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{Podcast S2 E8} Turning to God First: A Journey Story w/Johnna Nichelle

We are back with a familiar face and voice, Johnna Nichelle, member of the Bonnet Prayer Gang, friend, wife, and future mamma.

Join us as we talk about the importance of going to God first, assessing your own flaws, and understanding that you're never too far gone to save.

It's an episode that will lift you and inspire you in your personal journey of faith and we are excited that you're here!

Visit our Podcast page to listen online, Google Podcast Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.

Show Notes:

Get To Know Our Guests:

Johnna Nichelle: Instagram & Website

Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Matthew 7:3-5: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Get Caught Up with Season 2 Episode 7: Bonnet Prayer Gang Conversations: Godly Friendships with Johnna Nichelle & Tsciena Town

Turning to God First: A Journey Story w/Johnna Nichelle - Transcription


Shekinah: Hey, y'all and welcome to this week's episode of the Truths and Promises podcast. Today, we have another journey of faith story to share with you all. And in actuality, you all just heard from this special guest just last week. She is a member of the Bonnet Prayer Gang. It's Johnna, AKA Johnna Nichelle, AKA Mrs. Wilks AKA Baby Wilks's fearless mama. If you could go ahead and sort of reintroduce yourself, I mean, they kind of already know you, but a little short introduction would be nice in case they haven't heard from you before.

Johnna: Of course. Well, thank you for having me back on. I'm excited to dive in today. For those of y'all that don't know me. My name like Shekinah said is Johnna Nichelle Wilks. I am a digital content creator based out of Dallas, Texas. Originally from Florida where Shekinah and I are both originally from, and I am almost seven months pregnant. So that's a little different than the last time we talked. I'm a bit more pregnant expecting our first child, baby boy, this September.

So, I'm so excited for that. And I also am a brand strategist and web designer. I own a business called Be The Message and work with small to mid-size businesses. So I just love getting to help people bring their brand vision to life. And I recently, co-founded an organization called Say Grace, which is a community for faith-based creators, influencers, and so that's been a lot of fun too.

Shekinah: Yes, I love it. Well, thank you for coming back onto the podcast. You know, we love having you here. So, if you don't know, if you're a new listener and you don't know the premise behind these journey of faith stories, they are to have real conversation about our journeys and God's glory. About his faithfulness and his never ending love. During these talks, I invite our guests to share whatever God has placed on their hearts in this season, as long as it encourages us to one: walk by faith, two: live in victory, and three: above all else, obey God. So as always, I like to start these conversations off by asking what's one of your favorite truths or promises that we can find in the scripture and where can we find it?

Johnna: Okay. That's a good question. There are honestly so many. It's always hard to just pick one because I feel like God's word just has so many truths and promises to stand on but I would say my favorite one and one that I always come back to, especially in wilderness seasons is Romans 8:28, "All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord."

I think just being able to remember that verse and to stand firm on that when things don't seem certain, or I just feel like I'm on rocky ground. It brings me back. It really anchors me. So that is probably the strongest truth and promise that I stand on in every season really.

Shekinah: Yeah. I love that one. Can you tell us what it's looked like for you to stand on that promise through a wilderness season? Maybe you have an example of a wilderness season that you've experienced.

Johnna: Yeah. So, I mean, I think as far as how I stand specifically on that promise, it really comes back to having a heart of remembrance. And so remembering that, you know, God already has promised that he has the victory in my life, no matter what I've been through, what I'm currently going through or what I'm going to face in the future. He's promised me that all things are going to work together for my good and for His glory, ultimately in the end. And so I think being able to remember and just meditate on that during those wilderness seasons really helps. And, you know, I can think of a time, right after I first got married, which I thought was going to be the honeymoon season and actually really ended up being a wilderness season for me personally, because up until the point of marriage, everything had pretty much been going great, honestly, for my fiance and I. We hadn't faced too many big life obstacles. You know, we'd had minor disputes and things we'd had to communicate through, but once we got married life really started to hit us. I moved to a new state with him, which was already a big transition for me, and once I moved there, I decided to start a business. He was doing really well in his job. And so I started this business. It was making pretty much no money. But it was okay because he kind of had things taken care of. And then about six months into that, he lost his job and I had this business that was making no money. He now had no job and it was a lot different than the honeymoon season that I expected. You know, we've gone from getting engaged in this beautiful location and all of these amazing trips and travels to like, how are we going to pay our rent this month? Like, how are we really gonna make ends meet? And, you know, you don't wanna just run back to your parents, you know, leave and cleve, and all of these things.

