FullSizeRender (1)

How To Live In The Dark

June 30th, 2015

 

FullSizeRender (1)

 I don’t know a lot, but I do know this:

Reading news headlines right before crawling into bed is never a good idea.

Last night, I looked at my husband as I closed my laptop and said,

“I am overwhelmed with fear.”

I started listing all the things pressing on my chest from our daughter-in-law and one of our sons still being out of the country to not knowing what the world will even look like for our children’s children.

I quoted a couple verses, trying to remind myself that God is in control.

Deep inside I know He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

Deep inside I know He holds the whole world in His hands.

_______________________________________________

Tim even reminded me that God isn’t wringing His hands because of all that is going on.

He’s still on His throne.

He’s still King of Kings.

I know this is true, and in some ways, it seems so simple.

Love God

Love others

________________________________________________

In other ways, though, it seems so complicated.

God clearly calls His people to be aliens in a foreign land,

and there’s just something about realizing you really are an alien that can be a hard pill to swallow when it’s dark.

It’s hard to sleep when you’re fully aware that you’re up against a spiritual enemy who has one goal –

the defeat of Christianity.

It’s hard to feel peace when you know there are people who hate you just because of Who you follow.

————————————————————

 To many, we are a pungent, stale smell much like a moth-filled trunk found in the corner of an abandoned building.

We are yesterday’s archaic story.

We’re sticks in the mud, unable to open our minds to new ideas, new ways.

——————————————————

To others, we are the enemy of their god.

We are unbelievers.

It hurts to read those words when you know how deeply you do believe and how your entire life is framed around the core conviction that God sent His Son to save you and conquer death once and for all.

It’s hard to face the darkness when you’re struggling to see the light.

——————————————-

It’s morning now, and the birds in my backyard are once again chirping.

They don’t seem any more concerned about today than they did about yesterday.

They still know where to turn for their daily food; and just like every other day, they’re finding the way they turn is just enough for what they need.

—————————————————

I want to have the faith of a bird.

I want to sing even when the branches around me seem shaky and barren.

———————————————–

God must have known we would need the sounds of nature to draw us close to Him time and time again.

I wonder if that’s why Jesus often slipped into the garden.

He faced chaos too, and there must have been nights when He found it difficult to sleep.

Surely He woke up many times to the chirping of birds and was reminded, just like I’m reminded today, that God is faithful.

No matter how scary, how disappointing, how confusing, or how dark the world may seem,

God is there.

And He needs us to be right there with Him……………..

In the scariness, in the disappointment, in the confusion, in the darkness………………

He needs us to light the way for others who find the black of night overwhelming too.

The enemy would love for us to hide in fear.

Quit writing.

Quit speaking.

Quit stepping out of our comfort zones.

But God needs aliens in this world to show people there is another land,

a coming Kingdom,

a better Way.

This world is very dark.

How do we live in such darkness?

I think we must, without question,………………….

1. Stay in His Word

2. Keep Praying

3. Keep Trusting

4. Keep Loving

and

5. Never, Ever Forget We Are Aliens Here

No matter how dark this world gets we are called to be “children of the light.”

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

I Thess. 5:1 – 11

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:14-19

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

I Peter 2:11-17

Praying for all of you as you continue to shine in dark places.

You are never alone.

Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

FullSizeRender-1

 

The past two weeks have been filled with all kinds of headline-making news…………..

Tragedies

Debates

Controversies.

Social media has been on fire with everything from

anguish to celebration

anger to joy

despair to hope

I’ve occasionally sifted through my newsfeed and found myself experiencing all kinds of different emotions.

I’ve found myself wanting to say something, but I’ve also found myself realizing I have very little to say.

I’m reminded this morning of a concert I attended recently where the band “for King and Country” talked about their desire to share the hope of Jesus without being “just another band” who was “adding to the noise” of the music world.

Throughout their concert, the glory and honor and praise continually went back to Jesus Christ.

Their performance was amazing, and I walked away feeling more amazed by the love of God than by anything else.

 I believe with all my heart that, as a band, that was their goal……….

To point us all to Jesus.

So, today, I’m trying to blog again.

I’m trying to put the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet into some sort of order that doesn’t simply add to the noise of the many words I’ve been reading lately.

.20140329_1432

At the end of everything good or bad or happy or sad, there’s really only one thing that matters:

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH JESUS?

One day He will return, and I’m not really sure what the world will look like when He does, but I do know this:

He will appear without warning.

He will come in love.

He will come with grace and mercy.

There will be a great war.

The enemy will be destroyed.

And He will take those who’ve made Him Lord of their life back with Him.

For me, the struggle to let Him lead my life is real.

I face my own kind of battles every single day.

I have enough to work on in my own heart to keep me busy for a lifetime.

