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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The Silver Lining.

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” ~ James Earl Jones

My name is Nikki Cat and I miss my blog. Writing has become my outlet and by neglecting my blog I have become like a sculptor with no clay or a musician with no instrument. Part of me is missing. The part of me that brings harmony to the discord and chaos. The part of me that finds humor in laughing at my self or finds joy in the movement of beauty around me. There is no outlet so it all stays bundled inside…with no place to go. Thoughts swim in my head…constantly in motion but going nowhere. The writer puts the words to a page so infrequently that slowly a dream begins to die.

Over the last several days I have been reminded that dreams are goals just waiting to be achieved. A person who doesn’t dream and doesn’t set goals is someone sitting on the sideline of life. They are merely are going through the motions as they pass through this life into the next. Today I decided I wanted my dream back. I set the goal…I will carve out time in my schedule to blog. I even got myself an accountability partner. One who is so serious about her role that she texted my husband and said “Sorry buddy, no Parenthood  on Netflix tonight my girl needs to write.” Well that is a loose paraphrase but that’s what she meant. Good girlfriends are the BEST!!!

As I pondered what I what would write I started with a title “The Silver Lining” How surprised I was when I open WordPress to discover I had started a blog with the exact same title nine months ago but did nothing with it. I had a title, a picture, and a quote but absolutely nothing written. Now I am not a coincidence girl…I am believer in timing…it is everything. So today I will complete what my heart longed to say nine months ago but didn’t quite have the words.

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depth it has its pearls too.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

The new year creeps in the way it does every year. Sometimes in a flurry of activity, sometimes in the calm stillness of a quiet evening, for some it will even pass by without a second thought as sleep consumes what is too painful to face. Yes…for some the new year brings to mind what has been lost, what has been fractured, what has been broken and the heart aches for what will never be again.

10 years ago this month our son was diagnosed with autism…

8 years ago this week our precious baby girl went home to Jesus…

Do you hear it?!?! The sound of shattered dreams. The shards of glass that encompass the dream of a well lived life splinter everywhere. When your dreams explode like that how do you ever dare to dream again?

“Dance on broken glass, build castles with shattered dreams and wear your tears like precious pearls. Proud. Strong. Unshakeable.”      ~ Anita Krizzan

The light at the end of the tunnel…the silver lining…anyone who has walked a painful road has struggled to see it. Some don’t even long to see it because the pain and the darkness keeps you connected to all that has been lost. But what if there is more? What if there is salve so powerful that it will take away the sting of facing a new year? What if your shattered dream actually becomes the catalyst to your greatest dreams?

This week I have been reminded that dreams are a gift, a gift from God. Life is hard and it can flat-out suck at times, how’s that for brutal honesty? But shattered dreams are not a confirmation that God doesn’t exist or that He abandons us. Rather, shattered dreams are the evidence of how broken our world actually is. They remind us that pain and suffering do not discriminate in a dying world.

But there IS a silver lining…

Will you open your eyes long enough to catch a glimpse of it?

When we walk in the valley of shattered dreams we can choose to curse God and abandon any hope of ever dreaming again or we can embrace Him and dare to do the unthinkable and dream bigger than we ever thought possible. I think we must first understand that the dreams for our lives are not are own. The dream for our lives was actually originated as God created us with His own hand, breathing His life into us, and in His very own image. He had a purpose for us. But the brokenness of sin entering this world fractured that dream. However, God was not content to let it end there. Instead He would suffer the greatest shattered dream ever known as His Son hung on a cross  so that we, the broken, battered, and disconnected, could once again be reunited with the One who loves us. The silver lining in the midst of the pain was the beauty of the reconciliation and restoration that would come. The dream that was shattered by the death of God’s Son , Jesus Christ, was the catalyst for His greatest dream…Jesus conquering the grave so His beloved children,all of us, could be redeemed. Out of much pain came much joy. He took what was meant to destroy and He turned into the greatest victory dance ever known. And God has that same desire for His children. As our hearts break so does His. He wants to take the pain  that was meant to destroy us and turn into the very source of all that we can become as He heals us. But you have to open your eyes and see Him, our silver lining. You have to look for the hand print of God and open your heart to His healing touch.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost.