So I'm like, we really gotta face this together. And I think for me, it was just, it was a challenge because I am someone when I'm faced with an issue, I'm immediately trying to figure out how are we going to get through this? I'm coming up with ideas. And really, I started to take the lead instead of taking things to God first. And my husband could feel that he could feel that I wasn't really trusting him to lead our household, that, that I was fearful of the future. And that really caused a big strain on our relationship. So I think me going through that, I kind of had to come to this point where I'm like, God, I, I don't know what to do. I cannot do this without you. And once I got there and I started taking my issues to God, instead of complaining to my husband or telling him every single day, how worried I was about our situation, that's where I actually saw God come through for us and make a way where I really, at the time didn't see a way. So that was just a big wilderness season in my life. And again, just going back to that promise, God had told me all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord. And it was hard to bring that to my mind in the midst of it. But once I really became rooted in that, I started to let go of that fear and that anxiety. And that's when things started to change.

Shekinah: Yeah. No, that's really good. I wanna pull out a point that you mentioned about taking things to God first. Can you say any more about what that looked like and how exactly someone can do that in, in sort of a practical sense. Like how do you take things to God? How do you give things to God? And I know that's probably a deep question, but I'm sure you have something for us.

Johnna: Yeah. So I'll make it really practical, a way that I've done this in my own life specifically, since we're talking about the wilderness season, I went through in my marriage. I'll use myself and my husband as an example. So, there were certain desires I had of my husband, maybe I, I wanted him to lead us in a certain area, in a certain way. And my inclination would be, we'll just communicate everything to him. As long as you communicate everything directly to him, then he's gonna understand you and he's gonna change and everything's gonna be perfect.

Shekinah: Yeah!

Johnna: You know, of course like it just, you know, common sense. Right? And what I found out is oftentimes he felt like he wasn't good enough. Like no matter what he did or how hard he tried, I always had more for him to do, or I had other expectations and I wasn't recognizing that he was also doing this for the first time.

He's never been a husband before, just like I've never been a wife before. And I remember a friend telling me once, you know, make sure before you're going to your husband, get in your prayer closet and start speaking life over your husband. Speak the things that you want as though they already were. Take those things to God first, because as much as you think you communicating directly to your husband is the answer, the true answers come when I'm communicating directly to the source.

So for me, that looked like, instead of saying, you know, why aren't you doing the dishes or why aren't you taking the dog out? As much as I want. Getting in my prayer closet and saying, you know what, thank you, God that my husband leads our family well. Thank you that he hears my needs and he reciprocates those needs back to me, you know. Thank you that you are working in his life and God, I asked that you help us both grow.

I think that was a big thing for me too. When I started to get before God, I really started to realize this isn't all my husband, my husband, my husband, like, yeah. I am not the golden wife with absolutely no issues. And I think God really revealed my heart to me in that area too, which really brought out the true change.

So it may look like before you go complaining to your partner, going to God. Thanking God for putting that partner in your life and bringing those prayers and petitions before Him, first, and allowing Him to do the work in them instead of you trying to play God in your own relationship.

Shekinah: Yeah. And you know, that reminds me of, you know, I think even in our last Bonnet Prayer Gang conversation that we had, we talked about how in these godly friendships and relationships, a part of that was being able to talk with one another and to pray over our relationships, our spouses, work and all those other things as well. But, you know, that reminds me of my mom just saying to me when I'm like, I'm on the phone with Johnna right now. She's like, okay, don't, y'all be talking about those husbands. Y'all better pray about 'em and, you know, just like before you take anything to your husband, and I feel like what you're saying is so true and I feel like I'm picking up marriage tips here too. Being even careful about what you take to your friends or even what you take to your therapist or how you take it to them. Right? And like what kind of context? And, and taking that to God first and the importance of that. So,

Johnna: yeah. You know, it makes me think of that verse. I think it's in Matthew 7, where it talks about, you know, how quick we are to point out the plank or the speck of dust in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in our own eye.

