Jul 17, 2018
Belize, Braids and Belief
On an almost daily basis I remind myself of how spoiled I am by the almost always immediate access to limitless bits of information speeding across the internet to my hot little hand via my smartphone. If my cell phone provider is doing what it should I can get answers to even my most random questions any hour of the day or night! Once upon a time there were only a select few who had access to the Bible and now I can type into Google: “Bible verse about floating ax head” and in less than 3 seconds I am directed to page after page about 2 Kings 6 and God being His awesome Self using Elisha to help out a friend. Never has the world’s general population had more access to the Word of God – this is exciting and convicting for me all at once. One of the beautiful benefits of having access to God’s word is that I don’t guess about God feels about me.
There are moments in my everyday life when I struggle to feel loved, valued or appreciated. Some days I don’t even feel seen or harder, seen only by people who need or want things from me. But I know God loves me; His word tells me so. The cross proved it for me. There are days when I don’t think I will be able to do the things God has called me to do; my weaknesses feel overwhelming. But by God’s grace I make it to the end of another hard day accomplishing the tasks that were set before me. Some mornings I stare at my sinful self in the face and struggle to believe that I will ever be free from the habits and thoughts that tie me down. But then new mercies remind me that Jesus is the only perfect person that ever has been and that I can rest in who He is and what He accomplished for me on the cross. Some days I struggle to see anything beyond bags under my eyes, grey hair and a bigger body than I want to have. But then God reminds me of that moment from 2003 on a sunny Belize afternoon when He told me I was beautiful. I am sure God has spoken His affirmation to me many times before (and thankfully, after, that day) but this moment was memorable because it was the first time I chose to believe what He said about me.
My first visit to the beautiful of Belize was during a Spring Break in 2003 on a short-term mission trip with Valley Bible Church. I was on staff with VBC at the time and it was our very first short term trip to Belize. If I remember correctly (I will happily be fact checked by anyone who was with us) the team was comprised our Student Ministries Pastor, Tim, two young men Dan and Zach, me and a whole gaggle of awesome girls including my sister Melinda and my good friend Melissa. I would have to drag out my journal from the time to remember a ton of specifics but I remember the mosquitoes, the warm people we met like Uncle Clive, handmade three-tiered bunk beds, an Easter sunrise service and the braids.
A few of the local women had offered to braid each of our girl’s hair into itty-bitty braids which as you can imagine took a ton of time and was pretty low on priority list for the week for us leaders. However, I wanted my hair braided, too, but as time and luck would have it the end of our trip arrived and Melissa and I were the only two ladies not sporting braids as we were headed home. As we gathered to say our goodbyes we gathered in groups to take pictures with our new friends. Someone called out, “Now all the girls with the braids!” so all the braided beauties gathered and pictures are snapped while compliments began to fly. Standing in front of me were Dan and Mel (who were dating at the time and are now happily 13 years married) and Dan puts his arm around Mel’s shoulder and says, “You are beautiful to me” (or something sweet of that sort – well, maybe sweet and snarky which is one of Dan’s specialties). Immediately my insecure, early 20-year-old self looked accusingly inward and notices my lack of braids or boyfriend and this completely petty moment seemingly confirms for me one of my worst fears: I am not beautiful, noticed or wanted. I blinked back tears, taking on the familiar weight of rejection and worthlessness that I had wrestled with often. But suddenly I heard the Lord say to my heart, “I think you are beautiful, Nicole.” Now, I didn’t hear some deep voice from behind or had a dove float down from the sky but I can tell you that even though that thought came to me in my own mind’s voice I can promise you that those were words I never said to myself. Not once. It had to be the Holy Spirit in me. I know that the Lord had attempted to speak His love, His truth over me in many ways throughout my life but what made this time different was this: it was the very first time I believed Him. Instead of excusing or denying His affirmation of His handiwork in me I accepted His words to me and (shocker) my heart was encouraged! We wrapped up our picture snapping session, said our goodbyes and headed to the airport. During that season of life, typically an attack on my identity and contentment like that would have derailed me for hours, if not days or weeks! In choosing to believe what God said about me that sunny afternoon set my feet on a life-long journey of faith that I am still traipsing and skipping along on today.
I am loving Lauren Dangle’s new song, “You Say” today; the chorus says:
You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am week
And you say I am helped when I am falling short
And when I don't belong, Lord you say I am yours
And I believe, yes, I believe what you say of me
Oh I believe
I pray that today you will choose to believe what God has said about you. If you don’t know what He says about you, check out the Bible! Use the internet to your benefit and instead of following a Buzzfeed bunny trail that leads you to an article on how which outfit you pick out at Hollister says about your personality (coming clean: that literally happened to me today) and do some research! Find Lauren’s song on YouTube. Find a new worship playlist on Spotify. Type into that snazzy Goggle search bar “Who does the Bible say I am?” and go exploring. There is a lot of goodness to be found therein if you choose to believe it… I pray that you do.
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