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  • Writer's pictureNicky Stade

It’s been a busy season for me. God is stretching me in ways I could never have imagined. Even just a few years ago, I would have snapped like a twig. As I sipped the last cup of coffee remaining in my house this morning (because who has time to go grocery shopping? Ha!), I read Psalm 29 in The Message and I was in awe. Most other translations refer to “God’s voice” or “the voice of the Lord”, but Peterson calls it “God’s thunder.”

"God thunders across the waters," "God’s thunder tympanic,” “God’s thunder symphonic." "God’s thunder spits fire.” “God thunders, the wilderness quakes;" "God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing"

When I was in middle school, I lived in the midwest, right in tornado alley. Any thunder or lightening struck fear in me, especially at night when I couldn’t see what might be lurking in the distance. I read this Psalm and at first glance I picture a giant storm brewing, loud and chaotic—and it sounds terrifying. I’m not currently living in the path of a literal hurricane as some of my dear friends, but it certainly feels like there is thunder all around me in this season.

This Psalm has shifted my perspective, though. What if the sound I’m hearing is not thunder, but God’s voice? What if the proverbial storm you’re experiencing right now is God quaking the wilderness around you? There are some trees who rely on the whipping wind and pounding rain to strengthen its root system. What if this season we're in isn’t designed to destroy us, but to embrace and empower us?

These words illuminated off the page today…almost as if highlighted by the very lightening in my soul:

Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
 from which his power flows,
 from which he rules the world. God makes his people strong.
 God gives his people peace. Psalm 29:10-11

God is above our storms. He’s not afraid. He’s not struggling through it. He is above it, and his power is greater. But it doesn’t end there—God makes his people strong. And God gives his people peace.

There is a promise in your storm today. Hold onto that with dear life, and when the sun shines again, you’ll be so glad you did! Love you, friends.

  • Writer's pictureNicky Stade

I’m a coffee person. On most mornings, I take a sweetener and some non-dairy vanilla creamer in my coffee. Not long ago, I discovered the joys of the Nespresso. During the week that I had access to one, I drank a lot of coffee with frothed milk instead of my usual non-dairy creamer.


I began to notice that my body was doing weird things, and the only thing I could think of that had changed was the absolute ridiculous amount of dairy I was consuming. It made me think back to all the other times I had noticed (and promptly written off) various symptoms that coincidentally happened when I would drink a regular latte, eat cheese, yogurt, a strawberry In-N-Out milkshake… At 41 years old, I began to wonder if I’m lactose intolerant and never knew it!

It also made me wonder how many other things we unnecessarily suffer through because we refuse to give up various poisons. You may not be lactose intolerant, but what else do you indulge in that is making you miserable? Maybe, like me, you never even put two and two together…

As we close out 2020, let me give you a few suggestions to consider detoxing:

  • Bitterness/Anger

  • Envy/Comparison

  • Negativity

  • Self-sabotage/Insecurity

  • Slothfulness

  • A toxic relationship

  • Inauthenticity

  • Unnecessary fears

What would you add to this list?

When I gave up dairy, I noticed that my body got worse before it got better. I had unknowingly become dependent on it, and had to be diligent about scrubbing it out of my diet because it can be sneaky. You might be amazed at how many things are made with milk! I also had to be diligent about finding a substitute that would suffice. There are so many things I could use in place of real milk, but what is best?

Giving up other toxins can bring the same struggles—perhaps you have been self-sabotaging for so long that you no longer know what you want in life, much less how to set a goal and achieve it. Or maybe you’ve been so gripped with bitterness or negativity that you never knew just how many places it was hiding in your life. Be diligent to root it out and starve it from your system. Remind yourself that you’re removing a poison from your life.

But don’t just scrub it out—substitute it with something that is better! Commit to reading your Bible each day, even if it’s just a few verses (try to focus on ones that specifically talk about the issue with which you’re struggling). Develop a habit of prayer in the morning, before you reach for your phone to scroll through social media. At night before bed, instead of reaching for the remote, reach for a journal and a pen. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through everyone else’s highlight reels, text a friend and have a real conversation.

