The Great Reveal {my Fears, my Faith, my Father}

The Presence of God

Fear can swallow us whole…

Sometimes, my faith doesn’t feel enough…

Often I miss seeing my Father right here with me…

All of this results in me missing out on The Truth.

Friends, I’m over at my 2nd home: 5 Minutes for Faith today sharing more about this. I’d love it if you had time to stop over as I share my recent thought process.

Here’s a sneak peek:

I gulped hard, forcing a smile as I watched my five year-old slide down the wet strip of yellow. Cold water splashed my shins as he squealed in delight. And still I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

She was too young. She didn’t deserve to go so soon. Yet she’s gone. Just like that.

Try as I might, all I could see was what else I could lose…

Won’t you stop by to hear the rest? Simply CLICK HERE or on the button below!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

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His Law is Love {And His Gospel is Peace}

STRIKEA-M-1

I can barely make it through the newscast. No amount of hand writhing can soothe the ache that burns hot in my chest. I’m pleading for Jesus to come quickly, while striving not to ask “Why?!?”

Because I don’t want to be able to make sense of something so senseless.

There’s never a reason good enough for acting so atrocious…

My soul tries to calm as it reminds me of words I’d just heard sung:

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.

Friends, I ache for the mothers left gaping over something so cruel and unusual. I can’t find the words worthy enough to provide any type of ointment and yet I long to soothe them somehow. Touch their skin, hold them up and encourage them to breathe. Slow and steady.

It’s what we’re reminded to do while birthing our children into this world…
and it’s the reminder we need when they’re ripped away from us.

I know God feels the same way. He mourns for how we treat His own children…this wasn’t a part of His will. But by His grace, He’ll include it. For His plan will prevail.

What gets me riled up is we’ve had the answer to our weakness for over two thousand years. He’s told us what we need. We’ve been singing it for nearly 200 years. The same song with one lyrical line providing the solution:

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Oh friends, if we just took His suggestion His commandment seriously. If only we could live out His Golden Rule like our lives depended on it.

It really is all about His love.

And if we included Him in our everydays and abided by the laws of His love, the gospel of peace would ring true.

I’ll never pretend to understand why we do some things we do. But I can follow His example. I can love till the bitter end. And if I only experience peace in my heart this side of heaven, it will be enough. For it was all I could govern.

Friends, I can control how I look at someone I don’t understand.

It’s not up to me to figure out their why…

I’m called to love. Just as He loves me.

Relentlessly. Despite my unworthiness.

None of us deserve Him.
None of us have earned freedom.
None of us have anything to offer He doesn’t already have.

But we can strive to love. To emulate His grace and mercy to even those we’d rather write off as hopeless.

Oh if we lived that way, I believe we’d know what peace looked like. I’m starting to see it in my own self…as I throw sense aside and put on my lens of love and truly see what He’s after.

I see their faces today on television and long to offer my shoulder. To combine our salty tears and leave them on the altar together. To extend His arms of love…

My palms open as I invite Him in. And I can’t help but do what the song suggests we do:

Fall on your knees.

Friends, we can’t do this alone. We need Him permeating our lives. We need our Good Shepherd.

Let’s worship Him this week. With everything we’ve got. Let’s love on those He loves. No matter what. And let’s mean the song we’re singing this Season, “O Holy Night” as we offer:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name!

How about you, friend? How can you abide by His law of love this week? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

And please, pray for those affected by this horrific tragedy. May they cling to His steadfast arms and feel His loving embrace today…

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This wasn’t what I intended on sharing today, but is still a part of my Advent Series where I share lyrics from the traditional Christmas Hymns and what they mean to me. I know I’ve shared this song already, but my heart had to go further…thank you for grace! You can view others like this HERE.

 

The Body of Christ {The Servant Song}

Friends, I’m honored to have my friend Mandy share her heart with you today. Her message hits hard for me, especially around Christmas.

Will you please give Mandy a warm welcome? (and psst…it’s Mandy’s birthday today! Feel free to offer warm wishes in comments!)

Mandy, this space is yours…

She walks a dark valley of loss that He never intended for any of His children.

Not by choice, but by tragedy.

I ache to see her suffer so.

I yearn to take it all away, to bring back to her the one thing, the person, she wants. Needs. Loves.

Desperately.

But I will settle for diminishing an hour, a minute, a moment of her strife if I can.

When I do she feels guilty. From inside her anguish, her deep love desires not to keep me from my husband and children.

I struggle to convey my thoughts and feeling about that. I am temporarily at a loss for words.

I ponder it, pray over it.

And He puts it into sharp focus for me, graces me with the words:

This is the body of Christ.

This is the body of Christ! This is what we do. This is who we are. This is what we were made for.

I can’t take your pain away, friend of my heart.

But.

When the tears spill and sobs shake…

I will weep with you.

When joy breaks through the agony…

I will laugh with you.

When hope is beyond reach and darkness threatens…

I will hold the Christ light for you.

When you need His arms…

I will be as Christ to you…

And when I am walking a dark valley…

I pray for the grace to let you be Christ to me, too.

This is the body of Christ.

The Servant Song

(hymn written by Richard Gillard)

Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let me be your servant too

We are pilgrims on the journey
We are travelers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born to all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony

Lyrics Credit

Photo Credit

* * *

Mandy Mianecki is a wife, mama, daughter, sister, and friend, passionately pursuing her Savior.

She is also known as a coffee-drinker, art-maker, word-nerd, and homeschooling-attempter. She frequently has Cheerios in her carpet, dust on, well, everything, and love in her heart. That heart is to encouraging you in this walk of faith that you can do this!

How about you, friend? Who can you be Christ to this Advent Season? What part of the body of Christ will you be this week? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

And Happiest of birthdays, Mandy! Friend of my heart, thank you for being Christ to me so many times before. You’ve picked me off the floor time and time again. Love and hugs to you!

Simply striving,

Nikki

Blessings in Disguise

I met her in March. She was giving away a book I so desperately wanted to read. And I have this thing where I don’t try to win something on a site I know I won’t visit later, so I spent time on her blog. Reading her heart spilled. I soon discovered our journeys have collided more than once.

She has become a friend since (and I even won the giveaway!). I’m so thrilled to share her heart with you here today.

Friends, please give Mary a warm welcome. Mary, this space is yours. Do share!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,

who does not change
 like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

It is easy for me to think the Lord is blessing me when “good and perfect” things are happening in my life. Or maybe “good and almost perfect” things, since few things seem to be “perfect” these days.

But what about the times when things are not going well?

What about the times when life looks pretty bleak?

When the whole thing just STINKS?

Are those times also gifts from the Father above? Is the author and creator of those times also steadfast and unchangeable?

I think so. But getting to this poinst in my faith/life journey was and is a process.

In 1992, I gave birth to a daughter that lived four days. She was born with a genetic disorder and when shew as born she appeared to be a healthy baby girl, but within hours, problems began to surface. She was taken to the local children’s hospital, while I remained in a hospital in another part of town.

Genetic tests were done. And we waited. After being born on Tuesday, Friday morning found my husband and me sitting in a conference room with a bunch of doctors, listening to them explain what was wrong with our daughter.

Listening to them explain that she would not live. She was going to die. Most likely in the next few days or weeks. The little girl we named Amy Elizabeth would not be with us for long. And I stared straight ahead. I didn’t want to look at any0ne.

That afternoon, surrounded by family and a few close friend, Amy took her last breath and died in my arms. She didn’t live a few days or weeks. She died that day.

Four days after she was born – she was dead.

Four days after I labored and my husband watched as the doctor cut me open. And delivered a tiny, petite baby girl – she was gone.

And I am OK with that.

I believe He authored that chapter of my life and continues writing my story to this day.

I’ve heard it said that having kids changes your perspective. I believe that is true.

And losing a child changes it again.

Losing Amy is the hardest thing I have ever endured. And while I wish that she had lived and we had experienced the first day of kindergarten, Junior High School, braces, homecoming, prom and going off to college…I did not get my wish.

If I had to choose between having her for four days or having her for none…I would choose four days in a heartbeat! I would endure the sadness, the tears, the anger, the grief…all of it…I would endure it again to have.

Because the experience of
having her and losing her
makes me who I am.
It is part of my life’s DNA.
Without it, I would not be ME.

My family would be incomplete.

My relationship with my husband and son would not be what they are today.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Blessings come in the good and what appears to be bad. Blessings come in raindrops and rainbows. In packages and bows. In the ugly and the messy. And they come in sad and heartbreaking life lessons.

