Category Archives: Proven Path Ministries

He’s Still Working On Me

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“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

Psalm 5:3

The Lord was so kind to me this morning to show me the flip side of His favor as He took me to Psalm 5. I read “For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12) You see I had rather have the favor of God and be hated by the world than be loved by the world and be without the favor of God. The truth is you can’t have both the favor of God and the favor of the world. I choose the favor of God no matter what the world may throw at me.

I know that the favor of God is as a shield and all this world can do is destroy my flesh and what is seen. It cannot touch my spirit or the eternal unseens that are mine in Christ. I will persevere and hold fast to the promises of my God that I find in His Word. Oh what treasures they are!

After spending the beginning of my morning telling God all that was on my mind and pouring out my frustrations and my fears and reminding Him of certain situations that were going on. I said “Amen” and then laid my head on my Bible and prayed that God would sanctify me by His truth, His Word is truth. (Yes I will even try osmosis to get all of God’s Word firmly established in my mind and heart and soul)

I then begin to read over Isaiah 40 and was once again reminded of the greatness of my God. I read “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him?” Isaiah 40:13.

At this point I shake my head and smile up at the beautiful blue sky dusted with the white swirls and puff of clouds of my Creator God and I say to Him, “Oh Father, I love You.” I say this because I am overwhelmed with the patience of my God. How patient He is with me. His lovingkindness endures forever.

I read this particular verse in Isaiah and it hit me how often I come to God to “inform” Him of what is going on. Coming to Him as though He somehow has missed this situation or has forgotten that this certain thing was going on and He needed me to give Him a heads up.

“Oh by the way Everlasting God, the LORD, Creator of the ends of the earth have you forgotten me…?”

“Why do you say, O Nicole, my way is hidden from the LORD and the justice do me escapes the notice of my God?”

Yep, face to face with Isaiah 40:27-28.

Guilty!
Head down.
Head down, but leaned into the everlastingly loving, kind, patient chest of my God.

And I can almost feel His kiss on the top of my forehead as He looks deep into my heart and says “those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Do not go down to Egypt for help, I am your very present help in times of trouble”

Oh Father, thank You for Your word…

>The Favor of God

>”The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)

The past few weeks I have been praying that God would grant me favor. That He would find favor with me in some certain areas that I have been praying over and about. This morning as I was spending time with Him I once again prayed for favor, it’s written down in my journal “Oh Father show me Your favor.”

After my personal time, I turned in my Bible to the first chapter of Luke to work on my Sunday morning Small Group lesson. I read Luke 1:30 and it’s like the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Do you really know what you are asking for Nicole? Go and see what it really means to have the favor of God.”

So I went for my Strong’s Concordance and began a word search on the word “favor”.

Hmmmm let’s see…

In Genesis 39:21 I read that Joseph had found favor with God.
In Exodus 3:21 I read that the children of Israel had found favor with God.
In 1 Samuel 2:26 I read that Samuel had favor with God. 
In Esther I read that she found favor with God.
In Job I read that he had found favor with God.
In Daniel 1:9 I read that Daniel had found favor with God.
Then of course there is, John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus… all these found favor with God.

Hmmmm now lets’ see…

Well Joseph was sold as a slave into a foreign land by his brothers and put into prison for a crime he didn’ t commit. That’s favor?
Israel is chased by the entire Egyptian army and pursued after their deliverance and has been through a Holocaust and still to this day is hated by the world. That’s favor?
Samuel had to go to the man who taught and trained him and tell him that God was removing him and his entire family from their position and then he had to deal with Saul. That’s favor?
Esther was taken from her home as a captive and forced to parade before a king hoping to win his hand and then had to stand up to this king at the risk of her life to save her people. That’s favor?
Job lost everything he had and then had to put up with sucky friends. That’s favor?
Daniel was taken captive as a child, falsely accused multiple times, and thrown in a lion’s den. That’s favor?
John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, was hated by Herod, thrown in prison and beheaded. That’s favor?
Mary was found pregnant when engaged to be married and had to flee for her life so as not to be stoned then had to watch her firstborn Son endure the cross. (If you have ever had to watch your child suffer you know the pain of this moment.) That’s favor?
Jesus… by His stripes we were healed, He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulder’s. Was obedient to the point of death even death on the cross. Laid aside the glory of heaven and took the form of man. Just to die for the ungodly. That’s favor?

