Too often over the last few months, an idea for a blog post has lit up over my head and I, in true Niki fashion, have failed to execute. I think the general delusion was that I would remember the idea later, or that I didn't have time to blog—the latter being mostly true, the former laughably false.
So, here I am. Six months older, looking the new year in its blurry newborn eye, and asking myself what I learned in 2023 that could possibly be of value to someone. Let's see where it goes, shall we?
Lesson #1: There is no heartbreak that God can't heal.
I started this past year (which feels like eons ago now) grieving the loss of something I truly believed was part of my destiny. I had already begun making plans, building an imaginary future on that shaky foundation, and when it crumbled, I struggled to reconcile that with what I thought was God's will. But early in 2023, God worked a miracle of healing in my heart. He helped me to move on, to pick myself up and keep marching forward, and he granted me freedom and healing that I probably wouldn't have thought possible a short while before. So, for my friends out there starting 2024 in a similar state—give it to God. No one fixes broken hearts like he does. And he usually upgrades in the process.
Lesson #2: God can open doors like—(*snaps fingers*)—that.
The best part about being a writer is the writing. The worst part about being a writer is that you can love words to no end; you can write until you're blue in the face; you can produce the most stunning, fantastical, heart-stirring stories in the world, and you can still fail to make it in the industry. So much of the writing endeavour is actually out of the writer's control that sometimes, the whole adventure feels like a lost cause. And when I say "sometimes," I mean on a weekly basis. Or daily, depending on hormones, local precipitation patterns, and whether or not my characters are cooperating with me.
Still, if 2024 taught me anything, it's that God can change things overnight. One minute, I was just a wannabe writer auditioning for an author contract—the next I was flying to Florida to brainstorm a novel with my fellow draft authors and publisher. "My publisher." Yes, I can say that now. And while the drafting process for Blood of Kings: Legends has challenged me in many ways, I'm still reeling from the suddenness by which God produced a magical doorway out of thin air. My writing journey looked like a dead end and then—poof!—there was a portal. A way forward. A new adventure. And I say this not to discourage anyone who hasn't had this experience (trust me, that is the last thing I want to do), but to encourage you: DO NOT DESPAIR. While we all must surrender our dreams into God's hands and choose to be joyful no matter what he has in store, we must never forget how powerful and good our God is. If he wants your dream to come true, my friend, it will happen. Trust that, breathe deep, and enjoy the ride knowing that whether he chooses to do so or not, the result is going to be good.
Lesson #3: You know when they say it's all about the cross? Well, turns out that's true.
I've spent 85% of my Christian life battling legalism—trying to stay in God's good books by following the rules, recoiling from anything that could compromise my heavenly credit score, and generally living in Pharasetical bondage. A few years ago, I made some changes in my life that made a huge difference for me, allowing me to experience grace for the first time—or at least, to get a glimpse of it. I thought I had it all figured out until this past year brought a serious relapse. My world turned grey, my imperfections consumed me, and I compensated for my spiritual flaws by striving for flawlessness in other, unhealthy ways. All in all, I was drowning. I needed a lifeline. God provided it.
It pains me when people confuse their experiences of legalism with Christ. The two are not synonymous. They are arguably mutually exclusive. If the paragraph above describes your faith walk so far, please do not let anyone convince you that it's the norm of Christianity. It's not. It's an age-old perversion, a clever wile of the devil—one of the ways the Enemy has infiltrated the Church and tried to steal away the freedom we have in Christ.
And we do have freedom. In 2023, God reached down from heaven, cupped my face in his hands, and pointed my gaze at the Garden of Gethsemane. There, I saw Jesus sweating blood for me. I saw Jesus weeping for the agony he was about to suffer, and I saw Jesus going through with it on the cross for me. I saw Jesus—perfect—seeing something in me that he was willing to die for. And I realized what it means when we say, "Jesus paid it all." There are no outstanding debts. My heavenly credit score is eternally excellent. When God looks at feeble, disgusting, oh-look-she-did-it-again Niki, he sees the flawless radiance of Jesus, who died on the cross for me and rose again to call me sister, daughter, and bride.
But don't take my word for it. Visit the garden yourself. Look, really look at Christ there, in the darkness, weeping and sweating and bleeding for you. Follow him up the hill of Calvary and lean in close to hear him whisper with his dying breath, "It is finished." Those words are the sound of breaking chains—the sound of grace. Not a bad soundtrack for 2024, if you ask me.