When Pain’s Worth It {Beyond the Cross}

FOG09- Courtesey of Greg Abel Photography

“A great many times in our Christian life we will endure hard times.
Those times are always a preparation for the next thing. The unseen.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She slides the charm on her necklace just like I do…when I’m tugging for more room to breathe. Her eyes focus on my left shoulder and I want to hug her for making it that far. After one last gulp she releases the confession weighing heavy on her chest and she was right…it’s a big one.

One might think it’s not a big deal and a part of me wonders if she’s hoping I will slather on the salve of complacency. But she deserves more than that. For I know one gust of life will remove it all and leave her skin cracked underneath. What I long for most is to hold her and have a good cry. Simply because I know she’ll need it later.

After asking the obvious “Are you sure you never have?” I lovingly ask her the hard question I know has been keeping her up at night.

“Are you ready for refinement–to go through something hard? Is your heart prepared enough to ask for it? Because you could, friend…you could ask Him for those growing pains…”

That’s the thing. In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the growing love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow does not make your heart flutter–it penetrates leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is not paved in gold. No.

You have to
cross many
lashes, thorns,
nails and hammers,
vinegar stained lips and downright bloodshed…
You have to stare death down and face the very
murder in your heart
to get wrapped
in His warm,
eternal embrace.

“This journey through Lent is a journey that doesn’t end at the cross. No!
This journey ends at the empty tomb…in the victory of grace for sinners and
redemption for those who believe.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

And she mentions the what ifs we all fear. The ones that affect more than ourselves and possibly include an unbearable trial–even a death. As if dealing with one death isn’t enough. Surely she can’t ask for that kind of hard journey. Can’t she just ask for your everyday, basic trial? For even those are hard to come by in her near 3 decades…

“How can we serve and love and reflect Christ
when we begin and end with ourselves?”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I search her green eyes and wait for the light within to calm before I whisper what she already knows. For only He does…only He…only. And I remind her what waits on the other side. How glory holds no constriction of time and what we see as important now is confined to the present…these temporal joys–they seem to pull us away from eternal glory.

Holey Wholly Holy -- Glory

We read the words of Jesus’ brother. For surely he knows what he’s talking about. And she makes note right then that it’s the most important thing he wanted his loved ones to know…for it’s the first thing he wrote in his Letter…

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4

I then confess how, last Lent, I had to ask for the hard. I had to pray that prayer. And there were brief moments when I regretted it. Because. It. Hurt. This year, I didn’t ask. I was expecting a road worn down smooth from the scars only to realize those had merely scratched the surface…

“The call to refinement for the Christian is not about making us look better,
it’s about us reflecting Christ better.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She starts naming the scars of trial she’s seen on me. And as she’s listing, I see it…what James was trying to share. I grab both of her hands as I proclaim it for me more than her:

It’s true! Joy can be found during faith-building. I’m living proof.

In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow pierces through Christ, then you, leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is paved in hard-won glory.

And when you
get there,
He wraps you
in His warm,
loving embrace
adorning your garments of salvation with
an eternal robe of holy righteousness…
For beyond shame
and pride,
beyond death,
humbleness
is found
Grace
is accepted
Joy
is obtained
Glory
is revealed.

We let it sink in, praying it takes root as we stand there in the comfort of silence. Our eyes meet and we hug tight, knowing it’s only the beginning. And as I work my way home, walking around the puddles of thawing snow, I can’t help but smile as the street light’s reflection glitters my path…

Father, I’m but a shadow…but thank You…Thank You for letting me dance in Your Light…

This is a part of my Lenten series using Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy as a guide. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday to finish up the series.

If you do not have this book yet, Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for just a few more days! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

How about you, friend? Have you discovered the joy found in refinement? How has your faith grown this Lenten season? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This story was told with permission. Her name was withheld out of love. But if you think of it, please pray for her…for her painful, refining journey has begun…

Faithful Fasting {How to Become Less So He Can Fill More}

Holey Wholly Holy Quote

Fasting isn’t about food. Fasting is about faith. It is about consciously choosing Christ when we want nothing more than to stuff ourselves with that which is temporary.
Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

Although my childhood church believed in fasting, they did not practice the Lenten fast. I understood why. But I had so many friends in school that did, I would generally give something up anyway. Just to encourage them in their spiritual journey…to be a part of something greater…oh who am I kidding. Truthfully, I did it because everyone else was doing it. As I grew older, my choices of Lenten fasts gained momentum in difficulty, but all failed terribly.