Dreaming anew is a choice…

The new year is the greatest opportunity to ignite the flame of old dreams whose light has died or discover new dreams lurking deep within our hearts. We all have dreams, some of us have just done a really good job of burying them under the rubble of crumbled expectations and shattered dreams.

When our dreams are shattered the easiest way to protect ourselves is to never dream again. If I had chosen this option my heart would have been hardened by the bitterness of disappointment and loss. My eyes would have been blinded to the love and grace all around me. I would have been content sitting on the sideline of life. However, I took the road less traveled and it has made all the difference.I decided to trust God. Even when I didn’t understand and even when I hated the process…I believed He could see more than I ever could.

Does the pain of the crumbled expectations and shattered dreams still exist for me…I wouldn’t be human if I said “no.” But the ultimate silver lining is that this isn’t the end. The ultimate dream has yet to come true…the day I walk in the heavenly realm where autism no longer exists and reunions are sweeter than I can ever imagine. Until that day I choose to trust the God who shattered His own dream for the greater dream of loving me. I choose to dream BIG and make a difference in the name of my Savior who carried me when the weight of the shattered dream brought me to my knees and healed my broken heart.

The silver lining is that with the new year comes a new opportunity to reignite the dreams that God ignited in me when I was too scared to dream again. The melancholy of the writer with no words is diminished in the presence of the One who gives meaning to everything worth writing about.

The silver lining is that every day of every year I get the privilege to serve the One who loved me first and loved me most.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” ~ Cinderella

 

Be Kind

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” ~ H.D. Thoreau

When you are a communicator whether by the written word or oration you want to grab people’s attention. You look for that catchy phrase, the story that can weave the web that will draw your audience in. However, sometimes simplicity says far more than grand tales or sticky statements. While culture tells us to bling it out or enhance its appearance with flashy baubles and accessories, simplicity strips it all away and shows us beauty in the rawest form. Simplicity reminds us that in its purest form God’s creation has a natural beauty that we often miss in the rush of insignificant details.

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” ~ Jay Danzie

Today was a day like any other day, I had a schedule and I needed to stick to it. It’s the first of the month, which for me means a trip to our local county office for the department of community mental health. I had to turn in paperwork for the aides who work with my son. This is always a quick trip…in the door, paperwork dropped off, and out the door. The whole process usually takes about 5 minutes at most. However, today was different…today I met Ken.

As I entered the office I encountered a severely disabled man and his care giver. I soon discovered that the reason they had come to the office was a situation that this particular office could not help him with. What struck me instantly was neither the care giver nor the receptionist had a smile on their face. In fact both ladies looked somewhat annoyed with the man. As he continued to ask questions the receptionist seemed increasingly agitated. Now, I’m not going to lie, normally I would have been slightly put out because my 5 minute experience was already sitting at about 10 and I had yet to drop off my paperwork. However, I was calm, not irritated at all. Finally, the man said to the receptionist “I remember you. You were my first case worker. It is nice to see you again.” and with no smile and no warmth the women replied “nice to see you too.” Her attitude was so cold she could have solved the global warming issue in an instant.

In the moments that followed, the man exited my day as quickly as he entered it…or so I thought. With my paperwork dropped off I was on my way. But as I left the man and his care giver hadn’t gotten far in their own quest to leave. Not wanting to be rude, but needing to be on my way, I carefully maneuvered around the man’s wheelchair to make my departure. That’s when the course of my day totally changed. As I passed by I heard the voice, that I now recognized, say “are you a caregiver?” I turned with a smile “No, I have a son with autism and I had to drop off paperwork for his caregivers.” He smiled back, “My name is Ken” I couldn’t walk away now, “Hi Ken. I’m Nikki, it’s so nice to meet you.” He told me was 40 years old, just a year older than me, and he had been on his own with caregivers since he was 18. I tried to wrap my mind around his circumstances but I just couldn’t. Then his face changed a bit, he was pondering what he would say next. “Can I ask you a question?” Of course he could.  “Is it hard to have a child with special needs?” From that point Ken and I carried on a wonderful conversation. I admitted the challenges I face as I watch my son struggle but I also shared the joys of celebrating every little accomplishment like it was reaching the top of Everest. In turn Ken shared how humbling it is to need help with everything, from putting on his shoes to going to the bathroom. I soon realized Ken just wanted someone to talk to. Someone who was actually interested in what he had to say…he longed to be known. He also longs for a girlfriend, he told me she hasn’t come along…yet!

