Friday, December 28, 2012

It's Friday and I'm excited!

After eight years, I get to hang out with an old friend tonight . . .I'm excited!

Tomorrow I get to have Christmas with my Mom, Stepdad, little brother, older brother, sister-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma and papa and this little nugget:

and I'm excited!!!!

I have an adorable elf in my life who shopped later than I did this Christmas, which means, I have a mystery Christmas gift still on the way . . .I'm excited!

Reservations for dinner at The Boat House @ Rockett's Landing for New Year's Eve are made and tickets for Les Miserable for New Year's Day are purchased. . . I'm excited!

Friday night Bible Study picks back up in a few days . . .I'm excited!

Next Friday I get to wear jeans to work . . .I'm excited!

Bus tickets are in hand, the hotel is reserved, seats for Broadway's Spider-Man are waiting, Boarding passes for the Circle Line Cruise are ready, Comedy Cellar tickets are booked, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir is ready, the winter coats, long underwear, wool socks, gloves, hats, scarves, and snow boots are set to go . . .

So NYC watch out, because here we come . . . .and I'm excited!!!!

It's been on long week, but there is always something to be thankful and EXCITED about, and I am!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year!!!

"It's the most wonderful time of the year . . ." played over my radio as I drove back to the office from my lunch break today. To be honest,  I believe I actually chuckled out loud when I heard those cheerful voices singing . . . and hearts will be glowing... blah blah blah blah blah.

Sad isn't it?

Don't get me wrong there are some wonderful things about this time of year: The Christmas Lights, holiday parties filled with laughter and silly games, the opportunity to give to those in need, vacation time from work, peppermint flavored anything, and the days reserved to spend time with friends and family that usually we don't make as much of an effort as we should to see.

Call me a Scrooge, but lately, that stuff seems to be like a giant band-aid that temporarily covers the shattered friendships, the loss of a loved one, financial crisis, the irreconcilable differences that divide, the rejection, the hate, the misunderstandings, the injustice, the hypocrisy, the prejudices, the loneliness and the hurt that fills our everyday lives. 

As I sit here, wishing to toss away my cell phone and hideaway on a beautiful deserted island until the Lord Himself returns to call me home, as I witness the hurt and turmoil of dear friends who are wrestling with unwanted troubles in the boxing rings of their lives, and as I see the devastation of family after family who will not have their six year old running down the hall to see what Santa brought Christmas morning . . .I can't help but think, It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Not because of the temporary reasons mentioned in that cheesy song, but because this is the season we remember that a solution to all this world's all of our brokenness came, and it came in the form of an innocent baby. The solution left a place that is beyond any idea of paradise that we could ever dream up, to be born outside, in the dirt and grime with the animals who occupied the barn. This baby grew up in the same broken world and faced the trials and troubles that knock on our door each day. He was mocked, made fun of, questioned and pushed to the margins. And He left this place just as He entered it . . . innocent, made guilty only by my sin, your sin, our sin. And then the Solution did the impossible, He conquered death. He bridged the gap between my brokenness and God’s holiness. This baby, Jesus, gave us a solution--another option than just settling for the emptiness and hopelessness of this world. A solution that offers redemption, forgiveness, hope, amazing love and unspeakable joy.
It’s on these days, when I get frustrated with the trivial fixes to life’s problems, when I am over the hurt and tension felt in this fleeting life, and done with my own flawed emotions that kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you “be of good cheer,” and marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow can be for the birds.
Because honestly, it’s in remembering and being thankful that death could not keep Him, a torn veil now allows access for all who come, reading of Jesus’ life, a life lived among the sinners, the lame, the crooks, the widows, the prostitutes, the liars, the cheaters, the rich, the poor, the lonely, and lost, the outcast, and the broken, and offered them all amazing grace and a ridiculous love, and lastly, it’s in recalling that precious baby boy, the hope of the world, who angels sang over, and wise men worshiped and shepherds bowed that makes this the most wonderful time of the year.
So even though the weeks before Christmas 2012 has held some tough beatings for CT, for our own community, our own loved ones and in our own personal lives, I challenge you, to do as I . . . set aside the crap, trust that He is in control, and crank up the tunes to the cheesy overly happy “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and sing your little heart out. Because God’s Christmas gift to this damaged world is not some mediocre temporarily band aide, but a solution that this sinner has needed and will need until the roll is called up yonder.
Merry Christmas. And may peace and joy be all the fills your heart this season.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Okay

