I’ve been incommunicado. That happens out here. You drive for a mile with 5 bars of 3G network and into half a bar of “E” where it stays indefinitely until you swear your cell phone is possessed because suddenly you have 4 voicemails, 7 texts, 3 emails, and 2 squarespace messages. The squarespace messages were my favorite, they were from complete strangers (I don’t like the name strangers–I’ll rename you later, not today). Any ways, it was those messages that were asking for days 4 and 5. And this morning, I realized I’m onto day 8 and failing miserably at my own challenge.
But here’s why I think it’s okay: I ran away to here, to the home of my heart. And being incommunicado is my favorite thing about being back. There’s a reason why people call the midwest God’s country. I call it God’s country because I swear it’s where He says, “Get away and be with ME. Enjoy ME.” So that’s what I’ve been doing.
Day 4 made me cry tears of joy. And for the first time in a month those tears weren’t streaming down my face with clumpy mascara and awkward feelings of those around me. These tears were happy. They came with laughter and assurance. That’s what I keep finding since leaving NoVa. That THIS, HERE, is EXACTLY where God wants me. Better! This is EXACTLY where God needs me. This is where I hear Him, but even more so, this is where I feel His Spirit moving. Neil’s sermon was about Jesus being the light of the world and the feast of tabernacles. He talked about the Spirit being poured out on all God’s people. And right now, it’s being poured out on me. I can say with all of my heart that when I left his church, I felt fuller, more in love, and more content with where God has me.
I drove 3 hours and on my drive enjoyed the “nothing” all around me. I saw snow, lots of snow (and felt very thankful for the golden jeep with 4-wheel drive.) I didn’t want to talk on the phone like I promised many of you I would. I sat in silence (almost silence) as I worshipped. I worshipped hard, with zeal, with arms wide open (one at a time). And if you called, I’m not going to lie, I hit the ignore button because this is what God says I need.
When I saw Sarah, all I could do was smile…it helped that she said “You look beautiful.” Getting down on myself is happening more frequently since having “no” future. But the friends that are building me up remind me that God made me perfect, in His image. He created me and from what I’ve been taught to believe, He finished and said “She is good.” So this part of my life, I can’t doubt that it’s not good too.
Sarah makes me smile. It’s that laugh, those little sayings, “good grief,” and “I’ve suppressed that memory.” We sat and looked at her wedding photos, and I was reminded of how special I must be to have been asked to share in her special day. God loves me, still. It’s important for me to recognize that, especially now.
And on Day 5, I had another glimpse of how much. We went shopping. We ate like bachelors, not bachelorettes, i.e. salads with low-fat vinaigrette no, no! We had wings, chips, and onion rings. We talked ministry, her at camp, me at church. In doing so, I saw how much love and support I had at CPC. Not that I didn’t know it before, but it really made me regret the fact that I hadn’t been more open and honest with the leadership about my burn out. It made me wonder how things might have been different. I don’t regret leaving at all, I know it was what I was supposed to do, but it did really make me wonder…
We talked about love, all sorts of love. We had manicures. We played Phase 10. And get this, we discovered that God has given us each the same, and yet another gift. We shared a student/camper!!! How amazing-o is that?! My Sammy was her Samantha (years ago). Never, NEVER did I think God would do that…but He surprises me all the time. It made me realize that I really am a part of His church, a part of this beautiful body of believers that come together from miles and years away to change one life; to change one life for eternity. It’s precious. and glorious.
HOW PRECIOUS TO ME ARE YOUR THOUGHTS, GOD. HOW VAST IS THE SUM OF THEM!
(PSALM 139:17 NIV)
Day 6 was about freedom. Nine hours on the road, and only three phone calls because I just couldn’t get away from my moms. That ended up being just fine by the way…they’re the only ones I’ve really wanted to talk to.
The drive was long, but the rest I received in settling with the Lord was indescribable. Aside from meeting with so many special people, my next most exciting adventure about this trip was the chance to see eagles. What a symbol of freedom. I feel freedom. Freedom from everything–from myself, from my job, from my home. Freedom.
So I walked into the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota and said “1 ticket please.” “Just one?” “Yes just one, lady!” I’m alone, that’s okay. I want it like this.
The gorgeous creatures that I stood no more than two feet from were bound by chains to the ground. Ironic isn’t it? Seriously, it was like rain on my wedding day. But majestic, regal, and ever so sincere were those cool blue eyes. They were deep. I stood there. I stared long and hard waiting for God to speak. Praying I would hear. And duh, the eagle verse is what He chose to lay on my heart:
BUT THE PEOPLE WHO TRUST THE LORD WILL BECOME STRONG AGAIN. THEY WILL RISE UP AS AN EAGLE IN THE SKY; THEY WILL RUN AND NOT NEED REST; THEY WILL WALK AND NOT BECOME TIRED.
(ISAIAH 40:31 NCV)
I FELT LIKE ADDING “THEY WILL DRIVE AND FEEL ALIVE IN LOVE.”
The day was beautiful, sunny, breezy, and springy. I sat outside by the river as I wrote postcards to my loved ones. And when I looked up, I understood freedom. There stood an eagle, the kind that rises up in the sky, the kind that inspires me to run to my Lord where I’ll once again receive strength. and then I looked down to grab my camera, and it was gone–that’s freedom in it’s most literal sense.
