Johnna Nichelle
   

Christian

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 is it going to be MY time? The one piece of advice I wish someone would have told me.

 

When is it going to be my time? What I wish someone would have told me.When is it going to be my time? 

I asked when I was little girl, and wanted to be moved up to the competitive gymnastics team like everyone else. I asked when I was in middle school, and everyone else was allowed to wear makeup but me. I asked when I graduated college, and everyone seemed to be getting their dream jobs, or traveling the world, but me. I asked when I saw life unfolding for my friends with new families, babies, homes, and careers. I asked when I saw worship leaders pouring their hearts out on stage, before the door was opened for me. God, when is it going to be MY time?

Have you ever felt like that? Usually the answers to these types of questions sound something like, “Be patient, it will be your time someday”, or, “Good things come to those who wait”. True and true. But there’s one truth that I wish I could’ve grasped onto much sooner. Something that now resonates with me, and has completely changed my life. Something I want to share with you.

Your time is NOW. You just need to answer this….for what? It’s not that you just need to wait and look forward to “your time” and all of the things you long for; you need to understand that HERE and NOW, there is purpose. It IS your time. It just might not be for what your eyes are fixated on. Maybe right now is a season of preparation. I think back now, what if my gymnastics coaches had decided to let me compete when I wanted to? I probably would have gone out on to perform, and soon realized that I wasn’t at all ready. I likely would have ended up embarrassed, or  worse, extremely injured. See, it was my time to practice, to train, to strengthen my skill set. And had it not been for the coaches that redirected my mindset to laying that solid foundation first, I might have wallowed in disappointment and frustration rather than working as hard as I could to prepare to compete.

Could you imagine a pilot being entrusted to transport hundreds of people to a location, without having the proper training first? Or receiving that dream job when you weren’t yet ready for the responsibilities of it, and then losing it? Or God bringing your future husband into your life and you missing it because you were on Tinder swiping right at every decent looking picture you saw (also I just had to Google if swiping right was good or bad – I’m out of touch, whatever… you get it).

It’s exciting to think about the future, to think about our destiny, about where we will be in 5 years, or how our life will end up panning out, don’t get me wrong. But next time you start to ask, “When is it going to be my time?”, try changing that question to, “What can I do with the time I have RIGHT now? What is it my time to learn, to achieve, or to grow from?” Because when it comes down to it, all we really have is right here, right now. And you won’t get this time back.

 What do people really get for all their hard work?  I have seen the burden God has placed on us all.  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.

Ecclesiates 3:9-12

With the Father’s love,

J

When Enough Isn’t Enough – To the One Who Has Backslid in Faith

sunsetSo you go to the conference, or the bible study, or the service, or the small group – and you finally decide to give your life to Christ. You prayed the prayer, you’re ready to turn from your old ways, and follow Jesus with your whole heart. There’s a fire burning inside of you that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. And this continues for a few months, or maybe even longer, but then, your past starts knocking… softly, at first, but harder as time continues. You get a group text, and its that old group of friends that you used to always go out with (usually accompanied by a morning of regret) talking about making plans to go out this weekend because they haven’t seen you in forever, or that ex that still wants to be “just friends” and “hang out” (hey, maybe you could just go over there and tell him about God right? Hint – wrong). Or that coworker who comes to you and starts gossiping to you about all of the recent office drama, urging you to join in. Or maybe everyone your family starts telling you that you need to lighten up and “have a little fun” like you used to do.  You don’t really see the harm in any of it – besides, you’re pretty sure you can’t be that easily tempted into your old ways.

But then, before you know it, you feel like you’re back at square one. If this has ever been you, believe me when I tell you, I get it. I’ve been there, more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve questioned “Am I really saved?” because it just didn’t seem like my struggles were going away and my life was as radically on fire as it was in the beginning. And I think we don’t talk about it enough. A lot of people tell you the day that they gave their lives to Jesus, they never looked back. They were forever changed, and while they may have had a few obstacles, they’ll never say that they have any moments of total backsliding. But I have. I’ve looked back. I’ve portrayed my life one way, as I slipped back into another. I’ve hidden it because it isn’t something I heard Christians talking about.  Ive hidden it because I didn’t want to be labeled a hypocrite. I’ve isolated myself and my emotions because I thought, “I’m not supposed to feel this way”; I’ve felt ashamed, discouraged, and fearful of looking like a fraud.

What I didn’t understand then, what I want you to understand now… You aren’t alone. The best way for the enemy to grab hold onto your life is to completely isolate you. Why? Because then, is when you’re most vulnerable to fear, self-doubt, shame, and confusion. Because then, you may just believe that none of it was real, that God may have tried to save you but you were just too far gone to be completely changed. Satan is deceptive, and would do anything to discredit the work God had done in your life – and he’ll do it at any cost. The thing is, despite all of it, despite every moment of falling backwards, despite the self-doubt, and beyond the shame… You have authority over the enemy. You still belong to the King of Kings, and you are still called higher. You may have backslid, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. And it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want to use you or fulfill the promises He has for you anymore.

God doesn’t promise the journey of following Him to be a smooth sailing one – in fact, it’s often quite the opposite. But do NOT let yourself believe the lie that you were not worthy of the work done on that cross. Following Christ is hard sometimes, and leaving behind everything you’ve known before you surrendered your life to Him isn’t always as simple as people make it out to be. Trust me, I know. But it IS worth it. YOU are worth it. And your story is just getting started.

With the Father’s love,

Johnna Nichelle

Click here to learn more about stepping out of your comfort zone, and into your calling.

 

Out of Your Comfort Zone, Into Your Calling

9B847933-DFD2-42A5-B809-8BE180D7D43BLet me start off by telling you, I, like many other little boys and girls, had extravagant dreams of my future calling when I was little. I was going to be known throughout the nations; Johnna Nichelle, a famous singer… and actress, and model. I wanted to connect with anyone and everyone through my words, and through my music. I wrote songs, poetry, choreographed dances and skits, enrolled in drama summer camps, you name it. My best friend was my “manager”, another my choreographer and my mom was my video director. I was on my way.

Fast forward to reality. I gave up on the modeling thing when I stopped growing in the 8th grade (all 5’ 2” of me) and acting…. Well, lets just say acting wasn’t exactly the “ideal” career choice to set up a solid future, or at least I was told at the time. My love for singing never faded, but somehow, over the years, my voice did. I was terrified to sing in front of anyone, and the only way you’d ever get me to is if I had a friend by my side for backup (you know, in case my vocal chords completely failed me on stage and I passed out and crumbled to the floor in a million tiny shameful pieces… #TheDRAMA). My friends and family knew I loved to sing, but if I wasn’t in the car, or the shower… forget it.

I went on to go college (Go Noles!), and I toyed around singing and playing the keyboard, recording little covers from time to time. But as far as fully pursuing it, I was out. As I grew in my faith and God did some serious work in my heart during this time, I knew the calling on my life for music and connecting with people wasn’t a childhood phase… it had just been hidden and overtaken by insecurities and doubts. I graduated three years later with a degree in Psychology (the yearning to deeply connect and understand humans never left) and began to work in a completely unrelated field (Where are my millenials at?!). I stopped playing the keyboard and singing altogether, and I immersed myself into the corporate world. I knew that God was calling me for more, and I sang worship songs all day long to myself in my office, figuring it would never be more than that. I mean come on, I was adulting now (yeah right).

After almost two years of this, I felt the pull of the Lord on my heart like never before. It started to make me question everything about my life, where I was, where I was going, the relationships I was in, and who I was meant to become. I went to my usual Wednesday night church service one evening, where our young adult pastor happened to be filling in, and he just happened to be teaching a sermon on the process of pursuing your calling (like, ok God, I hear ya). “God will allow you to become so uncomfortable in your situation, until you have no choice but to move”, he said, and it wrecked me.  I was there. Two weeks later I got a phone call from my dad, who said he’d been praying for me, and wasn’t sure why he felt the need to tell me, but a position had opened up at his company in Texas in case I was looking. I wasn’t, but as I prayed on it, I felt God speak very clearly, telling me to go. I was done running. So, just like that, I put in my two weeks at the company, packed my car, and hit the road for Texas, where I live now. I ignored my doubts, let go of some toxic relationships, and looked ahead, wondering what I was getting myself into. Talk about stepping out in faith.

My very first week at work, a coworker heard me humming along to my usual worship music, and asked if I was a singer, to which I replied “Nope. I like to sing, but its not serious or anything”. We chatted a little more about our faith, and he invited me to come check out his church’s youth service, where he played guitar. After the service, he invited me to go eat with the worship team, where he announced, “You guys, Johnna sings too” and another chimed in, “You know, we’re looking for a new female lead, if you haven’t already gotten plugged in somewhere”. Before I knew it, I was at rehearsal, SHAKING to my core, wondering how on earth this was happening. I was NOT a “real” singer, let alone worship leader!

I’ll never forget the first service. Thankfully, the song I lead was one I had belted in the car a thousand times (isn’t it funny how God prepares you when you don’t even know it?), and after my near nervous breakdown, I finally felt confirmation, and a wave of peace. THIS is what I was called to do. It wasn’t about using my gift for myself, it was about using my God given talents to magnify Him and lead others into His presence. It wasn’t about making my name known throughout the nations, it was about making HIS name known. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all.

I know that you may be in a place where you’re questioning yourself, your future, your dreams, and how it all ties together. Maybe you’re like me, and you wrote off those “childish” aspirations some time ago, in search for something more realistic. Maybe you’re convinced that the passions in your heart will never be more than a hobby. I’m here to tell you, there is NO dream too big for your God. I mean it. One of the things that I love about children is the fact that they understand this, while many of us seem to forget as we grow older and buckle under the weight of societal pressures. But for that dream to come to fruition, you have to be willing to feel uncomfortable, isolated at times, and sometimes even rejected. You have to get out of your own way, get before God, and listen. Don’t get too busy to hear His voice. And don’t think just because you’re a certain age, its all of a sudden too late. You have an assignment on this earth. The time is now. Get busy.