Shut it Down

The less time you spend with the truth the easier it is to believe lies ~ Lecrae

You have an enemy…yes, you. I know…you’re sweet, you’re honest, you’re friendly, you live with integrity. How can you have an enemy? Well…you have one for the exact same reason that I do. Because we were created in the image of God. Because the God of universe loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for you. Even if you don’t believe anything you just read…guess what, you still have an enemy.

Now I am not going to write a theological essay about the battle between God and Satan, good vs evil. But if you given up 5 minutes of your day to read this blog then I want to remind you…you have enemy. An enemy that wants to steal the truths of God away from you…an enemy that never wants you to discover them in the first place…an enemy that rejoices when we allow his lies to take root in our minds.

Think it can’t happen to you? Let me tell you a little story…

This morning I sat in my quiet time in God’s Word. As I wrote in my journal and prayed I shared with God that I sensed a season a change either occurring or on the horizon. Honestly, everything was very abstract…just a gut feeling that I was jotting down in my journal, probably in a very non-sensical kind of way. It doesn’t matter…even when I don’t understand my thoughts, God does. As I wrote I found myself in a place of surrender. I was surrendering this “change” or whatever it is to God. And I simply wrote the words “I TRUST YOU!”

Ironically, 10 years ago after my daughter died the hardest thing for me to do was trust God. The year she died I had selected the word “Trust” as my word for that year and just 7 days later I was planning my little girls funeral. To say I had some pretty serious trust issues would be the understatement of the century. I was simply sitting in a holding pattern… waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

8 years ago God, after patiently waiting for two years, God had a serious heart to heart with me. It was in that time that God revealed that fear had become sin in my life because every fear I had was directly correlated to the fact that I did not trust Him. The enemy had whispered in my mind for so long that every time I trusted God something bad happened that I allowed a lie to become truth.  And it manifested as constant fear. The enemy weaved his lies so strongly that even as I was devoting my life to Christ I was still held in bondage. I had been given the gift of life through God’s truth, yet I was still walking around in the death grip of the enemy’s lies. I still allowed his voice to be louder than God’s. I wonder how many of you reading this can relate? Wanting so desperately for the promises of God to come true in your life yet still settling for less because the enemy’s lies are the loudest ones in your ears.

8 years ago God set me free with His revelation. I fully surrendered my life to Christ and allowed His truth to be the loudest voice in my head.

Fast forward to today…

As I sat…READING MY BIBLE AND PRAYING…didn’t want you to miss what I was doing…the enemy came creeping around. As soon as I wrote the words “I TRUST YOU” in my journal that old feeling of dread came over me and in a split second my mind panicked as I thought, “Now something bad will happen.”

WHAT?!?! Where did that come from?!?!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2

Just because I surrendered my life totally and completely to Christ doesn’t mean the enemy doesn’t still come lurking around. He does. In fact sometimes stronger than ever and clearly no time is too sacred for him to try to weasel his presence into. But I learned a long time ago that when you change your mindset…when you allow God to transform your mind with His truth…all of a sudden you have the ability to see the enemy’s lies so much clearer. God’s Word tells me that He did not give me a spirit of fear and timidity but one of power, love, and self-discipline. His Word tells me that through Christ Jesus, I now have the right to call Him “Abba Father.” I get to call God my daddy and all of the treasures of His kingdom have been made available to me and to you too.

So you know what I did this morning? I am so glad you asked. I rejected the enemy’s lie and rebuked it back to the pit of hell where it came from!!!

Overwhelming victory is ours though Christ, who loved us. ~ Romans 8:37

When I trust God bad things don’t happen. Even when we struggle, even when we suffer…God’s love is all around us and the victory is ours. But the enemy wants to snatch that truth right out of our minds. And make no mistake…he is nasty and he fights dirty. And what is so dirty about his tactics is that he uses good things, important things, necessary things to distract us from spending time in God’s presence. He puts up road blocks to try to hinder our minds from being saturated with God’s truth.

But I want you to know the enemy is powerless against those who have the Spirit of the living God dwelling inside of them. When we allow God’s truth to be activated in our lives we hold all the power.

God’s truth is written on my heart and etched on my mind.  How about you?!?! I feel someone today needs this encouragement. Here is a fact check for you…you are loved…you are worthy…God is right there with you in your hurt and your pain…He hasn’t abandoned you or forsaken you…He hides you in the shelter of His presence. Are you seeking Him? Are you pressing in? Because when you allow the truth of God to renew your mind you will recognize the lies of the enemy for what they are.

My friends…SHUT IT DOWN!!!!! Whatever lie has gotten you entangled today, this week, this month, this year…SHUT IT DOWN!! Send it back to the pit of hell where it came from. Activate the Spirit of the living God inside of you and start walking in freedom and in truth!

The Myth of Truth

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history ~ George Orwell

Today is like any other day… not much new under the sun.

The typical 21st century morning consists of taking in our daily dose of whatever social media outlet feeds our constant need for updates. I’m still “old school” enough (and I use that term very lightly) to prefer Facebook. I can actually hear the snickers of my teenager and millennial’s everywhere.

But in the age of the “status”, the “post”, the “snap”, and the “tweet” I have discovered a horrifying fact. Well, I guess it’s horrifying to me, it might not be to you. So many Americans know very little about American history.

People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for. ~ “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee

I am not one to engage in political bantering or rhetoric on social media…it’s just not my style. In a world inundated with opinions, agendas, and false or grossly fabricated news I just don’t see the point. People screaming their opinions, acting like two-year olds as they hurl insults at one another, just seems rather meaningless.  I know very few people who have said “Wow…I saw the light after someone on Facebook called me a moron for what I believed.” Opinions fired off like weapons are not a highly effective way to open the lines of communication with people who think differently than you. The reality is that many people simply tune into the news outlets that say what they want to hear, gravitate toward people who think like them, and have a disdain for those who do not. And as sad as that makes me, it’s not really the point of this blog post.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless temptest-tost to me. I left my lamp beside the golden door.” ~ Emma Lazarus

Over the last few weeks I have seen theses infamous words, which are etched on the Statue of Liberty, plastered all over social media. Outraged Americans who feel we have forgotten our identity as a country of immigrants. Enraged people who have implored us all to remember the “golden age” of immigration. When we gladly opened the arms of opportunity to all those who sought after a better life on our shores. Time Magazine even went to Instagram with the following post…

“For the first 240 years of U.S. History, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, and equality…”

Enough!!!!!!

