Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Love Story

Wow... it has been F-O-R-E-V-E-R since I last wrote on my blog. I am definitely LONG OVERDUE. I went through a pretty rough patch during my last few posts and even though I TRIED to write about it, I just could not gather all my thoughts and come to put things into words. Now that that season has come and gone, I can share with you the beautiful story that followed my pain, and how faithful the Lord truly is, when you let Him have full control.

TODAY is a special day in more ways that one. It marks two months until I MARRY the man that has become the best friend I ever dreamed of. The one who I absolutely adore and treasure with all my heart, and love beyond what I can truly describe in words. And I wanted to share my "Love Story" with you all and fill you in on my life and walk with Jesus.

So, here is what we wrote on our wedding website to explain things, but I will give a few more details after the fact on how the Lord truly has blessed me.

Shawn's view:

I guess technically we first met in high school. We had one class together, which was during my senior and her sophomore year. I do remember where she sat in speech class but we rarely exchanged words because the groups we hung out with were VERY different.

Fast forward 13 years...

I had fallen away from the Lord and was in a huge transition period in my life. I had become "friends" with Nicole again through Facebook around 2009. Of all my friends, I only really remember her posting scripture and other positive things on her page. So like I said, I was in a transition period so I went to my Uncle Brian for some good ol' fashion wisdom and advice. I asked him for a suggestion as to what the next step would be for me in changing my life. He suggested that I start praying for a different group of friends, so thats exactly what I did. That night I prayed HARD for someone to come into my life and help me get connected back in. This is where it gets interesting...

Back in High School I was dating a cheerleader, and Nicole's best friend at the time was also a cheerleader named Whitney, who I was pretty good friends with. Sometimes when I would go to pick up the girl I was dating, some of the other girls would need a ride home as well, so I would take them where they needed to go. A few times I drove Whitney home, but never went into her house, let alone her back yard. Okay so now back to me praying for a new group of friends.

So after praying long and hard, I went to bed. That night I had a dream that I was back in high school and on my way to pick up my girlfriend from cheer practice. When I got to the school, Whitney, Nicole's best friend needed a ride home. So when I dropped Whitney off at her house, for some reason I decided to follow her into her house. I followed her into the back yard and there was a large trampoline with Nicole jumping up and down on it. And that was the end of the dream.

I woke up the next morning, and remembering about Nicole posting scripture numerous times on FB, and so I reached out to her on Facebook explaining my situation and how I wanted to get back to walking with the Lord. In my message to her I explained my dream and how I had seen her jumping on a trampoline at Whitney's house. She replied to my message and said how she loved that trampoline and jumped on it quite a bit. Now remember I had never been into Whitney's house or backyard, pretty crazy right?

So how did we meet you ask? Through Divine Intervention.

Nicole's view:

Like Shawn stated, we went to High School together, but we honestly never said more than maybe a "hello" to eachother. In 2009 I specifically remember getting a "friend request" on Facebook from "Juan Pelayo" and recognized Shawn's face but not his name, and was instantly confused. I spied on his page and saw the name I knew him by (Shawn Cartwright) in parentheses and realized it was him. (The story of his two names is a story for another day.) Occassionally Shawn would comment on posts or pictures from my page but the story did not start until October of 2011. I had just returned home from a mission trip to Haiti in October and during that trip, God had laid it on my heart to end the current relationship I was in. It was extremely hard... heart-breaking actually, because it was as if my dreams were all shattering. Ending that relationship was God's way of me giving over all my dreams in life to Him, and letting Him have FULL control of every area of my life. Dating relationships were the one thing I had not completely given over to Him until that day.