I have to lay my own head down on my own pillow every single night and realize I’ve made choices on that particular day that drew me closer to Him or pushed me further away.

I can’t lay my head down for anyone else but myself.

I can’t even lay my head down for my children.

I pray for them.

I pray for my family.

I pray for my friends.

I pray for our world.

I pray for our children and their children and on and on.

But I believe with every fiber of my being that there’s absolutely NOTHING that can happen on this planet that will separate us from the love of God if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

So, today, I choose to add words to the already-overflowing amount of words out there.

I type with hesitancy, because the last thing I want to do is add to the noise.

I just felt compelled to remind myself that in spite of all the walls going up or coming down around us…………..

There’s no wall too high for Jesus to climb.

There’s no barrier He cannot break.

There’s no mountain He cannot move.

He brought hope.

He spoke peace.

He extended love.

He conquered death.

He is enough.

If we all woke up and chose to live for Jesus today,

 I believe everything else would fall into place……………………in His time.

One day, I’ll stand before the throne and the only question I’ll have to answer is this one:

What did you do with my Son?

If I can answer that question in a way that receives the response,

Well done,”

then I will have lived a life worth living.

That’s my daily struggle and my daily goal.

I’m praying it’s yours too.

Peace quote

When Fear and Peace Collide

June 13th, 2015

 

June seems like a strange month to reflect on the birth of Jesus,

but, if I’m really honest, the phrase “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,”

makes me cringe a bit every December.

I’m just thinking the last thing Jesus would have wanted His birth to lead to was stressed out shoppers and  flashing lights.

After all, He chose to show up on this planet on a silent, unassuming night in a tiny town in a simple barn……………

and we’re the ones who’ve transformed His humble arrival into something loud and chaotic.

So, maybe June is a perfect time to think about the holy night after all.

No one is expecting this conversation,

and this may be the very way Jesus prefers to arrive.

Quietly

Unexpectedly

Peacefully

___________________________________________

I try to imagine what it was like to be Mary,

a teenage girl carrying the Son of God deep inside her.

Surely fear overwhelmed her as her belly grew, reminding her that her life was no longer her own.

It’s hard to relate to an Israelite girl who lived over 2000 years ago……………

long before Pinterest helped you plan everything from birth announcements to weddings,

but surely there were dreams and traditions and expectations even then.

Sisters and friends must have giggled by the well as cute boys walked by,

and once you were “espoused,” I imagine your conversations centered on all that lie ahead in an exciting and happy way.

I’m just thinking a visit by an angel wasn’t on the list of “normal Israelite happenings,” and Mary’s  life was certainly turned upside down when she heard Elizabeth proclaim the words,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”

Luke 1:42

We don’t get too many peeks into Mary’s thought processes as she came to grips with the news.

We just know she accepted the announcement with these words,

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

I’m just thinking that it was in this very moment in Mary’s life that fear and peace began to collide.

Everything unknown and scary about her tomorrow suddenly held hands with all she had ever learned about a God who had led her people across the Red Sea into the Promised Land.

History became part of her future in a very real way,

and the prophecies she had surely heard being analyzed around campfires suddenly became foreshadows of her own life story.

Sitting in a barn nine months later with a tiny baby in her arms,

I wonder if fear tried to overthrow every other emotion welling up inside her

as she gazed into the tiny, dark brown eyes of the Prince of Peace.

Did it occur to her that humanity’s calendar would change from that point on?

Did she have any idea the angels were singing above her head or was the celebration of Jesus’ birth confined to the other side of the veil………….leaving her with only the sounds of cattle and sheep…………and the presence of a few dirty shepherds who had been chosen to hear the angelic proclamation, causing them to rush to meet the King of Kings?

There are so many things we won’t know until the day we walk the golden streets with those who lived before us.

I hope I get to walk with Mary one day……………

and talk about what it felt like to be called blessed and yet have to journey down the scary road of life ahead of her………..

dodging men who wanted her Son dead and eventually watching her very own people kill Him on a cross.

In so many ways,

Mary’s life didn’t look so blessed from the outside.

Pain just never seems like something we would consider a gift.

But I believe with all my heart that if Mary were sitting here with me today she would have a smile on her face as she reflected on her life as Jesus’ mom.

I think the peace God filled her with every single day overshadowed every ounce of fear.

And I think this same peace is ours today if we want it.

Life can be scary.

Life can be sad.

But even on the most painful days,

Jesus wants to show up.

Quietly

Unexpectedly

Peacefully

He wants to enter every uncertain chapter and become a story-changer.

He wants to add Hope and Purpose and Love to every page of life…………..

and, not to sound corny, He wants to become the  “Reason for Every Season.”