Yes, that’s favor. The favor of God. The favor of God does not mean a life of wine and roses. It means a life of water and thorns. It’s living a life of knowing that the fulfilled purpose of God is worth any temporary discomfort in the present. So if you are like me and you have been praying for the favor of God. Do you know what you are really asking? Have you counted the cost?

The Lord had to stop me for a moment and check me. He had to remind me that getting His favor was not the same as me getting my way. So was my prayer really “Oh Father show me Your favor” or was it “Oh Father give me what I want.” I honestly think that as I wrote that and have been praying it these past few weeks it was the latter.

So now with a freshly humbled heart, one that has been striped by the belt of Truth I must reconsider my prayer…

Do I still now in full knowledge seek the favor of God?

Yes, I do.
But no longer according to my will…
Oh Father, Thy will be done.

>A Real Lady

>“A real lady always keeps her house clean and organized, the laundry basket is always empty. She’s always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone. Post this as your status if you, too, suspect that you might be a man.”
(borrowed from the facebook status of a friend) 

When I first was married I kept an immaculate house. People would comment that you could eat off of my kitchen floors, and truthfully you probably could. When people would come to visit I would lliterally follow behind them with a broom and dust pan and clean up the dirt that they tracked in right behind them. If a glass was set down on the coffee table or end table it was picked up by me and washed and returned to the cabinet before the person even noticed it was missing (used to drive my husband nuts). You see I come from a long line of neat freak perfectionist on my mother’s side of the family and well honestly so is my father. You can go into his shop and everything has it’s place and is labeled as to what drawer what tool goes in. 

I maintained this standard of cleanliness, driving myself and I am sure everyone else crazy. Then we began attending church and then my life was radically changed. I began studying the Word of God for hours at a time and then I began teaching. Then we got custody of our oldest and she moved in with us from North Carolina and also our youngest was born at this same time. We went from a small trailer and a family of three/sometimes four to a house and a full-time family of five that included a teenager, a toddler, and a newborn.

I was teaching Sunday School and then the Lord called me to teach a Sunday night class and then also at this time He called me to not just take Precept classes, but to teach them. Something had to go. It was a Mary vs Martha moment (Luke 10:38-42). I had a choice to make between an immaculately clean home or sitting at the feet of my Lord. There was no way I could do both and maintain any resemblance of sanity in my home. I wish I could say this was an immediate easy transition, but it wasn’t. 

As I said it was in my nature to be clean, not just picked up, but cloroxed doors and base boards once a month, and floors and bathrooms cleaned daily, dishes always done, laundry always going, beds always made, no dust ever in sight. Clutter and muck would physically affect me. If things got to cluttered around me, my temperament became cluttered. I shutter to think of the “Momma rampages” my children have endured because of a messy house as I would become frustrated, irritated, and jumpy. It still does this to me at at times.

So I would fight the guilt of a not perfect home. If I ever made the mistake of saying, ‘well I’ll just start a load before my quiet time’, then the next thing I would know the kids would be up and I would be scrubbing the toilet while my Bible still lay unopened on the kitchen table. Then would come the guilt of realizing I had chosen wrong. Now I was irritated for the rest of the day because with kids up, I would not get my “quiet time.” I had missed my opportunity to sit at Jesus’s feet because of a load of laundry. Yes, this still happens to me at times.  

I love the many ways that God uses His church. He brings us together for a purpose and that purpose is for our benefit. If you are forsaking the assembly, stop. If you attend church as a check list and never get involved relationally with those who are around you, stop. God has built His church, He has designed it in such a way that the gates of hell cannot touch it. He did this because we need His church. We need each other. In so many ways, take the plunge my friend, stop forsaking the assembly for whatever reason you have and stop just getting in and out as quickly as possible. Make friends. Join a small group. Attend the functions. Get involved. Trust me it is for your benefit.

As I was struggling with my Mary vs Martha moment (that really has not been a moment but a work in progress) the Lord placed wonderful women in my life who helped me get perspective and peace. Oh how I needed these women, how I still need them.