On October 28th, 2011, Shawn messaged me as he stated above, and I offered for him to come to church with myself and some friends if he wanted to. When he said yes, I immediately called my best friend Lacey and asked for her to talk to her husband Brandon to kind of intervene once we arrived at church. I knew that Shawn was going to need some Godly men in his life, and I wanted to make sure that I was not the "reason" for Shawn to continue coming to church. Shawn and Brandon hit it off that day and developed an AMAZING friendship that continually blesses me to this day. They started their own men's bible-study together and I saw Shawn's relationship with the Lord flourish beautifully. Through the next few months, I knew Shawn had developed feelings for me, and when he would bring it up to me, I would shoot him down, saying we were better just remaining friends. I knew that the next man that I started dating was going to be my husband and until God spoke to me about who that man was, I was not to date anyone. Poor Shawn... as he will tell you myself, he was so SURE I was the right one, and for months he just kept praying for the Lord to open my heart to him. In February, we spent our birthdays together still remaining friends. Mine: February 18th, and His: February 20th... and I surprised him with tickets to the Beach Boys concert that upcoming July. But sometime in Spring of 2012, we eventually had a hard conversation and concluded that if I could not commit to him we would need to completely stop talking to make things easier. I just really wanted that confirmation from the Lord before I could commit, and I hadn't gotten it yet. It was during that time apart, I saw Shawn's heart for the Lord only strengthen during the hardships (via FB posts etc) and I could not help but be happy inside knowing His heart was sold out for the Lord. The tickets to the concert came during that time, and I was forced to text him to let him know, and tell him I was still planning on fulfilling my present to him. And that was the start of our communication again. That summer, I had an "ah ha" moment realizing that he was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY my best friend and I could not imagine spending my life with out him. A peace came over me and we talked and made our commitment to eachother. And by the end of summer we knew we were planning our future.

That day we officially made a commitment to each other was one year ago today. June 25th, 2012. So today marks our 1 year anniversary... and 2 months until we are MARRIED! (Hence why we chose to get married on the "25th."

So there I was that October, after experiencing all my dreams shattering into pieces, heart-break from ending a relationship with out any understanding of why other than God was pressing it on my heart to do so, and weeks later, the Lord placed my husband in my life. I truly believe that if I had not been able to give that area over to the Lord, He could not have EVER blessed me with my husband. And if it was not for Shawn's faithfulness to the Lord and trusting in His timing and not his own, we would not be where we are today.

The bottom line is... the Lord is faithful to those who follow Him and give themselves 100% to Him. We just need to TRUST in Him and know that He knows best. His path is far better than our own.

With all my love,
Nicole Elizabeth

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Occupied" Because of my Occupation


Where do I even begin? As I am trying to writing this, tears are filling in my eyes. This is my story...

October 6, 2011 A movement called Occupy Portland was formed. That day a protest march was held in downtown Portland where thousands gathered. I was at work and leaving for a mission trip to Haiti for the second time this year the next day. I had to pack, and needed that time after work to get home and prepare for my trip since I was leaving that next morning. The march blocked traffic and halted the max lines which is my means of transportation to get home. I was definitely a tad stressed out, but did get home and packed in time. I remember thinking how I was glad I was leaving for all of this craziness, and that I would come home to everything being back to normal. No idea HOW WRONG I would be. I returned home on October 15th and the news was still covered with protesters, but now they were camping in Portland's public parks refusing to leave. I work across the street from where these "camps" were at. I could see tarps and tents through the windows of my work. My heart sunk and truthfully a bit of anger started to stir in my heart each and every time I looked out the window. Here I was in Haiti-- the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where people ARE SO POOR that they HAVE NO CHOICE but to live in tarps and tents, while people in the USA are CHOOSING to live that way, claiming they are "POOR." Almost half of the worlds population lives off of about $2.50 a day. So if you are out protesting holding a cell-phone, starbucks, or clothes on your back, I just have a really hard time feeling anything for you. It is my belief that most people in this country can not fathom what true poverty is. People think Portland's unemployement rate is high? Try Haiti, which is over 80%. And they do not have a government that offers umemployement, welfare, social security, or food stamps to help those in tough times. WE ARE BLESSED, even in the midst of the hard times in our economy right now. If we have clean drinking water, food on our tables regardless if it is top ramen or prime rib... WE ARE BLESSED! If we have a roof over our head, regardless if it is an apartment, our own house, or a homeless shelter... WE ARE BLESSED! It breaks my heart to see our country dividing like this with resulting to damage of property and the beauty of our country, costing millions in tax-payers money, and ending in violence and with hatred and complete disrespect to one another. I think Americans are blinded by the reality of what most the world is like and just how good even the poorest people in America have it.