Today, if your life is filled with fear,

let Him step in, and

let Him bring peace.

I know it’s June, but today just seemed like one of those days when so many people I know and love needed to hear these words…………

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Peace quote

We were standing at the top of a hill on what I thought was just a little weekend get-away when I noticed a cottage-like chapel in the trees below.

I looked down and everything about this beautiful little place seemed to be glowing.

IMG_1511

Rays of light were shining out in all directions from every window as if they were inviting anyone who walked by to stop in for a visit.

Oddly enough, no one was going in or coming out of the little church in spite of the fact that it seemed to be the most visitor-friendly part of the mountaintop.

Just moments later, and without any kind-of fanfare, everything changed.

I glanced back down at the chapel and noticed a body, surrounded by flowers, lying on a beautiful display table right outside the entrance.

Still,  people continued to walk by, seemingly unaware that a funeral service was about to begin.

I found it very strange that a funeral would be happening at a vacation resort,

yet I found it incredibly beautiful at the very same time.

That’s when I noticed that the body on display was my son Nick’s.

Confused at first and overwhelmed with every kind of emotion,

I turned to Tim and asked,

“Can we go closer?”

As we made our way towards the small, glowing chapel,

I felt as if everything around us was transforming.

The sparse number of people walking along the cobblestone pathway in front of this cottage-type setting changed into a sea of people coming and going.

All around Nick, there were suddenly rows and rows of chairs filled with people watching us and a continuous line of men and women and children were walking in and out of the chapel beside us in such large numbers I couldn’t even count.

As we approached Nick, his eyes peacefully at rest, something frightened me and yet made my heart leap with joy in the very same instant.

Nick smiled.

His lips literally turned up into the cutest grin, and I was so happy to just see his precious face come to life again that I thought this was enough to make my dream complete………and then, before I could even be completely thankful for this memory, his eyes opened.

Nick’s beautiful, brown eyes opened.

 Nick was alive.

He was right there with me and Tim,

and everything else in my life suddenly faded away.

I could feel the crowd watching us closely, but I didn’t care.

I could feel a line growing behind me,

but nothing could have moved me from Nick’s side.

Before I could even react to the smile or the fact that he was looking at me,

his mouth opened and, as if talking to himself, he said

Teresa or Sandra’s name…………….I can’t remember, but I feel certain it was one of those names.

And then, referring to that person, he said,

“She keeps trying to hug me.”

I could tell by his expression that he thought it was sweet and funny and maybe even a little embarrassing all at the same time.

And then he said,

“I’m tired.”

It worried me at first, because I quickly remembered all the moments when he had said he was tired while he was fighting cancer.

That’s when my mommy-heart could take it no more, and I leaned down over him and whispered,

“Are you okay??”

He grinned, and I think he knew how silly this moment really was.

He knew his mom was dreaming about her son who had left this planet six and a half years ago,

and yet even in her dream, she was still worried about him.

Thankfully, he didn’t roll his eyes or even seem slightly exasperated with me.

He just sweetly smiled again and said,

“I’m just tired.”

I know we talked a bit, because I could feel all kinds of time passing by.

It’s almost as if I was transported above the dream and was suddenly watching a movie in which I could see me and Tim leaning over Nick having a beautiful conversation while a crowd watched and a line of people entered and exited the chapel to our right.

Then, as if a different camera lens took over, I was back in my own eyes’ view of Nick’s face.

He was looking up at me, peacefully taking in our whole interaction with him, when he noticed the heart-shaped necklace etched with his thumbprint hanging from my neck.

This necklace was Tim’s gift to me six weeks after Nick passed away.

He reached up and gently touched the heart, admiring it without saying a word.

That’s when I realized how very, very special this entire moment was, and without even thinking about how ridiculous this next request may look to everyone who was watching,

I asked Tim if he could please take a picture.

I knew I never wanted to forget this memory with Nick, and I wish I could somehow share with all of you the photograph Tim took.

I looked down at Nick as he gazed at my necklace, and I could feel the pressure of the dream coming to an end as I said,

“This was a gift from your dad.”

His eyes lit up and his grin returned as he looked at me and said,

“This was a gift from me.”

Tears began to flow from my eyes and snot was running over my lip, and I realized I had been crying the entire time I stood next to my son.

The next thing I knew, and without any warning or chance to say goodbye, Tim and I were being ushered inside the chapel.

I was expecting rows of wooden pews leading to a flower-filled stage holding a simple wooden pulpit, but instead we were weaving through a maze of candles lighting up walls filled with messages and flowers.

I suddenly realized that this dream was not just my own.

This dream was everyone’s in the line.

And each person had had a similar experience outside the chapel with someone they had lost and loved so deeply.

The messages were notes filled with words they had been too overwhelmed to utter in the moment with their loved one.

I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted to say, but deep inside I knew that every unspoken word I had wanted to share with Nick had somehow been written for me.  I knew that in Nick’s heart and mind there was perfect peace………….no lingering questions, no unfulfilled dreams.

The line kept moving and before I knew it,

I was on an elevator headed back to our hotel room and everything that had happened had somehow ended as quickly as it had begun.

I knew in that instant as I looked at Tim on the elevator that this dream had a special purpose.

I knew this dream had changed me from the inside out.

 I also knew that it would change Tim too, but not until I could put it down in words for him to read.

I woke up to the sound of Tim rolling over in our real bed,

and I could feel the real tears and real snot on my real pillow in my real house on a real Saturday morning.

As I lay there crying, everything about today began flooding into my mind all at once.

The yard sale going on at my neighbor’s house.

The 5K in just a few hours to help raise money to help children with autism.

The engagement pictures I would be taking later this afternoon.

I quickly got out of bed, not wanting to forget one part of this dream.

I knew I had to write it down before it faded from my memory.

I wanted to capture the feelings I had experienced as I saw my son alive and happy and filled with so much peace.

I made my way to our half bath and sat on the floor and cried.

I couldn’t stop.

And, to be honest, part of me didn’t really want to.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really poured out my grief with tears, and I’ve learned that when these moments come, it’s best to just let them happen.

Grief never ends.

Tears never stop.

Pain never fades.

We fill our lives with happy moments.

We make new memories.

We start new hobbies.

We even do things as crazy as buy kayaks to celebrate the summer we turn fifty,

but in the back of our minds and in the front of our hearts……………

we never stop hurting and aching and longing that life was different.

That’s just how grief works.

The longer I live the more I realize just how beautiful a broken life can still be and just how much God longs to fill up all our empty places with His love and goodness.

And I also realize what it means in I Corinthians 13 when it says,

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. 

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

One day my moments with Nick will not be limited to dreams.

One day every tear will be washed away, and I will see my boy, hug my boy, and be able to listen to my boy…………..forever.

Until then, I will walk by faith, and I will continue to live with a hope that does not disappoint.

I’m thankful this morning for an unexpected dream that pulled me back into the deepest part of my pain.

Grief is part of who I am.

And that’s okay.

I noticed his arms every time we sat down in the library to work on math.

FullSizeRender

It’s not often you see a teenage boy with Betty Boop permanently etched into one arm and  Charlie Brown’s friend Lucy etched into the other.

 IMG_2682

IMG_2681

One day, not long before the school year ended, I decided I just had to know why this senior in high school chose to carry two female cartoon characters with him wherever he went.

There had to be a meaning behind these two tattoos, so on one particular day I decided it was time to find out.

I took a risk, because you never know what you’ll hear when you inquire about a tattoo……………….

“Jacob, I have to know,” I said.

“Why are Lucy and Betty Boop on your arms?”

“There’s surely a story.”

Without missing a beat, Jacob pointed to one of them and said,

“Oh there is, Miss Nischan!  See, this one here is for my granny.  She loved Betty Boop.  And this one here is for my great granny.  Her name is Lucille, but everyone calls her Lucy.”

I smiled as he went on with his story, because suddenly these etchings in Jacob’s arm seemed to come to life.

His tattoos were talking and the story was so sweet.

His great grandma was his best friend.

“She was always there for me.  She even paid for my eighth grade trip.  And she was the best cook.  No one could make chicken and dumplings like her!”

He grinned and said, “She had an attitude too, though.  When she snapped her finger, everyone listened.”

He continued without hesitating,

“She use to smoke and one day I came in and said, ‘Granny, you’re gonna have to stop.  I have asthma.’ She said, ‘Okay,’ and put out the one right there in her hand that very minute and she never touched one again.”

“My other granny is my rock.   I’m her big grand baby.”

I asked Jacob if he had any advice for grandmas, and if I could write about him on my blog.

He said, “Yes, Miss Nischan, I would love that.”

And then he gave these words of wisdom to all grandmas……………

“No one can take your place.  It’s an honor to be someone’s grandma.  Don’t ever forget that.”

I’ll never forget the day I sat in the high school library in Olive Hill, Kentucky, and had the joy of listening to tattoos talk.

 I hope I can be the kind-of grandma that causes a high school senior to perk up, smile, and start sharing stories………..

One thing I know for sure…………..

I need to get to work on my cooking skills!

I guess the question for all of us today is this,

“What are we doing today that will be remembered tomorrow?”

Thank you, Jacob, for sharing your heart with this teacher…………….

I’ll never forget you, and I’m confident God has great big plans for your life!!!

Keep sharing your granny’s stories!!

They are priceless!