I don’t have any children of my own, but I notice that God seems to like to impart lessons to me by way of children.
Traveling around town with my friend and blogging partner Destinee in her vehicle with her four children last fall, her youngest, Nehemiah was behind my seat. When we reached a stop light, his little feet would pummel the back of my seat as he urged, “Go, Mommy! Go!”
Destinee would patiently explain that we were at a stop light and couldn’t “go.”
“Go, Mommy! Go!” Nehemiah persisted at each stop light and stop sign punctuating his words with kicks to the back of my seat.
“I can’t go, Nehemiah,” Destinee attempted to explain another time, “I’ll go to jail if I don’t stop at the light.”
“You no go to jail, Mommy, it okay, you go!” Nehemiah insisted in broken toddler speak.
We chuckled at his inability to grasp the purpose of our traffic laws. I thought about it at one of the stop signs as he urged us to go. I thought about how we don’t always get to be first. I thought about how even in traffic we need to take turns and give others an opportunity to “go” even when we’re in a hurry and it doesn’t necessarily suit us.
And I realized toddler “Nemo” simply wasn’t ready to grasp those concepts. He’s a bright sweet two-year-old, but he isn’t yet able to comprehend the complexities of American traffic laws.
Shortly after this, I was reading Joyce Meyers’ book on Healing the Soul of a Woman when I came to this section:
“I think it is safe to say that we all begin our journey with God full of self-will, and trading that for God’s will takes a lot of time and is often painful to us. Spiritual babies are no different than human babies. Both want their own way and will behave badly when they don’t get it. Just as we train our children, God trains us.”
Suddenly, my whole perspective of Nehemiah’s childish demands flipped and I saw myself as the toddler pounding on Daddy God’s chest.
“Go, Daddy! Go!”
“No, Daughter,” he says gently, “It’s not time.”
“It time, Daddy – Go!”
So many scenarios in my life where God has had me on pause, in the waiting room – waiting, waiting, waiting spun into the analogy.
And in this moment I see my childish demands full of self-will and Father God chuckling lovingly at me, realizing that I am unable to grasp the complexities of his purposes and timing.
This is trust training. Learning to say, I trust you God in this place that you don’t respond to my repeated demands for change. I don’t necessarily like it. But I trust you.
You are the creator of the heavens and earth. You have been a father for longer than I have been a daughter.
I trust that your plans for me are good. I trust that you won’t withhold any good thing from me. I trust you. We go when you say so, Papa.
**Originally published on Girly Christian blog as a guest blog by me.
Twas the first eve of Driver’s ed –
Who knew if we’d make it through alive or dead?
Many had gone before and many would follow,
But I only pray dear Lord to be alive tomorrow!
We cautiously entered that battered, worn, torn car
With cruise control gone and A.C. below par.
Signs emblazoned about and above for all to see,
Proclaiming that beginning drivers were we.
A handful of giggling girls filled the load
Out to conquer the mysteries of the road.
Just to make sure we made it through alive
Was Mr. Moony staunchly at the driver’s side.
“Girls, no need to fret,” he boldly declared,
“I’m fabulous! Not average or fair!”
Thus knowing the ego of our master
We began our quest to the sounds of – ‘Slower, no faster!’
For ages upon ages he had faced the fears
Of riding with drivers just skimming 16 years.
Many a time he’d looked death in the face
As he tried to regulate the driver’s pace.
Highways and city traffic held no fear for him
As he bravely risked life and limb.
A noble man, a martyr no doubt,
Teaching others to survive traffic’s tortuous routes.
Though you’ll find, if you look very close
Past the seemingly peaceful pose,
The worn steel brake on the passenger’s side
As he heroically tries to make it through one more ride.
You’ll notice also how he clings so tight
To the fraying seat belt as he valiantly battles his fright.
What drives a man to such lengths you might ask,
What spurs such commitment to completion of a task?
