The Loudmouth Protestant

July 21, 2010

My Testimony: I’ll Trust You, Part 2

Filed under: life,waiting on God — nickisym @ 8:00 am

In the previous post, you’ll recall that I mentioned that I was preparing for something at the same time as the young man was preparing for his pivotal moment. But, as I do more often than not, I was more consumed with helping others than helping myself. It was easier for me to encourage and pray for someone else than it was to encourage and pray for myself. But now that he was gone I was left to my own devices and God finally had me where He wanted me.

You see, after nearly eight years of wavering on going back to school, God finally gave me the green light to go back, but it wasn’t for what I thought it would be. For as long as I have been a journalist in New York I have always harbored thoughts of going to Columbia University to get my Master’s in journalism. A Master’s degree from Columbia was a stamp of approval in the industry, it opens doors that no mortal can open. So, to me, that was always going to be the school I applied to on the day I decided to apply to graduate school. But for many years I kept letting application deadlines pass. Then, because I started to work with religion and spirituality as my full-time job at Beliefnet.com, I saw that Columbia had a dual master’s degree in journalism and religious studies and that became something to aspire to. I spent a while researching the program and its requirements and then, just like the journalism program, I let the application deadline pass. But this time around there was something different about my consideration of this program. I felt that I was closer to my next step in life. I was thrilled to life and scared to death but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I also thought the program would be too difficult and challenging for me.

I let some more time pass before I started to think about school again and this time, a friend, who is a peer in the industry, asked if I ever considered seminary. Mind you this friend doesn’t know much about me, personally, but somehow he discerned enough to suggest this (that, to me, is God). When he asked, I didn’t scoff, I actually walked away from the conversation and began to pray about it.

No sooner than my knees lifted off the floor and I began to move, the work of looking into different seminaries took place. God was opening doors and telling me who I should talk to regarding this next step in my life and soon enough I had a list of schools to consider. Princeton, Yale, Union, Duke, Drew, and Emory. Those were the six schools that I was considering. I knew someone at all of those schools except for one and so that one is where I started my research. I first visited the school’s website where immediately the images of the campus and the chapel blew me away. I could feel the breeze through the trees through my computer. I could feel the energy and spirit of the campus coursing through my veins. As I read about the academic program, the concentrations and the contextual education, I felt drawn to the program. Feeling this strongly about what I read on the website, I wasted no time in booking a flight to check out the school during the open house weekend and thanks be to God I could afford to book the ticket and get the rental car because of a gift card I had received.

Upon arriving on the campus on a chilly evening, I was greeted by various faculty, administration, current and prospective students. It was a nice and warm place and though I had taken this journey alone, I didn’t feel alone because every other person in the room was searching for something bigger than themselves. Even in the moments where I was tempted to be sad because everyone had brought a plus one–be it their parents, their significant others or their best friends, I knew that I wasn’t really alone. I spent the weekend immersing myself in the school, absorbing everything from the brief lectures on Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, to the stories current students told about how they came to the school, to fellowshipping with the prospective students. From that short weekend with that group of people, I felt a true sense of community and a connection that I knew I wanted. This was the fall of 2009, October to be exact, and the application deadline was January 15th. That meant that I had a little over two months to gather the courage to put my faith in motion and apply.

Over the next two months, I prayed, I sought counsel from trusted friends and family and I spoke with a leader in my dance ministry. The latter conversation took place in late November 2009 during a rehearsal for our church’s annual Christmas Candlelight service. I had so much on my mind that I had decided not to minister for Candlelight but instead take the time to be still. With tears in my eyes, I shared this with one of the leaders of the ministry and told her how seminary came into view. I was crying because having the words come out of my mouth made me feel like I had no other choice but to move forward. I knew my words would be manifest sooner rather than later. That evening she told me that I should move in the direction I felt God was calling me to and in moving in that direction, He will reveal His plan. She even told me that she would be a reference should I decide to move forward with the application process. And so, with that, I walked away from the rehearsal with moving forward in mind.

