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I’d Rather Sit With You

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The Question

Her face was a bit blurry on my side, but she could see me clearly.

“Why do you believe it’s hard to sit with yourself?”, she asked. I sat up tall and adjusted by earbuds. I smiled nervously as some self-deprivation joke entered my mind.

She looked at me eagerly, but patiently.

“I don’t know. It’s just hard. It’s uncomfortable to sit in the silence with myself. My thoughts become too loud. I try to avoid myself, I guess.” I admitted. The joke surfaced again. “I guess I just don’t think I make good company.”, I blurted out and then laughed.

My therapist smiled and offered, “You do know that you’re wasting your life away by not sitting with your pain, right?”

The smile stretched across my lips vanished in a split second. Then, out of politeness I forced it to return. My heart felt as if it had just been sunk in the deepest water. I cleared my throat and leaned against the headboard. The bed creaked as it gave way to my full weight.

She continued, “You have to be able to sit with yourself. Aren’t you tired of running from yourself? Sit down, listen to your heart, and make the choice to stay. Stay in the discomfort because that is the only way healing can take place.”

The Tears

The next day I grabbed my keys and slammed the front door behind me. I took refuge in the local coffee shop and sat down with my laptop. I began to type and didn’t stop for four hours. 5,000 words looked directly at me and we held that uncomfortable eye contact for a long time.

I wrote about trauma I had endured, people that had disappointed me, a God that I was sure had forgotten me, and how in some strange turn of events I was made whole by my pain.

My coffee had gotten cold and the afternoon sun started to warm my face. I did not cry. There was a certain joy that radiated from the raw places I had buried for so long. The power was in using my voice–my writing–to face the demons that I had been running from for so long.

Gather

That writing session has allowed me to face my fears. I have become comfortable in my own skin and in my own company.

I believe that our pain should propel us into community. Shame hides. It runs and doesn’t look back. How much could we heal if we knew that we are never alone?

Gather with friends, family, “your person” that you love, and God–the ones that have never left you.

Most importantly, sit with yourself. Don’t let another day pass where you are living numb.

Let the light in.

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Something New

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Sometimes there aren’t words that can truly convey the weight that a new chapter brings. I celebrate new chapters when I am reading a great book. There’s nothing better than being completely immersed in a true page-turner. Anticipation builds at the end of each chapter and cascades into something new when the next page is turned. The joy is following each character or bit of wisdom into the next wave of inky creativity.

When it comes to new chapters of life the excitement can be completely abandoned and adopted by fear. There is fear of the unknown or in my case–fear of what previous chapters have entailed.

I have struggled with my physical and mental health for ten years now and once again I find myself at the brink of a new chapter. A few days ago was my last day in a job that I absolutely adored. My resignation was the end of a chapter that I will always have fond memories of. Now as I turn the page to something uncharted and new I find that I am afraid. I worry that my health will become as bad as it has been in the past. My limited view into the future evokes negative associations for me. Will I be able to lead the life I want to or will I have to bend once again to limitations? Is my future bright with promise or will I have to continue to sacrifice more of the things I love?

But There Is Hope

As all of these fears have taken root in my mind, I have ironically been surrounded by extremely timely advice and encouragement. These instances have been the strength that I have needed to make it a day at a time; fifteen minutes at a time.

Perhaps life’s new chapters are not much different than those bound in a book. Maybe we should be filled with anticipation, joy, and wonder as we turn the page on the unknown. The truth could be that our story is not defined by individual chapters at all, but rather the complete work of art.

I am going to do my best to enjoy this chapter. Yes, I will have moments when I am distressed, distracted, and even depressed by what lies ahead. May I encourage you today? You’re not alone in your fear of the unknown. If you’re facing a chronic illness, mental health diagnosis, or love someone that is–this chapter is yours for the taking. Live among the words and let them settle in your spirit. May this next chapter inspire you and bring you encouragement that you never thought possible.

Nikki x

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Love


Photo by Evie Shaffer on Unsplash

            It wasn’t until I stood up that I saw how badly I had skinned my knee. I was at the top of the hill and my bicycle was now in the ditch. My leggings had a hole in them from the friction of the gravel and my face was stained by tears. I looked down the hill and could see my home. “Mommy!” I cried. She couldn’t hear me, and I knew that. The back bicycle tire was still spinning; pushing the daisies down with each revolution. Fear filled my chest as I realized the only way to get home was to get back on my bike. My leg hurt too badly to walk, and my voice wasn’t strong enough to carry very far. With tears streaming down my face I pulled my bicycle by the handlebars and dragged it toward me.

