Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Unpublished Letter

I submitted this letter to our local newspaper and it was denied.  I recently found it on my laptop and I wanted to throw it out there....

The events of June 7, 2008 turned the lives of my husband, my small son, and me upside down.  Many times, though, I have looked back and wondered, “How in the WORLD did we get through that mess and how in the world did we end up…..here?!?”
You see, June 7, 2008 was a day that I will never forget.  Heavy rains…uncertainty…silly drivers trying to drive through barricades…loud neighbors…rising waters….and the urgency in my husband’s voice that we must leave “NOW.”  Standing at the end of our street and staring at our house that looked as if it had been placed in the middle of a dirty body of water was a difficult thing to swallow and waiting for the water to recede,  felt like an eternity. Trying to process through those emotions was extremely difficult at first. Things had to be handled. The house must be stripped of anything that could be saved and so many duties needed to be fulfilled immediately.  There was no time for emotion; only time for action.  This is where the beautiful chaos began.
People. They piled in.  They wanted to help and their help was unbelievably perfect.  Bill and Diane Toombs and family provided housing for us. Our dear friends from Indianapolis Christian Fellowship showed up with crews of people to help recover pictures and clothes and to move furniture quickly out of the house lest the fuel oil smell that emitted from the home would have condemned more items to the curb.  Local churches provided water and lunch. Friends rallied together, sharing our story with their families and friends and raising money for us and pulling together to buy items for us that we desperately needed, like shoes.  Packing and lifting and cleaning and scrubbing and peeling and washing and tossing and slipping and sliding….people offered the kind of support we needed at just the right time.  We were given cash, gift cards, food, and toys for our precious son who lost his entire toy room to the dirty waters.  
I remember the anxiety that came when it took FEMA a while to show up and make themselves available to the public.  We were on pins and needles.   Phone calls had to be made and hard discussions had to take place and quite frankly, we had no answers.  Would our house be ‘condemned’ or would we be moving back in? What did insurance really cover?  Who is IDEM and why do they want to talk to me? Where would my family live?  Why is it raining AGAIN!? Why do I feel numb? Why is the man from the mortgage company telling me that he can do nothing until we are LATE on our mortgage payment?  
Finally, when FEMA arrived, homeowners huddled into a building on Franklin College’s campus and sat in chairs that lined a narrow hallway.  People ‘worked’ the crowd to make sure we were ‘okay.’ People handed out snacks and water and paperwork to help save time, and met each person with a firm reassuring handshake.  Somehow, these people never forgot a name. No matter how many times I entered that building, I was always greeted by name and directed to where I needed to go.  As we sat in the hallway with stained hands and sweat on our brows and anxiety welling up inside of us, it was difficult to know which emotion to let loose for fear that maybe…quite possibly…we might not ever recover.  But surprisingly, community and camaraderie began. We actually began sharing our stories and intently listening as our neighbors told theirs. We even smiled from time to time despite the tension that was often overwhelming. In the midst of this, I met some of the coolest people I have ever known.   People willing to do anything to ease the anxiety of the moment, offer answers to hard questions, and other people just like me who were exhausted and numb but wanted to find common ground and actually feel emotion again.   I met Stephanie, a sweet girl who sat next to me in the hallway and who still brings a smile to my face and Mark and Sarah and our heartfelt conversations about flood recovery often added lightheartedness to the day.  I met a FEMA worker who helped me navigate through paperwork, called our insurance company on behalf of my family, and offered a smile whenever I entered her area.  I met a man from the Salvation Army who handed a gift card for me to go and purchase blankets and pillows and clothing and food for my family.  I met a woman who understood my hesitation in getting food stamps to cover the cost of food for the month. And over the course of the next few months, I met fire fighters and employees from IDEM who were sympathetic and understanding about the fuel oil spill and police officers who had to file a report over the continued vandalism of our property.  I met a therapist from Adult and Child Mental Health who wanted to help my son with his weather anxieties.  We met two amazing people who rented our home to us despite our circumstances (Thank you, Randy and Debbie!). I met local contractors who wanted to help provide bids (Mike Waugh and Dennis Henderson) to help speed up the process and I met an amazing woman named Joanna Myers (Senior Planner with the City of Franklin) who actively worked with me, encouraged me and reassured me that she would do anything she could to help us through this process and who understood my anxiety and pain when our home was vandalized over and over again.  I met the former Mayor, Fred Paris, who was adamant that our circumstances would not be overlooked and who checked in regularly. I also experienced great grace and instruction from a dear friend, Roy Dickinson, who fought for my family, encouraged us to keep pushing forward, and who offered great insight and care.
Throughout the last 4 years, my family has struggled, cried, and recognized the extent of our loss, but we have rejoiced over the outpouring of love that has been shown and the hidden blessings that have often overwhelmed us on each leg of this journey.  I rejoice that in our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect and that He provided people to hold our hands high when we had no strength to do it on our own. 
 In February of this year, our mortgage company finally agreed to allow us to sell our home to the City of Franklin and we were able to finally close this chapter of our lives.  About a month later, the demolition of the home took place and it was such a bittersweet day.  I had been waiting and waiting and waiting for the day that the ‘flooded house’ issue would resolve and the house would be torn down but watching your home being knocked down really isn’t as easy to witness as one might think.  Memories flooded my mind and tears fell as I saw our son’s toy room being smashed into the basement and his blue striped bedroom walls falling to their demise. I saw the bedroom that belonged to my dear husband and I and a hidden chimney I never knew was there.  I walked away that day still feeling unsettled.  It wasn’t until several weeks later that I heard a quote that read, “You are free when your yesterday doesn’t affect your tomorrow.”  It was at that moment that I realized that yes, we are indeed FREE from the flood of 2008.  This will no longer affect our tomorrow.  But then I was recently asked if my family had fully recovered from the flood.  Recovered? No. Never.  How do you fully recover from the outpour of love and support that ushers in to sweep you off of your feet during a time of desperate need? You simply cannot. My family is free from the burdens of the flood but we will never be fully recovered.  You all have changed our lives and enriched it greatly with your great love, support, action, and encouragement and for this I am truly grateful. There are truly no words left to express the deep gratitude that is overwhelming me at this moment. May all of you who have helped us or our neighbors during our recovery know that your actions, words, hugs, prayers, cards, and encouragement did not go unnoticed and that you are a part of this journey with us. Today, you are released to be free from this burden with us but I pray that you, too, will never fully be recovered. 

