Categories
Devotions

Let’s Face It

Life.

Living. Doing. Being. Helping. Working. Learning. Forgiving. Understanding. Praying.

Pretty much everything there is to do other than dying can become difficult over time– Christian or not. It’s called being human. Having emotions we can’t seem to overcome or thoughts that eat away at our minds. Doing life with people who don’t really know the real you– the hidden parts of your heart, mind and soul has become too easy to masquerade.

Imagine Snap Chat filters swiping over our lives, marriages and families. Swipe right for a flawless filter. Tap and hold for an imaginary you to pop up in your life. The you that’s hiding behind over working to avoid family time because you’re afraid to face the fact that your marriage is hurting and your kids are damaged. Or the you that depends on drugs/alcohol to numb the deep sorrow in your heart because of the choices you’ve made that put you where you’re at in life today.

Send to Your Story for 10 seconds or less and that’s all anyone will see.

I get it. I know the misery, unsatisfying pleasure and how painful living can be. At first, you’re keeping everyone happily deceived. After a while, you’re the one who becomes unhappy doing what’s wrong when you know what’s right. Rebellion feels like you’re in control of your life. Not your spouse. Not your kids. Not your pastor. Not your parents. Just you and that secret you’re hiding.

Why do we hide?

We hide because if people don’t know then we don’t have to face it. “As long as I can fake that my mind, heart and soul are healthy, no one will ask questions of what I’m really going through”. “As long as no one finds out I’m having an affair I can keep my marriage and lust”. “As long as my boss doesn’t find out I’ve been untrustworthy with the companies money I’ll be able to keep my big house and new cars”. If only it were that easy.

So if you know of an opportunity to do the right thing today, yet you refrain from doing it, you’re guilty of sin.” James 4:17 TPT

The problem with that logic is the first three words. “As long as“. If you’re hiding something, it will eventually come out. However big or small, dirty or embarrassing, you’ll be better off to confess and allow prayer and healing to cover you rather than be exposed and have shame condemn you. You can face it. Jesus literally faced Satan and defeated him. If He can defeat Satan, Hades and Death itself, He can defeat that secret that is ready to destroy you.

 

Be free.

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Mom Life

Example Yourself

Hello, Mom. I am also, Mom. I am also; Nicole, Coley or Nikki Manaj (only when my husband is trying to annoy me). I became a new mother on January 11, 2016. My pregnancy was easy and enjoyable. After being induced and in labor for some time, I pushed for 35 minutes and Judah was born beautifully healthy. Just 7 weeks later, we were back in the hospital with a traumatic virus. Click the link to read more: My Unplanned Motherhood

Before children, we are called by our name. After children, we are called by our new universal name, Mom. Or as this Family Guy meme highlights it:

mommy

Whew! Who/what attempted to prepared us for endless, sleepless nights and unexpected hospital/doctor visits? For untamable hormones that caused us to weep over something we would have laughed at pre-pregnancy. Or the unwanted and irreversible stretched skin. Becoming a new wife at 20 and only 22 as a new mother, it was all new for me!

Thankfully, we have supportive family and friends. They brought us dinners and diapers, sent us flowers and books. Woman would encourage me by complimenting my postpartum body and how amazing I was doing for exclusively breastfeeding. I would always smile say thank you but what I needed was more than compliments. I needed mothers of all ages to tell me the truth.

That it’s hard.

Changing diapers all day and night is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. Trying to clean and cook and keep a tiny human alive while looking partly alive is hard. Satisfying sexual desires of your partner when sex is the furthest thing on your list of survival is hard. Posting the cutest newborn pictures and show casing everything as easy and fun on social media is hard.

Does it get easier?

Well, Judah is turning 2 years old next month and I would answer, no.

Yes, I have lost all of my pregnancy weight. We are able to get a full nights sleep most nights. Judah was successfully weened after 19 months of exclusively breastfeeding. We have pushed through months of his constipation problem, literally. Since RSV, we battle bronchitis too regularly but get through it without much more than doctor visits and breathing treatments. But that’s not the end.

Now there are new levels to achieve and overcome. The toddler 2’s… throwing fits of rage for not being allowed to pour juice on the floor and dance in it like it’s a rain puddle. Keeping his brain healthy with educational activities and his body strong with whole foods that aren’t a 4 piece happy meal from McDonald’s are also challenging. All the while never being prepared or given teachable insight on how to balance it all.

mommy2

This is the part where the seasoned mother’s come into play. Did you know the Bible commands older wives to teach younger wives? Yup, it literally tells them to help us be honorable new wives/moms:

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. Titus 2:3-5 NLT

I intentionally have women friends that are significantly older than me. They are loving examples of what it looks like to age graciously in a world that makes you feel like you need to look like Kim K, to give generously when everyone seems to be in it for themselves and they’re full of wisdom and insight on much more. If it weren’t for those women who have invested in my life to be a better wife, mother and Christian, I would be a different person today.

Older women, please don’t be hesitant in reaching out to us younger women! We so desperately need you, more than you may think. We need to hear the truth of how you overcame wanting to escape your marriage and everything else during a dark season in your life. Or how you learned to cook weekly meals for your family when no one taught you how to fry an egg. We need to see your scars to believe that healing is real. We need Jesus in you.

Be who you needed when you were younger.

Younger women, don’t give up. One day you will be one of these older women helping a younger woman like yourself. You will show her that motherhood is more than how fast your body bounces back or doesn’t bounce back after having a child. All of your wild and free times of concerts and midnight coney dates with your best friends aren’t over, just more sacred when it does happen. Now you have a life to live and give more than just for yourself. You have a partner to do life with. Children to love and mold into all that you are and all that you aren’t.

So, is it easy? No. Does it get easier? Probably not. But is it rewarding? More than you could receive. Sow what you want to reap.

 

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Devotions

What Are You Becoming?

Many of us have become wonderful spouses, parents, college graduates and more. We hold high expectations of life, people and ourselves. Are we making a double-digit hourly pay, plus bonus? Have we put together the most extravagant wedding our friends, family and Instagram have witnessed? Are our children excelling beyond their age compared to others in that private Facebook group?

Here’s my question; what are you becoming? I don’t mean through your accomplishments or popularity or even failures. I mean the real you, the inside you. The you that only God and yourself can see. Have you looked there lately? What might you find?

It’s hard to answer what we don’t know, or more truthfully, what we don’t want to know. You see, it’s easier to appear clean on the outside while remaining filthy on the inside.

Here’s how Jesus explained it to the Pharisees and religious leaders of his time on earth:

You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that lives like germs within you. 26 You are blind and deaf to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts!” Matthew 23:25b-26 TPT

Here’s how I interpret that:

“Nicole, you are being fooled by ignoring the bitterness and selfishness of your sin that thrives by infecting your heart, mind, tongue and everything/everyone you come in contact with. Don’t keep ignoring what’s breaking you. You’re so focused on showcasing whats false when you should be focused on unveiling what’s true. What you’re longing for isn’t found in what the world admires of you; it’s found in what I desire from you- your heart!” –God

This is the raw truth. I am impatient. With my husband, my son, the driver going the speed limit in front of me. I overreact. Explode. Shut down. I am harsh or what my generation likes to call “salty”. I say things I don’t want to mean but bitterly do. I feel less than. I compare to body icons and carry that insecurity into my heart and marriage. I allow holding grudges to wedge important relationships.

But no more.

Instead of living in condemnation of “what have I become”, I choose to live in the grace of “this is who I am becoming”.

I’m becoming a wife like a crown to my husbands head. A mother I never knew. A daughter and sister of peace. A friend of truth and trust. A neighbor who loves. A child of God who’s been called to be loved unconditionally.

I pray that as you look in the mirror of God’s heart, you will see who you are becoming in Him, not who you’ve been in yourself.

“May grace and perfect peace cascade over you as you live in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” -2 Peter 1:2 TPT

So I ask again, what are you becoming?

Categories
Mom Life

My Unplanned Motherhood

To the Moms who weren’t ready.

To the Moms who didn’t plan.

To the Moms who didn’t know they could be a Mom.

To you, Mom.

Meet Judah. He’s the little boy in the featured photo above. He was born on January 11, 2016. He is sweet, funny, intelligent and strong. His favorite snacks are blueberries, Cheerios and a Bob Joe’s Custard Kid’s Cone. As a baby, he loved to eat. As a toddler, he loves to eat. I’m not sure that will ever change.

Before Judah was born, we were more excited than scared. After Judah was born, we were more scared than excited. I’m kidding…maybe. No sleep, dirty laundry, starving dogs and emotional breakdowns (thanks hormones) was the beginning of my motherhood. Thankfully, my husband was at home the first week after he was born.

