Saturday, June 25, 2011

Today was a Good Day

Our 12th wedding anniversary was a good day :-)
After awaking from an exciting night of sleep with basketball, Lady Gaga, and a tree... I found a Happy Anniversary card waiting for me on the counter. I read it 2 or 3 times while my coffee was making, then headed outside to pile up on the back door steps (because all the outside tables and chairs were still wet from yesterday's downpours).
I spent the early morning hours praising my God and thanking Him for who and all He is as I studied through Isaiah 36-39. There's just nothing like reading and being reminded that your God is the Lord of hosts, the Creator of heaven and earth, and is enthroned above the cherubim as you listen to His creation waking up and visit with Him in the cool of the morning. It is my favorite time.
As the house wakes up, I head in and help the girls get some breakfast and then throw on some clothes and watch Patrick and the girls play a game of wii golf. By now it's brunch-ish and so I attempt to prepare some Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper, with some microwaved scrambled eggs, and toast... which I manage to mess up (but my husband is not going to complain, even goes so far as to say how good it was, because he doesn't want me to cook any less than I already do, I am not a fan of cooking).
After brunch, Patrick and me and the girls head to the thrift store to do some shopping and talk about how we need to start yard-saleing again...
Then we are off to my parent's to help my sister move into their new home. So we spend the next few hours loading trucks and a trailer and the unloading trucks and a trailer and decorating and placing furniture and fighting with kids and nieces and nephews.
During one of the trips between houses my nieces scream out and I head out the door, they are beside themselves as they point and scream, "look Nay-Nay that cow is having a baby!!" Yep there she is! In the midst of birth right in the middle of the pasture. Of course the moving stops as we watch this miracle take place. Yes these are the days that I love being a country girl, and raising our girls in the country. There the momma cow stands and as my 10 yr old says "just poops it out"! It's a beautiful little calf that just lays there for a moment and we all sit in great anticipation as we wait to see signs of life. And yes there's a leg kick, an ear move, a head lift. The calf is alive and well. So we spend the next half-hour watching and waiting for the calf to stand and finally up it goes as it tries to stand and then falls face first back to the ground. But after several attempts and its momma's constant nudges it finally stands on it's oh so cute wobbly legs.
Baby Calf's first steps
After all this we head to the park for some food, fun, friends, and fireworks.
So our 12th Anniversary was special and sweet and filled with all the wonderful things this life together has brought us. Our children, our family, our church, our friends, our life. Yes, today was a good day.

Basketball, Lady Gaga, and A Tree

Note to self: Never, ever, ever again watch Lady Gaga on David Letterman before bed.

I dream every night. It seems as though I never actually sleep because the dreams are so vivid and real and usually always ridiculously crazy. I, at first, fall into bed with that stretch out on stomach and head on pillow sigh of ahhhhhh and close my eyes thinking, yes tonight I will sleep, after all it's been a good day. However I awake at 1:30am with a start and rush to the bathroom checking to make sure I didn't wet the bed because I have to pee so bad! I sit in the bathroom wondering if it's just the 7pm coffee or are Depends right around the corner... on this note I return to bed.
Yes and then the dreams...
What I can recall (and am willing to share) is somehow I am in a gym and there's a jv and high school basketball tournament going on. One boys team is getting ready to play and a wormy coach walks out all puffed up looking for his dry erase marker and then one of his coach assistant's who is a rather muscled up big guy jumps up and runs to get one for the wormy coach who in turn throws it back at the dudes face because he wanted a different one, to which the bigger dude, ducks his head and heads off to get the other marker. I shake my head and walk away. There is nothing that perplexes me more than a grown man licking another man's boots as he walks around in pompous arrogance...
Next thing I am sitting watching a jv girls team getting ready to practice and divide up into teams and the Hispanic talking coach grabs me and says "here you play on this team". I look at her with a 'hello!?!??' I'm 34 not 12, I think they'll notice. To which she replies, no they won't, I have the paperwork to prove you're of age, get out their and play. She then looks at me and says, 'it's okay, you just need to go get in the egg and meditate and be reborn. Have you experienced rebirth today?' To which all of a sudden now I am on the team and I look over and my basketball playing cousin who is also in her 30's is playing with me. We just look at each other and shrug our shoulders. Game on?
Next thing I know I am outside and I look over and here comes a young girl I have known since a child dressed up in the Lady Gaga gear of the David Letterman interview. She prances up as if it is no big deal that she is dressed this way. I am thinking "Good Lord what is the world coming to? Please do not allow this woman to influence our youth, she uses Your words but she twists them to her own will."
Somehow from there I end up being put in charge of my friend Michelle's favorite tree. It is a tree that looks like a dinosaur leg bone and she loves it and wants to keep it safe. I at first find this utterly ridiculous, but as the men come to try and take the tree away I grab on for dear life and am holding on with heaping sobs to this tree... They finally jerk it away and I am standing there explaining what happened to my friend and am still sobbing as I say, I can't believe I got so attached to a stupid tree...