With a grateful heart,

Nickole Huffman

Monday, June 3, 2013

There you are!!!

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you have to actually hide your thoughts or feelings or beliefs or opinions because you didn't want the backlash of someone or have people judge you?

I can honestly say that for large portions of my entire life, I have lived this way.  I have said the right thing or done the right thing or hidden this or that because it was "important" for me to make a good impression or make my mom look good or be a good youth minister or leader or make it look like I had it all together.

I have found that bits and pieces of my life, my passions, my fears, my motivations, my doubts, my likes and dislikes and experiences have masked me from being the person i was created to be.  I have become like a woman with many faces....just trying to set the right one out in front of the right people in an attempt to get them to like me or at least tolerate me.  

A couple of months ago, I went to Muncie, Indiana with my family to a church to listen to Bob Goff, author of "Love Does," share his passions and stories about love and loving well. He talked about stripping ourselves from the masks we wear and just living our lives the way that God intended us to live.  He reminded me of a small scene in the movie, Hook, where a young boy from Neverland has found the older, masked Peter Pan.  Check it out:



I recognize that when I have to hide bits and pieces of my life and that I have a fear of approval or that I sometimes don't understand why God would create an enemy who would hurt His children or that I don't always close my eyes when I pray or that I like Rob Bell or that I like Twilight movies or that I don't always listen to Christian music or that I don't really know how I feel about war or the death penalty and how freakin' annoyed i get when people put their judgmental attitudes and thoughts on facebook or how angry I get that family members (on both sides) are not more actively involved in the lives of my children...and the list goes on and on and on....

I want to be able to remove expectations that people accept me just as I am...and I want to be able to live FREELY inside my own skin.  God has birthed passions inside of me and given me hope and freedom and the ability to think critically and is continuing to teach me more and more about Himself and His heart.  

