Sunday, October 30, 2011

"I am Broke(n)"

Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm broke."? Have you ever said, "I'm broke."? What do those two little words mean to you? You don't have the expected amount of money in your checking account? Your savings account is looking a little low? You can't afford to splurge on some unnecessary material thing? That new pair of stylish boots have to wait until next pay day? You have to skip out on an outing just this once with a friend? You have to be a bit more conscientious of your budget for a short while?

That's EXACTLY what it means for ME.

On my last trip to Ethiopia, I had to take a few unpaid days from my job in order to be able to go back to my heart for only a moment! I saved before my trip to cover the cost of my living expenses when I returned and I didn't think much about what that paycheck might look like nor did I care. God was allowing me to go back to a place so very special to me and He had already provided in ways that I could not comprehend so I trusted that He would continue to provide upon my return.

But, then, I came home. I returned to my reality, my routines, and unfortunately, my habits. And, shortly after my return, I received that not cared about (until I opened it) paycheck. For a moment, I forgot about the faithfulness God had shown me already, and I cringed as I saw the measly amount of money that was directly deposited into my bank account. In truth, I panicked. I doubted.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24

What was I going to do? Missing about 3/4 of my paycheck, my "way of life" for the next few weeks was really going to suffer. Puhhhhhh-lease. For the first few days, I kept thinking and/or saying, "I'm broke." Then, one day, a conviction came over me so strong that it brought me to my knees. I was driving and mulling over the "state of my current finances" when a feeling of complete hypocrisy came rushing over me. "Really, Nicci," I thought. "Broke? You are so far from broke. You have a roof over your head. An excessive amount of groceries that you could live off of for the next two months in your pantry. Hot water to bathe in. You haven't missed a beat when doing the usual "fun" with friends. A family who loves you unconditionally. And, most importantly, a God that loves you enough to send you all the way to Africa where you receive the most rewarding spiritual fulfillment ever. Broke? You got a thing or two to learn about broke, little girl", I thought.

And, then, I pondered more. I am broke. BROKEN, in fact. When I am in Ethiopia, I have a spiritual nearness to God because of my infinite need for him in those moments. Moments that bring me to my knees when I reflect on my days spent with children who instantly love me simply because I'm there. Moments when I cry out to God for all the hurt that lives in that place. Moments when I don't think I can stand another minute and God proves me wrong. Moments when I have the overwhelming feeling that this is sooooo right and I am right where I should be- in the center of His will. Moments when everything else is stripped away and absolutely nothing else matters. I can't hide that being there is the toughest thing I have ever endured in all of my life, but, even better, it is the ABSOLUTE most rewarding.

But, I am BROKEN. I am distracted. I am a sinner. I let "my life" get in the way of His life for me. My focus is OFF! It's not something I like and it's not something I am proud of. But, it is the truth and it's something I am working on each and every day. When I am in Ethiopia, He is all I can depend on. I have nothing else. And, the closeness I feel is beyond words. But, then I come home. I come back to these "things" that do not matter. Everyday, I get frustrated with my reality because each day that passes, I allow a little more of "MY" world to get in the way of Him.

I guess, today, I am thankful for my brokenness. I am thankful because it reminds me. Reminds me of my absolute need to be near Him- in Ethiopia and in the United States. Reminds me that my world is meaningless without Him- here or there. Reminds me that I am so fortunate to be saved by His grace. Reminds me that I need to constantly work at giving Him ALL of my heart- not just a little at a time. He knows my heart and He still wants it. He knows that I am broken and He loves me anyway.

How great it is to serve a jealous and relentless God. How great it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I Love Wednesday

First, I am loving that this week has been fall break... My learning targets for this week include:

I can sleep as late as I want to in the mornings.

I can take time to enjoy an extra cup of coffee.

I can travel to desired locations with family and friends.

I can watch a movie I have been wanting to see.

I can go to lunch with girlfriends.

I can read a book for enjoyment.

I can go on a long walk and enjoy the cooler weather.

I can work on home decorating projects.

I can spend quality time with my family and friends.

I can sit quietly, feel relaxed, and thankful.


Next, I am LOVING cheering for the Southwind Jaguars and #4 as they make their way to the playoffs for the first time ever!!! Our church has a ministry where people can "Adopt a Player" and mentor students from a local high school. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to "adopt" a player because I am an employee in the school district and I am not married. However, my friend, Kelly, and her husband adopted #4, Terence! He is such a great kid! I am lucky enough to get to be his cheerleader not only in football but for his future. I know his future is bright and I am loving that I get to be a small part of it!

