Thursday, December 31, 2009

a letter to me.

inspiration: it's New Years Eve. and I want to look forward.

This year, in addition to making my goals for 2010, I decided to write a letter of encouragement to myself. Sometimes, all you need is a little personal motivation, so I intend to carry it with me and read it when I need encouragement. Here's what I came up with:

Dear Nikki,
You are an amazing, strong, beautiful woman. You have a lot to offer the world around you: optimism, humor, strength, confidence.

Don't be hard on yourself. God has an amazing plan for you! He loves you unconditionally and will never leave you nor forsake you. Just trust in Him and He will lead your paths.

"Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." -John 14:1

The man God has chosen for you will come. Just be patient and, most of all, be yourself. You have much to offer! :)


Jeremiah 29:11,
--Nikki

I'm armed with a new attitude and I intend to strengthen my trust in God and myself in the new year. I have confidence that the year 2010 will be absolutely amazing! And I welcome all its adventures and challenges! :)

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." --Isaiah 43:18-19

God has an amazing plan for me! And I welcome it with open arms :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 Goals for 2010

inspiration: 2010 is two days away!

I posted my "nutshell" version of my five resolutions in this post, but now I am posting WHY these are my goals.


"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
-2 Peter 1:5-8 (My New Year Scripture)


2009 was a spiritual "epic fail", but 2010 is going to be better. I have the right mindset and I have friends and family who want to keep me accountable in my relationship with God and who will comfort and encourage me if and when I start to stray from my path.


  • God first.

  • I have lived too long for "Nikki". I've been selfish, prideful, self-reliant on my own plans, rather than relying and trusting fully in God and His plans for me. Granted, the past few months haven't been a cake-walk, but I know I must lose my life in order to gain eternal life. =]


  • tithe.

  • I have been a horrible steward of my money. I've hoarded it, wasted it on whimsical "things", and I certainly haven't given much back to the Kingdom. But I recently read in my devotional that a church was asking members of the congregation to set aside $20 a week in order to fund missions, which is roughly $1000 a year!

    My tithe goal for 2010 is to set aside $10 a week. And hopefully, I will be able to increase my giving within the year :)


  • read.

  • I will not lie, I abhor reading. But I started reading the New Testament in November. I made myself sit and read 4 chapters a day and to really immerse myself in getting to know God. I didn't want it to be just an apathetic "Okay, I read my Bible today" thing...I wanted to really get to know God and to know His purposes for me. I began on November 2, 2009 and I will finish on January 1, 2010.

    So I am going to begin in Genesis on January 2, 2010. I've mapped out the first three months of the year, averaging about 3 chapters a day (didn't want to overwhelm myself since the chapters are longer in the Old Testament). But regardless of the amount I read or how long it takes me to read through the Old Testament, my time with God's Word will remain a staple time of my day.


  • pray. fervently.

  • My goal is not only to just say "Dear God, thank you for this day. Please get me through (fill in the blank). Amen." more. But to begin to pray the right prayers.

    For many days, months, and years, I've been praying to a "Santa Claus god" (I read that term in "A Scandalous Freedom" by Steve Brown); I've been praying for God to give me things and shower me with things and then expecting those things to just fall into my lap. But that's definitely the wrong impression of God to have and I've definitely been praying the wrong prayers.

    My goal is to thank God for His blessings and to praise His creations, not to pray for selfish, trivial things, and for constant peace in His will for me.


  • trust.

  • Trust God.

    It's not easy to put aside my "wants", but I will constantly make efforts to trust God. After all, He is the Creator and Sustainer of life and we should be living for Him, not the other way around.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

sticks and stones.

inspiration: Ephesians 4:29

We've all heard the expressions:
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." or
"I'm rubber, you're glue…", well you know the rest.

But the truth is. Words hurt.
Insults. Gossip. Slander.
No matter how you spin it, they're painful. Not to mention, the Bible warns us to keep tabs on our tongues.


"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." --Ephesians 4:29

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." --Proverbs 12:18

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." --Proverbs 15:1

"Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down." --Proverbs 26:20


We must control our words and control our tongues. What kind of image are we creating when we praise our God on Sunday, but we're cursing and slandering and gossiping Monday through Saturday?
It's sometimes hard to reign in our words when we're particularly angry or hurt by someone's actions or words, but we must show restraint and patience (I know, it's hard!) Patience certainly is not a virtue of mine. But when we practice patience, we learn also to control our tongues. The whole concept of "thinking before speaking" is strengthened.


