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 🙂

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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 –

 

Its been a little over a year since we made the big move to the good ol’ state of Texas.  And I have to say… its starting to feel like home. I have accepted Texas gear following me at every corner store and every grocery store. I have (mainly) accepted the lack of Puertorican food near by, and I have even embraced football as a proper Texas wife. I can drive in Houston without getting killed and have become acquainted with the world of stink bugs and love bugs (sorry FL as bad as you think FL is with love bugs… Texas got you beat) I am slowly becoming some sort of Texan.

We have begun to put down roots and invest in real relationships and friendships. We are attending a church we genuinely love and we are intentionally serving and getting to know our neighbors.  It sounds real good… real purposeful, and intentional and like its all grand. But y’all nothing will expose this girl’s insecurities faster than the need to develop new friendships and relationships with people who dont know me or my quirks, or sarcastic sense of humor, or deep desire to help – to the point of seeming pushy.

Guys. I am drowning in insecurity here. I have been second guessing every word that comes out of my mouth and every gesture or movement for the last six months. And it. is. exhausting. Good Lord. It’s also really really stupid.  Because Ive read the book, the one about all the insecurities, and I know I really shouldnt care. But… i do.

So, at the push of my best friend who never lets me sit in my own mess, I turn to Jesus and ask… “What the heck?”

And this is what He said…

I am your Defender. 

And folks, thats what its all about. In our insecurities, we have to press in and grow in the knowledge that wherever we lack and whatever others perceive, God defends us. He goes before us. He knows us, more intimately than we know ourselves. He loves us. And He goes before us. He ordains our steps and hopefully clears up our messy attempts at communication. He goes before us.

This isn’t an insanely deep post. It’s just an honest one. I am struggling with insecurity and actively dethroning it in my life. I believe the more I grow in relationship with God as my defender, the less insecure I will be. I’m not there yet, but I’ll get there. In the meantime, if you’re a Texas friend and see me mucking it up, have patience. I’ll get there eventually.

 

marriage, courage and being a bad ayyy

I have been married for eight years, seven months, six days, eight hours and roughly fifteen minutes… but I swear I’m not counting.

I  have recently been wrestling with the notion of marriage, love, romance and being a strong, leading lady.  We seem to live in a society that basically tells me that I need to choose.  I can be the kind of girl who likes romance and wants the boy and all that jazz or I can be the superhero bad-ayyyyy feminist who basically saves the world and looks gorgeous doing it.

But. I can’t be both.

And well… eight years, seven months, six days, eight hours and roughly sixteen minutes in the trenches of marriage, in great times and in tough times, in total joy and what has felt like total devastation…. I freaking beg to differ, society. 

Here’s’ the deal guys.  We know that marriage takes work. No duh. It’s become like… a motto or something.  But, what we don’t always get is that having an abundant marriage demands courage. A whole bucket of it.

Loving someone wholeheartedly and in a deep way takes courage. It really does.  Especially when that other person is human… and well, if you’re love is an alien of sorts… I guess, good for you.  But seriously. When we love another person, no matter who they are, they are bound to disappoint at some point in the long journey of marriage.  It’s part of the rules. It’s part of life; disappointment, friction, some measure of heartache actually caused by another human being. Kudos to our founding parental unit Adam & Eve for that. 

So. If disappointment and a measure of heartache is part of life, then moving past that and putting yourself out there demands courage.  I’m not talking about “Make it Work-and-grow-in-wisdom-by-hiding-yourself” putting yourself out there.  I’m talking about putting yourself out there, without reservation in the same fashion as we did the moment we initially fell in love with our significant other.

Forgiving. That demands courage.

All of it. Each and every element of a successful marriage demands bold courage.  It just does.  Because “true love” isn’t about the butterflies or the weak knees or the feelings and all that jazz (though, let’s face it, those are nice), it’s about a conscious decision to give of yourself day in and day out to make someone else’s life better.  That’s what love is.  It’s service, it’s self-sacrifice.  There is no self-preservation in true love, and if I’m really honest… I freaking hate that.  Eight years, seven months, six days, eight hours and roughly 25 minutes later… I freaking hate it.

I guess what I’m rambling about at 11:30 at night on a random Thursday is that we can be both, we can do both.  I really believe that loving someone the right away takes courage, and kind of makes you a bad-ayyyyy.  And we need to acknowledge that and encourage that.  Because at the end of the day, what good is it to learn to save the world if we do it without love?

Nicole-

unstained.

Pure & undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
– James 1:27

It’s a pretty popular and common Scripture.  Many of us know it and quote it even.  We use it to defend our missions-minded theology and to open discussion with modern day Pharisees.  Yeah, we know it.  But I’ve seen the first half of this verse quoted more so than the latter. We often quote it something like this; “Pure and undefiled religion is caring for the orphan and the widow and stuff.” And that’s where we stop.  We don’t go further, we don’t acknowledge that second bit nor do we acknowledge how God chose to describe Himself in this particular instance.

I’m babbling I know.  But listen.  I was talking to God the other day, praying, asking Him to change a certain someone I’m in close relationship with, because, well… they hurt my feelings. Again. And I was frankly getting tired of it.  I was wounded and that prayer that I shot up was done more in desperation and anger and a desire to just not hurt anymore instead of a genuine and pure motive on behalf of that person. That’s when Jesus, in His humor and kindness responded back with James 1:27.

