An Offering of Willingness

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I’m sure you can figure out what’s been on my heart lately just by the title of this post. I’ve been soaking in the Psalms during this season, in multiple translations, and I can’t get over how willing David was.

Willing to stand apart for God’s glory, no matter how humiliating.

Willing to take care of those less fortunate.

Willing to dance like no one’s watching. For the sake of worship.

Willing to just be….His.

Willing.

Then, one day recently, I caught myself reading in Exodus and was moved deeply by a short passage I believe is about this very thing. I’m sharing about it over at my second home, 5 Minutes for Faith. I’d love to have you stop by.

Simply click on the button below!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Embraced by Holiness {Stuck Tight in a Turnstile}

One Life Surrendered

I own all six of her books. They read easy and yet call you to action with relentless conviction. She shares simply, straight from The Word, while providing everyday examples of how one can press harder. Love deeper. Seek further this scandalous love affair we’ve been invited into by our Savior. The one I love to share about here.

Her newest book is no exception.

Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence by Kathy Howard helps you discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. This six-week, interactive Bible study explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides you through practical steps to pursuing a holy life.

In honor of her latest book and how excited I am about it, I’ve invited Kathy to share with you from her own heart. Friends, please welcome my friend and author, Kathy Howard:

We all have them – those funny family stories. The stories when retold bring peals of laughter from everyone. Well, almost everyone. Sometimes one family member simply responds with an embarrassed chuckle. That’s the way it is with our daughter Sarah and the turnstile story.
It was the last week of summer and time to get ready for a new school year. Back then we lived in a small town about 25 miles outside Calgary, Alberta. The kind of shopping we needed to do required a trip to the city. So the three kids and I piled in the mini-van and headed off for a day in Calgary.
We had almost hit the city limits when the smallest voice from the backseat announced he had gotten into the van without any shoes. Mom made a quick decision. We would not return home; six-year-old Mark needed new shoes anyway. Our first stop would be the sports store not far into the city.
It didn’t take long to pick out a nice pair of sneakers and socks and get to the check out. While trying to explain to the checker why I was paying for an empty box, I heard a familiar scream close behind me. Sarah, our 9-year-old, had somehow managed to get herself caught in the turnstile at the store entrance.
I can’t even explain how she did it, because I didn’t see it happen. The best I can determine is she tried to push through the turnstile on the wrong side where it spun under a crossbar. When she discovered she couldn’t get through that way, she tried to back out, but instead wedged herself between the turning tripod and the stationary crossbar. Head and shoulders hung out one side and lower half out the other. (I know you’re probably thinking I’m a horrible mother, but honestly I only took my eyes off her for a second.)
She wasn’t hurt, but she was mad. While she continued to scream, the rest of us couldn’t help but laugh – while trying to help her of course. But she was stuck fast. Her release required the manager and a special turnstile key.
Have you ever been trapped with no hope for escape? Held in slavery and in need of salvation? Just like Sarah’s turnstile prison, we’ve all been caught fast in sin with no way to save ourselves.
Yet, while we were still held captive, God called us out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of holiness. Loosed from sin, we are free to be bound to God with cords of love and righteousness. Free to embrace the holy life to which He calls us. Free to embrace the Holy One Himself.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6:22

Do you long for deeper intimacy with your heavenly Father? According to Scripture, a close connection exists between living a holy life and experiencing God’s presence. Sin strains our relationship with God and creates distance, but holiness breaks down barriers and moves us ever closer. Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence practically explores why believers should pursue holiness and how living a holy life will draw us into the circle of our holy God’s loving embrace.

Embrace holiness and be embraced by the Holy One!

Kathy Howard writes to have something to do while drinking coffee and eating chocolate.
The author of 6 books, Kathy helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances. Find out about her Bible studies and get discipleship and leader helps at her website: www.kathyhoward.org

You may view the first week of her latest book, Embraced by Holiness, FREE HERE.

Or read a fabulous interview she did about the reasoning behind the book HERE.

How about you, friends? What does Holiness mean to you? Have you embraced it? We’d love to hear!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Already His

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And you must love the Lord your God
with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5

My six year-old gave me a new perspective on this verse recently. One that was so simple I almost negated it at first. Can you believe I’m still doing that?

Friends, there’s a reason Jesus invites us to come to Him like little children…

I’m sharing about it over at my 2nd home today. I’d love to see you over there. Just click on the picture above or the button below!

