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

My Life {Punctuated with Hallelujahs}

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Friends, I’m tired. I say that literally as I care for this newborn babe. And I must confess, I had forgotten how hard simple life tasks are when sleep alludes you.

Even hallelujahs.

That’s what I’m talking about over at 5 Minutes for Faith today. I’d love to have you stop by. Just click the button below!

And can I just say I miss this space? I know I haven’t been around. It honestly wasn’t intentional and am determined to carve out some of my day this week to update any of you curious as to why. If you have time, please, check back in.

Thanks for sharing your time with me. I hope to see you over at 5 Minutes for Faith.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Thoughts on Marriage {And My Greatest Regret}

Ecclesiastes 4:12

A few months back, my dear blogging friend Sarah asked me to participate in a wonderful series she has over at her place: Wedded Wednesdays. Here are her thoughts on the series:

Wedded Wednesdays arose out of my heart to write candidly and speak honestly about marriage. As a society, we often promote it as the pure wedded bliss or the ultimate unhappy matrimony – two very dangerous extremes. We would serve our friends and communities well to be honest. Marriage can be both difficult and beautiful, both struggle-filled and triumph-filled. We owe it to each other to get real about marriage.

I humbly accepted her invitation to participate, mainly because I couldn’t think of what I would write about and after 14 years of marriage, that bothered me. For I have grown much along this journey of marriage.

We all know the pains that come with growing…

Friends, I’m over at Sarah’s place today sharing an afternoon I had with a soon-to-be bride friend…where I shared my greatest regret in marriage. I’d love to have you stop by. Simply click on the image below!

How about you, friend? What has marriage taught you? Do you have any regrets? I’d love to hear. Feel free to share in comments over at Sarah’s place!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

A Love Story {The Journey of Independence}

Friends, I’m so excited about this. My friend Jennifer is doing a series on her beautiful blog for the month of February highlighting real stories. Love stories to be more precise. Love stories that only God could have written to be exact.

I knew right away…I had to write about my parents.

Mom and Dad, this is my Valentine’s Gift to you. I hope you don’t mind if I share it with my other family, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as well. For I know they would be blessed to see what God has brought you two through and what He is capable of when it comes down to love.

Won’t you click on the image above or HERE to read my parent’s love story? I’d love to share it with you as it is so near and dear to me (which means it was incredibly hard to write!).

And because it’s Monday and I missed doing a Valentine’s post and because this song hints at the point I was trying to make in my parent’s love story, do you mind if I share one of my most favorite love songs with you? I know I’ve shared it here before (my blog was brand new at the time and I shared it as a birthday post to my hubby). But I can’t waste this opportunity to share it again…

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen to the song below:

How about you, friend? Do you have or know of a love story only God could have written? What have you seen love survive before? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Guard Your Heart {The Best Armor Around}

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I’m expecting Lent to be brutal. It may not be and that would be okay, but I’m preparing for the worst because I’m giving the most: Myself.

Friends, I’m laying my life down this Lenten season.
And I’m inviting you to join me. Every Wednesday.

You may follow this series by CLICKING HERE.

With it fast approaching, I took inventory this last week at how I’ve been getting ready. Friends, I don’t know how I’ve missed it. Not that I haven’t noticed, but it floored me to see how God has been priming my heart these last few weeks.

We’ve talked about it some here. You might even know what I’m referring to. But I’m over at Must Love God today sharing another personal example of it.

It would bless me so if you’d stop by and read my heart spilled. I share an experience I had recently that God loved me through. And I even let you know how He loved me through it. You may read that post by CLICKING HERE.

Also, just so you know, friends, it’s a big week for me.

  • First, I’m over at Must Love God sharing a very personal story (I’m nervous!).
  • Tuesday, I’m showing you where (in)courage will be bringing me and my homeschooling hat. (Eek! I’m so excited to share this one with you and I hope you’ll come along!!)
  • Wednesday, I’m starting a series on Lent. Where we will go through my dear friend Kris‘ book “Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement“. If you haven’t picked up your free pdf copy, please do HERE. If you’re wanting to prepare for Wednesday with me, please read through the section titled “There’s No Shortcut to Holiness” (should only take you 15 minutes).
  • Thursday, I might take a breath and exhale with my 5 minute write with Lisa-Jo’s prompt on Friday.

So will you join me? Will you give me a hug by stopping by Must Love God to read my very vulnerable heart? I’d love to have you — Simply click the image below!

And because it’s Monday and I’d miss it too much if I didn’t, do you mind if I share the song that has not left me this last week? Subscribers, CLICK HERE to press play on the image below.

Friends, This IS Amazing Grace.
Not WAS.
It is…today…amazing.

This is amazing grace. This is unfailing love. That He would take my place and bear my cross…Oh friends, please listen to the song so you can get as excited as I am about His living, breathing, current, amazing grace!