            When I reached the front yard, I let my bicycle fall to the grass and ran up the faulty front steps. “Mommy!”, I yelled. She pulled the quilt aside that blocked the kitchen off and came out with wet hands. “I fell off my bicycle!”, I cried. “I was all alone and you couldn’t hear me. I am so scared, and I need you.” Mama looked at my knee and lifted my small 6-year-old body onto her lap. She held me and assured me I would be ok.

Those that I have served in The Salvation Army social services office since November 2017 have reminded me that we all need comfort.

The addict with her needle marked arms and sunken face.

Children with caregivers that are too overwhelmed to comfort them when they cry.

Mentally ill that cannot live in their own minds without fear and extremely painful memories.

The single mom that prostitutes herself while her children are left to put themselves to bed.

Elderly that have experienced such great loss and have no one to talk to.

The unemployed man that cannot find work because he does not have transportation.

The recently incarcerated who have been demonized and have the cards stacked against them despite their recovery.

            These are the stories that have filled my heart for nearly two years and these are the stories that I will remember forever. May we all elevate our own hearts to a place of pure and unconditional compassion. My hope is that we tune our ears to the cries of the broken. “I was so scared, and I need you!”. May God’s love in us cradle them all—the children that they are—and show them they are loved.

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Lean In


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Self-care.

What comes to mind?

Bubble baths, hot tea, alone time wandering in the city, and a chocolate stash under your bed? Fresh flowers, Netflix binge, cozy socks, a couple’s massage, and a glass of wine?

Yes to all of those things.

I have been writing Little Hope Notes for 3 months now and ironically I’ve been writing myself advice I should follow this whole time. Each note is different.

Some proclaim, “You are worthy of love and acceptance.” “Don’t give up on yourself.” “Keep going” “Forgive yourself.” “Your past does not define you.”

I’m in awe that it took me this long for the knowledge to go from my handwriting to my heart. We have created such a culture of self-care, but I think that we often overlook self-awareness and how we can self-sabotage ourselves. For example, “You are worthy of love and acceptance.” Sounds great, looks great, is true–but HOW do we connect the message to a movement? I can literally tell myself these nice things while I’m eating a bowl of popcorn and vegging out to my 36th episode of The Office (don’t act like y’all don’t know).

The true foundation to self-care, though is self-development. If we want to feel and believe that we are worthy of love an acceptance then that means that most of us are going to have to dig deep and ask the hard questions.

Why don’t I feel loved?

When don’t I feel accepted?

Who in my past or in my present has made me believe I am less than?

How did I feel when I was told I wasn’t loved, that I wasn’t wanted; that I wasn’t enough?

Authentic self-care is more than a face mask. It’s taking the mask off.

I’m learning, too. It’s okay to have tough questions. Don’t for one minute continue to binge watch your favorite show so that you can permanently take a backseat to the pain that’s stirring inside of you. This is going to take hard work and it is going to take time.

Let’s grab our collective big girl panties, blankets, and dark chocolate (with caramel, obviously), and take time to feel our feelings. Lean in.

Nikki x

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Self Care for the Overwhelmed


Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

The current culture of self care, self awareness, and self love is a wonderful place to abide. There isn’t a shortage of “How To” articles, self care gurus, and resources at our fingertips. As I have scrolled through Instagram and read about self care from phenomenal and well-meaning life coaches, yoga instructors, and meditation experts there has still been something missing. Who is guiding the self care for the overwhelmed, chronically ill, and those severely struggling with their mental health?

How can I practice self care when I’m in a horrible season of depression and getting dressed is the biggest accomplishment of the day?

How can I create space for self care when I am overwhelmed and my energy is low?

How can I explore the depths of self awareness when I’m under a dark cloud of brain fog and pain?

There are so many questions like these. I struggle with a mental health diagnosis and it has a ripple effect that touches every aspect of my life. It causes me physical pain, extreme fatigue, and a sense of overwhelm. I would love to implement self care habits that are portrayed on Instagram. Daily yoga, healthy recipes, great books packed full of wisdom, and treating myself to a day of alone time. However, when I’m in a difficult place it feels downright impossible to move, cook myself nutritious meals, read, and even drive myself to my favorite places for some “me time”.

So, I have created a tiny list of self care options for those of us that just find self care so taxing in our most exhausted moments.

