The Real You

The air was drunk with moisture. And every time sun’s rays pierced through, steam would rise from my son’s canvas. I was perched on my front steps, Bible opened to Luke, as I watched my boy practice his lowercase with green chalk.

Gusts of wind found their voice. Wisps of hair escaped from view as the page rippled in time to nature’s symphony. And that’s when I saw it. Not an entire verse, just part of one. One that appeared highlighted just for me:

“What good would it do to get everything you want
and lose you, the real you?”  *

And just like that the breeze whisked my breath away. For I knew He was answering the question I had posed the night before.

Friends, I’ve had this thing. Burden if you will. Something I’ve asked for/wanting for a long time. He’s asked me to let go of it repeatedly. And I’ve asked Him why. Pleaded with Him to show me how this couldn’t benefit the bigger picture. Begged Him to either take the desire from me all together or honor it. I’ve even had the nerve to remind Him of life’s time-table. Clarify the circumstances as I see them.

Don’t worry — I’m embarrassed, too. I know better.

But I just want it that bad.

I blink hard and breathe in deep as I begin Luke 9 again. What is He trying to say? That I’m losing myself?

It doesn’t take long to see the rest of the message intended for me:

“Self-sacrifice is the way, My way, to finding your true self.” *

My son has moved to uppercase now as I close the Book of Luke and reach for my journal. You all know this by now. I’m a list-maker.

There have been a number of instances where things haven’t gone my way. Where I clearly didn’t get what I want. And with the gift of hindsight, I’m now able to see why.

So on this day I set aside to give thanks each week, do you mind if I share with you some events that didn’t go my way? Because I see now how these circumstances helped define my true self.

I turn my journal to a new page and write “Hard Thanks” in the margin.

  • My parents’ near-divorce. I was about the age my oldest is now and still remember the pain. I’ll never forget how my dad found Christ. And so did I.
  • The loss of loved ones too soon. I list them all individually, but I see each one made me cling tighter to my Redeemer and live more purposefully.
  • It took nine years after my wedding day to add the title of Mother to my name. Not all of those waiting years were easy for me. And yet I see now how He was preparing me for the mother He intended me to be. Thank You, Father…
  • Receiving an abnormal newborn screening with my firstborn. It started my parenting on the right path — relying on Him through my everydays. Sacrificing myself for the betterment of my child. What a gift! (and friends, He healed my boy from this a year later-Praise God!)
  • The loss of my second son to stillborn. There’s no other way to describe it other than Christ carried me through. Although I miss Elijah every day, I see how my faith was sharpened while placing my child in the arms of my Savior.
  • Blowing out my knee, placing me on a form of bedrest for 6+ weeks. Then recovery. With a toddler. This event required me to be at the mercy of others. And literally forced me to stop and listen to Him. Why, it’s when He first asked me to start a blog.

The lump in my throat rises while I write down my one thing now. This thing I want so badly to be different. Because I see it right there on paper. The common thread between them:

When I don’t get what I want, I cling.
I draw closer to Him.
And as a result, I find my true self.
The one He crafted me to be.

Oh how He pursues me.
What grace. What love. What a gift!

My son finishes ‘Z’ and looks to see if I’m impressed. He skips over and touches my cheek.

“Mom, we better go inside now. The rain is coming–
I see raindrops on your cheeks!”

How about you, friend? Can you think of instances where you didn’t get what you wanted? Do you see how they shaped and molded you? How they allowed you to find your true self? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

* NOTE: These passages were found while reading Luke 9:19-34 in The Message.

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Worship: All or Nothing

This is my first time reading the New Testament through in The Message. And I have to admit, every day I’m blown away as I see things I’ve read many times differently. This day was no exception:

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee,
headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion.
The moment they saw Him they worshiped Him.
Some, though, held back,
not sure about worship,
about risking themselves totally.
Matthew 28:16-17 MSG – emphasis mine

A gasp escapes as I set the Bible on my lap. Unsure if I can read any further.

Held back…not sure about worship..
about risking themselves totally…

It’s as if these verses were written by one looking straight into my eyes.

Instinctively I reach for my treasured one. The Bible I’ve had since I was 16. For I needed to see why I’ve missed this.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.

