I am so thrilled that my friend, Nellie-Jean Grace Russell, who blogs over at Adalmar Life, is joining us as a contributing-writer-at-large. She is a wonderful creative, and I am sure you all will enjoy her thoughtful offerings on faith, life, health, healing and hope. I nearly cried reading this piece, as it is filled with such courage and vulnerability.
Catalysts of Faith
“Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you in the way you will and not as I choose. Let me die to myself so that I may serve you; let me live to you who are life itself.”
~ Saint Teresa of Avila
It’s no secret that I’ve been on an intense spiritual journey these past few years that has led me all over the map of my soul. But something happened to me this past week that shocked me to my core. On the morning of Sunday, May 22, I found myself in a place I never imagined that I, Nellie-Jean Russell, would ever be. Feeling saved… by Jesus.
Even writing those words is still hard for me. Like really hard for some reason. Growing up in a Christian church was not the best experience and I left the church for many years once I reached my teens. My spiritual life has ebbed and flowed and grown to amazing new depths over the past few years, but where I’ve landed this past week has truly astonished me.
The place of faith I’ve found myself in today doesn’t discount the incredible spiritual experiences I’ve already had or the amazing saints and spiritual truths out there that have led me to this point. It all matters. There are many facets of Hinduism and Buddhism and several other belief systems that have been critical in my spiritual formation and will always have a deep place in my soul. They have all been catalysts for my faith. But this year has been about refinement. It’s been a period of discovery for me to figure out what is truly written on my heart and see what ignites my inner passions. And surprisingly enough, I’ve found my way to Jesus.
Yes, I’ve reached a point for the first time in my entire life that I feel comfortable to consider that maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t mind calling myself a Christian. A thought that has been so far from my comfort zone for my entire life. But really it’s not all that crazy of a thought, even for me, someone who only six years ago considered myself a die hard atheist. I mean really… God has been at the core of every decision I make and all that I do since I had my first big awakening in 2013 and Jesus has been one aspect of my spiritual life for several years. But up until now, some aspects of Jesus were missing from the equation. Particularly, the Savior part.
Choosing for Myself
I’ve been a huge fan of the work Jesus did for a long time now, but throughout my theological studies and respect for the man Jesus, I’ve never been able to cross that tipping point in my heart to seeing the Divine side, the Christ in him. Recently I’ve wanted to though, I’ve tried and prayed even to help my heart fully understand on the soul level not just an intellectual kind of way. I knew there was more I wanted to feel and understand, I just hadn’t crossed over into that place of knowing until this past weekend.
I recently started attending church with my husband after discovering a new found interest in the Christian faith. So last Sunday as I sat in church, the Spirit filled me and I finally crossed the threshold I had been hoping for. I finally felt it and understood like I had been longing for and it made me feel so free and alive.
Later that day I began to ask myself, why now? Why after so many years of being exposed to Christianity and feeling completely uninterested, and sometimes downright disgusted, was I suddenly having this WILD change of heart? I was somewhat forced as a kid to attend but never felt like I belonged there. The label of Christianity repelled me for so many years and carried such a heavy stigma with it. So I finally realized the difference after some introspection. This was the first time in my life that I had CHOSEN this for myself without any outside influence. I had done all the learning and seeking myself. No one had led me to it. Not even my husband has ever suggested that I join him at church. He has always supported my personal spiritual journey in whatever way I choose to live it out, so the decision and calling I felt on my heart was solely between me and God. And it feels REALLY good.
Thoroughly Held and Loved
So as the week continued I felt like I was walking in the clouds and thoroughly being held through all the difficult moments and chaos around me. Thursday night was very difficult getting my toddler to bed. I was at my wits end as we battled it out for over two hours. After a while I was so distraught, angry, and praying my heart out for some relief or answers.
As I sat on the floor in the kitchen crying my eyes out, begging God to help me or give me an answer to help with my stress and frustration, I was suddenly inspired to stand up and walk to the kitchen sink. There, I looked out the window and noticed a smudge on the glass. In a split second I realized I saw letters formed in the smudge and upon closer inspection I picked out the letters F and J. As soon as I made this acknowledgment, the words “follow Jesus” entered my mind. Nothing of my own mind’s doing, but a message and an answered prayer. At that moment I dropped to my knees and the tears began to flow even harder, but in a much different light. I felt covered and relieved.
And the answered prayers have continued this week. But my oh my HOW our prayers are answered. Most often not in the ways we imagine or hope they will be, but we cannot be attached to the way WE think things should be. God is wild and free and works in some pretty out there ways. And sometimes things that seem like a burden turn out to be a blessing.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. ~ Psalm 4:8
I spent the better part of the day Saturday in the ER with severe pain in the left side of my abdomen and rib cage after three days of no sleep and worsening symptoms. I’ve also spent the past few weeks desperately praying for rest. So here I am, at my breaking point of exhaustion and pain and I find myself with several hours alone in a quiet and dimly lit hospital room to rest while I waited for doctors and tests to be done. Turns out that I probably have gallbladder stones which is also going to force me back into making healthier choices with my lifestyle and nutrition if I want to avoid gallbladder removal surgery. Answered prayers? Yeah I would say so. Prayers, gifts, and lessons. And a whole lot of grace.
I’m still in awe today of how all this has unfolded the past week. I feel like I’m floating and forgiven and rescued and so very loved. I know many people from my past and maybe even some in my present who may read this might possibly think I’ve really lost my mind this time or that this is just another phase I’m going through. But taking the steps that I am to pursue more Jesus in my life is MY choice and journey and it’s between me and God. There’s no outside influence or judgement that can change that.
Everything I’ve come to understand these past few years about the nature of all things has brought me a peace and calm that I’ve longed for for decades. I don’t think anyone who has known me for many years and seen me change can deny that fact. I’m a different person than I was six years ago. I’m sure some people may still think I’m crazy or delusional, but the choice I’ve made to live a life of devotion has only produced positive things in my life and the lives of those close to me. Besides, now that I am awake, I will never be asleep again. I simply cannot go back to living in the dark and lifeless place I was in after witnessing all the signs and wonders I have these past few years. So no regrets here and no turning back now.
Plans for the Future
One thing I’ve given up during my sabbatical is my business as a life coach. For years I desperately tried to make that work and build a successful business. I thought it was what I wanted to do and although I know I genuinely helped many amazing people in my time working in that capacity, I don’t think it’s the life for me. I never could seem to get it to take off and I often found myself frustrated and comparing myself to other lady entrepreneurs with much more success. It wasn’t pretty behind the scenes.
I don’t think I was in it for the right reasons though and in retrospect it only brought me more struggle and anxiety trying to live up to the boss lady image I thought I needed to be. My life as a writer has remained though because I have realized that writing is definitely one of the things that is inscribed on my heart as part of me.
So I’ve decided to close down my old business for good as a coach and just continue to focus on my writing and art. I can still support and minister to other people, but for my own sanity and wellbeing, I need to do it in a different capacity than I was trying to before. I’m an introvert and I have a hard time managing people and a business. I enjoy my private and slow life and giving up the hustle of running a business has brought me much needed peace the past six months. I am and always have been devoted to serving others and I will continue to serve however God calls me to do so into the future. But right now, I’ve been called to do my work in quiet and make my family my highest priority when it comes to my care and service.
So that’s that. It’s been a ridiculously difficult and lovely six months with all the health challenges, financial stress, car problems, having a kid going through chemotherapy, losing our home in August and subsequent move, having some major spiritual breakthroughs, reaching new and beautiful levels of connection with my husband, and receiving grace upon grace from God.
So I carry on again, onward and upward…