To You Before I Knew You

I’m going to share my heart about the relationship I had. I get that 90% of other normal women don’t share these thoughts publicly and I am not seeking to gain attention. I share because maybe out there reading this there’s a woman (or man) who is in similar shoes as I am and they need to identify with someone.

I’ve been doing really well in these past few weeks. I’ve healed up from the physical pain of second degree burns on my arms and legs and my heart has not had the oozing blisters that matched my legs. In fact, I’ve never been better. I’m at peace,the light has reignited in my eyes,and I feel incredibly restful. Truly this has been my experience after thinking I could never get over the anger , hurt,and embarrassment of job loss. I couldn’t fathom that the tightness in my chest would ever truly leave me room to love again,whether romantically or I’m every day relationships. There was a small point where I even wondered if my legs would lose the sting that lingered long after the wounds had healed. As if like magic my life was restored to the real Nicci. The Nicci I truly am when I’m in the center of God’s will. The Nicci who isn’t laden with anxiety and fear of the future. The Nicci that loves to laugh,enjoys all things rainbows,and who leaves people happy not burdened. That’s who I am when I’m walking with the Lord. No, none of what I just listed is Spiritual or really conveys my relationship with the Lord but it does represent the joy that is in my heart. It’s like that kids song “I’ve got the joy,joy,joy,joy down in my heart!” Truly I had forgotten what not fretting about the future felt like.

Then today something slowly crept up and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. Out of the blue I had a strong nagging urge to write a letter to my future husband. WHAT? SERIOUSLY?!? Ok, let me stop right here and say it’s totally cool if that’s your thing but for me I’ve always thought it was really really bazaar. I dismissed the idea for a while but that same little voice that said “Nicci get your pen and paper and write to your (then) boyfriend. You have to be honest with him.” So I picked up my blue zebra pen and the closest homemade card and just started writing. *take deep breath* it was so very therapeutic. I didn’t really feel that I particularly needed it at the time. My prayer life isn’t “Lord give me a husband. Or Lord surly you could work something out with my exboyfriend and I!” In fact any time I have the slightest inclination I say “Lord take those thoughts from my heart! Father please sustain contentment in my life.” So when this almost relief type feeling washed over me as I poured out a small but lovely letter to my future husband I was shocked.

Well let’s fast forward a little bit. The day my now ex boyfriend messaged me for the first time I picked up a blank journal and wrote a prayer. Included in that prayer was “Lord take this from me if it is not your will. I don’t want to harm myself or this gentleman by causing us to not follow your will. I don’t know what you have for us but thank you for the opportunity.” I still maintain those thoughts.

Today I took my letter and went to place it in the journal that is no longer blank. It is filled with several journal entries/prayers….and the letter I wrote that day God told me that I must draw a line in the sand. My fellowship was more than where I sat on Sunday. I had made my choice.

I’ll tell you what. I could hardly look at it as that conversation started playing over and over in my head. For a split second I closed my eyes a wished I could turn back time. I could be planning a trip to be in his state. I could be loved by someone of the opposite sex. I would have the hope of having that wedding this fall and I could wear a dress made of the white eyelet that I bought on impulse. There was the desire to keep a home and please my husband. Yes,for a split second I could imagine I had made another choice. Even now as I type there is very present the yearning of lost hopes and strong desire. Something was awakened in my heart with that relationship that I had tailored away for so long because I didn’t think anyone could ever love me because of my past,my looks,or any other of those lies that Satan brings up. So I’ve loved and lost but I’ve also lived and gained!

Going through the moment of having to choose God’s will, which was my prayer from day one,and coming out the other side I know that the Lord is actively providing. Is it a husband? Well no not exactly but He’s given me a way out of the deep despair of lost hopes. He’s given that new(really an old one) prayer of contentment! I am thankful that when I pick up that journal to add a new letter,entry,or prayer yes, there might be a quick stab of what might have been but if I pick up those five pages front and back I’ll quickly be reminded why I made the choice that I did. No, not because there was anything wrong with the man I love or even myself but rather because God said “Do you trust me?” He even gave me the command to save that emotion fill letter even when I thought it was a bit extreme! He wanted me to have no doubt of His ability to provide. I have it as a reminder!

