Embraced by Holiness {Stuck Tight in a Turnstile}

One Life Surrendered

I own all six of her books. They read easy and yet call you to action with relentless conviction. She shares simply, straight from The Word, while providing everyday examples of how one can press harder. Love deeper. Seek further this scandalous love affair we’ve been invited into by our Savior. The one I love to share about here.

Her newest book is no exception.

Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence by Kathy Howard helps you discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. This six-week, interactive Bible study explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides you through practical steps to pursuing a holy life.

In honor of her latest book and how excited I am about it, I’ve invited Kathy to share with you from her own heart. Friends, please welcome my friend and author, Kathy Howard:

We all have them – those funny family stories. The stories when retold bring peals of laughter from everyone. Well, almost everyone. Sometimes one family member simply responds with an embarrassed chuckle. That’s the way it is with our daughter Sarah and the turnstile story.
It was the last week of summer and time to get ready for a new school year. Back then we lived in a small town about 25 miles outside Calgary, Alberta. The kind of shopping we needed to do required a trip to the city. So the three kids and I piled in the mini-van and headed off for a day in Calgary.
We had almost hit the city limits when the smallest voice from the backseat announced he had gotten into the van without any shoes. Mom made a quick decision. We would not return home; six-year-old Mark needed new shoes anyway. Our first stop would be the sports store not far into the city.
It didn’t take long to pick out a nice pair of sneakers and socks and get to the check out. While trying to explain to the checker why I was paying for an empty box, I heard a familiar scream close behind me. Sarah, our 9-year-old, had somehow managed to get herself caught in the turnstile at the store entrance.
I can’t even explain how she did it, because I didn’t see it happen. The best I can determine is she tried to push through the turnstile on the wrong side where it spun under a crossbar. When she discovered she couldn’t get through that way, she tried to back out, but instead wedged herself between the turning tripod and the stationary crossbar. Head and shoulders hung out one side and lower half out the other. (I know you’re probably thinking I’m a horrible mother, but honestly I only took my eyes off her for a second.)
She wasn’t hurt, but she was mad. While she continued to scream, the rest of us couldn’t help but laugh – while trying to help her of course. But she was stuck fast. Her release required the manager and a special turnstile key.
Have you ever been trapped with no hope for escape? Held in slavery and in need of salvation? Just like Sarah’s turnstile prison, we’ve all been caught fast in sin with no way to save ourselves.
Yet, while we were still held captive, God called us out of the bondage of sin and into the freedom of holiness. Loosed from sin, we are free to be bound to God with cords of love and righteousness. Free to embrace the holy life to which He calls us. Free to embrace the Holy One Himself.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6:22

Do you long for deeper intimacy with your heavenly Father? According to Scripture, a close connection exists between living a holy life and experiencing God’s presence. Sin strains our relationship with God and creates distance, but holiness breaks down barriers and moves us ever closer. Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence practically explores why believers should pursue holiness and how living a holy life will draw us into the circle of our holy God’s loving embrace.

Embrace holiness and be embraced by the Holy One!

Kathy Howard writes to have something to do while drinking coffee and eating chocolate.
The author of 6 books, Kathy helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances. Find out about her Bible studies and get discipleship and leader helps at her website: www.kathyhoward.org

You may view the first week of her latest book, Embraced by Holiness, FREE HERE.

Or read a fabulous interview she did about the reasoning behind the book HERE.

How about you, friends? What does Holiness mean to you? Have you embraced it? We’d love to hear!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


In Need of Refreshment? {Here’s Some From Sherrey}

She found me some time ago. I don’t remember how…why…when… Not because it didn’t matter, but because it feels as though she’s always been here encouraging me. I can’t picture this place before her…

We became friends.

And I’m so blessed to be able to share a bit of her heart with you here this Music Monday! Thank you, Sherrey, for taking me up on the invitation.

Friends, will you please welcome Sherrey?

Thirsty, parched, dry, dehydrated.  Even the words make you long for something cool to drink, don’t they?

