Habits & Heaviness

Habits. They don’t form overnight. As much as I would like to wake up at 4:30am with a bolt of energy, run 3 miles, shower and have enough time and energy to look presentable, the truth is that won’t all come to me naturally right away. I know, bummer, right? Research shows that it typically takes 21 days to form a new habit. Motivation is what sets your actions in motion to create that habit.

I felt God tugging on my heart, I wanted to know Jesus, not just know Jesus as a list of facts, stories and things spoken, but truly and deeply know Him. I wanted to be extremely intentional in this. I wanted to start bringing my bible with me each day so I would be able to dive into His word and set aside time for Him and I, just like I would with other loved ones in my life. This was going to be the start of a new habit.

Eager to start this new habit, I tossed my bible into my purse as I was heading out the door the next morning. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE big purses, the bigger the better. More room for snacks and I mean, who doesn’t like snacks?! But seriously, my “Mary Poppins” bag has enough room for all of the things to get this girl through her day. Laptop. Wallet. Binder. Papers. Lipstick. Lunch. An 18-month-old child (kidding). Along with my newest addition, my bible.

I picked it up and headed out the door and immediately, I could feel the additional weight it added to my daily purse load. My shoulder was aching and pulling, it was uncomfortable! (a tad dramatic I know, but just being honest). Then, ever so peacefully this conviction passed through mind. “You know what else was heavy? The cross.” Gulp. My heart sank. Here I am feeling discomfort for adding a whopping 3 pounds to my load where the King of my heart painstakingly carried the cross for you and for me, and paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can live together in eternity. I will never forget this moment, my dear friends.

The cross was heavy. Heavier than you and I could ever imagine, and I’m not just talking physically. On it bore the sins of mankind. I don’t know about you, but I feel my sin alone would be enough to make anyone’s knees buckle beneath them. The cross was Jesus’s mission, His purpose. Forgiveness and eternity. Like Christ, we each have a mission here as well set in place before you and I even arrived on the scene (or in my Mary Poppins purse)…sorry I had to. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).  As I reflect, the work that Jesus did on the cross was good work, but it wasn’t painless. We must not think that our God-given mission overrides our pain throughout the process. It’s through the pain that God is most glorified. “ Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distress, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” ( 2 Corinthians 12:10).

What cross has God given you to carry? Where does it ache? What do you do when you feel like you can’t continue to bear that load?

Jesus is the ultimate cross-bearer. We can turn to him with our pains, our trials; He knows them all too well.

Lord,

You’ve set each of us apart with unique gifts and skills to glorify You. You’ve placed passion in our soul and each of us has a unique mission You’ve placed on our hearts. Forgive us for the times we complain about the heaviness that comes with this divinity. Help us to see the cross that is placed on us not as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to make Your love more evident on earth. Thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for showing us what it means to take up our own cross each day. Strengthen us. Renew our minds. Renew our spirits. Renew our perception.

Amen.

Phew, my bible in my purse isn’t so heavy anymore.

Change Isn’t Easy

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged, too long actually. These past couple of months have been a whirlwind, to say the least, and the lessons and trials I’ve been going through are ones I feel most people learn later in life.

I’ve been hesitant and reserved in sharing what God has spoken into my life because honestly, I’m still processing daily what that looks like and what that means. Last Fall I was driving in my car on my way to campus, it was just like any other day, I had my Christian tunes playing in the background and “God of this City” by Chris Tomlin came on. Not thinking much of it suddenly this heaviness and boldness came over my heart and I was brought to sobbing and God spoke to me so clearly “you are going to be part of the change in this City.” Just like you are probably going “huh?” So was I in that moment.

I held onto that truth spoken to me with all that I have not knowing what that meant or where that would lead me at the time. Life continued on as normal and with a successful National Sales competition title that Fall I was blessed with sales job offers coming in throughout the U.S.

I knew in my heart this didn’t align with those bold words spoken to me and I was at a standstill. Come January, I was on LinkedIn and saw an opening for the Executive Director position for Downtown Kenosha Inc. I read through the job description and this sense of peace and purpose flooded my heart. I applied and eagerly awaited a response. The doubt and lies of the enemy flooded my mind….why would they pick you? You’re not even out of college? You’re 23 years old, how are you going to run a nonprofit?

The more these thoughts arose the deeper I anchored my soul to God’s promise. Shortly after, I got asked in for an interview. I cannot even begin to explain or fathom the peace that God placed in my heart throughout the entire process. Although I wasn’t extended an offer until April, the entire time I knew this was what God chose for me, this was going to be me “being part of that change.”

God has a sense of humor, you know that? I’m a complete optimist and it’s hard to catch me down, so naturally, when God placed in my heart “you are going to be part of the change” I automatically thought Woohoo! Change! How exciting! Yay God! Let’s do this!

My dear friends, how wrong I was. Change doesn’t come easy, it’s extremely painful, it doesn’t come with a guide book telling you what to do step-by-step, it has no remorse, and it surely doesn’t treat you kindly.

