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{I’ve gotten to know Jess through social media and also a bunch of mutual friends. It has been so encouraging to share pieces of our stories over the past couple of years and to get to know one another better. We currently have this NOT COOL thing going of me always being out of town every time she comes into town, which basically means we have had a longstanding coffee date for maybe a year now?! It’s going to happen one day soon! Enjoy her story, she has a beautiful heart!}

Introduce yourself! Share a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what makes you YOU!

Hi friends. My name is Jess Novello and I live in the hustling, bustling metropolis of Nampa, Idaho! Nampa is the second biggest city in Idaho and is about twenty minutes outside of Boise. I’m originally from Southern California and while it still holds so much of my heart, I’m a little bit obsessed with the Northwest and could see myself being here forever. I am currently a full time Masters of Social Work student (one more class!), full time Resident Director for a freshmen girls residence hall, and a part time Substance Abuse Counselor. It’s a lot. My life is pretty hectic, but I’m grateful to have some really incredible opportunities. I never, ever thought I’d end up where I’m at now. Resident Director? That wasn’t something I saw myself doing, especially with freshmen girls, but it dropped into my lap and I’m going into my third year! When I’m not working or going to school, I love traveling, cooking, reading, catching up with friends over coffee, or watching copious amounts of Law and Order SVU. I tried my hand at gardening but promptly killed everything except for my very resilient tomatoes so I figured I should probably give up that hobby.

Share your story–how did you come to know Christ? What have been some big milestones, both good and difficult, of your  journey?

I was raised in a Christian home, grew up going to church, and attending a private Christian school. For me, faith and religion was never really a decision- it was a given. It was just what we did. I remember talking to my mom in second grade about what it meant to have Jesus in your heart. In high school and college, I always attended church but it felt more like a tradition and less like the most important aspect of my life. It was still completely real to me, but it never encompassed all of me. I moved to South Korea the summer after I graduated from college. It was a huge leap of faith for me and it seemed like such a great opportunity. When I arrived, I felt so incredibly isolated and had kind of a crisis. I was limited on where I could attend church because of the whole language barrier thing, so I started spending a lot of time journaling and praying. It was one of the first times in my life where I made spending time investing in my faith and connecting with the Lord a priority. It was so refreshing. It was one of those experiences where everything seemed to be aligned. It was easier to put trust and faith in Him because I knew Him, I knew His character, and I was assured in His care for me.

I really, really struggle with attempting to control my life. I know that I have absolutely zero control over my life and that when I try to control things or cling to them, I just suffocate things. It’s weird knowing yourself and your patterns, but still engaging in them anyways. I’m super aware of how unhealthy and unproductive it is to try to hold things back from the Lord and keep him from certain areas of my life, but somehow I find myself in a position where I do that far more often than I’d like to admit.

I had sort of a break down a little while ago. I realized I had, again, pushed myself so far away from Him. I felt so disingenuous. I confessed to two of my friends and they prayed for me. It didn’t fix anything, but the burden felt lighter. My pastor prayed with me as well the following week. Having people pray for me, interceding on my behalf, was so refreshing. Instead of feeling this guilt and this burden on my own, I allowed others to participate in that journey with me. That experience, that I’m partially still going through, has been such a great reminder to me of how forgiving and welcoming the Lord is. We can never find ourselves too far from Him.

How have you seen God at work in the hard moments of your journey? Where has God made beauty in the broken and unexpected places in your life?

When I was younger, my family went through a really difficult season. In the moment and in the years surrounding the pain, everything felt devastating and hopeless. Now that I’m older, I see how God protected my family and redeemed our brokenness. To look at where we’ve come from and what we’ve endured, all while seeing the grace and love that we have for each other and that God has for us makes me weepy. I’ve witnessed reconciliation. I’ve been a part of the miracle of forgiveness. To have seen the unthinkable happen, to see restoration, and to see life spring forth from the ashes has all shown me the heart of God. He has been so incredibly faithful to us.

Why do you think it is important that we share our stories?

One of the most powerful things, I think, is when we open up our hearts and souls to one another. We carry so much with us, our burdens our joys, and to share that with one another is to really do life together. The best moment is when you share something and someone responds, “Me too.” That “me too” is like a warm hug, assuring us that we are not alone and that we are understood. I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately. It’s something that doesn’t come easy to me. I’m more comfortable with people knowing me a mile wide and an inch deep, but I realize that to live a genuine and authentic existence, I can’t be afraid of being known.

Have there been any specific Bible verses/songs/soundtracks/books etc. that have made a big impact on your life and your journey?

One of the verses that has stuck with me through my journey is Joshua 1:9. I grew up spending my summers at a camp in Big Bear, California. When I graduated high school, one of the staff members gave me a bookmark with my name on it and this verse. The verse states, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I remember reading this verse before I moved to South Korea and felt assured that in wherever I went, God would be with me. I don’t know that the person who gave me that bookmark knew that this would become sort of my “life” verse. I keep this bookmark in my wallet now and every time I see it, I’m thankful that we have a God who loves us unconditionally and is always with us.

Some of the most influential books on my faith journey have been the writings of Shane Claiborne. Shane writes about Jesus and social justice. I read two of his books in college and they’ve both been instrumental on helping me develop my beliefs about the way Jesus would respond to what is currently happening in our world. I believe that part of the reason I started pursuing social work as a profession was because of Shane’s books. I love that Shane not only writes- but he lives everything that he puts on paper. It reminds me that it’s not enough to write something or to say something, but we must also connect this to our real life, to our every day!

What is one thing you would like readers to take away from your story and your experiences?

I would hope that what you would take away from my story is that God is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The promises that God makes us are ones that we can hold Him to. Know that we have a God who is for us, who is with us, and who loves us unconditionally. Another thing I would hope people would take away is that their story, however messy or discombobulated, is worth telling. There doesn’t need to be any type of resolution, you don’t need to tie it up with a bow. Just tell it. Tell it as it is right now. It might be scary, it might be painful, it might be emotional, but your voice is worth being heard. You never know who may have God’s goodness revealed to them through you sharing your journey. You never know who may say, “Me too.”

To connect more with Jess, find her on Instagram and Twitter, and find her blog here.

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