Bridge Over Troubled Water

breakHi there, faithful readers. This is just a quick note to let you know that while it may appear as though I haven’t written since 2015, the truth is that there were at least one or two blogs over the past few years that I have since deleted. They needed to be unpublished due to the fact that they were too closely tied to a very painful time in my life that didn’t need to be revisited every time I opened my beloved blog. So I’m cleaning house and making a fresh start. I’m ready to write and breathe again – and it’s been a long time coming. So I thank you for your love, grace, and patience and I promise a new blog is coming soon (and hopefully many following more frequently). Stay tuned!


Hard to Handle

03e1f1174e8513396448454494042ff2I have a reputation for being clumsy.  On multiple occasions I have been referred to as a “bull in a china shop”, my public tumbles are epic (one of which was caught on a gas station camera prior to the days of YouTube, thank God), and I accumulate bruises faster than a group of nerds snatch up passes to Comic Con (I’m only being mean because I’m a jealous nerd who has not yet attained such glory).

Anyway, given my history of falling down and bumping into things, I get super nervous around newborns.  Some parents feel the need to hand over their squirmy bundles of joy to me so I can experience the awesomeness of a tiny earthling in my arms, but it makes me tense up given that I tend to accidentally drop, break, and/or knock objects into walls.  And when the tiny bundles cry, forget it.  I feel as though I personally offended the little human just by existing and not being their primary care giver.  It’s intense.

But sometimes this isn’t the case.  Sometimes, usually depending on my comfort level with the parent(s) and/or age of the baby, I look upon the little humanoid, take it in my arms, and hold onto it tighter than I would a last rib at a barbecue.  Something clicks inside my stone cold heart and I feel a rush of confidence as I realize not only do I love the little creature, I will do anything to protect it (especially from my clumsy self).

The only other thing I can liken my feelings toward babies to are my feelings toward the idea of hope.  Hope, like tiny humans, is simultaneously fragile and buoyant (don’t worry, I haven’t tested the buoyancy of babies on purpose or accidentally).  It can be easily broken when tampered with, but can also withstand more than we think especially when we take action to nurture it and do everything we can to help it grow stronger.

Recently I’ve learned (yes, only recently) that the best way to nurture hope is to expect the best and speak positively over your goals, circumstances, and/or what appear to be desperate situations where hope does not seem to exist.

I say I only recently learned this concept because I’ve hit expert level when it comes to talking myself out of hoping for the best outcomes in many areas of my life.  It got too difficult to talk about the “one days”.  I felt pain and doubt any time I’d even utter things like, “One day I’ll get married”, “One day at my baby shower”, “One day when I have a steady income”…. and the list of my “one days” goes on and on.

In order to deal with the pain, I trained myself to think of what the kids on Tumblr call an “AU” (alternate universe) and resolved myself to be content with living a life that doesn’t hold a shred of the dreams I once had for myself.  Pretty bleak, but doable.  Oddly enough, my resolve to live in the “AU” still didn’t help my broken heart.  In fact, I think it made it worse.  Shocker.

But just like the proud parents of a squirmy newborn who want me to be the temporary keeper of their most treasured possession, God is also “forcing” me to cradle His dreams for my life even though I’m scared, uncomfortable, and am filled with doubt that they will survive while in my care.  And He does this not only because He loves and trusts me to carry out His will, but He created me and knows I’ll do exactly what I do when I hold an actual baby: I’ll eventually relax, speak love and hope over its future, and be in wonder of God’s miraculous design for every life.

I know it’s not easy (believe me, I KNOW), but start speaking life into your goals or circumstances, whatever they may be.  Believe for the new job, baby, spouse, healing, home, strength, etc.  Start acting like the sickness is gone, the race is won, and your ideal life is already set in motion.  In other words, be the YOU you want to see in the world: fierce, healthy, strong, and full of hope.  And if you’re hoping for a baby, I can hardly wait to admire and love it… from a safe distance, of course.


tumblr_m80fcnFNJN1r8swqdo1_1280_zps45287f88Asking me to pick my favorite song or style of music is like asking someone to pick their favorite flavor of ice cream: it’s a near-impossible task.  For the record, peanut butter & chocolate ice cream from Baskin Robbins is my #1 choice.

And if music genres were ice cream flavors, I’d say that classic rock is definitely rocky road.  It’s timeless, gritty, definitely has its softer moments, and has the ability to make one instantly recall the sweetest memories.

One of my all-time favorite classic rock ballads is “Dream On” by Aerosmith.  Joe Perry’s vocals are on point, the message to persevere until your dream comes true is awesome (not to mention kind of unexpected in a song from this band), and every note just hits your soul.  Okay, maybe it only hits me THIS deeply, but whatever.  I have awesome taste in music.  It’s a cross I have to bear.

What I love most about this song has very little to do with all the awesome attributes I listed above.  In fact, my love for this song boils down to one lyric: “You’ve gotta lose to know how to win.”

Although my Instagram account might show otherwise, I’ve gotten pretty good at the art of losing.  I’m pretty much the Andy Warhol of “losing”: my fails are colorful, often repeated, and on display for all the world to see.

Like anyone else, I’ve had my highs and lows; however, it was over the past several months that I went through one of the most trying times of my life…. which is saying a lot considering some of the weirdness I’ve survived in my lifetime.

Right now it’s still too soon to disclose the details of my struggle – maybe I never will – but what I can tell you is that I became the worst version of myself.  I was stressed out, irritable, easily angered, and the words that came out of my mouth would make a Soprano blush (or whatever foul-mouthed pop culture reference kids use these days).  It was ugly.  I’m also pretty sure I cried more in that one period of time than I have over the span of my entire life – and that irritated me most of all because it’s fun pretending I don’t have a soul or what the common folk refer to as “emotions” :).

I couldn’t see any glimmer of hope and spent a great deal of time wondering how I let myself get to this place.  I’m talking, I questioned every choice I’ve made since I was child.  I’m really fascinated by that whole “butterfly effect” idea.

Anyway, I was down for the count.  Beat to the ground.  This bug had met her end in the windshield of life.

Then one day I decided to make a choice.  I chose to fill myself with joy and keep my focus pointed toward God.  Slowly but surely my attitude improved, my outlook brightened, and my colorful vocabulary was more… “Captain America friendly” (Nerd joke alert).

And it’s a good thing I made this choice when I did because things only got tougher from that point on.  I fought harder and harder to remain true to myself even when I was exhausted and physically and mentally ill from the stress I was enduring.  Every day I felt like a soldier fighting the toughest battle of her life day in and day out, getting the snot beat out of her, and then coming back for more the next day.  It was a painful experience.

Finally, it all came to an end.  I no longer had to fight that battle and, by the skin of my teeth, God brought me into the winner’s circle.

What I didn’t expect was the post-battle “clean up”.  I’ve had to actively work on regaining confidence, motivation, and the strength needed just to participate in daily life.  In fact, it was only this past weekend that I realized I was back to feeling “normal” again.

As difficult as that struggle was and as low as I sank, I’m thankful that it happened because of how it shaped me.  It was a great lesson in discovering what I really want out of life and who God created me to be.  Above all, I learned I have the strength to push through difficult circumstances, was once again reminded that I do have an amazing family and circle of friends who will stick around and love me through the darkness, and grew closer to my God who is ever-loving and compassionate and big enough to handle any hardship life throws at me.

I’m proud to be the biggest loser because now I truly know how to win.

Every Day Is A Winding Road

Dean driving.jpgIt’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog because I’ve been living on the streets.  Not homeless, just spending a great deal of time either commuting or running…. er, slow jogging.

When you’re on the road – be it on foot or wheels – you usually have a good amount of time to THINK and then think some more.  My thoughts range anywhere from, “It’s 7am and I really want a taco” to “Why do they want Thor to be a woman? Let Thor be manly Thor and come up with an original female superhero!” to “This is it.  This is my life.  I am a child of the road now.  This is how I die.”  And I’m not saying these things just to be funny.  These are actual things I’ve thought about either while I’m commuting or running…. oh yeah, slow jogging.

And while there are several lessons to be learned from life on the road, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is about comparing your life to others.  Let me break this down for you.