Many have pondered over long years this very query,
Longing to understand the heart of such dedication clearly.
The conclusion to which we must arrive
Is not money, for could money motivate such drive?
Neither is it love that provokes such devotion,
Nay tis only insanity that could pursue a man to such notions.
Yet, despite unsoundness of mind and just to show we care,
The cost of your necessary therapy we promise to share,
And selflessly we give enough to cover (in part)
The surgery duly required for your failing heart!
by Jenne Brown
This is from a paper I wrote for an college English class. I edited the ending after finding this some 17 years after it was written, some 23 years after the incident itself occurred.
She had a soft, southern accent that slurred her already gentle voice. She held herself nervously, shoulders slightly hunched, head bent forward, eyes gazing up. Shelly, the temporary brought in to help me get through the excess of work.
She wore a pale blue, button-up with short sleeves and a long, straight skirt of white with blue roses printed on it. Pearls and sensible navy flats completed her ensemble. It was a first-day-of-an-assignment outfit. It was the kind of outfit that could be found in every discount and department store across the nation. It was the kind of outfit I always thought I should buy, yet never did. In stark contrast to her prim attire, I wore a ruffled skirt that landed just above my knees. Every ruffle was a different pattern of blue and white and green.
I found a spot for her in the break room where she could spread out and assemble the quarterly statements sent to the Columbus Jewish Foundation fund holders. I stopped in to check on her after about an hour. “How you makin’ out?” I inquired brightly.
She pointed to a run in her tan hose. “That just happened,” she explained. “I wouldn’t want you to think I came in with that. It just happened a few minutes ago.”
“Oh,” I replied, staring at the tear, trying to understand the depth of her distress. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Happens to me all the time,” I told her with a smile.
I returned to my desk and began typing a letter when I heard a crash through the doorway. I ran into the kitchen where I discovered the coffee mug I had lent her shattered across the linoleum floor in solid chunks.
“Oh, my gosh! I am so sorry!” Shelly cried fretfully over and over. Surveying the remnants of the mug strewn across the floor, I squelched my frustration. It was one of my favorite mugs. With a deep breath, I placed a smile on my face.
“Don’t worry about it. It was just an accident,” I reassured her as I began wiping up coffee, gathering moss-covered clay fragments, dodging the sharp edges.
Once everything was cleaned, we resumed our separate projects, working in silence for another hour, before I invited her to join me outside for a break. Standing on the stoop next to the side door, soaking up sunshine, she confessed to me in a scared voice, “I’m not Jewish.”
I laughed, “I thought the same thing when I came here last fall. Actually, about half the people in the building aren’t Jewish.” I explained lightly. She made no reply and the silence grew heavy. “Have you been with the employment agency long?” I questioned, longing to fill the emptiness with words.
“We just moved here. My husband’s cousin is giving him a job with his construction company. Back in South Carolina we went to a non-denominational church and some of the people there know some folks up here. They go to a church that’s in the same conference as ours and they’ve been helping us get settled,” she divulged in quick words and sentences without periods. After her flurry of words she fell silent, looking at me expectantly.
Stumbling awkwardly from the uneven exchange, I groped for an appropriate response. “Oh, that’s great. Yeah, I go to a non-denominational bible fellowship on Tuesdays and Sundays.” I thought maybe telling her I was a Christian would ease her discomfort. I recognized that it was a little scary to come in to an environment so foreign and strange.
As we descended the stairs to the lower level I reflected on our discussion. Shelly’s nervous comments took me back to the previous November. I had felt so torn in accepting a placement at the Jewish Foundation. I had truly believed that working for a Jewish organization was somehow a compromise of my own beliefs. It had taken me three days to recognize that neither my parents nor my ministers had taught me this. Through Chanukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter I was forced to examine my own beliefs and assumptions.
