I am back!
A few things you should know about me.
I am probably the most awkward person in the world. That’s how it feels most of the time anyway. Although, I suppose that’s a common characteristic among introverts. I never feel quite in the right place unless it’s at home in my own space.
This past Sunday, I went to church by myself and sat by myself. I definitely thought everyone’s eyes were on me as there were people sitting in the pew in front of me and people sitting in the pew in the back of me, and no one sitting in my pew. All I could think about before the service started was “People must think I am so weird or sad or something to be sitting in the row all by myself.” Ugh, the absolute worst. But even though I knew I would probably feel this way, I went anyway.
I am also a hopeless romantic. It’s bad. I am currently reading this romance novel called The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck which is very well written with minimal cheesiness if you know what I mean. Would recommend if you enjoy that type of book. But anyway, one of the characters, Blanche, says something that is really sticking with me: “Glory fades. The excitement of a new love, of success, fades. Then what do you have? People come and go. They forget about you faster than they befriended you. All that matters at the end of your life is whether you loved others, gave generously, and had a faith that will carry you through to the next life.”
I have been thinking about this a lot lately with all the decisions I have to make. What do I want my life to be about? Do I want to make choices based on fear or based on faith? Am I basing my decision making on other people’s expectations of me or am I doing what I think is the right thing to do? What does that even look like?
I think our smallest decisions are the most telling of what we value and what we want our life to look like. Since I know myself best I will say this looks like going to church even though I know I will have to sit awkwardly by myself because I know that’s where I am going to find community. Or choosing to do Whole30 even though it’s expensive to eat that way, but knowing that I need to do it in order to get my eating habits back to where they should be.
Are there choices in your life that you are having to decide between? Or is your life just not going the way you want it to? Think about the last few decisions you have made, no matter how big or small. What did they indicate about who you are and what you value? Did you let fear, faith, success, love, lust, joy, bitterness, anger, etc. dictate what you decided on? And how did your choice impact your life and those around you?
Being the awkward introvert is something I have always wanted to change about myself. I become so frustrated when I cannot be this outgoing, fun extrovert that I so desperately want to be. You know, the kind of person that everyone wants to hang out with or that makes the dinnertime conversation that much more exciting. And for a lot of my life, I have let my insecurity of this “awkward introvert” identity determine the choices I have made. Whether it’s deciding to not reach out to someone who might have needed the encouragement or not stepping up for something that I really wanted to do.
I recognize this now – my aversion to being an awkward introvert. And sometimes I still make decisions based on this fear of being “awkward” or not loud enough. But I am making more of an effort to make my decisions not based on my fears, but on my faith and my desire to make a difference in this world.
I hope you also see the strengths of who you are and what you can bring to the table and that you let these things help you make even the tiniest choices throughout the day because those choices are the ones that make up our lives. And if you are having trouble seeing these qualities about yourself, send me a message! 🙂 🙂 🙂
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
I thought it would be appropriate to start with a quote from this great man who we are honoring the legacy of on this day. But, I also think this sentiment perfectly sums up what I have been learning the past few weeks.
Ever since high school, having faith has seemingly been easy for me. It’s not that life had necessarily been unchallenging – that would be further from the truth. It’s just that my faith was the only thing I had to cling to when my circumstances seemed insurmountable.
2017 was a different kind of challenging. It was like living in a dessert. Miles and miles of sand and dry heat stretched before me with no sign of relief in sight. I had hit a dry season, where nothing was going the way I thought it was supposed to. I was beginning to think that God had abandoned me here in this dessert. My struggles, my doubts, my insecurities seemed so big to me that I thought maybe they were too big for God too. In writing this out now, it sounds ridiculous to me, but I was so overwhelmed by all of these emotions that I didn’t understand where God was in all of this.
So, I did the only thing an independent, take no help, show no weakness girl like me knows what to do and I tried to forge my own path and figure my life out on my own. I put so much effort into trying to make my life look put together and into trying desperately to control circumstances that were way out of my control that I started to feel like I was going crazy. (My friends and family may debate that I had already gone crazy before that but that’s beyond the point)
The harder I pushed, the more confused I became. I no longer was in this dessert all alone, but I was all mixed up in this dessert and unsure of which direction I had come from and which direction I was headed towards. I had lost my vision.
“Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
Over and over again in the book of Joshua, we see the words that express that God is with Joshua and the Israelites. God does not abandon Joshua when life gets hard. He does not leave Joshua to fend for himself against his enemies. I began reading the book of Joshua at the beginning of the month and I am already blown away by the number of times that God has expressed that He. Has. Not. Left.
With social media, marketing strategies, even just walking down the street, it is so easy to get distracted by what everyone else has and what everyone else’s life looks like. My confusion began the moment I let myself become so distracted that I forgot that God was walking beside me. I felt like a complete failure for making it all this way to Washington, D.C. for grad school only to find myself questioning everything I had always known to be true and everything I thought I knew about myself. But I have come to the realization that all this confusion has come from me fighting against myself and trying to kickstart my life all alone.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-15
The truth is, I wouldn’t be in Washington D.C. if it was not for God’s provision. I would not be writing this blog post from this beautiful city at this moment if it was not for God’s grace because I probably would have left a month ago. But I am still here, and God is still good. Though I know I often forget it, the truth is God is still here with me. And when I write in my journal and say thanks to God for all that He has done for me already, I am reminded that God has not abandoned me in my suffering, in my doubt and in my dry season and He has not abandoned you either.
Faith is messy and hard. It’s not something that makes your life easier, as I may have thought in the past. But I now know more than ever that I need to continue to cling to my faith, ESPECIALLY when I cannot see the whole staircase because I really do want to see what is at the top.
I love this time of year. It’s the mark of new beginnings. Of new memories to be made. Of reflecting on the person I grew to be the past year and deciding what changes need to made to continue that growth.
But new beginnings can be hard y’all. It means leaving behind your comfort zone. It means taking a risk and stepping into unknown territory. Beginnings are scary because they start the journey to a place where you are not certain of yet. They are great for bringing up every insecurity and doubt you have ever had about yourself. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if this is not the right step?
Beginnings are powerful, though, when you chose to jump right in. There is this empowerment that fills your soul. It takes courage and strength and determination to take that first step. I am here to tell you that you possess all of those things. You can choose to be courageous, choose to strong, and choose to be determined.
In the book of Joshua, we read about the courageous Rahab, who hid the spies sent to Jericho by Joshua. Rahab also happened to be a prostitute. There are so many amazing aspects of this story. This courageous act spared Rahab and her family’s lives and became a beginning for her. In Matthew 1, we see in the genealogy of Jesus, that God redeemed Rahab’s life by making her a part of Jesus’ lineage. That’s amazing! Rahab had this past that probably made people look down upon her. I’m sure they were not saying kind things about her. God did not overlook her because of what she did in the past but instead gave her great purpose in the Kingdom of God.
This past week I attended the Passion Conference at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. It was so inspiring. Christine Caine was there and she spoke about how we have become a shame-filled culture and this shame has dictated what we believe about ourselves and how we act according to that shame and guilt. But God has spoken freedom from this shame and guilt through Jesus. We don’t have to believe what other people say about us. We only have to believe what God says about us. We are free. We are loved. We are redeemed.
As you look at that list of resolutions for 2018 that you have written in a journal somewhere, do not let those lies creep in. Remember: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
You will be amazed at what God will do in you and through you when you choose to just begin. Let Him take care of the rest.
So that I can keep myself accountable, I thought I would share my resolutions for the year. I would love to know some of yours!
- Read the Bible in one year (I have never read the whole thing!)
- Bi-weekly blog posts (keep a look out! I would also love to hear about some topics you all want to know more about)
- Learn to cook (I am a horrible cook)
- Less screen time (be more present)
- Try Salmon
- Use my passport
- Sacrificially give once a month
- Get a full-time job
- Write more letters (send me your address if you would like!)
- Live intentionally and simply
- Spend more time volunteering
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!
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
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.
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.