Wanting to Draw Near

She stood next to me during worship, and her beautiful voice sang softly as the song ended and we shifted to spontaneous praise.

 

“I love you, Lord…”

 

I felt a pang in my heart as I listened. Her words were so sweet and pure, like she was whispering into the Savior’s ear.  

I wish I loved God like that, I thought. When worship was over, we went downstairs to eat snacks and desserts. She sat across from me and my mom and candidly shared her testimony. She had been a believer for about 5 years. She was a single mom. Her ex was a horrible man. Even as she spoke of what she endured, there was a calm happiness in her voice. She came a long way from where she was.

I’ve been following the Lord for longer than her. How come I don’t love Him more like she does?

I remembered another sister in the Lord from a different church. I had visited her church a few times, and whenever she testified, prayed, or conversed with people, there was this radiant love pouring out from her. Even when she wasn’t talking about God, the evidence of her love for Him sprinkled her voice and her demeanor. She regarded each person she came across with love and respect. She had a dark past, but she was redeemed from it and had purposed in her heart to never go back to where she was before. She was secure in her walk and her identity was firmly rooted in who God said she was.

I looked at her and thought, I wish I had a relationship with God like that.

Then I finally realized…I can! I can be closer to God, all I need to do is draw near. God is no respecter of persons, so He doesn’t “play favorites” with us. All of us have the potential to have a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord. As I read once in a devotional, “you can have as much of God as you want.”

Ah, but that’s the catch. You can have as much of God as you want. Many of us who are saved are still content to just keep God at arm’s length. Because the closer I get, the more my life may change. I may start to perceive the world differently. I may have to give something up, or I may have to do something outside my comfort zone, or I may have to show God’s love to someone I don’t like. I might even get attacked.

But those fears, while valid, are not worth entertaining. One thing I’ve learned in my own walk with God is that we don’t go from point A to point Z in a day–at least, that’s not the usual case. For example, over a year ago I started to spend more time with God, reading His Word and praying. As I grew closer to Him, some of the toxic media that I used to like didn’t interest me anymore. I stopped listening to certain singers and got rid of certain books. It didn’t feel like a big loss to me–God had changed my perspective, and I started to see the world through a different lens. 

The choice is always mine–God isn’t going to force me to do anything for Him. The same way I can draw near, I can also pull back–but when I’m not seeking God, I can feel the difference. I’ve realized how much He completes me, how He supplies the joy and strength that I lack, how He gets me through the day. When I don’t nourish my spirit, I become spiritually “hangry.” In fact, I’ve been spiritually hangry for the past week. I’ve been battling lots of questions but haven’t been actively seeking any answers. So I’m going to spend some time with God after I post this.

We can all be close to God. Don’t be afraid to draw near.

 

~Nikita

Fleurie & Ruelle have (finally!) released a collaboration

I started up a music appreciation blog called Nikita Listens. Here’s the first post!

Nikita Listens

Two of my favorite ethereal vocalists, Fleurie and Ruelle, recently released a single and a music video called “Carry You.” The song is wistful but encouraging, and both singers’ beautiful voices stand out and also blend seamlessly. The two friends traveled to Iceland to film the epic music video accompanying the single, which you can watch below.

I’ve been keeping my eye on both of these singers for awhile, so if you like what you hear, you can check out my Spotify playlist featuring highlights from both artists:


If you’d like to keep up with these artists, here are their links:

Ruelle – Twitter | Facebook Page | Instagram | Website
Fleurie – Twitter | Facebook Page | Instagram | Website

Thanks for tuning in!

~Nikita

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Turning Off the Noise

Today was the first day of my “Summer without social media challenge.” I’d call it a fast, but when you’re fasting you’re not supposed to broadcast it. Aside from that, it really is a challenge–I want to see if I can keep this up!

(Beyond that, Facebook has become a major timesuck for me and the only way I learn moderation is through utter abstinence.)

For this summer, I have some goals I want to accomplish–here’s a picture of my list (thus far):

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As you can see, some of these are daily goals and some are more “bucket-listy” items. I hope to accomplish all of these before summer is over.

I will fail. Hopefully, I will succeed!