In the midst of releasing expectations of others and their responses to me, I am learning to release people from MY expectations.  This is why I have hidden people on my facebook feed and deleted more than 600 friends, set boundaries in relationships, put down my cell phone, and stopped expecting people to be someone other than who they are.

I just want people to look at me and realize that they're looking at the REAL Nicki.  I don't want them to have to do what the boy did to Peter.  I want to be free. Free to be the woman God has created me to be.


2 Corinthians 3:18

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same imagefrom one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Love Does (part 3)

Veronica Tutaj is a woman who works with a ministry called Young Lives (through Young Life) in the state of Texas.  She told the crowd that there are over 120 pregnant girls in the local high school.

No, this is no typo.  

There are one hundred twenty pregnant teenage girls in a town in Texas who attend a local high school and there is a ministry that has been designed to meet the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of these young ladies.  Veronica shared the ministry with us and displayed photos on the screen of the activities they do to help the girls in their journeys of motherhood.

Veronica was a dynamic, hilarious, and honest speaker.  She spoke of how God used her story and her experience and heart for others to get her directly involved in this Young Lives ministry.  Her heart and passion for these young ladies was convicting and inspirational.  I loved hearing her speak.

I'd like to share a few quotes that she said that really stood out to me.


"The Lord will mess.you.up.  He will take you, the smallest pebble, and throw you into the water. You will cause the ripple effect."

"God does not expect us to save the world, but He does section off a territory for us."

"Ministry can kill you.  Even Jesus needed a minute.  It's okay to take a break.  It allows others a chance to step up into their purpose and potential.  Set boundaries for yourself."

"Some people are not running from God because nobody is chasing them with His love."


love this. love God. love does.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Love Does (part 2)






The second main speaker at the Love Does Stuff conference was Joshua Dubois, the former Special Assistant to President Obama and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.   Joshua told a story of Bob Goff and a young boy who were visiting the White House one day for a very special outing.  He was having a really stressful day and things were really hectic and needless to say, his eggs were in way too many baskets.  He openly admitted that his attitude about Bob and this boy arriving was the last thing he wanted to do on that day. He was simply too busy!


Thankfully, he was able to give a tour to Bob and the young man and it brought such life and remembrance of redemption to his day.  He said:



"Spending time with children--this is what His Kingdom is about"

"We should be honored to do stuff with children"

and he mentioned a quote by his Pastor, Mark Batterson, who said this when questioned about the definition of true success:

"You are successful when the people who know you best respect you most"


and my favorite:

"Take orders from love, not from the calendar."


I've been thinking about this a lot lately, remembering that Jesus, in the midst of his talking to others about the Kingdom of God, welcomed children to come to Him.  The disciples were trying to push the children away, but Jesus pushed them aside to embrace them.  He said, “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” (matthew 19:14:message)


I had the honor and privilege to attend the preschool graduation of my godson, Noah, yesterday and was reminded of the sanctity of life...the beauty of children and the sheer joy they can provide. I think I smiled the entire time while I saw these precious children singing and clapping and stomping to the music that was playing and as they all received their sweet little diplomas.  

I was reminded of Jesus' prompting to let the children come to HIm and remembering the times I've shut my children down or ignored them (or said "uh huhhhh...." when I really had no idea what they were talking about) because i was just too busy. My calendar is usually very full but I'm trying to be more intentional to love them by listening to them, looking them in their eyes, embracing them more and ridding things from my calendar that just....don't.....matter....

I want to take Jesus' example when it comes to my own and other children around me. I want to be intentional with my time. I want to take orders from LOVE, not my calendar.

peace.










Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Love Does Stuff (part 1)









On May 16-17, my family was given the opportunity to attend the Love Does Stuff Conference in Tacoma, Washington.  Bob Goff, the author of the inspirational book, "Love Does," and his organization named Restore International, were the brains behind this event that brought many people together such as Bob Goff,  Donald Miller, Kid President and Brad Montague, Veronica Tutaj, Dean Curry, Jeff Bethke, Cynthia Breihl, and musicians Brandon Heath, Crowder Band, and Ryan O'Neal.

