Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Birthday Blessings

I’m 41 today!  And how blessed I am…

·        God’s grace and mercy covers me EVERY day
·        My exodus from captivity (pre-Meniere’s) and being on the precipice of the Promised Land (health restoration)
·        God’s unfailing love
·        My husband – who has taken the vow of “in sickness and in health” and shown how it’s lived out
·        My beautiful, smart, healthy, funny, loving kids
·        My supportive and encouraging parents
·        My mom – who took me to church and taught me about Jesus very early on
·        My friends – true friends who have proven their love for me over the last two years
·        My best friend, Summer – a Jonathan/David friendship of two souls
·        My church, North Monroe Baptist – who cares and prays and encourages, without ceasing
·        My Faulk & Foster job, which is so much more – it’s family
·        A beautiful home, reliable car, comfortable clothes and abundant food
·        My health!

Psalm 103:1-5
1Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases,
who redeems my life from the pit
    and crowns me with love and compassion,
who satisfies my desires with good things
    so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I can’t imagine anyone having a better birthday than this!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary Meniere’s Disease!

Two years ago today this journey began...  I woke up knowing and feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  In the last two years I’ve experienced anger, fear, sorrow, worry, resentment, confusion, desperation… peace, hope, joy, faith, humility, steadfastness and perseverance.  Instead of looking back and rehashing the last couple of years, let me share my latest revelation with you.

I met my friend, Summer, about 6 months in to this journey.  I often tell her “I’m a different person” and she always wants to know, “In what way?  What were you like before?”  She recently challenged me to really flesh that out.  So I began to pray and journal and seek the answer to the question, “How am I a different person?” 

A few days ago, God laid the answer on my heart.  Definitively, conclusively and simply the answer is… “I’m not a different person!”  HUH?????  How can that be?  After all I’ve been through?  Then what’s all this for? 

Through more prayer, I realized I am the same person – my appearance (other than some extra gray, wrinkles and pounds), my stubbornness, perfectionism, OCD, competitive spirit and other hard-wired traits and personality components are all the same.  But something very significant has changed: my perspective!

I wear contacts because without them I can’t see.  I wake up each morning to a world of blobs and blurs, fuzzy shapes and outlines.  The moment I put in my contact lenses, things are clear, sharp and very distinguishable.  I always tell my kids, “OK, now I can see you.”  What I see is completely and markedly different, but what they see when they look at me is totally the same; the mama they saw before and after I put in my lenses hasn’t changed.

It’s kinda like I’ve put new lenses on my mind and soul over the last couple of years.  I have been so hard on myself, worrying that people don’t see a different me – they don’t see a peaceful, calm, passive, fruit-hanging-all-over-me Nicole.  I’ve been thinking all along that the culmination of this journey would result in some new ministry, some life-altering obvious change.  Instead this journey resulted in a complete overhaul of my heart and soul, a change deep within that isn’t obvious to the world; a change that has brought a new perspective on how I see God, how I see people, how I care about people and how I pray for people.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is 1 Kings 19:11-13 where the prophet Elijah encounters God:
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

God moves in small, subtle, personal, private ways sometimes (a gentle whisper).  I have found such peach and comfort in this realization.  We should always expect God to move, but sometimes we must be willing to see the movement in places we never expect!

Life stuff
Things are still going really well.  I continue to function fairly “normally” most days.  I pace myself more, I sit down and take a “guilt-free five” more often, I say “let me think about it” before I commit to activities rather than agreeing to do things that 1) I don’t want to do, 2) God doesn’t want me to do or 3) may be good, but not great things for my family and me.  I am still reading through my Bible – I just finished Ezekiel (that was the toughest book so far for me to get through).  Counting pages, not books of the Bible, I am 90% through the Old Testament and 63% through the entire Bible.  I can’t believe I waited 40 years to do it.  I pray that my kids will not wait until mid-life to read God’s word all the way through.  I have seriously missed out on SO MUCH in terms of bible study over the years.  I always thought it would be a tedious undertaking but it’s truly a most liberating exercise.