This is not a political post. This is a “stop rewriting history to fit the narrative you want to project” post. History is history. Like it or not, you cannot change it to fit your agenda.

Time Magazine, are you kidding me?!?! You mean the same 240 years where our country’s history houses slavery, the Trail of Tears (remember the Indians), when immigrants coming into our country were treated less than human and parents were often separated from their children (the Ellis Island museum actually has a display dedicated to this very thing), segregation, Japanese Americans placed in camps during WWII, etc. So as long as our “most revered chief executives” articulate the values of democracy, humanity, and equality through the spoken word we can forgive them for not actually practicing them?!?!

To all of these men, women, and children, the Statue of Liberty sang her paean of welcome. And lying low in the water next to her, Ellis Island carried the harmony. “Give me your tired, your poor, your oppressed,” sang the Statue. And those who were not too tired or too poor, and who were in good health, heard Ellis Island echo that song. But to those from the poorest places, to those who were ill, to those without sponsors, Ellis Island growled a discordant counterpoint: “Keep out. Begone from whence you came. Sully not these pure shores with your ignorance, poverty, and need. The gate is closed to you. ~ Island of Hope, Island of Tears.

I am so sorry my fellow Americans, you are being lied to. I am sorry that you are being led to believe that there was a “golden age” of immigration in this country. That there was a time when the immigrants that came over as colonists welcomed new immigrants with open arms. That it was all sunshine and roses on Ellis Island as people easily entered the United States. That bias against certain people and nationalities wasn’t commonplace. That children weren’t separated from their parents and even sometimes sent back to their country of origin…alone. I am sorry you are being led to believe that men who articulated principles but didn’t live by them are what we should be longing for.

You cannot rewrite history to tell the narrative you want it to tell. History, can be retold with bias, but the facts of its truth are inescapable.

We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage. ~ President Theodore Roosevelt

Unless you a pure Native American, you are an immigrant. You come from a people who had the courage to step beyond what was known. Souls who longed for something better. Lured to the land of opportunity. A place where even the lowliest of beggars and paupers could rise in station and status to live like kings. Quite simply, the greatest democracy experiment ever tested.

I actually think its amazing how many second, third, fourth, etc. generations of Americans, historically and currently, have hardened their hearts to those simply trying to do what their own ancestors did. This is not the cue for the legal vs. illegal entry arguments. This also has nothing to do immigration legislation. I think laws and processes are a very good thing…they bring order to chaos. What I am simply stating is that, in my own observations, I think many people have forgotten that the vast majority of us are not ancestrally native to the land known as the United States…we are all immigrants.  And an opportunity given and taken should always pay it forward through embracing and supporting that same opportunity for others.

I often think about the courage it took for my grandparents to leave their native Italy for the shores of America. I guess when you have nothing to lose…risks seem less risky. To the day they died my grandparents had a heart for the country of their birth but they loved America…passionately. There were fiercely loyal to country that had adopted them. America was their home.

However, I do not wear rose-colored glasses and neither did my grandparents. Arriving in America, there were no welcome parades waiting for ships full of immigrants coming into New York harbor. No, what actually awaited most immigrants were invasive examines, grueling tests to gauge mental and cognitive capabilities, and a whole line of questions that if answered wrong would land you back on the ship you just disembarked to return to your homeland. Truth be told there were periods when certain nationalities or people groups were simply not let into our country…period!!! And the ones who did get in weren’t exactly given the red carpet treatment as they began their new life in America.

Those early years in America were not easy for my grandparents. They were ridiculed, mocked, unwelcome, and were given very few, if any, allowances for their lack of proficiency in the English language. Yet, I can confidently say that both of my grandparents, if alive today, would tell the world that it was all worth it. The hard work, the scrutiny, the difficulities…all paled in comparison to the abundant blessing it was to be an American.

America is, and always will be a shining city on a hill. ~ President Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was infamous for referring to America this way. Yet, I wonder how many Americans even know that John Winthrop was the very first person to describe America this way. As he sailed away from England in the 1600’s he longed for a land of opportunity. A beacon of hope in the midst of oppression. A place where freedom could actually be realized. From the pages of the Bible he pulled out the idea of the city on a hill and claimed that ideal for the New World.

The United States of American became the greatest nation the world has ever known because many people came together to become one. It is our diversity that makes us so culturally rich. It is the melding of the great minds, principles rooted in equality and freedom, and the favor of God that has formulated a democracy that has lasted more than any other in human history. Sure our history has blots and black marks upon it. We have made mistakes, many of them. We have even failed in epic ways but we must always remember that every great success story has failure in its DNA.

This post is not about policy, or law, or our current administration’s tactics. It is simply a post from an American who loves her country and has a reverence for its history. A history that I think we all too often overlook or never bother to learn, which is extraordinarily dangerous. Because history not learned is history that is most vulnerable to edits, revisions, and is ultimately doomed to repeat itself.

In this time of such political divisiveness, I implore people to not be so quick to believe a fabricated version of history because it suits a narrative we want to believe. We must also not dismiss the facts of where we have come from or where we are at because the truth might make us uncomfortable. The myth of history cannot change the future, only the truth of it can.

One final note, I encourage any one who might stumble across these ramblings of mine to shut off Fox News, tune out CNN, stop looking at your Twitter feed and simply open up a history book. Examine for yourself what truly happened in our past so that we might improve our future. The immigration posts of the last several weeks have prompted me to do just that. My current read is Island of Hope, Island of Tears by David Brownstone, Irene Franck, and Douglas Brownstone. I highly recommend it.

Echoes From The Heart

There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling. ~ Levi Lusko

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The depth of a mother’s heart cannot be explained by mere words. A bond that begins in the secret place as the Father knits life together.

Before a breath is drawn love abounds. The quiet intimacy of life growing is one that only a mother knows. The sacred time when the beauty of heaven kisses earth to spring forth so much promise…so much potential.