One of my now dearest friends invited us over to their home to go swimming. I was a nervous wreck and only called to see if we could come on this day because it was so freaking hot outside and my child was driving me crazy. Making friends was hard for me. I didn’t have a very big trust factor in people at this time. But I called, she said come on over, so we did.

We walked in and the house was a wreck, like mine, but she hadn’t felt the need to go into the mad rush of crazy screaming at everyone while cleaning because company was coming over. She was just real. She jokes that God has given her the ministry of making others feel better about their own house. The truth is God has given that to her as a ministry. I am not sure if she even to this day understands the load that the Lord was able to finally lift off of my shoulders because of her.  

So now ten years later, the priority in the house cleaning is to make sure nothing is growing in the fridge. It is to make sure there is at least a path through the toys to get to the door in case the house catches on fire. It is to clean the toilet when that nasty ring shows up around the top of the water. It is to wash the dishes when we can’t use either side of the sink because both are full. It’s to clean the floor when we can’t find the hardwood underneath the dog hair. It’s to do laundry when we run out of towels and clean underwear. It’s to find the dining room table when company is coming for dinner. It’s to make the beds when we are going to be out of town and they won’t be slept in for a few days (gotta make it worth it, right). And it’s maybe once every couple of months doing everything all in the same day just to remind myself (and my husband) that I could still keep an immaculate house if I wanted to.  

Yes, I still have those moments where Martha wins over Mary… but they grow less and less and that’s what walking in victory is all about, getting better one step at a time, one day at time, always pressing forward.

>The Journal Is Out

>I have out the journals. Now these journal entries will be shared with the utmost discretion. My mother and close friends have been told of there whereabouts and have been instructed that if the Lord so wills to bring me home in a quick manner they are to burn these journals before they are read by anyone. You see they hold my insanity. I learned a long time ago that if I would put my emotions on paper, in writing, it cleared my head and my heart and helped me to think more rationally. In my Christian walk I have learned that I can stop Satan’s lies if I put them down on paper and then hold them up to the Word of God. So many times I don’t even realize it is a lie of that serpent of old until I see it in writing.

I have open in my lap now a journal entry from January 23, 2002. At this point I had been a wife for two and a half years, a step-mother for two and a half years, a mother for seven months, and a newly wholly surrendered believer for one month.

My prayer in my journal on January 23, 2002…
“Lord I pray that You will teach me to submit to my husband. I pray that you will help me bite my tongue and my pride so that I will live more according to Your will. You are the Almighty God who in all things are possible so I know You can do this! “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13) “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.” (Titus 2:4-5)”

My prayer in my journal on January 24, 2002…
“I pray that You will continue to speak to my heart and I pray that I will hear Your words. I also pray that You’ll help me to submit to Patrick, Lord I will have a hard struggle with this and I need Your hand on this situation because I don’t believe I really know how to submit. Father, I just want to make You proud!”

I find it absolutely not a coincidence that the first area that God opened my eyes to was my marriage and my place in it. You see I was a hard-hearted woman. I had lost faith in men as a whole. I was a jaded, independent, self-sufficient, stubborn red-headed Halbrooks. I needed no one, so I thought. When I married I told myself and others that I would never be a “kept” woman. I depended on no one but myself  and really trusted no one, including my husband. My husband telling me as much was what shook me to the point of picking up my Bible again.

The first small group class that the Lord put me in was Manna for Moms and Sue Fallin was the teacher. The first class I recall sitting through was on submission, and I remember well my neck stiffening and my back straightening in defiance to what she was saying. I believe I even had a little snitful comment to make about it also. However, she spoke truth, and it is the truth that sets you free. So I have spent the last twelve years learning how to submit to my husband. This is not a 6 week, 12 step, fix it and forget it subject. This is a learn as you go till death do you part subject.   

I thank God for the godly women that He has placed in my life. He surrounded me with Titus 2:4-5. He placed me with those who could teach me how to love my husband and my children. I could learn from them and I am so glad that I have chosen to listen. I know that I am not there yet, I could probably turn to my 2011 journal and find an entry that once again cries out to God to help me submit to my husband.

