Our One Year Anniversary

P,

Happy Anniversary! The past year has gone by in the blink of an eye. We have been to near-hell and back; experienced pain and suffering, growth and triumph, and our love has matured into one of husband and wife. You are my best friend, my confidant, my cheerleader, my coach, my teacher, but most of all, you are my true love. Thank you for all that you do on a daily basis to make me the happiest woman on the planet. I would be absolutely lost without you–I love you more than I can adequately express in words. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us, because I know that with you by my side, I can do anything.

To many, many more…

You make me happier than I have ever been.

You make me happier than I have ever been.

Nicole_Paul-31

View More: http://benelsassphotography.pass.us/nicole-and-pauls-wedding

View More: http://benelsassphotography.pass.us/nicole-and-pauls-wedding

 

Note: photographs courtesy of Ben Elsass of Ben Elsass Photography.

Intentionality

Intentionality. Intentionality. Intentionality.

Is it just me, or does it feel like “intentionality” is the unofficial buzzword for 2014? It seems to be everywhere! I am almost to the point where I am sick of hearing it; the word just feels so…vapid. (Personally, I prefer the word “deliberate,” but that’s just me.)

I was having an internal dialogue…with myself… (1. Redundant, I know, and 2. yes, I actually have internal dialogues…several times a day. Hey, I never claimed to be normal!)

Anyway, I was having this back-and-forth debate inside my head just now when I realized: wait a minute. Maybe I am hearing and seeing this word over and over and over because God wants me to pay attention to it. AHA! Perhaps He has been trying to get my attention so I would focus on the meaning of “intentionality” this entire time! (Dear Heavenly Father: the lightbulb has finally turned on. You know how thick my skull can be! I apologize for taking so long.)

All of that elaboration just to say this: I am decidedly going to sit and think about how I can begin living my life with–you guessed it!–intentionality. My hope is that focusing on being intentional will help me work towards achieving my current goals and desires.

This is guaranteed to be an interesting ride. I hope you will stick with me through the ups and downs! What are you doing to live intentionally?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day! Not only would I quite literally not be here today without you, I would not be the woman I am without your unconditional love, unwavering faith, and seemingly endless patience. Thank you for being an exemplary role model, a trusted confidant, and my best friend. I owe everything to you–thank you for all you do.

Mom 1

Mom 2

Mom 3

Mom 4

Moms Day 5

“What Do You Want?”

Today’s journal entry was inspired by this post over at (in)courage, by Holley Gerth.

In the post, Holley discusses asking the question, “What do you want?” After reading the post in its entirety, I sadly realized: I have not stopped to ask myself this question in quite a while. Sure, I think about things I “want” any day of the week, but they are superficial, material things. Handbags, shoes, books, stationery, journals, decor for the condo, a spotless home, jewelry, a new car. I need not go on, you get the point. I mean, who doesn’t fantasize about these sorts of things on a regular basis? Yet, it has been longer than I can remember since I sat in pensive silence to think on what I really want. What does your heart, mind and soul truly, genuinely desire? What a question! So then, after reading Holley’s words, I took the time to process the question, allowed it to sit awhile, and then aimed to list out my answers.

Here are a few real, genuine wants of mine:
–restored health
–to be completely free of facial pain
–more physical energy
–no more panic attacks
–to once again feel smart, intellectual
–friends and genuine connection with women here in Chicago
–a true sense of belonging
–to better learn Scripture and the teachings in the Bible
–a deeper relationship with God and Jesus Christ
–have less fear
–more confidence, courage and a stronger sense of independence
–to be more physically fit for my current health and future preventative benefits
–to be able to go to a live music show (I used to do this all the time before getting sick and I LOVED it) and really enjoy it without experiencing any panic or anxiety
–to serve the less fortunate and under-served in my community as best I can

Over the next few days, take some time to think on the question, “what do you really want?”

Note: I am not an affiliate of (in)courage, I simply enjoy the writing of their contributors and reflecting on same.

Learning to Listen

Lately I have been feeling more inclined to listen and read words than to write or speak. It’s been an interesting experience. I have thought of several blog post topics, and barely begin writing before saving the draft and moving onto something else.

P and I are currently in Houston with my family, whom I miss tremendously. So, instead of speaking, I am learning to listen to their stories, to be present in the moment, to really take it all in.

I have been reading Scripture in preparation for Easter, and trying to listen closely to God through the written Word.

My short break from writing on the blog will end soon, but while I am in Houston with some of my most beloved people, I will be devoting my time and attention to simply listening.