Over lunch, I pondered how much of life I had taken as a “given” before I came to the Foundation. It had been a “given” that everyone around me shared some similitude of my beliefs. It had been a “given” that the person sitting next to me in the restaurant or pumping gas by my side had a similar background and future as I. Evaluating my “givens” challenged my narrow perceptions and exposed me to the full, and sometimes, harsh light of other realities than my own.
After lunch Shelly came to my desk. She stood in a half-crouch, leaning over me with a distraught expression on her face. “I’m so sorry, but I can’t stay,” she almost whispered in an unsteady voice.
Instantly concerned, I probed, “What’s wrong?” Did she feel sick, I wondered, or had something happened to her husband? I was not prepared for her answer.
“I’m a Christian,” she replied. “And you know, in church we pray for these people, the Jews, and I’m sorry, but I’ll finish the day, but I can’t come back tomorrow.”
The only response I could muster was a look of surprise. I continued to sit stunned while she returned to her seat. Ten dozen contradicting emotions crashed incoherently in my brain. I felt anger. Anger at Shelly’s ignorance. Anger at the teachers and pastors and parents who fostered such ignorance. I felt insulted. I had told Shelly I was also a Christian. Telling me she could not stay because of her Christianity was a slap in my face, an invalidation of my beliefs. I felt hurt. I thought Shelly, like me, would find the Foundation a rewarding environment ripe with potential.
I sat looking at her hunched profile through the open doorway of my office, across the hall and through the doorway of the break room. There she sat. I could feel her anxiety like a tangible force, reaching across the hallway to engulf me. I wanted her gone.
I grappled for composure. Slowly, deliberately I went in to her. I measured my steps and voice, knowing I stood close to the edge of rash actions. In a calm, even voice that wouldn’t betray my inner turmoil, I relayed, “Shelly, if you really feel that way, I think you should go ahead and leave. You won’t do yourself or us any good in the state you’re in.”
Her lips clamped together and her brows hunched over her eyes. She inhaled sharply through her nose, causing her chest to puff out, and her shoulders to go rigid. Her eyes turned red as she fought the burgeoning tears.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have accepted the assignment. It’s just, well, I…it was the first thing they offered me and I was afraid if I said no they wouldn’t give me anything else. I’m sorry.”
“Shelly, you don’t have to explain. I just think it that’s how you feel, then it’s best for everyone if you leave now.”
She stood there for an instant and I could see words bumping together frantically in her mind, but none reached her lips. Yes, I too longed for a nice, tidy way to end our acquaintance. Unable to articulate her thoughts, she sprang into motion, grabbing her purse, not bothering with the strap, looking anxiously for any stray pieces of her presence and finding none, she walked out. She looked back once as she turned the corner to the stairs.
I returned to my desk where I sat for a long time after she departed, sorting through the emotional debris left from our encounter. The anger resurged, anger that fear had choked Shelly, anger that she couldn’t breath the sweet air of understanding. Her fear made her blind, unreasonable, illogical. I ached for her lack of understanding. I cursed life for being such a tangled weave of right and wrong, of muted grays and strained whites. I wished it were easier to set oneself in the very midst of broken humanity, look straight on its chipped face, and still find the beauty among the scars.
I dreaded having to tell the Executive Director, Jack. Shelly’s decision was not a personal slight against Jack, but it felt so terribly personal. It was late afternoon before he finally returned from his meeting. I hurried unskillfully through the incident, reciting as few details as necessary.
“Jack, should I call the agency to see if we can still get someone out here tomorrow?”
He thought for a few seconds. “No, I’ll just ask my wife if she can come in for a few days,” he spoke without his normal exuberance, a weary note in his voice that I had not heard before.
Once Jack was settled in his office, I called the agency. The representative began a barrage of criticism against Shelly, but I stopper her. I’d had time to think and I knew what I wanted to say to Shelly. “Can you do me a favor?” I asked.
Eager to rectify the situation, Nichole could not respond fast enough, “Sure, anything. What do you need?”
