No, no…and no.

Alright, I’m going to drop a knowledge bomb on you guys, ready? A study was done on how many times an average toddler hears the word “no” a day, and the number came out to be 400 times a day. SERIOUSLY! At first I was completely shocked by this number and thought that can’t be! That is until I began to think about my young self, and let me tell you, if you were anything like me as a child I’m sure my number was hovering more around the 600 mark. I have the home videos to prove it, peeps! I was always a wild&free spirit, dancing, creating, and pretending but of course testing the limits at the same time. Being the oldest I was used to having the attention solely on me, that is until my brother came along and took some of my 4-year-old spotlight. (I mean shouldn’t he know better?! 😉 )

So I imagine my daily “no’s” being something like this…”NO”, Nicole you cannot put lipstick on your brother, “NO”, I cannot videotape your dance party all day long, and “NO”, you cannot wear your princess costume to preschool (but Mooomm). I think you all get the picture. (Lord have mercy on me the day I have my own kids)

I think one thing we all struggle with is the art of accepting (and appreciating) a good ol’ “no”. It seems that the older we get, the more we take these “no’s” personally. “No’s” aren’t always meant to harm us, in fact, I dare to say that “no’s” can be a pivotal moment that can help us reach our best yes. We must keep our eyes and hearts open to discerning an opportunity versus our God-given purpose. There is a difference. Understanding and knowing that difference leads us in the direction of our best yes, helping us to cope with the “no’s” along the way.

When I was pursuing Nursing I saw a job posting from the university I attended for a Peer Health Educator position. What a great opportunity I thought, it’s on campus, fair pay, flexible hours, it relates to my major, and I would get to mentor to my peers, something I have always enjoyed. Best of all, I could pick what my “focus” area would be and I was so excited when I saw health & nutrition as an option! How perfect?! I had recently gotten my personal training certification and couldn’t see how I wouldn’t be a good fit for this position.

I showed up to the interview ready to rock this guys socks off, and let me tell you, I most definitely did until he said, “So, I see that you are interested in the health and nutrition focus, but I wanted to see if you would be willing to flex to sexual health if needed. As Peer Health Educators you help put together sex week on campus.” (for those who don’t know ,this is a common thing for public university campuses, they make a whole week out of handing out free condoms, having “sex” talks and much more.) He looked at me for a response, I took a deep breath and said, “If at all possible, I would prefer to stay with the health and nutrition focus, my faith is something that is important to me, and what you just spoke of is something I wouldn’t be comfortable doing.”

I wish you all would’ve been there to see it because it was the most EPIC “NO” expression I’ve ever received. I could just imagine what was going through his mind. “No”, you aren’t hired. “No”, I don’t want to hear anything else you have to say. “No”, you aren’t what we are looking for. He politely wrapped up our interview not long after my “politically incorrect” remark and I walked out of that interview confident that I was going to receive a big fat “NO”. Sure enough, I got a call a week later, saying just that. (of course in a more polite way, but you get the picture). The beautiful thing is this was one of the first “no’s” I was PROUD of, like I was fist-bumping myself, rock on Jesus girl!

This is why it is crucial as Disciples of Christ to learn to embrace the “no’s” this world throws at us because I believe a lot of the “no’s” we receive are for doing things exactly the way Christ envisions. In John 15:18 we are able to remind ourselves “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” The world we live in today lives so far away from the truth of Christ. It is a place of greed, hate, sin, immorality and darkness. And you know what we are called to be in spite of all of this? LIGHT.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”-Matthew 5:14-16.

So although, the man’s face didn’t light up with my response, God’s did. I didn’t allow this fallen opportunity diminish my God-given purpose. By being graced with that “no”, it allowed God to reveal to me His best yes for my life. I was presented not long after with a job position as an OB Tech, which at the time was a dream come true for me since I wanted to be a Labor and Delivery Nurse. There I learned how to assist in C-sections, what it looks like to be with someone in their most vulnerable moments, and I got to see the most precious gift of all, life enter into this world. Not only that, but with the blessing of third shift I got to go in the nursery and hold the newborns. I would sit sometimes for an hour at a time just in awe of God’s beauty, their tiny nails, their soft skin, their gentle coos, as they took in this new world. Each time I held a baby I would sit with them and gently sway back and forth in the rocking chair praying over them. In my mind I prayed that God may keep them safe, that they may grow up and know their worth, that they may be disciples of Christ and that God’s hand would be so evident in their life.

