Categories
Devotions

What It’s Really Like

Have you ever put someone else’s needs/wants before your own? I have! Mostly in parenthood. Playing Blippi on YouTube instead of your favorite songs while driving so your child will be happy on the way to the grocery store (or keep them calm before having an emotional break down because they can’t eat a Tim Bit every time they see Tim Horton’s). Maybe you go above and beyond at work or invest more than buying lunch from time to time in friendships, you invest prayer and the unconditional love of Jesus. If you have, congratulations! You have represented the very nature of Jesus and His mission– loving God and loving people.

Easter 2018 was celebrated at Grace Church with family and at my in-law’s with food. I made fresh green beans with bacon, so good. If holiday dinners were at my house every year, I’d order pre-cooked dinner packages online from Kroger Click List, being they provided that. No shame in my store-bought game.

Empty Reese’s wrappers and Bible crafts filled my house this Easter. Grace Team taught children about the most horrifying yet glorifying story in the Bible, provided easter eggs filled with candy for kids to collect in the gymnasium (indoor egg hunts in April because Michigan), all in honor of how Jesus served humanity by His death and resurrection.

Here are a few photo’s of my priceless fam on Easter ❤

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When I read the story of Jesus from Luke 22-24 to remind myself the truth about Easter and what it took for Jesus to lay His life down so I could freely live, the Garden of Gethsemane found in chapter 22 resonated within me. Read with me as I elaborate:

“Jesus left the upper room with his disciples and, as was his habit,
went to the Mount of Olives, his place of secret prayer. There he told
the apostles, ‘Keep praying for strength to be spared from the severe
test of your faith that is about to come.’ Then he withdrew from them a
short distance to be alone. Kneeling down, he prayed, ‘Father, if you
are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what,
your will must be mine.” Luke 22:39-42 TPT

Jesus actually asked the Father for an alternate route? Like, He literally came to the realization after living on earth as fully human for 33 years how painful and agonizing His death was going to be. Talk about humbling!

But He submitted to God anyway.

He trusted God to fulfill His Word. He chose truth over feelings. He knew the pain but He believed in the promise. He surrendered and He saved. The same will happen in our lives if we would 1) Trust in God 2) Choose truth over feelings 3) Believe in His sovereignty 4) Surrender to His Will.  That’s when darkness is overcome and when people around us are set free. Jesus didn’t have to be beaten and die, He chose to out of His deep love for the Father and for us.

Imagine what miracles and fruit our lives would produce if we would just follow those 4 steps; trust, choose, believe, surrender. I know it’s not easy to, as the cliché goes, “let go and let God.” Life seems hopeless at times, especially when our feelings and emotions appear more real than the truth. But they’re not. Truth is truth, no matter the feeling. Stop feeding your feelings with polluted thoughts and start renewing your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

Your heart will be healed. Your soul will be made whole. Your mind will be renewed. Your strength will have new stamina. Your marriage will thrive. Your family will be saved. Your purpose will come alive. The more truth you believe the less lies you belong to. That’s what living is really like, not for feelings, but for Him. Simple surrender.

 

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Devotions

You’re Thirsty

When I first met with Jesus in a real way at 17 years old, I only knew what people and TV taught about Him. I spent little to no time investing into prayer, Bible reading or going to church before then. He was no one and church was never an interest. Some of my family believed but never really invested the truth of God through teaching the Bible in my life. Where I am at in life today is completely a miracle.

Like most teenagers with little or irresponsible guidance, I experimented with drugs, alcohol and lust. Looking back now, I am amazed by how much a young person can endure and be exposed to yet end up where I am today. But that doesn’t happen to everyone. I have such compassion and love for young men and women who struggle with drugs, alcohol and lust. Who’s families are broken and need someone to simply just be there for them.

As I’ve grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus through spending time with Him by reading my Bible, praying and choosing Godly friends over wild and fun friends, I have learned much about life. Truth is truth no matter opinions. Here’s what I find relatable to meeting Jesus in my life in John chapter 5 verses 5-14.