"All kinds of animals, bird, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." --James 3:7-12


So with your words, are you producing fresh water or salt water? I certainly make a conscious effort to make sure everything I say reflects a heart of God. Sometimes, those bitter words come out, but I hope to reign in the evil tongue and instead produce "fresh water" words of praise for my God! :) We're called not to speak badly or harshly of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but to build them up and comfort them. Words are powerful: Use them for good :)

2010 Resolutions

inspiration: 2010 is 3 days away! :)

I'm suffering from insomnia. So here are my New Years resolutions in a nutshell:


  • faith first.
  • God = Numero uno.

  • tithe.
  • $10 a week. =]

  • pray fervently.
  • "Pray continually." -1 Thessalonians 5:17

    "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." -James 5:13-16

  • read.
  • Old Testament, thou shalt be conquered!

  • trust.
  • Trust God. Trust people.

Monday, December 28, 2009

armor of God.

inspiration: Captivating + a friend's text

I've been battling myself for a while. I've been battling a broken heart and a lot of emotion. But something that I was made aware of today was that I've been battling Satan, too.

I sent a text message to a close friend of mine this morning:

"Why is it so hard to be so confident in Gods plan for me when I feel so down about joshua?"
This was her response:

"I think sometimes Satan entices us with the past and negative feelings about a situation or ourselves because he truly knows God wants us to live in the present because he has a perfect plan for our future."
That text alone was not enough for me to realize Satan's hold on me though.

See, I've been struggling with so many thoughts along the lines of "You're a failure. Who would want to love you? You failed Josh. You'll fail again. You're not worth it to anyone." It's been hard to focus completely on praising God and all His glorious blessings when I've been so bombarded with all these negative feelings.

But I was reading Captivating and came across some powerful words that spoke right to my soul:

"God desires the woman's spirit to rise up in his strength as well. One day we will be queens -- we will rule with Jesus (Rev. 21). We need to grow in our understanding and practice of spiritual warfare not only because we are being attacked, but because it is one of the primary ways we grow in Christ. He uses spiritual warfare in our lives to strengthen our faith, to draw us closer to him, to train us for the roles we are meant to play, to encourage us to play those roles, and to prepare us for our future at his side.

It is not that we are abandoned. Christ has not abandoned us.
It is not that we are alone. He will never leave us or forsake us.
It is not even up to us. The battle is the Lord's.
(pg. 195)

Of course, we all know that he tests us to strengthen our faith in him (James 1:2-4 is one of my favorite verses). But sometimes, he uses "spiritual warfare" to strengthen us, too. (I had to look it up and according to a quick Wikipedia definition, spiritual warfare "is the concept that demons attempt to thwart Good and the will of God").

So this relates right back to what my friend told me earlier! (Talk about amazing timing!)

Satan has been placing these burdens and thoughts and negative feelings on my heart to try and thwart me from trusting God fully. "Satan is a vicious, ruthless bully, and a bully will not back down unless someone stronger stands up to him and exposes him for what he is" (Captivating, 199-200).

And I am fully able to combat these negative feelings by putting on the armor of God!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor og God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13)
I'm trying so hard to stand firm in faith. I'm trying so hard to combat negative feelings. It's going to be a long battle, but as long as I am wearing the full armor of God, I will fight hard and pray I am able to combat all my negativity and all the evil schemes Satan throws my way.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Great is Our God.

inspiration: a friend telling me about this video!

This is fascinatingly amazing.
How Great is Our God - Louie Giglio



Amazing.
Wow. Wow. Wow!

to send or not to send...

inspiration: my indecisiveness.

Today, I found a Powerpoint that was sent to me last spring.
I made my own version of it, today, and I'm quite proud of what I included in it.
However, I have been "on the fence" as to whether or not to send it to the person I intended it for...I want to, but I'm not sure how it will be received. I don't want to send it with wrong intentions.

My life should be for God FIRST. And I intend to abide by that. Any potential boyfriend is second. That's just how it should be. But how do I test my motives?
The more I read Captivating (great book for women!), the more I long for relationship, but the more I think about pursuing a relationship, the more I fear I'm "striving for self" again...

Prayer and petition are key, I guess. Take everything to God and He will reveal Himself to us in time. :)


Be joyful always. Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
--1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, December 26, 2009

bold and brave.

inspiration: 2 Timothy


"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" --2 Timothy 1:7


I'm not much of a public speaker. I'll do it, but I don't particularly enjoy it. It doesn't really come all that naturally to me. But the beautiful thing about God and His plan for us is that we don't have to be brilliant speakers or orators to reach out to people. He will speak through us.

When we are following God and truly reveling in His glory, we realize that we were given this boldness and power in order to glorify Him. He provides us with that strength! Sometimes all we have to do is overcome our "fear of public speaking" in order to share His glory.