A beautiful and blessed Easter to all.

Answered: An Opportunity to Help

If I had to choose the most important lesson my mother has taught me, it is to have compassion for those less fortunate. Growing up, the act of giving back to the community was demonstrated so clearly by my parents. When I was much younger, before my brothers were born, my mom would convince me to part with toys I had moved on from by saying, “you will feel a genuine sense of happiness when you give to those who have less than we do.” The elementary-aged me was skeptical, but went along with letting go of my toys and clothes that no longer fit. In middle school, Mom and I joined National Charity League, a mother-daughter philanthropic organization, which I had the pleasure of serving in until graduating from high school. As the years have passed, Mom’s words have rung true: helping others makes my heart so happy in a way that nothing else does.

For a number of months now, I have been wanting to volunteer at an organization in the city. Ideally, I would find an organization that will allow me to use my native Spanish to somehow help the large Hispanic population in Chicago. What I am embarrassed to admit is that, despite having expressed my intention to volunteer to several different people, I have not started researching potential volunteer positions in earnest.

As God would have it, yesterday I received communication from a client I worked with during my time as a paralegal. This lady is near and dear to my heart; she and her husband are Mexican immigrants with three school-aged daughters. After addressing matters of business, we would oftentimes continue to chat, sharing small bits of our personal lives here and there. She has hosted my husband and I for a meal at her home. Recently, she has come to mind more times than I would like to admit; each time I put off contacting her, which led to a sense of mounting guilt for continuing to not act on my urge to reach out. When I heard from her yesterday, I knew it was time to rekindle our friendship. We caught each other up on recent happenings in our lives, then she shared the biggest news of all: her seventeen year-old daughter is currently pregnant, in her third trimester. It was all I could do to choke back the tears–I know this family does not have much, and now, adding a mouth to feed and a young mother… After she uttered the words, all I could think was, “this is it, this is my opportunity to help. Thank you, God.” We hung up and I immediately began making a mental list of all the items families with newborns need, and what small amount we could afford to chip in to purchase items on this elaborate list.

I poured my heart out to P about this last night, as tears also poured from my eyes. What a change of perspective! Despite my compromised health, God has given P and me blessings beyond measure. P is wonderful and of course encouraged my philanthropic spirit while gently reminding me that we remain a one-income household–we can give, but there are financial limits. We have decided to help in small ways, within our current constraints.

This morning I began my service to this family by saying a prayer for them and the baby on the way. My heart is filled with joy.

“Be Thankful”

While cleaning out my inbox, I stumbled upon an email I sent to my husband back in February.

P:

I came across this note I wrote to myself a few months ago. I thought you might appreciate it…

Be Thankful.

Be thankful, Nicole, because what God has given you is not tragic, but beautiful and heart-warming. 

One Saturday morning in October I awoke early, in more pain than usual. I took my morning medications, and a few hours later still no relief. On that particular morning, I was text messaging back and forth with my friend KMK, whose wedding I had participated in as a bridesmaid not even a month earlier. I was replying to her reaction regarding my resignation from work, effective October, in order to focus on my health full-time. As I was typing out my quite lengthy response, it occurred to me that I should copy and save it in a separate spot, so that on days when I am feeling especially low, depressed, sad, deflated, negative, or just “blegh,” I could easily access and again read my response to KMK. 

My idea was that I would do this in order to regain perspective, to make an “attitude adjustment” (as my mother would say growing up), and to remind myself that I am such a fortunate woman who is tremendously loved, never alone, and that I still possess the will, the desire, and the strength to fight for my health. 

Finally, my unadulterated response to K on that Saturday morning:

“It saddens me to be in this situation, health-wise, to be 26 and unemployed because I am too ill and not be fully healed after over a year. But I am trying my best to be and remain positive. I am fortunate to have such an amazing and supportive husband who continues to do all he possibly can to help me get better; a supportive family, and with that, immensely supportive and loving in-laws who care for me as true parents and drive me to/from and accompany me to every single doctor appointment, lab test, pharmacy in the Chicagoland area; and friends who build me up when I am down (which seems to be more often than not as of late), who reach out and who do a marvelous job in helping lighten this load for me, whether they realize it or not.”

Be thankful, Nicole to all of those people God has put in your life to help make you be whole again.

Funny, how mere minutes ago I was telling my husband that I needed some time to commune with God right now. This email was up on my desktop screen; it was the first thing I read after making that comment to P. All I can manage to say is, thank you, God. Thank you.

Note: a few words from the original email text were redacted in consideration of the privacy of others.