Logging off…

I am officially of an age where my son says things to me, and I feel old…really old.

Saturday morning was nice and laid back. Exactly how I like it. Nothing pressing to do, just family time. I sipped coffee as my husband whipped up an amazing breakfast. A breakfast that, oh by the way, set off the fire alarm prompting the fire department to knock on our door. I seriously felt like I was in Backdraft…please tell me someone remembers that movie from the 90’s. Billy Baldwin, Kurt Russell…ringing any bells?!?! Anyways…after many apologies and much embarrassment we sent the firefighters, the one with his ladder and the one with his ax, on their way assuring them that all was well at Casa Catherincchia.

As the coffee flowed and our gourmet breakfast was devoured, the conversation drifted to the internet. I’m not even sure what we were talking about but the next thing I knew I was Googling the sound of “dial-up” internet for my son and nephew to hear. What followed was uncontrolable laughter at this archaic method in which we used to connect to the world-wide web or a.k.a the information super highway…another flashback from the 90’s. The more they laughed, the older I felt. But I couldn’t help being sad for a generation that has never known life without the internet. A generation molded and shaped by phones, apps, and social media. A generation that has never lived without instant communication. A generation that has never known an inability to binge watch whatever they want, whenever they want. A generation that has never truly been logged off.

Last May my husband and I went on a cruise. The second we hit our stateroom he shut off his phone and locked it in the safe. For seven whole days he was completely disconnected from the outside world. Just the thought of that made me sea sick. Of course, I would love to say it was solely because I wanted to stay connected to my kids at home, but that would be a lie. I was on vacation, which meant I would take pictures…I needed my phone. I also needed to share my pictures with the people we were traveling with…I needed my phone. And of course I needed to share some pics on social media and since I was there, why not check up on the outside world by scrolling through Facebook and checking an email or 10…I needed my phone.

In that seven day span of time my husband never checked an email, never scrolled through social media, didn’t even take a stinking a picture. He was completely logged off and you know what? It was the most relaxed he had been in a long time. Nothing to distract him or vie for his attention. He was completely present to enjoy every moment. I can’t say the same for myself.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I am back on a cruise ship but this time I am on a girls trip. Lets just pause for a moment and give thanks for the ladies that pioneered the idea of a “girls trip.” Ahhhh…so good for the soul. OK, continuing on. As we boarded the ship I made the decision to not get the internet package. For months I had been secretly envious of what my husband had been able to achieve when we cruised together so I decided to see if I could do it too. No Facebook, no Instagram, no emails…nothing for 5 whole days. My phone literally became my watch and my camera, that is it. And for all those concerned that I abandoned my family, I didn’t. My sweet friends allowed me to use their phones to Face-time my boys back home.

What was the conclusion from this little experiment?

I am addicted to my phone.

I could not believe how many times a day I picked up my phone only to realize I couldn’t do anything with it. In fact by the 5th day I caved and got the internet. Of course, I justified this to myself because after all, I had to check in for my flight home. Truthfully, I was just itching to connect. However, this experience made me wonder… how much time a day do I waste mindlessly picking up my phone and scrolling through social media and the internet…checking on my kids and looking at emails way more than I need to?

But isn’t that who we have become as a society?

If we call our kids and they don’t immediately answer we freak out…

Thanks to Life 360 we never need to wonder where our kids or our spouses are…

We put the “Out of the Office” notification on our email accounts yet we are still constantly checking them…

Social media messes with our emotions as we compare our hot mess to everybody elses highlight reel.

And as sad as I am for my son’s generation who has never known life logged off, I am even sadder for my generation. Because we have. We remember the days when communication consisted of an actual conversation over the phone or a face to face meeting. We remember the excitement and anticipation of wanting to tell your best friend the greatest news but 1) not knowing where they were and 2) having to wait until they got home so they could call you. We remember what it was like to sit down as a family, eat dinner together, and actually talk rather than having every face glued to a screen. We remember a time when we were present in the moment rather than taking a picture or a video of every little thing that happens. We know the difference, yet it doesn’t seem to matter. We are as addicted as our kids.

I learned a valuable lesson in my few short days of being logged off…

Technology is a good thing. Too much technology is not. It is not good for our hearts, our minds, our spirits, or our relationships.

