Meet the Church: Interview with Nicole Ashley

Hey, y’all! I know it’s been a while since I posted an interview, but I wanted to officially close out the series with my own testimony. Thank you for being patient with me as I’ve been transitioning to college life!

1. When did you accept Jesus, and what was that experience like for you?

I always say I have the typical “raised in church and saved at a young age” story, and that would be the truth. But of all the oddly specific things I remember from my childhood, getting saved isn’t one of them. I can’t tell you the exact day it was, how old I was, or even where I was. I just know that it happened. 

There was one night I wanted to confirm that it happened, so I asked Jesus again. I was alone in my room that night, but that is the only detail I have. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of making my faith my own and learning how to live it out more than simply going through the motions. 

One date I do like to use as my “spiritual birthday” is February 10, 2019–the day I was baptized. Nothing really changed after that day, but I like to remember it as a turning point nonetheless. It was the day I solidified what was already there and announced to my church that yes, I believe for myself. And no, there will be no turning back.

2. Who or what has had the most impact on your spiritual journey?

The first thing that really got my attention was the church camp I attended in 7th grade. I remember there being so many students there, and I think I liked the idea that I was part of something bigger than myself. So many people were passionate about God, ready to go into our city and do His work, and I could be a part of that and go with them. Not that I was there out of peer pressure or was going along with the flow necessarily, but I saw what they had and I wanted it too. It opened my eyes to something bigger, something greater, something more than I had known before. Over the years, that camp and the others I attended became a place I met with God in a fresh way and will always have a special place in my heart.

I would also say my friends have impacted me beyond measure. My friend down the road has been there for me as a friend even when I had no one else in my circle. My pen pal has been there for me in the highs and lows and has taught me so much about unconditional love and support. They both have really shaped me to be the person I am today.

And, of course, I don’t think it would be fair to go without mentioning my current pastor/former youth pastor! I’ve been really blessed by his teaching the past 5-6 years. The desire for my writing to be gospel-centered and Jesus-focused is primarily because I’ve heard so many such sermons from him.

3. Why do you personally continue to seek Jesus? In what ways has He changed your life?

In the words of Peter,

“Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68 CSB

The disciples had seen too much to turn back, and so have I. I have learned to love Jesus for who He is, and even when I don’t feel like worshipping, I realize there is nowhere else to go. Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. 

And, in the words of Paul,

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12

Even on the days I don’t feel like holding on to God, I know God is holding onto me. He loves me even when I don’t love Him. I do my best to pursue Him because He pursued me first.

As for how He has changed my life: in every way. There is no part of my life that has gone untouched by my faith in Him.

4. What is the hardest struggle for you about being a Christian and/or believing/obeying the Bible?

I like things to be easy and comfortable, both of which Christianity is not. He constantly calls me outside my comfort zone, and my life so far has been a process of learning how to be okay with that.

5. What characteristic of God do you appreciate/connect with the most?

I really appreciate that Jesus is a friend of sinners, and that He remains faithful when we are faithless. Among all the variables of life and the people that come and go, I know I can always rely on God to be there. He doesn’t change His mind about me.

I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

6. What are your favorite books of the Bible and why? Any specific verses that are special to you?

My all-time favorite book of the Bible would have to be Philippians–so much so that I memorized it in its entirety at one point. I also like Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, Romans… pretty much the whole Bible, haha. 

Four verses that currently mean a lot to me are Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 33:3, Matthew 10:27, and Revelation 12:11. 

7. What does spending time with God/reading the Bible look like for you? Any resources you’d recommend or advice you’d give to someone struggling in this area?

At the time of my writing this, I am a freshman in Bible college so it looks a lot different than it used to. I used to try to do some sort of devotional/Bible study every morning and every night (I took Psalm 1 literally when it says “he mediates on it day and night.”) However, now it looks more like whenever I have time/want to. I’ll admit that it isn’t the best way to approach it, and I’m trying to get back into a routine, but I also don’t want to be legalistic about it. In some sense, I’m “praying without ceasing” because He’s always on my mind. I don’t want to compartmentalize God to someone I only connect with at a certain time…I want to be open all of the time. 