Ah, now I see what I look like when I don’t worship fully. When I hold a bit of myself back while praising Him…

Father, forgive me for this doubting heart of mine. Please take it. I give it to You. I don’t want it to hold me back from proclaiming You fully anymore. Because You are worth the risk. Jesus, You’ve done more for me than You will ever ask me to do for You. What a fool I would be to not give all of me to You. Every day. Yes, I’m all in. To You be all glory and honor…

I pick the Bible back up and read what was to follow. And smile wide when I see Jesus’ response:

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave His charge…”
(the Great Commission follows)

Curiosity got the better of me as I reached for my dictionary. Friends, have you ever looked up the definition for ‘undeterred’? Here are the words that jumped out to me:

Undeterred: unshakable faith.

This series of events happened after Christ’s crucifixion. After He had paid for my debt — my doubting heart — with His own life. And to think…He didn’t even regret it. Even after seeing how we still held back from Him, He remained undeterred in His goal of saving us.

Isn’t that just like our Redeemer? What grace…

Yes, this is what I will do this week. I’m not going to hold back. I’ll give my all for His glory. I’ll get out of His way and allow Him to work His wonder. With my hands held high. What have I got to lose?

Will you join me?

On this Music Monday, instead of focusing on one song, I want to focus on one thing: Worship. Friends, might I challenge you to worship Him fully this week? Don’t hold back.

Go ahead — risk yourself totally. For Him.
If not for the love of Him, then do it for His love of you.

I’m ready to begin worshiping fully. And seeing the gifts He has given me this week is a great way to start. May I share some things that filled my praise journal this week with you?

  • Nothing can separate me from His love. So I have nothing to fear.
  • My flowers are still alive! Even after all this heat and my not-so-green thumb…
  • Don’t need to pretend to be anything but a sinner saved by grace.
  • Corn on the cob
  • Only love empowers the leap in trust
  • Family game night saturated with laughter
  • Madeline L’Engle. Truly, I’m captivated.
  • Watermelon dripping from elbows
  • Another glimpse of grace while reading Matthew 28:16-17 MSG
  • God loves us even when we don’t want Him to love us…

How about you? How are you striving to worship Him fully? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking up with:
The Grace Cafe as well as:

 

Childlike Wonder

One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so He could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering Him.
Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’