Any seasoned commuter knows the frustration of trying to find the “perfect lane”.  The perfect lane moves at a consistent pace (even if that pace is 10 mph), people aren’t cutting in front of you and then back out again, there aren’t any “brake happy” skittish drivers who tend to brake fast and/or last-minute, and you’re either keeping in step or passing up drivers in the other lanes.  THAT is what a perfect lane looks like.  You know it when you’re in it.

On the flip side of things, you also know when you’ve chosen wrong.  People are passing you up, they “bully” you from behind as if you can make the traffic go any faster, and no matter how hard you try you can’t merge into the next lane because it’s either too crowded or you can’t get enough speed to move over so that you don’t get creamed.  THAT is what the wrong lane looks like.  Again, you know it when you’re in it.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent more time in the wrong lanes than I’d like to admit.  Sometimes you just kind of end up in a bad lane – other times, you willfully make the switch thinking it’s a good idea and then you get stuck and regret every single life choice you’ve made up until that point.  Or at least I do.  I tend to be a bit dramatic.  Whatever.  Shut up.

So what do you do?  How do you end up in the perfect lane?  Two words: Move Forward.

Not so surprisingly, these are the words I often yell at other drivers (who can’t hear me).  It’s either “Move forward!”, “The gas is the RIGHT pedal!”, or “Please just move.  Do something.”

Outside of the car, these are words I usually yell at myself ESPECIALLY when I’m looking at the progress others are making in their lives.  “Nicole, move forward! Do SOMETHING!”, I say with every ounce of frustration I can muster.  And I get weary and sad from spending so much time being hard on myself because I just can’t seem to reach the destination that others have made it to in less time and on a seemingly easier route.

But here’s the thing: just like driving a car, you can’t successfully move forward if you’re too busy looking around you and comparing your route and/or driving abilities to others.  You might have your foot on the gas, but you’ll either crash or go slower if your focus is anywhere but the lane you’re traveling on.

Yes, the drive (a.k.a. life) can feel long and frustrating.  Sometimes you’ll catch a break and ride the perfect lane for a while.  But the trick is to look forward, enjoy the ride, and be thankful for every bump, bend, and smooth travels.

Oh, and don’t forget to pack car snacks 🙂

La Vie En Rose

ImageI realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Part of it has to do with the fact that my well of creativity hath runneth dry, and the other part has to do with the fact that I’ve just been in a weird, dark place in my life.

The reason I’ve come out of hibernation is because I want to share with you something awesome God showed me a short while back.  But first, let me set this up for you.

When I was a tiny coffee bean of a little girl, I was very curious.  I was new to the world and had a lot of questions about how it functioned.  Much to my father’s dismay, he became my personal Google.

My poor dad had to hear this squeaky 3-year-old ask, “Why?” over and over and over again.  I asked questions ranging from “How will I know when I can read?” to “What am I going to be when I grow up?”  You know, the small questions of life (and I swear, I actually asked these questions at this age).

At some point during my seemingly endless line of questioning, I asked my dad how flowers grew.  Instead of just providing a verbal answer, he gave me a visual aid by drawing each step of the growth cycle of a flower.  He then put each picture in a plastic sleeve and bound them together in a folder.  Doing this bought him maybe one minute of relief from my rapid fire of questioning and gave me one of my most treasured possessions.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I had a similar encounter but this time with my Heavenly Father.

Like I said earlier, I had been going through quite the rough season in my life (actually, I still am).  I felt pressed in on every side with no sign of relief and God was the last person I wanted to talk to.  I doubted, I questioned, felt abandoned and forgotten, and only saw darkness surrounding me.

It’s not that everything was going wrong in my life, but I was definitely walking around with a broken heart.  It was a struggle to get up every morning and put on a brave face – some days were easier than others – but my smile was just a cover up for the brokenness I was enduring.

So one day I was just going about my business, not really thinking about much or even seeking God for answers, and I heard him speak to me about the growth of a flower, but from the perspective of a seed.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize He was talking about me.

Here’s what God spoke to me: first, the seed (you) is planted in rich soil.  It’s pressed down deep, completely surrounded in darkness.  It can’t see or feel the sun, but it’s there.  It doesn’t know how or when it will sprout, but it will.  A seed cannot see the gardener, but the gardener is there, above ground, tending to the seed, watering it, giving it air and sunshine.

