Here is the truth.

Lately, I’ve been praying.

A pretty simple prayer.

“God, allow me to see the truth of who I am. Help me see myself the way You see me.”

Some people may never pray this prayer.

They may fully grasp they are a child of the One True King. They may understand that God died for them. They may see the beauty before they see their scars.

I am not one of those people. I lived in the illusion that I was for a long time. I didn’t see myself in the light of His eyes. I was persuaded by fears and failures to view myself through a clouded lens.

Today, specifically, God answered this prayer. For a moment, though brief, I believe I saw myself as He sees me.

I was sitting on the airport floor. It was in New York. The terminal was hot. There were people everywhere. My blood sugar was for sure low. I felt consumed by anxiety. I felt overwhelmed. I felt drained of everything.

Then out of nowhere came this probably 1.5 year old child. The kid wobbled through all these people. She looked at me and stopped dead in her tracks. All of a sudden her eyes lit up. She smiled from ear to ear and giggled. Time froze for a second for me. In that moment I knew that is exactly how my God views me. Just as that child saw me.

Friends, you may see your faults before your successes. You may feel lost at sea every single day. You may feel overwhelmed and consumed by your negative self talk, anxiety, depression, fears, etc. I encourage you to pray this simple prayer. Allow your current vision of yourself fade. Soon He will send you moments where, even if only for a second, you will see the truth of who you are.

Hiccups for Jesus

A few morning’s ago I was struck with a tragedy: hiccups that would not go away.

I don’t know what it was about these hiccups, but they were intense.

You know, the kind that like shakes your whole body?

They were obnoxiously loud, and echoed through my house (my sleeping family must not have been happy.)

That morning I decided to go to morning Mass at a Church about a five minute walk from my house.

Being late, I took my car for the 1 minute drive.

As I was driving, a thought came across my mind.

“Maybe, you should not go. Your hiccups will disrupt everyone.”

I imagined all the people in the Church staring at me.

However, I labeled this the voice of the enemy and decided going was more important.

Hiccups and the fear of embarrassment weren’t going to stop me from doing what I wanted.

Doing what I knew was right.

As I made my way up the Church driveway, the hiccups persisted.

“Hold them in. Hold them in. Focus. Hold them in.” I repeated in my mind as I opened the back door of the Church. 

Being late, I walked in right behind the priest.

“Hold them in. HOLD THEM IN. Don’t you dare…”

The minute I genuflected, before going into my seat, I let out the biggest hiccup of all time. 

THE SECOND  my knee hit the ground it was as if all the hiccups of my entire life decided to jump from my throat.

It. Was. So. Loud. 

I was so startled from the hiccup that my hiccups went away!

The Mass continued and I did not hiccup one bit.

This little experience taught me quite a few things I wanted to share with y’all.

The first being to push forward in doing what you know is right regardless of the whispers of the enemy. Humiliation and the fear of being humiliated stop so many of us from pursuing the truth. Fear sucks the perseverance out of us, when instead it can actually propel us. For example, when David faced Goliath. I am sure he had fear as he looked at the giant and all he had was a slingshot. However, David harnessed the fear and used it to show his true faith. In the midst of a thunderstorm of fear, he chose to look up towards Heaven and trust in God. He chose to use the power God had given him.

 

This experience reminded me of the humor of God. Often times, in our suffering world we neglect to look at the humor of truth. When I sent out the giant hiccup, it had me smirking in my seat. The hiccup was so freaking loud. Instead of dwelling on the embarrassment, I thought about how I was cured from my “ailment” by the very ailment itself.

I was reminded that our weaknesses are actually our strength. As seen in 2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I fought and fought and fought the weakness of my hiccups but in reality through that weakness I saw Christ more and more. As I walked into that Church, I had no choice but to accept my problem and just put it in Christ’s hands. Maybe I would get told to leave because I was being disruptive. Maybe I would be embarrassed. Maybe I would hiccup the entire time. But that did not matter. I knew what to do, and in the moment of weakness I had to place my trust in Him.

Friends, I encourage you this weak to keep moving forward. Put on the armor of God and when you feel inadequate to enter into His house, go anyway. Do not listen to the lies the enemy whispers in your ear. Trust in Him. Listen to the ache in your soul. Put on the armor of God and harness the faith.

So next time you have the hiccups, think of Him.

For in this human weakness, the truth became much clearer.

 

 

Victim to the Beat

How many of you enjoy jamming out with your friends in the car?