“I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! ~ Psalm 116: 1-2

I felt it…I knew it was coming as the Spirit began to stir in me.  I knew this was a God ordained moment so I let all my inhibitions melt away and the words tumbled from my mouth, “Ken, can I pray with you?” Without hesitation Ken grabbed hold of my hand. I praised my God for the gift of Ken, for blessing my day with his presence, and prayed that he would remind Ken, often, that he was wonderfully made for a plan and a purpose. With tears in his eyes, still holding my hand, Ken reminded me that God would never give me more than I could handle and I needed to stand firm on God’s promises because He is faithful. To which I reminded Ken that he could do all things through the One that gives him strength.

After a few more words exchanged my new friend drifted out of life. I wonder if Ken will ever know how profoundly he impacted my day and my life for that matter? It would have been so easy in my busyness to pretend like I ever never heard Ken call out to me. I could have justified the brush off all day long in my head. But as I stood in that office with the unsmiling caregiver and receptionist I couldn’t help but think of my own son. What happens when I am not here? Will people treat him with the same cold disdain? I had no idea in just a few moments God would test my ability to choose what matters most, to say a best yes and truly experience intentional investment.

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures.” ~ Bob Kerrey

All day I have reflected on my encounter Ken. The single thought that has been etched in my mind is how he grabbed my hand and held it as we prayed. I wonder how long it has been since anyone has held Ken’s hand simply as a gesture of kindness, friendship, or love? When was the last time he felt a tender touch that told him that he had value and worth?

As I ponder I hear the echo of my Savior words “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Second to loving Him, God wants us to love one another. But in order to love one another we actually need to slow down long enough to notice people. We have to strip away all the baubles and the bling and to find the raw, natural beauty found at the heart of the simplest of concepts…kindness.

“In the end, only kindness matters.” ~ Jewel from the song Hands

Had it been left up to me I would have walked right past Ken today. Busy in my own thoughts, my own life, my own world. I would have missed a tremendous blessing. I cannot help but wonder how many blessings we walk right past every day? Little ways that God shows us He is always with us we miss because we are too distracted by the details to notice the important. How many opportunities to be the light and love of Christ do we squander because the noise of our chatterboxes has tuned out the still, soft voice of the Spirit prompting us to move?

Tonight as I write I am reminded that my Savior was never too distracted to invest in people. I see Jesus with the woman at the well, calling Zaccheaus down from the tree, eating at the table of Matthew the tax collector, healing the woman who was bleeding, and the list goes on. Kindness, born out of love, flowed out of Jesus and into those who encountered Him. The very people who society showed a cold disdain for, Jesus showed the tender touch of compassion and love. Today I was blessed with a Jesus moment…his name was Ken, the humble man who chose to intentionally invest in me. He illuminated the light of our Savior as he showed me kindness and reminded me of the beauty that can be found when we simply follow Jesus’ commands to love others as we desire to be loved. What a special gift I received. I will treasure it by following Ken’s example and investing in others, even for the briefest of moments.

 

 

Comfortable In Your Own Skin

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Be yourself. Sounds easy enough, yet at some level it is the very thing that many of us struggle with the most. Why? Probably because we have parked ourselves on the corner of  Comparison Dr. and Not Good Enough Ln. which often leads us to one of two places… down the Insecurity Highway or along the Discontented Freeway. I mean let’s be honest, all one needs to do is enter the vortex known as Facebook to see how AWESOME life is for everyone else. The ultimate highlight reel to show you just how imperfect your life really is.

