Tuesday Tidbit: How I Came to Know the Lord

Something I used to do a lot in college, that I’ve honestly put on the back burner, is writing. I am an internal process at heart, and process through writing rather than speaking. In college, I’d share about all sorts of different things — recipes, little adventures, but mostly, what the Lord was teaching me & sharing about my walk with Him in all different stages.

Friends, it’s time to use this space to share. I’ll still be sharing beautiful photos, memories, and all things JNP. But also, it’s time to share on a deeper level, and I’m excited and nervous about it!

The Lord laid it on my heart years ago to openly share. To share about my journey with Him, share about my struggles, share about the triumphs in my life, the good, the bad, and everything in-between. My hope and prayer is that this space offers a safe place where you feel heard, understood, and can share in the “me too.“

For the first few Tuesday’s, I’m going to share a few posts I wrote in college that still stand true today. Before then, what better way to kick it off than to share a little about my story. One day, I will share the full story, but I feel like that will take a few posts in itself. For now, I’ll start with how I came to know the Lord.

Throughout childhood, middle school, high school and the beginning of college, I was always moral and a “good person.“ I tried to love my friends & family well, to be kind, and to help others as much as I could. We went to church on holidays, but didn’t attend regularly. I definitely believed in God, but had no idea what it meant to be in a relationship with him. Outside looking in, I was successful in school and confident, and truthfully I felt like I was doing great on my own. However, I was struggling with multiple things — doubt, body image, some loneliness, and truthfully didn’t know which direction to go after I graduated high school. I decided to go the comfortable route — to stay near home and attend USC.

My freshman year at USC, I truly didn’t do much to meet new friends. I stayed in my safe bubble with my friends from high school, and visited Clemson every chance I got. After one month of being at USC, I knew I wanted to transfer. That year was hard. I felt lonely and I felt like I was constantly missing out, plus your first year in college is just weird. You’re living in a new place, making new friends, taking classes in a huge class environment, and your friends all moved to different places. It’s hard & I really struggled with all of that change.

After freshman year, I transferred to Clemson as a sophomore. My friend Taylor invited me to join a small group with her & to try out FCA. One of our dear friends, Katie, invited us to join a small group with other girls from Lexington, which felt comfortable & made the situation way less intimidating. This small group was vulnerable, life giving, and introduced me to the idea of having a relationship with Jesus. I had never been exposed to that — all I knew about Jesus was that He existed and that I wanted to go to heaven when my time on earth came to an end.

At this period in my life, I knew there had to be more. I felt an emptiness, a lack of joy, I knew something greater than myself was missing in my life. I wanted to know more, to feel more, to be a part of something more. I craved to feel deeply loved & accepted. The second or third week of class, FCA held a kick off event called FCA After Dark. This night marks the point in my life where I had a huge wake up call. Joe White came and spoke about how Jesus died for me, he died for my sins. He took my place. I was completely broken, crying over the weight of what this meant.

"The great key to living a life that truly matters, a life that is rich and fulfilling, a life that can weather life's greatest storms and still come out smiling is to get your spiritual roots moving daily into the fertile soil of faith."  - Joe White

I dedicated my life to Christ right there and then on October 28, 2010. Since that moment, I have lived my life solely to bring Him glory and to pursue His purpose for my life. I still don’t fully understand the weight of that, and I know that will be a learning process for the rest of my life. It’s not easy, at all. I stumble and fall, I get consumed by sin, I struggle, I fall flat on my face. We all do and we are so not alone in that. That’s the beauty of grace, it’s never ending & neither is His love for each and every one of us.

But, what I knew to be true that night 8 years ago, and still know to be true — is that Jesus loves me, and He’s always going to, no matter how many times I fail. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.“ — Lamentations 3:22-23. Resting in this truth every day, but especially today and this month as I relearn to intentionally rest.

