Becoming…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year and Godspeed

xoxo

 

New York State of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

  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