The start of a new year often turned me in to an overly ambitious person. Trying to re-do every aspect of my life, making lofty and unrealistic goals, and promising that this would be the year of following through. 

The last two years I've taken a different approach, prompted by my genius husband. I take...

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Friday 5: Verses that Encourage Me

Friday 5: Verses that Encourage Me

There are days when life is just tough. Days when the pressures of the world seem to closing in on us. When we're just tired and feel at the end of our rope. 

These are five verses from the Bible that really encourage me and give me perspective in various seasons of life, whether for those challenging days or the good days as well. 

I could have made a top 100 list but that...

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Truth + Lies

Truth + Lies

Icebreakers. Oh what a pendulum from fun and interactive to mostly awkward and painful. The game "Two Truths + a Lie" swings to the latter side for me. I am just not a fan. In spite of my heavy dislike for the game, there's the common underlying theme of trying to determine what is true.

In life, it can be easy to decide what's true based on our feelings that day, circumstances surrounding us, or simply just what we want to be true. But that doesn't actually change the truth.

In my relationship with God...

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Errands, Opera + Freedom

Preach! Urban Dictionary definition: said to give encouragement to a person dropping mad knowledge. Accurate summation, in my opinion.

I recently wrapped up reading the book of Romans again and it rocked my world.

“Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life.”

I envision myself mentally hopping in a car and going through a series of actions. Putting on those songs, driving past that place, looking through old pictures, wondering “what if?” and letting my mind get the worst of me.

Little errands I run in my daily routine of life are the things I want to accomplish in order to feel relaxed, freed up and to ultimately move me forward in my goals.

But “running errands” that have to do with my past would get me the exact opposite. I’d be stressed, feel confined and not be fulfilling God’s purpose for my life because I’d be stuck in shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

Instead, I want to throw myself into everything God has for me. To cling to the truth of what Jesus has done for me instead of the lies the devil wants me to believe. At times I foolishly believe that I can manage my sin—that if I innocently do something, that in and of itself might not be a sin, I can stop before it goes too far.

Oh ya and I can dunk a basketball, sing opera, and win a marathon.

Bologna. It’s crap. Christ set me free and I want to throw myself into living in that freedom, not trying to return to slavery. With all the political hoopla surrounding the world, one thing I won’t give my vote to is sin. I have to daily choose not to let it have a say in my decisions, actions or thoughts. And when I slip up more than I’d like to admit occasionally, I own it, confessing it to God and get back in the car, driving forward.

Is there anything from the verse above that stuck out to you? How do you daily avoid giving your vote to sin? 

Morning Glory

Quiet time. A phrase often used by Christians to describe spending time with God.

You might ask what this looks like, or even means exactly. I'll start with what I consider the critical components, in general, for spending some quality time with the Big Man.

God [who never leaves you, so is thus always there] Self Undivided attention Time

You might be surprised that a Bible, journal, or even silence aren't included in the list. It's something I've come to be humbled on, realizing I can make spending time with God about a lot of things other than him.

Now, don't misunderstand me -- I believe His Word, the Bible, is absolutely vital to our lives. There are, however, ways to spend time with Him in addition to reading. Taking a hike through nature while praying, driving in the car listening to worship music, or going on a run, for example.

When I think of "quiet time", I think of getting my heart and mind quiet before the Lord. While some may prefer literal quiet for that, it doesn't have to be. I can be sitting in a coffee shop but instead of thinking about my to-do list for the day or working on blogs (cough), I give Jesus my undivided attention.

My daily way of connecting with God is through spending time reading the Bible when first waking up. I pour a hot cup of coffee, stir in some homemade pumpkin spice creamer and sit at our kitchen nook curled up in a blanket.

Some days I'll read out of my New International Version Bible, other days on our iPad from The Message or Amplified version. Currently, I'm reading through the New Testament chronologically, so that's how I decide where to start. I occasionally like to journal different verses that stand out to me, people I'm praying for, things I'm struggling with, cool moments I've had recently, and what I feel like God is telling me.

My typical QT elements: Bible Journal Coffee iPad G2 pen (I'm a nerd)

I also love to go on bike rides, bake, listen to podcasts, read a devotional book, or go in a quiet room and put on worship music, light candles and sing to God.

