While Nichole continued to perform well into the following June, her one-year sabbatical officially began with the arrival of their son Charlie in mid-July.

“I think for anyone, becoming a mom is such an unbelievable transformation,” she says. “I mean, emotionally, spiritually and physically, there’s stuff down there that you didn’t realize was accessible or that even existed in your spirit. And that was a huge shock for me because I forever have considered myself to be a pretty self-sufficient person. And I’ve probably been overly prideful about that part of my life and felt like I could pretty much handle anything decently. It was a huge, really difficult thing to experience — this ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’”

Home Schooling

“Charlie was a pretty unhealthy little baby for a while — he was born with severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (a.k.a. reflux),” Nichole explains. “The little flap that covered his esophagus — and kept food in his tummy—wasn’t quite done growing. Everything that went into his stomach came up about six minutes later — for about nine months. This made for a very unhappy baby, very anxious and delirious new parents and an overworked washing machine. This was never any kind of life-threatening condition, but one that threatened my sanity, nonetheless. At the time, and as a new mom, it felt overwhelming — insurmountable.”

To seek help — advice — Nichole did what so many other loving mothers do.

“I’m such an information junkie that I had these stacks and stacks of books, not to mention the hours that I would log online just trying to figure it out, and calling every mom I ever knew, looking for answers,” she explains. “And then one book would take me to another chapter and another book and another index — just trying to fill myself up with information about how to handle this.

“I remember Errol coming home from work one day when Charlie was about four weeks old, and I for sure had not slept or showered for days, and Errol just took my face in his hands and said, ‘Stop it. Stop reading, turn the computer off, unplug the phone. Stop it.’ He was so sweet, and he could have been ugly about it and just irritated, but he said, ‘You know God has given you every instinct you need to do this; you can do this. God built you to do this. Listen to what your heart is saying, to what your body is saying.’

“From that moment on, I was like, ‘OK. I really need a lot of help from the Lord, not a stack of books over here. And it was my first admission in years about my dependence on God — how much I needed Him just to get me through the next 30 minutes.”

Ultimately, Nichole found confidence in the realization that “If God trusts me with this, He must really think that I can handle this stuff.” This shift in perspective planted the initial seeds for what would become the title track on her new album, the song “Brave.” Written out of love for her son, it lyrically revels in the reality that while young Charlie makes her “want to be brave” and even “feel brave” at times, it’s Christ who “actually makes it so.”

“I was thinking about Philippians 4:13 and just how it had never been more real in my life with ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’” Nichole says. “I could sing ‘Brave’ to Charlie, or you could sing it to your wife or somebody could sing it to a best friend; it’s sort of that statement of, ‘You make me want to do something that I didn’t think I could do,’ and ultimately, God is Who we all sing that to, because He does give us courage in the middle of weakness.”

“My everydays are still so … digging Cheerios out of the carpet — that’s just the reality of being the mom of a toddler. There aren’t these big moments of feeling a rush of bravery; it’s just in the small things, and occasionally, yeah, you look at your child and just in a moment, you feel this sudden surge of love and terror, and everything just hits you at once. I think “Brave” is more retrospective than anything, just taking inventory of the last year-plus, and just saying, ‘I can’t believe I got through that,’ and ‘I can’t believe that you make me want to get through more of it.’”