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Light in the Darkness

Last week was a bad week. Like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. And I did not handle it very well at first. But, I am thankful for friends like Rebecca (shout out!) who seem to know when I am drowning without me even telling them. She texted me Sunday night after I made some comment and said I am calling you, what’s a good time? And for those of you who know me well, know I do not like phone calls much less talking about my problems. My gift is encouraging…I’m supposed to be encouraging not receiving the encouragement!

I started talking for about 5 minutes until I felt like I ran out of things to say. “Well, that’s about it.” And she said something along the lines of, “Well Nicolle that’s a great summary, but you need to keep talking. Just get it all out.” Ughhhh haha Thank you, Rebecca, for your patience and persistence! We all need friends like this in our life, if you don’t have one, please find one! And I think it’s important that we make ourselves available to be this person for someone else.

Last week was the type of week where I felt like I was living in a black hole, surrounded by darkness and seeing no way out. That is not a fun place to be in. It’s the type of darkness that weighs down and presses into you because it doesn’t want you to see the light. It doesn’t want you to know how much you are loved. It doesn’t want you to experience joy. It doesn’t want you to know hope. I know this might seem a bit dramatic, but that’s honestly what it felt like. I don’t know if you have ever experienced anything like this, but know that if you have, you are not alone and that it can be a scary, lonely place to be.

I started reading the Bible, and 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Hope through grace.

How powerful. This is something He willingly gives to us. We have hope because of God’s grace. And He gives this to us simply because He loves us.

When I get in this bad place, it is usually because things are happening that are out of my control. No matter what I do, or how hard I try – it just does not work out the way that I wanted or had all planned out in my mind. And then I start to doubt. And question. And wonder. Thus begins the downward spiral.

But the truth of the matter is, I had no control in the first place. It seemed like I did when I made a choice to do something or circumstances were going right and I take credit for that. But when I start to plan out my own life and figure things out on my own – it’s then that I start to realize how weak I really am. How little I actually know. In this realization though, I come to know how gracious God is towards us. He knows we are weak, that we are broken, that we will make the same mistakes over and over again, that we fail – but He uses us anyway. He loves us anyway. He chooses us anyway.

There’s this song sung by Lauren Daigle called “How Can it Be” and these lyrics speak directly to my heart:

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt
That You still love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

I so easily forget. But He is always ready to remind me. Even in our most hopeless, faithless state, God’s power is not far from us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Continue to lean on His grace, my friend. His grace is the light in the darkness.

I’ve created a tradition for myself to pick a word on New Year’s Day to focus on for that year. This year’s word was trust. In all honesty, I am not sure how well I did trusting God this year. But I do know that He is not finished with me yet. I am a work in progress. And so are you.

The end of the year is coming up which means I need a new word to focus on. If you were to pick a word to focus on in 2018 what would it be? Share if you’d like!

 

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Pass it On

Sometimes I half-jokingly say that I am going to ask God why He gave a highly sensitive introvert (me) a love for the fast-paced city life. I am never not tired and I always look forward to my “introverting” moments when I can be alone in the apartment to process everything. But I honestly cannot help it – I am falling in love with Washington, DC.

I love the people. I love its architectural beauty. I love its potential to be a catalyst for change. Every day I wake up, I know I will be walking into a new adventure.

This morning I was reflecting on the verses so often used for weddings:

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy.

It does not boast.

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking.

It is not easily angered.

It keeps no records of wrong.

Love does not delight in evil,

But rejoices with the truth.

It always protects.

Always trusts.

Always hopes.

Always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Honestly, when this verse came to my mind this morning I did not see the connection with what I wanted to write about today. Often we see these verses and we just think about the romantic kind of love. But written out like a poem, I see just how big of a word love is. Love is more than my feelings and emotions that so easily confuse me. Love is literally beyond me. It’s more than me. It’s bigger than me. It’s stronger than me. It compels me to move forward when I would rather sit at home and knit.

Love never fails. When the world tells us that we are not good enough, love never fails. The words that are connected with love in these verses – protection, hope, trust, perseverance – are all the things we deeply long for, but that our world tries to suppress and tell us are not important. And then we feel shame when we find ourselves longing for these things.

But this type of love is what we need most and I want to fight to sprinkle this kind of love all around the city. If nothing else, this will always be my mission. So when I think to question God about why I am here in this city, I will remember the love that He first showed me. I will remember that this love was given to me so that I could pass it on, no matter where I find myself living. To me, this type of love is worth the risk of stepping outside the door in the morning. I hope you too get to experience this type of love and be brave enough to grab on and let it take you where you never thought you would go. And if you ever need a reminder that God’s type of love is one that never fails, message me!

 

 

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

I have decided to title this post after Lorelai Gilmore’s famous line, “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!” Because I find myself saying this a lot more lately. Moving, living in a city, taking Grad School classes, working in a new environment…it’s exhausting y’all! I am so thankful that there is good coffee out there to give my brain that little extra boost it needs to get going in the morning.

And you know where you get really good coffee? At really good Coffee Shops. Coffee Shops are my favorite places on earth. A good Coffee Shop with have the following:

  • A friendly, inviting atmosphere – because really, who wants to be surrounded by negativity at 8am? That is no way to start the day and the world has enough negativity to go around!
  • A unique style that says a little something about the owners of the shop/cafe. Plus, this kind of environment encourages you to be comfortable with your own uniqueness.
  • A safe space that allows you to be real with the people you are with. In my opinion, it’s where honesty can shine through and where the hard conversations can take place.
  • And of course, a good coffee shop with have a variety of coffee (and tea for you tea drinkers out there) selections that will have your taste buds singing.

I have secretly always wanted to own a coffee shop. There is just something to be said about being able to create a space where people can be themselves. If you are having a bad day, please, please, please text or call a friend and tell them to meet you at your local cafe. We are not meant to face this hard life alone. I will let you in on a little secret: I am not perfect – shocking I know. And I will dare to say that you are not perfect either (I hope this doesn’t offend you). So we are going to make mistakes. We are going to make a wrong choice. We are going to do the wrong thing. And we make life harder than it has to be. And one thing we tend to tell ourselves is that we don’t want to involve other people in our messes. We would rather wallow or suffer in silence. I can tell you from experience that this just makes the situation worse.

I would dare you to invite someone into your mess of life. Let them help you, encourage you, carry the weight for you. Some of my most memorable breakthroughs have happened within the walls of a coffee shop. I am learning that our worst days met with the love of a friend can create a whole different outcome than the one we are talking ourselves through in our head. And one day, you will be able to do this for someone else.

So grab a friend, go to that trendy little coffee shop that everyone is posting about on Instagram, order your favorite drink and share your heart.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

Mission: Ice Cream

Blogging is such an interesting concept. There are so many different types of blogs out in the interwebs – how-to blogs, lifestyle blogs, informational blogs, opinion blogs. You get the idea.

They say it’s best to have a focus when you’re blogging. Something you’re an expert on or passionate about. Honestly, I haven’t quite figured that out yet for my own blog. My life doesn’t have direction, nevermind my blog. But I do know that sharing my story is what makes me feel less alone. Through sharing my story, I hope you find the strength and courage to share yours too. I do believe we are meant to share our lives with others. So it’s my hope that, if anything, through the ups and downs I’m sure to experience when writing this blog, that as you read it, you feel a little less alone too.

I’ve deemed Sunday the day of exploring. Yesterday, I went to Union Market in the NW quadrant of DC because I really wanted ice cream and Union Market I had been told has lots of delicious foods – which they did! But I had one mission and one mission only and that was to find the ice cream. And I succeeded. One amazing scoop of pumpkin speculoos…perfect for an 85 degree almost fall day.

IMG_2051.JPGFor those of you who don’t know me, I have made it my mission to go to as many ice cream places as I can. I don’t exactly remember when this become my mission, but I do remember a time when I hated ice cream. Freshman year of high school. The worst year of my life. The year the words Eating Disorder swirled around me like a cold winter breeze. The year all I could do was go to school, come home and do homework and then curl up in a ball and cry.

The memory that sticks out to me to the most during this time was when my dad one autumn night went out into the frigid cold weather for the distinct purpose of buying me a single scoop of ice cream from Friendly’s. I remember requesting strawberry in a cup because it sounded like the healthiest flavor and cups didn’t contain calories. It took me 3 DAYS to eat that scoop of ice cream. Every night I would eat a few small bites, and then stick that cup back in the freezer. How I savored each and every bite. It’s interesting the memories that stick with us during our lowest valleys.