Tuesday November 15th... We were made aware that there was going to be "Occupy Bank Day" taking place. Yes that is right, I work at a bank in the heart of downtown Portland. We were told of the various things they were planning. We had a conference call on how to respond to the matter if it happens. I sent out a status on facebook the night before it was to take place asking for prayers for all the bank employees around the Portland area and their safety on this day. When writing that I honestly did not think my branch would be the one targeted and those prayers were more for others than myself.

Occupy Bank Day was October 17th, 2011 and there I was at work around 12:00pm when our branch started to get busy... unusually busy. I knew what was about to happen. We were being "occupied." People were there we had never seen, and all "waiting" for something. I was completely anxiety ridden and had a bit of anger as well as I waited to see how everything played out. Out of the blue it became a flash mob of the sorts and they started ranting, chanting, yelling and singing all sorts of things trying to disrupt things. They refused to leave. We called the police which took them over twenty minutes to arrive. When they did, over twenty officers one after another walked in the doors. Let me say one thing about those protesting inside. They were the only ones who remained peaceful, and with no such anger towards us. They even stated that they were not directing anything towards us as employees but the corporation itself and they would remain peaceful towards us. I praise and thank the Lord for that and keeping my staff and I safe until the police did arrive. The crowd of protesters outside had gathered and was at least over three hundred and only growing in large numbers. They were banging on the windows so hard I thought they would break. Reporters surrounded us in live coverage from the outside. People outside were screaming, chanting, and yelling at us through the windows, many with hatred and anger. Yelling profanity and flipping us off repeatedly. I do not know about you, but profanity any time I hear it is like a knife through my heart. It affects me so deeply each and every time I hear it. Some of the crowd shouted at the us bank employees to come join them on the outside, some were definitely glad to have a chance to vent their anger (almost) face to face. "How much does your f****** sweater cost, was what one woman yelled at me through the glass. My adrenaline was pumping to the max and I was shaking, but held my composure through the entire process. I didn't really have time to process any of what was happening while it was all happening. Eventually all nine of the protesters inside were arrested for trespassing and carried out by the police since they refused to walk. An American flag outside our building was taken down and put back up upside down to hang. I sat back staring out the windows and watching everyone around me with so much anger and my heart just broke inside. Anger being directed towards me and my staff for what? Working, and paying taxes? Trying to make a living for ourselves? Many have said it was not directed specifically to us, but I beg to differ. I tried to eat, but I could not stomach anything. We decided to stay open because the whole point of the movement was to "shut banks down" and we did not want them to succeed. Around 3pm, the protesters returned. This time even though there were less of them, they were even more angry and mean towards us. They continued banging on our windows, screaming at us, flipping us off, spitting and telling us to "F*** off" amongst other things. My building went into lock down again. The protesters started taking pictures of me and my team members with their phones and even an iPad. (Apparently poor people have enough money to buy iPads and iPhones.) Fear started to set in. Why would anyone want or need pictures of us? We ended up shutting down an hour early. I had to tell my staff to make sure they remove their name tags before leaving, out of fear of their safety. Sad isn't it? I walked to my car, and I think I went into shock. I got inside and the tears started streaming down my face. I lost it. (Seems to be a theme in my life right now.) My head was spinning from the events that took place and all the things that I watched unfold. I wish I could use words to describe how it was, but nothing will do justice, and neither did the news coverage. In that moment, I just wanted Jesus to come and take me home. All of a sudden, Chris Tomlin's song came on... "I Will Rise." I just love my God. There couldn't be a more fitting song to give me hope in the midst of this chaotic crazy world. Here is the lyrics if you do not know the song...