It is the best.

Sunroof open, windows down, smiles all around.

If you are like me you catch yourself singing along to songs you don’t know how you know.

The words just seem to slip out.

A few days ago I was going to the gym with my two younger brothers who are in high school.

They put on a song, and I soon realized I am behind on all the new music.

Since I had not heard the song before,  I made sure to really listen to the words.

The beat was amazing, but the words were awful. Profane. Demeaning. And just outright awful.

But the beat was amazing.

This is not to call out my brothers. We are exactly alike in our morals and values. This story proves that it is so easy to neglect the words and enjoy the beat.

Want to know something wild?

39 out of 50 “United States Top 50” on Spotify are listed as Explicit. 

I am not one to say that a few curse words are an issue.

I know plenty of loving people that use a few curse words here and there.

When I stub my toe you betcha I might become a sailor for a second.

But the stories in the songs, the way in which the words are used, the way in which (mostly women) are talked about is just outright uncalled for.

Yet, people keep on dancing.

The songs keep growing in popularity.

The people that are being attacked in the lyrics are dancing to the songs!

I don’t get it. 

This music situation relates a lot to our lives.

We sin because the beat feels right.

We fall victim to sin because it is an easy road that is appealing to the senses.

The way we are able to counter this is to LISTEN.

Listen carefully to what the world is trying to tell you and make the decision to unplug when necessary.

Friends, don’t fall victim to the beat. 

Be strong in virtue and don’t compromise.

And because of this.

You will make your own music.

Are you afraid, or are you playing it safe?

Have you ever reflected on a hesitation?

Have you ever asked yourself, am I afraid or am I just playing it safe?

I think about this question on the daily. So tonight, I wrote a poem about the difference.

Here is a little poem that will be included in my book (going to self-publish it soon be on the lookout).

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Check out my Instagram for more: @n.j.bellacicco

To me this is precisely the difference. Safety involves legitimate concerns. For one to not hold their breath while underwater is just crazy. It does not make any sense. However, sometimes as humans we get carried away. We allow the safety to morph into irrational and frightening fears. Hence, when we are living our lives, fear pops up.

It is irrational for one to hold their breath in the shower; however, the feared mind thinks otherwise. Just like when you are underwater, in the shower you are soaked. In the shower the water is weighing you down.

Friends, today I encourage you to not hold your breath in the shower. I pray that you will reflect on all of your actions and spot the difference. 

 

When You Reach the Hill

I can remember the pain.

Running through my legs as I biked through the streets of my hometown.

At the start of the journey there were many hills, but it was all downhill.

I loved the feeling. Pedaling was pointless. I was at full speed.

Yet at the end of it. I always knew there was the hill. The hill that cars have trouble getting up in the winter time. My little legs were never ready for it. But I would go up it. Moving inch by inch. Many times I had to get off my bike and push it up.

 

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We reach a lot of hills in our lives.

As students that may be a big test.

As patients that may be an illness.

As husbands and wives that may be an argument.

 

I am not here to give you the cliche “keep moving forward and you will succeed.”

I am here to talk about the pain.

Just like the pain in my legs when I would press up that hill.

I feel as humans we have a tendency to look toward the end. To say, “do this and you will make it.” Sure, that is great and all. But tell me about your hurt. What did it feel like when you were lying in that hospital bed? What did it feel like when your spouse hurt your heart? What did it feel like when you had not studied enough and the pressure was causing your heart to race?

We all are so drawn to the outcome of those role models around us that we forget their journey.

We cannot learn from their finale, but we can learn from their struggles.

For me, in order to have the courage to get up the hill I needed role models.

I needed to witness bikers going up that hill in pain and making it to the top.

I needed to see my siblings struggling with me.

I needed to know that I was not the only one experiencing this hurt.

 

Friends, today I encourage you to be vulnerable regarding your pain. Allow others to hear your struggle up the hill.

In this way, the struggle can be glorified.

The struggle can lead to another’s triumph.

However, if the pain is bottled and the finale is on display, no one prospers but yourself.

So be open.

Tell the world your story up the hill.

Lets reach the top….together.

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God and the Dunk Tank

You are sitting in the dunk tank. Your feet are dangling above the cold water. You know it’s freezing because your pinky toe just grazed the water. A shiver runs down your spine. The so called mini diving board you are sitting on is unstable. You can hear the rusty hinge squeak as you squirm in your seat. You are restless. You start to ask yourself,

Why am I even here in the first place? 

