Who Am I? {Can’t Get Over Him}

Held by Christianity

It can become a mundane chore. An everyday task we do out of…obligation? respect? tradition? Maybe all of the above.

Regardless, we walk the road of life wearing “Christian” on our lapel.

The part that worries me the most: It can become so embedded in our culture we lose the significance. We forget how it first came to be.

Friends, He chose us first.
(John 15:16)

All we choose is to walk to those arms spread wide as He says, “Come.”
(Matthew 11:28)

It’s not a birthright. It’s a commitment.

And then there’s the doer in me. My controlling nature kicks in to where it becomes a task. A duty as I serve those around me. As if any sacrifice I make allows me one step closer to completing my goal.

My to-do list of glory.

I forget. It’s not a competition or a service. It’s a relationship.

I’m not competing for glory. I’m fighting for His.

Simply for the love of Him.

If I’m not careful, I’ll miss the mark completely. I’ll lose my way if I think I can win by simply acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly…
(Micah 6:8)

Because He’s not after what I can do. He’s after what we can be. Together.

I don’t need to prove myself, He’s done it for me.

Here’s what gets me right in the gut:
He doesn’t want to call me servant. He wants to call me friend…
(John 15:15)

And that’s something I can’t get over. In fact, I’m going to have to talk about it more…have you help me sort it out.

But right now, as I stand in wonder of what He’s done for me. Of what He asks of me. Of those arms spread wide, offering a safe place of rest, this song comes to mind.

Because it’s true. I can’t get over Jesus and this scandalous love affair He offers. 

Can’t Get Over You

Anthem Lights

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in to this amazing song on YouTube
Or HERE on Simplystriving.

I love the way You love like no other
It’s got nothing to do with anything that I do
Time and time again You forgive me
So this time I choose to stay here with You
Hold me
Pull me just a little bit closer
I don’t wanna lose this moment
Your love has covered me
And now I can’t get over You
Here in the arms of my Father
Only grace can be found
So I lay my fears down
Nothing is the same anymore
You’ve changed me from the inside out
Now my heart is beating and it’s singing won’t You…
Hold me…
I can’t get over the way
Your love stays the same, oh Lord
I can’t get over the way
Your love stays the same, oh Lord
Even through the good and the bad times
You stay the same
So my song will remain
Lord…
There’s nothing I can’t do
I just can’t get over You

How about you, friend? Servant…friend…lover…which do you associate with most while contemplating your own Christianity? Are you Jesus’ friend? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

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

Jesus Loves Us Where We’re At {And How I Want to Love Him Back}

Agape

There are some things the English language can not explain thoroughly. John 21 is one of them for no matter which English translation you read, you don’t get the full story.

It’s the only passage I can think of where the word LOVE does not do justice.

You know the one–where Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him. Three times (Read HERE).

But the story changed for me when I read the original Greek (and by that, I mean a commentary which explained it to me*). You see there are a few levels of love. This portion of scripture uses two, and it’s what makes the story applicable to you and I.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used the form of agapao (agape) love. The selfless, sacrificial kind of love. The same kind of love we find here:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Peter responded that yes, he did love Him, in the phileo sense. The friendly, brotherly kind of love. Which, at first glance, I get because let’s face it — I don’t hear too many men confessing love for each other — a radical kind of love at that.

So Jesus asked again. Giving him a second chance…

A part of me thinks Peter was simply being honest with where he was at the time. For he had failed Jesus. He had shown doubt. He had proof he hadn’t given his all — the way agapao love requires.

But Jesus…in grace-like fashion…steps down to the level we’re Peter’s at. And accepts us him where he is as He asks Peter a third time:

“Peter, do you phileo love me?”

Jesus didn’t belittle him like He could have. He didn’t scold him for failing.

Still it hurt Peter. Maybe because it was the truth. I’m expecting he felt guilty. I feel like I get Peter, so I’d even be willing to bet there was a bit of pride blocking the way of him fully surrendering.

This is where love takes hold as Jesus reminds Peter of where he’s been and where he’s going. He showed Peter he had agapao love in him –he displayed it as a child. And He prophesied Peter would achieve it once again, even in his own death. (READ HERE).

Friends, a part of me wonders if Jesus was asking one of His closest friends — would he do the same thing Jesus was planning on doing for him?…and Peter couldn’t, at the time, say he would.

I get Peter. I really do.

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus…from loving him us that way. In agapao form–sacrificial. selfless. relentless love.

I adore how Jesus encouraged Peter by showing he is capable of such love. For, friends, it’s how God’s designed us.

This is the very kind of love we’re made of.

For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Ephesians 1:4

God’s been revealing this Lent what’s been standing in my way of giving agapao love. He’s been peeling back layers of pride, self-doubt and guilt I’ve been harboring for years. And I’m guessing soon, in Peter-like fashion, I’ll be ready to do something about it. In fact, I’ve already begun taking steps the way Jesus suggested in this very passage:

“Then feed my lambs…take care of my sheep…follow Me”

Okay, Jesus. You’ve got a deal. You keep working on me and I’ll keep sharing about You. I’ll feed Your sheep with my story. I’ll stretch myself to help those who need it. I’ll search for the lost ones and show them the way as I follow You Home.

Because, Jesus, I love You, too. I really do. I just need Your help of taking away everything in me that doesn’t.

This song is my Lenten prayer.

Father, burn away the ropes that bind until only agapao love remains… (Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in).

Only Love Remains

by JJ Heller

How about you, friend? Do you relate to Peter? Do you agapao love Jesus? How do you show it? How do you feed/take care of His sheep? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

* I wish I remembered which commentary I read this out of years ago so I could give them credit. I can not find it, but do have a book on my bookshelf that talks about this portion of scripture really well: Deeper into the Word New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent (pg 116-118) found HERE.  (I’m not an affiliate)

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

Love Never Stops Believing {The Greatest Motivator}

click for photo credit

Sometimes I get so caught up in my unbelief. I get so wrapped up in my faith, or lack thereof, that I forget some basic truths about The One we are striving to believe in in the first place.

Am I the only one?

I’m over at 5 Minutes for Faith talking about this today. I’d love to have you stop by and express your thoughts as well as give me the opportunity to share something heavy on my mind.

And I’m so excited to lay it open, I’ll give you a glimpse of it now:

Friend, God believes in you. God believes in you.

Won’t you click over and let me tell you more? Simply click the button below!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Cherished {Shaping Hearts} ~ Five Minute Friday

I’d like to list it as a hobby:
Just writing.
Without worrying if it’s right or not.
And then linking arms with others who feel the same.
Over at Lisa-Jo’s.

Please check out the details below on where you can find this beautiful piece of artwork.

Please click or reference the details below on where you can find this beautiful piece of artwork.

Today, I’m joining others
As we write unabashedly
For five minutes time.
Without editing or backtracking
On one word alone:

CHERISHED

Sometimes you meet someone who, no matter how brief, leaves an impression on your heart so deep, you just know…you’re a better person simply from knowing them.

My heart considers my great-grandmother. Her hands had seen more labor than most, but you wouldn’t have known it. She’d make sure of that… Once you touched her softened lines of life, you didn’t ever want to let go. She radiated Jesus and I am honored to have been able to sit at her feet.

I was captivated by my hubby the very first time I saw him (but don’t tell him that…he doesn’t need any more leverage). And every moment spent with him is a moment well spent. It’s been over 18 years of moments now and I can still say it without fail: He points me to Christ and offers to hold my hand along the way.

My list has grown twice its size in the last year alone. And still, no one replicates another.

I like to think with each impression, my heart gets closer to the shape it should be.

And when I think about you…YOU who is spending time with me right here right now, I can’t help but wonder…

No wonder Jesus loves you. No wonder He came down to shape hearts. Because look at you…beautiful you.

I can see why He cherishes you, friend. And it’s no wonder He suggested I do the same.

STOP.

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? Whom do you cherish? Have you seen how He cherishes you lately? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

And one more thing I just have to share…

Click for details on this wonderful eBook!

My friend Kris, whom I cherish dearly, has poured her heart into a book that could change your perspective on refinement…redemption…and the sacrifice Christ made for you on that cross.

If you would like to take Lent to the next level this year…if you see the refiners fire ahead and are hesitant to step in, please, don’t hesitate to check it out more DETAILS HERE.

It’s All in His Presentation {Winter Snow}

He could have come with a full entourage. Proclaiming His power to the world. Demanding we submit to His mighty hand.

But no.

Poor lighting. No midwife.
Unsterilized.
Dirt floors with an aroma of animal excrement.

That’s how my Savior presented Himself.

He didn’t deserve it.
I do, but He didn’t.

If that doesn’t show how selfless His love is. If that doesn’t reveal the lengths He’d go to ensure not one soul’s left behind, I don’t know what would.

Jesus bent lower than God has asked of any of us.

No one has a worse birth story. And no one exemplifies the beauty of life greater than He and His inexperienced mother.

We look at that stable today and see beauty. Pure redemption.

We look at Jesus’ birth and receive
a glimpse of how God sees us all.

Oh how He loves us.

He doesn’t see our mess, our unsterilized hearts. He sees hope.

God sees a life worth saving.

With the power of a lion, He came in like a lamb. Desperate for a mother’s breast.

Just like any of us.

If that doesn’t explain how willing He is to walk in our shoes. See the world how we see it. Feel the pain we experience. Taste temptation we’re presented with every day, I don’t know what will.

I look at the wrapped baby in a feeding trough
and my heart implodes with love.
For life so small and yet so great.
For an unobtrusive King willing to take my place.

And I can’t help but say ‘yes’ to His open hand extending an invitation to give me what this world can’t offer.

Friends, I pray you take time this Christmas season to get to know that babe in a manger more. Look at Him. Discover His mannerisms. Recognize His capabilities. Realize the depths He’d go to redeem you.

He could have come with a full entourage. But He didn’t have to.

He’s more than enough.

If He didn’t prove how much He could handle. If Him becoming vulnerable, reliant, helpless doesn’t show you how powerful He truly is, I don’t know what will…

(Subscribers, click here to listen in on one of my favorite Christmas songs pictured below)

Winter Snow

Featuring Audrey Assad and Chris Tomlin

How about you, friend? What do you see when you contemplate our Savior’s birth? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: I shared some thoughts on this song last year as well. You may see that post HERE.

With Every Breath {A Call for Love}

The white screen stares blankly as I prepare my posture of praise. The cursor, beating to the rhythm of my soul, anticipates the words to come.

Both eyes instinctively close as I listen to the familiar hum. And my heart whispers what it has since the beginning of this space:

Here I am, Abba.
Please lead the way.

Still the journey varies.

Sometimes words flow downstream, each one adding momentum for the next. Other times they fight their way through loud currents; driving rain of doubt beating hard with every keystroke.

I’m nearing my one year anniversary here in the space. And I’m beginning to see why He’s asked me to lay my heart bare for the world to see.

Friends, this whole time I’ve thought I was doing this for Him. Submitting to His calling for His glory. When really, I’m doing this for me. It’s for my benefit.

You see, when I bend low, grow vulnerable, reach beyond my comfort zone, I find Him ready for me with arms open wide. It’s there I realize:

I’m falling in love with Him more and more every day.

And He’s showing me that’s what this journey is all about. As I run to His open arms and accept His undeserving grace, love overwhelms.

  • Worries melt under the warmth of His face.
  • Fears fade in the light of His grace.
  • Pains dissolve with a simple touch of His hand.

This space helps me focus on His face. I pray I see Him clear enough to paint a picture for you here. May every brushstroke reveal glory. May every post portray a portrait of the One who first loved me.

My mornings have become captivated by a certain song lately. And I wanted to share the lyrics in hopes they resonate with you as well.

Every Breath ~ Gungor

Every breath
Every moment life beats in my chest
Springs up from Your hand
Creation resounds
With every color and every sound
Your love is calling

I will love You with all of my heart
I will love You with all of my mind
I’ll love You with all of my strength
Love You with everything

Every breath
Every moment life beats in my chest
Let my life praise You

I will love You with all of my heart
I will love You with all of my mind
I’ll love You with all of my strength
Love You with everything

Here I am Lord
All I am Lord
Here I am Lord
I am Yours

Friends, may you hear His love calling you today.

Will you join me as I strive to love Him with everything? Praise Him with every breath?

Let’s be His today. At His beck and call. With every breath resounding praise.

Subscribers, CLICK HERE To listen to this beautiful work of art.

How about you, friend? How do you focus on His face? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

My Everything

Click for Credit

We’re all born with a void hidden deep within. A deep hole that subconsciously aches to be filled. Most of us in pure desperation take the solution upon ourselves. By any means presented to us. And sometimes we think we succeed only to realize the feeling of fullness was temporary.

Our desperation leaves us feeling empty. Lost. Incomplete.

Friends, may I tell you something I’m starting to realize?

Jesus is comfortable with incomplete.

Why, look at the way He left His disciples here on earth: Feeling like failures and more helpless than they had ever been before.

I’m now certain this was a part of God’s ultimate plan because through the pain of failure we learn a valuable lesson:

Grace is sufficient. *                   

After some discovery, most of us realize what yearns to be there. We begin to feel this four letter word that makes the hurt go away.

Love.

And we long for it. Search for it. Sometimes sell ourselves short to obtain it. Only to realize what we found wasn’t what we were looking for. It seems this simple little word is more than we’re capable of mastering. Do you know why?

God IS love. **   

Friends, I need to share it in case someone doesn’t know. When we let Him in to our heart of hearts, He fills this aching hole we have within us –the one addictions feed off of. The very one He intentionally planted with our future in mind. He showers us with a Heavenly love we can’t even begin to comprehend.

Human love will always be a faint shadow of God’s love. Not because it is too sugary or sentimental, but simply because it can never compare from whence it comes. Human love, with all its passion and emotion is a thin echo of the passion/emotion love of Yahweh.”
~ Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel 

I have to believe I’m not the only one. I’m trusting we all on our Christian walk at one point or another feel that emptiness once again. The ache we once knew visiting us like the tide. And we wonder where God went.

It wasn’t until recently I realized what the void truly was.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

The void is eternity. Our planned future. The one He wants to spend with us. You see, the seed of Heaven was planted in our hearts at conception.

