Silence

I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me. ~ Albert Einstein

For the last several years, as a new year dawns, I ask God to give me a word. A word that will govern the coming year for me.  Over the years words like, “trust”, “surrender”, and even “choice” have been noted in my journal. Usually, the word will come to me in late December and or early January, but what is most remarkable is how these words take shape in my life throughout the year. This practice always reminds me that God sees what we do not.

“Silence”

Yes, “silence.” That is my word for 2020.

January 2, 2020

I sometimes wonder if this will be the decade of silence for me…What does silent introspection look like for me? I am such an out loud processor that I am not sure. Yet, I find myself craving more silence.

January seems like years rather than months ago. As I reflect on my journal entries…just 20 weeks old…I am astounded at how God was preparing me for this season.

January 8, 2020

My life is loud…my words are often many…but I need silence. Like a desert thirsts for rain, my soul thirsts for silence.

When God gave me this word for 2020 I obviously had no clue what was about to unfold, but I did know that I would find Him in greater ways in the silence.

Everything we hear is an opinion. Not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. ~ Marcus Aurelius

I have stayed relatively silent throughout the current situation we find ourselves in. Of course, I have had conversations with family and my closest friends, but publicly I have said very little. Opinions flow freely…why litter the already overcrowded pool with yet, another one. However, silence is not a reflection of a lack of an opinion…but rather the pondering of what to do with one’s opinion.

Yesterday we had a small gathering at our house; only 10 people for those who are counting. It was truly one of the most “normal” things we have done in weeks. As I sat in my kitchen with my aunt and my cousins I had a very unguarded conversation. In that moment I let many of the things that I have been pondering over for weeks flow freely. This morning as I awoke before the dawn the conversation played over and over again in my mind. I’m not sure if anything I said even made sense. But what I do know is that in the silence I have wrestled with two things in this season and they both poured out of me yesterday.

  1. What is God trying to teach us?
  2. What does it mean to truly live a faith over fear lifestyle?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

No shame in my game…I’m an extrovert…and a proud American. Therefore, I would be lying to you if I said I have always counted the “Shelter in Place” order a joy. We are the land of the free, we are not conditioned to be told to stay home for weeks with a goal line in reach only to have it adjusted and moved further away, several times. I have learned in this season that if you give me a clear “why”, my rule follower nature will come out strong. But, if the “why” is fuzzy or completely absent, a spirit of rebellion begins to rise up in me.

In this season, more than any other, I have had to wrestle with faith and politics. I have tried the reconcile Nikki, the Christ follower with Nikki, a person with political ideologies. What I have discovered; reconciling the two is easier said than done.

So what is God trying to teach me?

I think in every season God is teaching us something. In this season He has reminded me that His ways are not ours. He sees what we do not see and therefore He does what we would not do. My journal so far in 2020 has been so different than any other I have ever written, a dichotomy of thoughts. Questions and statements, introspection and reflections so all over the place, yet somehow there is a harmony to it all.

In my entries I wonder…a lot! Question after question. Yet, many center around the same thing, are we pleasing God? So many times I have wondered do we, as God’s people, fixate on things that do not actually matter to Him? Have we fallen into the same trap of the Pharisees and created God in our image rather than living in the fullness of being created in His? If we opened Scripture do we look like the people who set the world on fire for Jesus Christ or would Paul, Peter, John, and James scratch their heads wondering what in the world we are all doing?  Unfortunately, this is not the blog where I give you answers to these deeply complex questions. But rather a place that simply poses questions to ponder.

What I do know is that Jesus was never a political crusader. He never spoke against Rome, in fact He didn’t say much about Rome at all. And make no mistake, Rome was a pretty messed up place. The 21st century hasn’t cornered the market on sin and disobedience. Ancient Rome excelled at both as well. So as I wrestle with the political side of my personality I have spent much time in prayer asking God to check my spirit and attitude. Because a rebellious spirit, even if warranted, left unchecked can often leads to greater danger. One must always submit to the authority of God and allow Him to guide the steps that follow, whatever they may be. If I have learned anything in my walk with Jesus, it is that if God has called us to something, He will equip us for it. I have also learned that going rogue and then hoping God will bless it in the end is probably not the most prudent or prayerful approach.

All Scripture is inspired by God and useful to teach us what is true and make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Could this be a season of humbling and correction? I don’t know. But I do know I have spent more time on my knees praying prayers of confession and repentance than ever before in my life.  On behalf of myself, our country, our world, and yes, even the Church. The greatest sin of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day was pride. They thought they had it all figured out and in their arrogance they completely missed the Savior of the world right before their very eyes. Why? Because for Jesus to be right that would have meant they were wrong and their pride would have never allowed for that kind of admission.

I have found myself wondering if we suffer from a pride issue too? Pride of country, pride of political affiliation, pride of intellect, pride of academia, pride of doctrine? But please hear my heart, it’s not wrong to love our country, to have political allegiance, to trust science and learning, or to adhere to a certain theology. However, when those things become our fixation rather than Jesus we are diving into the dangerous end of the ocean. It is in this place that our need to be right and heard often overrules our obedience to being Christ’s ambassadors in our world.

Could it be the very thing that robs us of the peace that transcends all understanding and joy of simply being Christlike, is the fact that our pride often finds us living independent of God? We rely on ourselves, or our government, or our faith in human intellect when in fact, only God can prepare and equip us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-8

What does it mean to live a faith over fear lifestyle?

When Covid19 began to unfold back in March the future for so many of us was so very uncertain and in many ways, it still is. My husband’s job is heavily tied to the food and restaurant industry and therefore job security was not a premium as every single restaurant across America was forced to close. We watched as people he has worked with for years struggle to keep businesses afloat. Our hearts ached as business colleagues who had invested everything in a dream saw it turn into a nightmare over night. Doors of restaurants we know and love will never open again. And this is just one source of worry in this season.

We worry about health, mental and physical…

We worry about our children who have lost important social interactions and valuable education…

We worry about job loss…

We worry about the political climate; the lack or abuse of leadership depending on where you sit in all of this…

We turn on the TV and there it is. We open up social media and there it is. We listen to the radio and there it is. We have created a culture that has made fixating and obsessing about this situation so easy. We live in a time when the conflicting voices are so loud that confusion and chaos reign.

Yet, in the silence we find the remedy for it all. For in the silence is God.

Instead of fixating on the news and Facebook, Paul says in ALL things pray to God. However, I don’t think that Paul is talking about simply bringing a laundry list of things you want God to do for you. I think Paul is saying, silence the world and simply allow the voice of God to be the loudest one in your life. Silence the world and allow the Holy Spirit to be your guiding force. Silence the world, seek the face of God and as you do watch your worry dissolve into peace.

Peace is not found in a vaccine or a cure for Covid19. Peace is not found in a certain political party winning an election. Peace isn’t even found in “Freeing Michigan” (although, I would like to give it a shot…LOL). There is only one true source of peace and that is Jesus Christ. Only when we fully trust Him, only when we fully surrender to Him can we have this peace the Bible tells us about.

Last night I shared with my aunt and my cousins that for Matt and I, worry isn’t something that consumes us. Not because we are super strong people or not worriers by nature…that could not be further from the truth. By nature I am a hot mess, prone to anxiety and fear. However, the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of me helps to override the tendencies of the flesh. AND…and this is a really BIG “and”…God has proven His faithfulness to us, over and over again. Through our son’s autism and our daughter’s death…God has been proven that ALL of His promises are true. The inevitable is that this life will disappoint us and bad things can happen, but Matt and I are living proof that God can turn ashes into beautiful things. So, when the worry begins to creep in, I return to the well of God’s faithfulness and draw from it. Knowing with full confidence that no circumstance is bigger than my God. That is not said to diminish healthy concern, we should all do our due diligence and be wise. Nor is it to discredit or belittle very really worries that people have. It is simply said as an encouragement; a reminder that where we are weak God is strong and where we fall short He is more than able.

January 8, 2020

Find me in the silence…

Silence is not a reflection of a lack of an opinion…but rather the pondering of what to do with one’s opinion and whom to submit it to.

Silence is the space where we shut off the voices of the world and shut up the voices of our own opinions and emotions…it is the place where God speaks.

If your heart is weary or troubled; if you are consumed with worry and anxiety; if your anger rages because of the political climate of our country…

Can I encourage you this morning…in the silence…to simply be still and know God.

In all seasons, in all circumstances, with a grateful heart know that regardless of what changes around us, God NEVER changes. He is constant, He faithful and He is good…always. He sees what we do not see and therefore does what we would not do. His plan and His timing are perfect…always. When we are slow to speak and quick to listen for the voice of God, He will guide our steps and His peace will rule in our hearts. That is not opinion nor is it a perspective…it is simply the truth of the Gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy Comes In The Morning

tulips2020

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. ~ Helen Keller

It has been said that a cardinal is a representative of those we love that have passed away. When the bird appears, it means your loved one has come to see you…often when you need them or miss them the most. I must admit, I am not one to believe in such things. However, I do find it interesting that for the second year in a row, right before the anniversary of my daughter’s death, a cardinal made an appearance at my house.

This morning I awoke in a NyQuil haze, stumbling into the kitchen for my morning coffee…welcome to winter in the Midwest. As the aroma of freshly brewed java tickled my nose I began to perk up. At that moment a glance out my door wall stopped me dead in my tracks. Out of the corner of my eye the flicker of vibrant red caught my attention…then I saw it. The contrast of the bird’s beautiful feathers on the cold gray brick pavers stood out like the North Star in the black night sky. I must admit, in that brief moment, I thought, “just when I needed you most sweet girl.”

Tomorrow will be 12 years since my beautiful Francesca Isabella went home to be with Jesus. I can honestly say that 12 years later, the new year never gets easier. The loss looms at the dawn of every year as a beacon to remind me of how quickly life can change and how silly those 5 year and 10 year plans really are. Nothing is guaranteed and in an instant it can all change. You can plan til your hearts content but rarely does life play out like the fantastical narrative we create in our minds.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. ~ James 4:14

January 7, 2008 was an ordinary day in a new year. The day dawned with so much hope, so much possibility. As I wrote in my journal that morning I did so with so much confidence. Reflecting on a sermon I had heard the day before, I wanted nothing more than to glorify the God who had set me free and changed my life. I had no idea that the minutes passing by were racing me toward a moment when time would stand still.

January 8, 2008, what a difference a day can make. The day before, which started with so much hope, ended with soul crushing heartache. On this day my journal simply started with…

“I am numb!!! You have taken Francesca Isabella home to you!”

These are the words of a mother who has had the most sacred thing torn out of her life, her own child. There are not enough words to articulate the kind of pain one feels in this moment, and I pray none of you ever have to feel it. All the plans I had for that year, for Francesca’s life, for my own life shattered into a million pieces on a January afternoon. Life was just a vapor and I was learning that lesson the hard way.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads my beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Your prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessing. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. ~ Psalm 23

When King David penned these words it was a reflection upon his life. An honest account of how God had sustained him throughout his life. What I think I love most about this Psalm is that it doesn’t paint the picture of a perfect or an easy life. Quite to the contrary, it talks about walking through dark valleys and facing enemies that would have delighted in his demise. Yet, through it all David knew protection, comfort, blessing, goodness, love, and he had victory. Not because he was a particularly strong person but because God was a good, good Father. God was David’s shepherd. His was the voice David sought, His were the arms that brought comfort in the midst of soul crushing heartache, He was the shield that protected David from the schemes of the enemy even when everything was stacked against him, it was His goodness and loved that saturated David’s life. David was living evidence that God’s promises were true, regardless of the circumstances of his life.

I feel such a kinship to King David. I, too, feel like I am living evidence that God’s promises are true. As I read the 23rd Psalm David actually disappears from my mind and my own life plays out through the familiar words on the page.   Yes, every new year begins with the reminder of the darkest valley I have walked through. And yes, every new year begins with the reminder that all of my heart no longer dwells with me here on this earth, a piece of it now awaits me in heaven. However, I cannot linger in the heaviness of that reality, the grief of my journey does not overwhelm or consume me. Because it was through that grief that I have experienced the fullness of God’s comfort and His protection. His goodness and His love did pursue me. When the enemy tried to destroy my family it was God who stepped in, not so that we might merely survive through the pain but that we might thrive because of the beauty that was revealed through the ashes of it. I am living proof that on the other side of the shadow of death your cup can overflow with blessing.

Weeping might last through the night but joy comes with the morning. ~          Psalm 30:5

Several months ago a preacher that has a fire for Jesus, an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit, and my utmost respect pulled me aside and gave me a prophetic word. He said, “You will be a spiritual mother to many.” It was so simple, yet so profound.

Last night his words echoed in my mind as I had the privilege to speak into a handful of young adult women. I poured out how God’s story intersected my story and radically changed and transformed my life. The journey wasn’t easy or pretty…it was raw and it was hard, but it was real. And as I spoke there she was…my sweet girl, Francesca Isabella, God’s precious daughter, the one I had the privilege of calling my own for the briefest of days on this earth. She is woven throughout God’s story and my own. Her presence may no longer be in this world but she is everywhere I am, because she is in me. She lives on, actively and vibrantly in my heart. And though I will never have the opportunity to mother her in this lifetime, because of her God has placed me in a position to be a mother to others.

It might be silly or whimsical but a part of me wants so desperately to believe that beautifully vibrant cardinal outside my window this morning was a little piece of heaven cheering me on. Reminding me and maybe some of you, that while a new year might start with a flavor of sadness, and weeping may last for the night…joy truly does come with the morning. It might not look the way you thought it would or wanted it to, but if you trust God, I promise He will turn the ashes of this life into beautiful things…I am living proof of it.

Cardinal2020

(my morning visitor)

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

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!

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 💖💖

There is Always Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our hope, this our promise…

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

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

Faith is the reality of what we hope for…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francesca2

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

Turn the Page…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you look is where you will go…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“CHOICE” is my word.

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

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

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

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

Much Love and Happy New Year,

Nikki

 

 

 

 

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?