You Are Not Hidden

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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.

 

 

 

Echoes From The Heart

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

The price was high because the love was so deep…

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

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

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

The price was high because the love was so deep…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The price was high because the love was so deep…

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

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

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

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

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

My Golden

“Let yourself be seen. Love with your whole heart. Practice gratitude. Lean into joy. Believe you are enough.” ~ Brene Brown

It is the eve of my 4oth birthday and I find myself in a reflective mood. Over the last several days precious sisters in Christ have been showering me with love and thoughtful gifts that represent me and this milestone birthday. It has been a humbling and overwhelming experience that today left me in tears. Tears of feeling so undeserving and tears of gratitude that I get to call some of the most amazing ladies on the planet my friends. Tonight I sit back in awe as I reflect on just the last decade…not a single one of these ladies who have showered me with so much love have known me longer than 10 years. Yet, in the time since we have met these ladies have journeyed alongside me through my son’s autism, the death of my precious daughter, confessing my biggest fears and the road to conquering them, going back to school, and walking in the calling God has placed on my life. They have seen me on the mountain top and they have laid in bed beside me as I have wept. They have celebrated my victories and they held me up when the heartbreak brought me to my knees…sometimes all they could do is simply kneel beside me with a prayer on their lips and a soft soothing touch that remained until the wave of grief passed. They have championed me, encouraged me, challenged me to be stretched beyond my comfort zone, and they believed in me before I ever believed in myself. Some friendships have been years while others are newer but they are all precious in their own right. Over and over again each of these ladies have been the visible proof of my invisible God. They remind me that He is here…cheering me on…taking me places I never thought I could go. They say it takes a village to raise a child…well I say it takes a tribe to bring out the very best in us. The sisterhood in Christ is a strong and powerful force and I have been blessed with the most amazing sisters.

“The bread is so that you may never know hunger. The salt is so that your marriage will always have flavor. The wine is so you will always have something to celebrate.” ~ An Old Italian Wedding Blessing

This past weekend we celebrated my younger cousins marriage. I have to be honest, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not fiction. Omit Greek, insert Italian and it’s a documentary of my family. Sure we live up to the stereotypes: we talk too loud and with our hands, we have a flair for the dramatic, we have hot tempers, and yes we really do believe that Italians do everything better. But take away the comedic value and the over-the-top stereotypes and what remains is a beautiful truth…growing up in an Italian family has always given me a sense of belonging to something special. We are a tribe that stretches far and wide.  I have cousins who aren’t my cousins at all and most of my nieces and nephews are actually my cousins kids. Many people don’t even have a relationship with their first cousins while I know and have relationships with my third and fourth cousins. My aunts and uncles have been just as influential in my life as my own parents and my grandparents were always the center of our family. The greatest part of being Italian is that you always have a ready made cheering section. Rooted in love we always have each others back. As a child you always fall naturally into the patterns you have always known and rarely question it. As you grow into adulthood you begin to realize that not every family is like yours. Many family’s don’t kiss hello and goodbye, most people don’t eat seafood only on Christmas eve, prosciutto and salami are not staples in every house, and most people don’t eat Sunday dinner at 1:00. All these things make us unique…we hang onto the traditions that followed my grandparents to the new world as they left their home country behind because it keeps their story alive. The legacy of the immigrant experience for Italians is a strong sense of loyalty and family and I was reminded once again this weekend how blessed I am that their story is a part of my story.

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”

As I turn the page to begin a new chapter of my life I can’t help but feeling like the best is yet to come.  God is stripping away all the things that have held me back from walking in the fullness of the life promised through His Son. I finally realize that I am a beautiful blend of my earthly family and my family in Christ. The two are meant to compliment each other. Like a symphony, they work together in perfect harmony so that I can become all that God has created me to be. Over the last several days I have been reminded that we are not meant to journey this road alone…that was never God’s design. He has strategically placed people in our lives to share our lives with. An earthly family bound together in love through a shared experience, history, and traditions and a family in Christ where we can celebrate all that makes us unique while knowing that we are bound together by the deepest love we will ever know, the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Months ago I started reading the book Brazen by Leeana Tankersley. The premise of the book is to find the you hidden deep inside your soul.I found myself identifying so much with the author. Maybe it was because as she wrote and I as I read we both found ourselves at the doorstep of 40…a turning point…or as Lenny Kravitz sings “old enough to see behind me but young enough to feel my soul.” Or maybe it was simply that my soul was just longing for me to slow down long enough to pay attention to its hidden desires.

