Courting Series: Part 2 – “The Gap.”

beach wedding locations (3).pngSo, this is actually my VERY first time writing as a Mrs!  I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, which was needed between the chaos of our wedding, traveling for work, and the holiday season. BUT I am refreshed, settled in to our home in Downtown Atlanta, and have missed the Hidden Promise fam. I hope y’all are bringing in the new year with a renewed mind and spirit, eager for the promises that 2019 has in store.

Ironically, this part of the Courting Series is less about our courting itself, and more about the gap – the gap between our first date and our next, when the courting would truly begin (five months later), the gap between our newfound connection and the calling on my life in that season; the gap between what could have been, and what would eventually become.

If you read Part 1 of my Courting Series (check it out here if not), you know that the story of my now-husband and didn’t start out as your typical, “boy-meets-girl, girl falls for boy, they date and get married and live happily ever” story. Our courting season didn’t even start until five months after our first date, as it was only one month after that date that I would pack up my bags, move to another state, and basically cut off all communication off for a season.

See, even though that first date was everything I could’ve ever dreamt up and then some, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t yet my season to be entering into a relationship. God had been prodding my heart with the question, “When am I going to be enough for you?” for some time.  I knew that He was calling me to move out of my comfort zone for a reason, and that where I was going at that time was for ME, and me alone.

We ended that first  date with me telling Dimitri I would be moving in exactly one month to a new state, and that I knew it was my time to leave; without attachments. Just me, and God. I knew he was hurt, but he didn’t let it show. Instead, he encouraged me, and told me he knew I would be great out there.

I arrived in Texas October 24, eager to start a new chapter, albeit anxious to be in a new environment not really knowing anyone except for my dad’s family. In the past, I had frequently compromised major life decisions (where to go to college, business opportunities, etc.) due to relationships, and to know I was truly putting God first in this decision filled me in a way I’d never really experienced before. Within a month, I was serving as a youth worship leader (I had never sang in front of crowds in my life, but music and singing were always hidden passions of mine), writing music, fellowshipping with new friends, and learning so much in my new professional role. Dimitri and I would talk from time to time, but nothing too in depth.

This, was my season of preparation. Of new doors opening. Of my heart being molded like never before. Of new heights being reached that I thought would remain in my dreams forever. This was my season of healing from old wounds. Of understanding what it meant to be able to honestly say that God truly is enough; that He alone was all I needed all along. Without this “gap” season, Part 3 of this story would never have come to fruition. So, I honor the gap. I NEEDED it, even when I couldn’t fully understand why at the time. See, the thing about seasons like this is, they often don’t feel great. They’re stretching, uncomfortable, and intimidating…but one thing I know for sure is this: sometimes you have to let things of your timing go, in order for God to bring about restoration in HIS timing. I left Florida on October 24, not knowing if I would ever see Dimitri again. I couldn’t understand why I had to meet him during a time where I knew God was calling me to be alone, but now I see, He was showing me a glimpse of the beautiful promise that would be birthed through my obedience and faith in Him.

What I now know, is that part 3 of our story was already pre-written by the ultimate Author (just like parts 4, 5, and all of the rest that will come during our lifetime) – it was just up to me to trust, even when I couldn’t see, to move, even when I wasn’t sure why, and to know, that even if everything I had was stripped away, it would all work together for my good in the end. That no matter what was to come, letting it all go, for HIM, would always be worth it.

Courting Series: Part 1 – “The Promise I Wasn’t Ready For”

Courting Series

Me: “I don’t know…. Where are we going, and what are we going to be doing?”

Him: “Don’t worry about all of that. Are you able to clear your schedule for the entire day”?

Me: “I guess so.”

Him: “Oh – and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way, but I got you a hotel in the area — dont worry, its just for you. I just don’t want you driving back late at night”.

Me: *MASSIVE EYE ROLL*

Me: “Okay, we will see. I’ll be there”.

 

 

PAUSE: Okay, let me give you a little back story…

A little over two years ago, I met a guy through social media who I swore was too good to be true. He was extremely nice, respectful, and not at all creepy or seemingly ill-intentioned; not to mention good-looking and in shape (sorry guys if that seems like a rare find – I know y’all are out there, lol). He sparked up casual conversation with me, and being myself, I instantly was like “What are his intentions? Who sent him? God, you testing me?”

Even though I was very blunt with him (probably a little TOO blunt but hey) in that I was not entering into any relationship that did not have the intent of marriage, that there would be NO physical activity between us, and that the next person I kissed would be my husband, he waited. He lived about an hour from me, and we became close friends, we talked every night, and he grew to be a person I could share anything about my life with. He was gentle. Kind. An intellectual. He loved God. And he was SO FOINNNEEEE (but I tried to ignore that part lol). I remember the first time I saw him Face-to-FaceTime — I had on a thick green clay mask, my hair was a mess, and I had on a big fluffy pink robe. “Surely”, I thought, “If the first time he sees me outside of Instagram is like this, I’ll know right away by his response to me if he has underlying motives”. It’s funny looking back on it now, because he always tells me how much more that first impression made him fall for me.

After a few weeks of getting to know one another, he asked me on what would be our first date (see the dialogue at the top). At the time, I was not even THINKING of dating, and wanted to be sure that when I did, I wasn’t simply “dating”, but courting with an end-goal of marriage. I had also agreed 24 hours earlier that I would be moving to Texas the next month, so I knew chances of this going somewhere were slim (or so I thought). I agreed to make a trip to Orlando (a little hesitant because of the hotel thing), and although he wouldn’t tell me anything (like ANYTHING – he sent me a random address to be at the morning of), I began to grow excited/nervous about the date.

September 24, 2016, would be our first “mystery” date. A date that felt more like a Disney m. vie than real life, complete with a sushi-making course, my own hotel room, dancing over the Orlando skyline at sunset, late night pizza binging (the prophetic pizza lady on the phone referred to me Mrs. Wilks lol), music swapping, and a surprise the next day that included leaving me roses, candles, a poem, and a kiss on the forehead goodbye. Through the entire date, I realized how much he had paid attention to every detail that I’d shared with him over the few weeks we talked; from the sushi-course (I had always wanted to make sushi since its my favorite food, but never had – and honestly can’t even remember saying that), to my favorite bottle of wine (that you can only find at select locations) waiting for me upon my hotel arrival.

I was in awe. I nick-named him “Mr. Not Real”, and was astounded at everything he had done for me ONE date, without even attempting so much as a kiss (and it wouldn’t be until the next year that we finally shared our first kiss). I had never met anyone like him in my entire life. It was as if God absorbed every note in my journals, every prayer, and was like “I’ll do you one better. Just wait”. After that date, months went by, (like 5 months to be exact) before a courting relationship would blossom. At the time of our first date, even though it was an absolute dream, I also knew that God had called me to move and surrender FULLY to him in Texas, and so at that point, it wasn’t yet time for us. I knew that if it was really from God, He would join us together in His timing. And He did.

Dimitri and I are SO far from perfect, but if there’s anything I can tell you, its that our love is an adventure. I reflect on the past two years, thinking back to that day, and I am overcome with emotion. When I surrendered, God provided. When I prayed, He answered. When I doubted, He brought peace. Every night that I spent wondering if the wait was worth it, if the loneliness was worth it, if the isolation would be worth it, if my past mistakes had ruined future opportunities, all makes sense now. September 24 was just the beginning of a beautiful, messy, fun adventure, and as I packed up my little car for the 16 hour drive to Texas exactly one month later, I could’ve only imagined what God had in store for us.

Confessions of a Relationship Jumper.

We all know one. Hey, you might even be one. You know, the girls that are head over heels in love, telling the world they’ve finally found “the one”, with social media accounts full of cute candids and love quotes… and then all of a sudden, it’s over. No explanation, no more pictures, and probably a whole new set of subliminal quotes about “not settling” and “finding yourself before you find someone else”. But not to worry, because within a few months, there’s another “knight in shining armor” waiting to fill the void that the last one left.

Sound familiar? That was me, for years. I was what I like to call, a professional relationship jumper. I went through a series of long relationships and broken seasons, until the day I finally decided to practice what I always preached to others. But before we get there, lets rewind a little bit. If you’ve read An Open Letter to My First Love, you know I got involved in a relationship very early as a teen, which lasted about seven years. After that, I was sure the next person I was going to be with would be nothing like the last. I mean, polar opposite. So, instead of allowing myself the time to heal, mature, and take care of the issues that were rooted in ME, I started looking for someone to fill in all of the gaps that the last person was missing. He liked hip-hop? I need someone who only listens to gospel. He loved football and basketball? I want someone who isn’t caught up and so obsessed with sports (because his hobbies were CLEARLY the root of our issues….ooookay). And then when that one didn’t work out, I’d look for someone else who was nothing like him. So on, and so forth (I know, you’d think it wouldn’t take long to figure it out, right? Wrong).

You see, the issue wasn’t in every guy I decided was better than the last one (and believe me, its easy to convince yourself that it is). The real issue was ME. And wanting validation from everyone and everything except the One who I needed it from most. After years of dysfunction, you tend to be left with some holes inside of you that you might not know exactly how to make sense of.  Instead of turning to God to fill those holes and asking Him to mold me into the woman of God I was called to be, I decided that I knew what was best for my life and that I could fill them myself. Wrong again. Unbeknownst to myself at the time, is what I now see was bondage. I was in bondage to people, habits, and a lifestyle that God never told me to be a part of. And that wouldn’t be fixed by trying to find a more godly man, it would happen when I would decide to submit to God and become a godly woman.

When it comes to relationships, I know some of you think to yourself, “God, what is taking You so long?!”. I encourage to get rid of that mindset, like, NOW. Because 1) God doesn’t submit to you, you submit to Him, and 2) It will leave you attaching yourself to people and things out of your impatience, and in the long run, you end up hurting not only yourself, but others. I didn’t even make mention to the soul-ties that you create when you intimately involve yourself with multiple people, and that’s an entire post on its own, but rest assured, relationship jumping is NOT the answer.