Can you believe that these people were all in one room together? It's crazy to think of the uninhibited wackiness, the creativity, the passion, the fervor, the love for others and for Jesus....that permeated from that room and to think that all of the audience wanted to be there to be a part of the story....of the conversation....and to leave the room and put love in to action.

Session 1: Donald Miller

The first questions that Don posed were these:

1. Who are we?
2. What do we want?
3. What's the first step?

1. Who are we? When we pretend to be someone we aren't, it sets us up for a lifetime of loneliness or attack (yes, there are scorekeepers out there).  We really need to figure out who we arrrrre....who God made us to be....this is the first step.  Don posed a question: Do you feel like you have to be careful and its costing the Kingdom of God? ouch.  Yes.  There are times I am careful of what I do or what I say or what I reveal about myself for fear of judgment or rejection but I've never considered that it might actually be costing the Kingdom of God when I choose to act outside the perimeters of who I was made to be.  [still chewing on this....]

Don shares the fears that he has chosen to release on his journey of self-discovery: He is no longer afraid to sound dumb, he is willing to be wrong, and he is willing to accept failure. [i need to jump on this bandwagon and chuck these from my mindset, as well]

He also shared a story of a broken relationship with his former fiancĂ©.  He shared how devastating it was for him....how he felt lost...and felt he was no longer good at relationships.  He met with Bob Goff and in the midst of Don's brokenness, Bob looked him straight in the eye and said, "Don...you are GOOD at relationships."  Bob spoke TRUTH about Don and over time, Don eventually believed it and began living it again.  Sometimes, you gotta speak the truth about someone....reminding them of who they are because sometimes, our vision is skewed of ourselves and we need others to remind us of the truth of who we are.

"We are not our feelings, emotions, mistakes or victories"


oh how I wish I could remember this daily....so many times I feeeeeel a certain way or I expect more of myself.  I have to remember that I am simply enough.

i.am.enough.

I am who God says I am.

isn't that liberating?!?


2. What do we want?

God lets us decide on what we do in our lives.  hold up.  What? He lets us decide on what we want??  Don said, "If your donkey talks to you..." or If a virgin becomes pregnant..., God has a plan for you that is very specific....but He gives us choices to make."  I remember Margaret Feinberg stating this during a breakout session once.  She told us of different choices that she faced and how she appreciated the fact that God gave her the freedom to be herself.  He still used her.  Still uses her.  He will still use her and speak to her and speak through her....isn't it amazing to think that He loves us, created us to be a certain way and then gives us the freedom to make choices that line up with how He created us to be? one word: liberating.

Don: "God says 'let's create something' and He wants to bond with us in the doing."

Lets chew on this for a minute.  So, God has created me to be a certain way (has placed passions and desires and beauty inside of me) and gives me the responsibility to make choices that line up with His creation of me and wants to bond with me in the doing??? 

Holy Lord, thank you.


3. What are the first steps?

Don: "How much time do you spend preparing for something because you are afraid?"

guilty.

What are the first steps?

The first steps for me are eliminating the toxins in my life that veil me from seeing who God has created me to be....learning to listen to the Truth of the matter of who I am and not the lies...learning to stop taking offense to everything that makes me feel a certain way....and walking in the freedom that God created me, trusts me with responsibilities in my life, and wants to bond with me in the process of being.

this is redemption, friends.  pure, sweet, holy redemption.

excuse me while I remove my shoes.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Birthday

The older I get, the less I look forward to my birthday.  I realize that with each passing hour, my children get older and unfortunately, I do, too.  This doesn't mean that I'm sad or denying the moments in my life---it just means that I'm learning to savor them more.


For the past few years, I have tried to take my birthday and use it as an opportunity to share about organizations who desperately need our help.  The last couple of years, I have shared the vision of Charity:Water and what they do to bring clean drinking water to the areas of the world that do not have access to it.  I can honestly say that this (clean vs. dirty water) has become a passion of mine and I am so thankful for the organizations out there that work together to help those who have NO access to clean drinking water.  It is a huge problem in the world and one that if we work together, we can help eliminate it.