We’ve been hard-wired for Heaven.

That’s the ache we feel in this world that’s not our home. It’s the ache of being one with Him, being one with Love. Of being Home.

So do we just live with it? That’s what I first thought but then I started remembering moments when I did feel whole. And I realized, He’s got a fix for this, too.

As we wait for complete communion, He offers to grace us with His love. With Him. He wants to take this time to water the seed He planted in us long before we drew our first breath. And watch the growth from that seed spread…

Friends, I’m starting to see the feeling of addiction as a gift. A gift to ensure we’ll keep coming back for more love. More of Him.

Oh how He loves us.

I now know when I start to feel that ache. When the pang of longing won’t go away, it’s because I haven’t taken enough time to soak Him in and pour Him right back out. (I John 4:7-21)

And I’m learning now nothing compares. I don’t want to fill myself up with anything else. For nothing else satisfies. Instead, I’m going to give Him more room. To grow in me. To nurture my soul. To watch me spread with His love.

Friends, I want Him to be my everything. And He’s accepted the challenge.

This post might feel all over the place for you. It does me. But I’m struggling with sharing everything on my heart lately and needed to start somewhere. I want to talk about this more. From various angles and share what He has placed on my heart lately. I hope you join me.

But for now, please enjoy this song that encapsulates this better than I ever could.

(Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in to one of my favorite worship songs that talks about this so well)

Your Love is Everything ~ Jesus Culture

How about you, friend? How do you deal with the void? How do you let Him fill you up? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

~~~~~~~~~~

NOTE: I talked about this a bit before. If you’d like to read more, click HERE.

*  2 Corinthians 12:9
** I John 4:8, 9, 16

A Father’s Love

click for credit

The summer sun pierced through the shapely green oak leaves. Whispers of grass tickled my ankles as I waded along the private island encircled by our gravel drive.

This was my first time, although the calendar promised others. My mom had suggested I wait inside, but those walls could not contain me. I was too drenched in anticipation to sit idly by. The tide couldn’t have held me back from this Tuesday’s Noon.

My hands swished along my favorite shorts and I found myself wondering if I should have worn a skirt instead. What does a 9 year-old girl wear while going on a father-daughter lunch date, anyway? Would he be able to leave work like anticipated? And then I saw him. The knight in shining armor. My Dad in a red Astro van, ascending up the drive.

~~~~~~~~~~

Blink and you’ll find me in middle school on the most dreaded day of the year. For a boyfriendless, preteen girl whose mouth felt like a maze of metal that is. Yes. You know the one. Valentine’s Day.

And as I sat in English, awaiting test results, the door cracked open. In came the Principle’s Secretary carrying a bouquet of flowers. I immediately went into survival mode for I had to plan my I’m-not-disappointed face. While trying to decide what I would say to the lucky receiver, one word made my mind freeze. Did I hear her right? Did she just say my name?

Shock anchored me to my seat, so she met me there and handed me the cellophane-wrapped handful of beauty. Being certain she made a mistake, I ripped open the card. And could have burst right then and there on the asbestos-infused tile.

I’d receive that same card years later, only this time 3 hours separated the two of us. When I called to thank him, he asked me to describe what I had received. “I wanted something that would last longer this time,” he said. Never had I pampered something so. I gave that plant mist baths, stroked its leaves. Named him Coby. And that Jack-in-the-pulpit and I thrived together through the next two years of college.

So did a message on my answering machine. And my mind travels to that late night following my algebra study group. When I found my two roommates hovering over the old wooden crate stand by our phone. Both burst into excitement when they saw me and it took me pressing the green triangle for them to quiet down.

My dad’s deep tenor voice followed as he unabashedly sang into the receiver. The song that had ended my days so many times before. All those years, my roommates and I never erased that message. And sometimes I would catch one of them hitting play before tucking in for the night. It seems our desire to be wooed to sleep never goes away. And the phrase ‘goodnight sweetheart’ never grows sour.

~~~~~~~~~~

Friends, with Father’s day approaching, I find myself reminiscent of my experiences with the man who holds that title for me. There’s so much I could share with you. Because no matter how I look at it, my Dad is a deep reason for me being who I am today.

You might remember my Mother’s Day Utterance. My first discovery while reading Proverbs 31. How I shared lessons learned from my very own mother (post is found HERE). Friends, I’m thinking I’ll do something like that for my dad this year, too. I’ll write lessons I’ve learned from him. Maybe mail him memories like these above. Ones that still captivate my heart.

And perhaps I’ll succeed. I might just switch roles and let him know. Unabashedly. How much I think of him. My first date. My first valentine. The one who sang love right into my soul. And maybe he’ll see. How I still carry the love he poured down on me so many years ago.

How about you, friend? Do you have fond memories of your dad? How do you plan to honor him this year? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki