Every now and then, you meet people who are total life-changers. They are the ones you almost hate to love because they are loved by everyone for the right reasons. Whether it is their warm and engaging personality that make everyone in the room feel loved, their ability to connect with individuals of all backgrounds and cultures, or their contagious big-dream, ‘get-it-done’ attitude.
One of my core motivations for starting Finding Renaissance was to highlight individuals who are game changers…people who immediately affect your life and embrace themselves for who they are. I’m a firm believer that we have to own who we are and strive to become “more human” and complete every single day. The next few posts will highlight amazing individuals I’ve met through my travels and stays in different cities.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Kaci since we were both attending Biola University in La Mirada, California. Kaci has been someone that I could count on for friendship, advice, and wisdom throughout the last half decade (and she puts up with me, which we all know is a lot to handle).
Even though we haven’t had the chance to see each other in over 3 years, she is never further than a call or a text. This year, she has started her own blog (kacinicole.com) and has blown up on Instagram. Kaci is a youth mentor, an employee at a Fortune 500 company, an artist, and an amazing human who loves first. After getting to know her, follow her on IG and check out her blog (make sure to have a notebook, because you will ALWAYS learn something from her writings).
Finding Renaissance: Kaci Nicole Piccillo
Name: Kaci Piccillo
University/Area of Study: Biola University (plus one semester abroad at Roehampton University in London); Communication Studies and Biblical Studies
Occupation/Company: Communication Specialist at Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E)
Hometown: San Leandro, CA
Current Location: San Leandro, CA
Coffee: Lately I’ve been more into tea – anything black with cream…but also a good almond milk latte 😋
Libation: Red wine
Hobby: Traveling and exploring new places, reading, writing, heart-to-heart conversations, hiking, anything adventurous and spontaneous
TV Show/Movie: Fixer Upper (Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal, whatever that means), The Bachelor, Criminal Minds
Clothing Line: I have a new favorite store every other month but in general I LOVE dresses and anything that fits great, and makes me feel good.
Artist/Music Genre: Country, pop, worship…and when I’m with friends, anything we can dance to!
Author: Oh boy, this one’s hard. I read a lot and have met very few books I didn’t like…but I’ll say: Donald Miller, Timothy Keller, Brené Brown, Henri Nouwen, Bob Goff, and Lysa TerKeurst
Kaci, I had the pleasure of knowing you at Biola University where you studied Communication Studies and Biblical Studies – just to get everyone on the same page, can you give us a little background on yourself?
Yeah! Let’s see, I grew up in the SF Bay Area (near Oakland, think Warriors), and then went to college down in Southern California at Biola University. Like college is for most people, those four years were such a time of personal growth and totally shaped me. After graduating, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in the LA area or move back home, but right around the time I had to make a decision, two doors opened up back home — working with the high school ministry at my home church, and a JOB (a temp job that led to my current position). So, here I am!
Coming from the Bay Area, was it hard to transition to Southern California for school? What took you there?
You know, it wasn’t too hard, but that’s probably because the culture I left and the one I entered were very similar. I was coming from a Christian high school and church culture and entering a Christian university…Biola even had a cafe with the same name as my high school cafeteria: Eagles Nest. Ha! Still, at the time it felt like a big transition. At that point in my life I hadn’t traveled outside of the Bay Area much, and had grown up going to school with the same people every year, so it did feel like a step outside my comfort zone – and it was exciting to be on my own for the first time. I chose Biola because I knew my college years would be formative, and I wanted those to happen in an environment where I could continue to grow in my faith. After visiting the campus, I was in love!
You’ve been at PG&E for a few years now, since you left Biola – what do you enjoy about working there?
Isn’t that crazy?! It’s been over two years…time flies. To be honest, I never envisioned myself in the corporate world AT. ALL. But at its core, the job is something I love: communication. I love the art of taking a concept and figuring out how to deliver it effectively to a specific audience — and that’s what we do — specifically with gas pipeline safety messages. I enjoy that it’s dynamic and ever-changing; I’m always learning new things and it allows me to travel to different places in our service territory.
I’ve always known you to be one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. You will stop your day and listen to someone when they need a caring heart and an attentive ear. Were you born that way? What leads you to love and listen first?
I don’t know what to say…thank you Matt! That means a lot. I guess I just know how much it’s meant to me when people have given me that safe space, to be heard and cared for where I’m at – so I try my best to give that to others when I see the opportunity. I want others to know that they are known and loved…that they’re not alone. I think we all need to know those things, and be reminded of them. I know I do.
I know that in the last year you started your own blog and website and your posts are centered on lessons you’re learning in life and faith. What led you to start the blog and what inspires you to write?
