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His message left me speechless,

“Please pray for me.  I’ve lost everything I own, and I’m moving into a homeless shelter today.”

How do I reply to such a message?

My heart hurts.

I feel so helpless.

Prayer can seem so insignificant when someone’s need seems so big.

I’ve thought so much about this person since reading his words.

I’ve wondered how he’s doing, and I’ve asked God to help Him.

Help him not feel all alone.

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And then my son took these photographs.

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He was just trying to show me how my lens works; but as I looked at the pictures,

I realized God was really wanting me to see how He works.

Beauty

Attention in the tiniest detail

Pattern

Purpose

God showed up…………………as He always does.

He spoke to me through a macro lens…………………….

“Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?”

Matt. 6:28-30

If you can read these words somehow, Cody, please know this:

You’re going to be okay.  I just know it.

Open your heart to Him and listen.

Listen closely.

Keep a journal of all you learn in this tough chapter.

And let God use you.

Even there……………….in the midst of others who are hurting.

Your life matters.

I’m praying for you, and I’m asking all my friends to pray for you too.

This test will become your testimony.

I believe that with all my heart.

Psalm 139: 1-18

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

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My empty computer screen has overwhelmed me lately.

My fingers seem to hover over the keys, begging me to create words; but my mind fights back, convincing me that silence is much more needed these days.

I wonder if God had a similar wrestling match inside Himself on the night Jesus was born.

Did His fingers hover over the Earth, struggling to move…………….

yet longing to fill the world with Hope,

as He chose to write the living Word into existence?

Was His mind in conflict with His hands as He knew the ultimate journey this Son of His would take?

This newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes………………

destined for suffering and pain.

How did God do it?

How did He find the strength to move forward with such a plan?

I have to believe He saw the empty tomb on the night Jesus was born.

The angels surely saw it too.

Their songs of joy were more than announcements of Jesus’ arrival.

They were promises that God had finally showed up.

From this moment on Emmanuel, God with us, would change the course of history.

Today, you may be in a painful part of your own journey.

So many of my friends are facing tough days right now’ and believe me, the Nischan house has had it’s fair share of struggles the past few months…………….

Everything changes for me, though, when I look at the Nativity scene and also see the empty tomb.

Hope

Promise

Victory over death

Resurrection

Eternal Life

So much was wrapped in swaddling clothes that night……………………..

And your life is wrapped in all of this too.

No matter what you’re facing today,

never forget that all of your sadness

and pain

and confusion

and doubt

and grief

is wrapped up tight in the power of the empty tomb.

Feel the warmth of His love today.

He is holding you close……………….and just like that starry night when Jesus was born, destined for so much agony, God has a beautiful plan for you………………

far beyond the heartache of today.

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My empty screen has overwhelmed me lately,

but this morning I’m thankful to feel overwhelmed by the power of the empty tomb.

I want to see what God saw when Jesus was born,

because it changes everything about today.

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings!

Phil. 3:10

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I Am Such A Sheep

December 4th, 2015

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If you read my blog from time to time,

you know I’ve been struggling for the past couple of weeks.

Giving myself permission to slow down and lean into my grief has been painful, but I believe it’s also been necessary.

It’s easy to stay one step ahead of grief for a while, but eventually it catches up with you and you have to make a choice:

Run faster or just sit down and embrace its company.

For me, embracing the company of grief has been a difficult but necessary part of this holiday season.

I looked through old photographs of our family and reminisced on many sweet memories.

I even allowed myself to wonder what things would be like today had cancer never entered our family story.

As I wrestled with anger, sadness, disappointment, and even envy,

I found myself being filled up with gratitude, joy, hope, and peace.

The reality is this:

I would walk the very same road again if it were the only way to have the honor of being Nick’s mom.

And as I’ve reflected on our family and how we have each been changed by Nick’s presence in our lives,

I’ve also realized that even though we still deal with a lot of negative emotions we are all better human beings because of the impact he had and continues to have on our lives.

I’ve been determined to climb out of this pit I’ve been in, and one thing I did that truly required effort was attend the Christmas chapel service at Kentucky Christian University yesterday morning.

Todd was singing in a choir and his girlfriend was performing in a skit, so I really wanted to be there even though my heart wasn’t feeling that full of Christmas spirit.

As the worship band played and messages about the joy of Christmas were shared in several different ways, I found my heart stirring a little.

But when we sang,

“Oh come let us adore Him”

and were challenged to find ways to show Jesus how much we adore Him over the next month,

I realized my focus has been on myself way too long.

My sadness

My loss

My pain

We were given the opportunity to think of ways we could express our love for Jesus and then write them on slips of paper.

I listed several things, and one of them was “Instagram.”

I felt challenged to take my focus off of my own life and what is happening with my family and friends and place the focus totally on Jesus for the next month as I post on this form of social media.

I came home and took a picture of my empty Nativity set and wrote my first Instagram Christmas Nativity post.

This morning, as I thought about the Nativity scene and where I wanted to focus next,

 sheep kept coming into my mind.

Surely they were there with the shepherds.

Surely they stood near the manger watching baby Jesus gaze into the eyes of Mary and Mary gaze into the eyes of the Son of God.

Thinking about all of this led me to write this Instagram post:

There’s something very powerful about the shepherds being chosen to receive the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth. God used the metaphor of sheep and their shepherd many times in the Old Testament to describe our relationship with Him.

Psalm 100:3

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

I wonder if the shepherds reflected on verses just like this one as they tended their flocks day in and day out. I wonder if they felt an extra-special connection with God as they led their sheep while trusting God to be their Shepherd and Lord. It’s almost as if God knew these men would be most open to the words in Luke 2:11,

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

I have to believe the shepherds brought their sheep with them, and the thought of these animals surrounding Jesus on that holy night seems like a beautiful foreshadowing of the day when Jesus would be questioned about being the Messiah and would reply,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27

There are plenty of things I’ll never understand about the Bible or God’s plans, but I find peace when I stop asking questions and start soaking up the beauty of things as simple as sheep being present on the day Jesus was born. I especially feel humbled when I think about how much Jesus loves us. He entered this world knowing that one day He would fulfill Isaiah 53:7,

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

The Christmas season is definitely a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it’s also a time to reflect on God’s ultimate plan which was to make a way for us, His sheep, to be released from the power of sin and darkness……..and just say thank you.

As I wrote these words, I thought about how easy it is for me to stop being thankful when I fall into times of trouble.

The stresses of this life can somehow get the best of me when I least expect it and when they do, everything good seems to fade into the background as my heart and mind become overwhelmed with everything that is “not quite perfect.”

I am such a sheep.

Without a shepherd, I am lost.

Without his rod and staff to guide me and defend me, I am a wandering mess.

Today, I am thankful that the angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

I’m thankful that sheep were invited to witness the birth of God’s Son.

If simple sheep were there on that Christmas day so long ago,

surely God is good with simple sheep like me being near Him today.

I want to follow Him.

I want to hear His voice.

I hope you’ll be listening for Him today too…………….

and follow where He leads.

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When Grief Is Covered In Love

December 2nd, 2015

 

There are a lot of things I don’t know.

There are even more things I’ll never understand.

As I’ve unexpectedly experienced a crashing wave of grief over the past weekend,

I’ve come to realize at an even deeper level that there is nothing in this life that matters more than love.

We can work hard and accumulate all kinds of possessions.

We can study hard and earn all kinds of degrees.

Success, in the world’s eyes, is possible with enough determination and effort.

But, in the end, when we find ourselves in that moment when no amount of money can purchase our next breath,

there’s only one thing that truly has value.

Only one thing has eternal worth.

That one thing is LOVE.

Love can transform the tiniest house into a castle.

Love can wash over all kinds of shortcomings, revealing true beauty and perfection.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…. 

I John 4:18

I believe love also drives out all kinds of other negative emotions.

Love can release the prison bars of anger, resentment, greed, jealousy, insecurity, and every other ugly cell we may find ourselves living in as we stumble through this oh-so-often painful life.

Love pushes hard.

It is relentless.

We can fight it,

run from it,

ignore it,

resist it………..

but eventually love, like a tsunami, wins.

It overwhelms, overtakes, and completely covers everything in its path.

And we are all in the path of God’s love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
No matter how hard we try, we can’t escape His love.
No matter how unloved we may feel from time to time,
there’s no denying that God’s love for us surpasses anything we will ever experience during our short time on this planet.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13
I try to imagine this kind of love –
A love where I would willingly give up my child or myself for others.
The closest I can get to understanding this kind of love is by thinking about Nick’s fight with cancer……………….
But believe me,
there was no willingness here.

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We smiled our way through a journey I would not wish on my worst enemy,

but deep inside I fought the thought of giving up Nick every step of the way.

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This computer was my place for begging for prayer from all of you.

I believed in a miracle til the very end.

Today, as I look at this memory of a special trip with Nick to see his favorite team play football

(thank you, Mike and Carol, for this memory),

I’m finally beginning to see that the miracle for our family is this:

we are still waking up and facing the next day…………….

we are still walking…………..

we are still creating the next memory……………..

and we are still smiling (most of the time)…………..

Yes, we are definitely still trying to put all the pieces back together,

but the truth is……

Our puzzle will never be complete.

We have been called to live an earthly life with missing pieces.

God’s love has to fill up all these aching spaces, or we will not survive.

I love this picture of Nick and me looking at our reflection.

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I’m not sure why we even took this,

but today it reminds me that all along the way Nick reflected the love of God with his smile and his spirit.

He was never bitter or angry.

He never received bad news and chose to blame or question.

He taught me so much about how to live.

But most of all he taught me so much about how to love.

I’ve cried so many tears in the past few weeks………………

tears I didn’t know I still had inside of me.

 I feel renewed today.

I feel freed up again to smile.

Last week, I was hit by a crashing wave of grief and found myself so weak I could barely stay above the pounding water.

But once again, God has been so faithful in hearing my prayers and the prayers of all of you who love our family so much.

I am safely on the Rock again.

And I will hold on tight,

braced for whatever kind of wave comes next.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2

My prayer today is that if you find yourself feeling weak that you will cry out.

God loves you so much.

He longs to lead you to the Rock.

Cry out today.

Feel His love wash over you.

Even if pieces of your life are missing, I hope you will find a very special kind of peace on the Rock of God’s love.

That’s what happens when grief is covered in love.