It’s funny, I actually wrote the above paragraph twelve days ago. My heart had been aching to write for quite some time so I set out to find my sweet spot once again. I got as far as that paragraph and then abruptly I stopped. What does a writer do when they have no words…I mean, literally the words would not come and they are somewhat essential to a blog post. So I walked away.

This morning I sat in staff prayer in tears. I was so defeated and I found myself confessing to God that just yesterday I longed to be anybody but me. I was beaten up…defeated and deflated. And even this morning in a room full of people I felt all alone. I was once again transported back to the place of isolation where nobody around me really understood my struggle. Part of me longs to keep it that way…because if I can convince them the struggle is minimal then maybe I can believe it too.

When you are a mother of autism you long for the day when you won’t see your child struggle at every turn. You cherish every little victory and rejoice when every hurdle is jumped. However, the unfortunate reality of autism is that just because a hurdle has been conquered doesn’t mean it will not reappear… 10 feet taller than it was the first time around. This is where I am living right now. Hurdles my son overcame years ago, I mean like 8 years ago, have resurfaced. We are back to melting down multiple times a day, obsessive compulsive behaviors off the charts. What is happening? I feel like I have climbed half way up Mt. Everest just to have someone kick me back down to the bottom. I gave everything I had to make the first climb and now part of me just wants to lay at the foot of the mountain and cry. It’s too big…I can’t make it move or wish it away, and I’m not sure I have the strength to climb again. So for the briefest moment I lay there wondering what it would be like to be someone else.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglass

The beauty of who we are is not actually us at all, but rather it is whose image we were created in. That truth pierces my heart. My desire to escape, to be somebody else shouts “God you messed up!”  I am so consumed with the struggle that I lose sight of who I am. In the moment, however brief it is, I have forgotten whom dwells within me and the power He gives me.  I am so willing to concede defeat to autism when I have yet to fall on my face in prayer to the One who can actually remedy the situation. My spirit cries out “NO” while my flesh wants to crumble. As I cry it all out to Jesus…clarity settles in and I am reminded that His power is made perfect in my weakness. While the struggle is real and it is hard, it does not have the power to defeat that which belongs to God. We all have these moments, as hard as it is to admit…where the truth of our faith meets the reality of our circumstances. The world tells us to wallow, and believe me you can have a moment…but you cannot stay there. Because it’s in the midst of the struggle that God does His greatest work. It’s in the struggle that the power of the Holy Spirit comes alive within us. But…yes, there is always a but…will you let Him? the choice is always yours.

All around me I see it…the struggle. People looking into other people’s lives through the highlight reel longing to be someone else. When in reality, we all have struggles. We all have mountains before us at some point in our lives. Face to face with the mountain we all have a choice to make…we can lay at the bottom crying about how it’s too big and impossible to climb or we can trust that the One who dwells within us will give us provision for the journey. He promises that he will not fail or forsake us…but will we be audacious enough to pray without boundaries and bring every need before Him as if we TRULY trust He can and will meet our needs?

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~ Psalm 139:14

Tonight I sit here and these words, like soothing balm, wash over my beaten up spirit. I am reminded that autism doesn’t change this fact for my son…he is beautifully and wonderfully made. His identity is not defined by autism. His identity is wrapped up in one single truth…he is an image bearer of God. Uniquely created to serve a plan and a purpose far beyond what this worried mama could ever imagine. Because the one who created him loves him more than I ever could. Ahhhh…but here is the kicker… if I am going to embrace this truth for my son, then I must embrace it for myself as well. I too am fearfully and wonderfully made, uniquely equipped serve a plan and a purpose far more important than my own agenda and my own desire for a seemingly “normal” life.

Here I stand at the foot of the mountain again, I am weary and worn out. Climbing the mountain is hard…getting kicked back down is brutal. But as the dust settles from the haze of defeat I am reminded that I never made the first climb in my own strength and I will not climb again alone. I go with the full armor of God to protect me and the power of the Holy Spirit within me.

When I started this blog twelve days ago I would have never guessed this was the route it would go. That it would be a place where I would put the rawness of my own struggle out on display…to stretch out of my comfort zone to find comfort in who I am.