Here’s to vulnerability & the start of something new around here <3

Experiencing His Faithfulness the Month of September

It's funny really, it's mid-October and I'm just now sitting down to process all that my September sabbatical taught me. I wrote about why taking a September sabbatical was necessary & why it was put on my heart here. I process by writing, so even if no one reads this blog post, it's so helpful in showing & revealing the Lord's goodness to me. So, here it goes!

September was a big month for our family, for my best friends, for the United States (hurricane Irma), and for Clemson football. I honestly thought this month would be a little uneventful in a good way, but the Lord had other plans and I am so grateful that I had the availability to fully experience each of these big moments. Normally, I tend to miss out on some big moments due to my schedule, which is totally fine and comes with the territory of being a wedding photographer, weekends are hard to come by in the fall. Having full availability was such a blessing, and I'd love to share some of those key moments:

1. My best friend, Casey, moved to Africa on Sept. 1st. Her and her husband Aaron moved to Kenya to work & serve for an organization called Care for Aids for the next two years. This was easily one of my hardest goodbyes in my adult years. Luckily, it was only a "see you later," but there were still lots of tears on this day. To keep up with Casey and Aaron, you can read about their Kenyan adventures over at Markhams on the Map!



2. My brother in law, Corbin, asked Jacy to marry him in Boston! Lots of fun things stemmed from this big moment that I'll mention later in this post!



3. Wedding dress shopping with my soon to be sister in law (crying over getting to say that)! Jacy invited the Nichols ladies as well as her parents & grandmother to go dress shopping with her. Such a special day for all of us to be a part of!



4. Our sweet friends Kylie Anne and Dan got engaged in Clemson on Sept. 8th! I drove down to Clemson earlier that day to meet up with Jenn, one of my sweet friends who also happens to be Dan's sister. We grabbed dinner together & got to catch up before the big proposal. This time with her was so sweet & so good for my heart. Also, the two of us crouching behind an old wooden boat trailer to photograph Dan proposing was hysterical, I was sore for days after! Kylie Anne is so special to me, so being a part of this moment in her life was the absolute sweetest.



5. Our friends Kaycee and Paul got engaged on Sept. 16th! I'm pretty sure September was the month of proposals, haha! I made my way downtown that morning & found a little hiding spot and waited for Paul and Kaycee to come by on their cute little morning walk with Kaycee's massive dogs. Kaycee literally had no idea & being able to photograph this moment was such an honor, we love these guys so much!


6. Date day with Ellie in Clemson. I got to pick up my girl and take her to a Clemson classic for lunch, Pot Belly Deli. We went to a little pottery painting place and painted an owl mug & a cute little pumpkin. After pottery painting, we walked downtown Clemson and did a little shopping. We finished our date the only appropriate way when in Clemson, at Death Valley!



7. I got asked to be a one of Jacy's bridesmaids! My goodness, this was the biggest and sweetest surprise. I've secretly been Jacy's biggest fan since her and Corbin started dating, and when I found out they were getting engaged I'm pretty sure my heart burst in a million pieces over being so excited. She showed up at our house one afternoon with a cute little gift bag, and once I opened it up my eyes immediately filled with tears, she was asking me to be a bridesmaid. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. It's funny, we are both only children & have so many funny similarities and things in common. We both find ourselves in puddles of tears when we talk about getting to be sisters. Goodness, my heart right now!



Okay so needless to say, September was a busy and emotional month! So many big moments happened & I was able to fully process and enjoy each big moment as it came. Such a blessing. I was also able to enjoy & delight in so many little joys over the course of the month. I had a quiet, slow morning every morning. I'd either take Sampson to Starbucks or we'd sit out on the porch to do my Proven study, or to simply just be.

Braden and I were able to have more quality time & we started having Wednesday morning dates at Chickfila. We plan to keep this going even now that September is over. It's such a sweet little time set apart where we can enjoy some time together mid-week. 

I was able to enjoy less time on my phone & had a less cluttered mind. I took my work email off of my phone and y'all, this was a game changer. So much so, that I plan to only answer emails from my computer from now on. The pressure was alleviated to respond right away, as well as gave me freedom from being so plugged into my phone constantly. 