When I arrived in South Dakota, I was greeted with fresh venison and a margarita. This is why Letcher is “the right place to call home.” I’m known here and it feels good in the most humble of ways. I loved that some of the first words out of Cindy’s mouth were, “Nicole, you don’t have to have the rest of your life planned; you are your mother’s daughter.” In my heart I felt God saying, “just go where I need you and be ready because I won’t need you there forever.” And besides, the only real forever is eternity with my Lord.
I’m missing my mom right now, and my dog too. But more my mom because if she knows how much I love her maybe she’ll tolerate my dog for a few more days…just a few. And my dad, I miss him too. I keep looking at the ring he gave me for Christmas. I keep reciting his prayer for my life over and over again, praying God is hearing it as much as He’s hearing my prayer. It’s not the same being here without them. This was our home.
And it’s changed! That’s okay. Because as they’ve always said, God has us right where He needs us. I like being like my mom. I feel like it’s because of her that I’m letting God rule in my life right now. And I like that it’s because of her that I don’t need to have the rest of my life planned. They go together, the two. And that’s just perfect, that’s just God’s perfect will.
I drove out to my high school yesterday (Day 7). I was expecting to see broken windows they would go well with my broken memories. I hated high school. I was hurt by so many shrewd attitudes and childish petty. And after much contemplation, I pray that I didn’t bring on those same feelings for others. Really, in all honesty I do. But chances are I probably did. That’s convicting.
It was a very surreal feeling. To be grown-up yet stand in a place that helped build the character and strength of who I am today. Because while I’ll never forget those nasty feelings, I’ll also never be more thankful for those idiots that drove me into youth ministry. I fully believe that God used my horrible experiences with them, to change the lives of others. Still they were assholes. I can still call them that right? just kidding….. kind of. I’m real. I’m trying to be real. And in being real, I admit that I was probably a stuck-up bitch.
I ended last night being called, yes CALLED into leading youth group for kids that were in my very first Sunday school class. God’s showing me fruit on this trip, lots and lots of fruit. Years later, miles later, and I still got to speak the Spirit to these kids. I’m pretty sure that God is showing me that my heart is still so big, SO BIG for wandering, lost kids. We talked over Psalm 139. And here’s where the Spirit led a few of the kids:
SEARCH ME, GOD, AND KNOW MY HEART; TEST ME AND KNOW MY ANXIOUS THOUGHTS.
(PSALM 139:23, NIV)
Another student was touched by this verse:
EVEN THE DARKNESS WILL NOT BE DARK TO YOU; THE NIGHT WILL SHINE LIKE THE DAY, FOR DARKNESS IS AS LIGHT TO YOU.
(PSALM 139:12, NIV)
But these verses are also where the Spirit led me. Because in being here, I’m seeing just how much God really sees my heart. He sees how much I really needed to hear and know that I’ve made a difference in not just one life, but many. He knows how much I’m anxious about what’s to come but in it and through it He’s my light in this dark time. I’ve prayed to be tested, here it is.
I’ve escaped to a place that lets me feel nature through seeing God’s presence in the openness of His earth. It’s a place where I feel in touch with who God needs me to be. Many people have asked me, especially throughout this trip if me leaving my position at church means I’ll be moving back to the Midwest. Let me answer that plain and simple.
NO, I AM NOT LEAVING VIRGINA.
God needs me there, and He has “posted” me there to do purpose, maybe even to find purpose. This much I know.
It was hard leaving South Dakota today. I’m going to miss these people who I love dearly. These people are kind and so generous. They’ve welcomed me, loved me, and helped me, but ultimately they’re praying for me, STILL. I’m inspired by their support and guidance through words of assurance:
NICOLE, I’M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU COMING TO VISIT. YOU HAVE COMMITTED SO MUCH OF YOUR LIFE TO DOING GOD’S WORK AND IT DEFINITELY SHOWS. I KNOW HE HAS SOME GREAT THINGS PLANNED FOR THE FUTURE FOR YOU—STAY STRONG IN FINDING WHAT IT IS.
Here’s another message I got:
MY INITIAL THOUGHTS TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING WAS “WHAT??? IS SHE MENTAL GIVING UP A JOB IN THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS!” BUT THE MORE I READ, THE MORE I THINK ABOUT WHAT I KNOW ABOUT YOU AND I KNOW YOU ARE WISE AND I NOT THAT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS SO ADMIRABLE AND BRAVE…IT’S SOMETHING THAT IS GOING TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
I’m ready for my life to change. I know I keep saying that, but I’m really hoping that God does His thing NOW! And then I’m reminded of patience. So I’ll choose to live in the present. My present called me to French toast, and an outfit that shows off my new cowgirl boots. The present time is calling me to my very best friends and happy hour. If God needs me eating and drinking and being merry, I’m fine with that. I’ll thank Him for that. And I’ll happily go to just that!
Day 8 brings me back to the city. It brings me into communicado—but just so you know, I’m going to pretend like I’m still incommunicado. Because ironically enough (like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife) that’s where I’m finding the most communication with myself, with my life, and with God. And who would have thought..it figures?
points to anyone who figures out the underlying song and singer in this post… and also, check out my hot new Justin boots!