I’ve never been one to take risks. When I was growing up, I prided myself on being put-together, rational, independent, and prepared for anything. Even as a first grader I remember seeing my peers on the monkey bars at school and thinking, “How would their parents feel if they saw their children acting so recklessly?!” Now, I don’t tell you this to prompt your pity, in fact I really wouldn’t change this about myself. I’m learning to love myself for exactly who I am. And, unlike the monkey bar hooligans, I can brag that I’ve never broken a bone, been grounded, or made below a B in a class. So take THAT, cool kids. (Did I mention I wasn’t invited to many parties in high school? Was that assumed? Okay, awesome.)

I’ve always lived with the fear of failure. I think a lot of people can relate to this. For me, one major draw-back to living with the fear of failure is that the word ADVENTURE does not compute in my brain. It goes into an unexplored category reserved for things like the following: eating escargot, dying my hair platinum blonde, attempting to learn hip hop, releasing a techno album. These are perfectly acceptable things for other people to experience, or so I tell myself. Perhaps one of the biggest, most detrimental lies I’ve told myself over the years is, “You aren’t the girl who ________.” You aren’t the girl who gets to take chances. You aren’t the girl who gets to tell people how she really feels. You aren’t the girl who gets to make mistakes. You aren’t the girl who gets to scrap the plan and take a step of faith. You aren’t the girl who gets to be happy.

In July of 2014, my husband Cameron and I moved from Texas to Nashville, Tennessee. I took a job in youth ministry and it had lead us 13 hours away from our comfort zone. A comfort zone complete with our families, church, and beloved Tex-Mex. The move wasn’t easy by any means, but for the first time in my life I felt that I could imagine. I could shake off the pressures I had lived under for years and start clean, establishing myself as the person I had always wanted to be. And with this first hint of freedom, a dream emerged. A dream that I had suppressed for years. The dream of writing songs.

My dream of songwriting surfaced in a time of complete brokenness. When I was fifteen-years-old, my grandmother died suddenly of an illness I’m still confused by. She went from being perfectly healthy to being sustained by life support within a month’s time. It baffles me to this day. I could hardly process my grief. I turned to the piano and banged out the chords of my broken heart into the shape of a song. It was a song of anger, pain, and questions. It was the most beautifully healing experience I had ever had.

Years passed before I would write another song. I wish I could say I learned to cope from that day forward with vulnerability and trust, but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. I hid, and my strategy was to remain safe, no matter the cost. But in all of my attempts to ignore my dream, God’s love permeated even my strongest excuses and defenses. When I moved to Nashville and started to do some serious soul searching, it became clear that I had clung to safety and security because I was sure that was the “right” thing to do. And if I did life the right way, I would be loved. THIS was a huge realization. I was desperate for love. Somewhere along the way I had developed a strategy that looked like this: Don’t let people in, convince them that you are perfect, and give no one the opportunity to tell you that you are wrong. I wanted to protect myself from ridicule, so that meant adventure and risk would remain ignored. Sadly, that also meant sincere joy, whimsy, and imagination would go unexperienced, too. 

In the fall of 2014, my acquaintance (who would turn into a dear friend) Nika Maples asked me to grab a cup of coffee with her while she was in Nashville. Nika didn’t know this, but I was a huge fan of her writing, so the chance to hang out with her one-on-one made me feel way cooler than she realized. As we talked, I felt so at ease. Before I knew it I was asking her to hold me accountable to writing songs. “Would you just listen to them and tell me if you think they are okay?” I don’t think Nika could have known that this felt like a monumental step for me at the time. She agreed and was far more excited than I could have hoped. The look on Nika’s face said, “I believe in you.” And just like that, my dream was harder to talk away. I could no longer say it was silly. I could not convince myself it was unimportant. Another person knew about my heart’s desire and she believed in me. This changed everything. I took a chance in opening up to Nika, and a year and half later I have written, recorded, and released an EP of 5 heartfelt songs that I could not be happier to share with people. And this is just the beginning.

So I ask you what I have been asking myself for months as I have experienced the adventure of pursuing a dream:
  • What if we stopped fearing criticism and we trusted that we are worthy of love? 
  • What if we trusted that God loves us for who we are, not for what we do “right”?
  • What if we believed safety isn’t the goal and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable?
  • What if we shared our dreams with people who could help us in our adventuring?

Here’s what I know now. I am the girl who gets to take chances. I am the girl who gets to tell people how she really feels. I am the girl who gets to make mistakes. I am the girl who gets to scrap the plan and take a step of faith. I am the girl who gets to be happy. I am the girl who writes songs and records her music! 

I am worthy of love and I will keep living the adventure of pursuing a dream.

Purchase Nicole’s EP, Practice, from the following distributors:
iTunesAmazonCD Baby, and Google Play

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