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you get slammed from every side? Me too. And this has been the week. I wish I could share that through it all I was able to pull up my big girl pants and stand in confidence that I knew what God was doing. But honestly, I had my moments. Curling up in the fetal position and letting the flood gates open. Temper tantrums where I questioned, "God, if you called me walk down this road, then why ...." Moments of heart break and sorrow for poor decisions of my past that led to the reality of facing real consequences of the present. And this list goes on.

The days of the week continued passing and I noticed that the wall--you know, the one that I have been working on tearing and keeping down--has been slowly resurfacing. It's quite humorous, that in tearing down that wall, opening up and becoming more authentic and v . . .vul . . . vulnerable (still do not like this word) is the reason I find myself in this water, doggie paddling through these waves.

As I stood at The ROC last night listening to the words of worship, as the tears fell, and as my heart began to soften, I realized--it's ok. It's okay, that I have real emotions that attached themselves to the situations of my life. It's okay, that sometimes, all I know how to do is cry. It's okay that we don't agree. It’s okay that it hurts that we don't agree. It's okay to say I'm sorry. It’s okay that I can' fix it. It's okay to just want a hug. It's okay to lay my questions at His feet. It's okay to be frustrated and angry. It's okay to be real even if conflict arises from it.  It's okay to try even if all will be lost in the end. It's okay to laugh when your heart is breaking. It's okay to speak words of truth. It's okay to stand up for myself and for what I believe in. It's okay to have a voice. It's okay to have days where you are just sad. It's okay to wrestle and doubt and struggle (and heaven knows through this life we will), and it's okay to not know His plan.

Even though I am absolutely clueless as to what He is doing at the current moment of my life, I know that as long as I keep my focus on Him, as long as I throw my temper tantrums at His feet, as long as I keep loving like He loves, as long as I keep fighting the walls that want to rebuild, as long as I keep being real, as long as I follow His voice, I know that it's all going to be okay.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Beautifully flawed

"So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone." --Donald Miller

One story. At times, that is such a frightening thought to me. One chance. To do it all right. This week in particular feels like a harsh reminder of how much of my story I have already done wrong. The face in the mirror has reflected memories of failure, as a friend, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend . . . there are so many pages in my story, I want to tear out and have replaced with lines that speak of something beautiful-something beautiful that people can read and see that my life wasn't about me, but about loving others more than myself, about forgiveness and compassion, sacrifice and kindness.

I know that a good story, one worth reading has to include obstacles and weaknesses that have to be overcome, tension between good and evil, right and wrong, and a hero who offers grace and salvation and saves the day. I know that a good story embraces that "to be human is to be beautifully flawed." But it is easy to fall into the trap of wishing for a life of no conflict, of no doubts that you are loved and cared for and wanted, of no tension between doing the right thing and doing what is easy, and of being your own super hero who saves the day.

I can often take my eyes off the dwindling sand in my hour glass and forget to embrace the people around me, to hold dear the time I have left. To be intentional about loving and giving of myself and to not live in the pages of wasted moments.

I know that embracing our brokenness is key to having an incredible story, because a story about an unbroken Mel would be dull, forgettable and meaningless. But a story that divulges and embraces my short comings, the seasons of droughts, and fears, and the struggles I daily face, make room for the only character that makes this life--our stories rememorable, powerful and unforgettable to enter.  It's in our brokenness that His beauty is seen. It is in that brokenness that He takes the pages that read of our mistakes, of our bad attitudes, of our evil thoughts, of our selfish living and follows them with chapters upon chapters of growth and change and learning to love and serve better---He adds in the beauty.

Beautifully flawed.

I believe that's how God wants our stories to read. Not running from our weaknesses and creating a glamorized fictitious tale of perfection, but to embrace our own story of unworthiness, to continually strive time and time and time and time again to become better today, tomorrow and the next day and the day after with His help, love and grace. To offer up our broken spirits and our contrite hearts, to admit our wrongs and our selfish desire for our stories to read only of us, and instead shining the light on The Hero and accepting His offer to make the most flawed story, breathtaking and remarkable.

Donald Miller goes on to say. "God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution" of each of our stories, and no matter what, I have to believe that whatever truths I see in my own reflection, whatever fires I see loved ones facing, or however many irreparable bridges I seem to collect along the way, that God's is using them to make the final words of my one story something beautiful . . .even if it is just one page at a time.
Psalms 51:17 “My sacrifice O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart . . .”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Santa, thank you for my momma and daddyo!

"Our hearts grew tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime."   -Laura Ingalls Wilder
My parents did not do everything right, and they would be the first to tell you so. Things were not always perfect in our house, but despite the imperfections I am still enamored with my childhood. My parents had the uncanny ability of cultivating this magic that every child should be familiar with. And it's around the holiday season, that this childlike magic becomes life to me again. (Even though I am well beyond the years of listening for Santa's bells as I drift asleep.)

Christmas as a family, is very different for us these days. The kids have grown up, some have moved away and we have all have begun creating new traditions for our own families. The challenge of clearing calendars and making the time to all gather around the same Christmas tree seems to grow harder with each passing year. Even though I am sure there is some element of disappointment when we all can't be together Christmas morning, I hope my parents can see that the magic they generously gave us as little ankle bitters carries on to this day in our own unique ways.

From little green goodies on St. Patrick Day to Robin Egg stuffed Easter Baskets to hidden bikes from Santa Claus to Pumpkin patch visits and homemade roasted pumpkin seeds to James Center Christmas lights and Chevy Chase's Christmas vacation . . . Momma and Daddyo, thank you for letting us be kids, and filling our lives and memories with a magic that many children miss out on. Thank you for a childhood that I can look back on, and despite moments I wish were not there, overall, I get bombarded with the memories where I felt loved and known and special.

And it carries on . . .

Just seeing a box labeled "Xmas Lites" excited my brother so much he could resist throwing them up mid-summer:

Halloween just isn't the same without carved pumpkins and roasted seeds!

And easter needs ears and a basket!  

The little bro's 2012 Holiday decor:
A simple affair at my abode this year:

And just a few MUSTs:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm already writing about Christmas!

I am excited about the upcoming holiday season this year. And for those of you who join in that excitement, but have a loved one who is less than thrilled about the approaching jingle bells and tacky Santa sweaters, take note.
Sometime, you just have to grab the one you love and yell:
"Hi. You're really nice and funny, so I want to spend the whole entire holiday season with you. Let's crank up Bing Crosby, throw the stove on low and heat up some homemade holiday potpourri, pull down the Christmas decor, fill up a glass of Eggnog, switch on the fire place and change our humble abode into a winter wonderland filled with joy, peace, hope and laughter.
Let's pile into the car one frigid night all bundled up with hats and scarves and some dear friends and search the James Center lawn for the red nosed reindeer. We can even take a brief hiatus from thinking about the million and one things that need to be done, and splurge on a candy apple or a piping hot Carmel Macchiato from our favorite coffee spot.
We can unbundle slightly and walk into the warm lobby of Richmond's finest luxury accommodation and take a peek at The Jefferson Hotel's Christmas tree and ginormous ginger bread house, where of course I will ask you strike a silly pose and insist on taking a picture to capture that slight glimpse of holiday cheer that is starting to leak from the corners of your smile. And just maybe, the Spirit of Christmas will overtake you enough that you start to hum "Feliz Navidad" all the way back to the car.
One the way home, let's share our favorite Christmas traditions or worst Christmas gift ever received with all those who accompanied us on this funtastic evening, and admire the tacky Christmas lights that adorn many homes surrounding good 'ole Richmond, VA.
We'll smile and laugh, and maybe even shed a tear or two, but most of all our hearts will be full of thankfulness, for dear friends, for one another, for new holiday memories and traditions, and for taking the time to stop and joyfully celebrate the coming of baby Jesus and the hope and promise His birth has brought into all of our lives."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hey YOU!! Here's a little Friday fun!

Hey YOU!

Remember those choose your own adventure books, mad libs and those cute little "check yes or no" love notes you would pass around in elementary school?!?!!!?!! Well, I am thinking what the heck . . .let's have a little fun!!!!! :)

Hope you have a super duper Friday!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh baby, baby.

I am sure I wasn't too different from many of you all who dreamed big as a little girl. I planned my wedding, I named my future kids, and envisioned my adult life revolving around a family, a significant other, and a little dog named "D.O. Gee." As we all know, life takes many twist and turns, sometimes it gets flipped upside down by our own doings and other times life just happens and dreams shift. I can tell you standing here thirty one years later; my life portrays a very different picture than what I originally dreamed up.

As a little girl my imaginary play always revolved around children. Whether it was pretending to be a Mommy to my baby dolls, the orphanage caretaker to my little brother, or a kindergarten school teacher, my mind rarely left the realm of children. Being the daughter of the church music director, we spent most Sundays at all of the morning services the church offered, and I could always be found spending the extra time loving on babies and entertaining the toddlers in the church nursery. Before I was old enough to get a real job, baby-sitting occupied my Friday and Saturday nights. And to be honest, it was less about the money and more about the opportunity to spend time loving on the children. My first job? You guessed it--child care! And college? Well my dream to be a stay at home mom wasn't anywhere close when college came around, so studying education seemed like a natural path until that vision for my life became the reality.

Close to my senior year of college, the reality of my dreams becoming alive seemed pretty hopeless, for various reasons. So, to numb the pain of that dying desire, I shifted my dreams. When asked, "Don't you want to be a mom?" I would respond, "heck no."  I remember voicing ideas like "kids just grow up to hate their parents anyway, why bother” or “I’m too selfish," or "I am enough to handle on my own, “or "that's reason 7, 432 and not to have a kid," and so on and so forth. I still loved kids and even though I didn't realize it at the time, I was building up walls of self protection, and never let myself reenter that place of possibility. I continued to pursue a career where I could love the heck out of little ones, and told myself that would be enough.

In the years between there and here, a lot has happened. I helped build and became co-owner to a business where I got to tend to newborns, toddlers and teach preschoolers daily. Two precious kiddos became knit into my life, Location change to new parts of town. A closed business. Career shifts. Unexpected life changes. And an act of God that got me into the seat I am in now.

It is in this seat, that I have learned that no matter how I envision my life, it all falls short in comparison to the life He has called me to live. You see, I still have very natural desires, to be a wife, to be a mom, and so much more that I question if my reality will ever hold, but I am learning that those desires quickly fade when placed beside my passion to follow wherever He leads.

I have lived out my own will, my plan, and at times, He has given me exactly what I think I wanted, and I can tell you, the desire for more was always seemed to be lurking. As I have tried to walk in His will, He still blesses me with many desires of my heart, and some of those desires have changed, and some of those desire I do still struggle with releasing, but as a good friend says "Oh, the joy, the unspeakable joy" that comes from seeking His will over my own. I might not have all that I think I want, but the portion I do have, satisfies, when I keep my eyes focused on His plan and not mine.

I don't know what the next thirty one years of my life will look like. Maybe my desires will fall in line with the ones He wills over my life, maybe He will grant me the desires of my heart, or maybe I will find the desires I surrender to Him, will once again come as blessings that far exceed all I could ever imagine.

