Finding Peace When Fear Surrounds Me

Mamame

Our family has spent the last 2 months waiting on test results.

My Mama is a lung cancer survivor (9 years in May, praise God) and she was hospitalized with pneumonia in December.

The tests they ran showed some abnormalities and the preliminary suspicion was metastatic bone cancer.

I wish I could tell you I laid all this at the Throne of grace and trusted God every minute since.  

The truth is, I’ve spent a lot of sleepless nights lying on a tear soaked pillow waiting for the knots of fear in my belly to untie themselves so I could breathe.

I don’t want my Mama to have to fight this battle again. I don’t want to shave her beautiful head again and I don’t want to sit next to her while they pump poison into her veins to kill the cancer before it kills her.  

My heart wrenches at the very thought of reliving these memories, but they were playing over and over again in my mind.  

This was part of the problem. I was spending more time thinking about the “what-ifs” than praying and trusting God with what is.

Friends, when we allow ourselves to focus on the possibilities we create in our minds and take our focus off the God of the impossible, we allow fear to shove aside His Truth in our hearts.

In order to break this cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be so consumed with God’s Love that we leave room for nothing else.  

But how do we do this in the midst of the storms raging in us and around us?

We pray.

I’m not talking big elaborate prayers, y’all. Sometimes the greatest peace comes in the moments when all we can squeak out between sobs is the name of Jesus Christ.

Just know this:

No matter how our prayers sound to us;

He hears. He sees. He answers.

 

This week, we received the final report on my Mama’s test results.

There is NO CANCER in her body.

How’s that for answered prayers, my friends?

 

Y’all, I know not all situations end with such amazing results. I know sometimes the answers are not the ones we want to hear. I’ve been there too, and it’s a hard place. In our times of uncertainty, when we’re so blinded by fear we can’t see the next step, we can still trust God to show up in the midst of the storm.   

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Will you leave your prayer/petition in the comments below and allow me to pray with you and for you today?

Rejoicing in Hope,
~Nichole

When You Lose Your Passion to Pray

LIGHTI lost my passion to pray.

I quit spending time pouring my heart out to God.

And all I heard was silence.

You could hear a pin drop.

For months.

The silence was more than I could handle. Instead of drawing closer to God and letting Him grow my faith, I drew away from Him and let the enemy drown my faith in doubt.

It all started (or perhaps ended) with a prayer I prayed for years. I prayed God would answer and give me the desires of my heart and I believed, with all of my heart, He would.

I remember prayerfully surrendering my dreams, telling God He could have them because I trusted Him and His will…Please note this is a good thing when it’s done with the right heart.

However, as I began to grow tired of the silence and I allowed God to show me the heart behind my dream sacrifice, I found the truth.

I surrendered my dream thinking it would placate my God and please Him enough to grant my wish.

My godly surrender was a poorly concealed bribe.

Because in my mind I thought surely, if I gave up my dream, God would give it back.

There’s a lot wrong with this theology, I know, but there was even more wrong with my heart.

I wanted God to be a genie in a bottle. I wanted Him to change His dreams to match my dreams. I didn’t truly want to sacrifice my dreams for His much better ones. And I suffered because of it.

I wrangled with doubt about whether or not God truly answers prayers because I refused to see all the ways He was answering mine. I accused myself of not having enough faith, telling myself if I just believed more, or prayed more He would grant my wish. I struggled with discontent because all I could see was what He was doing in the lives of others. I couldn’t see what He was doing in my own life because I wasn’t brave enough to admit the only issue with my life was me.

You see, when we somehow hinge God’s work upon our performance or our ‘goodness’, we cheapen it. We put it inside the box of our finite understanding and take it from the infinite control of the God who created the universe. We think because we cannot understand what He is doing , surely what He is doing cannot be good. And we try to attribute to God a dark side that He does not possess.

Y’all. THERE IS NO DARKNESS IN GOD. NONE.

Not even a little bit.

And ANYTHING in my life that assigns this attribute to Him is fraudulent. It must be eradicated because if it is not, it will tarnish my faith and silence my prayers.