Last fall, I had a few friends tell me about this new book they had read called, "Love Does" They told me that it is one that I would LOVE because it shares about things I am passionate about.  On my way to a trip out West, I borrowed a copy of the book and simply could.not.put.it.down.  I laughed a ton....stopped to day dream about the possibilities of making some of the stories my own....and found myself crying in joy.  The author, Bob Goff, is a man of great whimsy and enthusiasm who loves Jesus and wants others to share in the freedom that only Christ can give.  He writes about loving others with the love of Christ and being willing to accept others just as they are....using your gifts and talents that have been God-given to change the world around you....and how to look outside of the box.  He writes about walking and journeying WITH others instead of watching from the sidelines and how to focus on others instead of ourselves.

now, I'll admit, some of the stories are CRAZY but they share Bob's determination, fervor, delight, and ability to 'just go with it' and love people the way Jesus did.

My family had the honor of meeting him in January and have tried to develop a relationship with him because we believe in what he's doing, we believe in what he shares, and we want to leak Jesus the way he does.

So...as my birthday approaches, I have decided to share the organization that Bob started called: Restore International.   After a trip to India in the early 2000's, Bob became very aware of the crimes committed against children in the country; specifically human trafficking and sexual slavery.  Restore International was created to work with organizations to help children in different areas of the world....to offer freedom and hope....an education....and shares the Gospel with youth by loving on them and telling them about the One who can only offer TRUE freedom.  In response to the outpouring of children who needed help and assistance, the Restore Leadership Academy was started and at this time, over 260 children are in attendance.

Three weeks ago, a Primary School was added to the Restore Academy and they are in need of supplies for their school.  Chalkboards, writing and coloring utensils, paper, and even meals and clothing for the students.

As I approach my 36th birthday, I am asking anyone who is willing to share their resources to help me raise a goal of $2,000 for the Primary School, located in Gulu, Uganda.  Check out some photos that were provided from the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.  You'll be able to tell right away who Bob Goff is.











As I've written on my Facebook page, I realize I'm not that big of a deal and my birthday, to many, is like any other day.  But this year....I want my birthday to mean something to lives of these children as they find out that people really do care about them.

I could go on and on and on about how amazing the Restore Leadership Academy is but I want to share one more story with you directly from the book, "Love Does."


"...we're asking these kids to ignore what's typical too.  We want them to be leaders through action, not just in name.  Sponsorship programs are common in developing countries.  For thirty dollars or so each month, it is not unusual for a child to have a sponsor in the United States to help with school fees. We got the kids together and explained to them how our sponsorship program was going to work.  We gave our kids some seeds, they planted the seeds, they raised the crops, they sold the crops, and with the money, our kids from the Restore Leadership Academy in Uganda sponsor a little skater kid in Oregon through The Mentoring Project, a fantastic organization out of Oregon that helps kids without dads."



Wow.  Friends, love really does.


To find out more about my birthday campaign, check out my page:




Thanks for walking with me through this....for raising awareness of the needs of others....and for being you.


grace + peace.

nickole huffman



Monday, January 30, 2012

What does it mean to be FREE?

Three and a half years ago, a flood rampaged through the city of Franklin, Indiana, leaving my family and countless others homeless and full of anxiety of what the future held. The road that we have journeyed over the course of these few years has been full of pain, anxiety, frustration, doubt, and even moments of sheer desperation....but in the midst of all of this, we've also experienced great love, support, and triumph.

This afternoon, we will finally be closing on our flooded house. After two full years of battling with our mortgage company, we are finally being given what we have longed for all along----the ability to sell the house to the city for its destruction---and pay off the mortgage. It's kind of sad when you think what we've been through and that after two years, we are concluding with exactly what we proposed three years ago.

I am flooded with emotion already and my hands are even sweaty as I think about the day to come....the emotion to fill my heart....the tears that will burn my cheeks and the sobs that will choke up my throat. I'm on the threshold here....waiting...for my dream to become reality and to be able to be free from the home that has been such a great source of pain for me and those i love most.

I look forward to looking into the eyes of the people who have walked this journey with us and to be able to share in this moment with them this afternoon. It's amazing how there have been such amazing people who have been involved in every.single.step. We have walked a long, steady road, but God has been here....encouraging, loving on us, and bringing great revelation through it all and phenomenal people. i mean truly phenomenal people.

what does it mean to be free from this house?

just wait....we will know soon enough!