These past months have forced me to grow more than I’m comfortable with, it’s consumed every bit of my energy, time, and thoughts and in all honesty, I’m ashamed to say throughout this I’ve let my occupation affect my glorification.

God’s hand has been so evident in everything that’s been happening and I cannot help but point all praise back to him. I’m here to bring glory to God in my occupation, not allow my occupation to diminish my thanks to Him.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Lights, Camera & Action

Hello, my dear friends! Can you believe it is already December?! I looked at my planner today and saw “December 5th” and my heart sank a bit. I looked ahead and saw written for each day all the tasks I wish to accomplish, exams, and papers to be turned in and then this rush of panic came on saying ohnoitsdecemberandihaventstartedchristmasshopping. Yup, just like that, one jumbled line, zero pauses or breathes taken. Get. It. Together. Nicole. So, I proceeded to do what most of us do when we have a ton to do, I got right to it….pshhh, well no. I got into my fuzzy robe, threw on my baggy sweatpants, crawled into bed, piled myself with fuzzy blankies and scrolled through my Instagram. Good adult choice, Nicole. But as I was scrolling through my feed, a message from Steven Furtnick, whom I talked about in my last post, popped up. It was a short video clip of a sermon he did and I decided to listen, eagerly anticipating some truth bomb to just blow my mind and boy did I get it.

            “Our scenes are not our story.”

I couldn’t shake this one simple sentence out of my mind. I pondered it and spent my whole drive to school processing through what that means and what God wanted me to take from that. I don’t know about you but my brain can start racing a million miles per hour in just a short drive. I hope that this touches you as it touched me this morning.

I’m not sure about you, but I have no shortage of not-so-proud moments in my life; times I fall short of my own expectations, times I hurt those around me, times the things that come out of my mouth are far from life-giving words, and on and on it goes. I have found that for me it’s hard to let go of these “scenes” in my life. The enemy loves to remind me of those things by which I wish I was able to yell “cut” and have a redo moment, a fresh start, for that scene to not be seen by the general public. Do you feel that way too, my sisters in Christ?

I have found that those ugly scenes, although far from my favorite, are my valleys, my low moments, which in turn have led to endurance, growth, and wisdom. As hard as it is, we have to be grateful for these valley scenes because they are our growing scenes. Can I get an amen? In James 1:2-4 we are reminded to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Don’t get me wrong, when these scenes happen in my life I’m usually not jumping for joy in that particular moment about what is happening. Nope. Not at all. I have to consciously remind myself that this trial is in front of me for a reason, there is a reason for this scene.

So, how do we prepare for these scenes when they come? I was reading my bible earlier this week, and this simple verse from Psalms stuck out to me. It reads, “You give him blessings forever, you cheer him with joy in your presence. For the king relies on the Lord; through the faithful love of the Most High he is not shaken.” (Psalm 21:6-7) Now although this seems elementary, I’m going to define the term rely here for you. It means to depend on with full trust or confidence, and to be dependent on.

I don’t know about you my dear friend, but I am a fan of independence. I like doing my own thing, my own way, when I want to do it. But this is not where this scripture points us. If we don’t want to be shaken by these tough scenes in our life, we need to RELY fully on the Most High. Not with just the areas that we will allow Him but with our full being, every aspect of our life. This is where we will find abundant blessings, when we are walking hand in hand with our creator where just our presence brings Him joy.

We are sinful by nature and our Father knows this; not only does He know this but he lavishes us with a grace so astounding that He sees those yucky scenes and still loves us the same! That baffles me, the amount of patience and love He has for me seems so unreal. In 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” So although we have these yuck scenes, the truth is this: those scenes are not our story.

   My dear friends, there is more to my story, there is more to your story then those scenes. I am a daughter of Christ, a fiancé, a friend, a student, a unique person with special gifts and talents, an entrepreneur, a believer, a dreamer, a lover of all people (most days), and well loved by my heavenly Father. Now, that, that’s my story. God is writing my story each and every day while flooding the pages with splatters of grace everywhere.

Now, not only did God fill my heart to write all of this, but he challenged me with this simple truth too. How easy is it for us to quickly judge someone else based off of a bad scene? I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m guilty. That cashier at the store who was super unfriendly and attitude-y with me… yup, she’s mean. Or that mom losing her cool with her kids at the store… she’s not doing so hot. That guy riding the butt of my car, what a little….yup, you get the picture.

But…..what if that was me? Would I want to be judged off of that scene? Isn’t there much more to me than that scene? ABSOLUTELY! So why are we so quick to judge? I want to leave you with that thought today my friends, let us reflect on how we can be more grace-filled not only in handling our own hard to watch scenes but with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around us as well. Lord, let us be overflowing in your grace so that I may see my life scenes and the scenes of those around me through a Christ –like lens. Amen.

“Our scenes are not our story.”