This is how I lost my passion for prayer.

It wasn’t that I stopped praying altogether. I just stopped praying big. I stopped praying often. I stopped praying like my life depended upon it.

And I wondered what was wrong with God.

Isn’t it so like us to place the blame elsewhere, but so like God to give us a mirror to see the errors in our thinking?

He used a few people close to me and a few good books (Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, Prayer Warrior by Stormie Omartian, and The Holy Bible) to speak His truth into my heart.

You see, as I spend time with God and allow His word to work in my heart, I can see where what I do doesn’t match up with what He says.

When His word tells me to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all things because this is His will for me, then that is what I need to do.

But how do I do this when my heart is broken and my prayers feel like they are bouncing off the clouds?

I pray anyway. I give thanks for the many blessings in my life. And I REJOICE because God is good.

And because He is light and in Him there is no darkness.

These past several weeks I have committed to praying again, to being passionate about prayer, and trusting that God hears me.

My God is no longer silent because I am no longer impatiently waiting on a genie in a bottle to grant my wish. I am pursuing my first love and I am listening as He speaks to my heart. I am watching in awe as He works His miracles in me, through me, and all around me.

How about you? Are you weary of the silence?

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. I John 1:5 (NIV)

Father God, thank you that You are pure Light. Thank you that you hear the prayers of Your people and that You are at work in us, through us, and around us even when we don’t see You or hear You. Thank you that You forgive us and restore us to You. We praise You and we love You. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Because We are Weary of Fighting the Battles Alone

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What if we were willing to go to battle with and for one another?

In the book of Exodus, there is a battle between the Amaleks and Israel. Moses, his brother Aaron and Hur were on top of a hill overlooking the battle. During the battle, as long as Moses held his hands in the air with the staff of God, the Israelites prevailed. When he let his hand down, the Amaleks prevailed. As you can imagine, Moses’ hands got shaky and weak from the effort and he was exhausted.  Aaron and Hur saw Moses’ weariness and they responded by bringing a stone for him to sit on. But they didn’t stop there; Aaron and Hur actually come along each side of Moses to support his hands to hold them steady through the battle.

This is huge, y’all. These two people God placed in Moses’ life give us incredible instructions on how to minister to one another in the midst of our own battles.

First, Aaron and Hur were with Moses overlooking the battle. This means they knew there was a battle going on.

Are we aware of the battles going on in the lives of those God has placed in our spheres?

Second, Aaron and Hur saw Moses was weary. They were paying attention.

Are we in tune enough to recognize when others are struggling?

Third, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for Moses to sit on. I’m thinking this must have been a fairly large stone to provide a resting spot for a grown man. This tells me it took effort for Aaron and Hur to move the stone for Moses.

Are we willing to put in the effort it will take to help others?

Fourth, Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands. Wow, y’all. This kind of active ministering gives me chills.

How can we rally around our people and actively help them during the battle?

And finally, Moses allowed Aaron and Hur to help him. He didn’t push them away or say “I got this.” He accepted their help.

Are we willing to allow the Aarons and Hurs in our lives to help us when we need them?

Friends, so many of us have grown weary of doing good.

We are exhausted spiritually, emotionally and physically. We have given more of ourselves than we hold on to. And we find ourselves with parched hearts yearning to be filled.

In response to this, may we hear beyond the false bravado in one another’s voices and ask the hard questions. May we recognize the needs of others and be willing to be present and make the effort to help. Let it be so with us, Lord.

Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. Exodus 17:11-12 (NLT)

Father God, we know two are better than one and we thank you for the people you have placed in our lives. Help us to love one another as you love us. Give us courage to ask the hard questions and walk through the hard places to help those in need. We love you and we praise you, Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

How God used a Toilet Brush to Transform My Wicked Heart

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“Here I am, Lord, send me.”

This has been my prayer over the last several years.  And there is a great part of me that means every word.  But there is also a part of me that says….”send me, but don’t send me THERE.”

You see, I want to serve my Jesus, but most of the time, I want to control where, when, how, and whom I serve.