The first cries enter the air erasing the pain of the journey that brought them here. Love explodes as the heart is awakened by the sight of tiny fingers and toes.

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The heart that blossomed and bloomed shatters in a million pieces broken by the ache of what has been lost.

The piece of heaven the graced the world has slipped back from where she came. The earth no longer spins and the universe tips out of order as what should be slips into the land of dying dreams.

Arms envelope the broken mother…only the Father can comfort the heart that longs so desperately for what has been lost.

As grief and sorrow threaten to consume the Father stoops low and wipes the tears that never seem to end.

Then she hears it, like a whisper on the wind…

” She was mine long before she was ever yours. While you long for her in this life, she is with Me preparing for your homecoming. So while we wait for you to finish your race we will cheer you on from home. Knowing you will do all that I created you to do because she was the gift that awakened you to your calling…”

The price was high because the love was so deep…

In the whisper on the wind the mother’s eyes were opened for the first time to the depth of the Father’s love. For He too had paid the highest of prices for a love that ran so deep.

Tonight I finished reading Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. As I finished, tears coursed down my cheeks as his words echoed in my heart…“There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling.” Those words inspired my writing above…the simple yet complex sentiments of a heart that surrendered completely to God and walked out of the depths of despair and into a calling.

Levi Lusko wrote a beautiful book about how the death of his precious daughter radically changed his life. For the first time I felt like so much of my heart was revealed…by a complete stranger. He stepped into his calling for ministry long before his precious Lenya went home to be with Jesus but make no mistake God has used his sweet girl to take him places he could have never imagined going. The beauty of his legacy will forever be entwined with how sweet Lenya opened him up to God in ways that he never would have been had the story ended differently. In so many ways his story mirrors my own with my precious baby girl, Francesca.

In the end the lesson learned is that in this life we will all walk through painful valleys but if we would choose to trust God, He will turn ashes into beauty. In the words of Lusko himself “As we wait on the Lord, our hearts are strengthened, and we see things that are invisible and can do things that are impossible… Suffering isn’t an obstacle to be used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before…”

For now I choose to see a place where Lenya and Francesca play among tulips, squealing with laughter in the presence of Jesus. And until I join them in that beautiful paradise I will continue to praise His name and tell of the hope that is found in Him alone 💖💖

The Meltdown

Buckle up my friends because tonight we are taking a drive down Keeping It Real Lane. No pretty pictures. No poignant quotes. In fact no frilly words at all. If you’re looking for the highlight real today please feel to move on. This post is simply about how this 41 year old woman had a childlike meltdown today. Yep…a straight up, sit at my desk and cry like a baby meltdown.

A few weeks ago I told you that my word for 2018 was “choice.” Well tonight I am choosing to share my less than stellar day with you all. Now I have already admitted I was way less than my best today so why in the world would I ever want to share more? First of all because quite honestly, writing about is cathartic. Even if there are no hits, no likes, and the comment crickets chirp, I will still feel better.  Second of all because its real and I truly believe there is someone out there tonight who simply needs to know they are not alone…and…ummm…they are not crazy. And finally, because a dear friend of mine told me to find something to laugh about tonight so I’m starting by laughing at myself…try it sometime its really good for the soul and a great stress reliever.

Why I had a meltdown isn’t really relevant. Because lets be honest we are chronic comparison junkies. If  I told you why I had a meltdown you would be tempted to judge me or compare your own situation to mine. The dialogue in your head might go one of two ways…”Wow, shes a hot mess and needs to get it together. I can’t believe she lost it over that.” or it might sound more like this…”Wow, my situation isn’t anywhere near as hard as hers. Why am I being such a big baby?”

The reality is we all have things that stress us out and stress unchecked will ALWAYS lead to the inevitable meltdown. Even the people you think have it all together have meltdowns…some of us are just a little more public about it than others. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Put your big girl panties on…apologize to the people who were nearby when “hurricane you” made landfall and move past it. It’s over and it is all going to be ok…the sky didn’t fall and the world did not come to an end.

However, here is a little lesson I learned today. The moment I felt the stress begin to overwhelm me…cause lets be honest, we all know the warning signs, stress doesn’t just come out of nowhere…I should have walked away. I should have taken a deep breath. And I should have spent a few minutes in prayer. My goodness…I even had a friend at the beginning of the week tell me to make sure I had my quiet time because it was going to be a difficult week. Now I could live in regretland…the place of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve or I can choose to learn the lesson and do better next time.

So for all my sisters out there who had a rough day, week, or year (which is really rough since we are only 17 days in) be encouraged. Tomorrow is a brand new day. A new day to choose to get out of your own head and not allow the stress of your circumstances rule how you act and react. A new day to choose to walk away when the stress levels rise and inhale the presence and peace of God so that you can exhale the chaos going on in your own mind. Give it a try, I know I am going to. And I have sinking suspicion we won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

 

There is Always Hope

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love ~ Madame de Stael

A blanket of white paints the landscape with pops of evergreen. Trees stand desolate in the quiet serenity that highlights an eerie beauty. A beauty that is diminshed by the frigid air that sinks into the marrow of your bones.

For 10 years I have found myself in this place. The final resting spot for my beautiful girl. It brings me no comfort to be here and when the winter is particularly cold, as this one is, I absolutely hate it. As we pull up, already disappointed that our florist is closed, I find myself gripped with apprehension…I don’t want to go. I will myself to place one foot before the other and to step out of the car. With every whisper of artic air that touches my face and every slip on the icy ground I am dumfounded that once again I am here. I make it there…all you can see is a grave blanket. The snow that gives the cemetary an almost ethereal beauty has also erased the names of the beloved that lie in the ground below. It’s too much…I have to walk away.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace~ Helen Lemmel

January 6, 2008. I’ll never forget it. This first Sunday after the new year. Our family gathered in church, hopeful for the wonderful things 2008 would bring. Blissfully unaware that in just over 24 hours our whole world would crumble and shatter into a million pieces.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. What a beautiful hymn to sing as you embark on the endless possiblities a new year brings. We could have never known that in just a few short days we would be back in that very same sanctuary for the funeral of our precious baby girl. As we stood together that Sunday singing this beloved hymn God began to etch the truth and the promise of their words in our hearts and minds. Truth to cling to in the days, weeks, and years to come. A reminder that when our world falls apart Jesus will always be there, we need only to turn our eyes toward Him.