I guess to be comfortable in our own skin is being able to say “here I am” flawed and imperfect, worn out and weary, yet fearfully and wonderfully made. To be comfortable in our own skin is to recognize that what makes us beautiful and whole is not a physical attribute, or a picture perfect life. It comes when you know who you are and I know that regardless of my circumstances, I am a chosen daughter of God, created in His image to do His work, He will not forsake me or fail me…this I know full well.

 

A Mother’s Heart

“How many kids do you have?” Such a simple and straight forward question, yet it is the most difficult question for me to answer. When I first meet people and small talk ensues that question lingers on the horizon. My heart races and my palms sweat. I paste a smile on my face and politely the word “two” passes my lips all while my brain is screaming THREE!!!!! I remember years ago as I would give my standard “two boys”, I had a few people who  excitedly said, “are you going to try for a girl?” The bile would rise and I would choke out “no, I think we are done.” Through it all, the smile on my face never reaches my eyes. In the moment the lie of omission is easier than the truth. Inevitably after the “how many kids do you have?” question is answered the follow-up question is always “how old are they?”  I have never felt comfortable saying “my oldest son is 13, my youngest son is 11, and my daughter is deceased.” Seven and half years later just typing the word deceased brings tears to my eyes. Why in the world would I ever want to share such a deep corner of my heart as I am first making someones acquaintance? I guess deep down I have come to a place where I am protective of my daughter’s memory…I love to talk to about her and I treasure moments when others talk about her. But to me, her memory is too precious to merely share as I engage in blase social niceties. So I politely answer “two”…it escapes my mouth as easily as “fine” rolls off the tongue of the deeply broken person answering the question “how are you?”

“Her absence is the like the sky, spread over everything.” ~ C.S. Lewis

When a heart grieves it has to jump over the hurdles of all the firsts. The firsts are the worst…for each first brings a fresh wave of the pain and loss you foolishly thought was easing. When the firsts conclude days begin to flow into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it the months have flowed into years. Yet no matter how many years pass by there is one day of the year I struggle with more than any other day. It is not my daughter’s birthday and it’s not the anniversary of her death. No, on those days I often find myself celebrating the precious life that God blessed us with for just the briefest of moments…on those days my heart has opened to the beauty of how God used her short life to make an incredible impact for His kingdom…on those days I sit back in awe of God and I truly celebrate the author and the giver of life. However, with this blog I have always promised full transparency and the reality is…I struggle with Mother’s Day. It is the single hardest day of the year for me. For me, motherhood has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known and the most intense heartbreak. In the paradox of joy and heartache I struggle to celebrate. I often smile at whatever gift my precious boys bestow upon me when all the while my heart aches for the one gift I can never have…all my children with me on Mother’s Day.

“On a day when I should be rejoicing for all the blessings motherhood has brought me, and I have been blessed abundantly through motherhood. But I find myself reflecting on the thought that while motherhood has brought me overwhelming joy it also brought overwhelming heartbreak. I never imagined how many ways a heart can be broken until I stepped into the role of motherhood. Not that I would trade a single one of those moments. It just gets to be too much @ times. How to explain the indescribable void you feel on mother’s day when all your children are no longer with you. When you long to hold them all close to you and you cannot because one of them is gone…”