I can’t believe it’s almost been a year! It’s been so much fun. I actually wanted to start the blog for about two years before I did…haha. My senior year at Biola I studied abroad in London, and it was one of the most incredible times in my life. I’d just come out of a difficult season that left me feeling so unsure of myself, and my time there was such a special time of growing in my relationship with God and learning who I was. I had so much passion for the ways I was growing, learning, and healing that I decided to start a blog while I was there – letting others in on what I was learning.
That’s still largely what inspires me to write – passion for the things I’m learning in my own life, and hope that it might encourage others along the way. Anyways, I didn’t keep that first blog going too much longer after coming home from London. I think it’s sometimes easier to let people into a “grand adventure” than your everyday life, and I feared I didn’t have anything worth sharing.
Finally, last October after thinking about it for two years, I got tired of keeping it in and being afraid, so I picked a launch date, committed myself to it, and just went for it! All that to say: your greatest passion can be birthed from your greatest pain, and your passions are no mistake — they were given to you for a purpose. Do that thing you want to do, even if you’re afraid.
With regard to your specific genre and your faith in general, what are you hoping people take away as they read your writings?
To be honest, it’s interesting because I started without having consciously thought this through. Something was obviously driving me, but I hadn’t identified it. But in the past year as I’ve gotten messages and feedback from people, there’s been a common theme that’s helped me to refine my own idea of what I want people to take away. It’s like they were helping me put words to what was driving me and it’s this: I want people to walk away encouraged in their faith journeys and callings, and I want them to walk away wanting more of Jesus. It might be slightly nuanced for each post, but at the core that’s my goal.
Blogging, and social media specifically, can cultivate crippling comparison, but it can also be a beautiful tool of connection depending on how we use it.
You blend together typical life events, often taking what others would see as mundane or even overlook (such as eating) and able to connect spiritual lessons. Are you constantly on the lookout for these moments or do they come through reflection? What’s your “creative process” like?
That’s a great question – it seems to be one people ask me about. It’s honestly how my mind works, it always has been. Ask any of my friends and I’m always the one coming up with weird analogies to describe things! With the eating post, as I was doing the Whole30 I just saw so many parallels that were teaching and encouraging me so much. Often it’s something tangible that will teach me an intangible lesson. Other times, it’s the other way around— I’ll take an intangible lesson I’m learning and find a way to communicate it through a tangible story or analogy. Oftentimes, ideas will come to me in moments I’m not expecting them in my everyday life, and those are the coolest because I see God’s hand in them so clearly.
I get ideas all the time – if you saw the Notes app on my iPhone you’d think I was crazy because there’s a whole lot of jotting down random things going on in there! But it’s become sort of a pool I can pull from to pair with different events in my life when I want to write a post. But even with a lot of ideas, writer’s block is a thing. The biggest challenge with my “creative process” is that I often can’t write in the moment inspiration comes (because I’ll be at work, or driving, etc.), so it’s getting myself to bring that inspiration alive in a moment outside of when it came to me. It’s the most rewarding thing!
What are some cool opportunities and experiences that have come from your writings?
I started my blog with very little knowledge about the blogging world, and have had the best time simply discovering it. Blogging, and social media specifically, can cultivate crippling comparison, but it can also be a beautiful tool of connection depending on how we use it. One of the coolest things that’s come from blogging is getting connected with like-minded bloggers all across the world: Australia, Maui, NYC (fist bump, Matt), the Midwest. Collaborations and guest posts have been so fun, and it’s even led to an upcoming opportunity to be a freelance contributor for a digital magazine, plus getting to help with some writing projects at my church, and a couple speaking opportunities. It’s also led to an online community of friends who I can send prayer requests to, and give and receive encouragement from. I wouldn’t have imagined any of this a year ago, and I’m excited to see where else blogging leads.
“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled.” | Joshua 23:14 God is faithful to His promises because it’s who He is. The period of waiting for fulfillment can be marked by obsessing and stressing, or it can be marked by PEACE, if we choose to believe that. What areas of our lives can we practice choosing trust?
Your Instagram is one of my favorites – you’re creative, inspiring, and both you and your pictures are absolutely stunning – what is your definition of beauty and how does it impact your daily life?
Thanks Matt! I love YOURS too. I think that beauty is the heart of a person. Beauty is the true person behind all the fronts we so easily put up in our society. I know that plenty of times, I’ve probably come off a certain way due to fear, insecurity, or pressure to “be” a certain way. But inside is ME, and I want to be seen, known, and loved. And I think that’s what we all want. So I strive to see people, to truly SEE them for who they are…beyond brave faces or protective pretenses that may not truly reflect their heart. I mean, how many times have you been off put by someone, then gotten to know them, seen their heart, and loved them? I think it’s pretty hard to see someone’s heart and not think they’re beautiful.