A hot day in summer working outside and the throat is so needy for some liquid refreshment. Something to trickle back on the tongue, down the throat and cool as it goes.

But the throat on a hot summer day isn’t the only part of me that grows thirsty. Sometimes my heart and yes, my spirit, feel thirsty, parched, dehydrated.

Why you may ask, and the reasons are many.

Busy, too busy to soak up His Word waiting to be read in my Bible or daily devotional.

Busy, too busy to soak up His Word whispered in my ear.

Why so busy?

Busy, too busy trying to finish the first draft of a book.
Busy, too busy catching up on emails and the ever-present reading of blogs and commenting on them.
Busy, too busy using social media to build what the book gurus call my “platform.”
Busy, too busy with the necessities of life — cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking.
Busy, too busy reading books, but not those in the Bible.

Do you see the picture unfolding here? It’s all about the busyness of my life, so it’s all about me. Yes, I said it — all about me.

When I focus on me and what I want to do, I become oh, so thirsty and parched. Longing for a watering to my soul.

The first time I heard the song, As the Deer Pants for the Water, I was in a dry period in my life several years ago. Living 2200 miles away from my family and my older brother’s wife was dying. How I longed to be there. I hungered and thirsted to be there, but I knew I couldn’t go. I had a family of my own and a job I needed to keep.

The next Sunday morning the Praise Team in our church brought this new song to us. As I listened and read the words, I felt the Source for replenishing my dehydrated soul and spirit. He would fill my cup once again with whatever I needed.

No matter how often I lose my focus on Him and look to the world and my busyness to keep me refreshed, God still steps in with unconditional love and replenishes my soul and spirit.

So, today whenever I feel myself slipping in the direction of dryness, the desert, a parched place I think of the deer longing for water and how God takes care of the deer and you and yours and yes, even me.

Inevitably, this song comes to mind, As the Deer Pants for the Water. Based on Psalm 42:1, it redirects our focus on our true need:

As a deer gets thirsty
for streams of water,
I truly am thirsty
for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1 (CEV)

Take a moment to listen to this beautiful message set to music. I’m sure many of you know this song well. But take time to listen. Refresh your souls and spirits today. And then remember to step back from the busy, too busy parts of your life to soak up God’s goodness.

sherrey2013A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents.  She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else!  Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write.  Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.  Sherrey is married and lives with husband Bob in Milwaukie, OR.  You can reach Sherrey on her websites:  Healing by Writing and Found Between the Covers or via email at salice78 @ comcast . net.

How about you, friend? How have you quenched your soul’s thirst lately? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Sherrey)

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Those that have visited recently know the question burning on my heart
My friend, Vanessa, didn’t know when she sent me this Music Monday guest post. And I can’t help but see it for what it is.
A gift. From Him.
For He knows what touches my soul, and this post…this hymn…does.
Friends, I’m honored to share Vanessa’s heart with you. Won’t you give her a warm welcome?


The organ began to play, and my heart leaped into my throat as it recognized the familiar tune.

The toddler pulling at my dress. The preschooler climbing, jumping, hanging upside down in the pews.

All the struggles of that morning wrangling these two simply melted in the low hum of that organ.

I held the hymnal and my man wrapped his arm around my waist. When I whispered “this is one of my favorites” half-way through, my man just squeezed me tighter, and in that moment I knew he had heard every tear-choked word I had been belting out with my imperfect voice.

Music has always had a powerful affect on me.

Luther Music

I picked up my first instruments at the age of ten, learning two or three more before entering college.

Handel’s Messiah always brought chills during the holidays.

The trumpet during This is the Feast of Victory for Our God every Sunday morning at our first church was the highlight of the service, and my man and I would sing the words throughout the rest of the day.

During tough times, the Lutheran in me even found peace in the words of praise songs… and Mighty to Save and Desert Song are still difficult to sing through the tears and the catch in my throat.

But there are a handful of hymns that undo me down to my core.

These hymns dig deep, to loosen all the junk I’ve been carrying, forcing me to dump it all at the cross.

These hymns break open wounds to allow for the healing I need.