Journal entry Mother’s Day 2010

I remember it vividly…Mother’s Day 2011. I started the day with the same pit in my stomach that had been there the three previous Mother’s Days since losing my daughter. As I sat in church, the feeling came…it felt like the walls were starting to cave in around me. Although my breathing was normal, I felt like I was gasping for air…panting like someone who was a breath away from running out of air. Then it happened…the need to run. I bolted out of the sanctuary and into the bathroom. A meltdown ensued. In that moment I wanted to be anywhere but there. I didn’t want to see anyone and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my husband out of service so we could just go home. The door crept open and as I hid in the back I prayed that whoever had entered wouldn’t even realize I was there. But God knew exactly what I needed. Through the door came a precious friend who proceeded to hold me as I sobbed uncontrollably. On that day I collected myself and I made this declaration…”I just need to accept that for the rest of my life I will be brokenhearted.” The words flowed out of me like bricks that would build a fortress around my broken heart. As if by simply recognizing my ailment I would no longer suffer from public meltdowns because I had safely locked it away behind the wall of “I’m fine!” As I exited the bathroom that day I honestly never thought my friend and I would ever revisit the moment. However, a week later she came to me…hesitant but determined. God had spoken to her about me in her prayer time and she obediently delivered this message. “I don’t think you are meant to be brokenhearted forever. God did not give you Francesca to break your heart” I was stunned…by the courage it took her to speak those words to me and by the power of what she had said. Can you even comprehend the freedom that was wrapped up in those words? I didn’t have to live a facade…pretending to not be hurting all while carefully guarding heart that I thought was irreparable. In her words came the power of healing. They didn’t erase the struggle but they did remind me of something I had forgotten…God truly does heal the brokenhearted…in the beauty of His presence and grace He binds up our wounds. But like any wound the scars of a broken heart still remain, always there to remind me of the journey, the hand print of a life that deeply and radically changed the course of my own. On some days the scar gets irritated, its presence is more pronounced…for me that day is Mother’s Day. It’s the day when the joy found in my boys meets the ache I still have for my daughter.

“A sensitive soul sees the world through the lens of love” ~ Anonymous

Mother’s Day truly is a great day. Motherhood is a precious blessing that should be celebrated. It’s a very hard and often, a thankless job. Honestly it’s the single hardest, yet, the single most rewarding accomplishment of my life. So I am all for taking a day to celebrate all the ladies who are mom’s…biologically and of the heart. However, this is a day when many mothers and children come face to face with a pain or a hurt they tucked away. In my own loss God has made me acutely aware that while this is a day of celebration, there are many who suffer heartache on this day. The woman who so desperately wants a child yet motherhood has alluded her wrestles with her emotions, the orphan who has never known their mother feels more alone, the child who suffers from the loss of their mother longs for just one more touch, children and mother’s feel the wounds of fractured relationships, a mother sits and cries for the prodigal in her life, and there is the mother who will ache to hold the child that is no longer present in this world. The list of the hearts that will ache this Sunday are many. A tender touch, a simple hug, a word of encouragement…these could be the very things, while subtle, that take away some of the sting that Mother’s Day brings. I’ll never forget the day my sweet friend came to remind me of who my God is. The sensitivity of her soul made her available to help soothe the ache of my heart. Her kindness and love were one of many ways that God began to bind my wounds and heal my broken heart. My prayer is that this Sunday we would all be sensitive to the hearts that ache around us. To recognize that as we celebrate we may know someone who is silently weeping. Be sensitive…God might just call you to be the blessing that a hurting heart so desperately needs.

 

 

 

Simply Grace

“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet…”

Human nature…it gets me every time. I read it in the headlines, see it on the television, and who am I kidding…I struggle with it. This idea of grace, it is so foreign to us. It doesn’t come naturally. We are conditioned to think and feel a certain way about people based upon a whole lot of things that matter not. We allow appearance, status, accomplishment, or lack of all the above to formulate what we think or how we feel about one another. Even if there is depth to a person character, passion within their heart, grace flowing from their soul we sometimes miss it because we struggle so deeply with our own inability to understand the full selflessness of grace.

So many of us are so desperate to be heard that often times words flow from our mouths before the full weight of our words can be considered. I cringe as I type…how often have I said an insensitive word, vented my anger before thinking a situation fully through, been rash to judge based on the superficial? How different the world would be if we were truly the change we wished to see, if we offered the same of kind of love that was lavished on us when we were so undeserving of it. What is so radical about Jesus Christ is this small, unassuming five letter word…G R A C E. Who knew five letters could carry so much weight…could be the catalyst to change the world. Yet so many of us who claim to love Jesus struggle with showing the very thing He lavished so freely upon us. Grace often alludes us even as we desire to grow closer to the Savior who is the very embodiment of it.

“Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped…”

As turn I on the evening news I cannot help but be discouraged. In fact I often find myself avoiding the television rather than engaging in the current events of the world. It is difficult to keep your head above the all consuming cultural wave that claims we have the right to demand things our way. Race riots rage, crime flourishes, relationships fracture…as the human condition slips further away from what we were created for…to be worshipers of God. We have been caught up in the vortex of self and if you do not serve me or my desires you are disposable…not worth my time. The image of God has become so distorted that for many it’s hard to remember that this whole thing called life is not about us at all but all about Him. Even in the realm of knowing Him we still stomp our feet when things don’t go our way…we debate to prove we are right…we shout truth only to find that where there is no grace there will be no one listening.

“Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us…”

When will forgive each other of the unpardonable sin of being different? Now that is not fuzzy theology…it’s actually not theology at all. You see, we humans struggle with our differences all the while God shakes His head in disbelief. Our differences are all the beautiful elements that make up His collective masterpiece and yet we miss it over and over again. Instead of picking one another up we delight in each others shortcomings or weaknesses…it makes us feel better about ourselves. Or even worse we exploit the least of these instead of taking care of them. We harbor bitterness and anger…refusing to offer forgiveness. Why oh why do we hold ourselves in the bondage that Christ died to set us free from? Why oh why do we not emulate our Savior? As His blood heals the wounds of our sin why do we struggle to extend the grace He so richly showed us?

“Charity is expecting the best of each other.” ~ Elder Marvin J. Ashton

I write this blog not to condemn others for I am also guilty of not extending grace. For letting my wants, desires, opinions, and preconceived notions override and cloud my vision. No, I write this blog to remind us all that we were meant for so much more…God desires so much for us and from us.

I have a friend that I often tease, I tell her that she needs to teach a grace class and I can be her first student. She exemplifies the simple, beautiful grace that our Savior Jesus Christ demonstrated. It’s in the softness of a gentle touch, the encouragement of a kind word, a new perspective offered when disappointments and anger arise, it’s the sweet symphony of acknowledging a wound or a hurt yet understanding that with every set back and trial comes a great opportunity for growth. It is in the knowing that life is messy and hard for everybody and sometimes we need to step aside of ourselves to recognize the season of life someone else is in. Grace is understanding that it’s not all about me, it looks at the big picture. Grace is what will resonate with someone long after a moment is over.

“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

What is so radical about grace is that it is so counter-cultural. It defies everything we have been taught to be true. That life operates on some sort of merit scale, the more you do the more you earn. The beauty of grace is God exclaiming His love for His people regardless of their brokeness, regardless of what they can or cannot do, regardless of their social status, wealth, or accomplishments, regardless if the world finds them appealing or not. God’s grace is demonstrated so powerfully in that he loved us enough to save us, through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, from the sin that separates us from Him. God loves us all and He has uniquely created us for a purpose in His kingdom…His desire is to transform lives. Those who live in the dark do not even realize this and those living in the light often allow their focus to become blurred from what matters most to God. Be the change we wish to see in the world…if Christ followers lived a life of radical grace, grace like Jesus demonstrated, how the world might change, how they might stop to pay attention. Grace is indescribable until you receive it…then it doesn’t need to be described at all. It was never meant to be an essay or a short-story…it was always meant to be a lifestyle.

“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

Tonight I had a gut check. I desired grace to be demonstrated in others when I struggled to extend it myself. As I sat down to type I recognized that grace is something many of us struggle with. I was prompted by a holy discontent burning within me…a discontent with myself. Grace and love have been lavished on me through my Savior, Jesus Christ how can I not in turn pour that very grace out unto others? He is the hope of the world and He chooses to use me and every other Christ follower to be His light…to illuminate a darkened world. What an honor and privilege that is. There is NOTHING greater that I can do in this life than be the light of Jesus Christ. How can I do that? I will be the change I wish to see in the world by living a life of radical grace. I will show kindness and consideration. I will give the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgment. I will show compassion and understanding. I will remember what matters most to God should matter most to me and that is the heart of a person. I will recognize that God does not make mistakes. He creates us all uniquely to bring something fresh and vibrant to the tapestry of life. We all matter, we are all important, and Christ died so that we all may live. That my friends is what grace is all about.