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

 

 

 

 

My Golden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soul Time entry April 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

The season of my golden begins…