It is now Saturday and I am still shaken up inside about things. Windows were broken, our ATM was super-glued so it was rendered unusable, and paint on windows. I have no anger inside, just complete sadness. Friday morning on my way to work, I was praying for things to PLEASE be back to "normal." I don't remember the exact moment it hit me but it was as if the Lord was saying, "Nicole, you have now had a small glimpse of what I went through." Jesus was persecuted for being the perfect man, loving to all, spending His life on Earth trying to change peoples hearts, loving them where they were at, and yet He was HATED, spit on, screamed/yelled at, tormented by his own people, and beaten left hanging in naked shame on a cross to die with everyone watching. What I went through was NOTHING compared to what He did, and I promise I am not trying to compare it. It is something we as humans can not even fathom the magnitude of. Here I am left hurting inside, broken and shattered, so affected by people through windows that I do not even know. I can not even imagine what Jesus experienced knowing each and every person, and loving them so deeply, yet they rejected Him. I do not know if I went through this experience to get a VERY SMALL glimpse of what Jesus experienced, but if for this reason, I am blessed. Blessed that Jesus has chose me to feel a tiny inkeling of what He went through. To remember this moment and be thankful now and in the future for what He did on the cross for me, redeeming me from all the sin I have in my life past present and future. I believe this was His way of strengthening me for those times that lie ahead in which I am persecuted for my faith. To remember that when we ARE persecuted to remain humble and not let our anger come out and instead react in love. We are called to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) This was a way for me to show humility. This was a way for me to allow others to do wrong to me, with not just cause and instead of lashing back in anger, to PRAY for them. My brokenness led me to be praying for all of them. They are obviously lost, hurting and in dire need of Jesus. That is not how, in my past, I have reacted to those who do wrong to me. God is obviously working in my heart in major ways. I also believe that He had me experience this to help me never forget what He went through FOR ME. To know and feel the blessing of what the cross really is and means. God never fails to keep showing me things and working in me in ways I never imagined. He is so good, and He works all things out for His good purpose-- just as He has this.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." John 15:18-20

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can PRAY. Above all, LOVE each other deeply, because LOVE covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7

In Him,
Nicole Elizabeth

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Broken & He Remains Silent

Since the beginning of October, my life has consisted of me being on my knees, begging, pleading, crying out to God to speak to me, to give me answers and direction, yet He remains silent. I have never experienced His silence in this way before. I have ALWAYS felt His presence in my walk with Him, and felt it so abundantly. Things that have been apart of my life have been stripped away, and I am left here waiting for things to make sense and better things to come together.

Last October of 2010 the Lord spoke to me, and told me He wanted me to be 100% out of debt. I moved back in with my parents at the age of 28 and I started socking away what would have been my "rent money" towards my debt. October 28th, 2011 I officially paid off over $15k in debt and am now 100% debt free. All because of Him. This October has been a HARD month for me, and that is putting it lightly. I was blessed to be called to be apart of an AMAZING mission trip to Haiti, where God was present and with my team in each and every second of the day, but then the minute I returned home-- He went SILENT. Out of obedience to the Lord, I also ended a relationship with who I thought I was planning my future with. All my dreams and future plans were completely shattered, and I was left completely broken. I thought that with all the things in my life that I given over to the Lord out of obedience, He would bless me in the midst of it all. And after paying off everything only because He told me too, I figured He had this big plan for me after it was all finished. Instead, things continued on a downward spiral, leaving me more broken than before. My career of eight years has started to take a turn and is going up in flames. Whenever I have been "broken" in my past, it has always been MY doing, a result of my sin and bad choices. This brokeness however is a result of my obedience to Him, so I guess I thought things would start looking up afterwards. Instead of blessings being sent my way I so wrongfully expected, He remained silent. COMPLETELY SILENT. My morning quiet time has never felt so stale. I have been praying for the same things every day, crying out to Him and no answers, no response, no comfort, no direction has been given. I longed to feel Him near and His presence. My morning quiet time of reading the Word and praying normally penatrates my heart, speaking through me, and it just wasn't. NUMB is the word to describe it.

Last Saturday morning I sat writing in my prayer journal, and I finally lost it and broke down. Tears would not stop flowing down my cheeks. You know the type of cry in which you can barely breathe? Yes, that was me. There I sat crying out to Him, questioning myself, doubting myself, and started wondering I was not "getting" something that He was trying to teach me or tell me. In a state of confusion and pain, I got myself to stop sobbing. A good cry is just needed sometimes ya know? Then I began reading a chapter in the latest book I've been reading called "He Speaks To Me" by Priscilla Shirer. I was on chapter seven titled "When God Is Silent." Eyes wide open, I started reading, and this was the beginning of the chapter...

"Sometimes we are living a holy life, but we still don't hear from God's voice. When that happens, we become angry with Him. We expect that since we have finally obeyed, He will reward us by speaking immediately and clearly, but that isn't necessarily the way He shows us that He is God. He is not only the God who divides the Red Sea of our problems. He is not only the God who makes the walls of our Jerichos fall down. Although He is more than ABLE to intervene, sometimes He shows us His glory, demonstrates His power, and strengthens His children by His silence."

She then led into a story in Matthew 15:22 about the Canaanite woman who called out to Jesus as He and His disciples were traveling. The woman begged Jesus to have mercy on her daughter, who was suffering terribly from demon-possession. Jesus however, did not say a word, and instead just kept walking. Here this woman was crying out to God with all her might, trying to get God who claimed to love her to help her in her situation. Yet He said nothing and did nothing. He was silent. She kept coming to Him and when she got no response, she just bowed lower to the ground. She humbled herself further and pursued Him more. If she had gotten an immediate response, that would not have been the case. God's silence increased the intensity of her pursuit, and that is exactly what God wants most, not to merely give us what we want but to cause us to WANT HIM MORE. The story continues on with her being undeterred by His silence. She continued to beg Him for help. Each time she fell down before Him willing to accept whatever He would give. Anything would do as long as it came from the Him. Finally, Jesus answered: "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." The daughter of that faithful woman was healed. Priscilla also talked about how we know that we are becoming spiritually mature when God is silent and instead of asking why, we humble ourselves before Him and persevere with prayer. As I read that I sat there smiling, because even in the midst of my heartache and confusion, my faith has not been shaken. It was never a question of why, but me simply longing to be close to Him and seeking Him for answers that He has yet to give me. I know and have complete faith that He will, it is just a matter of WHEN. I sat there after reading this, still feeling that brokenness, but blessed that I have a Savior that wants me to pursue Him deeper, simply because He LOVES ME! I have no idea whether any of you have experienced His silence, but I pray that if you have or you are, you remember this story and to just keep pursuing Christ regardless if you feel His presence or not. Our relationship with Him is not based on "feelings" but on trust and faith.

My learning from this season in my life is that God sometimes uses silence to strengthen our trust in Him and open our ears to spiritual truths. He wants us to PURSUE HIM! We are to trust that in His silence He IS SPEAKING to us. He is saying He wants more of us!! Oh how that is music to my ears and makes my heart sing with joy. One verse I go to often in hard times is James 1:2-4...

Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

In Him,
Nicole Elizabeth

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The significance of sand

Today I was thinking about how captivated I am day after day at the beauty of this world. The beauty of the Lord's creation. I myself, never used to be captivated by things I see in my every day life as I do now. I praise Him that He has opened my eyes to appreciate all that He has given us while we are on this Earth.

It was June 2010. I had flown to Southern California to visit one of my dearest and best friends to attend a Jeremy Camp/BarlowGirl concert together. One day we decided to spend the afternoon at the beach. I was laying in the sun, listening to the waves crash, admiring the palm trees and enjoying the sunshine I so rarely see in Portland, when I looked down at the sand and that is when it hit me. I could not stop staring at the sand and right then and there tears flooded my eyes and started streaming down my face. (I am so not even joking.) EACH and EVERY grain of sand, God had hand made with a unique design. He put His heart into each and every piece. In the SAND!!! That is just absolutely beyond my comprehension! As I sat there thinking about that, it was then I realized that if He would do that for every grain of sand in the Universe, can you IMAGINE how deeply He TRULY loves each and every one of us? That moment is when I started to truly see Him as an artist. The ultimate artist. Everything I see has beauty, a beauty like never before. My breath is taken away by the clouds and each unique design that appears as a new day arrives.