For now I rest in that provision. If it weren’t for the horrible burns I’d never would have made a choice. If it weren’t for that choice I would still be rotting in bitterness and anger! He has provided a way out of my sin! Oh what cause for joy. So dear one if you’re reading my rather dairy post of a blog know this. Whatever hard thing you’re going through you will be ok! It very well might be what God uses to move your life forward. I was blessed to have a relationship while the hard part of being fired took place.It gave me the comfort I needed and the support of prayers that carried me through the days I wasn’t sure how I’d go on. Likewise the absence of the relationship dug up and cleansed my filthiest parts and restored my soul to a place of acceptance and I gained my meness back as well! God is good! Don’t forget it it!

Much love,Pilgrim Nicci

The Day I Went To Prison

Shadowy figures in the distant fog are easy to ignore. Walking right past the faceless bodies brings no pings of emotion that we wish could go away. What happens when the fog lifts and you lift your eyes as you make eye contact and say “Hello,God bless you and Merry Christmas.”? When the person is far away almost as if an abstract thought somehow we can justify not caring. This person must have done something terrible. This person is worthless and deserves to rot. This person really isn’t a person so let’s just walk away. It becomes much more of a blaring reality when you can imagine this woman as your bank teller, your dental hygienists,or even you. Where would we be if

we had made one choice that would of changed an entire future? I know that answer, I’d be on the other side of the cookie line.

So what does it mean to be on the side of the line that is giving? Yesterday was a day of waiting around. There was a fog plan in place which meant we didn’t get to pass out cookies right away. Held in a room full of predominately old order Amish sure made things interesting. As humans we tend to segregate ourselves into nice neat little groups. This makes us feel more comfortable ensuring that we don’t have to put forth much effort. The same was said even as we labored next to each other. There was a circle of chairs forming a tight group with backs facing us. Everyone not Amish we’re scattered around. Time came to repackage some cookies and I thought it would be my opportunity to break in with some of the Amish. I settled myself in to help. As I did this I tried countless times to make conversation. Each time being completely ignored. I’m not one to give up so I would simply repeat what I said. They’d grimace,answering a one word answer and turn away to talk in their language to someone else. I began asking myself why was it that these Amish came to this prison. It didn’t seem like it was for fellowship,they certainly don’t want any outsiders to get too close even if it’s another anabaptist,and they really seemed somewhat miserable. Then I remembered that these people are in just as much bondage as the women that are in maximum security. So I stood silently opening the baggies and as I passed it to the lady beside me I began to pray over these people that have physical freedom but are held in such tight chains and they don’t even know it.

Finally our wait was over and the rest of our cookie passing could continue. I was a bit nervous because I had no clue what to expect. Pretty quickly the unknown became known and I was comfortable. We all had a job mine was greeting the women as they entered. I so wish we could of hugged them because somehow a handshake just wasn’t enough. One young girl probably younger than me said “I’m a hugger and I’m so glad you’re here. You have no idea what this means to us.” With that she did lean in and gave me a hug and I didn’t mind. Streams of women came for the cookies,singing,and silent prayer. These women ranged in age from younger to me to 70’s or 80’s. I couldn’t help but wonder if they would ever have an identity outside of their crime. One older woman proudly announced “I have 27 days left and then I get a new life!” I felt happy for her and in the depths of my heart I prayed that it was the truth.

I made it my mission to memorize even one name and I did. I went home and looked up her crime. She was the get away driver in a burglary gone wrong. One bad choice and she wasn’t even the one to pull the trigger yet here she was. The Bible verse that says to avoid all appearances of evil has hung in my mind all day today. I wonder,would you stop right now and pray for this young woman? She is so young and when she gets out in several years could she be loosened from the chains of not only prison but also Satan?

One surprising experience was getting to go into the nursery. There were six young moms holding their precious gifts. None of these mothers have violent crimes and they all are going through a program to learn how to be a mother. You could definitely see a difference from mom to mom in how they talked about their children. My brain started wondering how will these children not develop RAD or other struggles. I found out that these children get to be with the moms for three years. It was so encouraging to see one mom with her baby’s head laying on her chest ear down. It was so sweet to acknowledge that a baby can still bond with its mother even in less than ideal situations. In those moments of us observing this child’s heart was being aligned with its mother’s heartbeat. That gave me hope for these children.

The program director said some of these moms have never held a baby or even changed their diapers yet here they were in the thick of it with no choice but to learn. In some small way I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that these babies were being raised right where they were. The moms were drug free,caring for their children,and growing to hopefully be able to raise these children in a healthy way. Once again only time will tell but these three years are giving them a chance.

You know what? We all were once in a prison. A prison of sin,ignorance,and defiance. Our drug of choice was pride and self satisfaction. We had no clue that our sugar daddy was really out to harm us. We didn’t know that the high we got was only temporary. There would be no escape in the end of our life. We were in sins prison without a hope and it was slowly destroying our lives.

It wasn’t until someone or some situation was like our cookie receiving opportunity. A message from the Lord was brought down and over time we could accept that we were loved. We could start the fight to regain our dignity. We could share our hurts and our past sin with our Heavenly Father. When our hearts had soften enough we could ask Jesus for help. He came and pled guilty for our crimes and just like that our chains were gone. Having received the Holy Spirit we could then go out into the world as if to do community service. No, not because we have to pay off our crimes but because we have been given so much that we want to serve our king and those that He loves.

Some of us might not know the real sorrow of being behind bars of a state prison however we do know what bondage feels like. The peace that come with total freedom is not something I’d want to try to withhold from someone. I think what Gospel Echoes and many other people do to bring self worth,salvation,and stability into the lives of a prisoner, is such a good thing. Not too long ago five years or so, I would of said that these people weren’t worth fighting for. I’m glad that long ago God convicted my heart that redemption is available for all. It’s not just for the seemingly squeaky clean people who get dressed up on Sunday, it’s for EVERYONE.

So maybe you’re reading this and find yourself in sins prison. I’d like for you to know that you can cry out to God at any time and He is there waiting for your call. It won’t be a golden ticket moment where you get everything you ever hoped for but it will start you on a journey of peace and salvation.

If you need a friend or simply someone to pray over you, please go to the question page on this blog and I’d be happy to pray for you.

May you find the love and salvation that can only come from the Lord!

Much love,

Pilgrim Nicci

You are Only as Hopeless as You Choose to Be

In the midst of living in this kingdom that is not my own it can be easy to slip in to wanting to sympathize or some how connect with the people around that are broken and hurting over what this kingdom has to offer. When things like mass shootings become something that is just a normal, decline of humans being able to connect with other humans because of the false reality that social media and words like introvert have brought to the table,and the American Dream is a vocabulary that a child in ingrained with all through school then yes it is easy to desperately want to feel the hopelessness of it all. However I don’t feel hopeless, I feel thankful. I feel thankful for the kingdom of God and the fact that IF followers of Jesus Christ actually practice what they preach,then there will be nothing like we see as we scroll on our phones. I’m thankful for a community of believers that wouldn’t let a member get so disconnected from reality that they would have no opportunity to socialize outside of their computer. I’m thankful for a job where I’m surrounded by the kingdom of God and its soldiers. I don’t have to worry about being shot in my classroom. Sure it is a small possibility but I have no fear. These children are His,I am His,my Coworkers are HIS! My God doesn’t allow something to happen that He has not authorized first. I rest in that knowledge. I have peace in that knowledge. I can wake up each day and have hope of a beautiful future by that knowledge!

So as I scroll and I hear murmurings I do feel some sort of pity for those that lost their lives and I do feel for those that choose willingly to stay at home instead of be connected with a community. It would seem hopeless IF you didn’t have a loving creator that has this whole big world in His hands!

Before I knew Jesus all I thought about was death and I had great fear of it. Now death only holds minimal sadness. What I fear is a life unredeemed for those that I love. There is still time loved ones to cry out to the God who created you and ask Him to show Himself to you clearly! You then too will not have to suffer as this vain world chooses to suffer.

Diary Post: Trauma and Triumph at Pinwheel Farm.

Note from Pilgrim Nicci: This post is long and unedited. It was typed as it came to mind. If you are friends with the woman to which I speak I am not here to argue your friendship or connection. I am simply sharing my story. I couldn’t put all the details so I’m sorry if it doesn’t make sense.

I’m ready to share my trauma and triumph story. This isn’t for you the reader but rather for me. My story of “abuse” isn’t one of shocking news and it isn’t even a needle in the haystack of the abuse and trauma that my “abuser” had suffered yet it is a story I feel I must share. I won’t be offended if you choose not to continue reading and I won’t hold it against you if you fail to understand the pain and healing I went through. Because can we ever really understand someone else’s pain? We have no viable way to step into their shoes and walk that mile everyone is always talking about.

It all started with a dream,a goal,and an opportunity. I Nicci desperate for a life I had never lived and a desire to learn lead me to to start the search for a farm internship/apprenticeship. Now to give you a frame of reference I was 20 years old and had already started my anabaptist journey. I had met the ultra plain German Baptist of Jamesport, Missouri and I had already started to solidify some of my convictions. I found a number of opportunities to visit and work on local farms but not having a drivers license did prove to be an issue at most places( understandably). That was until I had a phone conversation with Pinwheel Farm. Oh I couldn’t believe the feeling I had after hanging up the phone with the farms owner. She had given me hope , inspiration ,and homework! She said “I’d like you to draw a vision board of what your farm would be and what you see when you close your eyes and dream of. Oh goody an opportunity to be creative! She spoke life into my hairbrained dream and not for a moment of our 45 minute conversation made me feel like I was ridiculous. So I got to work planning my dream..sadly that’s all it would be is a dream.

After hanging up the phone I started to research this woman and her farm. I came across her blog and it revealed that she too had visited Jamesport and was a covering Christian! Oh what more could I want than this farm practically delivered on a silver platter? Well just wait because there is more! She attended a local congregation of the German Baptist in her area!Seriously this MUST be of God! Now some time did go by as I explored my farm options and continued to communicate with her. About six months went by and I would go to church with her off and on over that time. Meanwhile God was working in my heart unbeknownst to me that He wanted me to be a teacher. As I faced the fact that my family was facing homelessness and this silver platter opportunity and the desire of teaching and learning I found myself inquiring more about moving in and working on the farm. She assured me I’d learn the skills to run my own farm and maybe one day could take it over and be the teacher “because ya know she wasn’t going to live forever and wanted to pass it on to someone she could count on.”. So before I knew it the seasons were changing not only in my life but on the farm as well. In February 2012 I moved in to “Farm House”.

I remember that day distinctly. A group of fourish people were out working and Working they kept on doing as I timidly approached the group.

I took note of Ben my new housemate. He was a lean guy with a serious look about him but friendly eyes. I’d later find out he was 25 and a devout catholic with a chatty streak. This would make for an enjoyable cohabitation for the remaining eight months or so. I’d be lying if I said a small ( or large) crush didn’t form over that spring/summer/fall but I knew all along I hadn’t a chance. That’s A-Ok he is married now with two children and I just got a text from him last month. I still pray for him and his beautiful wife Hannah.

Anyway enough about him. I jumped right into working on a task I had no clue what to do but it seemed simple enough. We went on to work for several hours before it was lunch time. By far the fattest person around the table I was eager for my fill of the offering. Natalya asked me “So what kind of meat do you eat?” I replied “Oh you know..just the normal kind beef,chicken,pork but I don’t really like pork just bacon.” The tension in the room was like many authors and story tellers would say was so thick you could slice it. Apparently the farm had to offer lamb/mutton/and some venison if Ben would part with his prized kill. “Ohhh hmm well I’m gonna have to learn to like it.”

So far in the story there has been positive experiences and honestly a large portion of my stay with Pinwheel farm was in fact a beautiful story of hard work and spiritual growth. I would find who I was as a person and the necessary steps to following Jesus while in the middle of the raging storm that Satan was brewing. I’d also be as fit as I had ever been learning the value of working from sun up to sun down and genuinely growing to love the smell of hard earned sweat. I liked losing weight while still eating what I wanted. I longed for my pillow at night not out of lazy routine but because I was truly and completely exhausted. Oh those are some of the best memories. Ben and I found ourselves in a good working partnership when the owner was away at her full time job as a bus driver. Oh the adventure it was! It is tempting to leave the story there and rest in the happy learning moments of a girl becoming a woman. Yet there would be no healing or purpose in that.

Things went from storybook dream life to a suffocating nightmare on the day the well broke in the White Farm House. It wasn’t our lack of water for several months that made the situation uncomfortable. Trust me I can handle no water,electricity,or whatever else because I’ve lived it with my family’s various financial struggles. What was the straw that broke the camels back was when the owner purposely got fired from her job. By this point in the game I had put two and two together that’s his woman wasn’t what met the eye. Her iconic rainbow head covering and victim complex had started to show forth way before this happened but nothing an six or so hour day of separation couldn’t handle. Well now gone was my freedom to learn and grow in an organic ( no pun intended) way among the permaculture farm and wooly sheep. The water pump issue caused her to realize Ben and I had become friends ( literally just friends. She assumed we never talked beyond work) and she nearly insisted I move into her tiny house with her. Her jealously became apparent as she confided over time her bisexuality that she struggled with. Her hugs got more frequent and her demands more bazaar.

I slowly became the only person on the farm with an outside income. I was working part time at the local Dollar General. This put me in the awkward position of being the only person to be cooking/buying basic needs. Which for a while was fun. Slowly though it turned into her demanding that I serve her. I’d literally be required to cook and dish up her plate, then when she was done remove her plate,and wash it. This went on for a long time. Then came where I was not to leave the farm without permission to do deliveries via the bus and to walk to Dollar General or church events. Ben was welcome to come and go as he pleased. Working along side her became a living hell. If I couldn’t identify a certain type of grass on the top of my head I was given a book to study at great length. I was literally required to read nothing else unless it was the grass book. I would pick up a shovel to get to work and I’d be told I wasn’t paying attention and had grabbed the wrong one. I’d be belittled for my words I used in conversation and picked apart for my growing modesty decisions. One day on the day I was to have a sewing for my pending baptism her jealousy reached an all time high. I got home and she yelled at me that if the farm lost money it was all my fault being wasn’t home in time to load the sheep into the truck. I had previously made sure I was allowed to attend my sewing. Slowly and mysteriously sheep started to die and we the farm laborers got blamed even though we told her the desperate situation of her flock she insisted that we read the book she gave us and to figure it out.

Her jealousy and anger would only grow worse as the time approached my baptism and would only Continue to grow until the day I finally decided to flee her constraints. Not only was this woman trying to control me physically to the farm but mentally she had gotten into my head as her wicked messed up worldview masked in a Christian approach threatened my soul. My heart cried out to my Savior. Day in and day out was a mental pressure that I wasn’t good enough. Never did I receive pay for my work on the farm and in fact I lost money by being there. I did receive “free room” but then she started saying I owed her money for living there and I was more work than what I valued the farm. As she spiraled in her own poverty from lack of a job and as the animals kept dying she was more than willing to take advantage of a young woman who had no way of escape…until I did.

Not long after I was baptized did things grow intolerable with her threats and accusations. I finally called some sisters from my church and asked for their help. I packed up what I could,said goodbye the farm and sheep thinking that was the last of my manipulation. It wasn’t.

She called me and we had a several hour long conversation. It was one of those conversations where you say everything you ever needed or wanted to say to the person and there is nothing they can do to you because they are miles away and you are safe. You see, I lived for months in constant fear of her own mental state as she spiraled out of touch with reality. I feared as she forced me to call the cops on the neighbors who did nothing wrong. I feared as she would come over unannounced at night or early in the morning. I feared as she began talking in weird circles I couldn’t keep up with. I feared but I didn’t have to fear anymore..or so I thought. There in the driveway of the sister’s home I was being sheltered in I was blunt and honest but tried to be kind. We left things on friendly terms…or so I thought.

After a day or two the kind hearted sister I stayed with suggested we go over and help the farmer with all the things the farmer said I had “left unfinished”. We went and did some work and talked but I needed to head into work. Little did I know that the sister in some small way believed the farmer about my neglectfulness. As I write this I am beginning to realize I have some unresolved hurt in that situation. This sister stayed with Natalya and talked with her until my shift was complete that day. I don’t blame this sister. It was a confusing situation.

Life went on as I settled into the community I had just been adopted into. When the deacon and his wife came up to me informing me that this farm owner was trying to make it so I could not commune in a few weeks. I was embarrassed and devastated. I cry as that memory comes flooding back. Their faces as they explained the situation to me. They were loving and kind but I could tell that they hardly knew what to believe. Ultimately they said not to pay any attention to her desperate pleas because she was not a sister in Christ but she was just trying to pull me away from my strong decision. <==not exact words but what I heard.

All throughout this messy time this woman treated it as if there had been a breakup between romantic partners. She wanted to sit down with *her ministers and go to counseling and handle things like a married couple who didn’t see eye to eye. I truly believe for whatever reason that this woman had an unhealthy no ungodly attachment to me. I don’t know why and I certainly never egged it on but this I am sure of.

All in all God worked the eight months of crazy roller coaster rides into a beautiful love story as He courted me as I walked in raging a storm. He never left my side not even when I was so emotionally drained that I threw a tomato cage at her and Ben. He picked up my broken pieces and began to purify them in the hot heat on a “sustainable farm” in the middle of July. It would be a process that wouldn’t take shape even after my vows to my beloved were long behind me and a new adventure would be under foot. I don’t regret the time I spent at Pinwheel Farm yet I wouldn’t suggest that type of growing on anyone. My pain has taken YEARS to overcome and even to this day I panic little when in Lawrence as the memories come raging back. I nervously look around at church events for fear she might be present. I have long gone forgiven her but there are times I feel resentment creeping in and I must forgive again. And even in that fear that settles down deep into the pit of my stomach I long to apologize to her but then I remind myself she is the one that has caused trauma and no amount of brainwashing and distorted memories can change that fact.