Finding Hope Through Community and Truth

Nicole Gonzales' immense, dark, compassionate eyes magnetize you when she speaks of her passions - her husband, her son, her walk with God and her desire to help others who suffer as she does. Her favorite song is, "It's Not Over Yet" by Kings and Country. The lyrics, "This goes out to the heaviest everyone who's hit their limit...It's not over yet...And even when you think you're finished...It's not over yet," speak volumes about the life of this petite firecracker.

Nicole suffers the continual unease and apprehension of Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks, fatiguing and debilitating illnesses that impact family, work, finances, and result in weeks of isolation from the world. Like so many of us, she spent a goodly part of her existence fighting God for placing illness in her life. but "it's not over yet," because Nicole's life is changing dramatically.

A little over a year ago, her family began a courageous search for a new church - a church that would be far different from the strict Catholic catechisms of her youth. They made a list of area churches. Over the years, their son had joyfully attended youth gathering at Ventura Missionary (Nicole laughingly remembers saying to her son, "have a good time, but remember you are still Catholic."). Those past happy events placed VMC at the top of their search list.

On their first visit, they sat "in the front, left side pews; I remember exactly." Nicole said she felt God, through Pastor Chad, was speaking directly to her. And they knew that VMC would be their new church home.

Fighting anxiety disorders, Nicole joined a Wednesday Night Home Group and the Thursday Women's Bible Study where, "Something enormous happened! I was accepted for who I was without judgment! I could be open and validated without being guarded...I suddenly had Prayer Warriors by my side, people to talk me off the ledge, and instantaneous texts of love and support."

"And it was there that I heard about ROOTED! There were raves about the coursework and how amazing the journey was...and I knew that is where God wanted me!...As soon as the next ROOTED opened, we signed up...and I continued to pray about ROOTED and my need to get to know the Pastors better."

"When we got to ROOTED the first night, it was as if my prayers were being answered...our group facilitator was Pastor was meant to be...God put me there in that room on purpose!

"We live in a society that shuns weakness. But in your groups you can be vulnerable [tell your sorrows] without fear. It catches you off guard in a good way!"

"Everyone is so different. But when people reveal their hardships, you see how alike we all are. ROOTED helps us see we are all the same and that we can help each other through our journeys - journeys you can't do on your own or in your own time."

"I have never stepped 100% out on faith. I think that is due to my anxieties. But I am now stepping out at 95%; and THAT is amazing. I know God is always with me and He will take care of the rest. And I try to focus on other things like my love for my husband and family."

"God has not yet revealed His mission for me. but I know He is preparing me. I no longer think of a life where, in my illness, He is constantly letting me down. I try to focus on the millions of little blessings instead of one giant problem."

Nicole's word of inspiration for this year is "persist." It came from Beth Moore's Entrust, Bible Study, "Persistence has you on your feet when the majority hit the couch over the next inconvenience. Persist when it seems the anointing has run dry When it seems heaven has forgotten you're alive.. - When you feel uninspired [or] tired, [or] when you've been fired. - When your faith shows no results. - When your obedience has not paid off. - When your prayers seem like wasted breath. - When your bones feel dead - and so does the word. Persist. Jesus is on His way...There is still life in your bones and, Child of God, there is still life in his Word. Persist."

God is unleashing hope in Nicole's heart, and she is persisting through her anxiety and struggles.

Note: The next ROOTED Discipleship Experience will start in September 2017 and will most likely take place on Tuesday evenings. Watch for details.

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