While I was in Haiti this past October, our team was surprised with a trip to the beach one afternoon. We were all sitting around at breakfast that morning when the news was laid on us. I sat there holding back tears once again because it was this very moment that has made the beach the most special place to me of any. There is nothing better than to spend an entire week serving Jesus and getting to witness some of the most amazing and glorious aspects of His creation. A part of that afternoon at the beach I just sat by myself in the sand picking seashells thinking about that moment while praising and thanking Him. That afternoon was priceless and so special beyond words to me.

My prayer is that we never forget how much He loves us. Whether in the good times or the times of struggle. He is faithful and true. I know we will never be able to fully grasp the kind of love He has for us, but remembering the grains of sand is always what will help me get a small glimpse of understanding. He is a God of compassion and mercy. A God who's love NEVER fails, NEVER ends, and NEVER changes. Rest in that my friends... Rest in that.

I leave you with a picture of my memory captured while in Haiti-- the blessing at the beach.

In Him,
Nicole Elizabeth

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teach Me To Pray

So... I have a confession, and it is not something I am neccessarily proud of. I have always had a HUGE fear of praying out loud. LIKE MAJOR HUGE! I DO NOT like public speaking, much less praying out loud. I have done anything and everything to avoid it. I kid you not, I would rather sit in solitude for a year than pray out loud for others to hear. My voice and entire body would start shaking just at the thought of it. I used to attend a bible-study in which the ladies each pray at the end of it. Even though I loved them dearly and what we were studying, I quickly stopped attending because of the ending in prayer part. Oh boy, did the Lord a good work to do in me. I got to a point where in my head I would REFUSE to with a somewhat of a defiant attitude. Oh boy... you know what that means don't you? Whenever I refuse to do something, that usually means the Lord is going to do a complete overhaul in my life on that very thing. God is always so faithful in that way. ;)

Praying out loud had become a topic among a couple of my best friends and I. They too had the very same fear, and upon my return from Haiti in April, it came up again as I told them how I was the only one on the team to NOT pray out loud. My dear best friend Amber smiled and said "You said that as if you were almost proud of it." I would not say I was proud of it, but at that moment I realized that this HAD TO CHANGE. But how? How could I overcome such a fear that plagued me? Oh goodness Nicole really??? Does the bible not say "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) Most often than not, the only way to overcome your fears are to face them head on, and that is exactly what I had to do. As I became aware of this, I felt the Lord give me boldness. He was so faithful to keep putting me in situations to face it head on and also gave me confidence during each time. The ladies and I at bible-study all came to realize we all had to face it. How perfect to all fear something and help encourage each other to overcome it? My church changed the process and way in which we take communion. Instead of taking it separately, we broke into groups praying together beforehand. Most often of the time, I was in a row of people I had invited to church and were not even saved. It had to be me to pray and set the example! I wish I could tell you the exact moment I realized I was comfortable praying out loud, but it was more of a process. I know there are many out there that have this fear, and if you are one of them I challenge you to face it! My prayer life and intimacy with the Lord has dramatically changed from this. My heart and attitude have as well. I now CRAVE praying with other brother and sisters in Christ. There is so much POWER in praying together. Matthew 18:19-20 says “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” THAT IS ONE POWERFUL VERSE if I do say so myself. LOVE IT!

One last tid bit--
I now know that the Lord was only preparing me as I left for Haiti a 2nd time. There was NO WAY I would have ever gotten away with not praying out loud. Our leader Scott randomly would have people pray over dinner and put people "on the spot." We all became so extremely close and prayer was SO IMPORTANT. Each night us ladies switched partners and did what we call a "prayer walk" well minus the walking. ;) We also each gave our testimonies to the entire group and afterwards the team together prayed over them. It was quite evident that with out Him challenging me in this area before hand I would have spent large amounts of time fretting, being full of anxiety not to mention having the major shakes during this trip. God is so good!

Lastly, whenever I start to get nervous about praying or speaking about the Lord to others I remember this... SUCH TRUTH!!!

Ministry is when the people who hear you don't want more of you; they want more of Him because of what you've said. Often our thoughts run to "what do they think of me?" when what we should be concerned with is "what do they think of Him."