If you’re in a relationship that you jumped into knowing good and well it was out of a void, or a need for validation, understand that it is out of love when I say, get out of it. You are worth more, and deep down, I think you know it. We should be more focused on becoming the right one, than finding the right one. Trust me, God’s got that latter part under control, but you might miss His blessings for you while you’re off attaching yourself to someone else’s.  Let’s get US under control before creating an entangled web that we can’t get out of. Listen to me: Every void you have, every broken piece inside of you, and every bit of baggage, can be mended through Jesus Christ and the Word of God. If you do not know your worth in Him, I can guarantee that you don’t truly know your worth at all. You may have a vague idea, but when you start digging deeper into that, you will not allow just anyone to come into your space and dwell in your temple because you know that you are royalty. And you will not take up space in anyone else’s life knowing that God is still doing major damage control inside of you.  We need to get back to the basics, remove the distractions, and seek God the way that you’ve been seeking validation from people.

Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

2 Peter 3:8-9 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 









The Hidden Promise - Johnna Nichelle

An Open Letter To My First Love: Thank You. 

IMG_E7070.jpgDo you remember your first love? I know that’s probably a rhetorical question, as moments and seasons like these are hard to forget. But what comes to your mind when you think about it? Do waves of nostalgia wash over you? Maybe sadness? Hurt? Maybe it’s all too fresh to face, or maybe you feel numb to it, like it was so long ago that it no longer bears true significance. You know, “the past is the past; move on”. Over the years, I’ve identified with almost every one of these, and as time has gone on, I am able to fully reflect; without attachment, resentment, a hardened heart, or the lingering sting of unrequited promises.

An Open Letter to My First Love 

It’s hard to think about who I was before you. To think that I was just evolving into a teenager, on the start of a seven year journey of a lifetime is still a wonder to me. My curiosity was endless, my heart in its most innocent form, my soul constantly wandering about as I imagined what my place in this world would be. 

I was captivated first by your words. I’d never heard anything like them, and I was intrigued at the way they seemed to draw people into your presence. You were magnetic. It wasn’t long before they seemed to be all that mattered, despite the actions that often compromised them. I was drawn to you in a way I didn’t know was possible, with a magnitude that my young heart could hardly process. 

As time went on, we had our ups and downs, as anyone does. Or so I’d thought. I’d never known anything else; I grew up with you. It wasn’t until seven years later, in college, living together, that it would all crumble – for good. And amidst all of the cracks of our relationship, were the pieces of who I would become when it was all said and done. For this, I thank you. 

You taught me that life and death are truly in the power of the tongue. Your words breathed life into me, dancing in my mind, with promises of the future. Other times, they cut far beneath the surface of my skin, to places inside of me I never knew existed. You showed me the depths of my emotions. The extreme highs and lows became like a drug to me. I thought that one must always be present for the other to exist, and so in a way, I yearned for both.

You taught me the influence that a single person can have over your life. I learned how much of a blessing this could be, but I also learned how dangerous it was. Because of you, I explored territory within myself and in the world that opened my eyes and my heart beyond the shell of my childhood. But in that, I lost parts of myself and filled the missing pieces in with parts of you.  You taught me the beautiful authenticity in vulnerability. Of the capacity I had to love another. You taught me how to fly with a broken wing, and I learned how much a broken wing could change the direction you fly in. 

But above and beyond all else, because of you, I found Jesus in a way that turned my world upside down. I met a Jesus that the stories I’d heard as a child did no justice to, a Jesus that would pick me up and walk through the darkness with me when I never thought I’d be whole again.  A Jesus that poured love into every hole in my heart and gave life to my broken spirit. I met Jesus, or should I say, He met me, in the depths of the wilderness when I no longer cared about what my place in the world was or if I had a place in the world at all. Night after night as I wondered what was next, I found rest in His arms and strength in His Word.  I realized that my first love was never you at all… how easy it is to forget. I realized that He’d never left, and that He’d heard every tear, every prayer, even when I couldn’t find the right words and all I could ask was for Him to make it stop, please make it stop. He was always there. And though I spent so much time after you, wondering why it had to take so long for me to learn and leave, He showed me it was necessary for the woman I would become. 

He spoke to me and told me, “This is the beginning”. He told me that I couldn’t fathom the lives that this would impact, the young women that I would meet in the midst of their own darkness, like he met me in mine. I found true love. I found a love without restriction, without condition. A love that looked straight through my shame and said “You are mine”. The kind of love that you can’t ever fully process because it doesn’t come from this earth. The kind of love that we don’t deserve yet are given anyway, the kind of love that turns your world around.

Rock bottom became the foundation for the journey that I have embarked on. So no, I’m no longer filled with hurt, sadness, or the lingering sting of unrequited promise. From the bottom of my heart I thank you, and I thank God for the testimony that brought me back to Him.