If I can give a word of advice to any married couple it would be this: If you are struggling in anyway in your marriage (and by the way if you are not struggling now I can almost bet there will come a day that you will, it’s just life and love) make a connection with a couple that has succeeded. Find that couple that after 30, 40, 50 years together they still hold hands when they walk out of church or smile at each other and compliment each other. You can see their love and commitment to each other and to the Lord in their eyes. Find them, and talk with them, and listen and learn from them.

Choose Death

confessions

“Whoever said that marrying and having children was to be trouble free? It’s one of the hardest things in the world. It just happens to be right and rewarding.” (John Piper)

Yeh, so who was it that said marrying and having children would be trouble free? I can’t recall it. I don’t know where that lie began. With Disney? With Hollywood? With fictional romance novels? I mean Shakespeare did not write that way. Look at Romeo and Juliet. Homer did not write that way. Have you ever read the tangled mess of life and love in The Odyssey and The Iliad? The Bible certainly did not say that. Look at Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. Look at Noah and his sons. Look at Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Ishmael. Look at Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Esau. Look at David. Good grief I could just keep going on and on.
So where exactly did we come up with the delusion of a trouble free marriage?
In the words of an old Saturday Night Live skit, “Could it be, could it be, Satan?”

Let’s just stop and think for a moment of what a marriage in our fallen world actually is. It is two completely separate people who are raised in completely different homes by completely different parents. They have separate personalities. Separate backgrounds, even if they were raised in the same neighborhood and grew up in the same church from the womb, they are still two separate and unique individuals.

Then in our “dating” society, these two separate individuals catch each others eye and then spend the next however many days, months, years, pretending to be the perfect person for this one whose eyes they have caught. They are on their best behaviour at all times, they say things they don’t mean, they pretend to like things they really hate, they do things they have never done in a way they have never done it because they think this person likes it that way. They assume, compromise, fake, twist, distort, fabricate all in the name of “love”.

Then when they have successfully pulled the wool over each others eyes, they come together and say “I do”. Then it happens, it’s harder to keep up the charade on a 24 hr, 7 day a week basis. The scary thing is that usually neither one of you even really realized that it was a charade. You were just playing the game. You saw what you wanted and you did what you had to do to get it and now you have it and you have just realized you have no clue what to do with it.

You also have just realized that you have forgotten who you really were as you pretended to be something and someone else for so long. Now you look in the mirror at this stranger in front of you and then over to the other side of the bed at this stranger lying beside you.

Now it becomes a mission. I will make this work. I will continue to be who I have convinced this person I am if it kills me… and it will. Here lies the test of faith. Here is where the rubber will meet the road. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Oh yes, we will try to keep it up, the charade. We will work our fingers to the bone and concoct all sorts of strategies to make it work. We will read books and watch Dr Phil and we will grow tired and frustrated. The other stranger will not meet our expectations. We will accuse each other of not trying hard enough to pretend to be someone we never really were to begin with… and then it comes to the moment of do or die.

Will you choose to die? Will you choose to stop the charade? Will you choose to die to who you are pretending to be, to who you were, to the you, you are trying to hold on to? Will you choose to die?

If you choose death, then your marriage will live. “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Yes, unless that grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. Marriage is God taking two completely different unique individuals and meshing them into a brand new creation and birthing out of this creation fruit of uniqueness. If you are a skeptic on miracles, how much more of a miracle is this? Why would Satan be working so hard to destroy our marriages and redefine what a marriage is, if it did not so amazingly and wonderfully display the glory of our God?

A living marriage is a double suicide. Two people choosing to die (or kill each other in the process) and allowing God to breathe life back into them and raise them from the dead to live a life of unity, to become one flesh. The awesome thing is that God can make us one flesh without ever destroying our uniqueness. While if we try to do it ourselves, apart from Him, we do destroy our uniqueness.

No matter how or where the marriage began, no matter how far and how long the charade game has been played, no matter the mess, if both will choose die to themselves then God will validate that covenant and it will bear much fruit. Here lies the test of faith. When the rubber meets the road will you be willing to die?

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily”. The truth is marriage is not trouble free, raising children is not easy, learning to live in unity with another unique individual is hard, but not impossible. With God all things are possible and if we will place our marriage in the hand of God then He will use it to display His image, His glory, and His grace.

“So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12)

>Friendship

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