And to my loyal readers: I’m still trying to finish sharing with you the lessons I’ve learned recently. Thank you so much for sticking by me, encouraging me along the way! {HUGS}

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

 

Claiming My Space {In the Crescendo of Praise}

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My monthly post at 5 Minutes for Faith was inspired after reading these verses one early morn:

“I look up at Your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
Your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and starts mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do You bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?”
Psalm 8:3-4~ The Message

I’d love to have you visit and join in on the praise with me. Simply click the button below!

Here’s a sneak peek:

The sun enters gracefully, allowing the crescent moon to descend in glorious splendor. Its slender, sickle silhouette dances over the treetops until it retreats in peaceful slumber. One by one, the stars follow suit as they blink farewell, allowing sun’s rays to burst in fortissimo as it makes its crescendo of praise.

And I’m captivated. Simply mesmerized at how the colors radiate and claim their space in His majesty. It never grow old. Each day portrays a new sonnet for I’m convinced not one sunrise is exactly the same with the way the trees sway in unison, keeping time for each songbird as they make their daily début.

Then I think…the God who orchestrated all of this with scientific precision…is captivated by the thought of me.

Me…

Want to read the rest? You can CLICK HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

 

On Guarding Your Heart The Wrong Way

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It was too soon to see them, but I saw the pink and blue lines anyway. I’d later discover it was the first gift of many. But at the time, instead of celebrating what God’s capable of, all I wanted to do was guard what He’s already given me. So I held tightly to my family and shared the news only with those experienced at guarding my wounded heart before.

Time passed and the list of possible complications shortened. Still I held my breath, for I’d been there before. And now… instead of my heart aching for the inevitable happening, it burns with regret because I didn’t give Him glory when glory was due.

Friends, just before Christmas I labored love from my womb. I heard the doctor say “It’s a boy — what’s his name?” and my husband and I have been celebrating this gift ever since. Praising God in humbled reverence because we know we don’t deserve this perfect child of His.

And then, over these last few months, I’ve noticed that pain I’d mentioned –the one I’d grown used to– has been transformed. I no longer ache in emptiness — I throb in fullness. And friends, I want to be clear about this: it’s not for the reason you would think.

It’s not because He gifted me with another healthy child. No.

I’d like to think I would have come to this realization regardless, but ashamedly I’m not so sure…

Let me try to explain.

Love I Cor 13:7

They say a mother instantly forgets the pain of labor once the baby is cradled in her arms. I’m not sure it’s instant, but something does happen when the child your child is first given to you (in labor or adoption –motherhood knows no difference). Love only HE is capable of giving pours down so much so that you’ve got to let go of something before you can take your next breath.

Most mothers trust their instincts and let go of the painful journey of getting there so they can cling to this new love. A love gifted directly from The Father.

I firmly believe a mother simply chooses to forget.

And that’s where I went wrong. I chose to forget the wrong thing.

  • I remembered the pain, clinging to it as if that’s all I had left, and forgot how He carried me through.
  • I focused on the hurt and not on how He tended to my wound.
  • After I’d lost another, I determined this was my lot and decided then to make sure no one or nothing would ever hurt my heart again. I even justified it (wrote about it some HERE), thinking that is what God was suggesting I do: Guard my heart.

When I look back now, I see where I went wrong.

(and it was the shock of a healthy baby boy that made me take a second look)

Is it just me or do we all often forget that God is love? God IS…Love.

So when He promises that Love always protects…wouldn’t that mean God will always guard my heart for me?

It seems I was guarding my heart the wrong way…and as a result, I was stopping Him from fulfilling His promises to me.

Friends, I wasn’t guarding my heart at all, I was hardening my hurt. I hardened my vulnerability. And we all know, He works best with soft, moldable clay…or even dust. Instead, I built walls, which ultimately stifled Him out of emitting any light the doors and windows gave way.

Please know, while I understand the need to ensure the enemy holds no grip on me, apart from that, I’m starting to believe I should leave my heart open wide so that He can shine through me.

You see, this heart I have, it’s not mine anyway… No. I gave it to Jesus a long time ago.

Maybe where I went wrong was simply with the idea that I needed to guard my heart from pain. When really, all I needed to do was to guard my heart from anyone else ruling this sacred space that belongs to Him. Including myself.

And I trust He’ll never leave me nor forsake me. So what can man do to me, anyway?

I may get pressed, but won’t become crushed.
I may feel alone, but will never be abandoned.
I may be struck down, but won’t be destroyed.

So no more.

  • No more living in fear of what I may have to walk through. He’s proven He can handle it and will carry me when I can no longer stand.
  • No more staying quiet when joy comes easy, assuming the worse is yet to come. He deserves all the glory I can muster every minute of every day.
  • No more lingering on things that didn’t go my way. For His way has proven to be good. All the time.
  • It’s settled then. No more guarding my heart in all the wrong ways.

From now on, I’ll allow Him to stand guard and take permanent residence in all my vulnerability. For glory is found in the pliable.

I’ll simply guard His promises tucked safely in the space He protects: my heart.

And find comfort in knowing His love…God never fails.

Friends, once I accepted this truth, I felt complete. Throbbing in fullness for His love for me. Do you?

How about you, friends? How do you guard your heart while staying vulnerable to His shaping? I’d love to hear. 

And I’m not even close to done telling this story. Next, I plan on sharing how I discovered I was being distracted by fear. And then how I realized I wasn’t focusing on the Healer. I hope you’ll join me.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

 

There’s a Book For That {A Parent’s Reflection}

My faithful readers: The next post in my spiritual journey series will be posted no later than Tuesday. A local friend invited me to join in a blog hop that I’m so passionate about I had to participate. I hope you’re blessed by it, too.

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I am a fan of the written word. Sometimes I’ll blame the old soul I seem to harbor as I’m always last to jump on the latest technological craze. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that’s not the real reason I prefer bound books over powered tablets and web searches.

There’s something to holding the words tangibly in your hands. Whether those words make you laugh, cry, or simply be informed, there is power behind them. And to be able to touch where that comes from is a gift I will always cherish.

If you were to visit my home, you might notice there are bookshelves in every living space we have. Including the hallway. Though my husband and I might not have every shelf lined wall-to-wall with books, one thing is certain: books are prominent here. Especially now since we’ve added the title of parents to our names.

It’s no secret that a parent’s passion will transfer, in some respect, down to their children. And the passion for reading was one we didn’t want to leave behind.

Books can take you places you would never experience otherwise. They can reveal insights you might not have thought of on your own. They can bring humor, perspective, and confidence to your very being.

IMG_0346So we started early, reading the board book classics to our children before they could even coo. We said goodnight to the moon and hello to the brown bear so many times I could recite them backwards if necessary.

Soon we were laughing at the piggie and the elephant, rhyming with Dr Seuss, and were curious right along a little monkey. And I don’t know how many times our firstborn has asked us for a big red dog of his very own.

It wasn’t until later he realized these books were transformed into tv series. And I wouldn’t want it known any other way around.

Now, when my 1st grader has a question, we look it up in a book. He learned to savor a dictionary early on. And when we make our weekly library requests, he gives me lists of things he wants to learn or books/authors he wants to read.

And I’m starting to see … me.

I’ve personally exhausted the library’s offerings of Madeleine L’Engle (A Circle of Quiet being my favorite), C.S. Lewis, and even Lynn Austin (Chronicles of the Kings series — look it up!). When I’m feeling stagnant in the kitchen, I check out cookbooks (America’s Test Kitchen books are my favorite, although Pioneer Women holds a close second). When I’m feeling flat in my spiritual life, I’ll check out a devotional (too many to mention, though I’m currently reading Beth Moore and Francis Chan).

When I’m curious about how to parent better, I’ll dip my hand in the pool of all the Christian parenting help books (Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp being the only one I’ve read more than once– and one of the only ones that holds a space on my bookshelf).

But all of that is nothing if we don’t show our children the most important Book of all…

You see, it’s been our goal from day one to create a passion for seeking out the truth. And though we may use many books now as examples, we’ll always resort to the one simply known in my home as The Book.

  • It’s the only Book I know that you could call Living…
  • It’s the only Book I’m aware of that could have an exhausted author list (over 40), but all writers point to One.
  • It’s the only Book to my knowledge that was originally written in 3 languages and has been translated into more than 2,000 today.

There’s a reason it’s the best-selling book in the world and there’s even a more important reason we want it to be the number one book for our children.

Maybe if we instill a passion for the written word now, they’ll be drawn to seek The Living Word later on. Perhaps if we show them how to seek answers in pages today, they’ll seek out Its answers when they are planning their tomorrows.

One thing I do know: Reading the Bible each day can bring humor, perspective, and confidence to your very being.

Friends, I do believe it all starts with me. This is one passion I need to have personally as it’s the most important one to pass down.

So in our household, when we’re faced with an issue, instead of saying “There’s an app for that”, we say “There’s a Book for that.” And we pull out the Bible placed on every bookshelf or even on our smartphones. We show our children the Written Word so they can know where to turn when questions rise within.

And tonight, when I’m reading another chapter aloud of the Sugar Creek Gang, or when the boy begs my husband to do just one more I Spy riddle, we’ll happily oblige. And find he’ll do the same when we’re tucking him in, asking him to read just one more verse…

How about you, friend? What children’s book do you enjoy? What book have you been reading lately? How do you instill the value of The Bible to your children? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: Though I prefer you check out your local library and am not an affiliate, I have provided Amazon links to books mentioned for easy reference. Thank you, Amazon, for providing an app for that.

This post was written for the blog hop at:

Please feel free to visit!

 

On How Pain Doesn’t Define {Except for When it Should}

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this a couple of months back (hence the mention of snow) but felt God asking me to wait to share it. I now know why and will continue to write out the rest of this story in posts to come…

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Newly fallen snow blankets the barren earth, allowing sun’s reflection to permeate my back room. Its warmth floods the floor as I labor over the laundry basket. And I close my eyes — just for a second, inviting its radiance to find me.

My lips curl as I notice the fresh bunny tracks below the picture window and realize she’s had her babies. I wonder aloud if rabbits typically have babies in the dead of winter because it doesn’t seem like those tracks belong in this frigid season… His 5 year-old wisdom shines as he tells me outright: “Mom, why can’t she have her babies in the snow? You did. God gives babies in every Season.”

The rhythmic ticking of the swing draws my gaze sideways as I dwell on his sleeping baby brother. He’s right, you know. It did snow the eve this miracle was born. And I can barely breathe as I reflect on what my God has done for me…for thousands of years, He just keeps giving…

I feel like you all know me. The one simply striving to see Jesus in my everyday while becoming all He has made me to be. Despite what this world throws my way. So I feel like I should tell you…

Friends, losing a child of any age, it can define you. For good or bad I imagine. During the pain of labor, you need reminders to simply breathe in and out. The same applies as you labor them down into the ground. Only then, while the intense pain may come and go in spurts, it never goes away fully.

What I’ve discovered is the ache of loss can squeeze the life right out of you only to realize it has freshly pressed the goodness within to the surface. And He’s been at work, pressing hard in me the last couple years — with more than one loss — and I’ll admit…I’d gotten used to the pain.

Almost to the point of it defining me…

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I’m very fond of the book of Job. (And no, I’m nothing like him.) He’s a man I admire greatly. For I don’t know many who could lose every love they’ve tangibly held in their hands and still keep clinging to The One Love they’ve never physically gazed upon. Often I’ve wondered if I had went through that kind of pressure, would the life found within me be bitter or sweet? How many times have I prayed for my rinds to ripen…

Oh dear God, please make my soul sweet enough to savor…
I owe that much and more to my Savior…

Reflecting back, I’m not quite sure when it happened. When I decided the road we travel is mostly rocky. uphill. barren yet full of thorns. And when I think of the optimistic nature God gifted me with, I gasp at the thought of what I’ve done to it.

For I have seen the hurt more than the healings.
I have focused more on the sorrow
than I have my own salvation.
And just look at how He still lavishes His love upon me…

My 1st grader notices the bunny tracks go deep into our evergreen and I say to him–isn’t that just the way God is… Even in the barren seasons, He provides and cares for us. His hazel eyes look up at me as if he’s searching for whom I’m talking to, then he promptly leaves to go watch his new baby brother sway in peaceful slumber.

While pressing hard on the folds of a handmade burp cloth, I sense Him moving in me. My heart warms softly as I thank Him for the contents of this laundry basket. And for just a moment, I realize…it doesn’t hurt to breathe…

I decide right then that the only death I’ll allow to define me will belong to The One who conquered it.

Friends, this is only the beginning of the journey I’ve been on. Next up, I plan on sharing how I was guarding my heart in all the wrong places. I hope you’ll join me (and I’ll try to have that post up soon!).

How about you? How do you keep yourself from focusing more on the sorrow than on our Savior? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki