Grateful For the Hard Times

Have you learned how to have a heart of gratitude? According to researchers, there are specific things you can do daily to cultivate a grateful heart. Some are obvious. Some not so obvious. But all are oh, so important.

Like learning to recognize God’s presence in everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY THING. The good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what, you have never walked alone.

Think back. Look for it. You’ll see.

A few years ago, my son was in the hospital for brain mapping for his seizures. I was there with him for a week, because they needed a family member familiar with his seizures to press a button every time one happened. Little or big. I loved getting to know my young adult son on this intimate level. We talked, we laughed. When he had visitors, I’d step away for a break. For the most part, we were captive room mates. It was a strangely enjoyable time.

We had spent family time with my older brother just a few days before entering the hospital, and he had promised to visit Chris that week. It was quite a drive, so nearly every day I would leave him a message describing the traffic, say I knew he had to get up so early for work, and he should wait until the weekend to come visit. All was well.

Except it wasn’t. When my brother didn’t show up to visit Chris by Friday evening, I called him several times. No answer. I called his neighbor, who said the car was in the driveway, but lights were out in the house. I called my nephew, a police officer, to ask what I should do. He immediately drove there, and looking through the window, could see my brother lying on his bed. He was gone.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT could possibly be good about this situation? How can you be thankful for your brother being found lifeless in his bed?

Clearly, I’m not thankful for the death of my brother. What I am thankful for is the orchestration of all the surrounding events:

* God chose to call my brother Home in the gentlest of ways. He simply took a nap after work, and didn’t wake up. I’m grateful.

* I was helplessly locked in to a commitment of being in the hospital with my son. If I hadn’t been there, I would have driven out to my brother’s house and I would have found him. I’m grateful to be spared from that.

* My nephew is a police officer in the adjoining city and when he called the dispatcher, he knew her. He knew the protocol of what to do in this situation and said to me, “Tami, God arranged for this to happen when I could take care of it for you.” I’m grateful for him and his good heart.

* Officers arrived & they had a common ground with my nephew. When they looked through the house and found no evidence of foul play or suicide, they reported it as such and the mortuary was called to pick up my brother, and not the coroner. This never happens in Los Angeles county. I’m grateful.

There is more, but I think you get the picture. As I think back on that night, I see God’s handwriting all over the situation, and I am grateful.

Since then, I’ve entering into times of beautiful blessing as well as hardship. I see God’s hand in that, as well. And I am grateful.

So very grateful.

Look at your life. Think back. Take some time to see how God connected the dots in your helpless and even hopeless situations. Never once, did you ever walk alone.

I hope you’ll see.

There is so much to be grateful for.

You Never Know…..

Not to be morbid, especially at this joyous time of year, BUT….

None of us were born with an expiration date printed on our skin. We NEVER know what day will be our last day, what words will be our last words.

A few days ago on my drive home from Thanksgiving break with my Mom in Florida, I had to stop for two hours and put my car in park on I-95. Thousands of cars were backed up in a stand-still at the Georgia/South Carolina border waiting for a crash to be cleared. It turns out it was fatal. Those people had no idea when they woke up that morning that it would be their last. I wonder if the last words they said to their loved ones were good ones?

Upon my return to Charlotte I found out that my godson’s 35-year old baseball coach had a seizure, fell and hit his head and died – on Thanksgiving Day. He left his wife and two young children with no warning. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be his last. I hope their last moments together were positive ones. What an unexpected tragedy.

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

I have failed at this at times, as we all have. But, my Mother engrained this in my mind and my heart, and for the most part I do not allow myself to go to sleep or to part ways with loved ones after an argument or disagreement without at least agreeing to talk later and letting them know I love them. For we must always be prepared. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The election has been a time of division among many families and friends, and now we are in the thick of the holiday season. The holidays bring joy and many people together, but they are also times of grief, pain and isolation for some. Let us remember to speak life to all we meet – and especially to remain in good relationship with those closest to us, regardless of our differences in opinion.

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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Speak life today. Forgive. Do not hold on to the things that bring bitterness. Be kind and do good. For you never know what day will be your last.

the WOW factor

I was watching a show on NatGeo channel the other day called “Animal Dances.” How could you possibly scroll past that title without checking it out?

So, there they were. All these different animals in different parts of the world showing their “stuff” in mating ritual dances. The females watch the males display their grandeur and stamina before they choose a mate.

One particular bird, from the middle of the jungle, did a dance that you would not believe. He was an interesting looking black bird of paradise with long antennae-looking spires coming from the top of his head. He looked normal enough to me until the females came to watch. Not only did he toss some red berries about on his “stage” for decoration before his dance, but he placed them “just so.” Then, he stood up and his feathers fanned up and out like a huge black skirt as he paraded back and forth, eyes open wide. His spires flowed this way and that with his movements. And perhaps most interestingly, he had a patch of different feathers on his chest that were bright, shiny and colorful like sequins that caught the light to dazzle the ladies.

What a display! All this just to perpetuate the life-cycle of this little bird out in the middle of nowhere. I just thought…. WOW  (expressing astonishment and admiration)! This bird perhaps has no other purpose than to just be amusing to God, and now that we have captured it on film, we humans can also enjoy this amazing bit of nature.

I began to think about it. There are so many bugs, plants, birds, reptiles, sea creatures, and mammals on this planet. In the past several decades, due to technological advances, we have observed and discovered many new species. This means that for hundreds of thousands of years and more, creatures and species like this have existed even without our knowledge. God did it for His own pleasure!

How many little patches of flowers are out in a field that no human eye ever enjoys? But there they are. Part of the cycle of life that God set into motion. My Mom always says, “What a Creative Creator!”

Indeed! What a planet He created for us to enjoy.

The Psalms are full of verses about the beauty and wonder of God’s great earth. For example, Psalm 104:24-25: “How many are your works, O Lord? In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.”

Photo by Kristin No. Cal. Coast

Photo by Kristin ~ No. Cal. Coast

I say, don’t get so caught up in life “stuff” and “schedules” and “work” that you let days, weeks, months pass without noticing the little things. The random wild flower amongst the thorns. The tiny ladybug going about her daily routine. The variety of flora and fauna in your local park. The sweet call of a bird as it flits around through the trees.

Life brings it’s ups and downs, but there is always beauty in the world that God created for us. Never cease to be amazed and grateful. Do your part to take care of this amazing earth. Spend time out in nature. Be still, watch and listen. Let it renew your soul.

Never cease to say….. “WOW!” and thank God for all His creative gifts!

Another Year Gone By

Another year has gone by. How did that happen?? Seriously! This past year has gone by so fast! It seems like I just got back from my 11 month trip but that was over a year ago now. So much has happened since then and God continues to amaze me.

 

When I came back from the World Race, I wanted to continue living a life of taking risks and living in boldness for Jesus. It hasn’t been easy, but as a look back in this past year I see God’s faithfulness and persistence. And when I look at the times I was obedient and took a risk, I was blessed beyond words and God was with me and gave me the strength I needed. He continues to blow my mind and blow my expectations out of the water!

 

Here are some of the things God has taught me this past year:

 

God hears us and answers our prayers, even if they seem small (I was shopping for a bridesmaid dress for hours and then I prayed and God told me to go to a specific store and I found the dress I needed in the exact color I needed it in! WOW!).

 

God wants us to pray specific prayers.

 

God does miracles and uses people like you and me as his hands (God used me to pray healing over a friend’s knees who were in pain and he healed her! WOW!).

 

God gives us strength when we are weak (I did a 3 day fast only drinking water and I had so much energy and joy it only could have come from God!).

 

God ALWAYS provides.

 

When we take a leap of faith, God will catch us and walk with us.

 

God loves to make us laugh (I laugh when I experience the Holy Spirit!).

 

God is always there to comfort us. When we cry, he cries.

 

God cares about what is important to us.

 

God stands in front of us with open arms waiting for us to run to him.

 

God is continuing to teach me how to see people through his eyes and when I do I see them as his children.

 

God gives us His light in order to be tangible lights to been seen by people in the physical realm.

 

God LOVES me and He LOVES you UNCONDITIONALLY.

 

 

As you move forward into this next year, take time to sit and think of the ways God has shown up in your life in the past year and thank him. Make a goal for yourself in this next year to step out in faith and live more of risk-taking life for Jesus. You will not be disappointed. : )

 

Happy New Year!

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(On our way home from the World Race around this time last year,

November 2014)

‘Tis the Season to be…

Christmas is a season of many things.

Busyness, people are running in and out of stores trying to find gifts and going to holiday party after holiday party (those are fun don’t get me wrong).

Stress, they don’t have everything ready for Christmas. Presents aren’t wrapped and it is only a week and a half away. Or they have deadlines that need to be met before the year is over.

Excitement, they are traveling or seeing loved ones.

Holiday cheer, decorations are up and lights are on the tree.

One word I see often during this time of year is JOY. A 5 year old girl asked me what J-O-Y spelled because she was seeing it written everywhere. It made me stop and think about this word and the meaning of it.

Joy is the “feeling of great happiness and delight.” There are songs sung during this season with the lines “ ‘tis the season to be jolly…” and “Joy to the world the Lord has come!”

Where does this jolly and this joy come from?

It comes from giving to others out of selflessness. It comes from loving each other not because we have to but because we want to. First and foremost it comes from God.

God gave us his son as a baby on this earth. He brought JOY and HOPE into this lost, busy, chaotic, selfish world. Because God loves us so much he was separated from his son and gave him to us as a gift.

What are you going to do with that gift?

Are you going to keep it for yourself?

Sure you can have Jesus, but don’t keep him all to yourself. God intended for us to share the gift that we have been given.

Isn’t it more enjoyable to share a gift you have been given with a friend or two or more? Well that is exactly how it is with the love of Jesus. Share it! Give it to everyone!

In all the chaos, let’s not lose sight of the true gift of Christmas and the reason we celebrate. Don’t get lost in the presents and the wrapping paper. Enjoy the love and the joy and the hope that is all around you even if it’s hard to see at times. Stop and look for it, because it is there. Look for the signs that say JOY. They are good reminders how Christmas is supposed to be. God is all around you no matter where you go. And this is a gift that keeps on giving, not just during the holiday season!

 

You are loved.

Merry Christmas!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'”                                                                                  Luke 2:10-11

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”        John 3:16-17

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Love And Thanksgiving

Citizens of the United States are running around today, the day before Thanksgiving, to be sure they have everything they “need” for family and friends to enjoy food and fellowship tomorrow. What a wonderful time of year to pause and give thanks for everyone and everything in our lives.

But, with all that is going on in the world, I can’t help but think of the millions of people who have so little to be thankful for on this day. War. Famine. Disasters. Terror.

The fact that I have time to post this, and you have time to read it means that we are in a position of peace and wealth compared to most. Have we become so wound up in our own little world that we think that we are the only ones who deserve this kind of life?

We complain so much, and point our finger at others. We want to shut people out due to their color, creed or station in life. We may pretend as though we are “welcoming” to all, but as a collective society, ARE WE REALLY?

This post comes on the heels of my Aunt Tami’s wonderful post last week. I have struggled to come up with a post for this week because I have been so disgusted in general with humanity, the “Christians” chief among them.

So, at this time of joy and jubilee (and, I am not saying there is anything wrong with this – we have MUCH to be joyful about!) – I am sure it is a bit dark for me to post this…but do try to walk a mile in the shoes of a terrified refugee. Imagine fearing for your life, and trying to protect your family. Imagine having to flee. Imagine seeing blood and death, and hearing crying and screaming. Imagine just wanting some peace, and then being turned away by people who say they represent a loving, caring God. Imagine feeling as if no one wants you and somehow you are worth less than others.

WHAT IF IT WERE ME? WHAT IF IT WERE YOU? No one chooses to whom or where he/she is born. We are all human. WE ARE CREATED EQUAL. We all have the same basic human needs, desires and feelings.

Let us open our hearts and arms. Let us show love to others. Let us let God do the judging. LET US NOT LET FEAR outweigh LOVE.

Today I received a beautiful picture from the Arms of Love Children’s Home in Andhra Pradesh, India – which is the orphanage that I started 13 years ago through AndyBooks Outreach. (visit andybooksoutreach.org for more info). Here you see 12 beautiful young children who had no hope. Abandoned. Starving. Lost.

We took them in, and they are thriving, despite the hand they have been dealt in life. It’s a beautiful thing.

Arms of Love 2If we all take time to be kind and loving to one person at a time, the ripple effect will spread. It starts with each one of us. Let us be the good Samaritan. Let us not pass one in trouble on the road because we are too fearful, or in too much of a hurry to tend to ourselves.

Let Thanksgiving Day be just a starting point for each day moving forward: to love, to show compassion, to be grateful by sharing what we have with others. Let us not tire until EVERYONE has the opportunity to live a life of peace and gratitude.

TO ALL, A HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

I Have Learned to be Content

Today I was thinking: Hebrews 12:2 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What was that joy? YOU and ME … sons and daughters of Father God. he was an only Son… now, through His sacrifice, he was to have millions of family members!!

Rejoice… you are loved!

Some of the most miserable people I have ever met have been Christians who looked miserable. You couldn’t disguise the misery of their lives, for it shone on their faces and in their eyes, and when they spoke, Someone always had more of this world’s goods, or of happiness. I have found a scripture that will puncture their outlook, in 1 Timothy 6:6, and it simply says, “GODLINESS, WITH CONTENTMENT, IS GREAT GAIN.”

I believe this is a learned attitude, for Paul said, “I have learned in whatsoever condition I am in, therewith to be content.”

Try it… your life will be happier and brighter!

(Originally written by Gladys on 1/7/2004)

Timing Is Everything

I have been trying to write something for today for a while…but I have to be honest. It just wasn’t happening.

I’ve had a rough few weeks, as I found out my best buddy, my sweet pup Lacey had cancer. I spent every moment with her as we enjoyed our last couple of weeks together – and then the time came to let her go. I just haven’t been able to focus enough to write about that, or anything else for that matter.

So, here I am. Sitting in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas at a convention for my new business. Still dazed by the trauma of my loss.

BUT, as my cousin Nikki (who is here along with me and my Aunt Tami too!) reminded me today…God’s timing and attention to detail is truly remarkable.

See, I almost had to cancel this trip that would allow me to see my sweet family and friends from the West Coast and allow me to learn more about growing my business. I was planning to do that to spend that precious time with my little Lacey.

BUT GOD, in His infinite wisdom (as my dear Mother Karen reminded me yesterday), allowed me to be free to make this journey. Plus, He allowed me to have a week to grieve. He gave me a sweet last two weeks with her – but then He gave me time to pull it together and get to Dallas. To get a change of scenery and ENJOY the company of my family and friends.

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How kind our God is to us – even amidst our trials – He is there.

Life will always ebb and flow with the good and the bad – but, if we truly look, we will notice God’s grace and blessing in the details of it all. For that, I am thankful.

Here I am in the midst of a trial – but able to be surrounded by people who care for me and love me through it.

His timing is truly superior to ours – even when we don’t see it right away. I am learning to trust God’s timing, and to have faith that He is the one ordering my steps.

Do you trust Him with His timing in your life?

In Over My Head

I am WAY in over my head. What am I doing?

There is so much to do for the kingdom. So many people to reach. So many hearts to be transformed. What am I doing?

I think of the ways God has used me, and the divine appointments he has set up, and think, “Wow, God used someone like me to touch the heart of his child. There is so much more to do!”

It becomes overwhelming when you think about the big picture. But God is telling me to focus on the person in front of me. Take one step at a time.

When I was in South Africa, I went to the gym with 2 other teammates, Zach and Kyle. We went every Monday- Friday morning at 5:30 to get a workout in and be done in time to shower and be ready for the rest of the day with our team. There was a personal trainer at this gym who took a liking to me and my friends. Every morning this man greeted me, and as the mornings progressed we shared more and more. I told him I was a missionary here in South Africa, and he told me of the many other jobs he had. Zach, Kyle, and I smiled at him, said hi to him, talked with him, and our last day at the gym we prayed with and for him.

Two months later I received a message from this personal trainer that he had accepted Jesus into his heart and it was because of us that he saw Jesus and wanted what we had!

Praise Jesus! God used me, Zach and Kyle to meet this man where he was, give him our time, which lead him to Jesus.

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I think about all the millions of people who don’t know Jesus yet and I ask myself, how am I going to reach all of them? I am in over my head. There is so much to do and only God can help us accomplish it. What does he ask from us? To be a vessel. To say “Yes God, use me!”

But it takes boldness. It takes stepping out of your comfort zone. It takes being uncomfortable.

Smile at the next person you pass. Take time out of the busyness to talk with someone you may not normally talk to. You never know how God can use you. He could use you to plant a seed of Jesus in someone.

I love Jesus so much and I want everyone to experience him and love him too! I want to tell the world who Jesus is and what he has done for me and for the world. I want to scream it from the rooftop, however that may not go over well so… every person I come into contact with I need to smile at them, ask them their name, take time out of my day to talk with them.

The truth is my days are not mine, they are the Lord’s.

What are you going to do with your gifted day?

Food and Presents, is that it?

Christmas has come and gone.

What happened?

Did your family gather together? Eat tons of food? Open presents?

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This is what my family did. It was nice to gather together, but have we forgotten the reason we celebrate Christmas? In all the chaos do we stop to think about what Christmas really is? It was the day over 2000 years ago when God sent his son from his glory in heaven to earth to be a helpless baby. He was born to die for us.

Can we sit and think about that for a moment? Think of how God must have felt knowing he was sending his son to earth to die. Think of how Jesus felt to leave his throne in heaven in all his glory to become a baby knowing he would grow up to die 33 years later for the people of this earth.

It’s not all glitter and ribbons, is it? We take this for granted. We sit around eating until we cannot eat anymore. Opening presents we don’t even need, and complain of the things we don’t have. That’s not what it’s all about!

We should be celebrating that we have been saved by the birth and the death of Jesus. Christmas is where it all begins for us.

Jesus' birth

I couldn’t help but think of the places I have been and the people I have met this past year. God gave me the opportunity to go to 11 different countries and meet his children all around the world! As I sat there in my parent’s living room watching my cousins and siblings open the presents they received, I couldn’t help but think of the bar girls and prostitutes putting on a fake smile for customers, the kids living on the streets, the orphans without families. I got an overwhelming feeling and my heart was breaking for this world.

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(Orphans in Swaziland)

Have we missed it? We are so consumed with ourselves here in America; we have lost sight of what is going on around us and who Jesus is.

I have been praying to see people the way God does and to have his heart, and on Christmas that is what I got. God gave me a glimpse of what he was seeing and his heart was broken. It was broken for the people who have nothing, and for the people who have everything. This was so overwhelming I began to cry. This isn’t even half of what God sees; I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to make you feel bad for all you have; it’s a blessing, but take that blessing and use it.

In this next year let’s change something. Let’s open our eyes to the things and the people God has placed around us. Let’s love without an agenda. Let’s give without wanting something in return.

 

“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, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

nikkiromani.theworldrace.org