How about you, friend? What does your week look like? How is God helping you prepare for Lent? How can I pray for you this week? I’d love to hear.

Thank you for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Friends in the Fire {Holey, Wholly, Holy}

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A year ago found me flat on my face, bent in submission, desperate for Jesus. And for once it wasn’t because of a life altering event or a significant trial. No. I went into the refiner’s fire intentionally as I asked Him whole-heartedly to make me less so He could fill more of me.

Through the entire Lenten Season, He chipped away at what didn’t belong and polished the dark corners of my heart.

Those of you who have joined me on this journey awhile might remember a few posts during that time of refinement. I tried to share some of it with you, but wow was it ever hard. I struggled with finding words to portray how low I had to become before He could pick me up again. And let’s face it. I wasn’t brave enough then to share the horror I saw when God held up a mirror before we began.

But I had to talk to someone. I needed to spill out the ugly, the pain, and the holy found in-between. Friends, I needed to reveal the work He was doing in me. Primarily because I needed prayer.

It started as a gut whisper. A feeling deep down that maybe Kris knew what I was going through. I had been reading her blog during Lent and, call me crazy, but it felt as though her road was paralleling mine.

Last June, I finally got brave and decided to reach out. I sent Kris this exhaustive email spilling my whole heart on the page. I shared my refining journey. Friends, her response was the epitome of grace as she made her own confessions to me and revealed the construction zone of her present state.

Kris showed me that I wasn’t the only one in the fire.

I look back now on the ashes of 2012 and see the gift(s) God gave me. Through many emails, phone calls, tweets, and comment exchanges, Kris became my Meshach in the furnace of refinement. Because even then, God knows we need a tangible friend to help us see Himself through the flames (Daniel 3:25).

This year, I’m looking forward to the Lenten season. For I know what awaits for me on the other side. And because now, thanks to Kris again, I can take the journey with you.

Holey Wholly HolyYou see, that construction zone God built around Kris last year has turned into a work of art.

And as an offering to Him for what He has done for her, Kris is sharing her discoveries with you in a book titled: Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement.

Over the next 8 weeks, scattered throughout blog posts, I plan on sharing what God has shown me through the journey of refinement. And because of the Biblical truths Kris’ book was based upon as well as my experience through the refiner’s fire, I expect to use her book as one of my guides. It would bless me so if you would follow along and share with me your own experiences.

Friends, Kris is offering this book in PDF form FOR FREE right now. I would be thrilled if you would stop by her place and sign up for your copy. And I would be honored if you would come back and let me know you’re willing to walk through the fire with me this Lenten Season.

For your reference:

  • This amazing eBook, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement may be acquired HERE free for a limited time.
  • You may purchase a hard copy of the book, read reviews and even the foreword I was blessed to write for Holey, Wholly, Holy HERE. (Simply click the “To Look Inside” to read the foreword)

How about you, friend? Have you experienced the refiner’s fire? Do you know what Lent is really all about? (If you don’t, this short, insightful read is a perfect place to start!) I’d love to hear from you.

And because I’m sharing this with you on Music Monday, may I share a song with you, too? I have many in mind, but keep going back to the one that started it all for me last Lent: “Give Me Jesus”. Subscribers, you may click HERE to be taken to that original post, read the lyrics, and listen to this amazing song.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Best Reads for 2012

One of my goals this year was to read more. I read 44+ books in 2011 (With the best 10 listed in THIS POST). Including the homeschooling books, cookbooks (yes, I read those cover to cover), and e-books, I at least doubled that number in 2012.

And I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.

PLEASE NOTE: Most of these books have been published for years. I’m just that far behind in my reading. I’m hoping some of you have missed these along the way and I can enhance your library request list for 2013.
Also note: I am not an affiliate of Amazon. I just prefer visuals and they provide such an easy way of doing that. Feel free to click on these images to find out more about the book, but do not feel obligated to purchase from them, etc…

Favorite Memoir/Biography

It’s a toss up between these two:

Both are so different and yet completely relevant. Inspiring. Eye opening.
And this one I borrowed from my hubby’s bookshelf and oh my. It’s long, but worth it.

Favorite Novel

I’m not a huge novel reader, but I devoured this one in a weekend! So good.

Surprised Me The Most

I have to be honest. I didn’t expect 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker to hit me as hard as it did. You see, extravagant is not an adjective to describe me. It’s been a year since I’ve purchased any new clothing for myself. And I wouldn’t consider my home cluttered. Until I read this, looked inside myself and realized I have much to shed…

Was so Good I Had to Read it Twice

This book hit me so hard I had to read it twice. You might have noticed, I quote from it often. And to think, I discovered this on my own (well, my hubby’s) bookshelf!