We fast from these little things, like dessert or caffeine, and we struggle and crave. Lent teaches us about sacrifice and we think it to be so hard, and while it is, because we are human and frail, our small giving-up is nothing compared to the ultimate sacrifice. Harder than the fast, is the turning the eyes inward, the sifting of filth that settles in the heart, in my heart.
Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

The reasons they all failed? They were all about me. And not in the turning my eyes inward type of way…

But I’ve been blessed to witness fasting in many forms. The intentional fasting while my parents sought God’s guidance; the fasting of others who really understood the significance of the sacrifice. When I realized I needed to seek out my intentions around fasting, I had formulated basic principles to the task:

  • Fasting is a faith practice. Not a food practice.
  • Fasting requires sacrifice — you becoming less. Not more.
  • Fasting should draw you closer eternally. Not temporarily.
  • You have to want the outcome. Not dread it.

“Remember your heart behind the fast is what matters, not the fast itself.”
Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

Last year, during my first true Lent, I asked God what He wanted me to sacrifice. And I struggled with what I felt He was saying, because I wasn’t hearing a thing. A food. An activity. A tangible item I could forego. No. What I was feeling was He wanted me. He wanted me to clear the clutter in my own heart so He could fill it with more of Him. {Read More Here}

He wanted me to fast from myself.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done to date.
And the most rewarding.

We find fasting difficult because we have grown unaccustomed to the hollow feeling in our bellies. We fill our empty with various things, food or otherwise — anything to mute the pangs that rise up and remind us of our unworthiness, our incompleteness apart from the Father.
Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I didn’t realize how consumed I was with myself — I don’t consider myself selfish. Oh, but I am. The fast taught me as much and so much more.

Friends, I don’t care if you fast during Lent. But I sure hope and pray you opt to become less so He can be more. The most effective way I’ve found? Fasting. Any time, any place, any way, any form.

Because when we neglect a comfort — and let’s face it, we have many comforts — we search and grasp for something, anything to fill that hole. And friends, Jehovah Shammah is always right there. Willing. The challenge lies in accepting His offer over the easier option.

Jesus knew this temptation well. We all know what He faced in the desert — the very reason the Lenten fast began. What many of us don’t know all that well, is what happens when we make the same choice Jesus did. When we choose to put our relationship with God first. Foremost. Over all. Especially that thing we crave immensely when it’s not in front of us. Friend, do you know what it feels like to put Him before that thing?

Let me be very clear here:
God’s not after your coffee, your television, your sugar or your social media.
No. Friend, He’s after you.
He loves you so much He wants all of you. Your heart of hearts. Your very soul.

This is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”
Joel 2:12

And whether you offer just that this Lent or another season is up to you. Because it’s you who has to be ready to give up more than the one thing you choose to symbolize the task with.

  • Is it hard? Oh my yes.
  • Does it hurt? In more ways than one.
  • Is it worth it? A thousand times over.

What do you say…Will you join me in the challenge? Will you find what’s standing in the way of Him filling you up and get rid of it? Will you live out Matthew 4:4 with me? We won’t be sorry. I’ll bet my life on it.

NOTE: This is a part of my Lenten series based on my experience through Lent last year and my reading Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy this year. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday as we talk about dying to self.

If you do not have this book yet, Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for a limited time! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

How about you, friend? What has your experience been with fasting? How has it changed you? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Exposed — A Self Reflection {Let Him Look}

The cover crinkles as I try to use every square inch to my advantage. Instinctively, I grab hold as I see the doorknob turn; my cheeks flush just thinking about the breeze giving it flight. She greets me with a smile and holds out her hand for mine. And I wonder if she knows it takes all I have in me to return the generosity.