And it it's so easy to get caught up in that. I feel like I have gotten caught up in it myself, especially in the early seasons of being married. So many times where I'm like, you don't do this or you do this wrong, or you do that. And I'm very quick to be like, look at you, you, you, and then when I actually take those things before God, God's like, well, look at yourself. How about you start there and I'm like, okay, you know what God? You, you have a point. I need to recognize my own faults before being so quick to point out the faults in my partner.

Shekinah: Yeah. And I think more broadly about how marriage is a picture of our relationship with God.

Johnna: Mm-hmm

Shekinah: and even how sometimes, I mean, at least I do, I don't know how holy and you know, righteous everybody else is, but at least I have those moments where I'm like, God, how could you let this happen? Or why did you let. Or why did you do this? Or why didn't you do that? And, you know, just thinking about those moments where I get in prayer, it really is less about God being like, oh, I'm sorry, I didn't do this. Or I did that, or I allowed this to happen. And it's more about instructions on what I should be doing, how I should be positioning myself. So a lot of times the things I think that are happening in our lives and that we're experiencing, God has already given us so much power that lives on the inside of us to be able to navigate those things so that He is able to receive the glory. And I love that I'm able to sort of pick up on that picture of our relationship, even with God through the story that you tell about your marriage and that wilderness season.

Johnna: Mm that's so good. And I think, you know, you're right. It, it paints a picture of our relationship with God and it transcends into all of our relationships. Our relationships with our friends, our relationships with our family and how we navigate those things. You know, we're not always the hero of this story. Sometimes it's us that need to get before God and say, God refine me.

Shekinah: Mm-hmm

Johnna: help my heart because I'm struggling with this person right now.

Shekinah: Yeah. So what I'm hearing, practically, is when we're taking it to God, we're praying about it. We're speaking, as He would speak, but we're also opening ourselves up to Him for correction and guidance and wisdom on how to move forward, which I think is so powerful. I wanna ask you this and I don't remember if I told you this was one of the questions that would come or not. So take your time as you're thinking about this. But I think you're also very familiar with it. So you've probably reflected on this again, but I want you to share with our listeners what about the 1140 story or meaning resonates with you in your journey with the time that you spent in the wilderness, with the journey that you've had towards the promised land? For those who might be new, the 11 refers to the number of days that it should have taken the Israelis to make it out of bondage in Egypt through the wilderness and into their promised land. But instead they spent 40 years in the wilderness and hadn't made it into their promised land in that 11 days that it should have taken them. And a lot of that was because of murmuring and complaining of forgetting how faithful God had been to them. And I'm even put in remembrance right now of one of the first things Johnna said when we started this episode about how she has to have this heart of remembrance that God has already received the victory and the Israelites forgot that time and time again. And because of that, 40 years was spent wandering around the mountain in the wilderness.

So yeah, what, what about that 1140 story, the meaning behind 1140 glory resonates with you?

Johnna: That's a really good question. And I love that story because I have definitely been in the position of the Israelites, where I'm like, God, yes, I trust you. Lead me out of slavery, and then He does. And I'm like, wait, whoa, wait, wait, I'm scared. I don't like this. You know, just take me back actually.

Shekinah: Right. Like, I'll just go back. Nevermind.

Johnna: Just forget, forget I said anything. But I think the biggest. Element of that story that resonates with me is the theme of obedience. And not just, this is how things could be better if you were obedient, but there's real consequences to deciding I'm gonna do things my own way. And it really can make the journeys of our lives take a lot longer than God ever intended them to. And, you know, like I can think back to after I got saved, I was around 14 when I got saved and shortly after entered into some really toxic relationships. And by the time I was 19, I had totally strayed from the faith. I was exploring Buddhism and spirituality and basically just anything that would make me feel okay in the mess that I had gotten myself into. And I think back to you know, what if I would've held on to the promises that God gave me when I got saved, when I was younger, what if I hadn't decided to kind of stray and go my own way and really get myself so deep into darkness. That I was to the point of questioning my life. You know, like I look back at those times and I just think, man, obedience makes a difference and it's not to say that God won't still have his way in your life because He will. But how we get there, sometimes we are a big factor in that and we can prevent ourselves from so much hurt and so much heartache by clinging to that obedience and by trusting that God is who He says He is. So regardless of whe whether you're in a dry season or not, He's still, God. He's still good. He's still going to bring you out on the other side of that. And it's not for us to understand how it's gonna happen or when it's gonna happen is just for us to understand it's going to happen because God is who He says He is. And there are just many times in my life where I lost sight of that. And that's where I found myself almost wanting to go back to the slavery because it seems like I would never get to the promised land, you know?

