My name is Nicole.
I grew up in a Christian home and going to church. For a long time, my life was fantastic; there weren’t any drastic changes or questions left unanswered and I was really happy being homeschooled and living my life the only way I had ever known.
It wasn’t until my 8th grade year that things started getting more difficult and realistic. My best friend, who was the center of my world, moved out of state, both my grandmother and dog I had grown up with passed away in the same week, and I began a new journey in public school. It was like my whole life had turned upside down and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.
Over time I became bitter with God for all the things that had happened to me. I was hurting, but I didn’t want to acknowledge that hurt because I wanted to believe I could get better on my own. For several years I swung back and forth between trying to salvage my relationship with God and running away in frustration and anger.
Half way through my sophomore year, my family and I moved from Missouri to Texas for a new job opportunity that my dad had received. Part of me was thrilled with the chance to start fresh and recreate myself into someone I had always wanted to be, but the other part of me was absolutely terrified at this enormous change on the brim of my reality.
Right before I moved, I cut off all my hair. It was a spontaneous decision that I am frequently asked about. The reasoning behind the action was my symbolic way of being different than everyone else. For years I had been comparing myself to others and constantly wanted to be someone I was not. Cutting my hair was my first step towards freeing me of other’s opinions of me.
Starting in a brand new school with a bunch of new people in a new state and even a new culture was hard at first, but I got to know people somewhat easily. I was amazed at how much I had transformed myself. I was no longer viewed as the awkward, weird homeschooled girl that was new and shy. Now I was the confident, pretty and complex new girl that constantly got invited to do new things and meet new people. I could actually interact with people and not be completely embarrassed by my awkwardness! I was both thrilled and shocked at the doors that were opened with this transformation.
As the months went by and I started developing new relationships and a new version of myself, my family began seeking a new church home to get involved in.
I had always been extremely resistant when it came to finding new church homes, even back when I lived in Missouri. I had grown up in a church that I adored; it was a second home to me and I had developed many of my childhood memories with my best friend within that church. After my friend moved, my family decided to find a new church home. I was already crushed at finding out that the most important person in my life was leaving me; finding out that we would not be going to the building where I had created all my memories with her just added on to the hurt that was piling up inside me. From then on I had developed a callousness and bitterness in trying new churches that I still struggle with today.
In Texas, my family finally found a church that they really liked called Hope Fellowship. I was being my typical difficult self and refused to get involved, and when I was forced to go, I was extremely resistant and unhappy about it. I would push away anyone who tried to get to know me or interact with me; I wanted to be alone and didn’t want anyone’s help or friendship in the church setting. It took me months to finally actually start listening to what they were saying during services and make an attempt to meet people around my age. Around that time I was really struggling with what I believed. I kept swinging back and forth between wanting to believe in God and all the love he had for me and some bad decisions I had been making regarding a relationship I had recently developed.
Eventually, I convinced myself that the choices I was making weren’t that bad and started pushing the idea of God and Christianity farther and farther away. I still went to church and put on an act when I had to in order to avoid raising suspicions from my parents or leaders at the church.
At this point I decided not to call myself a Christian anymore and decided that I would rather be classified as Agnostic or non-religious. I fell deeper into different temptations of mine and became more of the person I thought I had wanted to be; I was confident, brave, and full of adventure and risk and I really thought I was happy. I think deep down I knew that wasn’t true, but I would never admit that to myself.
One day, my parents found out about some of the things I was hiding. I informed them of my decision regarding my religious affiliation and told them straight out that I didn’t think anything I had done was wrong. I was grounded for an extended amount of time and lost pretty much all trust I had gain up until that point.
I was full of anger and hurt and confusion as more time went by. I still wanted nothing to do with God or church or Christians, but one weekend my parents forced me to go on a youth retreat. At this retreat I was as resistant as before, but something happened while I was there. I suddenly decided I wanted to go on a mission trip to Haiti that my church was hosting over the next summer.
I don’t know why or how I decided I wanted to go on that trip while I was at that retreat; I was as bitter as ever and told myself that I wanted to go only because it would be a neat opportunity to do something good for other people. Little did I know that on July 16th, 2014 at 9:41pm would I surrender my life to God and develop a real relationship with Him.
While I was in Haiti, God really worked on my heart. On the second or third day I was there, I was having major internal conflicts with him. He was trying to talk to me, reach me, and I was trying to resist. That evening I went and sat by myself observing a beautiful sunset. I was afraid. I was utterly afraid. The next day, I was hanging out on the roof of this water tower with one of my new friends and my new youth pastor. I brought up how I was so shocked by how happy the Haitians I had met were. They had materialistically nothing, and yet they were the most genuinely happy and kind people I had ever met. This astounded me to my core.
My pastor shared some things with me that really got me thinking, and later that night I approached him telling him I wanted what he offered. I wanted a relationship with Jesus Christ. I didn’t want to feel empty or hurt or scared anymore. I didn’t want to feel lonely and unsatisfied and angry anymore. I was tired of trying things to make myself feel something other than sadness or hurt. I was tired of pretending.
I wanted something genuine. And that’s exactly what I got.
To this day, that moment when I made that decision was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I still struggle and make mistakes, but I know what’s real. I’ve since been striving to continue to build a real relationship with my Savior and have been getting more involved in my church home. I work in kid’s church on Sundays, am involved in several small groups, and I can’t wait to be baptized.
My journey has been long and hard like so many others’. Even if I got the opportunity to go back in time and change whatever I wanted about my past, I wouldn’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and for once I really love who I am.
I can actually say that I am genuinely happy.