Now, the job of the seed is to be still and allow change to happen in its time.  It will be dark for a while and, at times, uncomfortable as it sprouts roots and starts pushing to the top.  And one day, the seed will not only break through the surface, it will become a beautiful, fragrant flower giving great pleasure to the gardener.

Pretty cool, right?  I thought so.  I also found it terrifying and felt claustrophobic because I understood where I was in that picture.  I was the seed pressed in on every side unable to feel any sense of hope for breakthrough or the existence of an ever-present gardener.

I’ve also come to understand that this metaphor applies to many facets of life.  It’s a great picture about our lives from start to finish, but it also applies to seasons of life.  Right now, I don’t feel so pressed down (maybe I’m starting to sprout), but I still don’t see the breakthrough happening.  But there have been other times in my life when I’ve been above the surface and have felt the sun shining on me.  So even when my next breakthrough comes, I can also be sure that I will be the seed once again.  It’s a constant cycle, one that does not end until we’re plucked from the earth and enjoyed at the Creator’s table.

I hope that wherever you are at in your growth cycle that you remember that you are not gone from God’s sight.  He has planted you right where he wants you for a reason and will see you through every phase of growth.  Be still, trust in his timing for change, and when it’s right, you will bloom into the fullness of all that God has created you to be.

Look at life through rose colored glasses, even when you’re a seed covered in dirt.

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay

PamAside from the odd job here and there, I’ve basically been unemployed for nearly two years.  In fact, I haven’t had a full-time job since I was laid off in 2008.  To say it has been a “struggle” would be a gross understatement.

Mind you, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom over the past few years, but I spent a lot of time questioning life choices while making futile attempts at convincing hiring managers to choose me over the next desperately seeking Susan.

So when a friend of mine propositioned me about a solid job opening, I was compelled to consider applying for the position.  The job was completely unrelated to anything I had my professional sights set on, but I figured the responsible thing to do was apply for the job and accept my lot because maybe God’s will for my life included taking this sharp right turn in a new direction.

In the middle of the interview I was carrying on a fantastic inner monologue.  I kept asking myself, “Do you really want this job?  Why do you keep selling yourself so hard to get the position?  Stop trying to make yourself look good! This is not the time to be competitive!” and so on and so forth.

Even during the interview I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but I continued to tell myself, “Suck it up and be an adult.  You’ve prayed a long time for a job, so take it if it’s offered to you.”  Ten minutes after I left the interview the job was offered to me.  I accepted it and cried every day for at least a solid week.

To be fair, I had a lot of good reasons to accept the job.  The work environment and co-workers are fantastic, the idea of doing my part to help people get the care they needed sounded amazing (and it was), and praying with the staff at the start of the workday was incredible.  So for those reasons, I knew I didn’t make a bad decision but I certainly didn’t make a right one either.

However, it didn’t take long for me to reach the breaking point; shortly after taking the job I gave my two weeks notice.

This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because: 1.) I don’t like to quit, 2.) I don’t want to be viewed as a quitter, and 3.) I was well aware that I’d be letting down a few people in the process especially since I unintentionally gave the false impression that I was happy to be employed.

Long story already long, here’s what I learned from this experience.  First of all, go with your gut.  From the get go, I felt a heavy burden of hesitation but went through with my decision because I thought taking this job was the responsible thing to do.  Turns out, it would have been more responsible to trust my instincts and pass on the job instead of dragging myself (and others) into the consequences of my wrong choices.

Secondly, don’t allow outside pressure or hype to rule your decisions.  I got so caught up in the excitement of the situation that I didn’t give myself the proper time I needed to make a good choice.  I let the positive influence of others – and the fact that I didn’t want to turn away their welcomed assistance – push me into something I didn’t really want to do.

I’m a natural people-pleaser, and unfortunately my inclinations to please the people led to making things quite unpleasant for all parties involved.  Sometimes not having other’s best interests in mind before your own is what is truly best for everybody.

Lastly, be brave. Whether you’re making decisions about a job, the possibility of a relationship, or other potentially life-altering choices, have the guts to make the RIGHT choice.  It takes just as much courage to say no as it does to say yes – even if what is offered to you is of great value.

So there you go, kids, another page ripped from my book of difficult life lessons.  Everything you do may not be right, but if you learn from it, eventually it’ll all be okay.