Shekinah: Yeah. It's like how doubt creeps in, is what I'm hearing, because there was something that you said that reminded me of what I would say is the characteristics of God that He is, I am that I am right. That's what He said. And when you say like, you have to be reminded that it is, right? Like it is going to be what God said it is. It's just this matter of factness that I think faith requires but when we start to lose that matter of factness is when doubt starts to creep in and all you need is a little bit of doubt. Like just one person to say the promised land doesn't look as good as well, actually, the promised land does look as good as God said it did, but those other people see us as grass hoppers. That's all it needs. Right. It's just like one bad report, one bad thing to happen that makes you feel like, there's no way I'm gonna make it to the promised land. Maybe that day, the manna doesn't taste as good as it did before, or like you want meat instead of manna. And then, and then you just start to question everything else that God already said was yours.

It was a matter of a fact that the promised land already belonged to them, but then they went in and they saw one little thing that made them doubt it. And that's one of those just creepy little things that. Can really turn your entire life around.

Johnna: Yeah. And I think, you know, sometimes it's doubt that creeps in from circumstance. So it could be the things that are happening around us that start to make us doubt. For me, a lot of times that doubt was it was in my own mind. It was the voice of the enemy in my head reminding me, do you remember what you used to do? Do you remember how you used to live? Like, you really think that God's gonna take you from that and turn this into something beautiful or turn this into a testimony that's actually gonna help people, like you're a mess and it would be those voices that then I would start to doubt and be like, you know what maybe better off where I am. Maybe God actually wants nothing to do with me. Or maybe I'm too far gone. I would get caught up in this kind of performance based idea of love, where if I could not perform up to God's standards, He couldn't possibly take this mess and turn it into something beautiful because I wasn't good enough and I think once I realized none of us are good enough. You know, we, we hear people say, you know, you're enough, you're enough, you're enough, but none of us are enough. We could never be enough. And that's the beauty of the gospel. And I think once that I started to shift that mindset. That's where I started really making progress toward that promise land and making my way out of the wilderness. Even if it did take kind of like the Israelites, it took me, not 40 years, but it took me long enough.

Shekinah: Right. Yeah. It took you longer than it should have if you were saving 14 and lost at 19 that's five years, right there.

Johnna: Right.

Shekinah: But, you know, I think, I think there is also something to be said about that experience that we have becoming followers of Christ, like true followers of Christ. You know, I'll hear my mom say stuff like I remember the day that I made this decision. Like I remember this moment and for me it really wasn't like one moment. I mean, if you asked me, I probably been saved since I was like six, right? Like raised in the church. Doing church things every weekend, every weekday, 24/7. It's a part of like being a PK. We serve, right? The entire family serves when one of your parents is a pastor. So, I would say my journey has been more of a, like in waves, right? Maybe I was saved as a kid, but I really didn't come into your true knowledge until I was like an undergrad and in my master's program. And then I dove real deep while I was in my PhD program. Is there a moment that you remember where you like 100% turned your life over, or would you say that you've also sort of like experienced this as in stages and then there was like another final moment more recently that was like, yep. This is it.

I'm all in. And all of that past me is gone.