The words. The melodies. They pierce my soul and release my heart of stone so I can be once again renewed with the clean heart He promises.

On this particular Sunday morning, the hymn that undid me, the hymn that erased all the struggles of that morning and let me release it all to Him, was this:

What a friend we have in Jesus
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Yes, there are two more verses, but I will leave you with these along with this amazing performance by Alan Jackson.

I pray this is a blessing to you today as it was for me that Sunday.

Hearts On GuardVanessa writes to inspire, to encourage, to lift up and to celebrate God’s love for you at Hearts On Guard. She is a proud Army National Guard wife and a working mom of two toddlers. She seeks community, fellowship, and the sharing of God’s mercy and grace with all. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

How about you, friend? How have you released it all lately and taken it all to the friend we have in Jesus? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Vanessa)

My Father’s Eyes

If I were trying to describe the term “Kindred Sister”, I would think of her. Not because we are exactly alike, but because our hearts speak fluently with one another.

And I’m so blessed to have her here, sharing with you. Friends, would you please welcome Karrilee?

My dear sister friend, take it away:


I am a child of the 70s… raised simultaneously on that era’s country music and shameless pop music. The former came blaring from a radio in my father’s morning routine… the latter – well, came from my older sisters’ room mostly!

As a writer, even way back then… it was the lyrics that pulled me in.
I just loved the story told in the span of a song.

As a teenager of the 80s, you couldn’t keep me away from the tortured love songs and rock ballads of my generation!  While not raised in a church-going home, I was still somewhat innocent and often, I would sing out with my whole heart, words I did not understand – but Oh how I FELT them!  The intensity… the brokenness and desperation… the romance and desire…

I must have been around 16, when somehow I ended up with “The Collection” – a cassette tape by Amy Grant.  I have no idea who planted it in my room (thanks)… I had no idea who this artist was, but I played the tape over and over (and over and over) and OH how those lyrics pierced my still-unsaved heart!

God was drawing me! I loved every song… but the one that I would blast with my headphones on was “Father’s Eyes”…

I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world
But that’s all right as long as I can have one wish I pray
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say
She’s got her father’s eyes, her father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin’ what you’re going through and feeling it the same
Just like my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes
Just like my father’s eyes
And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me
More than anything I know, I want your words to be
She had her father’s eyes, her father’s eyes
(Father’s Eyes by CHAPMAN, GARY WINTHUR)

You may listen to the song HERE.

But here’s the deal… I didn’t really ‘get’ it.  I didn’t know who the Father was… and while I love my own Dad… well – let’s just say at that time, we didn’t really have that kind of connection!

Oh, and I didn’t really get that whole second verse… seriously – as in – Did. Not. GET. It.

But there was just something about such an intense love and such a desire to be seen and to be transparent enough that people would see beyond me that had captured my heart.

                                                                    My Daddy & me, circa 1992

Then, at 21… I met Jesus… I fell in love… with Jesus but I held the Father at bay – a bit unsure of how He really felt about me… (as if I or any of us can separate Them, I know!)  

I got super close with Jesus… and the Holy Spirit! I was all about those Guys!

We were TIGHT

A decade later… Father God began to woo me. He won my heart… He had to fight for it… I held Him at arm’s length – but oh the joy when I finally gave up and gave in!

This song… this prayer… some 25 years later, this is still my prayer today…
to Speak Life… to Be Love… to Shine On…
to have eyes that find the good in things…
that find the Source of help…
that are full of compassion…

Just like my Father’s eyes!

Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.


Karrilee is a Wife, a Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend…
She is a Writer, Reader, Pray-er, Photographer, Beach Lover, Laugh Seeker, Life living person, serving God to the best of her ability! She lives in the PNW with her husband and nearly grown girlie and is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover how personal, intimate, abundant His Love is for them! Her life message?
Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.
She loves to share what is on her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her at: http://abidingloveaboundinggrace.blogspot.com

How about you, friend? When did God begin to woo you? Have you given your all to Him? What song are you striving for? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Karrilee)

A Wonder of Worth {One Thing Remains}

God placed her in my life last year when we needed each other most. Of that I am certain. I can’t even begin to tell you how much she has blessed me since…

And I’m so honored to introduce her here. Friends, please welcome my dear friend Jenn.