Friends, it will make you look in the mirror and question your own spirituality. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says — you’ll see grace in a whole new way. And it’s a really quick read!

Need to Add to My Personal Library

I’m not sure why it took me so long to read these. They’ve been out awhile. But I’m so glad I fixed that this year. The Ragamuffin Gospel and A Circle of Quiet I had checked out from the library (more than once). The Pursuit of God I own on my kindle. Even still, I think I’ll be adding these to my own personal library this year so I can mark them all up!

Favorite Cookbook

I read this cookbook a couple years ago and have re-read it multiple times. I finally added it to my cookbook collection and enjoy referring to it while I’m trying to toss in extra veggies into my dishes.

A number of these muffins and cereal bars, I make a couple times a month. If you haven’t looked at this cookbook before, I do recommend doing so.

I was going to have an honorary mention category, but I couldn’t narrow it down…

Earlier this year, I started listing the books I was reading on my blog (not including the homeschool or cookbooks). It was buried in my Personal Bucket List and hard to find, however. Going forward, I plan on giving what I’m reading it’s own page, making it easy to locate. Please feel free to visit the page at any time (You may find it HERE). I would love if you would also whisper out suggestions of some to add throughout the year!

How about you, friend? What have you read recently that is still resonating with you? What book would you like to see me add to my list for 2013? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Claiming My Voice ~ Five Minute Friday

Sometimes, I just want to write
Without worrying if it’s right or not.

Would you believe I’ve found a place that offers me that kind of grace?
Over at Lisa-Jo’s.

So I will join others and write unabashedly
for five minutes time.
Without editing or backtracking
On one word alone:

VOICE

It feels like a rash you can’t reach. You itch and squirm and beg for release…relief from the weight of it all.

I spent years trying to deny that it held any validity. No, it was too big. It wasn’t meant for me.

But I couldn’t shake it. My excuses ran dry. And one day, I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

So I told Him I would accept the gift He had been trying to give me all along.

And today I claim it.

This is my story. My song.

I pray you hear it loud and clear. That praise rings vibrant. Can you hear the harmony? Do you see who sings the melody?

I’m His. and He’s mine. Everything worth anything within me comes from Him. And when my heart is quiet, you will hear it whisper:

May my words speak Your name. Not mine.
May my writing be so that the author is forgotten,
But what is remembered is You.
For it’s all about You. Let it remain so.

I am but a vessel.
Your handiwork.
Nothing more than a piece of clay.
Nothing less than a masterpiece.

Only You know the plan for my life. Let that be enough.

And when people stop by, may they see who made me.
May Your style resonate so that my face is forgotten.
For all they see is You.

I cannot think of a greater legacy
Than that which leaves Your fingerprints
On everything I’ve left behind.

Lord, make me unknown.
Known only to You.
And while You’re at it,
Can You make me okay with that, too?

STOP.

NOTE: I wrote that prayer and have had it memorized for awhile now. I wasn’t able to type it all out in the five minutes allowed. If you’d like to see all of it, you may find it here.

Would you like to see what others thought of the prompt?
Would you like to play along?
Join in on the Five Minute Friday Flash Mob!
Simply click on the button below!

How about you? What story has He given you? What’s your song? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Are we friends on Facebook? I’d love to be…

What I Know to be True

I’ve been staring at this empty screen for nearly an hour. Frustrated for not being able to transfer my thoughts into keystrokes. One might think I have nothing to say, but I know that’s not true. No, I have too much to spill and too little space. And I’m struggling with finding the balance of what to share and what to leave behind.

Madeline L’Engle said sometimes when we have to speak suddenly, we come closer to the truth than when we have time to think. Time to write it out.

Everything about that frightens me as I generally become speechless in person. And deep down I wonder if that means I struggle with what I know as truth.

Friends, in the last week I’ve been knocked down, stripped bare, left with wounds gaping. And as I look at myself in this most raw, impressionable state, I can’t hide it: The Truth.

She met me at my most vulnerable. Completely clueless as to why I was placed in her charge. As she probed in the most tactful way she could muster, I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, that’s me. Always trying to make another comfortable. But my voice gave truth away. It shook and threatened to give out on me as I explained politely why I was there. She wrapped her hand around mine as she searched for words of comfort. And came up with what most do: “I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you, but don’t be sorry,” I assured her with a level voice that surprised even me. “Sorry implies regret and I have none. Yes, this hurts, but it doesn’t define me.”

We both held each other as we let those words sink in. Me needing them more than she. Words of truth I didn’t realize were within.

And bravery started creeping in because maybe I see more truth than I realize.

I’ve been asking myself what I’ve seen through this mask of pain. And friends, as I picture you within reach, speaking to your compassionate eyes, this is what I can tell you:

Truth is, I’m a mess. A big puddle of failure if we focus on what I can do alone. I’m indecisive albeit easy-going. Only driven when I’m feeling challenged. Nothing about me stands out in a crowd.