Lessons that allow us to grow.

To minister.

To share with others.

To realize the most important things in life are not things!

My guess is you have some unpleasant or sad circumstances in your life too. Is it possible these circumstances are blessings in disguise? Only you can answer that.

And only you can decide how you will respond.

Happiness is a choice. And forgiveness is a choice.

I chose to be happy – it took a while, but I had a four year-old and a husband that needed me. At first, I was going through the motions, but eventurally the Lord led me out of the dark place into His light.

Into a place where I could see that He had a plan.

He knew what He was doing.

And this experience was a blessing…in disguise.

If you would like to read more about Amy, you can do that HERE.

Laura Story wrote and sings a beautiful song about blessings and how they don’t appear to be blessings at the time. This sums up how I feel.

(Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen to this wonderful song)

Blessings ~ Laura Story

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Mary was raised in the south, spent most of her adult life in the Midwest and now resides on the East coast.

She has been married to her best friend for 30 years and has one young adult son. She blogs about life and faith at Me Myself & Mercy.

She works part-time as an Administrative Assistant at a local Division 1 college and is an Independent Consultant with Blessings Unlimited. She is active in her church and has a heart for ministering to women.

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How about you, friend? Have you had blessings in disguise? What trials have shaped your story? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me us.

Simply striving…

 

Taps ~ A Remembrance

Growing up, I had heard my older brother play them countless times. My younger sister followed with the same talent. And sometimes when they weren’t around, I would give it a go on their trumpets. It seemed easy enough. Even the valves weren’t needed. The way I saw it, all I needed to work on was lip and lung control. With enough practice I was sure I could play them, too.

TAPS.

Fast forward 15 years or so and I would find myself truly hearing this melodic triad for the first time.

I wasn’t exactly sure whether I should soak them in proudly or wail them out mournfully. But as I stood there in the cool breeze of early May, I found myself once again working on my lip and lung control. Because the man they were honoring with this prideful military tradition was my grandpa.

My thoughts traveled to what caused the formal ceremony. How he had cheated age and pledged to serve this country I consider home. He traveled to Japan, offering his life to ensure those he loved at home were safe and sound.

I don’t remember war stories or hearing how long he was there. I could find out I’m sure. But the other memories that follow make me think I know enough.

The way our Japanese foreign exchange student clung to him, soaking in the phrases he remembered in her familiar tongue. She would laugh and squeal in delight. And I would think: yes. That’s my grandpa. He would then pretend he didn’t know how to translate what he said.

One Sunday afternoon he was reminiscent of the beauty he witnessed within Japan’s landscape. And he said, “I’d love to go back someday. Nikki, would you go with me?” I didn’t even let him finish his sentence before clinging to him myself squealing “Yes! I’d love to! It’s a date!”

Only we didn’t make it. No. Instead, I was here. Listening to the oldest melodic triad known country-wide. Striving to include bravery as one of the traits I’d inherited from the man I loved so deeply. Wishing osmosis could pass the lip and lung control over to me.

For  months following, I would wake abruptly, remembering the tune. The shots fired directly into my soul. I finally decided to research the piece that wouldn’t leave me. All these years and I had no idea there were even words to it.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

My heart was finally at ease. I gave thanks and praise for his days. For all I am because of him. And rejoiced in knowing God was nigh. God was close to both of us. And was now the one holding the two of us together.

~~~~~~~~~~

How about you? Has the song Taps ever been made personal to you? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: I am sorry this is late. I had intended this to be my Music Monday Memorial Day post, but life got the better of me and I never found the time to write it. When I sat down last night to write, I had decided to forego it and continue on, sharing something else that has been on my heart. But the words wouldn’t come. It seems I needed to shed these first. I hope you don’t mind. Thank you for your grace.

Love in Grief

She sat her designer jeans right down on the dirty tiled floor. Our knees nearly touching as she matched my folded leg position.  Her hand gently rubbed my no-name denim as she said softly, “Tell me about him. I want to know everything.” And she leaned in to hear my reply.

I met her gaze through blurred eyes. Striving to see how she managed to turn this run-down restroom into a private sanctuary. Her eyes told me she meant it. She wanted to hear why I loved my great-grandpa so. Why it hurt so much to say good-bye.

He smelled of raw onions and juicy fruit gum. Even while in his favorite rocker, his hard-working hands always stayed busy. He would twiddle them in time to the rocker. Smooth, steady. Mesmerizing.

I’m sure my incessant singing came from him. For he always had a tune to share. A lesson to reveal through song.

The Saturday mornings he would come over on his four-wheeler were always my favorite. He would bring freshly baked, sticky cinnamon rolls and love on my dog while we ate. Then, wheeler rides for everyone! I had no idea what a blessing it was to have them live on the same street as me. Two sets of grandparents on the same street…

I learned how to share him at church when the line to greet him each Sunday grew longer. For he always had Tootsie rolls for every child. He’d manage to sneak me more than one, plus a stick of gum and I would know. I made his world spin round.

He lost his sight in later years, but could still see right through me. He was more than a great-grandpa. He was a part of me. I loved him dearly. And he knew how to love me.

To say that out loud somehow made my heart feel whole again. The memories of love filled the emptiness and caused the sparkle in my eye to return. And I was finally able to pick myself up off that floor.

I was barely a teenager when I learned this powerful lesson. That God could fill the hole left behind if you exude the love experienced with the one you miss dear. Acknowledging their significance brings glory to their Creator and He will make sure you know that. The love He receives through it will be lavished right back onto you.

It’s healing’s greatest ointment. The salve that protects the wound left behind.

And when you feel blessed to simply have experienced that love at all. When you come to the point of praise, of thanking God for bringing that one into your life, you will witness the pain of grief transforming into joy.

God couldn’t agree more the one you miss is worth the pain of grief. To Him, they were worth the price. . .

How about you? I would be honored if you would tell me about someone you have loved and lost.

Have you found the joy of grieving? I’d love to hear. 

NOTE: This is a part of my Grieving series started on my stillborn son’s birthday. You may catch up on any posts missed by clicking HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Turning Grief to Joy

“Very truly I tell you,
you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”
John 16:20 NIV

It doesn’t matter how many times you experience the process, it still blows you away every time. When your heart feels shattered and you need reminders to simply breathe, there it is. The world taunting you as it continues spinning in orbit. People around you completely oblivious to anything changed. Life carrying on. Significance ignored.

As we weep and mourn, the world rejoices.

Jesus got this. He told His disciples it was going to happen that way, that His death would seem insignificant to everyone but them. People would carry on like it didn’t even matter one they loved so deeply was gone.

But then He promised. He assured them the pain would transform.
You see, it never goes away, only transfigures.
And friends, He’s promised. Our grief can turn to joy.

Sometimes I wonder if the world rejoicing is our reminder of the big picture. Maybe it’s a glimmer of promise. Of significance sustained.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~Kahlil Gibran

No matter how much I search, I am convinced I’ll never find it. Not one Bible verse or phrase. Nowhere does it say not to grieve. On the contrary. It gives permission to mourn. In the verse first mentioned, it’s even an expectation.

I fully believe grieving is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It’s proof we really can love that much. So much it hurts when it feels like it has been stolen from us.

Sometimes I wonder if what we’re really worried about is that we will forget. We’ll forget how much we loved so deeply. We mourn to delight in that again. And we long to stop the world from spinning. To freeze time until we find our footing. Until significance is acknowledged.

But when we are flattened, crushed, in the depths of loss, our Abba Father is there waiting to pick us back up again. To lavish us with His love and soothe our hurt. To remind us of His promises. To come to our rescue.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18 NLT

He’s promised to be there for us. He will weep with us, hold us, shelter our hearts, help us put the pieces back together again.

Because He understands what we’re going through. He knows this feeling of grief. Of longing to have love back again. He knows the gaping hole another life can leave. For we are each significant to Him.

Friends, only in His arms does the world stop spinning. It’s the only place we can simply be.

And when you find your way there,
the promise becomes reality.
Grief turns to joy.
Not forgotten. Simply transfigured.

How about you? Have you experienced grief transformed? How did it happen for you? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Joy in affliction is rooted in the hope of resurrection,
but our experience of suffering also deepens the root of that hope.
~John Piper

NOTE: This is a part of the mini-series started on my stillborn son’s birthday. You may find all the posts on grieving  HERE.

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