Also, I am LOVING that my baby sister is home for the week! Granted she has to work everyday, I am loving seeing her sweet smile! I can't wait for them to move back from California! The sooner, the better.....
A throwback!!! Awww.....
Sister time in Vegas!
Her wedding!

Another thing I am loving is that these sweet babies will be ONE on Tuesday! I can just hardly believe it! I am also loving that they will be home for almost a month in just two short weeks! Loving that Kiki will have all kinds of time to love on them and their sweet mama.
I mean.... could they be any cuter?!?!
Last, I am LOVING that I serve a God who loves me and I have thousands of pictures to look at when I miss Ethiopia and all of my babies and friends there. Being away from them is hard. When I miss somewhere here, I can pick up the phone and call and it takes some of that pain away. Things aren't that easy with my loved ones in Ethiopia and it makes my longing for them almost unbearable some days. But, I LOVE that our God is a faithful God. A God that fills that hole in my heart exactly when I need it. That hole appears from time to time and I am thankful for it because I have to draw nearer to Him so that He can fill me up. (and my pictures :) )

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Right Side Up!

I went to Ethiopia. That was all it took.

God showed me His whole world.

He just used a different lens.

He showed me how His heart breaks.
He introduced me to many motherless and fatherless children trying to survive on the streets.

He introduced me to a child whose face was burned severely so that he would look pitiful and he could earn more money begging for his homeless family.
He introduced me to children who have nowhere to lay their heads at night except for the cold concrete on the busy, crowded streets of Addis Ababa, where trouble awaits.

He introduced me to children who have no shoes, tattered clothing, filthy bodies, and smiles bigger than you can imagine.
He introduced me to four, sweet, 14 year-old girls who have had to endure more pain in their short little lives than most women will endure in a lifetime.

He introduced me to many children who have the hope that is found in Him and what that hope has provided them. What a blessing! With nothing, they have ALL they need in Him!
He introduced me to a group of Ethiopian believers who pour their lives into these precious children each and every day to do some small part.
He introduced me to a new world. A world I thought I knew existed and now the realness of that world, at times, takes my breath away.
It has taken me several months to blog about my time in Ethiopia because what I feel is just completely overwhelming. I had no idea why I was going there before I went. Fortunately, my heart was willing and I listened to His voice as he showed me the way. I never could have prepared my heart or my life for what was about to happen.

God has turned my world RIGHT SIDE UP! My life's dreams and ambitions are completely different. I am changed and I am thankful. It was so easy to be wrapped up in my life here and for me to think that I had things figured out! He took me all the way to the other side of the planet to show me otherwise. I didn't have things figured out. I still don't. I probably never will. I just pray everyday that He will give me the discernment to know the next step.

If Ethiopia taught me anything, it is that my life is His (always has been...just took me a minute to understand the magnitude of this) and I will try every single day of my life to illuminate Christ's love for others.

~Love ya'll!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Precious Moments

"For it is by grace
you have been saved,
through faith --
and this is not from ourselves,
it is the gift of God."
Ephesians 2:8

Hopefully, these pictures will bring some of you as much joy as they bring me! I am missing the children in Ethiopia today! I miss them everyday but they are heavy in my heart today and these pictures keep me going! I will update soon about my short term trip and share about what God is doing in my life!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ethiopia for 10 days!

So..... the time is here. Wow, two months just flew by!!!!!

Our team leaves tomorrow at 2:30 to make our long trek to Ethiopia! I am full of so many emotions!!!! Most of all, I am so excited!

How You Can Pray For Team Ethiopia

For 10 days, beginning June 9th, eight of us from Central Church will travel to Ethiopia to reach out to at-risk children with the love of Christ. We will run a VBS for children who literally live on the streets because they have no home and for children at-risk for going to the streets. As representatives of Central Church and The Forsaken Children we will be working alongside Ethiopian nationals who serve these children throughout the year.

As we go, we ask for your prayers. Please see how you can pray for us below and commit to pray everyday for our team. We will be more effective if you pray!