My dear friends, how beautiful a “no” can be.

fullsizerender-3

 

Jesus Wept

I believe all of us can recall a time we wept. Now, I’m not talking about that slightly teary-eyed, tear trickling down here and there kind of thing, I mean the full on show. I’m talking about the smeared makeup, uncontrollable sobbing where people are like would someone please give this girl a tissue cause she clearly has more than an issue. Yep, that kind.

Let’s rewind here to May 2015. I had been struggling so much with the direction to go with my life/my career, just about everything. I had this gut-wrenching feeling that Nursing was not my calling, I felt like I was living out someone else’s dream and let me tell you, it felt awful. I tried to shake the feeling, to keep smiling, and to try and not let anyone down. I had so many expectations from others to succeed and become a great Nurse, the last thing I wanted was to let others down. I continued to ignore the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit trying to redirect me and kept creating MY plan. I lined up an internship with a reputable hospital and continued to keep on keeping on until GOD’s plan for me overrode all the plans I had made and flipped my world upside down.

I had gotten news that I didn’t pass one of my nursing program classes by 2% (now anyone who knows someone in Nursing school knows the brutality in the grading scale, yes, a no pass was 79% and below, how?!) Not only that, but I would have to repeat EVERY class I had gotten an “A” in that semester as well because that’s just how it was going to work since they were bringing in new curriculum. Now, how ironic that for the first time in years I would be the first group of students in this predicament. Coincidence? I think not. I so desperately needed that final last straw to give me the courage to walk away, and that’s what that gift of rejection and failure gave me. An open door.

I walked away from the program without the slightest clue of what I was going to do. I was so deep into my Nursing career and no one around me understood what I was doing, and to be honest, in that moment neither did I. All I knew was that God was up to something.

I was on my way home when I got the call. The phone rang from my summer internship, and I eagerly answered expecting news about when I would begin. Instead, I was faced with more rejection. Since I had dropped my Nursing major, I wasn’t what they were looking for. What have I done?! I asked myself. I’m sure you can guess what happened next my friends, I wept. I wept like I had never wept before. I remember feeling so useless, helpless and upset in that moment. I repeatedly through my tears kept yelling out “Jesus, please help me, please help me God.” I was desperate, vulnerable and was unsure of why I was going through all of this.

But you know what’s great? We can open up our bibles to John 11:35 and read this short, sweet little verse, “Jesus wept.” Don’t you guys love that?! I mean that gives me so much comfort! Now, you are all probably thinking Nicole, seriously? Out of all the verses in the bible you are going to resort to the shortest one there is? My dear friends, let me explain how I think we can all find astounding comfort in this short verse.

Jesus was the word made flesh, He came to our broken world and He lived among us in the form of man. He was flawless in all His ways. He knew just what to say to whom, and how to say it. He was perfectly polished. He helped those in need, healed the blind, and raised the dead to life. He knew what was to come in Him paying the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross to save us from our sins to grant us eternal life, and yet He still lived out His ministry fearlessly. That is why it makes this verse all the more powerful.

In John 11 we read about the death of Lazarus. Mary and Martha had told Jesus that Lazarus was sick. “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” v 4-5. Jesus knew that was not going to be the end for Lazarus, He knew God was going to work through Him but still, we read on and see in verse 32-35 “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”

Do you get it? Do you see the beauty in this?! He sees our weeping hearts, He sees our losses as His own and He is for us. Not only is He for us, but when He sees us hurting we can see that it deeply moves Him, He doesn’t wish trouble upon those He loves. He is a God of compassion, and spoiler alert: He raised Lazarus from the dead! So you best believe He has the power to make something beautiful out of our trials. “Jesus wept” leads us to all these beautiful truths about Him but it also makes Him that much more relatable and real to us. He KNOWS what it’s like to be brought to the point of weeping. The perfect Son of God wept. Now doesn’t that just give you a sense of hope?

It’s ok to not always be ok.

God saw me that day, He heard my cries, He dried my tears, and He spoke life into me.

The following Sunday I was at church, my mind racing from all that I was facing and what to do next when this repetitive, beautifully nagging phrase kept going through my mind. It gave me goose bumps, and rendered me speechless. “You weren’t meant to save lives, you were meant to save spirits.” I knew this was a message from the Lord and it helped to catapult me forward in my journey, to get me back on my feet, and to finally surrender to His plan and let go of my own.

Sweetly broken, Holy surrender.