God has really been pressing the idea of self-evaluation upon me recently. This year I decided to read the Bible front cover to back cover. This idea was birthed out of  the realization that while I have read the Bible many times, my self-proclaimed ADD usually has me bouncing all over the place. But this year I am disciplining myself to read it, start to finish, no deviations. Now I must confess, last month I was super excited to start the book of Leviticus…NOT!!! Nobody will ever declare Leviticus an exciting read. However, God spoke to me through a verse in Leviticus like nothing I ever expected. This verse grabbed a hold of me and I haven’t been able to shake it.

You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common

I think for so many of us those lines have become very blurry. In so many ways we have elevated the common to sacred in our lives. The more connected we are the more we look for fulfillment in people’s opinions rather than God’s. Our self worth is now wrapped up in “likes” rather than in things that truly matter…like who God says we are. Whether we want to admit it or not, for so many of us, a common phone or device has become the most sacred thing in our world. Don’t believe me? Lose your phone…break your phone…your reaction will tell you everything you need to know about whether you treat your device as common or sacred.

So what would it look like to log off? To plug-in the phone and walk away? Some of you are breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. But seriously, what if we all did a little experiment and logged off? For an hour, a day, a week, a month. What if we replaced the time spent on our devices with other people or spending more time in the presence of God?  Maybe, just maybe, the freedom to log off is the detox your heart, soul, and mind are craving. And maybe God is just waiting for us to shift our obsessive fixation off the common and onto the sacred so that He can can give us a greater revelation of Himself.

Why not give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? We might have to do a #latergram rather than posting in real time. But what is the best that can happen? God might actually begin to show us all the things we have been too distracted to see.

 

 

You Are Not Hidden

light-bulb-lit-among-dark-ones

You are not hidden… There’s never been a moment you were forgotten… ~ Lauren Daigle

Tonight I sat in a room full of people yet I was all alone…

As a parent of autism this is a place that is very familiar to me.

Finding yourself in situations where the circumstances of your journey…all the things that make your family “different” or not “normal” glare at you like a spotlight.

Tonight I sat in a darkened corner. In all fairness, the whole room was dark but when you’re in a corner it feels a little darker. I was in a room full of activity, full of people, yet I felt completely alone. The call for people to come forward, to find freedom in the moment actually didn’t apply to me. As I sat next to my sweet boy, lost in the world of whatever movie he was watching, I was more concerned that in this reverent moment he wouldn’t squeal or scream at the characters on the screen. In fact, as I tried to get into the atmosphere of prayer what I really silently prayed was that my son wouldn’t be a distraction.

All around me prayer and worship occurred yet I was not a part of it…at all. In my darkened corner I simply sat. Alone with my own thoughts, my own prayers, and an occasional kiss from my handsome companion, who was blissfully unaware of what was really happening around him. The spotlight glared and I was once again reminded that autism can often leave you feeling alone in crowd.

As I began to frantically journal my own prayers…I too became oblivious to the events of the room I was in. My focus rested solely on God.

I hear you whisper underneath your breath…I hear your SOS, your SOS ~ Lauren Daigle

As I prayed God reminded me that I am not the only who is living in the struggle. All around me are people fighting a battle…living every day feeling all alone in a sea of people. People who feel the tension of never being able to find freedom because of whatever struggle or burden is hanging around their neck like a noose…attempting to suck the life right out of them at any given moment.

Turning to God’s Word, as I often do when my heart is troubled, I began to read the words of Psalm 138. The words of the Psalmist poured into my heart and enveloped me like the God hug that they were…

As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength…

The Lord will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

I will send out an army to find you. In the middle of the darkest night. It’s true, I will recuse you. I will never stop marching to reach you. In the middle of the hardest fight. It’s true, I will rescue you. ~ Lauren Daigle

In the darkened corner…

Where no one else sees or understands the full extent of the pain or the struggle…God sees us.

We are not hidden, forgotten, or forsaken. Our God sees us and He meets us in that place of loneliness and isolation…if we would only allow Him in.

He is the God who sees us. The God who can carry us above our circumstances and take us to a place of peace that transcends all understanding.

Tonight in a room full of people it was just me and God. He met me in the struggle and reminded me that I am never alone, He is always near. And while very few people I know understand the complexities and ache of being a parent of autism…God understands. It was Him in that moment reminding me that He is my strength.

The musings of this blog are to tell you that God sees you too. Somebody who will read these words needs to hear that truth right now. You are the reason I wrote this blog. God told me you needed to be reminded that you are not hidden…you have not been forgotten or forsaken. God sees you. He is your strength and your protection. Trust Him! He has not abandoned you…

In the darkest night and in the middle of the toughest fight…He WILL rescue you!!! Let go and trust Him.

 

 

 

Reverse the Question

I was so happy the kids were off of school today…

What a perfect opportunity to share with my kids the profound impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on our world. I was prepared for this incredible teachable moment…a chance to tell my kids when we use our voices for good and the betterment of all people we really can make a difference.

Oh wait, that’s just what I think all the perfect Pinterest mom’s do on MLK Day. I was just happy my kids were off of school today so this mama could SLEEP IN!!! It has been a long weekend and I am exhausted. I know I can’t be the only one out there that feels this way…and if I am, oh well, now you know my secret. Don’t judge me cause I’m tired and I won’t judge you for having your act together.

Why don’t we have emoji’s for blogs?!?! How does one detect humor or sarcasm without them?! #21stcenturyproblem

Sorry, back from my rabbit trail. Without fail, every morning I have the potential to sleep in…I DON’T!!! This morning was no different. At 4:45am my eyes popped open and even worse my mind started racing. Words floating around in my head. More and more words. I felt like the manic Mozart I once saw in the movie Amadeus. The sounds of melodies and instruments swimming in his head over and over again until the music took over his very mind and it drove him to this frantic moment of putting all the notes down on paper, lest he forget.

Now, I am no Mozart. Comparing myself to his musical genius is not the point of the illustration. It was that manic feeling I could relate to. As my brain raced with this disorganized collection of words and thoughts, I began to think about the reason I was lying in bed with no rush to get up. I began to think about the life and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Began to wonder what he would think about the current state of our country; the divisiveness, the hatred expressed, the lack of open and respectful dialogue between parties that do not fundamentally agree on issues and topics, the racial tension, the war on gender, the list goes on and on.

Who is my neighbor?  ~ Luke 10:29

The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Arguably one of the most famous parables Jesus ever told. Truth be told you don’t even have to follow Jesus or even like Him for that matter, but I bet you have some kind of understanding of this parable. The Jewish man brutally beaten on the side of a dangerous road. Both a priest and Levite, the man’s own people, leave him dying there. Yet, along comes this Samaritan man and he not only gives the man aide, but he brings him to shelter and pays for his recovery. The most extraordinary detail of this whole story is the two men’s nationalities. A Jewish man dying on the side of the road receiving so much more that just help from a Samaritan stranger. Why is the detail so fascinating…so mindblowing?!?! Because the Jews and the Samaritan’s HATED each other. Yet, here we witness one of the most generous acts of love and kindness and it is all demonstrated by a man whose heart should have been hardened by the hatred he was conditioned to have toward another human being just because of their differences.

What is even more interesting about the Parable of the Good Samaritan is the interaction that Jesus has with a Jewish lawyer right before he tells the parable…

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

~ Luke 10: 25-29

Luke tells us the man who is talking to Jesus is an expert in Jewish law. Which actually means he knows the answers to his own questions. He essentially testing Jesus…waiting to see what He would say. The lawyer knew that in a nutshell the law was concerned with two things…our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Do you love God? Do you love others?

Now our lawyer friend is a bit arrogant. He doesn’t even ask Jesus how he should love God, he just assumes that he does because he follows the law. However, he does ask Jesus who his neighbor is. But he’s not asking because he’s clueless and sincerely wants to know.  He already knows who is neighbors are…they are other Jews. The Jewish community had very strict mandates in their law about how they should care for one another. So the parable of the Good Samaritan would have absolutely blown the lawyer’s mind.