Hello? Is this thing on? Lord. Change that person.  Why do you wanna talk about orphans and widows right now? Sooo irrelevant.  And again He responds. James 1:27.

Seriously God?

So to open my Bible I go. And there I go.  I dive into the mystery that is James 1:27.  Widows, Orphans. See God. You’re. Not. Listening.

And then I see it.

… “and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  

I’ve read it. A thousand times.  But just then Rhema was breathed into my heart and I understood.

So many people use this portion of Scripture to defend and demand holy and set apart lifestyles.  They will use this Scripture as argument that we are to stay away from the world.  We are to stay away from the grime and the dirt that is all around us and that we are to live in a perpetual state of cleanliness by our works and our efforts.

But we know that’s not true.  Our holiness is a gift from Christ founded on the finished work of the cross.  I can’t work or effort my way into being unstained.

So then. What?

Keeping oneself unstained by the world refers to a heart posture. It refers to keeping an unoffendable heart in light of man’s brokenness and the fractured state of the world. Undefiled religion is finding sufficiency in only Christ while maintaining purity of heart in a broken world.  It means that when life and relationships and interactions get messy and we feel rejected and broken and like we want to allow offense and anger and bitterness to take our fragile heart hostage, we anchor our hearts to the unshakable knowledge that God, our Father, is enough to satisfy.  It allows us the freedom to be unstained by man’s brokenness, being in the arms of the perfect Father.

That’s what remaining unstained by the world means.  The world can’t stain us with its death and decay, unless we allow it to.  The finished work of the Cross says so.  This isn’t about avoiding this movie or not singing that song (though, please. Don’t sing it).  It’s so much bigger! It’s about our heart.  It’s about reversing the stench of rejection from our heart and embracing the sweet smelling fragrance of the embrace of Daddy God’s arms.

In my ache for relief and in this unfounded prayer, I was still seeking to change the “world” (read: others, human frailty, and humanity) instead of asking Him to keep my heart unstained and pursuing the arms of my Father.

So. There it is. True religion. An unstained heart. Unstained (aspilos).  Spotless. Free from censure (judgment, disapproval).  Unsullied. Pure.  A heart that knows and is sustained by knowing it is loved by a Perfect Father.

Agape,
Nicole

same teams

“What do you think God wants to do in your heart this week?”

I stared at the blank piece of paper with our discussion questions for the week, and I’m not gonna lie. I had a minor panic attack. That was an extremely loaded question and I had just met 4/4 of the women sitting with me (well, I’d met 2 of them a whopping two weeks prior, but still).  I murmured some stupid joke about requesting sugarcoating questions that I didn’t mean (Way to go Nicole, she now thinks you’re a heathen and an idiot). How can I possibly put into words what He’s teaching me without sounding like I’m a jerk? I am, after all relatively saved and would like to keep that impression going, thank you very much.

And then. It was in the middle of all this self preservation and let’s face it, fear, that I realized exactly why God is doing in my heart what He’s doing.  And my answer… well, quite frankly surprised the mess out of me because I had no idea I was able to put into any sort of words. And here’s the jist of what I said…

We are on the same team. All of us. And I think God is reminding me of that.  The Scarlet Thread in all of His dealings with me over the last two weeks (thank you Jessica) has been that.  We are on the same team. I am on the same team as every person who ever hurt me. Period. Believer or not. We are part of the same team.

“Because your fight has not been with flesh and blood, but with Principalities and The Rulers and The Powers of this dark world and with wicked spirits which are under Heaven.” – Ephesians 6:12 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Here’s the deal. We have all been hurt by another human being, one way or another. Its inevitable. If you have never ever been hurt by another human being, I would kindly request the recipe for such an incredible feat all the while calling you a liar in my heart (well, it’s true).  Without proper focus, pain and hurt will turn into something ugly in our lives. It will keep our eyes on the instrument rather than the conductor. It breeds division in our hearts, in my heart with our brothers and sisters in a way that grieves Daddy God’s heart.  Because when we break it down, let’s face it… a good majority of our hurts come from well meaning folks who are just imperfect at loving. Just like you. Ephesians 6:12 resounds loudly in my heart and reminds me of that.

We are all on the same team. We are all God’s kids. We are all imperfect messes leaning on a patient Father. And those that don’t lean on the same God? They’re imperfect messes too! And they are just as loved by our patient Father.  Bottom line is this… it is of the utmost importance that we honor and bless and love and forgive our brothers and sisters.  It is of the utmost importance we cast off restraint when dealing with others… and I don’t mean that we have free reign to curse them out y’all. I mean cast off restraint in the way you love and interact and forgive and release and give to another human being.  Understanding this allows me the freedom to be vulnerable without the need for self-preservation.  Understanding and genuinely believing this sets our feet, our hearts and our lives in the way of the Kingdom. And honestly, it just sets us free y’all.

At the end of the day if they win, you win, I win and if they lose, I lose and you lose.  Celebrate their victories, mourn their losses.  That’s how teams work.

So, woop. There it is. That’s what God is doing in my heart this week Jessica. He is kindly reminding me and establishing Ephesians 6:12 in my heart so that I am better able to deal with inevitable hurt and rejection that will come my way.  Every sermon, every discussion, every page I have read this week reminds me of that.  That we are on the same team, no matter the differences, the hurt caused or inflicted or anything else that may attempt to separate us.  Because at the end of day, you are my brother, my sister and we have the best Dad in the world.

Agape,
Nicole