A couple of years ago, Todd sent me a video made by a famous Christian artist who talked about humble service, and the basic gist was this:

“If you aren’t willing to hold a toilet brush, you have no business holding a microphone.”

My first thought was this:  “WHEW!! I’m glad Todd’s the one who holds the microphone in our family.”

Ahem.

Then God reminded me of the ministries he has called me to. Almost every single one of them requires me to put myself in front of people; either in person, on social media, or via phone.

His reminder sparked a question from the depths of my prideful heart….are you REALLY willing to serve me no matter what it looks like, Nichole?

I knew the answer wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Because I knew there were times when I wanted the platform. Times when I wanted someone to tell me what a great speech, blog, presentation, teaching, or conversation that was because I wanted validation. And I wanted the glory.

During the months I wrestled with this, we began serving with a homeless ministry that provides hot meals and showers for our homeless friends each Saturday. We love the heart of service in this ministry and we were (and still are) thrilled to be involved.

We were serving one Saturday and the ministry was very shorthanded. We were serving in the back where the showers are and once the last person finished showering, there were only few volunteers left to get the church cleaned and back in order. I knew what God was going to ask me to do.

He was asking me to clean the bathrooms.

Y’all. I am a germaphobe. And I have a compromised immune system. And, well, just YUCK!

But God already knew all this. Surprisingly enough, I did it with a good attitude because when I woke that morning, I prayed God would give me opportunities to serve Him and I found myself grateful that I recognized this opportunity and was willing to take it.

So I donned four pairs of plastic gloves and got to work.  And as I was cleaning the last of four bathrooms, it hit me.

I was holding a toilet brush.

In that beautiful moment, I knew God was aligning my heart with His. His grace surgery was cutting away the pride in my heart. And it was Him who got every ounce of the glory.

The opportunities God has placed in front of me since then just overwhelm me with gratitude. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to not leave me the same. I am grateful that although He has worked wonders in my heart, He also nudges me to be sure my heart is aligned with His on each and every assignment, no matter whether I am holding a microphone or a toilet brush.

 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

Father God, thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you that you love us too much to leave us where we are. Give us hearts that are aligned with yours and let all we think, say and do glorify you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Heart Scars

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How can it be that scars still cause pain? Surely, once the wounds are healed, the pain should no longer exist.

This is logical, I guess. But my heart defies logic. Because sometimes my heart scars ache.

Like today. 3 days before Mother’s Day.

It isn’t a searing; gut wrenching pain like it was years ago, now it is more like a dull ache that intensifies at times. But it is pain nonetheless.

I really try not to dwell on the fact that we do not have children. I try not to let myself be consumed with the “WHY?” And I try to be grateful. Because I am grateful, beyond words, for this beautiful life God has given us.

And y’all – Please hear my heart. I don’t hate Mother’s Day. My Mama is amazing. And I am so very thankful for her. And I LOVE to celebrate her on Mother’s Day.  I love to celebrate lots of Mamas on Mother’s Day. But can I just be real?

Mother’s Day makes my heart scars ache.

More than any other day of the year….because there is no escaping the obvious on Mother’s Day.

I am not someone’s Mama. And I may never be.

So, may I ask you a favor this Mother’s Day? As you celebrate your motherhood and your mothers, could you say a prayer for those of us who are tending to our broken hearts?

Rejoice in your blessings, please, and know that we rejoice with you, but remember those for whom those blessing have not come.

Father God, we come before you in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, that You are the God of all comfort. Thank you that You meet us where we are and minister to us there. Help us Lord and heal us. Give us opportunities to minister to others and as we rejoice in our blessings, let us also show compassion for those whose lives may lack what we have in abundance. We love you Father and we thank you for your great love for us. Help us to love you and love others more. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Love One Another – Giving when we are Empty

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I stood in line at the patient check out desk listening to the admin congratulate all three of the women in front of me on their pregnancies.

I was praying with all of my heart that I could hold myself together until I could get to my car. I didn’t want to dampen their joy with my sorrow and I certainly didn’t want these women whose wombs were full of life to pity me because mine was not.