I definitely think it can look like different things in different seasons, and I’m still trying to figure college things out. So I guess that would be my advice to you–just keep going. Don’t let a missed day or a missed week mess you up–just pick up where you left off and keep going. 

Some resources I use are: the YouVersion Bible app, Through the Word audio guides, Blue Letter Bible (for commentaries and Strong’s Concordance), and occasionally RightNow Media through my church.

8. What are some unique ways you’ve found to connect with God?

I personally enjoy journaling (diary style and/or prayer journal style) to sort out my thoughts and better discern what God might be trying to show me. Blogging has also been a huge help in my relationship with Him because it requires me to be self-aware and constantly thinking about what I’m learning. I also really enjoy listening to Christian music and praying/thinking through the lyrics. 

9. Can you share a time (or two) you’ve experienced an answer to prayer, or seen God in your life? Any particular moments you just knew He was there? Nothing is too small. 🙂

One of the most obvious answers to prayer I’ve experienced was when I was wanting to get baptized (or, rather, wasn’t wanting to get baptized). Long story short, it was something I was running from because I couldn’t imagine myself standing in front of the whole congregation and giving my testimony. I missed my chance the first time, but God wouldn’t let me let it go, so I told Him, “If you want me to be baptized, make a way.” Three days later, my pastor announced a baptism service I had no idea about, and two days after that, I was telling that story to the elders of my church. God works rather quickly sometimes.

10. In contrast, can you share a time in your life when you experienced great fear/doubt/opposition in your walk with God? If it was in the past, what helped you get through it?

I’ve always dreamed of playing an instrument or singing on a worship team, even though I have zero musical abilities, so when I was presented with the opportunity to try out for the youth team my junior year, I decided to trust God and give it a go. God only knows why I was allowed to stand on that stage with a ukulele, and to this day I don’t know why (or even if) it was God’s will for me to be on that team. I hated it so much because I felt so inadequate and out of my element. I remember being in tears while practicing because I couldn’t understand how something could feel so right and yet so horribly wrong at the same time. God was gracious to me and cut the youth group year short with the start of the pandemic, so thankfully I had an easy way out of it. But if ever there was a time I had to rely on God and not myself, it was then.

I remember telling the team during one of the meetings that I felt God was leading me to places I didn’t want to go, and I still feel that way sometimes. I have a very small comfort zone. However, I’ve come to realize it’s much easier when we take things one step at a time. One meeting–one class–one conversation–one day at a time. Just do the next right thing.

11. What has God been teaching you and/or been doing in/through your life in this season?

I am definitely in a season of preparation, which is hard to accept sometimes because I feel like 12 years of school should have been enough preparation. I graduated school just to move on to more school. But I’m clinging to the truth that “my God made me a promise and He won’t stop now.” He’s been teaching me to worship in the waiting, steward my time well, obey in the moment, listen before I speak, and read before I write.

Elihu listened to Job and his friends’ arguments before he said a word, which I think shows a lot of wisdom. He may have been young, but he was patient and wise. God didn’t rebuke him for his answer.

12. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the person reading this? Any words of encouragement or advice?

Always seek God before you seek anything else. He can provide opportunities, relationships, finances–all the desires of your heart. But unless you seek God and God alone, you will never be satisfied. The things of this world cannot do for you what God can and are not worthy of worship like God is.

13. Where can our readers connect with you?

Right here on CoCo’s Chitchat, as well as occasionally on Redeem the Time. My instagram is @coco_ashley413, and if you want to be sure you’re up-to-date with all the insider information, make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter

~~~

Nicole (CoCo) Ashley is a young writer devoted to using her words for the glory of God. She dreams of publishing Christian living books and is pursuing a degree in Biblical and Theological Studies to assist in her knowledge of the One whom she loves to write about. You can usually find her messaging her friends, reading a book, or simply being an introvert with music in her headphones.

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