Judah was born during a nasty cold and flu virus season Michigan carries victoriously. At just 8 weeks old he was diagnosed with RSV. To adults it’s just a common cold, but to babies it’s much more severe and sickening. We were in the NICU for a week because he could no longer breathe on his own. Talk about fear and sadness overwhelming you! I played worship songs in his crib at the hospital every night to remind myself and the situation that God is good, He can heal and He is faithful.

We made it out alive!

After we brought him home from the hospital he was sleeping mostly through the night and we were able to function half way normal again (because you’re never normal after having a child). Since this, Judah has gotten sick but nothing like the first time. We are more confident with Vic’s Vaporizer, ZarBee’s Rub and lots of breast milk (16 months and still going).

Growing up I had no personal interest in becoming a mother. In fact, kids actually annoyed me so much I told myself and everyone who asked I would never have kids. “You’ll change your mind once you get married” the person with 3 kids would hesitantly encourage yet warn me. I’m not saying they were wrong, but I can’t say they were right.

When I found out I was pregnant I woke my husband up by shoving the pee test in his face (how gross now that I think about it). He was so excited we drove 3.5 hours up north to tell his parents who were on vacation the good news. The next day I had an alarm in my calender on my phone go off titled, “If no period, pregnant”. When they say it only takes one time, they’re not lying.

Throughout my pregnancy I kept saying how good it felt and that I’d have 6 kids (pregnancy brain for real!). That was until I gained 50+ pounds and thought I’d never lose all the weight. Thanks to exclusively breast-feeding, I am back in my high school clothes! Would I do it all over again? I’m not so sure. Do I love being a mom now? Absolutely.

Though I’m just a few days away from my 23rd birthday with a 16 month old boy, I still make having friends and “Nicole” time a priority. Personal care makes caring for others a whole lot healthier and joyful. When I’m away from my son for the night or even a few hours it’s hard but refreshing. Once we reunite, we are reminded of how much we love and rely on each other.

So, Mom. Go out with your best friend baby free even if it’s just for coffee. Enjoy that night away with your husband for Netflix and chill (no literally, binge watch Netflix and chill with each other). Your baby(s) is OK. You are going to be OK. Don’t feel guilty for you time.

Remember, being healthy internally helps being healthy externally.

Here are a few Bible verses of truth, encouragement and peace to meditate on:

  • “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 3 John 1:2
  • “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3
  • “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…” Isaiah 30:15
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Uncategorized

Planning My Life

TheNobleLife3129

planning

I would definitely categorize myself as a “planner”. For as long as I can remember I would cherish my school planners and make additional notes, plan out my days to a very specific detail. My obsession with planning stemmed from my out-of-control childhood, making lists and planning things out gave me a sense of control.

My life plan went a little something like this: Graduate high school. Attend Eastern Michigan University. Graduate with a degree in marriage/ family counseling. Get married at age 23. Have my first baby at age 25. Work hard in my career so that when the day of motherhood approached me I could tackle it full force by staying at home. This. This was my ten year plan after graduating high school in 2011. I was so mentally dedicated to this plan that when my sweet husband proposed to me I considered saying no! I almost…

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Devotions

Where Was God?

In a world so evil, how can God be so good?

I love that about Him. Even in our pain and suffering, He is still good. Never changing. Always faithful.

Life doesn’t always seem good, though.

Medical bills pile on the breakfast bar from giving birth to your son and when he 8 weeks old in the NICU at Children’s Hospital. Your husband’s best friend dies from life long sufferings of cancer and other unbearable health issues just 3 months before your best friend of 12 years dies in a car accident at age 22 from falling asleep at the wheel. All of this in less than a year, by the way. How can God be good and where was He in all of this?

As life lives on (or dies off), I see God more. Wondering myself where God was in my life before I knew Him. I asked, “Where were You when I was growing up? When I was being humiliated and bullied at school for so many years. Or when I was so broken and lost in drugs and alcohol (beginning at 14 years old). What were you doing in my life before I knew you?”

My thoughts before He answered were, “Nothing, we had nothing in common”, “Was He even there?”

Quietly, He lovingly answered, “Pursuing you.”

I quickly deflected by saying, “Besides that.”

My reply came from thinking He only loves me now because of what I do and what I stopped doing. To think we are saved and accepted by God from our own ability is farthest from reality, yet too easy to believe. To overcome those thoughts is to remind ourselves with the Word of God: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (thank God because some days I completely blow it).