Johnna: Mm, yeah, I'm much more with the waves for sure. My journey was not linear. I did not have a singular moment where I was like, boom, changed forever. And that's it never looking back. I would say that my own path, you know, although I was saved and baptized at 14, I found myself rededicated my life to Christ much later, and I think while there was a moment, after I rededicated my life to Christ, I really became a lot more intentional, intentional about clinging to God because I saw how close I was to a path that was just leading me straight to hell. I mean, there's just no way around it. I remember right before that rededication moment I was doing all sorts of crazy things y'all. I was drinking, doing drugs, like real drugs, like partying, all of this stuff. And one day God gave me this vision and He showed me, it was like, I was sitting in a room and He showed me everything that had happened in my life and all of the sins that I had committed up until that point, everything I was ashamed of and would never want anyone to see and He displayed all of this for me. And at the end of it showed me how close I really was to the gates of hell. And it was terrifying, honestly. And during that vision, I was thinking it's too late. This is the end for me. And it wasn't until after that moment that I realized God showed me that not because it was too late, but because there was still time. I'm still here. I'm still on this earth. I don't have to continue going down the path that I was currently on. And I think that moment was so pivotal for me. It shook me to my core. And while I'm not saying that I became like this perfect Christian after that moment, I am saying that it completely redefined how I viewed life, how I viewed eternity and it changed how I lived from that moment on. So it was definitely some waves, you know, I believed, and then I strayed and then I came back. But once I had that moment where it, it got real for me and I realized what was on the other side of this life. Everything changed.

Shekinah: Yeah. And as you were speaking, what came to me was not perfect, but committed, right?

Johnna: Mm-hmm

Shekinah: there's this a moment where we just decide to become intentional about our commitment to Christ and I thank God that he showed you. Right? What was ahead before that destruction even came. That's just the love of the Father, right? Like I think we see time and time again in Numbers where God is showing them what's gonna happen. I mean, He tells them. He has these them to recite these Psalms and to read what has been written over and over again, to remind them that if you leave me, this is what's gonna happen. And then we watch in Judges and Kings and Samuel like, then we watch all these things happen that He's already shown them, right.

Johnna: Yep.

Shekinah: Of what could come and what could happen. Even in that promised land that they were living in. But it really starts with trusting and having faith and leaning on God and not letting that go. And I like how you mentioned that earlier, that what you were dealing with was less extenuating circumstances or external circumstances and more of just an internal fight and battle that you sort of had to work through. And then you also talked about, you know, the beauty of the gospel. And I think about that beauty as Holy Spirit, who's living on the inside of us and existing in a way that he can fight those battles, right? Like our minds can be transformed and renewed. Because of the word of God that exists because that word should live inside of us with Holy Spirit. And so I'm just reminded so much through the different things that you're saying, and these are sort of the thoughts that are coming to my mind, but just hearing this, I find very encouraging and I hope that our listeners do as well.

Johnna: Yeah. I mean, I think, exactly what you're saying. God shows us throughout scripture. What it looks like to stand firm in His, in His love and be obedient to Him and what it could look like if we don't and then what it does look like when we don't and He's not doing that just to freak us out or scare us, He's doing that because He loves us, because He knows that on our own, we are human. We are flawed. We need Holy Spirit inside of us. We need a guide. And He is that guide. And I think, you know, for anyone who is listening, who maybe feels like, well, God could save that person, but He can't save me because you don't know what I did. Or you don't know where I came from. I just wanna tell you right now, if God can save me, God can save anyone. God can save whoever He wants. There is nothing that you have done, no place that you have been no thought that you have thunk in your head that is beyond God's reach. And so I really hope that that resonates with somebody out there because it's the truth. And that is the heart of the gospel.

Shekinah: Yeah, that is the truth. So can you tell us if you feel like you're living in a promised land right now and what that promised land is like for you, or maybe gotta shown you a picture of what the promised land is going to look like, especially after showing you what the other space would've looked like and maybe you can share glimpses of that with us.

Johnna: Sure. I would definitely say this season of my life very much feels like a promised land. I mean, just two years ago, I was moved again to another new state. Had no friends here was still trying to make things work with my business. My husband had just started a new job. We were in the middle of a pandemic. We had wanted to start our family, but then, you know, things changed around us and we were kind of slowing down on that and just trying to be patient. And I was really wondering like, God, will I ever have like some sort of stability in my life? Is it always just gonna feel like this rollercoaster where I'm like clinging onto you for dear life? And now I reflect back on that and we are rooted in our community here in Dallas. We have an amazing church that I love so much. A solid group of friends around us. I'm expecting my first child, which in and of itself is something that before I started having doubts about, I was scared that it wasn't gonna happen for us or that something bad was going to happen. And so now just kind of dwelling in the midst of that, I am so thankful. It really just shows that again, all things work together. You know, I'm looking at it right now. I'm living in it right now. And I am just so thankful for it.