But it is too late. All of a sudden WHAM. 

A ball soars and misses the target by an inch.

You know that the moment that target is hit you are flopping into Arctic.

BAM.

Another one. You flinch a little bit but you are safe.

Seconds later, the hinge screams.

Your body crashes into the ice and your head dips underwater.

This dunk tank has one of those clear sides. The kind of dunk tank where the person throwing the ball can see you slam into the water.

Once you fall into the water, it starts to get murkier.

Underwater, you realize you did not see who was throwing the balls. Your eyes were focused on the water. The moment you open your eyes you see God.

 

________________________

 

As humans we are all born onto the ledge of some dunk tank. We are sitting on an unstable surface. We know at any minute our stability can be crushed. My goodness, it’s petrifying.

This stirs up a lot of questions in our hearts.

Like,

Why am I here?

      Where is my God?

      Why am I so afraid?

And then all of a sudden we are plunged into the water by a difficulty. We are dunked.

In this water, we become many things.

Frantic, frozen, and fearful.

The water is painful.

The water is suffering. 

The concept of human suffering in relation to God is a Rubik’s cube. In it rests many dimensions, by time and trial, we twist the puzzle and discern the truth.

 

I have a question for you?

 

In the story above how many of you assumed that God was throwing the balls at the target?

I am sure a lot of you.

And this is what we do.

We hold this view of our God as a coach that trains us to the point of breaking.

When you opened your eyes, you did in fact see God.

He was there for you.

To finish the story, when you see God you stare into His eyes.

You see Jesus Christ.

Who sat on that same dunk tank. The dunk tank of humanity.

In God you do not have a coach that pushes you to your breaking point, but rather a coach that has become a player.

Our God, watches us and reminds us…

Wherever we are He is our stability. 

When you fell into the water, it definitely became dirtier.

Chunks of mud began floating.

In the frantic movement of your limbs….

In the crying out….

In the dunking….

You were cleaned. 

The grime of disbelief began to dissolve. The mud of sin that had been caked onto your skin has become visible. The dirt weighing down your soul has been removed.

For in the cold water of the dunk tank—in the suffering’s of this life.

We are renewed and restored.

By a God who chose to join us on that unstable board, and continue to watch over us throughout all the falls.

All the daily dunks.

In this life the balls will fly from all over the place and hit the target.

All stability will be lost.

But in that moment of panic, is the moment of peace.

The cold water is not to be feared, but seen as a bath.

A bath that helps us see our own skin, recognize our dirtiness, and see Him.

When we are above the water.

We stare down in fear.

We lose sight of the goal.

But

Underwater, with no stability and immersed in fear, we open our eyes. Through the window of the dunk tank, we see the face of our God. 

 

Talking to Yourself

I went on a run today. Instead of bopping to some rad music, I shut off the music and decided to pray. What a perfect opportunity!

All of a sudden, I am back at my front door.

My 3.5 miles are finished.

Did I pray? Nope.

Why not?

Well, I decided to pray. Then I saw an interesting sign on the road I had never seen before. Then I starting thinking about my upcoming test. Then I thought about the two cows in the field staring at me. Then I made sure not to step on that ant pile. Then I thought about what I was going to eat when I got back. Then I thought about finishing up writing my book/books this summer.

So essentially, I chose to talk to myself. 

I chose to talk to myself instead of talking to God.

When I was a kid I always remember people getting made fun of when they were caught talking to themselves.

I specifically remember a teacher saying, “If you talk to yourself you are crazy.” 

Yet, humankind is obsessed with hearing our own voices inside our heads.

Are we crazy?

Talking to ourselves can lead to a lot of problems.

Here are 3 that I have seen in my life.

1.Problems and Snowballs

Problems begin to have the snowball effect. We start out at the top of the hill with a little snowball like “studying a textbook chapter” and then by the bottom of the hill  we “failed out of school and have no job.” In prayer, we offer up the snowball to God and he makes it into a snowman. God takes our problems and creates them into something beautiful.

2.  Track Path

A lot of internal processing involves looking for the right path to take. Trying to find the right answer. Hoping to not miss a step. However, what ends up happening is that by talking to ourselves we end up back at the same place we started. We are walking on a high school track. Through prayer, we stop. We see our surroundings. We reflect. We are shown truth and perspective. Through prayer, we can understand that the path we are walking is just a giant circle and are given the courage to leave it. Through prayer, we can find meaning in the journey.