“It’s a little unorthodox, but could you ask Shelly to review the account of Joseph working for Pharaoh?”
In the coming days, Jack relayed the story to a number of people. For weeks, I would be in the midst of some project and would be stopped to discuss the episode. In our small corner of the world, I had become the goyim champion, standing up in the face of antisemitism. I became a hero of sorts, but I wore the praise uneasily. The truth was I felt ashamed of how much I could relate to Shelly. The assignment to the Jewish Foundation had also been my first assignment and truthfully, I had only accepted because, like Shelly, I was afraid I wouldn’t be offered future assignments if I refused it. Like Shelly I had grappled with working at the Jewish Foundation.
Unlike Shelly I had come to recognize the error of my thoughts, but I didn’t want to admit to my Jewish coworkers and friends how truly similar I was to Shelly.
I have so many Shelly scenarios in my life now. So many moments where I so narrowly escaped becoming prisoner to fear and ignorance. And I have many years, many decades where I did succumb to wrong ideas that governed my actions through fear and intimidation. It still scares me to see how close I came to never becoming free from the cloying containment of those ignorant beliefs. It still steals my breath to see so many people who never choose to pursue the uncomfortable path of confronting the limiting belief systems they are familiar with.
If you missed the previous blog, click here!
I was given bag after bag after bag of gorgeous, mint-condition clothes, coats and accessories from an acquaintance I made.
I tell you just writing all of this and editing it, now that there is a little more time and distance from these scenarios, I’m even more amazed at all God did for me and also that I survived! Part of me is in awe and part of me still feels slightly traumatized from some of the experiences. Times with the Lord can be like a roller coaster with highs and lows!
And there were many, many times that I didn’t know where my rent was coming from. That Friday night when I came home to a phone call before the long Fourth of July weekend to be told that my work assignment was over, I responded by walking into my unfurnished living room, lifting my arms and my voice to praise God.
I didn’t praise God because I was happy, but to show my confidence in His supply and to stand in defiance to the negative emotions that stood eager to consume me.
My friend treated me to two new outfits for my brother’s wedding and rehearsal dinner. Prior to getting on the plane, she handed me a cash gift that helped with incidental travel expenses.
The rent during those times came through differently, but it was only the last time that I asked my parents for help. Every other time, it worked out different ways, different people offered me help without me asking. It usually moved me to ugly cry when loving friends stepped in to help me out as I did my best. I prayed and praised and wept a lot – before and AFTER the answers came. I actually wailed with joy when I received my food benefit for the first time. It was so much more than I had been living on for a long time. It was so abundant compared to what I’d been getting by on. I realized then that wailing in joy sounds the same as wailing for sorrow!
My father treated me to a trip to the salon for a trim, highlight and style for my brother’s wedding.
Provision has come a lot of different ways, and they aren’t always obviously supernatural, but I see the hand of God often in helping me. Then there are other times, I never have it on paper or in the bank and I get through. And sometimes I’m eating ramen noodles, but I tell you, often in those places, it’s like the Lord does a work for me on those inexpensive noodles! I have wondered if he did something like that to make manna taste good for the Israelites after so many years and so many meals. Or maybe manna doesn’t need that kind of help.
I used to cry, “God, if you don’t provision me, people will think you didn’t commission me. That was honestly one of my biggest fears coming here to Albuquerque. I felt like I’d flopped so many times before in my life. I believed this time was different, and it has been. It has been gloriously hard and filled with wonderment and weeping in both frustration and jubilation.
Gifted a crock pot with liners.
God has been so glorious and so generous to inspire people to be kind and loving to me. I endeavor to always bring my requests to God. I ask him for help. I do the best I know to do. I endeavor to be wise with my money and my health and seek the Lord’s aid and he inspires people to express goodness to me. I can’t even show it all here. I can’t show all the meals, the concerts, the events, the conferences, the gifts I’ve been showered with by good and giving people.