Now if I were a dream analyzer I could spend hours trying to decipher through all this mess, but it's really quite simple...
Don't watch the News or Lady Gaga on David Lettermen before going to bed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Favorite Proposal

Well, I am not much on Hollywood's idea of love, but there are some one liners in some films that just stick with you forever. Considering that tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, I would like to share one of my favorite.
Richard Gere in Runaway Bride is talking with Julia Roberts about how a man should really propose. He tells her, "Look, I guarantee there'll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you're the only one for me"
This is the truth. There will be tough times. There will be times when you will look at each other and, well, just not like each other that much. Those times will come, but they will also go. If we walk away, give up, because of a tough time... oh my the amazing good times we miss.
I have learned that each anniversary has become sweeter. The best days were not the "honeymoon" days, the best days are now. The best days are when we come through a trial together. The best days are when both kids wake up throwing up in the middle of the night and you spend the entire night and next day tag teaming between kids, vomit buckets, throwing towels and blankets and shirts and what ever you can find to catch what doesn't make it in the bucket or bathroom. The best days are holding each other up when you're waiting in the hospital. The best days are when you realize that you are not perfect and neither are they, but together you manage to even each other out somehow.
I have learned that God has used my husband to make me a better woman. I hope that God has used me to make him a better man. I have learned that love (Biblical love) never fails. I have learned that if I can live out the Word of God in my home, I can live it out anywhere.
I have learned that the more time I invest in knowing my husband and trusting in his character the more deeply I fall in love with him, because I freely fall with no reservations. I have learned that as the walls of self protection fall the safety of true intimacy is all the protection I need.
So the Runaway Bride proposal was one of my favorite, but my very favorite proposal of all time, was the one in my apartment bathroom 12 years ago.
To my wonderful husband of 12 years, Mr Patrick Vaughn, Happy Anniversary! I love you so much and I know in my heart that you are the only one for me...  :-)

It's Been A Prayer Day

Today has been a prayer day, even more so than others. It's been a day that I have spent praying without ceasing for a plethora of things, people, situations, and of course myself and my family.
Today I have prayed for joy in the midst of sorrow for friends who have lost loved ones.
I have prayed for peace and comfort as test results are being waited upon.
I have prayed for those who have family who have been in an auto accident (I know the fear attached that with that one all too well).
I have lifted up praise and thanksgiving for the blessings of God that have been shared by others. I love to hear people giving true props to our Creator God.

I have prayed for finances, for today was "pay the bills day". Bill day always leads me into calculating how much faster we could be "Dave Ramsey debt-free" if I could just finagle in a "real job" somewhere in between laundry, cleaning, occasional cooking, teaching at church, writing, homeschooling my girls, and being a good mom, sister, daughter, and friend and trying to love my husband the way he deserves. Then I feel guilt because my husband is a wonderful provider. So now am I showing my lack of faith in God or him? Either one is ill-conceived when held up to reality. As I attempt to work through all this in my head, and pray about it (or whine about it), I am also researching through the Scriptures preparing to teach from Luke chapter 1 this coming Sunday morning, as I do so the Lord takes me to Psalm 127 and I read "It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." - Yes, Lord I hear You and I will cling to this verse and trust You.

I have prayed that God would give me the strength to say "I am sorry" to my husband. Yes, the whole being late thing got me "once again" and for some crazy reason after 12 years of marriage, my husband still gets worried if I am 2 hours late, although really he should have learned by now, right? Or maybe I should have just learned by now to call...

I have prayed that God would help me wait on Him. You see I have dreams and visions and hopes for the future that I believe with all my heart were put in my heart by my God, but they don't happen as quickly as I like, or in the way I have thought, and I pray that God would still my anxious heart and help me wait. He then takes me to Psalm 1:2-3 "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does he prospers." - Yes, Lord I hear You and I will cling to this verse and trust You.

