bring clarity, clarity, clarity for us.  Three times over.  This was confirmed when we received a prophetic word three days before we were given this trip.  Yeah, it was pretty neat.  That being said, we purposed our time to be both Sabbath(ish) and intentional.  And the main conversation we kept having with God, over and over and over again is leading a life of the miraculous, weighing God’s wisdom against man’s.  

Caleb and I have some pretty big ideas about life, about living.  And we’ve done pretty okay with it.  But on this trip, I came face to face with a crashing reality that we can do more than okay, because God is all about showing out and making His name known.  He is an outrageous God and He delights coming to His children’s rescue.  He delights in doing the impossible, because He is the great I AM.  The Supernatural is the most basic way to live as a citizen of Heaven and child of God.  Believing the impossible and having the faith to partner with Heaven and see it realized is the perfect will of God and absolutely the wisdom of Heaven.  I am back with a craving, and a hunger to share the goodness of God, the majesty of all He is and all that He can do to anyone who’ll hear it.  Even in the midst of some pretty impossible situations.  That’s where my praying at 4:44am comes in.  I haven’t seen the miraculous everywhere in my life. Not yet.  But I know I can and I know I will.  That was His tender whisper during prayer this morning… and that’s my friendly reminder to you this morning.

IMG_6972In your problem solving, in your praying, whatever you are facing… don’t remove the option for the Supernatural.  Don’t remove the option for God to come and make an impossible situation your testimony.  Don’t allow the wisdom of man to rob of you the display of the majesty and power of our God.  God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who sit still long enough, in Holy anticipation, to allow Him to move and shift and bend and solve.

Approach your mountain with faith, believing that the impossible is possible.  Pray for the supernatural and partner with Heaven’s agenda, and then pray for strategy.  Sometimes, the practical solution will come.  Other times, God will display a majestic array of beauty and power right in front of us that will put the Aurora Borealis to shame.

In Christ,
Nicole 🙂

Galatians 6:7

I was driving down the highway, on my way home.  I was praying and talking to the Holy Spirit about a whole mess of things, mainly the mess of things that I am.  But then my attention moved from me to a post I’d recently read and strongly disagreed with.  It was a post characterized by a message that screams “works” rather than “the finished work of the Cross in grace.”

The post had bothered me, but mainly because I understood the heart of it, however much I disagree with the *way* it was said.  The phrase that kept running through my heart was Galatians 6:7.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”

And as I began to meditate on that Scripture, I felt Jesus whisper to my heart…
That verse has been misunderstood long enough.  It doesn’t mean what you think it means.” 

Please Jesus… do tell.

See, here’s the deal.  That Scripture is often preached tied with a good ol’ tithing message, or a good “let’s get our butts out of the seat call to arms” message.  And you know what. Neither are actually fully wrong.  The fact remains that there are eternal rewards for our earthly obedience.  Of course there are.  He’s a Just King.

But.

He’s also a Gracious Savior.  And here’s the deal.  After Jesus basically told me I hadn’t actually encountered Galatians 6:7 yet, I pretty much encountered Galatians 6:7

Guys.  The finished work of the Cross is the ultimate seed sown.  He is the seed. He is the one who plants and the one who waters and the one who causes increase in regards to our righteousness, to our obedience.  He is not mocked, He will absolutely receive the reward for His suffering.  And that’s you and me. Our work of faith is the work of faith.  To believe.  To believe He has planted the ultimate seed, that that seed died and came alive again in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That seed has increased in government and it will know no end in fruitfulness.  Every spiritual seed that will ever be sown was already sown in the sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Christ.  Everything else stems from that.  Our heart’s obedience is a fruit of that seed. Our testimony, our life.  It all is.

Ahhhh, that’s what He meant when He said He is the vine and we are the branches. 