We can cry with hope..We can say goodbye with hope…cause we know our goodbye is not the end. And we can grieve with hope…cause we believe with hope…there’s a place where we’ll see your face again. ~ Steven Curtis Chapman 

January 7th, 2008…a day that forever changed our lives. After just 78 days here on this earth God called our precious Francesca Isabella home to Him. As images of her beautiful face flashed upon the screen for all those who came to say goodbye to see the words of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “With Hope” played in the background. An achingly sad song with the promise that what is to come will be the sustainer for the pain and heartache endured now. A reminder that the promises of God are true even when life doesn’t make sense. Matt and I clung to that hope…it was all we had. But I have to be completely transparent, I am not sure we really even knew what hope was in those moments. We wanted so desperately to understand but how can you ever fully understand that which incomprehensible admist such soul crushing pain? How can you find hope when you seem so consumed with hopelessness.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. ~ Psalm 34:18

Hope is not wishful thinking, it is confident expectation. When your heart is broken into a million pieces hope can only truly come alive in the presence of God. That young couple who stood in church on January 6th, 2008 had no clue that as they sang “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus…” God was already there. Preparing our hearts and fixing our gaze on the only One who could bind the wounds that would come and take all the shattered pieces of our broken life and put it back together again. God was coming near and in His nearness hope came alive.

I can almost feel the hand of God reaching for my face to wipe the tears away. You say “It’s time to make every new.” Make it all new. 

This is our hope, this our promise…

He will take our breath away to see the beauty that He’s made out of the ashes…

Out of the ashes beauty will rise and we will dance among the ruins. We will see it with our own eyes. ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Faith is the reality of what we hope for…

10 years ago I think Matt and I just wanted to survive. We didn’t know what “normal” could look like for us. In the midst of so much pain you cannot help but wonder…is this it? Because quite honestly the thought of ever overcoming that kind of loss and soul crushing pain seems so impossible.

This morning I stood next to the love of my life singing a new worship song. As the words rolled off my tongue the tears welled in my eyes…

“I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains…and I believe I’ll see you do it again. You made a way, where there was no way. And I believe, I’ll see you do it again. Your promise still stands…Great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in Your hands…this is my confidence, You never failed me yet.”

God has NEVER failed us. The heartbroken couple who just wanted to survive has thrived over the last 10 years. God came near, binded our wounds, and healed our broken hearts. The journey hasn’t been easy and there are still tears and heartache. When you love someone so much your heart will always ache for them and quite honestly, you always want it to. But God turned our ashes into the beauty of a legacy that still touches and impacts many. Francecsa was a miracle…a beautiful, precious girl who God used in extrordinary ways, far beyond her 78 days. She will forever remind me that hope is birthed in presence of God…that even when the storms of life come, I can be confident in those promises and the love that God shows us all. He has NEVER failed me yet!!!

There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

No matter how much time passes I don’t think I will ever find solace in going to the cemetary.  Many do…there is a peaceful beauty that can be found in the quiet, serenity of it all. But for me, all I see are glaring reminders of what is temporal.  That’s the interesting thing about grief…each person’s experience is unique and their own. However, my comfort will come not in grieving that which was lost here, but rather in the hope for what is promised for eternity. Because in Christ Jesus there are no “goodbyes” just sweet reunions. That is what I will continue to hope for and find comfort in.

Francesca2

Francesca Isabella Catherincchia ~ October 23, 2007 – January 7, 2008

Turn the Page…

So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings.

New year…new beginning…turn the page and start a new chapter! The end. Shortest blog in the history of blogging.

Ahhhhh…if it were only that easy.  Yeah. yeah, yeah…many of us sit at the cusp of the new year proclaiming all the things we will leave behind in the old and declaring all the things we will improve in the new. Yet, by the end of next week our declarations and proclamations will be more like helpful suggestions that maybe we will follow…but not really. The old chokeholds the new until there is nothing new to be written at all. Just a replay of the same old scenes littered with some fresh faces and a few shades of adjusted lighting.

At some level most people struggle with new beginnings because while the idea of “new” appeals to us, we find it so difficult to close the door on the chapter we are leaving behind. It’s like reading a book and fixating so much on one chapter that you never really move past it. How will you ever get to the end if you can never turn the page? What beautiful story lies ahead that you will miss because you are content to simply stay where you are… reading the same chapter over and over again?

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. ~ C.S. Lewis

God is a storyteller. His story has been written since the beginning of time and it continues to be written still to this day.  We are currently the characters in His story. Hit pause right there. Take a minute to let that truth change your perspective. This story your living out isn’t actually your own. You are a supporting character in a much larger story. I just lost some of you right there. You were looking for a blog to tell you the 10 easy steps to the 3 eternal truths that will guarantee the 5 perfect disciplines that will lead to a better life. Sorry…wrong blog.

So often we stay in certain chapters of our lives out of fear. We are afraid of the unknown. We stay in painful chapters because we are afraid to be hurt again so we cocoon ourselves in the pain we know. We want to stay in successful or happy chapters because moving on presents the possibility of failure or disappointment. We chain ourselves to the past because the future has to many variables that are unknown. Man…life would have been so much easier had God just given us the stinking blueprint. I mean what writer doesn’t give His cast the script before they have to perform?!?!

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Hope is such a funny word. We see hope and we think “I sure hope things work out.” It’s a word that says “this is how I want the story to go BUT I realize it could go haywire at any moment and completely derail.”  However, that is our definition of hope NOT God’s definition. When the writer of Hebrew’s penned the verse above what he was saying was simply…”I am so CONFIDENT that the promises of God are true that even without knowing how the ending will look in my life I am willing to turn the page because I know with God the best has yet to come.”

Hope is confidence rooted in trust. Maybe, just maybe, it is hope that gives us the courage to turn the page. To realize that regardless of what this new chapter holds God is with us. A good author never leaves his characters incomplete or hanging. A good author always uses the events and the circumstances surrounding a character to mold and shape them to fulfill their purpose in the story. And God is the author of the greatest story ever told!!! I think if we can trust NY Times best-selling authors to write great books with well-developed characters we can trust God to do the same. Afterall, who gifted all those authors with the ability to tell a story in the first place? I’m just sayin’!

Where you look is where you will go…

“Turn you eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Those words are found in my all time favorite hymn. A reminder that I never have to hesitate to end one chapter or afraid to begin the next. If I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus…the author and perfector of my faith and story…I will always know that wherever the next chapter on this grand adventure called life takes me, I will be exactly where I am supposed to be to fulfill my purpose in the greater story being told.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. ~ Neslon Mandela

Sunday a church our pastor challenged us all not to make New Year’s resolutions but rather to prayerfully ask God to reveal a word to define our 2018. Of course he said his word was “healthy”. Immediately, I thought “stink, that’s my word!!” Being on staff at the church I knew he would ask us our word and I was now going to look an unoriginal, copycat. Or maybe I was over thinking that just a bit…whatever!!!

This morning God showed me that “healthy” was the word I picked for myself, not His word for me. That’s what happens when you forgo the prayer part and just do your own thing…God corrects you. God always has a way of reminding us of who is in charge…thank goodness.

Anyway, this morning God gave me my word for 2018. Drum roll please…

“CHOICE” is my word.

I have to admit, I was a little dumfounded. Cause “healthy” is really where I am at. Erase the highlight reel…I want lose 25lbs in the new year, start prioritizing my time better, cook dinner for family more consistently, making my quiet time with God a non-negotiable…EVERY DAY!! All of those things stem from being “healthy”, right?!?! Yes, but God reminded me this morning that all of the things start with a CHOICE!!! Healthy food is always available to me as is the ability to exercise but I have to CHOOSE to eat better and hit the treadmill. My stove always works and I’m a pretty decent cook but I have to CHOOSE to make dinner for my family consistently. Every day there are 24 hours in a day, that will never change, so I have to CHOOSE to organize myself and spend that time wisely. God is always with me, always available to me, but I have to CHOOSE to engage Him and make Him first in my day…EVERY DAY!!

I can linger in 2017, it was decent year, some really exciting things happened for us that I am grateful for. Or I can CHOOSE to close that chapter of my story…reflect with a thankful heart, lament on things that brought pain and then turn the page.

Today that is exactly what I CHOOSE to do… turn the page and begin the new chapter. I have no idea what lies before me. What I do know is that all the experiences from previous chapters, good and bad, have prepared me for all the things that are about to unfold. I know that there are new experiences on the horizon that will allow me to see God in greater ways…ways that I cannot even imagine. And I know that God will continue to mold and shape me in this new chapter to become all that He ha created me to be to fulfill His story.

I am simply a supporting character in a story so much greater than my own. And you my sweet friends are supporting characters too. Will you join me on the adventure in 2018? Will you CHOOSE to focus your gaze on Jesus and allow Him to be the author of this new chapter? I promise you won’t regret it.

Much Love and Happy New Year,

Nikki

 

 

 

 

Remembering You…

And I would choose you: in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d chose you. ~ The Chaos of Stars

I’ll never forget…

In the very early hours of an October morning a piece of heaven left that place so close to the Father. Knit together in a womb…beautifully and wonderfully made…entrusted into the hands of another mother and father. Time borrowed and so precious…more than we would ever know.

I’ll never forget…

As the sun set on that miraculous day 10 years ago the sky was a spectacular display of the vibrant colors God has painted across His creation. Red, orange, and yellow painted the dusk sky. It was as if He wanted to us to know that the precious girl who entered our world possessed a beauty far beyond what was earthly. She was destined to be so much more than what could have ever imagined.

I’ll never forget…

The plans we had. The dreams we shared for your future. A mommy and daddy in awe of this perfect gift from heaven. As we counted fingers and toes we imagined snuggle time, sloppy wet kisses, pig tails and sparkles, painted finger nails and daddy daughter dances, first kisses, true love, and daddy giving his princess away to the one who would love you through this life.

I’ll never forget…

The way we fell in love so quickly. It was instant. You captured our hearts and captivated our lives.

I’ll never forget…

The way your brother’s adored you. The gentle rubbing of your hands as one sat in awe of your presence. And the other’s elation. Knowing you were surely an answer to all he had prayed for. I imagined how they would guard and protect you throughout your life…and even drive you a little crazy from time to time.

I’ll never forget…

The day that the time that had been borrowed, the time that was so precious had run out. The day you slipped through our hands and into eternity.  Forever changing the course of who we were and who we would become.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. ~ Winnie the Pooh

10 years ago you entered our world. No one could have ever known how brief your time with us was meant to be. But God knew…every day He had for you was ordained before one of them ever came to be. He could see beyond the horizon….He could see what no human mind could comprehend…He could see that when a piece of heaven kisses earth, even for the briefest of moments, it leaves a lasting imprint on the hearts, minds and lives of everyone who was fortunate enough to witness it’s splendor. That even when the beauty of the presence is no longer physically here the memory of the blessing gives us an indescribable feeling of gratitude for ever having the privilege to experience it in the first place…regardless of how brief the encounter was. It reminds us that true love defies time and space…it transcends the confines of this earth because it was always meant to be never ending. The beauty of true love is that it was designed to be as eternal as the One who created it…the One who calls us His beloved.

Regardless of the pain and the heartbreak, if I could go back 10 years, I would STILL choose you. Even knowing what I know now…especially because of what I know now…I would ALWAYS choose you! You are the catalyst that made our family everything it is today…you are the catalyst for everything that Mommy and Daddy have become…You are the miracle that allowed us to experience God’s love…His presence…His goodness…His faithfulness. Without you we would be an empty shell of who we are. You are the piece of heaven that kissed our life and awakened our need for things so much greater than what this world has to offer.

Do you see that? Do you know that 10 years ago you when you entered our world your hand print intertwined with God’s to change people’s lives…forever?

My precious Francesca, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of you nor is there a moment that I do not miss you, that my arms do not long to hold you. My beautiful girl, do you know that mommy envisioned your 10th birthday with pedicures and sleepovers not a blog post written through tears? But through my shattered expectations and hurting heart…I choose to celebrate you. To celebrate the gift that you are. To celebrate that God continues to use you in this world. To celebrate that I am a better me because I got to hold you close and call you mine even for the briefest of moments. To know with full confidence that today you celebrate your birthday with the One that loves you far more than I ever could because He is the One who created you.

My sweet girl, my mind sees you dancing in all of your heavenly splendor…illuminated by the glory of God…rejoicing in His presence. Dance Bella girl…dance!! And know that here on earth we will celebrate the moment that heaven kissed the earth and gave us the gift of you.

Mommy loves you Francesca Isabella. Until we meet again, I will never forget.

The Price of Love

Motherhood-1

Grief never ends … But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith … It is the price of love. ~ Unknown

The early hour of the morning made the usually active household silent and still. In the quiet I slipped out of bed…the grayness of the sky matching the color of my heart. In the silence I needed just a few moments to collect myself before my beautiful boys would awake and expect their mama to be ready to celebrate this day dedicated to honoring mothers. Although, truth be told, every boy in my house knows that this day above all in the calendar year is the hardest for me.

Mother’s Day is a little like Russian roulette. I never know what it will be like until it is here. This morning it was exceptionally difficult. Maybe because this year marks the 10th Mother’s Day I have spent without my daughter. Maybe it is because in the last several weeks my mind has wander more often than usual to the thought of “who will take care of my youngest son with autism after my husband and I are gone.” Or maybe it is because I see my oldest and my heart aches for the innocence he lost so long ago…innocence that was shattered by autism and death.

Motherhood did not turn out how I expected it to be at all. I never would have imagined that the source of one of your greatest joys could also be the source of your deepest heartache. I have a good friend and mentor that often reminds me that the depth of love we have is what makes the depth of emotion so strong.

This morning the emotion overwhelmed me and the tears flowed. My arms ached to hold my precious girl, my mind screamed at the cruelty of autism, and my heart ached for a childhood lost. Then it happened…as my sweet husband held my hand while I cried my youngest son came out of his room. First he pointed out a picture on his iPad…yes, when you have autism an iPad is always close by. The picture held no significance it was just a freeze frame of a movie. But he tenderly came up to me, as if sensing something wasn’t quite right, showed me the picture and said “isn’t it beautiful?” And in that moment it was beautiful…his sweet, tender care melted this mama’s heart. But then, as if knowing why my heart ached, he looked up at the pictures hanging on the wall, touched my face and said “look, Baby Cesca.” How did he know? And if that wasn’t enough…my oldest son proceeded to give me a card with a hand written note. I will not share the details, some things are meant to stay private, but I will say it was the most beautiful note I have ever received.

These, my dear sweet friends, are God hugs. They are little ways that God is all around us working in and through the people in our lives to remind us that He sees us and He loves us. When our hearts ache, His heart aches. When our tears flow not only does He catch them but He weeps for the pain His children must endure this side of heaven.

This morning I was reminded of the bittersweet symphony of motherhood. To love so deeply costs us the largest portion of our hearts. I once had a very wise friend tell me, actually right around Mother’s Day early on after my daughter passed away, that God didn’t intended for me to live brokenhearted. This morning I realized how true those words really are. Our children are such a precious blessing that God gives to us. An opportunity for us to have just a taste of His love for us. The cost of that taste is always high…no matter how the story ends. A mother always gives away parts of herself for the betterment of her child…there is no greater cost than that and no greater love.

This is why the bond between mother and child is so strong. It begins the moment that God knits together a precious knew life in their mother’s womb. It is a bond that cannot be full explained or fully understood…it just is. I believe it is God’s way of giving us a precious glimpse of supernatural love…a love beyond anything we can comprehend. A love that we pay a very deep price for but the return is priceless. Isn’t that exactly how God loved us when He allowed His Son to die for the betterment of all His children?

For this reason we celebrate and honor mother’s. For their love, their sacrifice, and their willingness to give it all for their children. This is also why today is so gut wrenching for many. For the ones who long for heavenly reunions and the ones who long to have one to call their own. For the ones who worry after prodigals and the ones who cling beside hospital beds. But this day is also difficult for children too. The ones who long for their mother’s touch or the sound of her voice just once more. And the ones who ache for the mother they never knew or the strained and broken relationship that has caused distance and separation.

The price of love is always high but the reward is much greater than any risk we must take to have it. The reality is, we were created for love and it began before we were ever even born. God’s love has always been with us and always will be. On the days when we feel the most isolated and broken He longs to wrap His arms around us and open our eyes to the beauty in our lives. Today if you have all of your children with you…give them an extra squeeze and make sure they know how much you love them. Today if your mom is still with you make sure you tell her how amazing she is and how much you love her. If your heart is aching today know that you are not alone…you are never alone…God is always with you and His love is always around you. He sees your pain and He longs to ease it…if you will let Him.

Today I have a heart full of gratitude. I am thankful for a beautiful mother who has taught me how to be loyal and passionate, loving and giving. The gifts she has passed on to me have been numerous and she will never truly understand how much my bother and I adore her. I am also thankful for two boys that show their mama in so many ways how much they love me. I am thankful for beautiful friendships that know my pain and speak to my heart in so many ways. I am so so thankful for a husband who cherishes me as a wife and encourages me as a mother. But I am most thankful that this is all just a journey…a pilgrimage home. Where heavenly reunions are sweeter than I could ever imagine and the price of love is fully realized.

 

 

New Beginnings…

Hello…remember me?!?! You know the would be blogger that has become an occasional writer. And by occasional I mean two blogs a year, if I’m lucky. Well I’m back. Some might be happy about this grand announcement while others might roll their eyes and say “who cares!” Whatever the case may be I have reminded myself this morning that I don’t write for the applause of an audience, I write because God has wired me for it. Writing is in my soul, my artistic expression…the page is my canvas and words are my symphony. It really doesn’t matter how they are received…well maybe just a little. When God stirs the words in my soul this blogs come back to life.

So where has God been? Why hasn’t He stirred anything in me for months? Well rest assured my friends…God hasn’t gone anywhere. It is your friendly writer who has let the busyness of life drown out all the words God has stirred up in me. Who knows how many I have sped right by in the frantic pace I have been living my life.

When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. ~ Lysa TerKeurst

Several months ago we were in a sermon series at our church called Encounters. This series journeyed through the Gospel of Luke breaking down different encounters Jesus had with people during His ministry here on earth. During the series I preached a message out of Luke chapter 10 about two sisters, Mary and Martha. Now if you are not familiar with the story let me break it down real fast. Jesus, with His disciples, are traveling through a village named Bethany. They stop at the home of Jesus’ really good friends Mary and Martha. The story is only 5 verses long but Jesus, known for making the most of His time, teaches a lesson that has been stirring in me since January.

Two sisters…two very different encounters with Jesus. As Jesus enters the home Mary is content to simply sit at His feet. A position that suggests, according to first century  tradition, that Mary was ready to be instructed. She was hanging on every word Jesus said…it was her lifeline…her source of how she would continue to live and serve. Mary was in a posture to receive all that her Lord wanted to pour into her. Meanwhile the story tells us that Martha is distracted by all her preparations. The Greek word for distracted means “to be dragged around in circles.” Martha is literally running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Can any of you relate to that?!?! How often do you feel like your hectic pace has you being dragged around in circles…running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Now you have to know Martha wasn’t busy doing frivolous stuff. It says she was busy with her preparations. The Greek word for preparations means “serving” or “ministering.” Martha is busy doing really good stuff…she’s serving others. But the story tells us that all this busy work has left her frantic and it has caused her to become worried and bothered. She’s mad at her sister and she’s losing her patience with Jesus. Two people she loves dearly are frustrating her on every level not because they are doing anything wrong but because they aren’t falling in line with her agenda and expectations.

STOP right there. This blog is not meant to shame anyone…it’s sole purpose is to communicate what God has revealed to me and quite possibly might want to speak into you as well. However, I have to ask the question…how many of you, in the busy and hectic pace of your lives tend to lash out or get frustrated with those you love the most; your spouse and your kids usually suffer the most at the mouth of the frantic and rushed. Don’t worry I won’t make you post your answer in the comment section but I do want you to be honest with yourself..no matter how much it might sting. Ok…i’ll go first…my name is Nikki and I am a Martha! Yes, sometimes my husband says to me “why are you so nice to everyone else and have nothing left for me?” And if that doesn’t hurt enough how about the moment last week when my mind was so overcrowded with a to-do list that I lost it on my son for a really stupid reason. In a wise beyond his years kinda way he looked at me and simply said “mom, you’re better than that.” OUCH!!!!!!!! Dagger meet heart, insert and twist. It’s OK girls! We are all works in progress. We will never get it all right. I’m just praying to keep Sammy’s future therapy costs to a bear minimum.

Let’s be honest, Martha is the poster child for the modern day multi-tasker and most of us can identify with her. But in reality she has allowed a lot of really good stuff get in the way of what was most important…spending time with Jesus. Jesus, her good friend, had become so familiar to her…His presence had become so ordinary to her that she failed to slow down long enough to simply be present in the moment with her Savior!!!! She traded in the awe and wonder we experience at His feet for an overwhelming to do list. How often do we do that? We justify our lack of connection and intimacy with Jesus because of the busy season of our lives. We act as if He should understand being shoved to the back burner because ,after all, He is Jesus…He’s not going anywhere. Well, maybe not you but I am sure you have a friend that can relate.

As the story progresses Jesus tells Martha “you are worried and bothered by so many things but only one thing is necessary. For Mary has chosen the good part and it will not be taken from her.”  What Jesus is saying in a nutshell…”I don’t care what you are doing!!! How good it is, how beneficial…even serving me. NOTHING…NO activity is more important than spending time with Me…PERIOD!!!!” And don’t miss the most important part…Mary CHOSE the good part. I love that! Mary had to make a conscious choice to put Jesus first!! That means if Mary can choose it so can Martha.

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself…the challenge is to silence the mind. ~ Caroline Myss

This past Friday night I had the awesome opportunity to preach at a revival service. Revival is no small thing. It is God’s people crying out for a supernatural movement of God…an igniting of the Holy Spirit that will sweep our land like wildfire…a movement of the name of Jesus like our generation has never known…accomplishing the things that can only happen with the overwhelming power and presence of God. As I prepared God laid these precious sisters on my heart again. I wasn’t sure how it would all play out but I knew this was the message God wanted me to share.

Revival or the reawakening of God’s people is not something we can orchestrate…we can’t work harder to make it happen…it doesn’t fit neatly into our agendas or timing…and our expectations will always limit it. You see revival ALWAYS begins at the feet of Jesus…in our Savior’s presence…listening for His still, soft voice. You cannot do revival you have to be revival. As the presence of Jesus consumes you He will overflow out of you into others…that is how revival starts. It’s personal, individual, and it happens at the feet of Jesus.

The congregation I spoke to is singularly focused on revival for the next 21 days. For anyone who has ever done the 21 Day Fix workout DVD knows “It takes 21 days to start a new habit” So for the next 21 days I challenged them to give Jesus their undistracted devotion. A true devotion…not a rushed 5 minutes of rattling off everything you want Him to do for you…but a time of quieting their souls at the feet of their Savior. Ultimately this was a challenge to deepen ones intimacy with Christ. I wonder what would happen if all of God’s people challenged themselves this way. Call me crazy but my guess would be…REVIVAL!!!

When you’re a preacher or teacher of God’s word it’s funny how He lays a message on your heart to share with others only to discover that He actually wanted to speak to you. I have no doubt that God wanted to use Mary and Martha to speak into the people of the church I spoke at. But I know with 1000% certainty He also wanted to grab my attention. Over the last several days He has posed this question to my heart…”how many times will you study these sisters before you put down the mantle of Martha?”

For so long I have wondered where my words have gone. Why haven’t I been inspired to write in months. Through the most controversial election our country has ever known I never felt I had the right words to share…why?!?! Because I have been so busy being Martha. On paper I am doing really good things but i’m missing out on giving Jesus my undistracted devotion.  My soul misses her Savior…she longs to sit quietly at His feet. To rediscover the awe and wonder that happens when we linger in His presence rather than rush right by Him.

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on. ~ Zayn Malik

The beauty of God is that He never leaves His children stuck. Stuck in old patterns, stuck in bad habits, stuck in the messes we make when we try to do things in our own strength. He reveals truth, not to shame us, but to remind us there is a better way. So today my underwhelmed soul publicly declare “NO MORE” to my overwhelmed schedule. Just like Mary, I am choosing the good part…I choose Jesus. I, like so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ long for revival but God has made it abundantly clear to me that collective revival MUST begin with personal revival.

Today I turn the page. My story is not stuck…a new chapter is simply beginning. A chapter that will consist of boundaries and margin, sacred spaces and silence, Jesus’ presence and God’s heart. In this season I may have to say “no”…a lot. Please don’t take it personally….it’s not you, it’s me. Sometimes in our quest for more of Jesus we have to let go of others expectations of us. We have to be willing to sacrifice some of the really good stuff for the very BEST stuff.

I read in my devotional today that the presence of God is free but His heart will cost you. It takes time and intentionality to know the heart of God. However once you discover the treasure of God’s heart then you can dream BIG God dreams and be free to chase them. That is a price I am more than willing to pay. How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York State of Mind

“New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water.” ~ Truman Capote

As is sit on my back patio soaking in a lazy Saturday morning…a moment I have no business slowing down to relish or ponder…I cannot help but think about where I was a week ago. When I put the hectic schedule on hold, let my to-do list sit idle, and just basked in the moment. Soaking in every nuance of a city that touched my soul in a way that I never expected.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep passion for the city of Charleston, S.C. There is something about her that resides in the depth of my soul…she has gripped me and her spirit mingles beautifully with mine. Yes, I am talking about a city. But Charleston is so much more…she speaks to me, refreshes me, gives my worn down self rest. I have to confess, last weekend I feel as though I was unfaithful to Charleston. I discovered that this indescribable feeling that lures me back to the Holy City is not reserved solely for her.

I can still hear it…the din of activity…taxi cabs mingled with the subway, combined with sirens, playing out a like a grand symphony. I was absolutely captivated by the fluidity of movement and the grandeur of bricks and mortar, steel and concrete, pavement and rail tracks springing to life with a vitality and vibrancy I didn’t even know existed.

“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” ~ Thomas Wolfe

From the moment the plane descended into La Guardia the excitement bubbled up in me. A glance at the skyline, a sighting of the Brooklyn Bridge. There is something so magical about New York City. It almost mythical, can a fairy tale really be set in a concrete jungle?!?! It’s as if the city has a life of its own, if gives off an energy like I have never before experienced and like a highly addictive drug I found myself wanting more.

From the lights on Broadway, to the grandeur of the Plaza hotel, the hustle of the city streets, and the serenity of Central Park. There were frantic walks to the theater and quiet strolls through TriBeCa. Art is everywhere…people are the art in New York. They play and they display…in formal institutions and in quiet, sleepy basement style jazz clubs in the West Village. In local restaurants you taste a flavor of the eclectic crowd that calls Gotham their home. Like vibrant colors on a canvas they create the beautiful masterpiece that I couldn’t help wanting to be a part of. I didn’t want to be a visitor, I wanted to be one of the charmed ones who understood the depth of all this city was because it was home. I felt like such a poser, such a tourist, in a place that seem to fit me like a glove.

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you…” ~ Jay-Z (Empire State of Mind)

What happens when you have one dream for your life only to have it live out so completely different? As I melted into the frantic rush on the pavement an overwhelming feeling hit me…I was walking the steps of my girlhood dream. The culture, the elegance, the diversity, the activity, the power careers…this was my dream. I could see 18-year-old Nikki so clearly…so ambitious…so hungry to devour all that life had to offer. This is where she had imagined herself. I think she also saw herself married to John F. Kennedy Jr., just keeping it real. And as 40-year-old Nikki stood there she came face to face with her childhood dream meeting the reality of her life. First, let me say I hate people who talk about themselves in third person, so please feel free to make fun of me for doing just that. Second, don’t get too worried…this isn’t were I say “I’m living the wrong life and I’m leaving it all to pack up and move to NYC.” It’s okay, I know some of you were thinking it. Actually, after coming off the high of being in this very intoxicating city, I realize that New York, like Charleston has become one of the great loves of my life. How funny, because on paper Charleston and NYC are so very different yet they both speak to my soul. I predict that I will return to the city that never sleeps…often!!!! I want more of her and she has so much more to give. But she is not home.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

18-year-old Nikki hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet…but she soon would. Home is not a place that seemingly fits like a glove or feeds a dream. Home is where love is. The beauty of age is reconciling what you desired with what matters. How much would I have missed had I followed my 18-year-old hearts desire? Had I not been derailed from chasing my ambition where would I be? This week I stood face to face with those very questions (maybe I had a mini mid-life crisis) and I have an answer…I don’t care!!! Now, I am all about transparency…that wasn’t my immediate conclusion…I had to reflect for a few days. But I choose not to live in the land of “what if?” How many people constantly look back at the paths not taken as failures to live the life that they dreamed? To what avail? Retrospect often opens the door for bitterness and discontentment to take root and it steals all the joy from the life we have been given.

We have been given this one life to live and sometimes the dream and the reality look quite different. That doesn’t mean the dream has died, it means a new dream has been born. I love that I get to go places like Charleston and New York City…places where my soul comes alive in new and fresh ways. But my heart will always be at home and home isn’t a place, home is where love resides. Where there is love there is contentment. Ahhhh…I am really loving the wisdom that comes with age. Did I just toot my own horn?!?! Possibly.

Contentment for me comes from a husband and soul mate who loves and respects me; My children that make me love deeper than I ever thought possible; friendships that champion me and love me regardless of my crazy; a family that is rooted in love and loyalty; a ministry that gives me more purpose than I ever thought was imaginable; and my God who loves me far beyond what I deserve and way beyond what I can comprehend. All the things that my 18-year-old self could have never understood, my 40-year-old self is humbly grateful for.

I guess you could say this homage to New York City is a long, drawn out thank you. How does one even thank a city? Maybe I’m the only weirdo who wants to know. Regardless, thank you for being everything I dreamed of and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to disconnect from reality and, for a brief moment, be a part of your colorful mosaic. You have reminded me that what is hidden in one’s soul is multifaceted and there are many layers. That excitement and elation can come from visiting places that touch your soul deeply but  true joy and contentment are always found at home.