Fast forward to now when I indulge in as much ice cream as I want. I think it’s an unconscious effort to defy that year and who I used to be. Our pasts become our ghosts. As much as we would like to leave some of our past behind, it somehow makes its way back. It fuels our biggest passions, our personality, our dreams even. It is important that we don’t dwell too much on the mistakes we have made or upon the “could have been”. But I also think sometimes, while we are trying to put up our best front and move forward, our past gets in the way.

I don’t know what battles you are facing today, or this week, or this month. But I do know that it imperative that you share it with someone. Get it out. Scream, cry, whisper it to the person you trust most. Or if you’re not sure who that person is, or aren’t quite ready to share yet, write it out. Write a letter, a postcard, a journal entry. It’s after we stop focusing on burying our past, that true growth can begin. Your past is part of your story. As much as you might want to escape it – it is a part of you. Maybe this is your season for embracing who you once were so that you can become who you are meant to be. Be strong and create the bridge from your past to your future.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’ve felt a bit like an Israelite this week. That’s definitely a weird statement to make but let me explain.

First, I don’t know if you have ever had the experience where a word, phrase or verse keeps popping up and it takes like the tenth time of seeing it before you really SEE it – but that is exactly what is happening to me this week. I said “Okay God I get it!” and then I started to pay attention.

The verses that keep popping up for me this week are Exodus 14:13-14: “Moses answered the people, do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see what the deliverance of the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

I saw these verses first in a book I was reading, then I was having a rough Monday, so I opened the envelope my mom gave me that read “open when you are doubting yourself” and these verses were written out on index cards AND THEN I was going back through some of my old notes and there they were written out on November 2, 2016.

So now you have a bit of context and I can explain to you why I relate so much to these verses right now. The Israelites had just been set free from the Egyptians, Pharoah finally had let them go. They could taste the freedom, relief, joy, excitement when suddenly they saw behind them that Pharoah had changed his mind. They were being chased down by the Egyptians! They probably began to walk with bit more vigor in their step only to see that in front of them was the Red Sea so there was nowhere for them to turn. Their freedom, relief, joy, and excitement vanished with the snap of a finger and the panic very quickly set in. They were trapped! How could God have brought them this far only to abandon them? I know exactly how they must have felt – I am so quick to look at my circumstances and immediately lose faith and doubt God. I also begin to doubt myself, “Did I do this wrong?”

Moses bravely clings on to his faith. He tells the Israelites to “Not be afraid” and to “Stand firm.” What great faith he had in God! Instead of looking to the chaos that was surrounding him, Moses clung to the one thing he knew would never change. Moses knew that God had brought them this far, and He knew that God had promised to deliver them. Moses stood by his faith and reminded the Israelites of this.

When we feel trapped like the Israelites, it is in these moments that we have to choose if we are going to let God grow our faith. We will either give into despair or choose to keep believing. I am currently reading The Broken Way by Ann VosKamp and she writes, “It takes courage to listen with our whole hearts to the tick of God’s timing rather than march to the loud beat of our fears.” Fear is loud. It is like the pounding of a drum that makes our heart beat a little faster. But underneath that, is the soft melody of God’s plan for our lives and if we begin to consciously listen for it, we gain the ability to hear it everywhere we go.

So what do we do when we feel trapped? First, pray and call out to God. Then move forward knowing that God is with you even in the chaos. He has not abandoned you. Verses 15-16 give us a hint of what this looks like: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” We have to continue to takes steps FORWARD. There is no turning back to what once was. This is probably one of the hardest things you can do. It means depending completely, totally, absolutely on God. But that persistence gives God the room to pave the path when we cannot see the path for ourselves.

One last thing I want to share. My love language (if you know what I am talking about, if not you should look it up ) is “Words of Affirmation” and someone wrote these words to me a few weeks ago and they spoke directly to my heart and I’ve been carrying them around ever since: “God has an amazing plan for your life, and in the midst of craziness and chaos and confusion, He is right there by your side walking each step with you, lifting you up, and whispering promises in your ear. You were made for more, and I pray that you pursue what brings you real joy and satisfaction. You are loved and cherished and I pray you remember that every day.” I would say the same things to you at this very moment if you are feeling confused, trapped, lost or just plain tired. God does have an amazing plan for your life, so don’t be like the Israelites and give in to the panic quicksand. Instead don’t be afraid. Stand firm. Be still. Be ready for God to part the Red Sea for you.

