Today, we are so blessed to have Ms. Niki Hardy with us. Her book Breathe Again is brilliantly real (we journey with her through her cancer diagnosis). What I love about it is that it’s for people who want to thrive, rather than just survive.
As Christians, we know that one of the bravest things we can do is to live by faith and embrace the trials this one life throws our way, as we continue being changed by the Almighty God who provides and cares for us. This is painful. This is uncomfortable. And sometimes, reality can be disastrous. There is no sugarcoating. But– there is hope. There is a God who is very much alive. There is peace. We can still optimize our living, even in the midst of the storm. We can learn to breathe again, even after the wind has been knocked out of us.
This was a book I came across at a time of many changes and dealing with my own emotions and trials, and it was a blessing. I pray it will bless you, too. If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, don’t wait. There are some links below, and a sneak peek first chapter just for you.
Thank you, Ms. Hardy, for taking the time to bless us with your thoughts, wisdom and experience.
Ready. Set. Breathe.
Niki Hardy in conversation with MW
MW: Tell us a bit about your childhood and how you grew up:
NH: My parents had three girls within four years, so our house was pretty loud and chaotic. My memories of growing up in North London, England, are happy ones, tinged with the usual teenage drama and worries, until my parents divorced when I was fifteen. Then everything changed. Faith wise, we went to church when I was little but not as I grew older, and I always say I was a christian with a lower case “c.” I wasn’t Jewish or Muslim, and I believed in God and felt spiritual up mountains, but I didn’t know who Jesus was or have any kind of relationship with Him. That didn’t happen until the first year of our marriage.
MW: In Breathe Again, you speak about grieving your mom and sister and then your own cancer diagnosis. After living through such difficult times, it can be so hard to then sit down and relive a season of life. How did you find the strength to share your story very publicly (the ups and downs) and the strength to tell others they were strong?
NH: You’re right, it was a difficult time, but for the most part I’m a pretty open book, and I’m nearly always willing to be the first to share, so I didn’t find that piece too difficult. What spurred me on was not wanting people to fall into the trap that I did; believing God was mad at them or didn’t care because life had fallen apart, and assuming His abundant life was waiting off in the future when their difficult season had come to an end.
“What spurred me on was not wanting people to fall into the trap that I did; believing God was mad at them or didn’t care because life had fallen apart, and assuming His abundant life was waiting off in the future when their difficult season had come to an end.”
MW: You comb through very practical ways we can thrive in pain rather than just survive. You have this term, “Thriver.” In your eyes, what are the top three things that make a “Thriver”?
NH: I like to say that thriving is surviving with benefits. When we’re simply surviving we’re alive, we have food, water, shelter, etc., but we feel exhausted, overwhelmed, hurt, forgotten, and like we’re running to stand still. It’s existing without living the full, abundant life God came to give us. I know I’m thriving when I’m walking in the truth that God is good, even when life isn’t, and I’m able to hold hands with both peace and pain. Thriver’s aren’t in denial about how hard life can be but are willing to live it to the full, anyway. A Thriver says “I know life stinks right now, but I’m jolly well going to grab the most out of it no matter what. I believe that with God, life doesn’t have to be painfree to be full.”
“I know I’m thriving when I’m walking in the truth that God is good, even when life isn’t, and I’m able to hold hands with both peace and pain.”
MW: You are British, so I have to ask, what is your favorite tea?
NH: I hate to admit it, but it’s nothing fancy. I’m not into Chai, Lapsang Soushong, or even Earl Grey. I love a good English breakfast tea and my favorite brand (that you can get on Amazon!) is PG Tips.
MW: Do you have a literal breathing exercise or practice that has helped you center yourself on God’s truths?
NH: Yes!! I learned this from a friend, and it has served me well through the hardest, scariest, most painful parts of my journey. The best news is that it’s horribly simple!! I stop what I’m doing and breathe in Jesus and then breathe out the fear. Inhale in Jesus, exhale the panic. Then repeat, and repeat again. As I do this, I imagine Jesus filling me with His Spirit, His peace and whatever I need from Him in that moment, and I visualize the fear and pain leaving. Breathe in, breathe out. Simple. Transforming.
“I stop what I’m doing and breathe in Jesus and then breathe out the fear. Inhale in Jesus, exhale the panic.”
MW: Why did you title your book Breathe Again?
NH: The working title of the book was actually Rubies in the Rubble, but my publisher didn’t like that – maybe you don’t use the word rubble as much here?
My wonderful editor read my draft manuscript and pulled the idea of Breathing Again from a story I share about being taken out by a rip tide and having that same “survival mode” feeling I did when I was diagnosed. I loved that idea and tweaked it to become Breathe Again. Writing and titling a book is a team sport!
MW: Why was it important for you to end each chapter with an exercise, affirmations and a prayer? And how did this idea come about?
NH: When I was sick, I read inspirational memoirs and devotions that were super encouraging, but in my exhaustion and pain, I didn’t have the strength or know-how to put the lessons into practice. I wanted to write the book I needed back then, a how-to book and road map for living life to the full and grabbing all God has for us, right in the midst of everything.
The prayers, Thriver manifesto affirmations and exercises all go together. My hope is that the book gets written in, highlighted, and taken with people wherever they go. My prayer is that through the book, they meet God and He is the one that does the changing in the their lives and hearts, not me.
“My prayer is that through the book, they meet God and He is the one that does the changing in the their lives and hearts, not me.”
MW: What made you decide to include other people’s stories and journeys in your book?
NH: Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to read books and say, “Well, they’re different to me. They’re more spiritual than I am and my situation is different.” I wanted to make sure people had different examples of how these practices work in other people’s lives, so in each chapter, I share the story of another Thriver, as well as an often forgotten woman of the Bible to illustrate how these things are helpful not matter your situation.
MW: In what ways did you change throughout your fight with cancer and as you became a Thriver?
NH: I used to say “If I can just …” or “When …” as I waited for hard situations to resolve or pain to heal. It was as if I thought a good, full life – one I equated with a perfect and pain-free life – was off in the future. Now, no matter what’s going on around me I do my best to look for those rubies in the rubble. I’ve not nailed it completely, but I’m getting there!
MW: Let’s say we aren’t in the middle of a storm, but someone close to us is. What is something we can do for that person beside us who is weathering the storm?
NH: Great question. Firstly, I’d say be willing to sit in the pain with them and acknowledge that life is hard right now, but you’re with them in it. When I told one of my close friends that I had cancer her reaction was perfect. She simply said, “Well that sucks.” It told me she was with me and hurt for me.
Then, I would suggest offering to help but acknowledge that the person might not really know how you can help. It’s a good idea to say, “You may not know what you need right now, but can I bring you some meals, take your kids to practice, do laundry or just come and pray with you.” I also like to give someone the option not to reply when I text them an encouraging scripture or prayer.
MW: Did the people closest to you do anything that was memorable or healing for/to you, while you were in the midst of your storm?
NH: They prayed up a storm, and I felt carried along on a pillow of prayer. Having rectal cancer meant there wasn’t too much laying on of hands 😉 but people prayed in person and committed to pray alone. It was wonderful.
“They prayed up a storm, and I felt carried along on a pillow of prayer.”
MW: You mention the passage in Jeremiah 29:4-7, where God instructs Israel to flourish in its captivity. He states that their welfare is tied to the welfare of their city. What do you feel that means for us, practically, today?
NH: As I say in Breathe Again, when God says that to His people who, like me, were living a life they hadn’t planned or signed up for in exile in Babylon, He was saying “Make a life where you are. Marry, plant crops and have families. Don’t wait to be back in Israel.”
Like the Israelites, we shouldn’t wait to get back to where life was good to live our lives. His abundant life is waiting for us, even in our own personal exile.
MW: What has God currently been speaking into your life, in your current season?
NH: The last fifteen years have been tough years. We moved across the pond with three small kids, planted CityChurch, lost my mum and sister, and then journeyed through my cancer, followed by my husband’s burnout. That’s a lot! At the moment, God is talking to me about healing and rest. I’m very good at just ploughing on and keeping going (it’s that English stiff and perfectly waxed, upper lip), and I’m just beginning a season of diving into all the stuff I’ve buried and put band-aids on. Writing Breathe Again was the first step in that process.
MW: What is a question you will ask in Heaven?
NH: I have a list as long as my arm, but I’m pretty sure that once I get there, and I’m in His presence that that list will fall away, the questions eclipsed by His glory. However, if I had to name one question that’s not one of the big theological conundrums I wrestle with, it would be “Could you take me back and let me watch You put the heavens and earth into place?” I think that would be the most amazing thing to see.
MW: Define Christianity in one sentence:
NH: To me, Christianity is having a living, breathing relationship with the God who sent His son to die for all human kind, because His love and grace is unending. It’s who He is.
“It’s who He is.”
Niki Hardy Bio
Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a rectal (yes, rectal) cancer survivor, pastor’s wife, tea drinker and teller of terrible jokes. As a speaker and the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart (Revell, Aug, 2019) she’s all about meeting you when life’s not fair and helping you embrace the reality that with God, life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then go live it. You can find more of Niki on Instagram, and on her website NikiHardy.com When she’s not speaking, writing, or running trails with her Doodles, you can find her with a nice cup of tea, trying to figure out which remote control actually turns the TV on.
About Breathe Again
It’s true, no one gets to skip the tough stuff in life and all too often we’re left surviving a life we never planned or imagined. Whether that’s you personally, a friend or people in your church, Niki Hardy’s book, Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart offers empathy, hope and encouragement that life doesn’t have to be painfree to be full, then gives you the practical tools to go live it. If you’ve ever needed a friend to walk you through a hard season or a gift for someone who’s struggling through life, Breathe Again is the book for you.
“If you are struggling with what your life looks like right now, this book offers real help and tangible hope. Niki writes with empathy, humor, and gut-level honesty. You’ll find a friend within these pages.”
Sheila Walsh, cohost of Life Today and author of It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Buy the book HERE https://thebreatheagainbook.com/
Download the first chapter for FREE http://bit.ly/breatheagainfreechapter
For more Niki Hardy:
Until next time, keep witnessing!