I have prayed that God would grant me favor. As I remember Esther, and I remember that she was born for "such a time as this" I know that I too have been born, at this time, in this day, for a purpose. I have been appointed and chosen for my time by my God. I know this because His Word tells me so, "...having determined their appointed times and the boundary of their habitation." (Acts 17:26) - Yes, Lord I hear You and I will cling to this verse and trust You.

I have prayed that the pie that my husband has been working on for the past six hours because of a bad recipe will taste worth it...

And yes it did :-)

Yes today has been a prayer day...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Once Again...

I have moments when I feel as though I am right where God wants me to be exactly when He wanted me to be there... but then something happens and I feel like I have missed it. Once again, I found myself there yesterday.
I can have complete peace with a decision. I can even be certain that the Holy Spirit specifically confirmed that decision with several  "lightbulb" moments before and after it was made. Then all it takes is a few random comments in succession that sends a wave of doubt and panic over me.
Why is that?
There is nothing that scares me more than NOT being in the center of God's will. You see that is where I desire to be no matter the cost to myself, I just want to be IN His will. I want to be following closely behind that pillar of cloud by day and that pillar of fire by night. I want to be camped out as close to the mountain as my sinful flesh will allow me to be, so the thought of standing stranded in the wilderness makes me nauseous with nervous emotions.
What I realized this morning is that Satan knows that full well.
I sit here now and shake my head, knowing that his arrows once again hit there mark. He got me again with the same words that worked on Eve, "Indeed has God said..." He set his trap and I walked right into it. Hook, line, and sinker. He got me. In his getting me he not only caused me to doubt what I knew I had heard from my God but he led me into a state of grumbling and complaining about the service and sincerity of others. If you were here beside me you would see my chest rise with my deep breathe of  "ughhhh" and you would see my head shaking with the "how did I let that happen again" motion.
I am a firm believer that when God teaches us a lesson, when He reveals more of Himself to us, when we seek Him, He tests us so that we can see if we got it. For some reason I seem to remember things better when I get them wrong the first time around...
You see yesterday I spent the morning taking notes on waiting on God. I spent the morning learning about how I am to rest in God, in His sovereignty. I took notes thinking how I knew some people who really needed to hear this stuff. Then God shows me, yeh, you Nicole is the "some people" who really needs to hear this stuff.
This is probably one of the hardest parts for me in my Christian walk of faith. Sin, not so much. Sin is clearly laid out in Scripture. Satan really cannot get me too far with sins of the flesh. God has them clearly laid out and defined and it doesn't take long for my spirit to feel the ick of sin when I have stepped off in it. Now this does not mean that I don't step in it, because I do. However I am a firm believer that if you are continuously being washed in the Word when you step in sin it's just like stepping in dog poop. You can't help but notice the smell.
However, the James 4:17 sin, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.",yes, this one, this sin, it scares me. You see I don't want to be David out on the rooftop when I was supposed to be out on the battlefield. I want to be where I am supposed to be when I am supposed to be there. (At this point my husband is shaking his head because he knows I am always late where ever I go)
I want to follow God. I don't want to run up ahead and ask God to bless my mess. I don't want to name it and claim it. I want God to claim it and then give it, according to His good pleasure, not mine.
So after falling prey once again to the devil's schemes. I am thankful for forgiveness. I am thankful for lessons learned that will most likely have to be learned again sometime in the future. I am queen of the refresher courses.
In part of my yesterday morning study time Kay Arthur shared a quote by J. Vernon McGhee, "There is no shortcut to success in the Christian life." The simple reality is we don't jump from salvation to spiritual maturity in a weekend conference or a six week Bible study. It is a lifetime of pursuing God and His Word. It's persevering through mistakes and it's holding on during those times that God has left us alone to test us (2 Chronicles 33:31). It's remembering that Jesus said that He is with me. It's remembering that He will accomplish what He started in me. It's remembering that if I have been faithful to be devoted to prayer and I know that I have brought every decision to be made to my God to seek His will, then I have to wait on Him and rest in Him.