“Jesus arrived at the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son, Joseph, long ago. Wearied by his long journey, he sat on the edge of Jacob’s well. He sent his disciples into the village to buy food, for it was already afternoon. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” Surprised, she said, “Why would a Jewish man ask a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew who I am and the gift that God wants to give you–you’d ask me for a drink, and I would give to you living water.” The woman said, “But sir, you don’t even have a bucket and this well is very deep. So where do you find this ‘living water’? Do you really think that you are greater than our ancestor Jacob who dug this well and drank from it himself, along with his children and livestock?” Jesus answered, “If you drink from Jacob’s well you’ll be thirsty again and again, but if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never be thirsty again and will be forever satisfied! For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!”


The woman at the well reminds me of myself. I wasn’t doing anything out of my ordinary life just like she wasn’t. I’m assuming drawing water at the well was an every day walk for her. She wasn’t planning on meeting with the Son of God that day and neither was I. Her doubt in His ability to provide what she needed sounds like me all too well. The way Jesus walks into our path of life regardless of convenience or being socially accepted is exemplary.

The story goes on to tell how Jesus knew everything she ever did, yet He showed her love and grace anyway. She was so amazed by His intimate insight she dropped her water jug and ran back to her village to tell everyone who she just met. For a Jewish man to be speaking to a Samaritan woman in the first place was considered unlawful or ‘dirty’ in their culture. But He isn’t concerned with everyone’s opinion, He’s concerned with you.

We are all the “woman at the well”, drawing from empty wells. Thirsty for more “likes” and “followers”. Acceptance and approval, lust, drugs and alcohol. Or maybe your well is different from mine. Whatever it is that you draw your next temporary relief from will remain temporary until you draw from Jesus. He is the Well of Life that won’t run dry. He is the gushing water that will quench the thirst your soul is dying for. Life’s not easy walking alone and thirsty. Meet with Jesus and taste what He offers. He promises you’ll be forever satisfied!

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Devotions

What Were You Thinking?

God is not deaf nor is He blind. He hears us and He sees us. He not only hears us but He listens to us. He not only sees us but He seeks us. We are His workmanship, His masterpiece. He designed the world and breathed life into our corpses. How could He not know everything that’s going on in the world… in our world? We are His reward and His reason. He didn’t do all of this just to ignore us.

What do you think God thinks? More specifically, what do you think God thinks about you?

Think about that for a moment.

You may think God is ignoring you because your prayers haven’t been answered. Maybe you’ve disobeyed something the Holy Spirit urged you to do and now you think God is mad at you. Whether these thoughts seem true, God’s Word is supreme truth. Instead of allowing your feelings and thoughts about God shape the way you believe about yourself and others, let God’s Word give you insight to what He really thinks.

“You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you were already recorded in your book. Every single moment you are thinking of me! How precious and wonderful to consider that you cherish me constantly in your every thought! O God, your desires toward me are more than the grains of sand on every shore! When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.” Psalm 139: 13-18

Wait.

God, You created and crafted me? My emotions, my talents, my weird sense of humor– in my mother’s womb?

You actually know me? The good I like to show and the bad I try to hide?

Who I am is found in You? Not what I’ve tried becoming or wished I was?

God, You cherish me? I thought You were ashamed of me.

You desire me? I thought You were ignoring me.

Are you reading what I’m reading, friend? God knows us better than we know ourselves! He knew you were going to fall before you fell. And He picked you anyways. He knew you would deny Him at some point in your life. And He still chose you. He knows what you’re thinking. And He still thinks about you, constantly. He knows when your heart is hurting. And He heals it, every time. How can we not run to Him with our burdens and our blessings? He’s the only one who truly knows us and can give us what we need.

My prayer is that every person living without hope, peace, joy, and all that is found only in Jesus would become aware that they will never find it until they meet with God. And when they do meet with Him, they would cherish Him as much as He cherishes them. That they would think about Him as much as He thinks about them. That they would desire Him as much as He desires them. And that they would trust Him, knowing He is the one who carefully and skillfully wove them together in their mother’s womb.

Believe the truth more than you’ve believed the lie. Seek God with all your heart and you will find Him. Trust God more than clarity. He’s worth it!

 

 

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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.

Categories
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.

 

Categories
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
Categories
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.