 

Fight the Good Fight

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I am in love with Lecrae’s new single featuring Tori Kelly, any one else out there? If you haven’t listened to it yet, here is the youtube link.

The chorus goes like this:

Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But when you got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you

Change is like having a rug ripped out from underneath your feet. You wobble, you sway from side to side, you wonder if you are going to keep your balance or if you’re going to fall flat on your face. I feel like most of us end up on the ground – the instability of our circumstances becoming too much for us to bear and we cave in, no longer able to keep our balance.

And you know what? It hurts to fall! There’s this sinking feeling in your stomach right before you hit the ground when you know that you won’t be able to catch yourself and that it is going to hurt. You scrape your knees and bruise your elbow (and probably your ego as well). Once you hit the floor, you sit there for a moment stunned – it wasn’t supposed to happen like this, it wasn’t supposed to hurt this badly.

This is where most of us give up. I know that I have so many times in the past. If things get a little too hard or a little too unknown, instead of getting back up, I crawl away. I don’t even get back up, I just hobble away on my hands and knees. This time, I have been determined to give it all I have got. Being in DC has not been easy. Things have not gone as planned, I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for it all and I don’t know anyone here. But I’m going to fight a little harder. I am not giving up my dreams without a fight.

There’s another part of Lecrae’s song that I really like:

They say fear haunts
And pain hates
I say pain strengthens
And fear drives faith
And I don’t know all of the outcomes
Don’t know what happens tomorrow
But when that ocean of doubt comes
Don’t let me drown in my sorrow
And don’t let me stay at the bottom
I feel like this hole is too deep to climb
I’ve been lookin’ for a way out
But I’ll settle for a peace of mind
Picking up the pieces of my life and hopin’ that I’ll put together something right
Tell me all I got is all I need
Tell me you gon’ help me stand and fight

You and I – we have to keep pushing forward. We have to keep getting back up. We have to show people what we are made of. This is how people are going to see that our love is real and our faith is strong. It’s time for us to stop giving up so easily and show the world that we are stronger than what it throws our way. We are stronger than the voices of hate and our inward insecurities.

YOU ARE STRONG and YOU CAN DO THIS. I believe in you.

 

 

Songwriters: Daniel Majic / John Mitchell / Justin Franks / Lecrae Moore / Natalie Sims / Sasha Sloan / Victoria Kelly
I’ll Find You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Grace Filled 

Day 3 in the beautiful city of Washington D.C. and honestly, it has not been easy. But what new transition ever is? Unless you’re a transition wizard I guess. Change takes time and grace.

The one thing I have to keep reminding myself of is that I am a beginner. I am not going to be doing things as quickly as everyone else and I certainly will not be living up to my own expectations! I have a tendency of setting really high expectations for myself and when I don’t possess the ability to fulfill those expectations, I become frustrated and depressed until I am heading quickly down the road of insecurity and doubt. 

If you think about it, the lack of grace we give ourselves, is probably the number one thing that either prevents us from making the leap or excelling once we have made it. In our fast paced world, there is no room for failure. No room for growth. No room for living the life that God has called us to live. We come to a crossroads where we can either live a fear-filled life or a grace-filled life. 

I have lived that fear-filled life and all it gave me was false feeling of security. Maybe as you’re thinking about making a life transistion, you are also dealing with fear or anxiety. But what if God is calling you out of that? You can only know if you give yourself grace just as Jesus did. If Jesus can love you despite your flaws, indecisions, fears, quirks, etc. then why can’t you do the same?

So how do we live out a grace-filled life?

I was reading in Jeremiah this morning and I came across these verses where God is speaking to Jeremiah. “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (1:5) Jeremiah’s response is similar to my own. “Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (V. 6) We make excuses. We try to rationalize with God, telling ourselves that there is no way this could be right, that we are the right person for the job, etc. But then God’s response to Jeremiah is the same response He would have towards us: “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” (V. 7-8) God is calling Jeremiah out of his insecurities just as He is also calling us away from our insecurities to fully depend on Him. 

Continue to dive deeper into what the Bible has to say about grace. Search “grace” in the concordance at the back of your Bible. I think that we are better able to give grace back to others when we understand it and experience it for ourselves.

Lastly, we have to keep in mind that this new adventure is not about us. If the new adventure that you are embarking on truly is from God, then He will equip you, grow you, change you, provide for you and help you as you take each step. So chin up, God’s got this!