For each member of the team: Kelly, Liz , Kelly, Michelle, Britainy, Nicci, Bree, and Morgan.

o Many of us are leaving behind our spouses, children, pets, and basically those that depend on us. Pray for those we leave behind!

o Pray that the Lord will guard our stomachs from the bacteria lurking around us. Please pray specifically that no member of our team gets sick while we are there.

o God has something in store for each member of the team. Pray that each member will be like a sponge, ready to absorb what God wants to show and teach him/her.

For each child we will minister to. We will be working with around 150 children throughout our time in Ethiopia. Each of these children are beneficiaries of the project we are visiting called Onesimus Children Development Association. There will be three types of children we will work with, please pray for them all␣

o Street Children ␣ those actually living on the streets

o At-Risk Children ␣ those who live with some sort of family but due to poverty are increasingly at-risk for being lured by the streets

o Halfway Home Children ␣ children are in these homes because they either have no family or their family cannot care for them appropriately

For the Onesimus Children Development Association staff members we will work with.

o These staff members have very difficult jobs and it is easy for them to become overwhelmed. Pray that our team will be able to encourage these believers, giving them strength to persevere.

We want to keep you posted about how things are going and everyday, starting Saturday, June 11 until Saturday, June 18, we will blog!

The team will be posting blogs from the ground, sharing a picture or two and updating everyone with specific prayer requests along the way. Feel free to comment, as the team will often get a chance to read

back some of the comments left on the blog, encouraging them along the way.

See you soon! Love!!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Truth

Insecurity plagues me. I am inadequate. I have nothing special to offer.

I am scared. I am worried. I am filled with fear.

While preparing for my trip, I feel Satan trying to fill me with these feelings. Filling me with doubt, questioning my emotional stability, testing me.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

I trust Him.

I trust Him completely.

Insecurity subsides. Inadequacy disappears. I am special. I am HIS!

Scared of what? He is with me. Worried about what? He already knows the details.

Fear is foolish.

God fills me more. He gently reminds me that He is ever present. Right by my side. Always. Carrying me.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

And my runneth over.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Humble and Full Heart

(Disclaimer: I have decided that I am going to use this blog as journal for myself before, during, and after my mission trip. I want to remember and hold on to every small detail of this journey. I have been so humbled through this experience already and I don't want to forget ANY of it! I know that God is changing my life--- changing my life for the better!)

Once I "gave in" to God's plan and fully committed to going to Ethiopia, I had to quickly start fundraising! This being my first mission trip, I had NO idea the work that went into the planning! Raising $3000 in such a short amount of time seems like a HUGE task. And well it is. But, God is just that much bigger! He provided more than I could have ever dreamed.

So, after sending a letter to many of closest friends and relatives, the support started POURING in! Prayers, monetary donations, and words of encouragement that humbled me and made me realize just how right things can be. Restated: God's plan is perfect. Don't question it. I have never been more confident about anything in my whole life.

But, I need to say a few thank you's.... Thank you's to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and guided me. You are a true blessing to my life.

First, I would like to thank ALL of my friends, family, and loved ones who are praying for me. Your prayers give me so very much. Whenever I am flooded with weakness, inadequacy, worry, and nerves, God fills me with such comfort. I would, also, like to thank all of you who supported me financially. Because GOD is SOOO good, I am FULLY funded! What an awesome God we serve. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for making this journey possible. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Next, I would like to thank a very dear friend of mine, Michael Ruiz. Michael and I have been co-workers for four years and during that time, we have created a very special friendship. One that I know will last me my whole life through and for that I am grateful.

Michael is the leader of middle school boy's bible study group and he and his group hosted one incredible car wash fundraiser. Although it was a cloudy day, his team raised a significant amount of money that topped off the remainder of my fundraising as well as donating a large chunk directly to The Forsaken Children. Besides the money, the support I felt from Michael, as well as, the parents from my school was unbelievable. I found myself that day feeling completely overwhelmed. I knew I worked at a great school but I think, at times, I took that blessing for granted. (as I take many of the blessings in my life...a work in progress, that's me!) The way that community came together to support me was humbling, at the very least. Former and current parents and students showed up that day as well as students and parents that I have never taught. They came for a car wash but ALL were quick to jump right in and help. Children holding signs on the side of Poplar Avenue was quite the sight!!! The feeling of gratitude that swept over me was one I could never put into words. Ever. So, because I can think of nothing else to adequately express my appreciation, THANK YOU, Michael and my GES family for making me understand even better that this is right. My life is as it should be. Michael, thank you for going above and beyond to support me through this journey and most of all, thank you for your friendship.

Dorothy and Abby, two of my 1st grade babies, came by after soccer! They held these signs on the corner of Poplar Avenue and Germantown Parkway for over an hour.
(Side note- As they excitedly helped out, Dorothy looked at Abby and said, "This is so cool. I can't wait to write about this is my journal on Monday." Abby replied, "I know and I am going to draw us and these signs with Miss Feathers standing behind us!"
Talk about a proud teacher... my kids write about their weekend every Monday in their journal and they were planning their journals on a Saturday!
Sweet, shy Carly getting donations from people at the red light! She was too precious. Her line went something like this..."Help support the kids in E-thi-o-p-uh! One dollar will make a big difference!" She raised over $100 by herself!
Washing away!
Also, I would like to thank my first grade team. They threw me the most awesome "shower" to get supplies for my trip and I RACKED up! I was showered with clothes, shoes, school supplies, and other materials to take to the children. Thank you so much, Kathy, Chrystal, Julia, Lindsey, Tracie, and Diana for loving me. I feel so blessed to be a part of your team and I feel your graciousness each and every day. You all were so thoughtful to think of me. I can't wait to take the goodies to the children.

The set up in the lounge. Yummy cake and peach tea!
Me and Kathy B!

To my K-kids(a group of 4-5th graders who serve in the community), thank you for all of the school supplies and the first aid supplies you brought to our last meeting. Each of you is spectacular and I have been so proud to be your sponsor this year. I know that giving is in the motto of our club but your willingness to help meant so much.

So... thank you ALL for graciously loving me but more importantly for loving Him. His plans are great. Your support truly means everything to me. God is so good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Never Stagnant

I am finally realizing God's purpose for my life.

What I always thought was stagnant... well, God never stopped moving.

Moving in me...

I could not be any more confident or excited. I finally get His plan.

Let me digress...

For several years, I have been searching for that next step. After graduating college and beginning my career, I always felt this unexplainable emptiness inside. I was blessed with a great job, an amazing family, and wonderful friends but I never felt completely whole. For so long, I chalked it up to being in that era of my life where ALL of my friends were gettin
g married and that being a dream I longed to come true, I ached for the next step in my life to begin. God has a funny way of knowing better and it wasn't until recently that I began to fully
comprehend that he had every small detail of my life planned out long before I was even born.

So, for a while, I have been praying for God to "tell" me my next step. I looked for answers. Was I supposed to move and start my life somewhere else? Did He want me to continue my
education and go back to school for my Specialist degree? While these are things I might like to do, none of them felt right. My life is here. My life is in Memphis -- my family, my friends, my job, my church, everything. I continued to pray for God to fill my heart and, boy, did he answer. About a month ago, I was sitting in church, speaking a silent prayer about my life and the road I should follow next. I spoke a very specific prayer asking Him what His plan was for me and asking him specifically if he wanted me to go on a mission trip. (While missions have always been on my heart, I have never felt like God could use me in this field. Silly me!) As
soon as I was finished praying, our pastor began to speak about short term mission trips. I turned, grabbed my mom (she was confused), and KNEW that God had just been VERY blunt in giving me my answer.

Once I got home, I did a little research on the short term mission trips Central would be taking this year and I came across a high school friend's name. I contacted her immediately. We met the following day for coffee and it was all downhill from there. Heather, my friend, urged me to pray for where God wanted to use me but she, also, offered that time was of the essence and
that I needed to get the ball rolling if this is something I really wanted to do. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a planner and I am not very good at making on the spot decisions. However, something MUCH larger was taking place. God was moving. While I recognize that He has always been moving inside me, this was the first time I ever fully acknowledged His plan.

By Thursday of that week, I had signed up with the missions department and I had chosen a trip. Wait... God had chosen my trip... I was going to Ethiopia. By Sunday, I was a part of a team and I have not looked back. I have never felt more right about anything in my life. While
insecurities plague me, God fills me. He knows the desires of my heart better than I do and I finally realized that it was up to me to listen.

So... in a few short weeks, I will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a team from Central Church hoping to make a difference in some of the lives of the estimated 100,000 children living in the streets. We will be working with an organization called The Forsaken Children ( that offers a future to these sweet children.

I have decided that I will now use this blog to journal my experiences before, during and after my trip. Please pray for me, my team, and the children of Addis Ababa. I will covet your prayers and I look forward to sharing my journey with you!

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Up next: Getting there!