Right away she rises concern over my blood pressure. My eyes focus on the curling wallpaper seam as I make my own diagnosis — it really is hot in here… I confess to her it’s only because I’m nervous. I’ve never seen this woman before and now I’m going to show her all of me and trust my precious cargo to her care.

Her smile would be contagious, if one would allow themselves to look at it head on. She touches my knee gently as she whispers “It’s okay, dear. I’ve seen it all before. You won’t have anything that will surprise me.”

I meet her gaze as I barely whisper “You may have seen it before, but you’ve never seen me…”

~~~~~~~~~~

Fast forward to last year and you’d find me in a similar position. Face down. Focused on the curling the heat was bringing. Confessing my nerves as I stood before Him…fully exposed.

“Trust me when I say you’ve not got anything He hasn’t seen before. Stand in this fire, let Him purify you–this is how He loves us. This is the process of sanctification.”
~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

Friends, God saw things in me I didn’t believe were there until He showed me a mirror. I looked at my reflection and didn’t even recognize myself. For I saw pride. greed. resentment. distrust. No. This wasn’t the Nikki I presented to the world. Surely, this wasn’t really happening. For how could He even look at me? Why would He bother trying to save me?

What was I worth to Him when I looked like…sin?

“His desire is for us to be complete. He longs to restore us, to strengthen us for the call He places on our lives…Though He accepts us as we are, He has even better for us. He loves us too much to leave us in our mess.”
~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I fell down and beat myself up over allowing myself to get that low. To be that bad. To look that ugly in light of His redemption. Let me tell you, I can throw a mean pity party.

Friends, I realize now most of the pain I felt was self-inflicted. And my, did it ever hurt.

“Yet, here, in this painful, holey place — this is where the healing begins. The renewal comes through the wringing out of the soul, through the pulling and dragging out of the ugly — through the sacrifice.”
~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

But I had to. I needed to see my unworthiness. I had to look at my sin-soaked self and truly grasp how far love came down to save me. Because only then could I live out these verses:

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 1:28-31

And let me tell you: All I have. All that is good within me and all I hope to be comes from Him. It’s all because of God. And the only reason I can claim it for my own is because Christ paid for it and then gave it to me as a gift.

All I am is dust. But that medium is one of my Master Creator’s specialties.

There’s no telling what He can make out of me.

This year, I’m going to stand the heat again–only longer. I’m going to let Him look…really see me as I lift my hands and say

“Do Your best, Father. And please, let me see the work You do in me so I can share how amazing You truly are…”

“‘Suddenly They Saw Him the Way He Was’
The way He really was all the time,
although they had never seen it before,
the glory which blinds the everyday eye
and so becomes invisible.
This is how He was, radiant, brilliant,
carrying joy like a flaming sun in His hands.
This is the way He was–is–from the beginning,
and we cannot bear it.
So He manned Himself, came manifest to us;
and there on the mountain they saw Him,
really saw Him, saw His light.
We all know if we really see Him we die.
But isn’t that what is required of us?
Then perhaps we will see each other, too.”
Madeleine L’Engle, The Ordering of Love

How about you, friend? Have you let God look at you lately? Has He shown you the work He plans on doing with you? I’d love to hear.

NOTE: This is a part of my Lenten series based on my experience through Lent last year and my reading Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy this year. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday. If you’d like to prepare, please read through “The Crushing Place” of THIS BOOK as we will talk about confessions. ::GULP:: If you have not gotten this book yet, please do! Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for a limited time! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: If you have time, I’m sharing some thoughts over at Soul Stops today about a familiar passage that has become personal to me in a post titled: We All Have Nets. Would love to share my heart with you there, too! CLICK HERE to read.

We All Have Nets {The Things That Entangle}

Flickr Photo Credit: Lo.re.n.zo.

I’ve talked about it some, but need to more. Give examples. Show you how it looks and breathes in my everyday life.

The Living Word.

May I never grow tired of how it speaks to me differently each time I read it. How a passage I’ve read thousands of times can jump out at me at just the right time.

Like this one for instance:

“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and followed Him.”
Mark 1:16-18

It’s the “at once” portion of this story that’s grabbed hold of me.

And I’m so excited to share with you how over at my dear friend Dolly’s place: Soul Stops. You might remember her from her guest post here. I was so excited to reciprocate when she asked.

Would you please stop by and let me know your thoughts? What jumps out at you? I’d love to hear!

You may CLICK HERE to read the rest of my thoughts.

Thank you, Dolly, for having me!

And thank you for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Waiting in the Wilderness {You Can’t Hurry the Holy}

“Our life’s purpose is to give God glory. We do that by reflecting His image to the world through our worship and our service to His kingdom. By His death He justified us, and through the refining fires He sanctifies us for the work of His purposes.” ~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I didn’t grow up practicing Lent. Sure, I had given up things over the years, but only to be a part of what my friends were doing. Last year, however, was the first time I went in to Lent with intention as I offered to become less so He could fill more of me. (You may read some of those posts, HERE.)

Kris, in her book Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, explains the history of Lent as well as the intention behind it and helped me figure out what it was all about.

You see, even if you don’t practice Lent, chances are you have been through a Lenten experience while submitting to Christ. You have given parts of yourself up. For it is more about the journey of dying to oneself.

“We are called to live as Christ lived–willing to suffer as He suffered and to be stripped of the excesses and pride that prevent us from living a life that more fully glorifies Him.” ~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

We’ve all heard Lent compared to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. The period He spent preparing for His ministry. My mind whirls with the examples in the Bible of others who have spent time in this fashion…Moses. Isaiah. David…

Friends, I wonder if we find ourselves in this wilderness more than we realize. Maybe we’ve had seasons of waiting…of seeking…that were intended for periods of preparation like this. like Lent.

I think about the desert and what Jesus went through. How He was pressed but not crushed. Tempted but not destroyed. How He relied on God for every little thing…things I take for granted today.

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” ~Matthew 4:4

Jesus claimed this after His own refining period. After He faced death head on. After He discovered how good the enemy is at his job. And when you contemplate it in that type of context…friends…does it grip you like it does me?

It’s in the times of wilderness we realize how little we can live without. It’s in these periods of waiting…seeking…we realize He is all we need.

So that brings me to wonder:

What if we treated our 40 days here in desert fashion? What if we shed what we didn’t need? Lightened our load? What if we stripped ourselves bare so we could bear the heat of the refining fire a bit longer?

“…we fail to give up the one thing that stands between us and Christ. Ourselves. Only when we have given up our own ambitions and desires, from that death to self, can we be used to produce much for His kingdom.” ~ Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

Friends, what if we became the desert ourselves, allowing our ambitions to wilt, our desires to burn, our landscape of “stuff” to be blown away? What if we did really die to self this Lenten Season and allowed Him to do His thing. Quench us with the Living Well of His Word. Fertilize our hearts with overwhelming grace and abounding hope. What if we allowed Him to draft our landscape of life, our viewpoint. Could we do that?

To most of my friends reading this — we live in a rich culture. We were raised to believe we deserve some basics in life: shelter. food we can tolerate. clothing we like to slip into. children who follow.

It scares me to think how rich we really are. That we may be who Jesus was talking about in Matthew 19:24.

Who am I to think I deserve anything? Who am I to think I deserve to be rescued from this wilderness? Who am I to think this thing I chose to fast from makes me any more deserving of His glory?

Who am I?

Maybe after these 40 days with you, I can answer this question with certainty. That’s what I’m going after.

How about you, friend? Are you prepared to step into the wilderness? How are you planning to bare all to Him this Lenten Season? I’d love to hear.

Please know, I’ll be back next Wednesday with more thoughts on my journey. If you would like to feel prepared, please read through the “Ache” portion of Holey, Wholly, Holy as we will be talking more about “Letting Him Look {A Self-Exam}”.

If you do not have the book I am referring to and would like a FREE pdf copy, please visit here soon as Kris is giving them away as a gift to you this Lenten season.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

* Click Photos for Photo credits

Friends in the Fire {Holey, Wholly, Holy}

ROCKY-M

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