Three Self Care Practices for the Overwhelmed

  1. Create a “Zen Place” in your mind and retreat. This is something I learned in therapy a couple of years ago. I was asked to imagine a safe place in my mind. Get down to every tiny detail. I have two. One is sitting on my couch wrapped in a specific gray and navy blanket that I own. In my hands I have a hot cup of ‘Sleepy Time’ tea and behind my back is my fluffy pillow. My second place is walking to the top of a mountain mid-October with my family. The leaves have begun to fall off of the trees and the smell of damp dirt fills the air. I’m laughing at my daughter as she climbs the rock to my left and I’m watching my husband walk in front of us. The place you create is yours. When you’re struggling and overwhelmed then go to your safe place. Dwell there for a moment.
  2. Hug someone who loves you. This includes wrapping your arms around yourself! Physical contact that is warm, tender, and loving will lift your spirits. A weighted blanket may also help.
  3. Get fresh air. Open a window, sit on your porch, walk out of your office for two minutes. Feel the hot or cool air on your face and be present in that moment. Is there humidity in the air? How does it feel when it kisses your skin? Are rain drops hitting the window? How does the air feel in your lungs? Breathe in.

These are three things that you can do when you’re in need of self care, but don’t have the time or energy to do something grand. Remember, self care is so important, but it’s also not another area for you to judge yourself harshly in. Simple is enough. You are enough.

You are lovely and you are loved,

Nikki xx

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Chapter 1

Photo credit Gabriel Jimenez via Unsplash

        I grew up on top of a mountain in Tennessee. The twisting road peaked at our humble home. I’d sit on skinned knees and make mud pies until the sun began to nestle into the valley below. It was the two of us against the world of poverty and statistical prophecy. She was a teen mom and I was a daughter, but also like the little sister she never had. I’d gather blades of grass and meticulously decorate each pie with words like ‘love’ and ‘mom’. It was beyond my understanding at the time, but we were poor. Loose change would collect beneath the seats of our old car and I would dig coins out and count them so that we could fill the tank.

        One restless summer night the heat formed such a thick cloud around us that we couldn’t sleep. Rain began to leak through the ceiling and she lit a candle and dressed me in the dim light. Our electricity had been off for some time. We ran through the rain and got into the car. I wrestled with my seatbelt and we listened to The Beatles, Dianna Ross, and Queen on the crackling radio all the way to McDonald’s. We shared a four count order of chicken nuggets and a small Pepsi. The storm clouds cleared away and I watched the stars as we went up the winding road back home. That night I snuggled her tightly and it didn’t make a bit of difference to me that the house was hot or that I couldn’t remember what my father’s hugs felt like. The essence of him had worn off long ago.

         That summer the church we attended gave me a bicycle. There was a plastic compartment on the handlebars that I kept my rock collection in. Beneath those rocks rested little notes that Mama would write me or notes that I would write myself.

“I love you. Love, Mama”

“xoxo. Love, Mama”

            Then, small tokens from myself. “I love you.” “Mama loves you.”

            The smell of honeysuckle would gently caress my face as I rode that bicycle all day. Sunshine poured into my heart and I was not a victim of poverty, but rather a believer of hope.

           Little Hope Notes may be a small initiative, but my prayer is that you may find these notes and tuck them away safely inside of your heart. May they remind you of what you have rather than what you lack.

Nikki xx

            

          

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I Am Not Her

She places herself perfectly in the middle of the room. Everyone’s eyes are drawn to her. She’s a force of nature; a lovely exotic flower.

I am not her.

She was created somewhere far away within the galaxies above. She sparkles and she shines even with darkness around her.

I am not her.

Her life looks effortlessly attained. The perfect contouring of her face and the shimmer in her eyes. People look in at her as if she is a diamond sparkling in a display case.

I am not her.

She is vulnerable yet guarded. Her sense of humor is unmatched, but she is reserved and dignified. She is everything I didn’t know was possible. An embodiment of paradoxes and perfectly imperfect.

I am not her.

She is courageous in the midst of adversity. Her story is complicated, but beautiful beyond anything hanging in an art gallery. She is a fine art undiscovered.

I am not her.

She is the loveliest friend, most patient mother, and adored wife. Each role she plays is perfectly balanced. She is a master of all trades.

I am not her.

She is elegant, but simple. Her fears are great, but she has conquered them all.

I am not her.

She is unfiltered. She’s perfect.

I am not her.

Yet, I look harder and deeper. I pause as I scroll and look within my own heart. I am not her, but she is not who I think she is. Behind the lens, the filters, the facade–she is me and I am her.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

I am imperfect.

She is imperfect.

We are each living a story untold.

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Pouring

This little hope note was left in our local bank for a stranger to find.

This afternoon I had a teen girl reach out to me and ask for advice. She wrote, “How do you inspire people so much and still have anything left for yourself? I need to figure this out because I really think I’m being led to use my writing to help others. But, I need some advice.” I was honored that she chose to reach out to me for advice. There was so much admiration in my heart for her as well. How many of us can say we are self aware enough to evaluate the level of self-care in our lives? I sat with her message for about half an hour waiting for pearls of wisdom to string together. I quickly realized that she had asked for my honest advice and not a perfect answer.

