Hello. My name is _____
My mom called me the other day to tell me she can’t keep straight what degrees I have or what I am studying in school. “What’s the difference between religion and theology?” she asked. A neighbor I met at the pool the other day eyed me suspiciously, saying, “that’s really vague” when I said what I do for work. I often find people think I get paid for my work as a writer. For the most part, I don’t. The people in my daily life are confused about the various hats I wear, so I wonder what anyone reading my work online might think. Maybe it’s time for a re-introduction. So, hey y’all. I’m Nicole.
Family and Home
I grew up right here in south metro Atlanta, always with the itch for something beyond this place. No matter how many times I leave and how far I go, I can’t seem to shake the red clay out of my blood, though. Lee and I met at thirteen. No, we weren’t childhood sweethearts. There were no romantic notions until we were twenty-four after we had both finished college and moved back to our hometown. It’s that previously small, now booming town, where we are raising our two kids, now entering the tween and teen years.
We’ve lived in Egypt (2007-08) and Bangladesh (2017-19) and traveled to many other places. I’ve left pieces of my heart scattered around the globe and there is not much I love more than international travel and exploring cultures not my own. The places I’ve lived and loved have shaped who I am and am still becoming. I know God has planted me in this place now, though. In another year my daughter will attend the same high school my husband and I both graduated from. We live miles from our extended family. They too, continue to shape every aspect of my life.
Faith and Church
My faith has been guiding the trajectory of my life since I was 14. I’ve been in and out of the church, but kind of how Georgia is always on my mind, Jesus never would let me be. I’m more in love with Jesus today than ever, and I am less certain I have how to follow Jesus faithfully all figured out than ever. I will spend my life trying.
I like to call myself a denominational mutt. I came to know Jesus in the Baptist church and am thankful for the love of the Bible and of discipleship I gained there. But my heartbeat is for the diversity of ways God is worshipped by God’s own diverse creation. The beauty of the global church confounds me, and I am committed to the ways we can learn from and strengthen each other. I’ve worshipped in the largest church in the Middle East, on the dirt floor of a schoolhouse in the largest slums in Asia, in a crowded house in a village in South Asia, and in a coffee shop in Yemen with just a handful of people. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit under the teaching of Jesuit priests and Cistercian monks, and have been a part of Baptist, Coptic, International, Non-denominational, and Assemblies of God congregations.
I feel most at home, though, in high church and was confirmed in the Episcopal church in the fall of 2022. No, I don’t think the Episcopal church is the right church. I think it is the right church for me. Lee and the kids still go to the church that has been home for them most of their lives. We’ve always raised the kids to value the diversity of the Body of Christ, so it works for us.
I’ve always written. Stories were the landscape of my childhood. Today they are the way I process the world. They are my prayers and the way I figure out what I think. I started writing for publication in 2015. Like most other writers, I don’t make a living from it. I do it out of love and because I cannot not write. I believe it is a gift God has given me and I am always trying to figure out how to faithfully use it to best serve and love my neighbors.
Since I don’t make a living with my spiritual writing, what do I do? Writing is part of what I do for work, but there is more to it than that. I am a Content Specialist with a communications agency working with non-profits, Ruby Brick, based in Atlanta (but working mostly remotely). Organizations with a social impact come to us to tell their stories and connect with their people. I started working in this kind of writing when I was working in a dual role in a church that had a discipleship ministry, and then as the director of communications for the nonprofit we moved to Bangladesh to serve.
Just like I did for those organizations, I help our clients communicate about the needs they exist to serve (so others can donate or get involved) and tell the stories of life-change they are seeing in their programs. I love being a part of ministries and nonprofits and helping them tell their stories well (we tell these stories through websites, emails, social media, and more).
Ministry: Ordained or Lay Leadership?
I felt God calling me into professional ministry when I was in college. I have since learned how calling changes and grows over our lives as we, ourselves, evolve. I have served in churches, in nonprofits, and through my writing. I have been feeling God call me to something deeper for years, and I officially entered the Discernment process with the Episcopal Church this year. It’s a long process boiled down to lots of meetings with various people to pray together and discuss how I can best serve the church. That could be in ordained ministry (priest or deacon) or some sort of enhanced lay ministry within the church. I preached for the first time this year, and never expected to love it as much as I did. Stay tuned. Your guess is as good as mine as to what God is up to.
My undergraduate degree is in Religion. This comparative religion degree sparked a passion in me for understanding how people experience God around the world. I’ve lived in Hindu and Muslim contexts and continue to love studying world religions. Wanting a deeper understanding of my own faith and God’s call on my life, I entered seminary straight out of college but life intervened and I never finished that degree. I went back to grad school in 2021 and am set to graduate with my Master of Arts in Practical Theology in July.
I have always said I would go to school forever if someone else paid for it, and I have applied for the Doctor of Ministry Program at my school, Winebrenner Theological Seminary. (If someone else is willing to step up and pay for it, do let me know). What will I gain from this degree? A wise mentor told me last year that when she entered seminary she didn’t feel called to Pastor at the time; she felt called to seminary. I love my school and the ways I have learned and grown in the past year and a half of my studies. I feel called to this next step. That is all that is clear currently, and that is all I need to know.
Many Roles; One Self
When we introduce ourselves, it is easy to talk about what we do or where we’ve lived, who we are in relation to our family members or the other people in the room. Is this really who we are? As I think about all the hats I wear on a regular basis, I am reminded of what Richard Rohr says in Immortal Diamond: “Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.” The roles we fill in our life do not make us who they are, but they can help us uncover who God created us to be. As we use the gifts God has given us and discover the parts we play in the great tapestry of life woven together by all of us, we uncover a little more of our true selves.
Today I am a daughter, a wife, a mom, a strategist, a student, a writer, a budding preacher, and a Georgian—to put a few labels on my life. Take away any of those things, and who am I really?
Who are you, really? “Your True Self is who you are, and always have been in God, and at its core, it is love itself,” says Rohr. In all that I am doing, I want to be more loving. I want to reflect God in each facet of my life. We are complex beings, created in the image of Love. All that we are and do should reflect this. Rohr continues, “Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower.”
Maybe you want to take some time this month and listen to who God is saying you are. Is it the same person who is showing up at work or at your home every day? Is it the person you see in the mirror? Are there roles God is asking you to set down for a season or ones you need to pick up? Above all, remember you are beloved. You are Love. You are enough.