I had time to catch up with my best friends. Whether that looked like a phone catch up, a lunch date, hugging them at Clemson games, I had the time to fully reconnect with some of besties.

This one is small, but goodness it was so good for my heart. I was able to fully embrace, feel, and experience the weather changing. In years past, I feel like summer ended and fall began without me even noticing the coolness in the air. As soon as it it starts getting cooler & leaves start changing is when my work scheduled picks up like crazy.

Fall is such a peak time for photos for obvious reasons :) but the past two years on Thanksgiving day I'd realize that I had completely missed fall. So grateful to have had the time to go for many walks, sit on a bench downtown, or have a morning out on the porch to enjoy the beautiful weather.


And last but not least, I finally got to tackle some projects in our house. Lots of deep cleaning, organizing, pressure washing and re-decorating happened this month. I plan to do a full guest room and porch reveal, but for now, here's a little iPhone snap of our porch!



So, that's an overview of the big moments that happened over the course of September, as well as the little joys I was able to delight in. The biggest shift however, was truly being able to see what Jesus was teaching me over the past month. My identity had become fully rooted in Jessi Nichols Photography, I had lost sight of how to be a friend, daughter, wife, but fully knew who I was as a photographer and business owner. It's easy to entwine business with personal life when you own your own business & are passionate about what you do, but there comes a point where it's simply not fulfilling. My identity needed to be rooted back in Jesus.

This month I feel that the Lord taught me what that meant, what that looked like, He gave me the time and space to explore who I am as a daughter in Him. He also created opportunity for quality time. Genuine conversations with Braden, time to invest in friendships, as well as time to spend with Him each day. I had so much more patience and joy throughout each day, starting each day with scripture and prayer. 

I also struggled through learning that my performance doesn't = His love. I felt like I constantly needed to strive to succeed, to check all those boxes off that said I was a good & faithful Christian. Guys, the Lord simply wants us to love Him and come to Him, there are no other requirements. He is a good and faithful Father, no matter where our performance falls. And before September, I constantly felt that my performance kept falling short, I kept feeling like I was letting the Lord down. Always praying for forgiveness, praying to be better.

"I don't have to prove anything, because Jesus proved everything." - Jennie Allen, Proven

I read this in the Proven study and had to stare at it for a few days. I don't have to prove anything, because He has proven everything. I found so much rest in that, like I could let out a huge exhale. My performance doesn't = His love for me. His love for me knows no bounds, He loves me despite my flaws. Something I had to wrestle through, but wow, so comforting.

Another huge lesson I learned is just how much my stress & anxiety had been paralyzing me, to the point where my health had been affected. My fears stretch far and wide, and I didn't realize just how much they were affecting my day to day. Fear of not pleasing people, fear of the future, fear of failing, fear of disappointing Jesus. One day I listed out all of my fears and it is so sobering. I highly recommend it though, no matter how terrifying it sounds, because it is so freeing to completely surrender those fears to Jesus. 

"We may feel crushed by the fear of real circumstances, but Jesus is above the circumstances. He moves through chaos as if it doesn't exist, because in light of eternity and His unending resources & power, our chaos here is a small storm that Jesus walks right through with us." - Jennie Allen, Proven

Friends, September was huge for me. Huge for growth, huge for surrendering fears, huge for rooting my identity back in Him. I am so grateful for this time, and am so excited / terrified of walking back into the hustle of work and normal life. I feel like I have the tools & new boundaries that will help guide normal life in a new way. One with parameters and one with grace. 

After this month off, I realize just how much my soul needs a refresh every so often, so I plan to take one month long Sabbatical each year. It may always be the month of September, but I also walk in the freedom knowing it may be a different month each year. Whatever His will, I will walk in obedience.

If you've been thinking about taking a sabbatical - whether a day, week, month, or even a few hours, I highly recommend it. Give yourself the space to fully experience Him.

JNP is back at it in full capacity, so be on the lookout for many posts coming to the blog over the next few weeks!