I barely made it to the parking lot. By the time I got to my car, my body was so racked with sobs I had to concentrate on not getting sick. I just wanted to get home, crawl in bed and forget this day. Finally, my sobbing abated enough for me to drive home. I prayed as I drove, begging God to give me peace in my grief.

I thought surely I was misunderstanding when I felt Him impressing on me to call a dear friend of mine with a newborn.

“Really, God? Right now? I don’t want to do that. Please don’t make me do that.”

Like a petulant child, I tried to convince God to change His mind about this. But the impressing on my heart got even stronger. So, even though I was quite sure there was nothing left in me to give, I obeyed and I called her.

I heard the raw emotion in her weary voice. No one had reached out to her in weeks. She felt like no one cared, and she was forgotten and alone. We were both in the midst of a famine, hers after becoming a Mom again, and mine as I was so desperate to be a Mama of even one.

In my obedience to call my friend when I felt my heart couldn’t handle it, God gave me strength to love on and encourage her.

As I prayed with her, I asked Him to come alongside her during this difficult time and I asked Him to bless her children. I praised Him for these blessings because He is the God of all creation and He is the One from whom all blessings flow.

I wish I could tell you that my grief and pain ended with that call. I wish I could tell you that I have become someone’s Mama in the months and years since then. But neither of those things happened.

What did happen is my God reminded me that He has empowered us and commanded us to love others, even in the midst of our pain. Even (especially) when we feel we have nothing left to give.

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35 (NASB)

Father God, thank you for your great love for us. Thank you that because you first loved us, we can love one another. Help us to seek ways to encourage and build each other up even when we ourselves are struggling. Help us use our struggles to gain compassion for others who are struggling. Help us give when we feel we have nothing left. Help us to serve others when we’re tempted to pass up the opportunity. We love you Lord, and we want to honor you with our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Weed Free

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My husband and I are stewards of a little slice of awesomeness we call Manna Homestead. So, I guess technically, we are homesteaders. But that is whole other post for another day. 🙂

There are a few (read several) places on our property where we are in a constant fight with nature. We want the areas to be orderly and contained. Nature wants them to be wild and unruly.

One of the spots is the flower bed in front of our house. And I do use the term flower bed loosely.

Last year, the lines between flower and weed were so blurred, we just tore everything out. And it was rewarding. I loved seeing the fresh dirt just waiting for its new inhabitants. How exciting. It was a fresh start for new, beautiful things to settle in and put down roots.

But life got in the way and nothing new and beautiful got planted in this space. Fast forward 3 seasons and we find this ‘flower bed’ is completely overrun with vines, weeds, and other craziness I cannot even identify. It’s like there was never anything ‘good’ in this space at all.

So these last several evenings, I have donned my work gloves and worked at trying to bring some semblance of order back to my ‘flower beds.’   It is tough work, but I like the reward of seeing the fresh soil void of weeds and vines, just waiting for another fresh start.

As I was tugging at some particularly stubborn vines, I felt God urging me to pay attention to the task at hand. As I really looked at this area overrun with weeds, vines and stickers, I was reminded that this area is an example of what can happen when we allow the world to take over our hearts. Those weeds, vines and stickers take root. They choke out all the good and overrun our hearts with ugly, prickly weeds. And our thoughts become dark. Our words become cutting. Our lives become games of comparison and discontent. And we find ourselves wondering why everything seems so off kilter. Why life has lost its meaning and our souls have lost their hope.

But God.

But God is able. And when we surrender our hearts to Him, and allow Him to mold us, shape us and change us, our hearts begin to resemble the fresh soil. Void of weeds and vines, just waiting for a fresh start. Full of hope for what God will do and full of peace because we can trust that He is faithful to complete the work He began in us.

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:22-23

Father God, weed out our hearts. Take away the vines and prickly things. Replace them with Your peace, Your love, and Your hope. Let Your Truth take root and yield beauty. Help us look to You to fill us and complete us, and not the things of this world that will only leave us wanting. You alone are God and You are worthy of our praise. We love You. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.