The question I would ask you if you are wondering the same things as me; are you pursuing Him?

Pursuing Jesus isn’t the American dream. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You lose friends and family. You don’t supernaturally become rich and famous. People think you’re crazy because 3 days before deciding to change your life you were sleeping with someone and partying. It’s pretty ugly at times, actually. But it’s so worth it.

Though you may not look different outwardly, the inside you is being renovated and renewed.

Picture a hoarders house destroyed with filth and rats (because I can’t imagine a hoarders house without rats scurrying around), rebuilt into the destination home of your dreams, for FREE. That’s what the blood of Jesus does to your life. It completely covers the past, present and future you, making you whiter than snow and a friend of God.

You were so deep in darkness and you couldn’t remember what it felt like to smile in life without your papers or bottle. Then someone steps into that house filled with pain and insecurity that’s been stored in every corner for years. They admire you and tell you how beautiful and loved you are. Looking past the moldy sandwich on the coffee table and mountains of dirty laundry scattered throughout the living room (again, my image of a hoarders house). They see the real you and love what they see!

Jesus sees every sinful, dirty and dark thing we’ve ever thought or done and looks past it all, loving us the same. But freedom, healing and peace don’t come free. You have to put in the time and effort with God. I started chasing after God through church groups, reading my bible and prayer. That’s when I started becoming who I am today. New. Free. Redeemed.

The beauty in all of the bad is, I still am. I still am pursuing God. And He’s still pursuing me. Begin pursuing Him and you will find where He’s been; pursuing you. And He won’t stop.

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Devotions

Naked and Afraid

Have you watched that show? Naked and Afraid. Two strangers, male and female, are placed in the wilderness with nothing but their bare skin and one object of their choice for survival. What would you bring? A knife would be my choice. Although, I wouldn’t last more than 24 hours in the wilderness because spiders, bugs and dirt overwhelm me with irrational fear of death. I would describe my fear as arachnophobia wrapped in a web of anxiety, getting ready to be eaten alive by one of those spiders from Eight Legged Freaks.

8legs

Anyways, back to being naked and afraid. Did you know, in the beginning, humans were naked and felt no shame? It’s true! You could walk in the day time with your moon out. Genesis accounts Adam and Eve in chapter 2, verse 25; “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

When was the last time you did that? And I’m not referring to a childhood dare to go streaking or skinny dipping in the neighbors pool. When was the last time your soul felt no shame? Where you could sit down with God and be raw and real. No fig leaves sewn of church reputation and followers on Instagram. The naked you, before the Father, just as you are.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. 4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3: 1-7.

Recognize the system here. First, Satan watches and waits to speak doubt where God’s people are, even in good places. Second, Eve reacts by stating what is true while the serpent promises exactly opposite of what God says is true. Third, Eve, who was with her husband, desired what she saw as good more than desiring God. Fourth, the realization of who they were revealed in one moment of disobedience. Sound familiar?

We as humans haven’t found new ways of disobeying God, nor has satan found new ways of distracting us from God. We seem to be in a good place when all of a sudden we’re second guessing if God’s Word is true, so we try something else we think is good, pleasing and desirable. All to end up looking in the mirror of hearts as we read the Word again to see what’s true; God was right, we were wrong. So what do we do? We hide.

Genesis 3:8 “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Trying to hide from God is like trying to hide behind a glass wall.

We hide behind volunteering in church events. We hide behind our mid-weekly bible studies. We hide behind our inspirational retweets about Jesus.

Just maybe if we can prove who we’re not, no one will know who we actually are. The problem with this logic is God already sees the mess we’re in and He isn’t afraid to get His hands dirty cleaning us off. He loves us anyways. When we disobey God, He doesn’t leave us, He comes to us. He walks with us, talks with us and confronts us, not to shame us, but to heal us.

“Where are you, Nicole?”, he asks.

“I heard you coming and was afraid of what you’d see so I hide in my shame.”, I confessed.

And he said, “Who told you that you were unworthy? Have you listened to the accuser that I overcame when I sacrificed my Son, Jesus?”

Then I blamed, “The world I’m in and people I’m around told me something different from you, but promised something good, and I believed it.”

Then God said to Nicole, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know how much I love you?”

You see, after God confronted, corrected and punished the sin of humanity by cursing the ground through Adam and causing child-bearing pain through Eve, He still gave them what they needed to live, unashamed.

