Reading an autobiography can be a little dull at times. It is hard to get to know someone without background information, and all the messy details of life can get in the way of everything exciting. I decided to come up with a fresh way of looking at “Nice to meet you, Nicole!” and wrote out my responses to your interview questions. Let’s jump in!
Okay Nicole, let’s start with the million-dollar question: How has God’s kindness changed you?
I wish you could have met 35-year-old me. Actually, no I don’t. She wasn’t all bad, but I’m not proud of the lifestyle she was living and the amount of judgement and negativity rattling around in her mind and her heart.
I came across a Scripture once that confused me. Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “It’s the kindness of God that leads man to repentance.” That verse refers to Romans 2:4.
I’m sorry to say, but it never resonated with me. I just didn’t get it. Repentance? Kindness? I couldn’t make the connection.
Then, just a few years ago, I stumbled across that same verse in The Message translation: “God is kind, but He’s not soft. In kindness He takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change” (Romans 2:4, MSG).
“Oh my goodness!” I thought. “That is exactly what happened to me!”
If you would have met me in 2010, you would have seen a woman who looked like she had it all together. Three beautiful kids, a sort of clean house, and a husband who adored her.
I had everything I had ever wanted, and yet I felt an immense void in my life. I would count the number of times I had to do the laundry in a week. I took it as a personal offense when my husband left his socks on the floor next to the hamper. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying their kids while I just wanted to take a nap.
I self-medicated with alcohol, cigarettes, and food.
I needed a radical life change, but there was no way I was going to do it by myself. No accountability partner or self-help coach could have gotten me where I am today. Only God can make us into a new creation, and that’s exactly what He did for me.
A friend invited me to a Bible study for the gazillionth time, and I finally said yes. Sitting on the couch in her living room, I learned that I was a child of God and that God had big plans for my life.
“What’s the practical application?” I wondered. “How do we activate those promises so we can see them in our lives?”
My friend suggested I start by praying, “God, make me a vessel for you.”
I wasn’t all that convinced, but I followed her advice and each day asked God to make me a vessel.
It turns out God had just been waiting for me to ask.
In 2011, while nursing a daily hangover, I had an opportunity to meet a teenage mom who was clearly enjoying her toddler much more than I was enjoying mine. We had a good conversation, and as we got up to leave, I heard a voice say, “Give her some money.” I hadn’t heard that voice before, but it was clear and powerful, so I ended up giving her the $60 I had in my wallet.
She got enough money to fill up her gas tank and take her kid to McDonald’s, but I left with a high unlike anything I had experienced before.
Had other people felt this? I had to know. I started writing a weekly column for our local newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota. We called it Kindness is Contagious, and people sent in their stories—things they had done for others and how that made them feel, or times when kindness showed up just when they needed it.
Within one year of taking my eyes off myself and putting them on the kindness surrounding me, I had totally quit drinking and smoking. I lost 30 pounds and forgave my husband for leaving his socks on the floor.
That life change turned into four books, a national speaking career, and The Kindness Podcast.
Looking back, I think, “How in the world did all that stem from one conversation with a teenage mom?”
But I know how: God.
He did exactly what the verse said, taking me “firmly by the hand” and guiding me “into a radical life-change.” He made me into a new creature, first by changing my focus. Then He transformed my mind and heart. He taught me how to love people, including myself.
God’s kindness didn’t just change me. It recreated me.
What does your family think of your kindness ministry?
My transformation was a big change for my family, especially for my husband. I went from being a party girl to a prayer warrior. I started to go to bed at the same time as our kindergartener so I could squelch the temptation to drink. I became very serious for a while. Too serious. My husband was confused but supportive.
These days, I’ve come to a happy balance of life and faith. I find guilty pleasure in television’s crude humor, but I also love to read books about God’s goodness.
Our home is filled with peace and laughter because Mom has stopped throwing tantrums. I know everyone is grateful for that!
We know you walk closely with God, but are there ever times when you lose your cool or have a difficult time being kind?
Yep. Almost daily. Not necessarily to others, but to myself. It was much easier for me to stop judging others than to stop judging myself.
There are all kinds of tips for building compassion for people you disagree with or just find difficult to be around. But we are around ourselves all the time! We know every thought we think and every word we speak, so it’s easy to condemn ourselves.
That’s why God’s Word is so powerful. I can appreciate who I am and all the little quirks because I know God created me. He knew every thought I’d have before I had a single one. And He thinks I’m amazing! By the way, He thinks you’re amazing, too!
You love to ask your guests on The Kindness Podcast to share specific stories of God’s kindness in their lives. Can you share a story from your own life?
I have lots of stories of God’s kindness to me, but The Price is Right story is my favorite.
In February of 2019, I went to Los Angeles to be on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show. I thought it would be fun to take in an iconic experience, so I got free tickets to be in the studio audience of The Price is Right.
I went to Los Angeles amid a lot of turmoil in our home. My husband is a college basketball coach, which means his job is always in jeopardy. His contract was expiring, and it looked like the school was not going to renew it.
Along with no paycheck, we would also be sharing a car after he returned the school’s vehicle.
Being in the Bob Barker Studio was so cool. It was exactly like I remembered it from my childhood. Drew Carey was the host, and almost immediately after he took the stage, the announcer called my name. “Nicole Phillips, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!”
There was an elderly woman sitting behind me who spoke English as a second language. She told me before the show that she was very good with numbers and that I should look at her if I got called up to the stage.
A funny thing happens when you’re on a game show. Your brain completely stops working. At least, mine did.
Thank goodness for dear Maria in the audience. I kept my eyes on her, and even though I couldn’t think for myself, she fed me enough numbers to fill in the price of a car.
I won a Mazda CX-3.
As I reflect on that experience, I realize my teamwork with Maria was a lot like how God wants us to team up with Him. You might not know what to say or which way to turn, but if you keep your eyes on God and block out the surrounding noise, He will give you the answers.
My husband did lose his job, but thanks to God’s kindness in my life, buying a new car was not something we had to work into the budget.
By the way, if you want to see some of the most outrageous facial expressions ever displayed on television, check out my episode. Be sure to look for Maria. She’s in a peach-colored shirt.
What do you do when you’re not hosting The Kindness Podcast?
I love playing pickleball. I’ve won maybe four games in the 10 months I’ve been playing, but I still think it’s ridiculously fun.
I also love to travel. Like love it. Most of my travel revolves around teaching people about the power of kindness. I feel such gratitude when I can travel to a new part of the country and give people tools to combat negativity and the critical spirit before it takes control of a church, organization, or business.
When I’m not playing pickleball or traveling, you’ll probably find me in a gym with my kids cheering on Dad, or snuggling our 70-pound goldendoodle, Dakota.
If you’d like to find out more about my podcast, you can read this article. And, if you want to hear more kindness stories, listen to The Kindness Podcast.