Kay Arthur shared that "rest is taking God at His word and living accordingly" and she shared that in order for us to be able to wait on God we must (1) know who God is and know His ways, (2) understand the future according to Scripture, and (3) seek His counsel in the Word, in prayer, and through other believers that He places in our lives.
So in those moments that the enemy hits his target and makes me feel as though I have blown it, as though I have completely missed the mark, as though I am stranded in the wilderness without my Pillar, I must return to seek my God and remember to rest in Him.
Funny isn't it, how what the enemy intended for evil always turns out for good for those who love God. You see he meant to make me feel disconnected and separated from my God, but all He did was send me running for dear life back into the safety of His arms.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I sit here in front of the computer screen this afternoon, having opened my Bible to share a little bit of what I learned this early morning as I studied in Isaiah. In the background two little girls are fighting over what channel the television should be on. The youngest one whining in such a way that makes my neck tense up and head tilt in that sideways fashion that says "omgosh". The oldest one is returning the youngest one's whine with a bossy hatefulness that makes my chest tighten and my flesh crawl and then here it comes out of my mouth, "LADIES!!!"
Today that was enough, they quickly decided on Tom and Jerry and now are laughing and playing together as the best friend sisters we are trying so hard to raise them to be. It's not always that easy... especially this time of the month. (Sorry gentlemen for those of you who are reading this, but this is just the facts of the case. Pay attention, you might learn something that will make your future much more peaceful.)
I sat not long ago in the floor, I would guess, yes, probably exactly one month ago, and had a moment with my Creator. The moment- "Oh God, please tell me that our glorified bodies will not need hormones!"
I don't recall the struggle being this bad when I was younger, though my husband would probably disagree. I wonder if possibly it is because I try to live in such a way that I am aware of the deeds of my flesh so that I can in the power of the Holy Spirit put them to death before they cause me to sin against my God or if it truly just grows harder as (cover your ears young ladies) the ugly word "middle-aged woman" begins to define me.
You see during this time, puberty re-appears, displayed by random acne, pregnancy re-appears, displayed by an instant 5 month pregnant looking belly and swollen ankles and if that's not enough, mental breakdown and physical exhaustion from the constant feeling of anxiousness leads to a complete lack of emotional control and then often depression because you seem to have lost it and have no clue why. It is in these moments, these days, that the wrath of woman is felt by all in the house.
In this day, God help the poor child that spills her drink on the freshly mopped floor or the husband who asks for just one more thing he could have just as easily and more conveniently done himself and the dog who makes the mistake of tripping you as you walk by with your arms loaded down with everybody else's dirty laundry.
It is in these days that I cling to Romans 8:23 for dear life "And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Yes, God please redeem this body! Redeem this anxious, depressed, senile, frustrated, irritated, irrational female!
Fella's these days are why God commanded you to LOVE your wife. We can't help this. I wish we could. Of course ladies this does not give us the excuse to make the lives of our families a living hell for one week out of the month. I cannot count the times that in these days I have over and over again fell to the floor in a heap and cried out to God and let Him know that my flesh was winning. I was totally defeated and losing the battle. Then my God would remind me that He pours out His Spirit without measure. In these days is when I cry out for more of the Holy Spirit. "God, I need a double portion!"
When I have stopped long enough to do this God has never failed to wash me with His Word and pour out a full measure of grace upon me and give me His peace that surpasses all understanding. I can physically feel the wave of calmness come over me as I stop and sit still in front of Him. Being still and remembering that He is God, remembering that in Him all things hold together... including my sanity.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Looking Back