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Levite (temple assistant) walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

~ Luke 10: 30-37

This parable would have absolutely shocked the Jewish lawyer. Why? Well, because according to the law that he was an expert in, both the priest and Levite were obligated to take care of the dying man on the side of the road. He was one of their own and the law of Moses required them to care for him. But they didn’t…they just left them him there. Now along comes a hated Samaritan and he is the one that shows the man the love, compassion, and the care a neighbor would. And at this point our Jewish lawyer’s jaw has hit the ground. Everything he knows has been flipped upside down.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question and asked, ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The parable of the Good Samaritan was one of the most radical stories Jesus would tell. Because what Jesus did through this parable was redefine what a neighbor was. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves He is not merely speaking about the people who look like us, and think like us, and live like us, and vote like us. Jesus is saying He expects us to love EVERYBODY…even the people who do not look like us, think like us, live like us, and vote like us. Why is this Jesus’ expectation? Because He loves EVERYBODY…He died for the salvation of EVERYBODY!!! If we are going to obey His command to love our neighbors as ourselves then we must submit to the authority of His definition of what a neighbor is.

If we profess to be followers of Jesus Christ then our hearts should be conditioned toward love, not hate. The mission of our lives should be to increase the Light not the darkness.

Months ago as I prepared a sermon on the Good Samaritan I came across Dr. Martin Luther King Jr giving a speech where he referenced Jesus’ teaching of the this parable. It was in this very speech that I heard Dr. King speak boldly that the good Samaritan “reversed the question.” Instead of being concerned about what would happen to him if he stopped to help the dying man, his greater concern was for what would happen to the man if he didn’t stop to help him. It is amazing what can happen when we switch the emphasis off ourselves and shift it to love others.

I believe that was the heartbeat of Dr. King’s messages. His desire of equality and peace were birthed out of a strong conviction that we are all neighbors. Race, gender, creed, sexual preference, nationality, etc. does not negate or disqualify anyone from being our neighbors. What Dr. King challenged us all to do was walk in the truth of Jesus’ words. To imitate our Savior and increase His light in a world full of darkness.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3: 26-28

The words of the Apostle Paul reminds me that the change we all wish to see in our world must begin with the people of God. The hope of the world rests in us because we are the lightbearers of Jesus Christ. So as we love another through all the things that make us different, may we also love those in the world so that they too may come to know the love of our Savior.

On a day when we celebrate the life, the work, and the legacy of a man who did so much to create a world where equality is not just a dream but a reality, I would challenge us all to reverse the question. Instead of asking what will happen to me if I love my neighbor as myself? We must ask ourselves what will happen to our world if we don’t.

 

In and Out of Time

The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance…
our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

We have loved each other in and out of time.

When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun
and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor
I had always loved you more.
You freed your braids…
gave your hair to the breeze.
It hummed like a hive of honey bees.
I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there….
Mmmm…God how I love your hair.

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance.
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…

The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out
in and out
in and out
of time.

Maya Angelou

Love. So simple, so pure, yet so complex and complicated. Four little letters strung together. They have the ability to hold all the treasures of the universe. Yet, they hold the power to destroy the human heart. That is the great paradox of love. While it is a many splendor thing, it does indeed hurt.

When you love so deeply you run the greatest risk for heartache. Which puts us all face to face with a very important question. Would you trade away the chance to love to protect your heart from ever experiencing pain?

The beauty of writing is the art of editing. You can change what you don’t like. The word “delete” has the ability to erase the pain of any given character with a single click. If only life where that easy.

To love gives you no option for delete. You cannot erase the ties of the heart and soul. So when love leaves you, the heart aches in unfathomable ways.

I loved you in and out of time.

Can we ever know what it truly means to love in time and out of time? I am not sure I could have answered that question 12 years ago. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have pondered that question 12 years ago. But then something happens…a moment…the universe flips and everything you know to be true and right and good comes crashing in around you. The moment that death steals the beauty of love right from your grasp.

11 years ago today…how quickly time escapes us. 11 years have gone by since I have held my sweet, precious Francesca. Her baby coos and baby smell where the very essence of love wrapped in a head of brown hair, big grey eyes, and the completeness of our joy. I loved her in time.

But on an eerily warm January day 11 years ago love was snatched out of my hands. As the mourning and weeping began I had no idea I had just been placed on a journey that would teach me the beauty of loving in AND out of time.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:13-16

I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

We have loved each other in and out of time.