I hide well behind politeness but inside I’m a dirty, rotten sinner.  Begging desperately for redemption. Clinging to the hope of amazing grace.

Truth is, I’ve found it: Grace. It was offered to me in a plain wrapped package. Like it could have been gifted to anyone. I couldn’t see my name on it until I got close enough and accepted it as my own. I’ve tested it. Sometimes without realizing it. And it’s true: The mercy of grace is new every morning.

Truth is, I can’t live without Him. To call Him my Savior seems like an understatement. For He has done more than save me. He’s redeemed me. Claimed me for His own. Made me feel like I’m His everything. He’s all that’s beautiful within me. And I’m head over heels in love.

Truth is, nothing can take that away. No amount of pain or sorrow can steal what He’s offered me. Reminding me how hopeless I am without Him can’t change the fact I have hope with Him.

Truth is, the enemy has his work cut out for him if he thinks I’ll walk away from this scandalous love affair I’ve wrapped myself in. No. I’m not that easy.

Friends, in the last week I’ve been knocked down, stripped bare, left with wounds gaping. And as I look at myself in this most raw, impressionable state, I can’t hide it: The Truth.

I’m a child of The King.
My name’s been written in Glory.
And I’m well on my way Home.
I hope to see you there.

How about you, friend? What do you know to be true? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking up with:

 

My Homeschooling Journey {Another Let Go and Let God Post}

After fulfilling my dream of becoming a wife, I had nine years to decide what kind of mother I was or was not going to be. I spent those years wisely. Observing, making mental note of what I would or would not do. Oh yes, I was going to be the best. mother. ever.

Let me be the first to tell you, homeschooling was on my not-going-to-do list. It’s now become proof that God truly does have a sense of humor.

You see, I neglected to consider some key factors while creating my mother equations:

  • God has made each child unique with individual needs He has asked me to meet while in my care.
  • God loves my child more than I ever could. And knows what’s best farther than I can see.

We all have heard “He broke the mold when He made ____” and I’m certain it’s true with each and every child I meet.

My oldest son is no exception as he has busted every frame I had wrapped around him.

Friends, my son loves to learn. He’s good at it, too. Even at the age of four he’s methodical, extremely inquisitive, has to know the how and why every. single. time. And he’s been begging to go to school since he was two.

To say I wrestled with God on this would be an understatement. It wasn’t a part of my master plan. Yes, my son reads chapter books, writes his own stories, and meets every marker used to gauge kindergarten readiness with flying colors. Except age.

He’s still too young I would tell myself. I don’t want to force him to grow up too fast. We’ll just coast this year and do another year of preschool and he’ll simply be more than ready next year. Yes, that’s what we’ll do. This can work with my plan.

But it wasn’t working with His plan. And I’m learning I need to let go and let Him take control.

To say He’s given me the writing on the wall seems like an understatement.
And I’m going to let go and let Him lead the way.
Starting with kindergarten.
Starting with homeschooling.
Starting today.

What He’s showing me is I’m not making my son grow up too fast. I’m simply giving him an opportunity to thrive.

God has given him a desire to learn and who am I to stand in the way.

Sorry I’ve been kind of quiet here lately as I was preparing to be obedient today and create a platform for my son to grow, friends.

It’s taken me awhile to get my ducks in a row.

Can I share with you what I’ve learned from this experience so far?

  • He was right when He told me to want Him more and less will want me. It’s proving to be the solution to all my troubles.
  • Leaning on Him through this has made it so easy. Why, He even took care of the expense of it all (another post perhaps?)
  • I can do all things through Christ who truly does strengthen me.
  • Homeschooling is so not what I thought it was. Wow.
  • I thought homeschooling would cause me to be more controlling–which is something I struggle with (again, another post). But I was wrong. It’s completely out of my control as I need to lay it in His hands every single day.

Father, when I look at my son, I see You. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to be a presence in his life as he discovers what plan You have for him.  Prepare the way for my child, Lord. Reveal Yourself to him in fascinating ways. Captivate his heart. Whisper love in his ear when he feels alone. Guide him on the right path when he is faced with choices.  Keep the spark of curiosity alive in him as he expands his perceptions. Oh Father, stay in his sights…
Use me in whatever way you can, Abba. Keep my heart pliable so I can conform to whatever You need me to do for my son. To You be all glory and honor in my family, Lord. All that we have is because of You, Jesus…
Jesus, thank You for changing my master plan and making it bigger and better than I ever dreamed…
I’m ready. I’m willing. This day’s for You.

How about you, friend? How has God changed your master plan lately? What has He asked you to do that you wouldn’t have dared dream years ago? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking up to the Heart & Home Gathering over at mercyINK as well as:

alifesurrendered.com