It never ceases to amaze me how God shares these little glimpses of detail with me as I sit with Him each morning. Sometimes it relates to a current situation and sometime it is an answer to a question that I have struggled with for years. This morning a question of ten years, possibly even twenty-two years happened. The question being "God what happened to me at 12 yrs old? Was that confession to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior real?"
You see I recall that confession on the carpet at a friend's church and I recall being a 12 year old girl who stayed up until 10pm at night to watch the old Joel Osteen. I recall taking notes like mad. I recall going up the isle at my own family's small church to go forward in believer's baptism. Then I recall falling away, and further away, and further away until I finally lost all assurance of salvation.
Then I recall at the age of 24 going forward in the church in which I now serve and something in me changing. Something in me changing to the point that I have never again been able to turn away or fall away from my Lord, not even for a short time.
As I sat this morning outside with my God, pouring over Isaiah chapter 36, an evening 22 years ago popped into my mind. On this particular evening I was in Wednesday night discipleship training. Now we had a small church, so if you were in 7th grade through early college you were all in the same room for Wednesday night Bible study. We were discussing a subject about how we were to live as Christians in the world. I recalled reading a passage of Scripture that said we were to be in the world but not of the world. As I shared this, one of the upper high school girls turned around and loudly proclaimed how that was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard. That I might not be of this world but she and everyone else was most certainly of the world. She continued to huff and roll her eyes at me as I sat there alone no one backing me up. I recall looking at the man who was our teacher and he too sat silent.
Here's the thing, I knew what I had read. So I spent the next hour digging in my Bible trying to find that passage that I knew I had read. I found it. There it was in red in John 15:19 in my King James Version Bible that my grandmother had given me, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
I happened to be sitting on the same row with my teacher and yes I recall sitting alone while the older group that mocked me earlier sat a couple of rows in front of me. So I passed my Bible over to my teacher with the passage marked to show him I was not crazy. He looked at my Bible and nodded his head and never said a word. I looked up to where those who mocked me sat and waited for him to correct them. He did not, at least not to my knowledge.
I think that possibly at this very moment Satan knew I would be a force to be reckoned with. I look back on this moment and I believe that God has showed me this morning that this moment was my Peter and Jesus moment. This was when Jesus said, "Nicole, Nicole, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31)
You see when I "turned again" at the age of 24 my passion has been to strengthen my brothers and sisters in Christ with the Truth. You see it was the Truth that set me free. It was trusting in the Truth that gave me the confidence to even "turn again". By faith I accepted that what God had spoken, He meant.
My confidence is not in myself, my confidence is in God and His Word. I am a warrior for the Word. I am a stickler for correct interpretation and for actually believing what God said, as He said it, the way He said it. It may not make sense to my human heart. It may not seem possible to my human eyes. It may sound harsh, rude, impossible, too easy, it doesn't matter. If I have studied the context and am certain that according to the Word this is the Holy Spirit led course of action then it is too be taken.
I have learned that I am to obey God's Word and leave the consequences of my obedience to Him. I have found in my life that consequences from my obedience are much easier to bear than consequences from my disobedience.
I am thankful that God has grown me and my husband in His Word and has strengthened us both. When a hard decision must be made, we always seek guidance from the Word. We pray. Then no matter the difficulty of the decision we have peace.
I didn't realize as this 12 year old girl, that God was showing me a glimpse of who I would be in Him. I would be a woman who would receive eye rollings, who would receive blank stares, who would receive answers like, "but that's easier said than done". I would hear "I know the Bible says this but..."
I went through 12 years of wilderness before God brought me into the land. Now I am in the valley, I do not yet have my entire inheritance. I do, however, have the pledge of it, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and with this Pledge, I confidently fight the good fight. I teach the Word in season and out of season. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:1,14)
I love the Word. I know that it is Truth. I study it. I act on it. I pray that God would use me to proclaim it, because I know His Word never fails. I know the Word of God is the only weapon I have and the only weapon I will ever need to defeat the enemy. To study the Word, is to study Jesus. He is the Word made flesh. I study His Word. I study Him. I believe His Word. I believe Him.
So what happened to me at 12 yrs of age? I believe God showed me today that my confession was real. I was Peter at the last supper when he cried out for Jesus to wash all of him and Jesus replied you are already clean, I just need to wash your feet, then I was Peter who would later deny my Savior and be sifted like wheat, but then would return and my Lord would ask, "Do you love Me?" I would say as Peter, "Yes Lord you know all things, You know I love You." To which my Jesus would say, "Feed my sheep"
Now in turning again Peter still made mistakes as He served His Lord and Savior, but he received correction and forgiveness and moved on. However, never again would he turn his back on his Lord and deny Him.
At 24, I returned again to serve my Lord. I have made many mistakes. I have received correction and forgiveness. I pray, that as Peter never again turned his back on His Lord, neither will I. One day at a time I walk in faithfulness. One day at a time I trust His Word for today. I forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead.
I judge my relationship with Jesus according to today not yesterday. I thank God that He humored me with this glimpse into my past with Him, but I have learned to never place a stake in the ground of my past and use it to justify my present or declare my future. I use only today. My God where am I with you today? Am I walking with you in the cool of the day, today, at this very moment? Today is what matters, because I can't change yesterday, and I am not guaranteed tomorrow. As I look at myself this day in the mirror of Your Word. Whose reflection do I see?

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corin 3:18)