It was one night as I was having what the author calls “Soul Time” that I discovered one chapter was ending and another was about to begin. The words flowed out of me and I closed my journal ready to embrace the new. Over the last several months I have thought about my late night “Soul Time” revelation but I never went back to read the words…until tonight.

Soul Time entry April 1, 2016

I sit at the dawn of a new era in my life. An era marked by the battle wounds and scars from times that have passed.

Sweet memories come with me and heartaches etched deep in the fabric of who I am becoming.

All things old have value in creating what will be…the new birth…the new life.

The old is woven with the new and the tapestry dances with the vibrancy of all the colors.

The contrast of the dark with the beauty of the light.

It all comes alive as God begins a new work in me.

The season of my golden begins…

In Between the Dark and the Light

I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight, with a million stars all around. ~ Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles

 The hour is early and the world around me slumbers. Well some of it does…as I look below I see a city that never sleeps, dimmed but never completely shut off. The black begins to fade into a beautiful shade of bluish gray as the rising sun ends the night with splashes of red, orange and yellow off in the east. The setting…the desert. The sun begins to greet the new day behind a set of mountains and it takes my breath away. The beauty of God’s majesty leaves me in awe and wonder. As the spectrum of colors increase across the sky I am reminded that our God is a Creator and the evidence of His creativity is all around us. DaVinci, Michelangelo, Monet…where does artistic ability like that come from? It comes from being created in the image of our Creator God, who is Himself the ultimate artist. Take a moment to watch the sun kiss the sky at dawn and I think you would agree with me.

I’m really not a desert person, too brown. I am palm tree and water kinda girl. But as I hiked the Red Rock Canyon yesterday I felt something deep within me stir. I have always thought the ocean is the greatest representation of the vastness of God, an earthly illustration of His power and majesty. I seek the shoreline for the peace and serenity of God…I always feel closest to Him there. However, yesterday the grandeur of the rock formations…the hues of red and yellow, mixed with brown and green left me in awe of God’s creative hand. I breathed in the air of an untamed corner of the desert that allows us in for a mere glimpse of God’s handiwork. A chance to walk within the masterpiece He has created. I’d love to tell you that I had some deep spiritual thought in that moment, but I didn’t. As I soaked it all in the soundtrack of the Eagles greatest hits played in my head and in that moment I felt connected to the songwriter because I truly understood what a peaceful, easy feeling was.

Life springs eternal on a gaudy, neon street… ~ Leaving Las Vegas by Sheryl Crow

 
Las Vegas is such a dichotomy…utter darkness in the midst of the brightest light, and I am not talking about casino lights. The sun shines brighter here and the sky actually seems bluer. A blue so vibrant it makes you feel like you just entered paradise while all around you are overwhelmed by the sin city welcome caravan that meets you at every turn. It’s hard to believe that the beautiful canyon I hiked is in the same place. 

As I walked the strip last night I began to soak it all in. The lady with her Louis Vuitton bag strutting by the homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The young girl screaming for attention through the outfit she has chosen to wear to the club. The beautiful bride and groom stopping for pictures in front of dancing fountains. The mom and dad with the baby in the stroller and the toddler holding their hand as if they had stumbled upon Disneyland. The man shouting to my husband and I to go to a strip club together because “couples who play together stay together” …who knew?!?! The levitating man that left me chilled to my very soul. The men holding signs screaming at people that the end is near, hell is real, and Jesus saves. All night long I saw the pendulum swing…the opulence and the poverty, the innocent and the jaded, the dark and the light. 

Desperado why don’t you come to your senses? ~ Desperado by the Eagles

The haunting piano begins to play and the first words are sung…you hear a plea, a cry of desperation. Desperado why don’t you come to your senses? Why such angst? Because prison is truly walking through this world all alone.

As a sat here this morning sorting and processing the heavy heart that went to bed with last night, wondering what on earth I was doing here, God gave me fresh perspective. He reminded me of two things.

1) Even His children have a tendency to walk through this world as desperado’s. When we chose our will and our agenda before His. When we make the plan and hope that God is on board. When we take up idols, holding tightly to the things that consume our thoughts and lives more than He does. Knowing the fullness of truth yet the distractions, the busyness, and the lure of self still pulls us into back into the prison of shutting God out. All the while He cries “why don’t you come to your senses?”
2) Every person I encountered last night is an image bearer of God…they are hurting, they are broken, they are searching for love and meaning. God highlighted that if His own children have a tendency to revert back to being desperados yet He still showers us with love and grace…then how much love and grace should I have for the nameless faces I encountered yesterday. The very people that God’s heart aches for because they too are His beloved creation but walking through this world all alone.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. ~ John 1:5

How easy it would be for me to say as a child of God I do not belong in a place like Las Vegas. But how wrong I would be. The reality is that every city is sin city. The only difference is that Las Vegas showcases what we ignore or turn blind eye to in our own communities. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas…it happens all around us. Sure it doesn’t have the bright lights and showgirls to amp it up but don’t ever be deceived into thinking it’s not happening.

God reminded me this morning that I have two options. I can be a Pharisee and sit in judgment of everyone and everything around me. Closing myself off to be with people who are only like me and obey God in the way I believe they should. Or, I can be like Jesus, my Savior. God here on earth befriending the prostitutes and thieves alike. The very people that the Pharisees would have never bothered with Jesus sought out. The very people who were alone and empty…Jesus showed them compassion and kindness, love and grace.

The world is dirty and messy; I didn’t need to come to Las Vegas to know that. But what Las Vegas has taught me is that blatant brokenness hurts my heart. But God reminded me this morning that the hidden brokenness should break my heart too…the brokenness that is not so obvious, the behind closed doors kind. Las Vegas has rekindled in me a passion for the lost…for those who wander through this world all alone, disconnected from the love of God because those people are everywhere.

In the dichotomy of Las Vegas, I was reminded of the importance of light amidst the darkness. If you light a lamp in a well-lit room all you have done is made a bright room even brighter. But if you step out of your comfort zone and light a lamp in a room that is completely dark then you give those in the room the gift of sight. As a Christ follower I have the privilege and the awesome responsibility to be agent of light. Las Vegas has reminded me to never squander that gift.

 
 
 
 
 

  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

 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Everybody in the house has scattered…

Light sabers have been shut down while my boys have drifted off into their own little places to enjoy the latest toy or gadget that has their attention, all while Daddy has a little cat nap to rest up for the next round of Christmas that will rapidly arrive this afternoon.  I sit in the quiet aftermath of it all…torn paper and scattered tissue…the sure sign that it was an eventful morning in our house.  In my few moments of relaxed silence I find my mind drifting.  I cannot help but think about how on this day of celebration…when our attention is splintered in a million different directions…that there is one central point of focus…Jesus Christ.

Strip away all the hustle, all the bustle, all the excess, and at the heart of Christmas is this amazing story of love.  Might this thought be repetitive of my last posting?  Possibly, but so worth repeating.  In the wandering of my mind God keeps calling me back to a simple truth, this season of gayety and festivity for many is also a season of sorrow and heartache for many more.  This thought has followed me through this Christmas season…it reminds me how fragile we really are.  The widows weep, a parent’s heart breaks, a child longs for the touch of a mother who is no longer here to soothe the ache.  The disparity of disease touches the heart of a family, unemployment makes the season a glaring reminder of all that has gone wrong, abuse and brokenness ravage the victims in its path.  The unrest of the world leaves us weary and burdened.  Those who long for justice and those who seek to protect us from harm are at odds, we seem to be a nation divided on rights, freedom, morals, justice, and politics.  We ache and long for hope…

“So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

Circumstances…they are ever-changing but God NEVER changes.  He is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be tomorrow.  Regardless of where we find ourselves this Christmas day or how much the world seems to spinning out of control the one thing that remains…on this day love came down.  The story of God collides in the heavenly explosion with the human experience in stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Fully God, fully human Jesus Christ lays as a baby in a manager to demonstrate to the world how much God, the Father, loves us.  His mission is actually quite simple…He is here to die.  To make right the wrong of sin so that we can be reconciled with the Father who loves us so deeply, so irreversibly that He will do anything to save us…including sacrificing His Son.  In the birth of Jesus Christ God cries to His people….”Do not be afraid, I am with you.”  Through His Son, His peace which surpasses all understanding helps us to rise above the worries and the troubles of this life so that we can rest in the hope that springs eternal.