Luke 18:15-17 NLT
~~~~~~~~~~

It took my son’s Children’s Bible for me to understand this. Brennan Manning might have had something to do with it, too. Either way, both books found me on the same day.

My husband was reading the devotional surrounding this passage to our 4-year-old. And I must admit my attention was elsewhere. Until I heard him say:

“Because Jesus knows children love Him.
And the children shout, ‘Thank You Jesus for loving us — we do love You!'”
(taken from My Goodnight Bible )

And suddenly I realized — all these years, I had this Bible passage all wrong. For I had always assumed what He adored about little children was their innocence. Their raw, impressionable hearts. That may be, but I’m beginning to see that’s not at all what Jesus was saying to the disciples.

I had read The Ragamuffin Gospel that morning. And had been mulling over a portion all day:

Jesus’ point is, there is nothing that any of us can do
to inherit the kingdom…
We must simply receive it like little children…
If they are close to God, it is because they are incompetent,
not because they are innocent. (pg 26)

After our son was tucked in for the night, I sat down and began to list attributes of children I have personally discovered to be true:

  • You know when a child loves you. It’s written all over their face.
  • A child clings unabashedly to what they love when they feel insecure. Incompetent.
  • They have no trouble relying on their parents for learning most of life’s lessons.
  • Truth comes easy. Natural. They speak their heart unabashedly.
  • They forgive without consideration.
  • They’re curious. Eager.

A handful more fill up my page. And when I stop to read them, I realize innocence is nowhere to be found. I never listed it. The one thing I had taken that verse to mean wasn’t there when reflecting on little children.

It was the last one I wrote down that put me near tears:

  • They are full of wonder. They see pure beauty. They expect to see it.

Oh friends, somewhere on life’s journey we become preoccupied with ourselves. We lose the luster found in the world around us. It seems the more we know, the more science we discover, the duller beauty becomes. As we grow bigger, everything else grows smaller. Insignificant. Wonder becomes forgotten.

If that’s what it takes to become a grown up, I don’t want to be one. I want to retreat back to a child’s mindset. Where we wake up each morning excited to discover new beauty that surrounds us. Where we take the time to stop, gaze, and delight in God’s wonder. Where not a day goes by where we are not caught squealing. It doesn’t matter from what. It all comes from God.

This week, I tried it. I stopped scrubbing floors to study the ant by the patio door, trying to return home. I watched  the flight patterns of the butterflies in our rain garden.

Would you mind if I list some other wonders I discovered?

  • The sparrow outside my bedroom window sings the same song of praise under rainy or cloudless skies.
  • The mother duck knows her duckling’s limitations and doesn’t even mess around with stretching them too soon.
  • Frogs in our pond sing in a 3/4 rhythm. Almost in a round formation. I finally listened long enough to hear the entire sonata. I was captivated.
  • There are no surprises with the rainbow’s color sequence. They’re always in the same order, but the vividness of each varies and each one deserves to steal our breath away.

I could go on and on. And I will. For when I wipe the cataracts of adulthood away from my eyes, I see God’s love surrounding me each and every day. I witness grace and mercy on new and different levels each morning.

And I can’t thank Jesus enough for showing us the way.

Father, thank You for knowing and loving the child within me…

How about you, friend? Will you join me on the journey of becoming like a child? Will you try something new this week — something that goes against your adult nature? What else can we do to achieve this mindset? I’d love to hear. 

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This is a part of my Back-to-the-Basics Redemption Series. You can catch other posts written by clicking HERE.

Linking with:

As well as:
Thankful Thursday @ Red Oak Lane
Life in Bloom
Thought-Provoking Thursday 

His Waiting Room

Her long fingernails tap in allegro. Encouraging the receptionist to type faster. An exaggerated sigh follows each question raised and it becomes obvious to the entire room. Patience and courtesy are not on her to-do list today.

The older gentleman reaches for the newspaper as his wife frantically searches her purse. From the corner of my eye I catch him patting her knee softly. Assuring her everything is going to be alright. He offers what he can to her nerves, asking if he should follow or stay behind.  And I witness love right there as she suggests he wait here in the sun’s warm rays.

It was only after my oldest was born that I grew to enjoy this room of waiting. The only place where time is not yours to control.  And as the sea of others ebb and flow through every corridor, I allow rest to warm my soul. I don’t pull out my phone. I resist the urge to flip through ads. This is my time to spend in communion with Him. For we have a lot to talk about.

You may know He’s asked me to let go. To come undone. To retreat back to my natural state. Where joy is given freely, never grasped. What He hasn’t told me is how. And just like the allegro woman, I want to know. Now.

Words I read recently come to mind and I can’t help but grin at how timely this book found me. God uses these portions to remind me where I need to begin:

What keeps many of us from growing is not sin, but speed…
We lose God in the blurred landscape as we rush…
We don’t struggle with the Bible but with the clock.
We’re drained because we live too fast.
Speed damages our soul…
Jesus came to give us rest.
Michael Yaconelli, excerpts from Messy Spirituality

I find myself now in the same place of the dear elderly woman. Frantically searching for how to achieve life’s perfect tempo. Digging through my mental calendar at what I could cut out, slow down, put on pause.

When it hits me hard, knocking what breath I had left right out of my lungs.

Friends, He shared the secret with me last year. I talked about it in This Post when I began researching the origin of these verses:

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
and
“The Lord will fight for you and you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14

Do you remember what I discovered while researching the Hebrew word for “Be Still”?

  • It meant to let go.
  • To release.
  • To become weak.

My mind whirls with the possibility that He has been sharing the first step to this process for a while now.

Suggesting all I need to do is turn my heart into His waiting room.

A room I’ve grown to enjoy. Where I give my time to another to control. Where I can simply be as others around me ebb and flow. There I can rest when I am weak. Release. Let go. Receive all He has in store for me. Rise when I am called…

How about you? What does your waiting room look like? How do you let go to become still? I’d love to hear.

Sharing with you moments of gratitude I treasured this week in His waiting room:

  • God loves us even when we don’t want Him to love us
  • My hubby having a day off mid-week
  • Gluten-free peanut butter cookies
  • Reading “Messy Spirituality” It was a quick read and knocked my socks off. I’ll have to talk more about it.
  • God refuses to exclude me
  • My sister-in-law gifting me with new-to-me sandals
  • Brilliant rainbow after the storm
  • Seeing my nephew graduate
  • My moment in the waiting room. As He invited me to stay.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking to:

My Natural State

Confession: I’ve written approximately 8 drafts trying to share what I want to share today. One was rather eloquent. One shared a poignant story. One was filled with Bible proof and conclusions. One confused even me. One painted a rather personal portrait. And none of them passed my pray-before-hitting-publish-to-get-the-final-approval test. Not one.

I think I’m trying too hard.

Would you mind if I just share it with you like we were sitting down together in a coffee shop? I just ordered a chai tea latte skim, small, and you ordered something much fancier than that. After some small chit-chat, you lean in, look me square in the eyes and say, “So, tell me what’s on your heart? How are you?”

My shoulders sit back, alarmed at how well you see me (even though it was a fairly basic question for a good friend to ask). Because I can sense your heart and know how you’ll treat mine, I breathe in deep. And tell you everything the rest of this post reveals.

