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

Keeping My Sister {And a Giveaway!}

keeping my sister

I’ve reviewed this author before so some of you will know Nancy is a childhood friend. I need to confess, though, that I never knew her sister, Heather. And after reading this book, my heart aches for a childhood do-over.

Keeping My Sister: A Story of Sibling Survivalry is a story of two parallel lives on divergent paths, separated by miles and happenstance.* It’s Nancy and Heather’s story. The book will tug on every sense you have, especially the need to survive. Towards the end, that urge will morph into the desire to save. And if you allow your heart in to the story, you’ll gain a glimpse of how God feels for us. My how He loves each one of us…not wanting to leave any behind.

After reading, I desperately wanted to sit down with Nancy and talk more. We are separated by states now, but she was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had. I thought I’d share them with you so you can know the heart behind the story.

I can think of a number of reasons Keeping My Sister needs to be read. Which ultimate reason gave you the purpose and drive to finish it?

This is going to sound cliché, but it was God from start to finish. I felt burdened with this project (and sometimes, if I wasn’t careful, by it). I needed to tell my sister’s story because she was so much more valuable and beautiful than what her life was able to reveal. I needed to show the grace and consistency of a redemptive Father and the truth that if you look for Him, He can always be found. He never leaves or forsakes us. NEVER.

How long did it take you to write your second novel from beginning to end?

This was another whirlwind project for me. I started on June 23rd, 2013, and finished by Feb 2, 2014. These were significant dates for me, as the first is her birthdate and the second is her re-birthdate.

Unlike my first book, which was a completely creative, fun write, this one was tough. I knew going into it two things—I would be facing things I’d much rather suppress, and I could trust God’s lead completely. I was right, and He did not disappoint.

An author once told me you can’t help but picture someone holding your words while writing them. If that’s true for you, whom did you picture?

I honestly didn’t think about that at all while writing it, other than picturing reading it “to her” at her memorial. I know she’s not “there”, but this is a part of my grief process and healing. I can’t explain it all yet, I just know this book has profoundly affected me and seems to be doing the same for others.

There is a quote at the beginning that says, “When the little girl speaks, healing will come.” I thought that quote was just for me, but as I get readers’ responses I realize that God had more in mind than just my healing. Readers from all walks of life seem to be given permission, just as I was—to grieve, to feel, to celebrate, to hope, to worship, to find their voices and to use them.

It’s safe to say this novel is a caricature of you and your beloved sister, Heather. Your writing is so vivid it’s hard to picture which details are spot on historic and which ones you had to imagine or gain insight from the Holy Spirit first before writing. Tell us, which portions were the hardest to write for you?

The hardest part to write was my sister’s descent into self-destruction and victimization. I chose to write it all through her eyes, in first person, to fully give her a voice. I dreaded going there with her. Finally, it was the last thing I needed to write.

God surprised me that night. I wrote feverishly and joyfully what I “saw” in my mind’s eye. It ended up being the most beautiful thing I’ve ever written about Heaven, and reunions, and the heart of the Father. It fueled me in the next weeks as I courageously went into the darkness of her story with her. I would re-read the ending; it gave me the strength to not only work through the details of the difficulties she experienced, but to do so in a way that was personal without destroying my own heart in the process. Knowing the ending kept me from being discouraged by the beginning, or destroyed by the middle.

If I were able to ask your sister what message she hopes others gleam from your story, what do you think she’d say?

She’d joke, smirking, “Stay in school, don’t do drugs.” Then she’d get all serious, shrug and say, “The best things in life are the things worth running toward instead of away from—family, sobriety, help, healing, and especially the loving arms of the Father.”

NOTE: There is an awesome Epilogue and Author’s Note at the end of this novel that brings the story even more to light. When you pick up your copy–don’t skip it! And if you find yourself wanting to do something about the feelings you have after reading, Nancy has a section of options for you at the end as well.
*I didn’t write that brilliant sentence–it’s on the back of the book. I just couldn’t find a better way to describe it.

keeping my sister - back

This double giveaway is now closed.
Winners have been contacted. Thank you for reading!

IF YOU DIDN’T WIN OR CAN’T WAIT TO READ: Click HERE for an easy link to Amazon (not an affiliate). Or contact the author directly via her BLOG or Facebook Page.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Hold Tight {Strength in the Pages}

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My life has been a whirlwind lately. I’m sure many people say that for different reasons. Regardless of where your imaginations may take you, please know the tidal wave I’ve been riding has not been a harmful one. Quite the contrary.

Friends, I’ve been gone far too long and have so much to tell you. And even though I have many blessings to share, I must confess I’ve felt the hard winds of doubt and have wavered with insecurities along the way. I have ashamedly tested His truth and discovered He truly is good. All the time. It’s that journey I need to tell you about, for His glory.

For it’s always about Jesus.

And on this Music Monday, when I contemplated which song has been speaking to me most these last few months….the answer was this one.

Because I’ve tried and tested it and now know for certain: I can always fall back on His Promises.

So when I feel myself flailing. When life blows so hard I struggle to catch my breath. When this controlling nature within me spins wildly, I can do what this song suggests.

I can open up the pages and anchor myself on His promises.

Let Him be my strength and simply hold on tight.

Promises

by Sanctus Real
Sometimes it’s hard to keep believing
In what you can’t see
That everything happens for a reason
Even the worst life brings
If you’re reaching for an answer
And you don’t know what to pray
Just open up the pages
Let His word be your strength
And hold on to the promises
Hold on to the promises
Jesus is alive so hold tight
Hold on to the promises
All things work for the good
Of those who love God
He holds back nothing that will heal you
Not even His own Son
His love is everlasting
His faithfulness unending
Oh, if God is for us who can be against us
So if you feel weak
Neither life, nor death
Could separate us
From the eternal love
Of our God who saves us

Friends, I’m going to start this week sharing the spiritual journey I’ve been on lately. (After I share a great giveaway with you tomorrow!) It might take some time to get it all out, but I hope you’ll keep coming back and follow along. Because I assure you, these promises The Word speaks of…I’ve got some tested examples on how they hold true.

I hope to show you how it’s all about Jesus…my living Savior.

He’s the reason I continue to hold on tight.

How about you, friend? What journey have you been on lately? What promise have you been clinging to? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me. Truly.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Chronological Study Bible {A Review}

 

It came in the mail just before Christmas and I was anxious to dig in during the New Year. Most of you know I like to read through the Bible in a different translation each year and the thought of reading it chronologically excited me. In fact, I decided to use it for the 90 day challenge I was going to participate in for Lent.

Ruth and Naomi At-A-Glance

Ruth and Naomi At-A-Glance

Confession: I couldn’t get through it in 90 days. Not with this Bible as the helps were so distracting! In a good way. I would read and find myself drawn to their points in the margins. Their at-a-glance sections. The colorful maps and the nuggets of wisdom worth dwelling on.

I’ve had it four months now and I’m still in the Old Testament.

(Although I did skip forward for Lent.)

While I assumed I would simply enjoy this Bible for the chronological aspect, I find myself enjoying the Study Helps the most. Even my Sunday School class has benefited from it as I’ve read some of the highlights to them. Such as their little tidbit on the Yoke. And we’ve used the chart listing all the disciples and their occupations, etc.

Yoke

Reading through the path Jesus took to the cross in this format impacted me greatly this Lent. Maybe my heart was simply softened to receive it deeper this year, but one thing I do know: It was easier to picture the story unfold. And it amazed me to see how different the four perspectives of the disciples were and how they recanted the story for us uniquely.

I had planned on getting through this Bible before I wrote my review, but I can tell that’s going to take some time and I feel guilty for having it as long as I have with nothing to show for it. So maybe you simply knowing how much I’m enjoying it is enough?

This isn’t the type of Bible you buy and use one time, then set it on a shelf. This is one you can go back to over and over again. I’m partial to the NLT translation when sharing it with children, as well.

Overall, this Bible is one I would recommend. I’m so grateful for the chance to review it and share it with you.

For more information regarding the Bible, please visit THIS LINK.

How about you, friend? Have you ever read through any portion of the Bible chronologically? Ever read the NLT? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Note: I am a part of the Tyndale Blogging Network. I have received this book for free in exchange for my review. All opinions and thoughts listed above are my own.

Hosanna! {Now and Forevermore}

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He came as predicted. (Matthew 21:4-5)

And still they did not see. For their hopes were not set high enough. Wrapped tightly in political bondage, they were simply asking for a new leader. One to overthrow the Romans.

So when they shouted “Hosanna,” they were taking it literally. “Save us now.” Now. From the Romans. Not from forever. Not the world. Just us from the now.

But God knew.

God saw their need. And He promised to fulfill it.

Through Jesus.

Friends, Jesus took ‘Hosanna’ to a whole new level.

I’m sharing more about it this over at my 2nd home: 5 Minutes for Faith. Won’t you join me? Simply click on the button below!

The time is coming…Can you feel it?I hope to see you over there so I can hear how you are preparing…

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Lent on Purpose {and The Mystery of Grace}

GRACE

Have you ever tried to explain grace to a 5 year-old?

Has a five year-old ever taught you a thing or two about grace?

Have you ever considered if grace could exist without love?

These are some things I’m pondering over at 5 Minutes for Faith today as I contemplate this Lenten season. I’d love to have you join in the conversation. Simply click the button below!

 

And friends, I still haven’t forgotten this place and my utter desire to update all of you. Thank you for your patience as I try to find my new groove and figure out where blogging (and the time it takes) fits. I am determined to make room somewhere…soon.

For now, will you join me over at 5 Minutes for Faith? I’d love to see you there…

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