So. What do we do? We press forward and plant ourselves in His sacrifice, in His life and His works. In His ability to do or choice not to, and we secure ourselves in knowing our works matter less than our heart postures. There’s work to be done, yes. There is very much a battle raging, yes. But then, the work is finished and the battle has already won.  So we live out of that reality.  That Heaven comes down to Earth.

xo,
Nicole –

 

Puerto Rico

I am officially using this blog post as therapy.

Hmm. I’m only half sorry.  I want to talk about something with you. I’m going to give you a very rare glimpse into my heart.  This is truly pearls y’all… like, deep heart type stuff.  I’m going to take you on a journey as I process out loud and pray the Lord would bring healing to my heart in this particular area.

So. Puerto Rico.

PR If you’ve been living under a rock, Hurricane Maria (the jerk) pummeled through my little Island last week.  It destroyed it. It flooded and beat it until not much is left.  Her culture is rich, her people are strong, but the island itself… she’s a mess. And guys, this has been really really hard for me.

I am Puerto Rican. Not a sorta-Rican, who was born on the mainland and has heritage in the island. No, I took my first breath there and walked my first steps there. My first friends were there. My first day of school was there. My first kiss was there (sorry Dad!). Puerto Rico holds rich history for me.  But it also holds painful memories.  I buried my mom there. I feel like I lost my family there. I left my innocence in Puerto Rico, and had my first suicidal thought there.  Had you asked me this time last year if I’d ever want to visit Puerto Rico again, I would’ve probably told you no.  I love the island, the culture, her people, (her food!) but Puerto Rico for me was a blast into a past I wasn’t ready to face.  It felt better buried, left behind and forgotten.  I was never ashamed of my heritage and my culture, but the less I assimilated and remembered, the better.  I won’t lie to you.  A year ago, my Puerto Rican background was mostly irrelevant in my life, other than, you know… the food and the occasional “Yo soy Boricua” chant.

And then came Maria.

I prayed for my island – understanding better than most the danger it faced.  But if I’m being painfully honest, my prayers were half-hearted at best. Again, unable or unwilling to truly identify with that need.  It put too much on the table of vulnerability, none of which I was willing to face.  And then Maria came and assaulted her, and with it all of my history and any glimmer of hope I had of reconciliation with my history and her role in my life.  As news reports and pictures of Puerto Rico started to come in, I kept feeling like I was being delivered the news of a sick and dying family member.  And grief, completely overtook me.

The fact is, that even if I decided to make peace with Puerto Rico and all she represents in my life, I can never go back.  That’s the overwhelming thought as I keep seeing the pictures and reading the stories and now, actually interceding and identifying for Puerto Rico. I can never go back.

I remember this dream I had… probably about a year ago, maybe less. In this dream, I am with my maternal grandmother (my mom’s mom… the mom that passed away) and I was delivered news she had terminal cancer (she doesn’t).  I have a few brief moments with her and then she passes. In my dream, I was devastated. I couldn’t stop weeping or crying and I remember feeling, in the dream, surprised by how deeply hurt I was that she was gone.

What you don’t know is that I haven’t spoken to my grandmother in well over 7 years and quite briefly before then.  It is one of those very complicated familial relationships that I’ll spare you the details of.  The point is… I was deeply moved and grieved by her death, even without a heavy weight of relationship backing it. That’s how I feel about Puerto Rico today.  I am deeply grieved for her and deeply grieved at my lack of diligence in dealing with all that she means and represents to me.  Grief surrounds me and I am undone…

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but world sorrow brings death.”
2Cor 7:10

I don’t know what the heck this means or what comes of it.  I am still too stuck in the middle of it to really tell. But you know what… I know a couple things.  I know that this grief will produces repentance – a change – and healing will flow from it.  I know that God is faithful to defend me and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, even when you can never go back.  I know that this too will pass, and Puerto Rico will bear her beautiful soul once again. I also know that the beginning of my story isn’t my end and that He is faithful to bind up the wounds.

Much like Harvey bound my heart to Houston and made it my home, Maria has challenged me to finally embrace all that was with a lens of grace and remind me where He chose me.

One step at a time,
Nicole –