In Him,

Nicole Elizabeth

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Beauty, Lies, and a Faithful God

Today marked a very special moment in my life. After my trip to Haiti back in April, my perspective on things changed. I have been on mission trips before, but this one, well, it was different. Maybe because I have a passion burning with in my heart for Jesus. Maybe because I have come to understand the one and only purpose I was put on this Earth for... To go out and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19) With out this very verse, I would be lost, roaming the world with out any purpose at all. Haiti, in many ways was life changing, but for me, there was a revelation that happened for me through it. Quite possibly it started before, but it was there that I came to realize after the fact. While I was there, I was putting on my makeup early every morning, and one day it just hit me like a ton of bricks. WHY was I even putting on make-up? Who did I have to impress? It is not like in the high humidity and tempatures that it realistically would even stay on. And why did I feel the need to anyways? Because I was used to it? Or because it made me feel "prettier"? I mean really Nicole? By the time I returned home, I had become used to not wearing as much (yes even in that one week) that I have just continued that same pattern, and now only wearing a little face powder and mascara. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with make-up at all. In fact, I LOVE make-up... and to be honest, I can spend hours in Sephora (guilty as charged.) Beauty and all the beauty products are fun for me, as it is for many of us ladies. But the question remains... WHY do we love it? My only thought on that is that we all have become so affected by the media and the look we think we should have to have to fit in with today's society. I am sure many of you are well aware of how much we can and are affected by the media these days but are also wondering where I am going with all of this. Well, it is pretty simple, the Lord ever since I made that promise to follow Him wholeheartedly, with all I am and all I have to give, has continued to strip me of every part of my old life. My old life was very dark place and time for me. I had no idea at the time how much so until I hit a spot in my life where I was crying out to him for help. (Another story for another day.) The old me, even though it was some time ago, still has some residual small parts that I think the Lord wants to make sure is there no longer. I was always so proud of my career, my independence as a woman, making it on my own, and of course as far as looks, always taking care of myself and being up to par with the standards of beauty in todays world. After all, in the end that was ALL I had since I did not have Jesus. Last year, I made the decision to stop tanning after reading articles on women younger than me getting skin cancer and dying before they were even thirty. Can you say SCARY? I am pretty sure that it was the Lord who placed those articles in my hands (on more than one occasion) and was him telling me to stop. To be honest, this was a very hard thing for me to do considering almost ALL my friends go tanning and to be the only one that is as pale as a ghost is well, humbling to say the least. A sense of security was taken away, and replaced by security in the Him. Then, the make-up thing happened in Haiti. Not quite as big of a deal, but still seems to fit in with the theme of what the Lord was teaching me. After Haiti, my heart for missions only grew and continues to grow. I have no idea if the Lord will truly lead me into long term or just many shorter term missions in the future, but I do know that my heart is only growing in a HUGE way to do so. That would mean giving up A LOT of things in my life, including the things that many of us women never think twice about like dying our hair. If I am in a foreign country, the last thing I will be able to worry about is finding a good hair dresser there, or make up for that matter. I truly believe that as the Lord is having me do these things for a reason larger than I understand yet. If not missions, it will be because he wants me to truly learn my identity is not in this world, but IN HIM and HIM ALONE.

So here I am, writing you and my hair is officially dark. A few weeks ago I made my appointment, and up until that point I was nothing but excited for a change as big as this for me. But after that appointment was set, I started having doubts. I started thinking thoughts like, "what if people do not like it?" "What if I am considered plain?" "What if I think it is ugly?" just to name a few. As these thoughts entered my head along with many others, all I could do was remember that I KNOW this was what the Lord was asking of me, and that even if those are true statements in the end, in Jesus's eyes I am nothing but beautiful to Him. He is the only one that should and does matter. It truly amazes me how Satan can seep into our heads and one minute I was excited about it, and the next I am freaking out in my head. Before I drove off to my appointment this afternoon, I was spending some time with my Jesus. I was finishing up my bible study lessons for the week. My girls and I are doing a study right now called "No Other Gods." It is a study on confronting our modern day idols, and honestly it has been the most convicting and amazing study thus far. The Lord has spoken to me through it so many times and each time I end up in tears. Tears, because I am so completely thankful that He speaks to me in times like this, knowing I need to hear certain things and He loves and cares for me enough to do so. During this study (by Kelly Minter) as I am trying to prepare myself for whatever happens after my hair color changes, I read this...