Oh, how we so desperately want to ascribe every feeling those eloquent words evoke to love in the human realm. And quite honestly, that may have very well been Maya Angelou’s intent when she placed those words on a page for the very first time. But this morning as I stumbled across this poem, one that I had read years ago and forgotten about, I was reminded of the beauty of the relationship all of creation has the privilege to have with Almighty God.

God is the author of love…He is love. It is in His very character, His very nature, in every nuance of His very presence that a human soul discovers the fullness of loving in and out of time.

I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.

Ahhhh…do you see it. From the moment God began to knit us together in our mother’s wombs, we were His to have. And from that very moment He was always ours.

With our first cries on this earth we begin our journey home to the One who loved us in and out of time. To the One who created everything we see with us in mind. To the One who knows our name and knows every hair on our head. To the One who would sacrifice Himself…the One who would suffer the greatest loss…the One who knows that greatest amount of agony brought by the hands of love…because He loved us in and out time.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 7

This morning when I woke up thinking about my sweet baby girl Francesca, I felt a blog stirring in me. However, the words that you are reading are nothing like the thoughts I was pondering. I guess that will be a different blog for a different time. This afternoon what God has pressed upon me is that life is a gift, no matter how short. Our 78 days with Francesca are days I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Which means that love is always worth the risk of agony we may endure to experience it.

How is it possible to come to terms with such soul crushing grief? How is it possible to thrive after the storm has beaten you up, the valley has left  you wounded, and the wilderness has you panting with thirst as you wander? I almost cringe being so simplistic…but the answer really is this simple…JESUS!!!

Nobody has ever risked more to love you than Jesus. Nobody has ever sacrificed more for you to know love than Jesus. And NO ONE and NOTHING will ever carry you through the heartache of lost love like Jesus, because He understands it better than anyone ever has. He has loved you in and out of time. You were always His and He is always yours…if you want Him. But even if you don’t want Him…He never gives up pursuing you. You were on His mind at the beginning of time as we know it and He has never lost sight of you…not even for a second.

To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory. ~ Isaiah 61:3

11 years after her physical presence left this earth I still feel Francesca’s presence in my life…every day. She is in the very fabric of our family. She is the thread that God has used to create this beautiful tapestry that is our life.

The road is often difficult…

You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance.
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…

However, as heartbreaking as the nightmare can be, it often dissipates into a new beginning. A new beginning that would have never been realized without the ashes of the pain. When we allow God to meet us in the heartache…He changes our nightmares to dreams as He so carefully, so gently, and so lovingly binds up our wounds and heals our broken hearts.

Though this journey is one I would have never chosen for myself, today I see so clearly how it has shown me the glory of my God. Glory that I would have remained blinded to on a different road. Through the heartache and the pain God gave me exponentially more of Himself. And the greatest of all His gifts is that He taught me how to love…in and out of time.

Dedicated to my precious Francesca Isabella. Mommy loves you forever beautiful girl xoxo

October 23, 2007 ~ January 7, 2008

Becoming…

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A new year has dawned and with it comes all of our goals and best intentions to make this year better than the last. It’s funny, a few months back a CD, as in compact disc, surfaced at work. The artist is one that many of you don’t know, but he is a good friend of mine, in fact he’s the worship pastor at the church where I am on staff. This CD had the 1990’s written all over it. I mean down to the Structure suit Jon wore in the cover shot. For those of you not alive in the 90’s, Structure was a popular men’s store back in the day. The title of the CD was Becoming and for weeks after discovering it we teased him. Had he become?  Was he still becoming? That’s what happens when you work with people you truly love…you tease each other like you would a sibling…without mercy.

However, as silly and trivial as that all seemed at the time, the word “becoming” is one that I haven’t quite shaken. Maybe it’s because at 42 I feel like I finally understand that life is one long journey of becoming. Becoming who you are…becoming who you were meant to be…becoming the totality of every experience you have this side of heaven. Perfectly and wonderfully created for this moment right now. The past is the stepping-stones and the lessons learned to uniquely equip you for the challenges and triumphs of the day. The future is what you are currently being prepared to walk into. With that truth I realize that there will never be a point where we will actually become. Never will we reach the pinnacle of what we are meant to be. As long as we draw breath, we are still becoming. We are like clay in the Potter’s hands. Which means that in every season of life He molds and shapes us. In every season we continue to become what we were meant to be…right here…right now.

There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender ~ Oswald Chambers

The older I get the harder New Year’s has become. When I was a little girl my mom always cried as one year slipped into the next. In my childish mind I couldn’t understand why. As an adult, I see things more clearly. There is a certain ache for the things that have gone, the pains endured, the good byes that were said, and the joys that have become memories. It is in the closing of a year that one must assess the dreams that slipped away while leaving room for new dreams to come alive. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Truth be told… sometimes… I find myself wanting to hunker down in my bed, depression creeping in, as I wallow in what is gone and what will never be again.

Indeed, for a few days I did allow myself to wallow…

Then I did the only thing that made sense in that moment…I prayed!!!

In my prayers I reflected on my word for 2018, “choice”

Did I make good choices? Did the year play out the way I expected or wanted it to? Does it ever, really? What choices mattered most? Which ones would I like a do over on?”

These are the ramblings of my own mind as my thoughts hit the pages of my journal…

“In the end “choice” is a funny word. What have I learned? Choice is a word that suggests control. And while it is a choice to practice self-control…at the end of the day 2018 taught me…yet, again…that there is very little I actually control and the only choice that really matters is the one to honor God…to walk in step with Jesus…to be fully surrendered in all that I do. Once that choice is made…everything else falls into place…regardless of how the year actually turns out.”

And out of those reflections birthed my word for 2019…SURRENDER.

Every goal, every dream, every hope for this coming year rests in my yearning to become more surrendered to God in every area of my life; mind, body, and soul

Everyone on earth is carrying an unseen history, and that alone deserves tolerance ~ Michelle Obama

I could give you a whole list of my goals for 2019 but why bore you and why put myself out there for public accountability. Let’s keep it real people, you know I’m going to let at least one of these goals fall to the wasteside. There I said it…now in next year’s blog I can own it.

But here is one I will share with you. I have set a goal to read at least one biography a month. Odd goal? To some, probably. However, as I spent time with God dreaming about 2019 the one thing He clearly laid upon my heart was people. To be more intentional, but not just with people I know or people who are like me…but to open my eyes to the world of people all around me. To open my heart and my mind to see people as God sees them. To hear people’s stories for a greater understanding of why they think the way they do or live as they have chosen to live. God has reminded me over and over again that I cannot speak into the lives of people who I have never even bothered to hear or tried to understand. He has reminded me that in the differences of humanity come the beautiful tapestry of all whom God loves…all whom Jesus died for. How can I ever declare that truth, if I never stop to listen to the story of the human experience beyond the comfort of what I have always known.

So I find myself sitting here. Next to me is a book that just a few months ago I would have never considered reading. Becoming, by our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, is my first book of 2019. For those who know me…pick your jaws up off the ground…I promise the shock will wear off. For beyond what you know or what you think you know there is always a back story, a greater understanding of why. What I have discovered in the first six chapters is that there is a compelling story behind every person, ones we admire and those we don’t. I was never a huge fan of President Obama. Politically, he doesn’t align with my beliefs on most topics and quite honestly, neither does his wife. Yet, I read this book not to dispute political ideology but to understand the humanity behind the position held. To learn about the experiences that molded and shaped our former First Lady into the woman she is becoming. I am sure as I read there will be things said that I will cringe at and vehemently disagree with. But I have also discovered there are things I have a new-found respect for. Michelle Obama is an incredibly intelligent woman who, much like myself, keeps it real and that is a common ground that I can respect in anyone. But the greater gift is being able to see someone through a different lens. A lens bent toward empathy rather than divisiveness.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the new year ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever your word for 2019 is, whatever your goals or dreams may be…may we all be reminded that a New Year is birthed with new opportunity to continue to become exactly who you were created to be in such a time as this. The past does not define you…it was merely the training ground for all that you are meant to do in this season. The future has yet to be written…the circumstances and choices of today will prepare you for all that lies ahead. My choice today and every day will be to surrender my past, my present, and my future to Almighty God and allow Him to author a greater story than I could have ever written on my own. Becoming all that He desires me to be for His kingdom and His glory.

Happy New Year and Godspeed

xoxo

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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?