She had shown me such vulnerability and she deserved the same from me. I’m going to share with you what I shared with her.

  1. Some of my greatest efforts to help others comes during my greatest seasons of need. There is something about experiencing your personal rock bottom that can propel you to extend kindness to those in need. Difficulty is where empathy grows and from it we can glean so much. It cannot be hoarded, but must be shared. With that being said, personal difficult seasons require us to rest, reach out, and redeem our resources.
  2. You will never be ready. People may be drawn to perfect facades, but that is not where they find comfort. Waiting for the right moment, the right level of self-proclaimed perfection, and comfort to help others only delays the growth of you and those you wait to help. Are you imperfectly human? Then you’re already “qualified” to press in and press on in helping those in need of hope.
  3. Self-Care goes beyond bubble baths and comfort food. It requires some straight-up honesty from yourself. Meditate on some tough stuff. “Am I being fulfilled by helping others more than I’m being fulfilled by being my authentic self?” “Does past trauma interfere with my willingness to help those in need?” “Do I feel confident in saying ‘no’ when I need rest most?” “Do I find my value in what I do rather than who I am?”
  4. Not only can you be imperfect, but so can your random acts of kindness! If you’re out to make a difference then the measurement of that difference is not something that you can gauge. You never know what great impact you may have in someone’s life. It is in those quiet moments that the whisper of kindness sets in. After all, that’s the beautiful thing about hope.

Nikki xx

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Painting With Words

                     I’ve always found solace in the written word. As a little girl I remember feeling my emotions so deeply, but not knowing how to best express myself. I buried feelings deeply and they sat neglected for years. When I turned 10 years old I discovered the art of creative writing. I remember reading a Dr. Seuss book and deciding to create my own poem of silliness and wonder. Within minutes I had stanzas of make-believe creatures that were other worldly. On some level I believe I wrote that poem to escape into a carefree and forgiving galaxy far beyond the world I lived in.

                    Poetry provided healing properties in seasons of pain and excitement in the daily mundane. As time passed I found that what I had been buried started rising to the surface. My writing became more of a self-guided therapy. I began sharing my writing with a select few over the years. There were occasions when I would write with such intimate detail and give it to an acquaintance in need of encouragement. I felt true empathy for that person not knowing fully what they were facing at that time. It was as if I knew the map of their heart and wrote healing words meant just for them.

                      Little Hope Notes is like an exploration of my own heart and soul. I delve into the deep parts of myself–my past pain–and write to an audience of strangers. What would I have wanted to hear when I was a lonely teenager, a discouraged new mom, a suicidal young adult, and a discouraged friend? Those are the places I write from. I hope that these canvases painted with the written word bring comfort to you. My prayer is that they meet you on the level of your need. You matter. You are worth every minute I take to write to you.

xx

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The Weary

As a child I was intimately aware of people’s tangible and emotional needs. I was raised by my Mama who was a teenager at the time I was born. We lived in a very small home on top of a mountain in East Tennessee. There were wide cracks in the floor and the old windows were paper thin. I remember snow blowing in from under the front door and wild animals getting in from between the wide floorboards. The water pipes froze each winter and the stifling heat enveloped us in the summer. Mama struggled to pay the bills which was no fault of her own. A teen mother and her child living in poverty quickly bled into the statistics in our rural hometown. I was five at the time, but I was emotionally attuned to our reality.

Something that I noticed was that the small country church that we were part of would help pay our bills, bring us food, and bless me with second hand clothing at the beginning of the school year. Those memories are so vivid in my mind that I can still recall the the way the cool black plastic of the trash bags full of clothes felt on my fingertips. My heart swells as I remember the feeling of trying on my new-to-me clothes for hours at a time. Even then I day dreamed of helping people in need when I grew up. There was something about living in need that made me empathetic at an early age.

Fast forward to right here in this moment. I have so many more stories of how I have been uplifted by being involved in a community. People have prayed with me in my weakest moments, sent me snail mail to encourage me, brought my family meals after surgeries. The love and compassion of others is one of the most beautiful things–like a living and breathing art piece. My daughter is the age I was when I saw my Mama working so hard to take care of me. Already, my little girl makes homemade cards to the helpless, hopeless, and lonely. She picks dandelions out of the yard for me daily.

I know the perils of the world so intimately. My mind is not ignorant of the suffering of others. My heart, though, knows with full assurance that there is rest for the weary.

These notes are my offering.