Thank you for hanging with me these last 2 years – in prayer, in love, in support.  God is good… ALL THE TIME!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


My journey that began almost two years ago continues to change and evolve every day.  It seems in my life now that no two days are the same and I truly must take each day as it comes.  I do make plans but I must be flexible.  And as hard-headed as I am, that’s not easy.  When I had my shunt surgery a year and a half ago, the surgeon used a diamond cutter to drill through my skull.   Jonathan thinks he’s being funny when he tells people that the surgeon broke 3 bits before he finally got through.  And while he does get laughs there’s some sad truth in there somewhere.

Over the last two years God has broken me completely down and apart.  There were days when I laid in bed and sobbed because I couldn’t do anything.  PRAISE GOD those days are behind me!  I really don’t pray often enough that my Meniere’s Disease will NEVER again rear it’s ugly head in that way EVER again!  Now that I am doing better and able to participate in more life activities I am finding it very challenging to “rebuild.”  My goal throughout the days in the miry pit was to rebuild my life so intentionally and God-inspired that I would be God’s beacon of light to anyone and everyone I encountered.  But I’m realizing that’s not God’s plan (for now anyway).  I still have to live in the same body that God gave me the day I arrived – with all those flaws that he knows intimately. 

My best friend, Summer, and I are reading an awesome book called The Legacy Path: Discover Intentional Spiritual Parenting by Brian Haynes.  We read together so we can share, challenge and encourage.  It’s based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

At one point the author says, “There is an art to sacrificing the good things to experience the best things.”  I cannot get over this idea.  As I rebuild there are SO many good things I can begin doing again.  But are they the GREAT things God has in store for me and my family?

I’ve had invitations to join different weekly bible studies, to teach life groups either as a sub or permanently (and I SO MISS teaching), to join a heart to home group in my church.  And I’ve said no to every one of those very GOOD things.  But I feel certain for right now, those are not the GREAT things God wants for me.  Do you see why this is so hard and confusing??? And I know I’m not alone; almost everyone reading this probably struggles with the same thing.  I don’t have an answer, don’t know the secret.  But I do feel that God is rebuilding me and adding in activities that He designed for me.

I will write more about one of the projects in the next couple of weeks – how it came about and where it’s going.  In short, it’s the Kings and Queens Project and it’s 4 kids in Northeast Louisiana ministering to others in need.  Yes, the 4 kids belong to my friend, Summer, and me.  Yes, it’s part of our “legacy path” and intentional parenting.  Yes, it’s to educate our kids so they know how blessed they are.  Their current project is The Underwear Affair, a children’s underwear drive.  (Quick plug: If you would like to donate new, unopened children’s underwear to the cause, please let me know and we will make it happen.)

  For more information visit Kings and Queens Project on Facebook.

In short, I’m doing MUCH better.  I am still working via phone with my doctor at the Mayo Clinic as we continue to tweak my medication.  I am attending church regularly, visiting my kids at school regularly, and attending practices and games and birthday parties regularly!  I still have days where I can’t drive or do much, but in a way I’m thankful for that (I know, I’m weird).  A recent journal entry: “I have been very remiss laying my days’ activities at God’s feet.  I know that without Him I can’t do anything.  Not one single activity can I accomplish on my own.  I am thankful to have down days to remind me of my limitations and boundaries.”

I hope that anyone with a physical impairment that stumbles onto this blog finds encouragement that God is more than capable to see you through the desert.  He can bring you out of the deepest valley.  Life as you knew it may be gone forever but the “new you” will very likely be more content than you could have imagined!

I was out walking last week and the wind was blowing the trees so they were all beautifully “speaking” as I walked by.  The rustle of the leaves was a sweet melody.  I looked at those tall trees wavering in the wind and at the same time my phone was playing “He Said” by Group 1 Crew featuring Chris August.  There’s a line in the song that says, “I might let you bend, but I won’t let you break.”  I was watching those trees dance and bend, not even close to breaking.  I realized that those big tall trees that don’t break have deep roots holding them steady – roots that took years to develop.  You get my point right?  I hope after 2 years my roots are MUCH deeper than before.  And I know they’ve still got a lot of growing to do!

Some final thoughts and reasons to smile:
·        My family and I spent a week at the beach in early August – it was AWESOME! 

·        My “babies” started 2nd grade mid-August. 

·        Jonathan and I went to Mexico for 5 days alone together last week to RELAX! 

·        Gator is still with us and he’s still a royal pain in the tush.  J