I know that I really do suffer from a fear of rejection, sometimes, when it comes to the outward, vocal expression of my faith. I don't want to "ruffle feathers" or to make someone feel uncomfortable or give someone the "wrong impression" about me. perhaps it is my pride, perhaps it's a fear of saying the wrong thing, but what I need to realize in those moments is that it's not about me. It's about God!


"...do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." --Matthew 10:19-20


We may be persecuted for our faith, we may be looked down upon, we may be rejected. But it's not about us. It's about the glory and honor of God being shared! The Holy Spirit will guide us in those "tough moments". You could plant a seed in someone's heart that the Holy Spirit sows in time. It's just a matter of overcoming a fear and speaking out on God's behalf! I hope that with the new year, I can also embrace overcoming my fear and will be more open to expressing God's love and to sharing my testimony with others and sharing what God means to me. After all, it's all about Him.

making preparations.

inspiration: Passion 2010 is a week away!

2010 is around the corner!



2009 has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions for me. I've made a lot of discoveries and overcome a lot of struggles, some of which I'll still be battling in the new year. But I'm looking forward to one word changing my life:

PASSION



Ever since I heard about it in October, I realized that it was something I needed, in the sense of both the conference in Atlanta and the emotion. Passion 2010 is going to CHANGE MY LIFE, and in this, I am absolutely confident. Next weekend, I hope to be absolutely ignited and set on fire with passion and desire and love for my God. =] I've spent the past several months challenging myself to think less about "Nikki" and more about "Jesus". And I'm really looking forward to spending an entire weekend just immersed in God's glory and presence! I'm preparing my heart for something remarkable! I'm preparing my heart for something amazing! I'm preparing my heart for passion! ♥

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a baby changes everything.

inspiration: it's Christmas Eve...duh!

Tonight was a wonderful night :)
Spent time at Mompom's with a smorgasbord of food. Captain D's + Chinese + lots of desserts, to be exact ;)
We began by reading the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20), a new tradition, I hope.
We ate. We exchanged hugs and gifts. And then parted ways to celebrate with our immediate families.

:)

I hope that when I "grow up" and have a family that my children will know the significance of what Jesus' birth means for the world. I hope that Christmas isn't about the toys or the money, but rather about the true reason for the season: to celebrate Jesus Christ's birth.

A baby changed everything: The Savior of the world was born of a virgin and placed in a manger because there was no room at the inn. The wisemen (Magi) followed a star and offered gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:9-11). The joy of giving. I hope they understand this. :)


Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

my apologies.

inspiration: James 4

Inspiration: James 4


Submit Yourselves to God

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

   "God opposes the proud
      but gives grace to the humble."

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Boasting About Tomorrow

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

(James 4 - NIV)



I'm sorry.
We were never centered around Christ and we let our selfish motives get the best of us, I, especially.
We fought and fought and fought, when all we needed to do was to submit our worries and our stresses and our problems to God.

I was selfish and I was not living for God, but rather living for myself.
I hope you can forgive me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

diving in.

inspiration: "Diving In" by Steven Curtis Chapman



Lyrics

I'm not much of a swimmer. (Truth be told, though, my "dive" in real life is not-so-much a graceful dive as it is a painful "bellyflop!!" =[ )
But when it comes to God, I want to be a fearless (and graceful) diver. I want to experience His amazing power and to let myself "get swept away into the holy flood".

Like I said, I'm not much of a swimmer.
When it comes to swimming pools, I'd rather chill on a float than be out in the middle playing Marco Polo. I'm just not a strong swimmer...I guess the same has applied to my spiritual life. I've been given this amazing opportunity to enter an awesome, amazing river of supernatural waters; but instead, I've been chillaxing on my inflatable float with my water wings on, choosing to skim in the shallow end of the kiddie pool, rather than experiencing what this river has to offer me. I guess, when it comes to pools and water, I'm afraid to branch out, afraid to look like a fool dog-paddling my way across the water.

But I'm choosing to "dive in" to this powerful river. I may look like a fool, but God will take care of me.
At this particular moment, I'm still standing on the ledge, looking down, because to be honest, I'm scared out of my mind what making this jump means. I'm scared of what total surrender looks like. I'm scared of "drowning". Scared of looking like a fool as I flail around trying to stay above water. But I know that once I take that leap of faith, God will protect me like a lifejacket. Once I enter those waters, I may be under for a second, but He will lift me back up and carry me safely to my destination.




...and as I always do, through pouring my thoughts out (be it on paper or in a word document), I resolve my own issues. It never fails that once I read my own words/thoughts, I realize I need to swallow my pride and take my own advice, as difficult as it may be. Prayer alone will not resolve my issues: Surrendering my all and trusting fully in God's plan is what will bring about resolution and peace in my heart...