And then it tells me to look up the following verses... Which are all descriptions of Satan.

John 8:43-44 (A murderer, and the father of lies)
2 Corinthians 11:14 (Masquerades as an angel of light)
1 Peter 5:8 (Enemy, a roaring lion on the prowl to devour someone)
Revelation 20:2 (Ancient serpent, and the devil)

Puts things into perspective a bit as far as all my concerns (Satan's lies) were right?

And then Kelly Minter writes this...

"Sometimes I find myself playing out a situation that's happened in real life and then start adding to it in my mind. Like what the person involved in the situation might have been thinking when they responded a certain way, or what their motives were behind the actions. Really, when it gets right down to it, I realize that most of the time they weren't thinking those things at all. I allow my emotions and actions to be dictated as a result of believing that what I dream up in my head has actually happened."

I am assuming that this is not just me that this happens too. But wow this hit home for me. In the end, it helped me identify those thoughts and that they were from Satan only trying to detour me away from what God had called me to do. I love how our God works. He KNEW I needed to have that little reminder before my appointment, and planned it accordingly. He is so good, so faithful and so absolutely perfect.

So here I am, sitting here at home, writing you with my newly dyed dark hair. And after all the crazy lies that Satan put in my head the past few weeks, I came to realize I had nothing to fear. As shocking as it is to look in the mirror, I do like my hair. I have felt overwhelmed with the amazing response of how much people seem to like it. All I can say is that God is good, and every time I listen and obey, I only end up that much more blessed in the end. Praise Him... :) Here is the only picture I have of my new hair...

In Him,

Nicole Elizabeth

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Waiting... Patiently...

Waiting on the Lord. I am just going to put it right out there. I have become very aware that this is an area in my life I need the A LOT of work in. God has definitely putting me to the test in this area over and over. The older I get, the more I find myself becoming a perfectionist, (thank you Mom.) Maybe it is because like many of us I simply want to know I have things under control or at least in somewhat of an order. To know what my future holds and plan for it. The reality is, I am not in control, nor should I want to be. And whenever I do try and gain control in my life over things, I only end up making a huge mess. And yes, I know this from experience. I truly do want to live each and every moment knowing I am following Jesus and letting Him led my every step. Confirmation has become a HUGE thing I have realized I need in my life for everything big or small. And not only is He teaching me to wait for these confirmations, but wait patiently. I was talking with my friend Lacey today about how hard it is for me, and how often I feel like I fail in this area. And she simply reminded me that, if I were failing I would be taking all these HARD things in my life right now, and making my own plans outside of whatever God's will for my life is. That is simply not what I am doing. Sometimes it takes others in our lives to open our eyes and see things from an outside view. Just because things are HARD, and we only see that part of it, does not mean we fail. The Lord never said our lives would be easy when we choose to follow Him, just that it would be worth it. Patience I believe is one of the hardest traits to learn. And as our society becomes more and more fast pace, I think this trait will only become that much harder to learn. Praise the Lord that He is teaching me this, even as hard as it is at times. I love that He is always wanting to push us, shape us, and make us that much stronger and help us to be all we can be for Him and to His liking. I actually feel honored that He has chosen me to be one He sees fit to go through these difficult times. This entire year, in every area of my life it seems He is teaching me to wait whether it be in my finances, my job, my dreams, relationships, and even which the ways He wants me to be serving Him. Maybe in my next posting I will explain exactly how he is having me wait in those areas. My prayer is simply this... that while He has us in times of waiting as hard as it may be, that we will grow in abundant ways from it. In the mean time, while we do wait, may we continue to pray and PRAY CEASINGLY for Him to reveal Himself in His own time.

A verse that has popped up a few times this week that I feel the Lord has given to me is this...

Isaiah 40:31 says "they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Can I get an amen? :)

In Him, Nicole Elizabeth