Genesis 3:21 “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

And He does the same for us today. Jesus went to the cross for our sin, our shame, our sickness and diseases. Don’t hide any longer in your shame. He carried it all so we could walk with him, “naked” and unashamed.

(I could try to make something spiritual of that clip from, Eight Legged Freaks with verses like, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” Hebrews 12:1 or, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19 but I’m not going to. I’ll leave it as is so you can laugh at how my brain interprets the Holy Spirit’s ideas.)

Categories
Devotions

Doubting the Truth

May this encourage those who are hoping on the promises of God for something but aren’t sure if God is really going to prove Himself true.

“Jesus Appears to Thomas
24One of the twelve wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to them—it was Thomas, whose nickname was “the Twin.” 25So the disciples informed him, “We have seen the Lord with our own eyes!”

Still unconvinced, Thomas replied, “There’s no way I’m going to believe this unless I personally see the wounds of the nails in his hands, touch them with my finger, and put my hand into the wound of his side where he was pierced!”

26Then eight days later, Thomas and all the others were in the house together. And even though all the doors were locked, Jesus suddenly stood before them! “Peace to you,” he said.

27Then, looking into Thomas’ eyes, he said, “Put your finger here in the wounds of my hands. Here—put your hand into my wounded side and see for yourself. Thomas, don’t give in to your doubts any longer, just believe!”

28Then the words spilled out of his heart—“You are my Lord, and you are my God!”

29Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!”

30Jesus went on to do many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not even included in this book. 31But all that is recorded here is so that you will fully believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you will experience eternal life by the power of his name!”

John 20:24-30 TPT

Sometimes, we may under estimate the reality of human nature in not only the disciples, but ourselves. Imagine all of your closest friends, the people you left your family and what you knew as life to follow Jesus with, were claiming Jesus visited them after you watched Him be arrested, beaten and put to death! I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I’d be like Thomas. Thomas replied, “There’s no way I’m going to believe this unless I personally see the wounds of the nails in his hands, touch them with my finger, and put my hand into the wound of his side where he was pierced!”

Now look closely at scripture. Jesus did eventually visit Thomas like the rest, but note* it was over a week later! 8 days to be exact. Everyone who knew at the time were probably still reliving every word and deed Jesus said and did while He visited them without you. Think about all the rational and irrational thoughts you’d have. “Jesus is dead! I witnessed it with my own eyes!” “Peter is not denying it and I really trust his word.” “Why wouldn’t Jesus wait to visit until I was with everyone, too?” “There’s no way after the beatings and piercings Jesus took that He could live.” “How could the seal be broken and stone be rolled away without the help of many men?”

26Then eight days later, Thomas and all the others were in the house together. And even though all the doors were locked, Jesus suddenly stood before them! “Peace to you,” he said. 27Then, looking into Thomas’ eyes, he said, “Put your finger here in the wounds of my hands. Here—put your hand into my wounded side and see for yourself. Thomas, don’t give in to your doubts any longer, just believe!”

How true and loving is the character of Jesus? Though He may delay in visiting you with proof of who He is, He doesn’t leave you out of the loop. Your friends and church family may seem to have this awesome relationship with Jesus and you’re thinking to yourself, “Is God even real? I’m not seeing Jesus and encountering Him the way everyone else is.” “Oh, you fasted and had a vision of Heaven? Cool. I skipped breakfast to make it on time to this class. Does that count?”

Don’t miss verse 28.

28Then the words spilled out of his heart—“You are my Lord, and you are my God!”

What spilled out of Thomas’s heart revealed the truth of his faith. Jesus, moved by compassion and grace, allowed evidence for Thomas’s request in order to help him believe.

God does that for us, too. “God, if I can’t marry this person then I don’t know if You really love me.” “Lord, if You just help me make a little more money I promise I’ll start giving more.” “Until I see my family saved I’m not sure I can keep living for You. It’s getting too hard and they aren’t accepting of my new lifestyle.” In all of Jesus’ goodness and mercy, He may grant your requests and demands- because He really does love you that much!

As for others, He may not.

29Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!”

If thats you, embrace the trust God is entrusting to you. He tells us that those who believe in Him, yet don’t see Him, will be even more blessed! What are you hoping for in the promises of God but haven’t yet seen? Whatever it is, I can assure you it’s not more real than the presence of God in the waiting- the 8 days. Endure the unknown. Embrace the wait. Jesus promises to come back and make this all right again. Stay blessed.