So in the words of Steven Curtis Chapman:
Sink or swim, I'm diving in!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A trustworthy saying: Part 2

Inspiration: 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 4:9-12 says:

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.


Sometimes, we, as college students, tend to get "clumped" as "young folks who get a taste of independence and go wild". For a while, I tried out my independence, but in doing so, it brought me closer to God, I think.

At the current time, I kind of consider myself to be a "born again Christian", in a sense.
I shared my testimony (HERE) and I acknowledged the fact that I made a choice to accept Jesus as my Savior, but it wasn't until recently that I made a huge lifestyle change to accompany the decision to follow Christ with my life.

In John 3, Jesus is teaching Nicodemus about what it means to be "born again".


In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (verses 3-8)

"But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (verse 21)


We're called to live "in the light". We should no longer live in the flesh. Our actions should reflect those of Christ.

My hope is that, even though I may be "young", I won't be looked down upon as a "crazy, out of control young person". I want my life to reflect that I've been "born again" and that I stand firm in my faith and in my walk with God.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

reason to celebrate.

today started off with an amazing Christmas service at Grace.
God is doing amazing things through that church and I am so blessed to be a part of it! :)
But the stage was set up amazingly. There was amazing worship led with Building 429 + the Grace Worship team. =]
Chad followed with a sermon about how "a baby changes everything" and it was absolutely wonderful. Not only does a baby change everything in our human lives, but Jesus absolutely changed the world with His life and years later with His death. It's awe-inspiring and amazing to think about how the baby boy born in a stable of a virgin could absolutely change the way we live.
This time of the year is truly a time of celebration!

More reason to celebrate:

  • 5 days to Christmas

  • 13 days til Passion 2010!

  • I think I got a 4.0 this semester!! =D

  • MTSU Blue Raiders win the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl! :) M. T. S. U. M-T-S-U. M-T-S-U. Go! Raiders! Go!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

maybe Paul was on to something...

inspiration: Being single

In a society where media/entertainment industry seems to portray "love" and "happiness" as synonymous, mutually-exclusive things, sometimes it makes being single a real bummer!

Now, I realize that is not always the case...There are a lot of us who are happy being single and independent and I'm, honestly, trying to get back to that mindset myself. But for me, I've tasted love and experienced what it's like to be in love and I've felt the "he's-the-one" feelings...and it's hard to take back the "single and loving it" attitude I had before.

But I recently read through 1 Corinthians. Chapter 7 is Paul's take on marriage. Of course, we all know we are to have only one husband/wife and Biblically, we are not to divorce (except by marital unfaithfulness), lest we become adulterers (Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10). But in talking about the covenants of marriage, Paul says these things:

  • "Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." (verses 25-28)

  • "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband." (verses 32-34)

  • "I am saying this for our own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (verse 35)

...so maybe Paul was truly on to something. Being single isn't all that bad.
Because in being single, we are setting ourselves up to be fully devoted to the Lord.

So as it stands, maybe I should not be so concerned about "the affairs of this world", but to be in "undivided devotion to the Lord". :)

"A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her."

Friday, December 18, 2009

the power of prayer.

inspiration: a simple text message.

I find it amazing that I sent out a text message to 8 girls to pray for me because I needed comfort and peace and within minutes, almost everyone had sent one back saying "Praying for you" or "Will do."

The power of prayer is amazing. I mean, I was instantly comforted knowing that a handful of girls are helping keep me accountable and who care about me enough to take a moment out of their day to lift me up to God.


Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
--James 5:13-16


Thanks for the prayers, girls :) You are amazing!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the value of 2009.

inspiration: Pastor Ron's "5 Principles Learned from Disappointment

2009:
in terms of my faith: EPIC FAIL!

For the first 9 months of this year, I lived a self-sufficient, self-gratifying, selfish (man...there's a lot of "self"s there...) lifestyle. I didn't live to serve others (not even with Josh, who I was dating and in love with!) and certainly not to serve God.

  • It wasn't until October (when Josh and I broke up) that I learned what the words "I love you" truly mean.

  • It wasn't until mid-November that I started reading and indulging into truly getting to know who God is.

  • It wasn't until December that I made the choice to put God first!

  • It wasn't until today (December 17, 2009), that I chose to try and put "me" and "my emotions" aside to see the value of my disappointing year:

2009 - The Positives:

  1. I learned the true meaning of love

  2. I learned how to work through negative emotions (guilt, frustration, resentment, and the like) and to not allow them to burden my relationships/friendships/life.