On Christmas Day, I said to heck with it all and enjoyed homemade macaroni & cheese, rosemary crostini’s with delicious Brie & apricot jam, and creamy mashed potatoes. I ate as much milk chocolate as I could stand, and would substitute a few things here and there to justify my discrepancies. “But it’s Christmas!,” I told myself.

Was it delicious? You bet your stocking stuffers it was! But was it worth it?

Some of the issues I noticed when I would eat dairy were internal, private. Those were the ones I thought were fine if I cheated, because no one would know, right? However, there are external symptoms that can rear their ugly heads, too—acne for one. This is a correlation I hadn’t even considered until my Christmas splurge! Three days later, though, it’s painfully obvious that I had over-indulged.

It’s the same with other toxins like bitterness, envy, or fear. We walk around with these poisons in our system and we think no one knows because we don’t talk about it, but it leaks out in other ways. The truth is, often these toxic traits are written all over our faces.

I’m going to continue to eliminate dietary poisons from my daily habits, along with a few other things on this list. Will you do a personal inventory and quit something with me?

Let’s do better to be better this coming year.

  • Writer's pictureNicky Stade

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Ruth 1:20

Social media has a way of making life look like a bed of roses. Everyone is smiling and showing off their best, which makes it harder when you’re going through a season of struggle. I’m sorry if scrolling through my posts has given you the impression that I have never had a bad day in my life. Truly, I am sorry for any part I’ve played in keeping up the facade.

The truth is, there have been more days than I can count where I’ve woken up and stared blankly at the wall wishing I could just go back to sleep. There have been days where I’ve listened to angry music alone in the car and just felt sorry for myself. There have been days when I’ve cried in the shower and then put on a happy face to go meet people later that morning. When asked how I’ve been, I’m quick to say “the last couple of years have been hard for my family but we’re doing okay.” If I am really honest about it, it’s been one hard season after the next, and each time, it gets more and more difficult to hope that something better is coming…

Then came 2020 and it almost broke me. I can smile and laugh on the outside, but very few have seen the private struggles that only the events of 2020 could peel away. Things I didn’t even know were in me were bubbling up to the surface and it became harder and harder to keep that smile on in public. Bitterness began to leak out in both my words and my silence.

This past week I’ve spent some time reflecting on the book of Ruth. In my younger days I would read myself into Ruth’s story, but this year I’ve related a little more with Naomi. As a pastor, I don’t want to admit it, but sometimes I get mad at God. It’s true…please don’t judge me too harshly. In this story, Naomi had lost so much, and try as she might she just couldn’t hold on to hope any more. As she returned to her hometown following tragedy and hardship, she no longer wanted to be known as Naomi (which means “pleasant”). Instead, she wanted to wallow in her bitterness and make it a part of her identity (Mara means “bitter”).

Here’s the thing about being mad at God…sometimes you don’t realize that’s the real issue. It feels like God is just far away and doesn’t really care, but the truth is, he’s not the one who drifted away—it was us. It was me.

This time last year, I was full of hope because surely anything could be better than 2019—or 2018, or 2017, or 2016… So many devotions and messages were being preached about 2020 Vision and having clarity, and I couldn’t wait! But as 2020 rolled on, things just got worse. It was too easy to fall into bitterness and anger, and soon it overtook me. But here’s the thing—even though Naomi had given herself over to bitterness and blame, God remained faithful to her and to her family.

You know what else they say? Hindsight is 2020. Looking back over this year, I realized that God has been with me all along. He has shown his grace and his mercy to me in many ways, but I just couldn’t see it. This year has been a very, very difficult year to be sure, but it has also brought me closer to my husband and my kids—it has shown me my priorities and how to focus on the things that are truly important to me. It has closed some chapters, but it has also opened new opportunities and new friendships. It has—surprisingly enough—allowed me to step into not just one but TWO lifelong dreams: I’m finally going to college and we’re buying our first lovely little home.

Naomi had lost everything and resigned herself to the fact that her life would be miserable. But God was still working on her behalf—not because she did the right things or posted the right Bible verses on Instagram, but simply because He loved her. God loves me even when I’m angry. He blesses me even when I don’t see it at first. He never gave up on me. I’m no one special—God loves you, too. What blessings has he done for you behind the scenes this year?

Today I am 41 years old and I no longer want to identify myself as Mara (“bitter”). Instead you may just call me Nicky, which means “victory”.

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