Because I'm so scatterbrained organized, I keep a notepad nearby to help me stay focused. If I think of a task that needs done later that day, I'll write it down so as not to let it distract me. I put my phone away. Headphones in. And do my thing. It might last 15 minutes or two hours. In my opinion, mornings are the best time--in the quiet, before the chaos of and yuck of the day have a chance to wear you down.

Bottom line: make time with Jesus a priority. Keep it fresh and creative. After all, I wouldn't want to spend time with my husband the same way every single day. Don't feel confined to a pattern or routine.

Some personal recommendations:

  • Books of the Bible
    • John, Galatians, I John
  • Podcasts
  • Devotional Books
    • Comforts from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick
    • Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
    • For the Love of God, D. A. Carson (commentary that takes you through the Bible in a year)
  • Smartphone apps (free unless marked):
    • FighterVerse - Scripture memorization ($3)
    • YouVersion - tons of versions of the Bible
    • Bible 360
  • Christian music
    • Hillsong
    • All Sons + Daughters
    • Jesus Culture
    • Daylight Worship
    • Tenth Avenue North

How do you enjoy spending time with God? Any particular music groups or books you'd recommend?

My Euro Life | Why I'm Not Here

As I'm talking with people here in Slovenia, the question "what are you doing here?" comes up pretty frequently. Well, today's post attempts to answer that by explaining why I'm not here. I'll continue with some wise words from Paul again, from I Corinthians 1:17, via The Message.

God didn't send me to collect a following for myself, but to preach the message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center -- Christ on the cross -- be trivialized into mere words.

Can I get an amen? Often I get caught up in what people think of me, wanting a Niki fan club nice group of friends to humbly cheer me on. But if I gain what I think I want, then I miss out on what I'm actually here.

I'm not here because I'm a "super Christian". I'm not here to make me known. I'm not here for a European vacation. I'm not here to do God a favor.

I am here because I once prayed [something like] this to God:

Lord, I'm so done with trying to satisfy this longing inside of me with what this world has to offer. It's a dead-end, life-sucking road that leads to disaster. Change me into the person you want me to be. Give me your heart for the people in this world, let me see others through your eyes. Use me to reach people. Here am I, send me. 

I'm here, not just in Slovenia but on this earth in general, because I want my life to be about making Jesus famous. Because I want to tell the world, tell 'em everywhere I go [holla, Lecrae]. And not tell them, as Paul says, with fancy words or Christianese. But just by sticking to the basics.

"I deliberately kept it plan + simple: first Jesus and who he is, then Jesus + what he did - Jesus crucified."

I'll leave you with the music video for one of my fav songs from my favorite Christian rapper. And no, that's not an oxymoron.


Nutella + The Real Deal

A few months back, I posted about how performing for people is an issue of mine. For much of my life this has been true and recently God has been growing me into a stronger, more confident woman through my relationship with Him. In my role as Communications + co-Travel Coordinator on our team, I feel in my niche. It's like I'm living out the gifts and talents God has given me--developing them and using them for His glory. And it feels dang good. I'm tasting the freedom we get from knowing Jesus and being assured of our stance with him, caring nothing about the world's input. This blog has been a great outlet for me to experience it as well.

I Corinthians has been my jam (jam = thing, favorite, etc.) the past two weeks. I've been reading out of The Message translation lately, and while this may not be the most accurate or word-for-word edition of the Bible, it has given me a new perspective. After you've read something many times, it can be easy to skim over it and miss the significance of its meaning.

Switching up which translation you're reading is a great way to keep the Bible fresh. And you don't have to go buy 10 different Bibles. Check out this site for a ton of (free) different versions.

My man Paul (the author of this book) can preach.

"It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion." I Corinthians 4:3

Ok, now I wish I could say as confidently as Paul did that the approval of those around me is irrelevant. And while I've made great progress, I wouldn't say I'm totally here. Why was Paul able to so boldly cling to his identity in Jesus and not the world's approval, or lack thereof?

I think it has to do with the very real encounter he had with Jesus himself. Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, was now leading the way. He had partaken of what this world had to offer and knew how unsatisfying it was. And now he was experiencing the rich fulfillment of knowing God personally.

It's like living your life eating generic "hazelnut spread" and then someone giving you a jar of REAL Nutella. You'll never turn back.

I want the real-deal, genuine, life-changing gig. And that's only coming from the good Lord himself. I'll keep clinging to Him, claiming the truth and promises of the Bible for my life and believing that my value isn't coming from where I rank in popular (or un-popular) opinion.