I keep putting certain aspects of my life in a box, including blogging. I’ve finally warmed up to the idea that I don’t always need to write a War-and-Peace length blog entry in order to consider it worthy of posting. Whether or not it’s worthy of reading is a different story. 🙂

~Nicole

PS I ate a cookie today. Strike one! Anyway, here’s my photo of the day:

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Central Park

The End of Nikita Says

Dear Reader,

In one month, it will be the 1 year anniversary of when I last posted on this blog. I am grateful to those of you who read every post and interacted with me here and on the Facebook page. This past “year of silence” has been interesting. I haven’t written much of anything since last year, and the only reason I can come up with is…writer’s block. Also, life. I got a new job last year in the second week of November, and my commutes became longer and I had less desire to write anything once I got home. Also, there wasn’t as much change in my life this past year as there was in the year before. The summer of 2015 did not match up with the summer of 2014, which I still consider one of the best summers of my life. God has brought me a long way with my anxiety, and I no longer see it as a defining part of me, though I do have to fight it from time to time. Other than that, the only other major change is that I got contacts.

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I like laughing in my photos. 🙂

That in itself was a big step for me, as I always thought I would be a glasses gal. However, once my favorite frames became permanently askew, and I got tired of constantly getting them fixed, I started to seriously reconsider contacts. I have no regrets–they’re not as uncomfortable or difficult to put on as I thought they would be!

So, you didn’t miss anything serious in my life during my time away from this blog.

When I first started this blog, I had difficulty finding my footing as a blogger. It took awhile for me to find my focus. I remember the day I visited the career center at my alma mater, and the director told me she had checked my blog and could not figure out what the focus was. I was more naive back then–I just wanted to write about whatever i wanted to write about, and I didn’t think a focus was necessary. As time passed, it became clear that writing about my life was more my forte, and that writing about other topics–music, clothes, TV, and the web–was not really my thing. Still, Nikita Says remained about as random as I am, and there was little flow between entries, in my opinion. Nobody, including myself, knew what to expect from this blog.

All this to say, I do want to return to writing, but not under this blog title. I always thought the title sounded a bit contrived–who the heck is Nikita, and why should I care what she has to say? I feel distanced from this alias now, as I had adopted it during my much angstier* college days. I wear different colors more often now. I have a much sunnier outlook on life. I’m not as afraid of people and places anymore.

I still often feel, like many other twenty-somethings, that I am meandering through my life. I’m still in that post-grad phase, even though I graduated 2 years ago and I have a permanent job now. While some of my friends have moved on to careers they love, getting married, and even having children, I’ve been sitting here wondering if/when. Will that ever happen to me? When will it be my turn? It is during these moments that I remind myself of something my mom always says to me–life unfolds as you live it. I cannot know about tomorrow until tomorrow. God will take care of me, and if I seek Him first, somehow everything will work out in His timing and His way–but I have no way of knowing how or when.

So, life remains mysterious, but I’ve always liked mystery, so I can’t complain. As I navigate the road ahead of me, I want to talk about life with you, and I hope you will engage with what you read. I also want to do more than just writing–I would love to get back into video editing and taking pictures. That’s up ahead very soon, and I want to use this blog as a place to share some of it with you. Only this time, the name will be different–I’ve already purchased a domain for the new blog, and in a few weeks NikitaSays.com will automatically redirect to that domain. The entries up now will probably be hidden away somewhere, so if you want to revisit or read any of those, time is limited. 🙂

Thanks again for reading whatever Nikita wanted to say, and please join me on my next adventure–The Life Unfolding.

Blessings,
Nicole

*Apparently I just invented a new word.

Say What’s On Your Heart

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A few months ago, I went out to dinner with a friend of mine. This friend had helped me during some tough times at college, and she always had a positive, upbeat attitude. She helped balance out the somewhat morbid and pessimistic outlook I had at that time. Since we hadn’t seen each other in a (relatively) long time, we spent the meal catching up on what was going on in our lives. It occurred to me as we were eating that we had both changed quite a bit since we had last seen each other.

Her voice used to sound so happy, like a bird, and she was able to lift my spirits. Yet on this particular evening, her voice sounded like it was weighed down, and I noticed the spark of life was gone from her eyes. Conversely, my voice sounded lighter and happier, compared to the way it sounded a few years ago. The conversation began to feel like I was treading through mud, and I couldn’t pick her up. I figured she was probably tired from work, and I knew she had some stressful situations going on back home, and yet I regret that I didn’t ask her, “Hey–you sound kind of sad. Is everything okay?”

There’s a chance she would’ve said, “Sure, everything’s fine,” but I still feel like I should have asked that question. I think we often try to give people the highlights of our lives and present a positive image of ourselves, so much so that even when we have face-to-face conversations, we keep up that facade that we use online. It’s easier to hide behind a screen, but you can’t hide in person. You shouldn’t have to, either. I wanted to help my friend the same way that she had been able to help me, and I wonder if maybe I failed by not pausing and asking that tough question.

I say it’s a “tough question” because I think on the whole, most people don’t want to talk about pain. Pain is an inconvenience, sorrow is a nag, and anger is a deterrent. We don’t want people to know when we feel those “bad feelings.” I’m guilty of this as well, because there were–and are–plenty of times when someone has asked me “how are you?” and I would respond with an enthusiastic “good!”, when in reality, I felt pretty crummy.  Why do we do this? I know sometimes I do it because I don’t want to hear people’s advice, but then it’s wrong for me to go to bed at night crying because “nobody knows what I’m going through.” If I had the opportunity to share earlier, then it’s on me.

You can be a positive person and still admit that you’re having a bad day–it doesn’t make you any less positive. It makes you more genuine. When you’re willing to be sincere and put yourself out there, you will find that there are people who not only want to help you–they can also empathize with you because they might be going through the same thing. This leads to healing and freedom–when you’re able to share your burdens with other people and uplift one another, and pray for each other. I know not all of you are Christians, but this idea is found in the Bible. No man is an island, and we were made for companionship, not isolation.

Next time I speak with my friend, I will ask her if everything’s okay. But also, I need to learn to stop “good-ing” when people ask me if everything is okay. Both asking and answering can be intimidating, but ultimately, it is liberating.

~Nikita

Don’t Settle for Less

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A pair of shoes I regret buying

I hate shoe shopping.

Just the phrase “shoe shopping” makes me cringe slightly on the inside. I dislike stores such as Nine West, Aldo, and Payless. Are the shoes the problem? No–it’s my feet. This is why I wear the same pairs of shoes over and over until they fall apart beyond repair. Then I have to go shoe shopping.

However, once I’m in a shoe store, I try to be as open-minded as possible in my selection process. I’ll try on heels, flats, sandals, boots–I get to a point where I’ll take almost anything. Occasionally I will fall in love with a beautifully designed shoe, and this is where the trouble begins.

I’ll pick out three sizes–7, 7.5, and 8. I’ll try all three sizes on. By process of elimination, I’ll narrow the selection down to that one size that sort of fits right–but not quite. It pinches my toes in the front. It slips off my heel in the back. It’s too wide in the middle where my arch is. So I think, Okay, I can still make this work. I can use a shoe tree to widen the front. I can try to alter the shoes to suit me. And I can wear socks with this pair. I can try to make myself fit well with these shoes. I can put a heel guard in the back. This way there’s a boundary between me and the shoe, but I still don’t have to fully accept what the shoe truly is.

I spend time in the store staring at the not-quite-perfect pair of shoes, trying them on again, walking around with them, dancing in them, and debating with myself whether these shoes are really worth the investment.

I don’t want to leave the store empty-handed, so I end up settling for the shoes that don’t quite fit.

In the end, I don’t even bother wearing the shoes. I wasted my time and money on something that was aesthetically pleasing at best but dysfunctional at worst.

I was speaking on the phone to a dear friend of mine recently. She was telling me how she had been dating this guy from her church for awhile, but she was thinking about ending the relationship. He had some anger and insecurity issues because of what had happened during his childhood and teenage years. He never dealt with these conflicts, so he carried this baggage into his relationship with my friend–along with the aftereffects. He would get defensive for no reason, he would blow up at my friend and later forget what he even said, and whenever she was busy and couldn’t pick up her phone, he would ask where she was and why she wasn’t answering him.

He even said himself that he should probably go for therapy–and yet, he didn’t make any effort to take that course of action.

As I listened to my friend tell me all this, I knew for certain that this guy was the wrong match for her. She’s such a happy, sweet, calm person, I told her–why would she want to put herself through a relationship like this? She deserves better.

Our chat on the phone probably confirmed what she already knew, so she broke up with him not long afterward.

She did tell me, though, that “the pickings are so slim!” And oh sweet goodness, they are. I mean, the dating pool is shallow enough regardless, but when you’re a Christian, it’s even more so.

But I just want to say for the people reading this–Christian or not–do not settle for less than what would be best for you. Do not date someone because you’re lonely, or because you’re in a rush to get married and start a family, or because you’re bored and just want something fun to do.

If you’re dating someone who has the potential to be abusive–or if he’s already abusive–then please, please, GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN. It’s better to be single forever than to marry an abuser.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ, trust God. There’s a reason why you’re single right now. Maybe there’s some personal conflicts you need to resolve. Maybe there’s something you need to accomplish now that will be difficult to do once you’re married. Maybe you just need some more time to grow. Regardless, make marriage a matter of prayer.

Back to the shoe analogy, these are 3 lessons I’ve learned about relationships: 1) The same way you cannot change a pair of shoes to truly fit you, you cannot change a person to become what you really want them to be. Besides, that’s not fair to them or to you. 2) Don’t compromise who you are to be more like them. You will be unhappy and they will be deceived. 3) Don’t flirt if you know you cannot follow through on having a real relationship. Don’t lead someone on, even if it’s unintentional. You may think you’re just friends, but they may not see it that way.

Don’t settle. Know your worth, and know that you don’t need another person to affirm your worth.

~Nikita

ENVY.

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Facepalm.

Envy is a sin I’ve always struggled with. I can tell you my origins story for this, tell you all the ways I felt like I had the short end of the stick throughout my life while others had it easier, but that would be a waste of time and energy–both for me and for you.

A religion teacher in high school once told my class that envy is the only sin which cannot bring a person pleasure. Really, where is the fun in envy? How can envy feel good? My teacher made a valid point, but I think he forgot something.

If a sin does not feel good, people would not keep returning to it.

So there has to be something I get out of envy. But what is it?

Now, I’m not a theologian or anything, but I think envy is rooted in a lack of contentment with your own life. There is a reason why the apostle Paul said this in Phillipians 4:12–

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I’ve been reading the book of Acts during my morning commute, and I’ve been reminded of how many atrocities Paul had to endure while he was preaching the Gospel. Entire towns turned against him. He was loved and despised by both Jews and Gentiles, slaves and authority figures. He was flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned–Paul had a rough time. Perhaps some would say that this was God’s retribution for the time Paul spent persecuting Christians before he became one himself.

But I wouldn’t say so.

I think life happened to Paul. Reading through Acts feels almost like reading the book of Job. There are times when I’m reading it and I think to myself, but why would God allow so many bad things to happen to His servants? They’re preaching the Gospel for His namesake, so why is He allowing so many tragedies to befall His people? Why????

Peter had an easier time with his ministry than Paul did, based on my feeble human reasoning. In reality, it’s senseless to compare one person’s suffering to another’s, because pain is a very personal thing and we all experience it differently. Again, though, based on a mental tally mark chart of how many things Paul went through versus how many things Peter went through, as it is recorded in the book of Acts, I think Paul had a lot more difficulty in his life.

Interestingly enough, though, Paul never has a pity party in his letters to the various churches. He could have reminded the Thessalonians about the mob that had ensued after he preached about Messiah. If Paul wanted to, he could have written “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. Except for those people who forced me out of the city. We don’t pray for them. Remember them? How are they doing now, eh?”

Paul didn’t write that, though. Nor did he waste time comparing his hardships to those of Peter’s.

In the end, both men were martyred. Any earthly gain they had–or didn’t have–did not matter. Both men were going to spend eternity in God’s presence.

Put in this perspective, my complaints are irrelevant. Obsessively looking at the lives of other people prevents me from seeing how [strangely?] wonderful my own life is. Has it always been easy? No. But I don’t need to walk three miles a day to fetch water from a well, so I can be grateful for that. I have a job that I love, I live close to the sea, my home is peaceful, I have friends who care about me, I’m young and free in NYC, and, above all, I have a Savior who loves me.

So, what pleasure does envy derive? The only pleasure I can think of is the happiness I feel when I see something go wrong in someone’s seemingly perfect life. That sounds absolutely horrible, but don’t pretend you haven’t felt that way before, too. We all like to see celebrities get humiliated on TMZ.

As a sidenote, if I envy someone because of something I could have if I work for it, then that is just plain stupidity. I am to blame for my own mediocrity.

Oh, and the downside to envy–why it’s wrong–is ingratitude. Being envious tells God that you think He made a mistake, or that He hasn’t been a good provider. If God wants you to have something, He will make a way. Ultimately, though, He knows what’s best.

Shalom. Peace.

~Nikita