Johnna Nichelle
   

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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.

We Cancelled Our Wedding (And Here’s Why….)

beach wedding locations (1)On June 10, 2018, in the beautiful city of Santorini, overlooking a sunset I’d only seen in movies, my (then) boyfriend got down on one knee, and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Without hesitation, and with tears streaming down my face, I said “YES”, followed by “I am SO shook” (#classy, I know). We finished out our Greece vacation, headed home to our separate states, and the wedding prep began. BIG wedding? DUH. 11 bridesmaids? Obviously (My girls have been my girls for LIFE, literally). 200 guests or so? Sounds about right.

I wasn’t even home for a week before I started to get bombarded with questions from friends and loved ones.

“So, where do you think it will be?”

“Have you picked a date?” (I’m like, I just got engaged – how long before your man proposed had you been planning this stuff? Lol)

“What kind of theme are you going for?”

“Have you heard of this designer/photographer/caterer? Amazing.”

As excited as I was, I started to realize that a lot of the honest answers to the questions coming my way were either, “I don’t know”, or “I don’t care”. I mean, I was MARRYING my BEST. FRIEND. You really think I cared about the style of a chair?! Nonetheless, the planning continued. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited (TRUST me, I was and am); this was the day I had dreamt of since I was a little girl, and of course I wanted it to be beautiful. I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around some of this stuff that seemed so pointless (yet SO expensive.. like, for what bruh?!). But within the first month of being back, we had set a date for the spring of next year, booked a venue, sent out our bridal party invites, and then some.

The more we talked, and the more we prayed, the more I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling – although we were committed, although our premarital counseling would be finished in the fall, although we were still managing a long-distance relationship, we would wait to be married to have a huge party so that EVERYONE and their mama could be there. That’s when we started talking about getting legally married, starting our life once our premarital counseling was done as husband and wife, and just having the wedding as a celebration the following year.

Although it seemed like a good option, even then, I couldn’t ignore the voice saying to me, “WHO are you doing all of this for? What are you spending all of this money for? Who are you seeking to please?”. Around the same time we started to ponder that question, was around the same time we would start meeting opposition as we posed the idea of changing our plans altogether. I started to realize how much weddings can be about other people, and have less to do with celebrating a covenant, and more to do with making sure everyone close to you was happy.

After a lot of praying and some long conversations, we decided, “Why don’t we just cancel it?” Why not celebrate our union alongside our parents, grandparents, and siblings, start our life with some joint savings, remove the planning stress, and enjoy one of the most special moments of our life? So, we told our bridal party, our parents, and the venue one evening. However, that evening, shortly after doing so, and hearing some reactions, I began to doubt the decision.  I mean, we’d already paid the deposit and everything! When I went to bed, I prayed, “Lord, please give me confirmation that we are making the right choice and that we are focused on YOU”. The next morning, I opened my bible app, and the Verse of the Day came from Galatians. It read, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Chapter 1 v. 10). I was like “Okay, I hear you God”. THEN, I started getting ready for work, and I saw a Facebook message pop up, from a sister in Christ at my church.

It read,

“Morning, I know I hardly get a chance to talk to you at church. But this morning the Holy Spirit told me to let you know that this season is an answer from God, and to enjoy every minute. Don’t let a blessing turned to a frustration. Every time God answers a prayer, the devil wants to take the glory. Don’t allow it. Enjoy the preparation of your wedding knowing that God is in control. You are going to have a beautiful wedding, and a blessed marriage. I’m praying for you and Dimitri. You guys have an awesome calling. Enjoy this season knowing that God is in control”.

CUE. THE. TEARS. Mind you, she knew NOTHING about the decision we’d made less than 24 hours prior, nothing about our wedding plans, but the Lord used her to bring a word to me that my heart needed to hear.

After that, true clarity started to set in. Our marriage wasn’t about a huge party, it was about being surrendered to HIS will, and joining as one flesh before our King. It didn’t matter whether or not we had a donut wall or Chiavari chairs, it mattered that our marriage was a symbol of Christ’s union with His bride, the church. And as long as we had Him at the center of it all, we knew we’d be alright.

(For those wondering, we will be tying the not November, 24, 2018 at a small family ceremony in Jacksonville, FL. Check out Theknot.com/us/Johnna-and-dimitri for the details).

Also FYI: I have NOTHING against big weddings, so please don’t think I do. Just sharing what the Lord put on our hearts for our own 🙂

 

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.

When God’s forgiven you, but you can’t forgive yourself…

beach wedding locationsSo, you’ve confessed, repented, completed the 12 steps, apologized, denied, bargained, accepted, etc. etc. etc. You’ve read the self help books, talked to your pastor, counselor, and those that you trust. You’ve memorized the scriptures, the mantras, and every positive affirmation your brain could possibly absorb. You know that God’s word says He has forgiven you of all that you turn over to Him, the problem is that you just can’t forgive one person… yourself.

Maybe its because you still feel the guilt of that baggage weighing so heavily on your heart, no matter how much you try to smile and convince yourself and others that you’ve “moved on”. Maybe its because you can’t let go of the shame that still creeps its way into your mind, keeping you up when the world has long fallen asleep. Or maybe its that deep down, you feel you don’t deserve forgiveness. You know what is true in your head, but you just don’t feel it in your heart.

So… now what? What do you do when you feel like no matter what, you’ll never be able to forgive yourself for that moment, that season, that person, that mistake? To this, I have to ask one simple, yet profound question: Do you really believe God is who He says He is? If we don’t, then that unforgiveness you’re harboring over your own heart makes perfect sense. If the God of the universe isn’t really who He says He is, then of course your sins can’t be magically “cleansed” and your heart “made new”. If the God who formed you in your mother’s womb isn’t really who He says He is, then obviously He can’t truly “save us from all uncleanness”, or “redeem us from every lawless deed” or give us the gift of grace for absolutely no other reason other than His love for us. But, if He is… if He really is the same God that would use a doubter, a liar, a cheater, a MURDERER to show His glory, His grace, and His love for us, then surely, in the midst of your brokenness, He can use YOU.

And if the Lord over all of heaven and earth, really has called YOU according to His divine purpose, for reasons beyond what our eyes can see, and if He really knows you in the deepest parts of your soul, sees your guilt, shame, anger, unforgiveness, and loves you regardless.. Than who are we to hold our opinions of ourselves above Gods calling over our lives? We can’t be aligned in His will while simultaneously saying “Well God I know what you said, but I don’t deserve to be forgiven”. Of course you don’t! None of us do. And thats what makes God… well, GOD.

So the next time you’re questioning why you can’t forgive yourself, I urge you to dig deeper into the root of that burden, and ask, “Who is my God, and do I believe He is who He says He is?”, and not just memorize fluffy scriptures and positive quotes, but truly get to know Him. Get to know Him as the loving Father and friend that He is, from the inside out, and I promise, as He shatters every false perception you’ve held onto about yourself, you will slowly, but surely, find forgiveness.

 

All my love,

J