As I was pulling all these pictures to put into this blog, I kept thinking how I would end the blog by pointing out that the greater gift has been the gifts of friendship. And I do believe that. But then I realized, the greatest gift has been the depth of friendship found with God through all this. Discovering how truly good and faithful God is to his character and his word and his promises to be my supply and my sufficiency. The greatest supply, the greatest provision through these times has been the supply of relationship with the Godhead, the provision of comfort and friendship that I have found in the company of my Father, my Lord and the Holy Spirit.
Praise God, hallelujah, amen.
My first shopping trip with the food benefit. I went a little crazy in the chip aisle! If you look, you can see how I don’t have furniture in the background. Just a lamp on the floor.
The next to last day of the assignment I wrote about in part four, I went to an interview after work. The next morning I was offered the job. I still look back on that interview in a strange wonder. Ultimately, the job did not work out, but it sustained me through a point where I was about to give up.
From the time I asked my friend to help me with toilet paper and she went grocery shopping for me and also gave me this Uber gift card.
The following Monday, a friend gave me a ride to the bank as I had received a three-day eviction notice. It was the first day of the new job and I was too embarrassed to explain why I needed to come in late on my very first day. I had received a little bit of unemployment that was put on a credit card and as I was trying to get cash off of that card, I gave the dollar amount wrong by one dollar and so the bank couldn’t give me the cash. The bank teller advised that I needed to go to another branch to get the money off of this card, because he was only allowed to try to pull cash off of it once a day, and because I said the wrong dollar amount it locked the card for that branch for the rest of the day.
I was rocked. I had thought I would get my money order for my past due rent, drop it off at the apartment office, and then head to my first day of the new job. I sat in the lobby trying to control my sobs while I reached out to see if another friend could drive me, but realized I was better to catch the next bus.
Gift of fresh peaches from a colleague’s tree.
When I got on that bus there was a man pouring out an endless stream of insults on everybody on the bus. He wasn’t cursing, but it was vile and filthy and horrible. None of the comments were even directed at me, still it was chaotic and unsettling to my system. I prayed in my mind for God to shut him down – but God didn’t stop the man and the man’s words continued. Feeling deeply afflicted by his offensive digs and barbs I got off the bus and began walking to the next stop. The man got off at the same stop.
Gifted a ticket to the sold out women’s Christmas Gala dinner with special guest speaker.
“You have got to be kidding me, God.” I groused in my heart. Sure enough the guy followed me to the next bus stop. Honestly, by that point, I heavily suspected God was not only not stopping the man, but was actually using the man to intentionally move me to a certain point.
Furious at the whole situation, I plugged my earbuds in and rocked my Christian praise music loud as it would go and determinedly stormed down the road to the next bank. It’s really rather comic with a couple years space between now and then.
“Necessities” that I purchased with an Amazon gift card. 🙂
As I crossed in front of the bright, green grass of Lovelace women’s hospital, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a girl I met at a one-week work assignment nine months earlier. She had chased me down after seeing me walk past her in front of the hospital where she was leaving from a check up. She shared how she had decided at the last minute to take an appointment that day and how pleased she was by the prime parking spot she landed—right by the sidewalk where I was marching past to get to the bank and my first day of a new job.
This was coming home from a day trip to Jemez Springs. I realize I count those day trips as a gift as I don’t have a car or the means to rent one.
The money order process ended up being still more complicated as it turned out what the bank teller meant was not just that I needed to go to another branch of the same bank, but I needed to actually go to a completely different bank. So, this sweet gal drove me to two different banks, then to a gas station for the money order, my apartment complex to make the payment in time to avoid eviction and finally to my new job.
I still remember our conversation about our learning on the path of recovery. We concluded our time with a prayer for each other.
To read part six, click here!
Gift of a trip to the volcanoes west of town. Every time I look at them, i get to think how I went there with my sweet friend.
If you missed the previous blog, click here!