3. Disobey Yourself

We disobey ourselves constantly. We tell ourselves to JUST DO IT. Whether that be at work, at school, or cleaning the house. But yet, we do not listen. However, when someone of notable authority recommends or insists you do something, usually you can find enough strength to get it done. This is exactly like prayer. If you talk to yourself you are helpless. But through prayer and conversation with God, we enable ourselves to hear His instructions and follow them wholeheartedly.

 

Friends, I leave you with a challenge.

Pretend the picture of me is saying this to you.

This week will you talk to God more than you talk to yourself?

 

 

 

Pray more than you ponder. 

 

 

 

 

A Poem About Taking Action

 

get off the treadmill

we complain that nothing

is changing

yet, we won’t get off the

treadmill.

we will go nowhere

if we stay comfy

running at a set pace

on a safe path we already know.

 

Follow my instragram account @n.j.bellacicco for more poetry.

My book “Pouring Echoes” can be found on Amazon and BarnesandNoble!

Pouring Echoes! My Poetry Book Link 🙂

 

To my readers, sorry I’ve been pretty distant. School has been tough and I’ve been working a lot on my new poetry book which will be centered around the theme of mental illness.

 

 

A Simple Little Prayer

Dear Lord,

Direct my soul to your love. Give me the strength to let go. Fill me with the courage to choose You over myself. Calm my restless heart. Remind me that the Holy Spirit is with me on this journey. Thank you Lord, for your presence. Refocus my gaze on You alone. Give me the ability to recognize my weakness and use it as a force of faith. Tear down the walls I have placed around my heart. Walls that block me from You. Walls that block me from my true self. Walls that prevent me from loving my neighbor as myself. Lord, water me like a flower. You are my sunlight. Lord, I am with you in this moment.

Amen.

Girls Don’t Deserve Roses

To all my women readers,

In a few hours it will be Valentine’s Day. Ever since childhood, we have engrained images in our our minds about this special day.

Valentine’s day cards, chocolate, teddy bears, and especially roses.

Lots of pink and red everywhere.

The first couple years of college, I thought about how special this day was for a lot of girls all over campus (some do not care much for it). I knew the feeling of being noticed and getting flowers meant so much to certain girls that did not have a special someone in their life. Even as a guy I can empathize. To be given gifts and to be noticed feels good.

Gifts demonstrate acknowledgement. 

Gifts illustrate that someone cares.

Gifts make us smile. 

Therefore, for the last couple of Valentine’s Days, I decided to give many of the girls in my life flowers. Cause why not right? Not necessarily in a romantic way (well, maybe a few) but just to show them that someone cared on this day. I loved seeing them smile. I loved making it a surprise. I loved letting them know someone was thinking about them on Valentine’s Day.

However, my attitude has changed this year.

This year I will not be buying flowers.

This year I have developed a new motto,

“Girls Don’t Deserve Roses.”

Before anyone gets angry at me…let me explain.

I am not anti-rose. I think flowers make a beautiful gift.

As I sit with friends and joke about the Bachelor, every once in a while a sadness strikes me. I observe all of these beautiful women stare at a single rose that some guy is holding. The way in which they stare is as if the rose is the last antidote and they are ill. When they do not receive the rose I can see their hearts shatter.

They feel rejected.

They feel lonely.

They feel like they messed up.


As I reflect on this, it is very much like Valentines Day. Some women in my life will feel hurt tomorrow because they did not receive a flower or gift from a man in their life. Others may not care at all. However, to the one’s that it does impact they may feel as though they are not attractive. They may feel like something is wrong with them. They may even feel like they did something to deserve loneliness.

I am here to tell you today that girls do not deserve roses:

Girls deserve much much more.

As we see in the Beauty and the Beast roses die. Roses and other gifts are a great way to show appreciation but to me….that is too easy.

I want to and I hope all men want to live in such a way to show all the women in our lives that they deserve so much….every.single.day.

To all my women readers.

You are worth more than a few petals and a stem.

You are worth more than a few chocolates.

You are worth more than a nicely written card.

I encourage you to wait for a man who keeps on giving gifts. Each and every day.

The gift of treating you like a best friend. 

The gift of listening to you.

The gift of having deep conversations with you.

The gift of cheering you up.

The gift of being there for you, praying with you, praying for you, etc. 

 

Girls. You do not deserve roses. You do not even deserve a bouquet.

You deserve gifts that won’t wilt.