Vulnerability isn’t weakness – it’s bravery – and it’s a necessary prerequisite
You recently quoted Brené Brown (an expert on shame, resilience, and authenticity) on courage. I’m a big fan of hers and think that EVERYONE should read up on her work. What are your views on courage, vulnerability, fear, and leadership?
Oh boy, that’s a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one! Brené Brown is my other spirit animal, besides Joanna Gaines of course. I agree that everyone should read her work – Daring Greatly is one of the books that’s had the single greatest impact on my life and how I see everything— especially fear, vulnerability, courage, and leadership. I’ll try to keep it short. Courage isn’t lack of fear, it’s showing up, allowing yourself to be seen, and trying even if you fail … “Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart,” as Brené puts it.
Vulnerability isn’t weakness – it’s bravery – and it’s a necessary prerequisite to true connection, creativity, and basically all the good stuff in life. It’s uncomfortable, hard, but one thousand times worth it. Fear is a natural part of life and it has its place, but its place should never be the driver’s seat – in other words, it shouldn’t be allowed to make our decisions.
If we avoid our fears they grow, leaving us less and less room to live, but if we step into them, that just might lead to some of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. Leadership isn’t having it all together, it’s knowing you don’t…yet having the willingness to learn, and let others learn through you. Leadership is most effective when great deals of courage and vulnerability are involved.
Who are your biggest inspirations in life?
Some of my biggest inspirations are authors, speakers, preachers, my friends. But really, anyone who’s living a good story, motivated by something bigger than themselves. People like that— and they’re everywhere— inspire me to live with conviction, not to gain approval, and to make my one life count. That’s what I want to be about. Also, my mom. She’s one of the most selflessly loving people I know.
I know you’re also passionate and have strong opinions. What do you hate/what are things you want to change in our world?
There’s a lot of things I want to see change in our world, and most of them have to do with injustice and its many expressions. One of the top things is human trafficking. I know what freedom means to me on an emotional and spiritual level – gaining freedom from fears, gaining freedom from mindsets and situations that have held me captive. And all throughout the Bible, I also see God’s heart for freedom – it’s fierce. So to imagine human beings held captive on EVERY level, and abused on every level, breaks my heart.
What/who do you love?
I love a lot of things but I love Jesus most, and that love impacts the way that I love everyone and everything else. Jesus changes everything. In Him, each one of us is unconditionally loved, each one of us has a purpose. Following Him isn’t always easy, but it’s the best thing about my life.
OK, other than writing and your Instagram art, what are some facts about Kaci that the world should know? (Other things you like, passions, funny stories, etc.)
Hmm…I’m a wannabe dare-devil, I’ve done things like bungee jumping not because I’m fearless, but because I like doing things that scare me. I love sleep and have a hate/hate relationship with my alarm clock. I played competitive soccer most of my life but fractured my ankle tripping over a ball (#graceful). I used to cry when family vacations were over as a little girl. I love making music videos, and I used to be in a band with my cousin. Our name was the “Jean Girls” and our first song was recorded in the bathtub. #Goals.
In 2016 we have seen a Syrian refugee crisis, devastating floods, the election, racial tensions and a whole lot more – as someone who writes on reflection, what do you think are tangible ways the “average ordinary person” can we make a difference to those around us? What gives you hope for tomorrow?
The things happening in this world are overwhelming and heartbreaking. My heart can’t comprehend it all and I don’t have the answers. The other day, I heard one of my favorite girl-preachers, Beth Moore, say this: “In a world full of bad news, we are called to bring the good news.” The “average ordinary person” can make a difference by bringing the good news, and by BEING the good news – loving your neighbor, smiling at a stranger, showing kindness, seeking justice, acting with integrity. And we can PRAY. Even when it seems as though all is lost, God is redeeming this broken world. That’s what gives me hope.
Love people well. Take risks. Dream big.
If you had to give a life advice statement to a stranger, what is the one thing you want others to know that you’ve learned from your life?
Love people well. Take risks. Dream big. Collect experiences rather than stuff. Let pain shape you into a better person. Be positive and never lose hope. Have courage and be kind (shout-out to Cinderella). What would you do with your life if you knew that you were unconditionally loved, and that God of the universe was unequivocally FOR you? Go do it. You are, and He is.
About Matt Fier and Finding Renaissance: I'm a former Bible-school grad with a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Biblical Studies. I've lived in six seven cities since 2009, and have been on a lot of adventures. I'm now searching for The Renaissance in all of us. You can learn more here.