And lastly, it is in this chair, I too am learning, that I don't have to hide behind the walls I have built. Admitting my struggles, tearing down walls of self protection and taking a stab at v . . .vuln . . .vulner . . .vulnerability, is the path I know that leads to God's grace, freedom, joy. As I read this morning, "Although this is an uncomfortable position, it is actually a good place to be." It's a place I get to see Him work, to see the transformation of my will into His, whatever that may be. And it's here in this uncomfortable place of sharing my heart that I lean into the trust I have, the faith that reminds me, I serve a faithful God who will take care of me like nobody’s business.

So, perhaps one day you will see this "old" lady pulling out her hair chasing little ankle bitters, screaming, "What was I thinking?" Or maybe, we will all see the beautiful childless plan God laid out specifically for yours truly, but whatever is to come, it is the cry of my heart, "Oh, Lord, let it be Your will, not mine," and in the process of aligning the two, I pray I continue to break down walls vs. building them.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stay at the table.

Eight months ago, I got the opportunity to set aside the distractions of this world, to escape reality and to take the time I desperately need to be still and to seek God. (If you are curious about my walk to Emmaus, you can read about it here.) For the last 10 weeks, I have had the honor to be part a team that led a group of 31 women to experience that same 72 hours cut off from their busy lives and to live out Psalm 46:10 this past weekend. Just as I struggled to express all that God did in the three days of my walk, I find myself struggling to clearly articulate all that I have witnessed over the last 1,584 hours of this journey.

One of the lyrics to a song we sang frequently over the past 10 weeks says, "I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered and broken hearts become new" and I can honestly say,  I saw all the above first hand this past weekend. It has been one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. However, those stories of miracles, answered prayers and mended hearts are not mine to tell. For me, this weekend was about serving these women and helping to keep distractions at bay and to cultivate an environment where they only had to focus on God's still small whisper, His unconditional love, and His lavish grace. In the midst of my own silent prayers for these women, acts of agape and in hearing their stories, I heard His still small whisper and realized even though this weekend wasn't about me, He was still using this weekend to grow me.

Every Friday night until this past weekend, I spent time with 28 other folks who made up the teaming team for R107. It was on those nights, that I began to see how people who come from different backgrounds, different ages, different denominations, different sides of the railroad tracks, and different ideas and passions could all unite under the common bond of having a willing heart to see the Holy Spirit move and have His way in the lives of His beloved.

For me, I have been tainted in this area, and tend to lean more on my unbelief. I wrestle with believing that Christ followers really can set aside differences and grow together under the common purpose of Jesus Christ. I mean we all say it, but more often than not I have seen the opposite.

There have been a few folks along the way that I have been blessed to know, and that have shown me there are always exceptions to the "rules" But I have yet to feel part of a community that as a whole seems to embrace this ideal with more than words.

I found myself in Ephesians 4:3 on the Friday morning, before leaving for Blackstone. It says "...keep yourselves united by the Holy Spirit, binding yourselves together in peace..." This scripture will forever be engraved on my heart. As a team, we have been coming together, united by the Holy Spirit, to be His hands and feet.

Weeks prior in one of the talks, we heard, "We are called to stay at the table." And that statement too is forever engraved in my heart, right alongside Ephesians 4:3.

In a room in Petersburg, VA on Friday nights where differences were plentiful and on occasion did arise, the feeling of peace never escaped those walls. It was consuming. And I honestly wrestled with whether or not it was worth it to share parts of my story that may illuminate differences and to test if our call to united could withstand whatever surfaced onto the table.

It wasn't until we were in the swing of things and in the middle of the 72 hours in Blackstone, VA that I had a conversation where every word being said felt like a punch in the gut. To be honest, the urge to sprint out of that place and never look back was extremely tempting. But my feet wouldn't move. And no matter what I "wanted" to do, I knew this wasn't about me, and even if I tried to make it so, it couldn't have been---my new friend, knew nothing of my story. She just needed a place to unload, to dump out her hurts and her garbage. I wish I could tell you that I was happy to help her unload it. But with every bag she needed help unloading, it felt as if a sharp edge of glass poked through the bag and cut me on the way down.