The summer of 2016 I ran into so many roadblocks financially! I had been working a temporary assignment that began in February and was supposed to become a permanent position. However, so much craziness occurred and the assignment ended after only three months, at the end of May.
Gift of groceries when I was sick. I had just run out of applesauce that I used for my breakfast muffin recipe at the time.
I was relieved to find another assignment only a few days later, though it was $2 less per hour. Then to my shock and despair, barely a month into the assignment, after coming home on a Friday, I received a call from the agency telling me I didn’t need to come back. No explanation as to what I had done or why the assignment ended, just that I didn’t need to come back.
Gift of ice cream – and possibly the best choco ice cream I’ve ever had!
I had only moved into my own apartment not even two months before the second assignment ended, and I didn’t know how I was going to make it. All that month of July I searched for work, for temporary assignments. I got a one and a half day assignment. I trekked to the library by bus in the heat of the July sun in Albuquerque, applying to jobs online because I couldn’t afford internet in my apartment.
Free ticket to see for King and Country
I prayed and praised and cried my eyes out. But it was also during that month that a friend took me to the Human Services department and helped me get signed up for assistance which I really needed, but had no idea how to access. I was approved for food and medical assistance that were so extraordinarily helpful in those troublesome times.
I have often looked back on that very, very difficult month where I got not only connected with assistance that helped me for many more months, but it’s also the point when Destinee and I connected to begin seriously discussing merging our then defunct blogs together.
Gift of coffee & creamer.
I did get a two-week work assignment at the end of July into the start of August through a temporary agency to help out a department in a local university. I was so desperately broke at the time. I’d really been broke before my last assignment ended unexpectedly and I’d gone weeks with almost no work. I had no idea how I was going to make rent and for the first time in many desperate moments since I moved to Albuquerque, I began to seriously doubt if I could make it here. I began to question if I would have to give up, turn around, return to Ohio and call my venture to New Mexico quits. I was so tired and exhausted emotionally. I was frightened and so very scared.
The new backpack that I’m still carrying years later.
The two week assignment was to help an administrative assistant get caught up with overflow work, like filing and new hire packets. This woman was a wonderful Christian woman. I don’t know what God said to her, but she was such a source of encouragement to me at a point when I felt so lost and broken in my understanding of what was going on in my life and where God was in my circumstances. Have any of you experienced somebody like that?
Gift of cash & encouragement.
She began to bring in gifts for me day after day after day. She provided me a wonderful new backpack when mine had gone kaput some months back. I was using a couple shoulder bags to carry my lunch, purse, whatever I needed for the day as I walked and rode public transportation. She had purchased the backpack for her middle school son, but it was too large for him.
It was also a laptop backpack and at the time I had just received my laptop as a gift from my father – another story of another blessing! I didn’t have internet in my apartment and had been carting my laptop awkwardly in bags not made to carry laptops to the library to work on job applications.
She also asked me what was my favorite flavor of creamer and she bought me good coffee with the biggest bottle of flavored creamer as well as some books by one of my favorite Christian authors.
Gift of Silk Almond Milk after I came home from being out of state for 10 days.
At the end of the two-week temporary office assignment the women I’d been helping, who I never actually told the details of my financial straits to, gave me an envelope with $200 that helped me make rent (this was not my pay for the work, but a personal gift she gave me).
Words can’t fully express how deeply this woman encouraged and helped me at the difficult point of my journey. I’m reminded of Elijah after he had the showdown with all the prophets of Baal, but the next day when the evil Jezebel threatened his life, he was so exhausted he told God he was ready to die. And God sent the angel to make him some food and have him get some rest.
Some parts of our journey we can become so worn out, so exhausted, some encouragement and help is what we desperately need to pick up and carry on.
There was also a friend who sent me a large portion of my rent. With the help of several friends and this relative stranger, I had enough to pay my rent with a late fee.
To read part five, click here!
The time I asked my friend if she would buy me toilet paper…and she bought me a whole lot extra.