Band of Gold

Sometimes I really don’t know if owning up to my nerdy interests is hurting or helping my social life.  I’m the kind of girl who reads for fun (gasp!), digs superheroes, loves British television (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who – I’m officially in love with the 10th Doctor, btw), and would much rather attend Comic Con than a girly tea party any day… unless that tea party happens to take place in London in which case I’m grabbing my biggest hat and heading out the door (supposing a Tardis isn’t already available, of course – see Doctor Who reference).

But whether or not you’re as well versed in the nerd culture as I am, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the fandom that is the Lord of the Rings.  You know, hobbits, wizards, creepy, balding, bipolar creatures obsessed with jewelry – that stuff, them peoples.  The movies are epic, the books are… difficult, and the soundtrack is inspiring.  It’s the stuff that great novels and their spin-offs are made of.

One of the more famous characters from the Lord of the Rings franchise is Gollum.  He’s that creepy, bone thin, overly cooked hot dog, wide-eyed, creature who openly expresses his obsession with “the ring.”  The sight of him creeps me out and every time he calls the ring his “prrreeccciouuuusss” I just want to throw him in the river.  Yes, I feel that passionately about him.

However, as much as I don’t like him, he’s probably, in my opinion, one of the most well written characters throughout literary history.  Tolkien didn’t settle on creating Gollum to be a one-dimensional character; Gollum is, in one body, two people.  He is Gollum (the evil version of himself) and Smeagol (the nicer, yet equally creepy version of himself).

Gollum is the guy who is overcome with selfishness, greed, and obsession.  Smeagol, meanwhile, hates the ring for the way it has overtaken his life.  He wants the ring destroyed because the ring is destroying him.

I don’t know if Tolkien purposely wrote this character to show the human battle between flesh and spirit and right and wrong, but that’s exactly what he did by creating this literary enigma.

There was one time in my very early years when in a toy store I spotted a kid-sized red car with a yellow top.  According to my parents’ legend, I climbed in the car and it was a… “struggle” to get me out.  They said I never reacted that way to any toy and was never the kind of kid to get all crazy over stuff like that.  I’m still not, but I’m pretty sure if you put me in a Camaro or Dodge Challenger I’d have a similar reaction – just sayin’.

As it turns out, I did end up getting that car.  Just to clarify, my parents didn’t buy it for me that day – they didn’t reward bratty behavior and they’d definitely be the first ones to ship me off to Singapore if I ever acted like “that kid.”  Although my parents recognized my extreme passion for motor vehicles and would give me the world if they could, they understood the value of raising someone who isn’t given what they want simply because they demanded or felt entitled to receive it.  I’m thankful for having parents who know how to give me what I need over what I want.

I can say with 100% certainty this instance was the first and last time a material possession caused that kind of reaction in me.  I’ve learned that stuff is just stuff and if I really want something then I’ll work to get it and be content if it never becomes mine.  I am a non-material girl living in a material world.

My dreams on the other hand have become my “rings.”  Getting married, having the dream job, etc., have at one time or another turned me into the Gollum/Smeagol character.  These things, while certainly not bad in and of themselves, have caused me to act, well, crazy.  I’ve cried, whined, yelled, kicked, screamed – all the things extreme fits are made of.  At times, I’ve gotten so focused on WHAT I think my dreams should look like and WHEN I think they should happen that instead of being content and trusting in God’s plan and timing I straight up turn into a Gollum.

Fortunately, God – in all His love, grace, and mercy towards me – hasn’t given in to my crazy fits or demands.  He’s helped the Smeagol to overtake the Gollum in me and has given me the strength to overcome that nasty, obsessive, think I know better than the Creator of the Universe, mentality.

Yes, it’s an ongoing process, but He’s teaching me how to let go of my will so that His can be done.  And so far I’ve found that His way and timing (though not always to my liking) is far better than my own.  Oh to think of the bullets I have dodged.

Whatever your “rings” are in your life, stick ‘em in your pocket and continue on in your journey.  Yep, they’re going to call out to you, tempt you, and drive you crazy until you reach your destination, but it’s far better to own the ring than to be owned by the ring.

So carry on, Hobbits! Enjoy the journey and remember that the Author of your life knows the beginning, end, and every twist of your story.  You are His precious.