“About Me.”

Hi, I’m Nicole, and…. Um, well, I’m not really sure where to go from here.

How do you write an “About Me” when everything you knew about yourself once has since been shaken? This is the question I’ve sat staring at a blinking cursor with for the last several months, since I created this blog. An “About Me” seems like a strange thing to struggle with writer’s block over. I mean, what can we write about more freely than our own self? If only it were that easy. 

  I tried popping a space filler here under this tab- an old “About Me,” something I had written a couple years ago- hoping you wouldn’t notice. After all, we’re new friends. It’s weird to welcome you in this season of hurting. I wouldn’t want you to think I was fragile or broken. Maybe you’d just read the old bio, pick up a few facts about me from another season, and eventually put the pieces together that it had not been updated for a while. It sounded like a relief- so much easier than just telling you the truth- until I realized it would never work. An entire role in my life and component of who I am has been disrupted. To try to cling to it now would be confusing as it is dishonest. Still, I don’t quite know how to define myself without it. I can’t just go back to the way things used to be. 

If I were writing this “About Me” back around 2017, I would have had no problem. I would have mentioned I was married to my high-school sweetheart, Justin, mama to a hound pup named Tally, and a third grade teacher at a small school tucked away quietly near the Florida Everglades. You know, the kind where the occasional alligator makes its way onto campus and needs to be wrangled before student hours. I would have told you that I had just met the Lord a couple years earlier, after graduating college, and I now served in the young adult ministry where I’d met Him. This group of no less than thirty young adults formed my core group of friends. You could find us together Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings for service. Friday and Saturday nights were reserved for such fun as city-wide manhunt games with squirt guns, and the midnight Monopoly Men’s League as I affectionately nicknamed it (when Monopoly games between all the guys would last until the early morning hours. The wives would find themselves sprawled across the couches or bed of whoever was hosting, falling asleep and hoping their husbands would soon run out of Monopoly money). Add in the occasional additional weekday night when we’d meet up for dinner or a just-because shopping date, and life was good. We were living the “good ol’ days” and we didn’t even know.

By the start of 2020, I would have written something so much different. I had traded my title as an elementary school teacher for that of a stay at home mother, and there was no looking back. I’d never loved anything- or anyone- more. This was even with all of the “extra” responsibilities my sweet Savannah required compared to your average newborn. These extra responsibilities began at 16 weeks when, during a planned gender reveal ultrasound, we first found out only half of Savannah’s heart had developed. She spent the first three months of her life in a cardiac intensive care unit, and eventually came home in January 2020 on a feeding tube, a long list of care plans between therapies and specialists and, a few months later, her name on a heart transplant waiting list. Not only was I learning how to be a mother for the first time, but I was also learning how to be a mother to a child the world deemed terminally ill. (I remember the first time someone used this term to describe her and the way it made my stomach drop. Even knowing all the details of her diagnosis and care, I had never considered her in this way until after she was three years old.) Some of you skilled in analytical skills might have noticed that date above and done the math. Yes, Savannah came home and life as a stay at home/medical mom officially began just two months shy of the global Covid-19 pandemic. So, as you can imagine, I knew a fair amount of trauma during these years. Did you catch my sarcasm?

Still, raising Savannah was my dream come true. We belonged to one another. Her every goal became mine, from hitting developmental milestones to developing a self esteem and strong sense of faith. I was devoted to her in every way I knew how to be, and she was dependent on me. Dependent in a way that was beyond what most children are dependent on their mothers for too, which only grew our bond. Savannah didn’t walk until she was two and a half years old, which meant that I carried her most places we went. Her face was always near mine to kiss, to talk to, to encourage, to joke with. She’d hug my neck as tight as she could and whisper “besties” in my ear, and I knew I’d never loved so hard in my entire life. I finally knew how much I was loved too. As I intentionally spoke words of life over Savannah, reminding her of her identity in Christ and teaching her to stand in the mirror and declare it too, I heard the Lord speak those same words back to me. With each, I was assured I am loved by the Father as purely and as deeply as I love this little girl. Without meeting Savannah, my heart would not understand His heart like I do now- the wildly passionate, protective love of a parent for His child.