  3. I started reading the Bible! =D

  4. I've started putting my relationship with God at the forefront of my life. I strive to follow the example of Christ

  5. I've surrounded myself with a number of small groups and people who genuinely love me and help keep me accountable in my faith :)

  6. I've been forced to think ahead and really think about the values and attributes I want my future relationships to contain

  7. I've learned the value of friendship and unconditional love♥

  8. I've learned to stand up for myself...and, also, how to humble myself (if only I knew this before October...)

  9. I did something remarkable: SKYDIVING!

A trustworthy saying...: Part 1

inspiration: 1 Timothy

I can't say I know Paul (formerly Saul), but I do know that I can sometimes relate. In 1 Timothy 5:15, he refers to himself as a sinner -- "of whom I am the worst". I certainly am a sinner and certainly sometimes I feel as though I don't deserve anything, but what brings me back to the reality of this life is this: God still loves me!

Broken, miserable, desperate...he loves me!
David speaks of this in Psalm 34
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken." (verses 17-20)

When we get pass our pride and self-sufficient attitude, only then can we fully surrender. And I will be the first to admit my pride and self-sufficiency. And sometimes it makes me feel horrible...but Christ always reveals His unfailing mercy and love to me.

Paul write about it:
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." --1 Timothy 1:15-16

Sometimes, I don't feel like I deserve that kind of mercy and patience. But God is there to comfort, strengthen, heal, rebuild, and love ♥. Amen! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Psalm 13

inspiration: Psalm 13

Right now, I feel like David in Psalm 13.


How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.

--Psalm 13

I feel like a failure, sometimes.
It's a feeling that I shouldn't let creep in, and I do my best to keep it out.
But I do take heart in verses 5-6:

"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."

Monday, December 14, 2009

praying the "right" prayer

inspiration: a good dream...finally!

To me, prayer is an important part of worship and an important aspect of our relationship with Christ.

In my life, I always try and take out a few minutes of my day to just connect with God on an emotional level. To praise Him for His blessings (which, on a really hard day, may just be for my health and for His unconditional love). And to open my heart to Him.

Of course, he knows our needs before we even speak them (see Matthew 6:8) and we are also told to "Ask, Seek, Knock" (Matthew 7:7-8 -- "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.")

But there is one thing that I have failed to acknowledge lately in my prayer life: it's about GOD. I know, lately, I have been pretty selfish in my prayers..."God, PLEASE, bless me with (fill in the blank)" or "Do this, Lord" or "Change this person...They're not doing what is right..."

But who am I to pray those sorts of prayers?! I've been pretty lame and judgmental, if I may say so myself...
Even Jesus did not pray for things for himself (See John 17). He prayed that he may glorify His Father and he prayed for us, so that we may serve His Father, too!! Talk about a humbling revelation...I hadn't even acknowledged this particular Scripture when I was planning what I wanted to blog about today. I just knew I needed to talk about how praying a "different" prayer brought peace to me today.

So shifting gears for a moment, here is today's inspiration:


For a few weeks, I've been praying "wrong" prayers. It started with praying for peace. Then it changed to prayers for the Holy Spirit to work in others' lives who I thought needed prayer. Then it changed to prayers for myself. And while these may be valid things to pray for, I prayed for them for the wrong reasons. I prayed these things for my selfish reasons: Because I wanted something to gain. They weren't for reasons of the Kingdom. And as a result, I have been unsettled, restless, and I haven't had particularly good dreams in about two weeks.

Yesterday was a pretty stressful day just due to my emotions getting the best of me after an awkward and surprising situation. And I just let the stresses and emotions get the best of me and for several hours, I focused on the fact that I had felt awkward. But last night, I thought about everything and how it wasn't about me! It was about the Holy Spirit working in others. I had completely ignored the presence of the Holy Spirit!!

So last night, before I went to bed, I just praised God for the work of the Holy Spirit in myself and in others' lives. And I had a wonderful dream last night! And I woke up this morning feeling well-rested and absolutely amazing! I felt this sense of "Nikki, what you prayed last night was how you are supposed to pray every night. See how much better you feel?!"


Now, going back to John 17 for a moment. I read this and was absolutely humbled.
In my Bible, the heading is "Jesus Prays For Himself". Verse 4 reads: "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

He doesn't say: "Father, grant me my gifts now since I've been a good Son". He instead knows what His purpose was: To glorify His Father!

Later, he prays for all believers.
"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they will know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (verses 23-25)

To know that Jesus humbled himself in order to pray for me is absolutely humbling. The Son of Man, who is absolutely perfect and without blemish, loves me enough to pray for me is absolutely amazing!

I know that after last night and after reading this passage today, my prayers will no longer be about me, but about glorifying God.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

emotional band-aids

inspiration: Band-Aids & "Break Me Down" by Tenth Avenue North
Read my testimony here

You know the feeling: You want to take off a band-aid.
The questions run through your mind: "Should I try and peel it back and endure a longer, less-intense pain? Or should I just suck it up and RIPPPPP it off, scream once, and then move on?"
I know for me, I'm a sissy, and tend to choose a longer, less intense pain because I know that the rip-it-off pain is worse… Haha.

So, needless, to say, when it comes to emotional band-aids, I take the same approach: I choose to endure the less-intense emotional hurt (I may even be able to suppress those feelings of hurt by busying myself with school, work, friends, Facebook, Farmville…whatever it may be).

But when God's tugging at your heart to "rip off the emotional band-aid" in order to put Him first in your life, you know that a sharp-side-splitting, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking pain is inevitable and the longer you fight it, the worse the pain is going to be.

Welcome to my current state of mind.

I'm in the midst of the after effects of ripping of an emotional band-aid.
Here's the backstory:


Josh and I dated for over 1 year and 4 months. We started out as "awkward" friends (which is a hilarious story, in itself), but once we opened up and overcame some "awkward" situations, we lost our "awkward" feelings for each other and were able to connect on a deeper, more emotional level. After a few months of dating, I started getting the "He's-the-one" feelings. But life moved forward and our distance and the stresses of balancing school, work, and distance overtook us and our "once-upon-a-time-storybook-relationship" started fading. And fast! We overcame lots of hard times, arguments, fights, break-ups and make-ups…We fought through everything because of our love for each other...

But when we broke up "officially" (October 4, 2009), I started trying to reading Gary Chapman and Francis Chan (the former because is VERY famous for his Christian perspective on love and relationships and the latter because it was the literature for community group). And especially through reading Gary Chapman, I quickly realized that my "love" for Josh wasn't at all supported by my actions. I was a selfish, manipulative, blame-shifting, finger-pointing girlfriend, something I NEVER wanted to be and certainly something I NEVER thought I would become.

But I tried to still "be friends" with Josh because he was and still is an important person in my life. During our time dating, especially in the beginning, he was a strong-willed, strong-in-his-faith (to the point of intimidating me!), God-fearing man…and I absolutely admired him for being so strong. I was a very passive person and I never stood up for myself, but in dating him, I gained a backbone and gained some "spunk" and started trying to find myself and find what I was passionate about.

...but I digress...

But in "being friends" with Josh and trying to maintain some sort of relationship with him, I always held out hope for something more again. I still trusted and loved him and I knew that if even if he asked me to do something extreme, like to move across the country with him, I can honestly say that my response would probably have been "Let's go!"
But I was putting Josh first (even above God!) and in doing so, I felt my restless heart and lack of peace with God. I felt Him pulling me to come back to Him; He was pressing His weight on my heart; He was begging me to come back to Him (a very humbling feeling in retrospect...that God could really want someone as screwed up as me...)

So on December 6, 2009, I drove to Murfreesboro at 7AM to speak the most heart-shattering words I, to this day, have had to say: "Josh, we can't be friends." When I was standing there in that room trying to make Josh understand, I have to give all the credit to God for strengthening me. I knew that it was one of those situations where Josh wouldn't understand why I did what I did or why I was saying what I was saying. And I wanted so much to be told "Nikki, you're doing the right thing. God needs to be the most important thing in your life.", but I was denied that affirmation and the rejection and emotional hurt is still weighing heavy on my heart.

But God was keeping me on my feet, not letting me fall to my knees and giving in to the selfish heart that wanted to ignore God's calling...God was keeping my eyes turned to Him when I was driving back to Clarksville, keeping me on the road and keeping me from turning the car around and driving back to the Boro and giving into my selfish heart once more.


God NEEDS me!
He needs me to be all for Him. He needed me to rip off that emotional band-aid. He needed to break me down so that I could be rebuilt and molded for Him. He needs me to be strong for what He has planned for me.

But now, if I'm being completely honest, it truly, truly, truly, truly and absolutely sucks!

Truth be told, I still love Josh. I still fight my selfish heart to not talk to him, to not try and reach out to him, to not call him, to not drive across the state to see him. And it's such an odd and frustrating feeling to fight with yourself. These are the repercussions of ripping off the band-aid: a heart full of hurt, yearning for affirmation from the person it loves, yet trying to keep focus for God.


2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says this: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."

Jeremiah 29:11 (one of my favorite verses): "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'"

And of course, the ultimate "keep-on-truckin'" verse, James 1:2-4: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."


These all have helped calmed down my frustrated and wounded heart. But again, if I'm being honest, it would be so much easier if God said "In order to overcome heartbreak, follow these 3 easy steps and be instantly healed!" Of course, God works on his own timetable and molds and shapes us for His plans and purposes, not ours, and in doing so builds our faith and trust in Him.

...but it still hurts. And it certainly doesn't make ripping band-aids off any easier, especially emotional ones.

Friday, December 11, 2009

my testimony

I grew up in good household.
I went to church every Sunday morning with my grandmother.
While my parents didn't necessarily go to church every Sunday, they still raised me under Christian principles, which I credit much of my success in life to.

My first, I guess, "true encounter" with Christ came in middle school when I started going to AWANA meetings with my neighbors. I memorized Scripture, participated in Bible quizzes, won awards, motored through memorizing all the verses in the AWANA books.

I accepted Christ shortly after. Not to say I wasn't "serious" about accepting Jesus into my life, because it was a huge stepping stone in my life, but I don't think I understood as a 12-year old that accepting Christ was not just a choice, but it was a lifestyle.

During the remainder of middle school, church wasn't the environment I needed. Going to church was more about socialization than anything else. I guess that isn't surprising that I wasn't "cool" enough or "pretty" enough or "popular" enough to be accepted by my peers. I was an outsider amongst people that I thought were friends. And the fact that I was considered an outsider turned me away from church and consequently affected me having a true relationship with God.

In high school, I still was a very reserved girl. I always kept my belief in God and that everything that happened to me was for a bigger purpose, but I still failed to have a real relationship with Him. I was involved in Tri-Hi-Y, which was the "club" for Christian girls and while it was always nice to be surrounded by other girls who had the same "religious label", out of my ignorance, in the meetings, I always secretly compared myself with others. The reality of grace hadn't really been something I knew about or understood; to me, it was still a "works-based" relationship with God and I thought by being a good person, I was guaranteed a ticket to heaven.

It wasn't until college that I learned the truth about having a real relationship with God.

My freshman roommate, Brooke, and I went to church every Sunday and being in a more laid-back, rock-out environment made church a more comfortable setting. I guess the transition from high school to college really expanded my open-mindedness about church. I distinctly remember the moment that I felt like I knew what it meant to be a TRUE Christian. The piece of the puzzle that had always been missing in my faith: Jesus Christ. The book was entitled 50 Reasons Jesus Came To Die. 24Church had given it to all the guests on Easter. I read it and it made me realize that "believing in God" wasn't enough; it was about believing in Jesus and that He died so that we may live. I felt so silly at that point.
John 3:16; John 14:6; Romans 6:23; Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 2:8-9
All the verses I had memorized in AWANA now made sense! It's not about works, it's about grace!!

So for the past two years, I've tried to maintain that relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
As for my current relationship status with God, I feel like I am closer to him now than I ever have been.

On October 4, 2009, I experienced the toughest heartache of my life: my boyfriend of over 1 year and 4 months, Josh, and I broke up. It was horrible and along with the breakup came baggage and guilt and frustration: things that I knew I did not want to live with. So with the help of my best friend, Joyann, I worked to overcome my guilt and to become reacquainted with this idea of 'grace' and 'unconditional love'. The result: skydiving! The most amazing thing I've ever done in my life! But I was able to overcome a lot of negative emotions and was able to channel some of that energy into my relationship with God. (As I like to say, "I left all my baggage and negative feelings in the plane I jumped out")

During this emotional roller coaster, I began reading various literature about love and about God. Love as a Way of Life: 7 Ways to Transform Every Aspect of Your Life by Gary Chapman, Crazy Love and Forgotten God by Francis Chan, to be exact. I poured myself into those books, absorbing every detail and every piece of advice that the authors had to share. Mid-November, I realized that I didn't need to read about God, I needed to know God, myself. So I began pouring myself into the New Testament.

Even more recently, on December 6, 2009, I did the most heart-wrenching and hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I told Josh that we couldn't be friends (granted we were "ex's", but we had tried to make a friendship work, despite the attraction and feelings that were still quite apparent between us). I did this for the simple fact that I put Josh before God. I broke the 1st and most important Commandment ("You shall have no other gods before me") and I realized I needed to sacrifice my relationship with Josh in order to put God first.

I'm still battling the repercussions of my actions (which I will outline soon in a post entitled "Emotional Band-Aids") and it's honestly still a struggle to keep God first and not let my selfish heart take precedence (which would result in me trying to reconcile with Josh…), but that is part of why this blog is in existence.

I want my faith and my relationship with God to be the most important thing in my life. I want to live a life that revolves and relies completely on God. Hence the name of this blog -- Faith Overflow (Read the significance in this post).


This is me. This is my testimony.
True story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

no longer self-sufficient.

Inspiration: Francis Chan & Forgotten God

At some point (though I cannot recall where or from whom), I read or heard the term "self-sufficient" used to describe some Christians. That term meaning this: those who think that can "get by" without God. They live their lives, not living truly for God, only calling on Him when they're in trouble and need to be "bailed out", so-t0-speak. I always wrote that term off. I never took a step back to realize that I had become truly "self-sufficient" in almost every way possible. Until recently (and by recently, I mean, like a week ago).


"I believe He is calling me -- and all of us -- to depend on Him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged." --Francis Chan, Forgotten God (143)

I came to realize about a week ago, that I was not living a life that truly reflected God. I came to realize that I was putting other things and other people before God, and that shouldn't be the case. After all, God calls us to put HIM first (see the First Commandment). I came to realize that I had been walking down a path where I thought I could "make" it on my own. I made everything about me, with no regard to His plan, His love, or having a true relationship with Him. I tried to "skirt" by...

This post by Ben Reed, a leader at Grace Community Church, was written a day after I took the first step to putting God first. This first step encompassed ending a friendship that meant the absolute world to me; but that one friendship was truly hindering me from living completely for God. This first step was an absolute emotional nightmare, and the pain still resounds now, but I know that I did it for the right reason: to end my cycle of "self-sufficiency".


I don't want to live a comfortable life.
I don't want to "just get by".
I don't want to be "filled up to the brim".

I want to overflow!
I want to be tested.
I want to know that without-a-doubt that I am living for God because He is the most important Person in my life.

I don't want to live for His blessings and His rewards.
I want to live for Him because He is the Creator of all things & He is the Sustainer of Life!
I don't want to be "self-sufficient" any longer.

hardcore.

This is a re-post from my note on Facebook:
Inspiration: my obsession with the word "hardcore"


hardcore.


For some reason, I have an absolute fascination (almost to the point of obsession) for the word.

According to dictionary.com, the definition is:
--adjective: unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated.

To me, it means serious business. If I refer to something or someone as being "hardcore", it means that it/they are serious, passionate, intense. For me, it's something I want to be for God!! I know some pretty hardcore followers of Christ and I look up to them and respect them so so so much!

I'm not one to ever refer to myself as "hardcore" just because I know myself. I know that I am a far-from-perfect follower of Christ. Most recently, I identify myself as being selfish, prideful, and "self-sufficient", meaning I thought I could handle life on my own. I treated conversation and time spent with God and the Holy Spirit as the top of the Food Pyramid --I "used sparingly", rather than allowing God to be the spiritual staple of my life.

I haven't been at peace for a while with life, to be perfectly honest, and I have no one to blame but myself. But I am in the process of transforming myself. See Romans 12:2. I am in the process of living wholly and solely for the purpose of bring praise to God. He is truly the most important thing in this world (and beyond!).

A quote from Francis Chan's Forgotten God that I totally identify with: "I say I want to give it all to God, to truly submit myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I won't lie; sometimes the reality of what that means leaves me wanting to hold back a little."

But I've gotten to the point where I know that "holding back" is not an option. Holding back leads me to "use sparingly" (which is a portion that will NOT satisfy my spiritual hunger). I want to be totally consumed with living a life that reflects His mercy, power, blessings, and love for me. My desire is to be serious, passionate, and intense for God. I want to be "unswervingly committed, uncompromising, dedicated" for the One that matters most. I want to be hardcore.

(this is for all of you to keep me accountable ;) )


www.dictionary.com
www.ForgottenGod.com

inspiration.

Inspiration: Sussette.

My aunt told me in some capacity, in some way that I needed to write and to inspire someone with what I write. (She also made fun of me because I am anti-Black Friday, but that's another story :-P)

I feel like I should start off answering the obvious questions:
  1. Why did I decide to write this?
  2. Why did I choose to name it "Faith Overflow"?

I started to write this for several reasons:
  1. Sussette wanted me to :)
  2. To keep myself accountable in spending time with God
  3. To allow myself a forum to really present what's in my heart on various topics, whether it be faith-based or just about life.
The name has a little bit more depth, though:

Faith is a word I love. It's a beautiful word that has so much meaning.
Hebrews 11:1 gives this definition of faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV). Hebrews 11:6 goes on to give us the purpose behind faith: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (NIV)

Overflow is a word that is not as quite as a dynamic word as faith, but still important nonetheless. If you think about it in the context of everyday life, if you overfill a coffee cup, it spills over the brim...I want this to apply to my spiritual life, too. I don't want "faith" to just be "contained" in church, or small groups, or Bible study. I want it to overflow into every facet of my life.

Also, I want it to not be able to be contained. Coffee was, obviously meant to be contained in a cup or mug or what-have-you. But our love, no make that passion, for God wasn't meant to be contained. It was something that was meant to be shared, something meant to transcend every part of our lives.

This leads me to another topic that I will blog about later tonight, hopefully.

*UPDATE* Read the new post