~~~~~~~~~~

Something I read recently will not leave me. It didn’t hit me right away — I didn’t even write it down. I do know it was in Brennan Manning’s book All is Grace. But I’ll have to ask for grace, because I cannot quote it exactly.

What I remember of it is:

Joy is what happens when we let go…
It is indeed our true natural state
and like everything, joy is a gift.

My mind keeps saying “Joy happens…it’s natural…a gift” over and over again.

At first I was trying to figure out what happened. When my normalcy changed. When I began grasping for joy instead of simply receiving it as His gift. After praying about it I now see what step I was skipping over.

Letting go.

You see, friend, I like to think I do this easy. I’m quick to forgive. I don’t harbor ill feelings of anyone. You might remember all that I let go over Easter this year. I honestly thought I was doing good in this area.

I was wrong.

This is where I would take a sip of my steamy chai and try to regain my composure. Pull my thoughts together as you ever so politely ask me to continue with

“What do you think you need to let go of?”

Myself. I’m clinging too tightly to…me. My need to control. The love of my family. My ambitions. My dreams. Take your pick, it all boils down to…Me.

I need to come undone.

Now I’d be starting to worry about you becoming uncomfortable. Thinking I expect you to have something to add that could contribute to my solution. That could help me with my uneasy state.

I would reach over the table to touch your arm and say “Aren’t you glad for new mercies?!? What grace, I get to lighten my load! I get to shed more of myself and give more of me to Him! Oh, sure it won’t be easy, but He’s promised to help me. And wouldn’t you know, He’s still giving me joy through it.”

We would then go through our gift lists together. Sharing moments of joy we gave thanks for through the week. Here would be some of mine:

  • Curtains delaying dawn
  • That I’m hopelessly flawed and hopelessly forgiven
  • Great garage sale finds
  • “Heroes don’t always make the best parents” ~ Brennan Manning so I don’t have to be one
  • God never tempts us (James 1:12-18)
  • Playing scrabble with my hubby
  • My sin shows God’s righteousness (Rom 3:5)
  • The gift of joy and that it is intended to be our natural state

How about you? Can you help me finish the conversation? What moments of gratitude have you had this week? How do you let it all go? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me. I’ve loved our date.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking With:

Empty Life Filled

“For you know that God paid a ransom
to save you from the empty life
you inherited from your ancestors.
And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver.
It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
I Peter 1:18-19 NLT

This verse made my world come to a halt last week. It was the second line that grabbed me. More specifically — empty life. My first instinct was to pull out my boxing gloves and defend this life I live. For it is far from empty. No, I am wonderfully blessed…

Then I heard myself. And read the verse again.

I’ve said it before. It’s made its way into the comments section here recently. Where would I be without my Redeemer?

I’d be empty.

And to think God paid my debt. The one that saved me from myself. I brought nothing to the ransom table but a dirty, worthless, empty vessel. Yet He loved me and saw my potential. With the precious blood of Christ, He wiped me till I shone spotless. He filled me up with grace and beauty. Now, He calls me His very own.