On December 1 I started my application to the school. I gathered my references, started to think about my personal essay and did the necessary reading for the academic essay. During my annual Christmas vacation, God blessed me with the theme of my personal essay–of which I will share in the next installment  of the series. Though I started writing the essay in Orlando I couldn’t finish it. No matter how hard I tried, how many words I wrote, how much time I spent, the words just weren’t flowing. But who came to help me finish the essay?

Remember the young man that arrived on January 1 and was taken away two months later? Well, he is partially the reason why I was able to get the essay done. Him and Jonah (yeah, that Jonah). When he e-mailed me on January 1st, the subject line of the e-mail was “Decision” and in it he asked me if I had decided to apply to seminary–he knew I was considering it because of an e-mail correspondence we had in November. I responded and told him that I had decided to move forward with applying and I was working on my personal essay, to which he responded by sharing with me the sermon from his church’s New Year’s Eve service on Jonah.

It was in sheer amazement that I read his notes from the sermon because I’ve heard Jonah sermons multiple times in my life. They’ve always coincided with what I was going through. Like the time I was running from something and I heard a Bible study about when Jonah was running away from his God-given assignment in Nineveh to rock the boat to Tarshish. The young man shared with me what happened when Jonah decided to do what God had told him to do–go to Nineveh– which resulted in his trip to Nineveh being shorter than usual.

“Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a days’ walk.”

Jonah 3:3b-4

A journey that was supposed to take three days only took one. I had read this book many times but I never paid attention to the fact that when Jonah decided to do what God told Him to do, his journey was much shorter for it. Before the young man shared this with me, I had decided that it was going to take one week to write my personal essay. But once I read his notes, did my own personal study on Jonah by going back to the previous sermons I’d heard, read the book of Jonah and read a commentary, I felt a determination unlike I had ever before. Thereafter, my best friend and I went to a local coffeehouse and I set forth to work on my personal essay. Three hours later, which was 21 hours and 6 days earlier than I had anticipated, I had finished my personal essay. I turned my laptop over to my best friend and I let her read it. She suggested some changes and edits and then we left the coffeehouse, me with a complete essay and the lesson learned that when you set forth to do what God told you to do, His timing is perfect and sometimes expedited. Later on that evening I thanked the young man for sharing that on-time word and I told him that I had completed the essay. (As I write this, I look back at that moment and think that maybe his purpose was for that moment and that moment alone and everything else was secondary. Only God knows…)

I eventually completed the application mere hours before the deadline, submitted it and all I had left to do was trust that God knew what He was doing and wait on Him. But little did I know, the application was hardly the hardest part…

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6 Comments »

  1. Nicole, this is very especially encouraging to me because I love to write and I love the Lord. You have allowed yourself to be so transparent and that is the God in you. I can’t wait until I receive the invitation for your trial sermon!

    Comment by LaGretta Crenshaw — July 21, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  2. Wow… I didn’t want this post to end…

    Comment by Tracita Linda — July 21, 2010 @ 9:30 am | Reply

  3. Beautifully written. Beautiful story. Following God’s Will creates a beautiful life story. God bless you. This story really touched me.

    Comment by Stefon N. Lowman — July 21, 2010 @ 10:06 am | Reply

  4. I had no idea what you were experiencing the day that we met. I think that we place so much value in assumptions about others that we may very well miss the opportunity to make a beautiful friend. I was so afraid that night. I thought that everyone else was seeking, but that they (including you!) had so much more “right” to be there. I am so grateful for meeting you and sharing this journey with you that will start in just a few weeks…or has it already begun?

    Comment by Joya — July 21, 2010 @ 12:06 pm | Reply

    • Joya, I remember when I saw you and Nate walk up and I sort of noticed that even you two, being together, were trying to find a group. But I remembered that of all the people in the room at that moment, I thought that you might be one of the people who I could become friends with. It was just such an interesting moment. Being thrust into a new environment like that, I just didn’t know what to expect or even what to do. But, God sure knew what to do and what we needed…

      Comment by loudmouthprotestant — July 21, 2010 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  5. I’m so proud of you Nicole! Who would’ve ever thought you’d be leaving New York and taking this particular path. Clearly, God has a purpose for you and I’m excited to see how it all works out in the end.

    Comment by shessavvy — July 21, 2010 @ 1:19 pm | Reply


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