“Whom Shall I Fear?  I know Who goes before me.  I know Who stands behind.  The God of angel armies is always by my side.  The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of my mine.  The God of angel of armies is always by my side.’ ~ Chris Tomlin

The beauty of the Christmas gift is not a perfect life.  No, the beauty of the Jesus Christ is love.  Through Him God demonstrates love and in Him we have witnessed perfect love.  His grace and love flows unto us and as we accept this precious gift of love it should pour out of us unto others.  Grace and love…those are the truest Christmas gifts one will ever receive.  They are gifts that should reside in us always and will remain through eternity.

“And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

As we celebrate today I cannot help but be mindful of those who will struggle this Christmas.  I remember our first Christmas after the diagnosis…I remember the first Christmas after losing our daughter.  There is a gaping whole in your heart and you ache in the paradox of emotions that the season brings.  Like a pendulum your emotions swing back and forth.  But it was in the quiet moments that I let the gift of Christmas soothe my aching soul.  The gift of God’s love coming down showed me beauty…regardless of my circumstances His love never changes.  He is always by my side.  He goes before for me, He stands behind me, and sometimes He even has to carry me but He is always there.  This precious gift born on Christmas morning…do you know how much His presence can radically transform your life?  When we walk in His love the burden of this aching world is soothed by the One who will reign over it forever.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” ~ O  Holy Night

My Christmas wish is that the love and grace of Jesus Christ will reign over our world.  Not the Jesus you think you know from sound bites, not the Jesus that religion told you about…the TRUE Jesus…Christ the new-born king.  The One who came in love to shower the grace of God unto all men.  The One who came to ease our burdens, calm our fears, soothe our aching hearts.  The One whom salvation is found and the hope of eternity rests in.  How we rejoice when we know that the troubles of this life are temporary and that God can and will use all circumstances for good and His glory.  How our world might change if we all loved the way the baby in the manager that we celebrate today did.  Today He holds the weak, the lonely, the burdened, and the heartbroken close to Him and He cries to us, His people, to be His light and His love to a world that so desperately needs Him.  My Christmas wish is that we would all honor the day that God’s love came down to earth by being the people who God has created us to be…by being the people who the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, empowers us to be.  My Christmas wish is that all those who are burdened and troubled will find rest and healing in the One that loves us so much that He sent His One and only Son to reconcile us to Him.  For He is love and His great love for us is demonstrated through His Son, Jesus Christ.  May the weary world rejoice today knowing that the love of God is still active, still present, all-consuming, and never-ceasing.  There is no greater gift than that.

Merry Christmas!

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

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“The best part of the day…When you and me become We” ~ Winnie the Pooh

I am thinker.  As I sit down and write a blog I often think through my words very carefully, over and over again.  But some days a post is just meant to be simple.  The message is simple, the thought not complicated, just a simple truth.  The picture for this post is like so many we have seen; a young couple embarking on the journey of marriage.  In a wedding picture you see love, adoration, a deep connection…we see a “happily ever after” beginning before our very eyes.  The romantic in us gushes at all the blissful implications of the wedding photo.  From this moment our happy little couple will go on a fabulous honeymoon, buy a house with a white picket fence, have beautiful babies, and they will all grow to be successful and happy.  Ahhhhh…that is exactly how it will go…right?!?!

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps nor record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth, It always protects, always, trusts, always hopes, always, perseveres.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Fourteen years ago this picture was taken.  A dreamy-eyed 24-year-old girl married her 26-year-old Prince Charming.   As the danced together so close they dreamed of what their future would hold.  The sky was the limit and they were ready to soar to the top…together!  They were on the fast track to their happily ever after and nothing could stop them.  How could they have ever known that the future they envisioned and the reality that lay ahead would meet like two cars in a head on collision.