Friends, He made my life priceless.
And to Him, I owe my thanks.
He deserves my praise.

Mind if I share some of my thankful praise with you? These are taken from my thanks journal written this last week (#1125-1159)

  • I’m no longer empty. (I Peter 1:18)
  • God gave me identity (I Peter 2:10)
  • The smell of lilacs filling my home. (Don’t you love the white tips on my lilacs?)

  • Discovering the author Brennan Manning. (Where have I been?)
  • Finishing the Bible in 90 Days.
  • My hubby taking Monday off to celebrate our family.
  • Having a free zoo so close to home.
  • My son gifting me with a May Day flower bouquet:

  • Widows open wide without needing to take allergy meds. This is a new one for me!
  • Reading outside while my son plays happily in his sandbox.
  • All of the emails and comments received from my mini series on grieving. To have you all share with me blessed me so much. Thank you. To God be the glory.

How about you? How has He filled your life and made it meaningful? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

The Fruit of Joy

This last week I was out in my rain garden. Seeing what needed to be tended to. And as I was surveying new life rising through old growth, trying to determine what was supposed to be there and what I needed to pull, an old hymn came to mind. I wasn’t exactly sure why, as it doesn’t have to do with gardening. And yet, maybe it does.

One thing you should know about me. Green, although my favorite color, will never be used to describe my thumb. I am clueless when it comes to gardening. But I’m striving.

Someone whose thumb I consider green has told me I have a lot of weeds in my rain garden. I’m sure it’s true, but everything in there blooms. Everything produces color and looks pretty to me. So I have no idea what needs to be weeded out. I look at my garden and smile wide. Completely oblivious to anything that should prevent me from doing so.

Later that night, when I realized the poem never left me, I began to see where my heart was leading. And I thought I’d share the hymn/poem with you today, on this Music Monday. I’d love to know where it takes your heart, too.

I’ve shared one of these Olney Hymns before. “The Waiting Soul” In this post. This is another one of my favorites from the same collection:

“The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength
by: John Newton, 1779, from Olney Hymns, vol. 1, hymn 42

Joy is a fruit that will not grow
In nature’s barren foil;
All we can boast, till Christ we know,
Is vanity and toil.

But where the Lord has planted grace;
And made His glories known;
There fruits of heavenly joy and peace
Are found, and there alone.

A bleeding Saviour seen by faith,
A sense of pard’ning love;
A hope that triumphs over death,
Give joys like those above.

To take a glimpse within the veil,
To know that God is mine;
Are springs of joy that never fail,
Unspeakably divine!

These are the joys which satisfy,
And sanctify the mind;
Which make the spirit mount on high,
And leave the world behind.

No more, believers, mourn your lot,
But if you are the Lord’s
Resign to them that know Him not,
Such joys as earth affords.

How about you? How have you found joy? How do you share it with others who might still be looking? I’d love to hear. and I’d love to hear what tugs at your heart with this beloved, old hymn. 

Sharing a glimpse of my joy with gifts of thanks.

  • God’s peace can guard my heart (Phil 4:6-7)
  • 13 years of marriage. And my cup still runneth over.
  • All of the Anniversary and birthday wishes this last week. You all blew me away. Thank you.
  • My now 4-year-old son’s love of board games. I’m considering calling Guinness about how many games of Mouse Trap we played this last week.
  • God wants me to truly know Him (Hosea 6:6)
  • Perennials. I’d be lost without them.
  • God’s love knows no bounds (Hosea 14:4)
  • Finding a church to call home.
  • Having a neighbor who is an avid gardener (a hidden blessing)
  • God is still doing things we wouldn’t even believe! (Habakkuk 1:5)
  • Smartwool socks on a cool, damp morning.
  • I don’t have to be perfect for I am perfectly loved.
  • Trader Joe’s soyaki sauce. Yum (when used sparingly).
  • God blesses those who sow…not reap.
  • I have the ability to radiate life (Luke 11:36)
  • No one. Not one. Can rob me of my joy. (John 16:22)

What joy have you found today? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki