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My conversation this week could not have come at a better time. I want to continue to bring encouraging and inspiring content to you during these unprecedented times. We are meant to live in community, and while we are social distancing right now, it can feel strange as many of us are wondering how we will communicate with our friends, family, and coworkers in new ways. If you’re married, your marriage could feel strained because you and your spouse are in closer proximity with each other all the time. It’s important to be focusing on those relationships and what matters most while we’re navigating this new and uncharted way of staying connected. My guest this week is Nicole Zasowski, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, and speaker. She lives in a small town just outside New York City with her husband Jimmy and her two sons. With the vulnerability of your closest friends, and the wisdom of your most trusted resource, Nicole reveals her own story of how challenges such as unwanted transition, multiple miscarriages, and crippling anxiety gave her empty hands to receive everything she had been looking for in the presence and person of Jesus Christ. She’s also the author of the new book, From Lost to Found: Giving Up What You Think You Want for What Will Set You Free. I loved this conversation and listening back to it over the last week or so has really ministered to my heart, and I know it will to you too.
Nicole is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has a private practice in Connecticut, and is also on staff with an organization called The Hideaway Experience, a marriage intensive that works with four to five couples for four days.
Nicole just published her first book, From Lost to Found, that weaves her personal story with her professional therapy experience and faith journey. It wasn’t until she started writing the book that she realized she’d been missing out on the freedom she helped her clients find.
Nicole specializes in working with couples and sees individual clients of all ages. She is careful to hear their stories in the context of the family people grew up in or the systems they’re a part of currently.
She studied abroad her entire sophomore year of college, living with 50 other college students and a faculty family from her school in one house. The experience fostered many unique conversations with young people asking, “Who am I?”, and “What is my purpose in life?”
Nicole has always enjoyed one-on-one, deep conversations with people and her classmates turned to her as “the house therapist.” She became someone whom many classmates trusted with their struggles.
The faculty member who went with the students happened to be the head of the psychology department at Nicole’s college. She took Nicole out for coffee at the end of the year and asked Nicole “Are you sure you don’t want to be a therapist?” It became clear to Nicole right away that it was exactly what she wanted to do.
After that, Nicole changed all her courses and went straight into a graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy after completing her undergraduate degree.
Nicole admits that therapy is a challenging fit for her personality type. She struggles with performance and wants to know that she can conquer a given task. But often therapy is messy, often with no clear-cut answers. That’s what tethers her to the hope of Christ and His strength.
Nicole and her husband experienced a big transition when they moved from California to Connecticut, where Nicole built a successful private practice.
For her own marriage, Nicole’s attitude is that everyone is learning and growing. While she’s learned a lot in school and through her clients, it’s an entirely different thing to apply those lessons to her own relationships. She recognizes that as soon as she loses touch with the fact that she needs to learn and grow too is when she’s in trouble.
Nicole’s husband is familiar with the model of therapy she uses, called Restoration Therapy, and they work on their relationship together; they use the same model Nicole uses for her clients.
Many people view therapy as something to start when things are hard. The more we can de-stigmatize counseling and marriage counseling, the more people will realize that grief is much more manageable when it’s something we add to our lives as a regular habit.
For many, starting counseling feels like admitting that there’s a problem, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It helps anyone in any type of relationship navigate communication so that you’re not suddenly blindsided by a problem in your most important relationships or in your own personal growth.
In her book, Nicole shares about a season of life where she experienced much change and loss, including having five miscarriages. She believes wholeheartedly that God is not the author of our suffering but loves us too much to waste our suffering.
Nicole was left empty-handed from her experience, and it took idols away that she’d relied on for too long to feel safe and secure. It was very painful, losing five precious babies, being unsure of where her identity came from and what would make her feel safe. She learned that “only empty hands are open.”
Nicole’s open hands were ready to receive a totally different picture of who God really is. It allowed for a deeper intimacy between Nicole and God that has transformed loss and change into different and new blessings. It isn’t calling tragedy good. The Bible makes a clear distinction between something good and something being worked for good.
God does not want to punish us with suffering. Our world is broken, and God’s word says we will have trouble. He also says He’s overcome that trouble. Our hope is not in what God can do for us but in us; that he will not waste any of it, but use it to bring us closer to Him.
We have a choice to run away from God or draw close to Him. We all have different ways of running, and Nicole’s was to perform for God. She thought she could show Him that she’d learned her lesson, but that is exactly what kept her from being honest with God and asking Him what He had for her in her pain.
God wants us to invite Him into our feelings and the places we’ve been taught to keep closed off. Through our pain, we can get to know God’s character. The Bible lets us see the ways Jesus grieved during his time on Earth, even when He knew the reason for it, or that the outcome would eventually be victorious.
God came into our full human experience and gave us the gift of being allowed to grieve. We see in Jesus’ moments of grief that He turns to God. Even when Jesus knew he’d bring Lazarus back from death, He still paused to grieve the pain of loss.
The way of empathy for others is not bearing the responsibility of fixing their grief, but rather sitting with them while they experience it.
Learn some funny and interesting things about Nicole like what part of a kid’s movie has completely scarred her, what one thing she’d do differently if she knew no one would judge her, and something we’d never guess about her. Stay tuned to hear what it means to Nicole to run a business with purpose.
6:51 – “I did not realize that I was personally missing out on the freedom that I was so passionate about helping my clients find for many years, and it wasn’t until I confronted my own painful season that I realized that I actually had not been practicing any of the things that I encourage my clients to practice.”
19:52 – “I’m more human than therapist. I’m not sitting here with perfection and nothing to work on myself. We are all in this journey together, and if I can use what I’ve learned through my training and my work with couples to help you along, just know that I need that too in my own life.”
24:26 – “What He did through a season of a log of change and a lot of loss in my life, was took my hands off of false securities that were promising way more than they could deliver but had always ‘worked’ for me in terms of feeling valued and safe.”
25:45 – “Would I have preferred to carry on with my comfortable way of living in my false and small idea of who God was and with the relationship I had with Him at the time? I thought He was really good, but what I know now is so much more of His character, and there’s such a deeper intimacy between the two of us, and that has been the biggest gift to me.”