It happens to every marriage.  The moment when the fairytale imagined up by the Grimm Brothers, Walt Disney, and Hollywood movie producers meet face to face with the reality called life.  It usually doesn’t take a couple long to realize that marriage is hard…really hard.  It requires a lot of patience, forgiveness, grace, understanding, compromise, and the list goes on and on.  In fact as you begin to realize the full complexity of marriage you begin to understand why so many couples who have just longed for a fairytale end up in divorce court…marriage turns out to be way more complicated than what they signed up for.  All they wanted was a happily ever after and what they got was a lot of hard work.  Marriage is, in fact, the greatest example of why something created and ordained by God should never be rewritten by man.  Man inevitably screws it up and creates it be something God never intended.

Seven and half years into our marriage Matt and I had completely lost any ounce of the illusion called fairytale left in us.  In less than a decade our marriage had dealt with unemployment, an autism diagnosis, and the death of a child.  Now before you go and feel all bad for us…don’t…there were a lot of amazing things that happened in that action packed seven and half years too.  God blessed us with three beautiful children, we had been blessed with a home, Matt found some great employment opportunities, but most of all we truly discovered what it meant to be dependent on God.  You see in that first seven and half years of our marriage while the illusion of fairytale combusted God’s intent for our marriage, the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, came alive.  We began to understand that our marriage was so much bigger than us falling in love and choosing each other; in fact we didn’t choose each other at all, God had brought us together. Our life together is so much more than a happily ever after; our life together is about fulfilling the mission and purpose that God ordained for us long before we ever even knew “Matt and Nikki” existed.  How beautifully the Apostle Paul articulates the message of love in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  You see it always comes back to the fact that God is love and when we love God, His love abounds and comes alive in us and in our marriage.  God designed love to be patient and kind, not to be arrogant or prideful, to be shared and not hoarded, to be giving and not selfish, to have a heart of praise when life is going great and the strength to persevere when soul crushing heartbreak threatens to take you down.  God has given us everything we need to succeed in our life together.  He has given us everything we need, not so that we can just have a mere happily ever after; no God thinks much bigger than that, God gives us everything we need to have a joy and a peace in our marriage that surpasses all understanding.  And the greatest gift is knowing that our joy is never dependent on our circumstances but always present because of God’s place in our lives.

“Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Today its been fourteen years since the picture on this post was taken.  Fourteen years full of happiness and heartbreak, ups and downs, mountain tops and valley’s and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  There is not a single moment of my life as Mrs. Matt Catherincchia that I would trade for the world.  It is as his wife that I discovered everything that matters most…true love.  Love for my Savior, love for my husband, love for my children, and love for all those around me.  It is as his wife that God has given me my true purpose in this life, my true ministry and together we will travel down the road ahead.  Whatever is in store good, bad, happy or sad; the next chapter will better than the last because God has ordained our union for something far greater than happily ever after, God has ordained our union for a purpose that will be everlasting.

A picture does tell a thousand words.  It shows a connection, it shows bond.  It illustrates a union created by the very One who is love.  It highlights love that endures regardless of circumstances because it has been woven together by the Savior and lover of our souls.  It shows two very flawed people who have been brought together by a perfect God to live out a mission far greater than themselves and in accepting that mission God has given us the sweetest most sacred love for each other.  This picture shows the world the love of my life fourteen years ago, today, and always.

I Love You Matt!  Happy Anniversary.

Keeping it Real…Bonus Thought

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In light of yesterday’s post, I needed to share my devotion from this morning. As I opened the page and discovered this passage my heart was checked and then it soared. My God has seen my struggle and He pours His truth into me. He reminds me of who He is and who He has created me to be. We all long to know the purpose for our lives. The simplicity of this devotion reveals what our hearts long to know; we were created to glorify and serve Him. It’s not about our agendas or others people’s expectations; quite simply it is all about HIM!!
My greatest desire with this blog is to be authentic and transparent about my journey. I want to keep it real. This morning I was once again reminded that as long as I remain in Him it is impossible to be anything other than real. For our God is the most real and authentic part of who we are and who we will become.
If you are looking for a great devotional I highly recommend Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Each day brings a new nugget of wisdom and truth that reminds me continually that our God is good, He is faithful, and His grace showers down upon us. Each morning brings a new opportunity to see the beauty of His handprint all around us. We just need to open our eyes and our hearts to Him. Can you think of a more beautiful way to start your day than at the feet of Jesus? I know I can’t. He always knows exactly what we need for the journey that lays ahead.