Jenn, thank you for sharing this intimate moment with us…

He whispered, “Walk with Me”,
and He showed me a path.
One that was dusty, rocky, overgrown with thorns,
it twisted and there was no ending in sight.

Reaching out to me and grabbing my hand,
He led the way.
He spoke.

He spoke gently to my soul,

Let me take that burden.
I know it is heavy.
I know your questions are hard and unanswered.

I required you to have much faith.

Earthly fathers can disappoint,
they can break promises.
They give up and run out.

A bitter pill and a hard lump to swallow,
it has made you  wonder your worth and
My love for you.

My child, My love it never fails.


The hole in your life, it was made for only Me to fill.
Let Me satisfy your soul.
My child, I know this is not a path you would have chosen
but trust Me, for at the end it leads to a beautiful place.

My friends, I share this song with you.
It is my favorite.
Through this journey, I have learned God’s love is all we need.

One Thing Remains

Kristian Stanfill

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in to this song drenched in promise.

Hello, I’m Jenn. I am a blessed wife and a mom to three beautiful daughters. My family and I live south of Chicago in a little farming town.
I became a Christ follower in High school and thank God that He saved me by grace.
Join me in this race as we encourage each other along the way?

You may find Jenn over at her writing home: Running this thing Called Life.

How about you, friend? Have you allowed God to satisfy your soul? How have you discovered your worth lately? We’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Jenn)

Deceiving Whispers Silenced {Forgiven and Loved}

This community Lisa-Jo has built. It has blessed me like no other. Some days I wonder if I felt called to write a blog simply to meet these amazing souls found HERE.

Amy is one of them. I asked her recently if she would be willing to share a piece of her heart here on Music Mondays and she graciously agreed.

Friends, will you please welcome Amy?

Standing at the family room window, I stared across the pond into the darkness.  I knew that soon dawn would be breaking.  The sun would rise from behind the mountain.  I wanted to pray like Joshua for the sun to stand still.  I was not ready to face a new day.  My thoughts were still occupied with days gone by.  My mind had been reliving all the pains and hurts of my past.  Some I had inflicted on those in my life and others that had been perpetrated on me.

Wounds so deep that even now years later; years after I had surrendered my life to the One who created me, after years in church, after years spent in prayer, the pain is still fresh and raw at times.

I felt as if I was Eve standing in the garden.  The serpent hisses in my ear:

“Did He really say ALL your sins will be forgiven?”
“Do you think He actually meant you when He said He loved the world?”

I knew that I had felt God amazing love in the past. I had known His forgiving grace. Not now. Not standing here in the dark.

I had again begun to wonder what the truth actually was.

Could a God so holy really forgive me for all I had done?
Could He love me, the unlovable?

I slowly lowered myself to my knees prayerfully asking that He would remind me of how great His forgiveness and love was toward me. Just as I whispered Amen, I hear these words flowing from my IPod:

Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven
And child, you are loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved

God sent that sweet reminder as the sun broke over the horizon.  The new day had begun as bright as my restored hope.

(I want to share the full lyrics of ‘Forgiven and Loved’ by Jimmy Needham with you in hopes that it will encourage you as much as it did me.)

Forgiven and Loved

Jimmy Needham

Tell me I’m forgiven and loved
‘Cause I hear it from the street corner priests
On how God is love and how man can be clean

But my joy has been on holiday
And my peace has almost passed away
Tell me I’m forgiven and free

O I tried and tried to rectify my hopeless situation
But I bought the lie I still have work to do
Now I’m working nine to five like I can earn my own salvation

But there is no condemnation in You
O whisper to me now that it’s for real
‘Cause in the silence of these walls righteousness lost its appeal

Dirty deeds have done me in
O but that can’t stop the faithful friend
Giving mercy once again as You heal

Here it is I’m feeling it
O He died, He died to rectify my hopeless situation
And His blood commands my guilt to leave

Now on Calvary I stand
Empty pockets, open hands
O there is no condemnation for me

Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven
And child, you are loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in to the song below:

How about you friend? Do you know that you are forgiven and loved? If you don’t know His grace and forgiveness, spend some time talking to God today? Or If you still have questions please feel free to contact me.  I would love to share the freedom I have found.

Amy works for a major Telecommunication company during the week but is a speaker/bible teacher on the weekend.  She is a happily married mother of two grown children. On her blog Living in Harmony Amy shares how God can take your past and use it in harmony with His love to create a beautiful song of hope, peace and renewed dreams. You can read her blog, Living in Harmony, follow her on Twitter at @amypboyd and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/amypboydspeaks

Thank you for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Amy)

Worship Always {Janelle’s Story and a GIVEAWAY!!}

I’ve shared her handiwork here before –the story of the one I wear proudly. But what I haven’t shared with you is how amazing the artist behind it really is. How she radiates her Savior with amazing grace.

Friends, I’d like you to meet Janelle. And hear her worship song.
PLUS, she’s offered to give away one of her pieces of art! Details will follow.

Janelle, I’m honored to have you here. Please, sing your song:

The phone rang loudly, springing me from my restful sleep, the last restful sleep I’d get for years. My husband handed me the phone with a forlorn look on his face. This can’t be good, I thought to myself. I was right. It was the absolute worst news anybody could think of; my brother was on the run for a crime that would eventually land him in prison for life.

For. Life.

Worship always.

Several months after my brother’s crime, my mother attempted suicide. I was 6 months pregnant with my second son when my step-dad called with the news. Walking into ICU I could hardly catch my breath, she looked dead. Hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines, she could have been dead for all I knew. The doctors gave us little hope. She beat the odds.

She survived.

Worship Always.

While pregnant with my third son, I became seriously ill. I ended up in the ER a few times, and knew in my spirit that whatever was affecting me would affect my growing baby, so I prayed… a lot. He was born apparently healthy. And my own health seemed to get a little better after giving birth. One year later my doctor’s last resort was the Mayo Clinic. She’d run all the tests she could. She sent me to all the specialists she could think of. Nothing was showing up.

I remembered the tick that had bitten me during my pregnancy and asked one simple question: can you please test me for Lyme disease? The test came back positive. An active infection had been inside my body for two long years before being diagnosed. I was in very poor health. Treatment would make symptoms even worse. I would be told by my doctor that I might recover completely, and I might not.

Chronic Lyme disease is very difficult to cure.

Worship Always.

One year after my diagnosis, my youngest son, whom I was pregnant with while unknowingly infected with Lyme disease, began to get sick. His personality changed and grew fatigued. I just knew it was Lyme disease. I got him tested and braced for the results. They came back positive for an active Lyme disease infection. My sweet son had been infected while growing inside my womb, where he should have been the safest; he was actually being attacked by bacteria.

It was a very hard day.

Worship Always.

The thing about life is you never get a free pass. You aren’t exempt from bad things happening in your life just because you’re a good person, or a Christian. Trials will happen but it’s how you handle them that will determine your healing. I choose to worship always. I choose to rejoice in the storm.

I choose joy.

These are some of my favorite phrases I stamp on my jewelry because they reflect the desire in my heart. I don’t always get it right. Some days I am lost in sorrow and despair but more often than not I rejoice in the storm, knowing God didn’t bring me to it, but He will bring me through it.

My brother and I are closer than ever. We talk nearly every day. We write each other often. I see him as much as I can. He’s taught me the true meaning of grace, of unmerited favor, of how to honestly love and honestly forgive and honestly see somebody for who they are and not what they have done. I love him like Jesus loves him.

My mother is a miracle. She had no lasting damage from the suicide attempt. She is alive and breathing when she should be dead. She was there to watch my son be born. And watching my step-dad’s faith for her miraculous healing inspired my own faith for healing when my son and I would end up sick years later.

Lyme disease has taught me that sickness and disease are evil. Their sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus is the life-giver and He gives in abundance. And because God works everything out for the good to those who love Him, I’ve been drawn closer to the heart of God, learned more about Jesus in these few short years than my entire 34 years of life, have been given my purpose in life. I’ve have prayed for countless others and seen their healings manifest, have been gifted amazing visions, and dreams from God, and have experienced my own level of healing and miracles that I rejoice about.

I believe that, even in the worst experiences in life, beauty can be found. Not that God sent the experience so you would experience the beauty in it, but that God can turn around what was meant for our harm, and give us beauty simply because He loves that much.

In all things rejoice, for we serve a mighty God who performs mighty miracles simply because of His mighty love for us.

Janelle BioJanelle writes about grace and healing. She writes about a good God reflected beautifully in the life of Christ.

She writes about a Savior who is also a Healer and shares her own journey to supernatural healing, offering encouragement to those who believe for their healing also.

You may follow her story here:


And now for the giveaway!

Grace Tags Janelle

Congrats, Karrilee on winning the giveaway!

Didn’t win, or want more than one?
Janelle is offering all Simplystriving readers 35% off!
For a limited time.
Simply use code “striving35” at checkout.
Seriously, friends, you won’t be sorry — I LOVE mine!

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

I hope you win…but more importantly, I pray you worship always.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Janelle)

Better Days

We met over virtual nutella cupcakes one very late Thursday eve. It was during a Five Minute Friday (#FMFPARTY) Twitter party and there was an instant bond as I felt her heart seeking His.

We’ve been shedding and sharing our hearts together ever since. And I’m so honored to have her here, sharing with you.

Friends, will you please give Tonya a warm welcome?

Tonya, this space is yours:

Music Post Picture

I am not sure when I first started to believe it.  When I started to allow the lies to shadow who God had created me to be.  I am not sure when I determined that the only offering He ever requested – me – was not good enough.

How could He want me? I was busted and broken. Wounds open, festering and smelling.  Community had just stabbed at my dreams and the bleeding out was critical. This messy heap, this is not the sort of gift you give to your Creator.  This is not what He would want.  These shattered pieces would be better swept up and tossed away.

And a long-time faith walk of joyous hallelujahs transformed into a deafening silence as day after day I tried to fix what only God could – my broken heart.  Joy was silenced by my inability to bring my very heart to Him – the messy, chaotic way it was.

             “Beautiful the mess we are…”  – Amy Grant

And when I first heard this song I was standing in a merchandise tent at a Christian music festival, the demo earphones covering my ears and tears streaming down my face.


My mess is beautiful?

That was a beginning, albeit a shaky one.  One that knew more steps backwards than it did forwards – but it was a beginning.

My hoarse and desperate cry – Better than a hallelujah.
My ugly sin stained heart – Better than a hallelujah.
My self-doubt and fears – Better than a hallelujah.

My life, the messy bits too – Better than a hallelujah.

As we give over to the anguish that is our soul, God is listening.  His ear is pressed close to our hearts and He is listening to all of that pain and desperate and fear.  His ear is pressed close because He wants to hear our song.  The one that keeps us moving closer to Him, the one that has us bending knees and beating chests – it’s our song and He wants to hear it – a melody of surrender. 

“We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody.
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a hallelujah” – Amy Grant

Subscribers, CLICK HERE To listen in to the song below:

You may read the lyrics HERE.

Brian and ITonya is the wife of 21 years to one good man and the mother to Mikayla (19) and Dylan (16).  She is learning that even though her and husband are entering their “empty nest” years the beautiful task of mothering is never-ending.  She is grateful that the grace of the Cross covers all of the things that she may have left undone as she prepares her children for the big wide world.  Tonya writes over at Stone to Heart in hopes of having others recognize the beauty of their own story despite life’s circumstances.

How about you, friend? Have you surrendered your beautiful mess? Have you sung your melody of surrender lately? What does your song sound like? We’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,

Nikki (and Tonya)

How Do You Let Jesus Be Born in You?

Friends, I’m excited to introduce you to Dolly today. What a gift she has been to me. She’s a blogging buddy turned real-life friend that is actually willing to talk to this introverted soul via phone!

Her words warm my heart and make me think every time. Will you please give her a warm welcome?

Dolly–lead the way: 

Are you willing to give up control to your life, like Mary? Your reputation? Your womb?



The first time I heard Francesca Battistelli sing “Be Born In Me,” my heart identified with this stanza:

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart
can offer is a vacancy

This touched me as I thought of how brave Mary was to give up control of her womb to God. She let the Spirit implant His life in her (Luke 1:26-38).

She first opened up her heart, then her womb to Jesus. In this most intimate surrender, she gave control to God without knowing the final outcome. Such trust.

And before my head agrees
my heart is on its knees
Holy is He
Blessed am I

Here, she was an unwed pregnant teenager, and she would still be, when she gave birth to Jesus.

Mary gave up control over her relationship with Joseph. She trusted God to smooth things over with her betrothed, Joseph.

Can you imagine Mary telling Joseph that she is still a virgin but an angel told her that she had been chosen for the honor of bearing the Messiah? And now, she is pregnant. Honest.

If I was Mary, I might have tried to explain the unexplainable to Joseph. But Mary did not.

When Joseph learned Mary was pregnant, he intended to quietly divorce her. Then an angel of the Lord told him, in a dream, to not be afraid of marrying her because the Child was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1: 25).

She didn’t try to manage or control other people’s perceptions of her. What would her family, friends, and village think of her? Even years later, there were rumors of Jesus being illegitimate.

If it is hard to be an unwed pregnant teen today, it was at least a hundredfold harder 2000 years ago. In Israel during Mary’s lifetime, it was socially, and culturally unacceptable to be an unwed pregnant woman.

Yet Mary didn’t let other people’s perceptions control her. She fully rests in God’s control of the situation.

I wonder, if she figured, since she was carrying the Messiah, He could begin saving her now by taking care of her problems.

After all, these problems came as a result of her open surrender and obedience to God’s will. This tells me I can expect some bumps in the road when I obey God.

Nor did she demand that God give her a five-year plan. She gave up any illusion of controlling her future. Her humility and trust leave me breathless.

Yet Mary’s story also reveals a joy and love is born that makes her surrender worth all the struggle (Luke 1:46-55).

I’ll hold you in the beginning
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle,
Make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

“Be born in me, Jesus” is my prayer this Christmas.

Whenever I have given up control of my fears to Him, He has birthed new courage to act despite my fears. As I reflect on all the new experiences and friendships God has birthed because I said “yes” to blogging, Twitter, and recently, to Facebook and Instagram, I am amazed.

Over the past several years, as I struggled to give a few painful relationships into His hands through prayer, God birthed a new peace in my heart. Of course, I still have difficult moments, but His presence and peace are showing up more and more. Grateful.

As I surrender control, He surprises me by filling more of my heart with Himself.

Nothing is impossible for you, Dear God.
I want all of Your Love,
Your holiness,
Your compassion, and
mercy to be born in me.

How about you? What phrase struck you as you listened to “Be Born in Me”? How have you experienced Jesus being born in you? What is an area or relationship that you can surrender control to God?

Thank you, dear Nikki, for the honor of being invited to guest post. Your friendship, prayers, and Spirit-filled words bless me richly, and so many, as you point to Him.

Thank you, dear reader, for being part of my journey to Bethlehem this year.

An idea for going deeper: I recommend listening to “Be Born in Me” while reading the lyrics on the video, then listening again with your eyes closed. After listening in this manner, write down what struck you.

Don’t edit yourself. Just free write, then read. See what God shows you.

Dolly @SoulStops

About Dolly:

God’s beloved child,
wife, mom to sweet girl, writer.
Lover of time alone with God, her family, and friends.
Passionate about prayer,
and making a difference –
one small thing at a time.

Feel free to connect with her at http:soulstops.com,
On Twitter: @Soulstops
And she just joined Facebook!
(Please be patient as she is still learning how to navigate FB.)

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.


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.


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,