This is where writing anything “about me” becomes difficult. Up until October of 2022, I would have invited you to come over, kick a path through the toddler toys all over my living room floor, brush off some of the dog hair on my couch, and settle in to sip sweet tea out of mason jars as we told our beautiful, messy stories. You would have started, then I would have shared about all my prayers for Savannah’s healing, how the Lord was calling me to release fear and focus instead on His faithfulness, the way I was growing in gratitude as I did. I would have mentioned that many friends had fallen away and a focus on family as my first ministry had emerged out of necessity as much as from revelation. My days were slower, my world smaller, but in a way that served as a reset for my mindset. Savannah would have inevitably climbed up into your lap, grabbed your face in her hands, and invited you to partake in the same shift. To see past your thoughts about what a child living with half a heart might look like to the wonderful, wholehearted joy of the Father overflowing from within her. And I really think you would have seen life wasn’t perfect, but we were finally getting to the right perspective about it all. An inner peace.

And then came a day I never even saw coming. Even if I had, I don’t think I could have ever prepared my heart for it.  Savannah passed from the reach of my arms to the arms of Jesus. We fell asleep nose to nose in a hospital bed the night before, just days away from discharge after a planned procedure. She had recovered well and we remained admitted only for a last minute medicine change. That morning we woke up slow but, in mere moments, we were pulled away from one another at the sound of a code alarm. After that, my memory is only of disjointed calendar dates and distraught details from them. The kind that, after many months and much intention, my nervous system is still scrambling to make sense of and survive from.

October 25, 2022: The day I saw my daughter for the last time. I draped a beautiful pink quilt bearing Scripture over her and gave her back to the Lord the very way I’d received her from Him… covered with the Word.

October 26, 2022: My 9th wedding anniversary. The day Justin and I drove four hours back home with an empty car seat and no words.

November 18, 2022: Savannah’s celebration of life. The day we gathered with hundreds of friends and family members in our home church. My sweet girl’s recent birthday photos faded in and out across the big screen and it finally started to sink in. She wasn’t coming back. I had waited for weeks for someone to walk through our front door and bring her home to me. 

November 28, 2022: My first day back to work full time. Not knowing what else to do with myself- and scared to sit alone in a house so lonely now- I had applied to a few different teaching positions in local elementary schools. The kindest administration who knew of my work ethic reached out and offered me a job providing reading interventions to small groups of struggling students. They assured me there was no need to interview and asked me to come tour the school. When I arrived, they had a card waiting for me, signed by the school’s staff and stuffed with money. I knew I was where I was meant to be. These people didn’t even know me and already loved me so well. This school was God’s sweetest grace. I was even more sure of it by May of 2023 when my principal left a beautiful Mother’s Day card waiting for me on my desk. My first Mother’s Day without the very girl who had made me a mother. I went to find my principal and thank her. She hugged my neck and, with tears in her eyes, assured me, “you’re still a mother.”

And I guess that right there sums up where I’m at. Still a mother, yet spending my days with children who aren’t my own. So passionate to protect the legacy entrusted to me, even now that it looks different from what I ever expected. Praying daily that my daughter will reap the heavenly reward of each person her testimony reaches and inspires resilient faith within. And ready to partner with you in praying for your legacy too. No mother should ever have to walk into battle on behalf of their child. But if they do, they should at least never have to walk alone. I suspect that’s why you’re here. I’m so glad you found me.

There is an enemy out to kill, steal, and destroy those who stand in his way and, as mothers raising tiny disciples, we’ve found our way onto his hit list. He is an enemy so vile that he makes our very children his cheap shots. What he doesn’t know, or so foolishly forgot, is that we are more than conquerors through Christ and we won’t be stopped. We’re not just impacting the little lives within our homes’ four walls. No, we’re scaffolding a generation so they can know Jesus more and carry His Word further than we’ve ever been able to.

Whether you need a friend, a partner in prayer, or just some encouragement when the day feels long, I invite you to come along. We’ll chase after the heart of Jesus together, wildly dragging little ones by the hand. And when the day of battle comes, we’ll walk in unity to the front lines and we’ll fight this fight together. We’ll remind this enemy, you don’t just mess with mamas.