As I listened, all that kept repeating in my head was Ephesians 4:3, stay at the table, and be a peacekeeper.

I wanted to inject my thoughts, my beliefs, my story, and to put an end to the conversation but in that moment no matter how much her words hurt, I was just called to listen, to be there for her . . . to stay at the table, and to stay united.

I wish I could tell you it was easy. But it wasn't. And often, in this world it's not. But it is simple---just love.

To be honest, I don't know who knows and doesn't know my story. And I don't know who does and who doesn't agree with my stance on things. But in this life I have chosen to live, one that strives to love like Jesus, to be more like Him, honestly, it doesn't matter. There are people who will love you regardless and there are people who will not.  There are people who will choose to stay at the table and there are people who will not. There will be people who hurt you when they realize those differences, there are people who will love you despite those differences, and there are people who will stand in agreement alongside you in those differences. And even though it's hard, and at times it hurts, and no matter how much we want to leave the table, I pray for the boldness always, to set aside our differences, to come together by the Holy Spirit, to bind ourselves in peace, and to show crazy love just like Jesus would.

I don't know if there will be a time to share my story with my new friend. I hope so.
I don't know if she hears my story if she will stay at the table. I hope she does.
I don't know what God is doing in her life, but I know it’s big.

And I do hope that this weekend she saw Jesus face to face, because over the past 10 weeks I have. I have seen people stay at the table. I have seen Ephesians 4:3 lived out and it has given me hope and strength to strive for a life that continually desires to love more like Him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SIX . . .

SIX degrees of Kevin Bacon

SIX stings on a guitar


SIXpence None The Richer

SIX Brady Bunch Kiddos
(Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy)

SIX is Bert's favorite number.
and . . . .

SIX months of absolute AWESOMENESS!!!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Risky Business

We spend our whole lives learning, exploring, uncovering, unlearning and tweaking our self image, our identity. We get the chance to represent all of the things we continually discover about ourselves by who we are--the good the bad, and yes, even the ugly. Yet, "so many people live inconsequential lives because of their fear of exposure. Allowing people to get close to you means permitting them to see your faults, your failures and your fears--and that is most people's worst nightmare." (Kay Warren)

Remember the woman who risked exposure and humiliation to anoint the feet of Jesus? (Luke 7:36-50)

She entered a room, took off her mask, and revealed who she really was. A sinner. A woman with failures and faults. And a woman who was humbly transparent.

She took a giant risk.

I had the opportunity to be transparent last week, to open up and to share part of my story and my struggles, but unlike the woman we read about in Luke, I failed miserably to come out from behind the walls of fear, judgment and rejection.

[And in failure . . . there’s always room for self reflection and a blog to help process.]

I firmly believe that we all desire "to know" and "be known." And I love that part, "to know."  I enjoy getting to know people, what makes them smile, tick, cry, and laugh. I am enthralled by stories of where people came from and what life events have shaped them into the unique individuals they are. It never gets old hearing how God moves through a person's trials, hopelessness, and strife and creates a renewed being, full of joy and love and grace. It is simply beautiful.

And I too, love the "to be known" part. I love when somebody wants to know my stories, my memories, and my experiences. But the stories and memories I want to tell, that I am willing to share, are the good ones, the ones that make me smile and laugh, the ones that bring to life moments of excitement and joy. But deep down, I want to be known in the dark places too. The places that turn my stomach with nausea, the ones that make me cry or angry or bring forth doubt and questions. But too often I let fear rule my actions when given that chance. In those moments, I want to play safe, and  I have taught myself that "safe" means staying being those walls, hiding the parts of me that I am not sure how people will react if they knew them, allowing my questions to be silent for fear of judgment, and keeping certain pains and struggles off of the table.

Jesus knew the woman in Luke, her flaws, her sins, her hurts, it all. And for her to offer such an act of gratitude, devotion and surrender, she knew Jesus too.

And Jesus knows this woman. The parts I share openly, the parts few know about, the parts nobody knows, the parts that make me happy, the parts that break my heart, the parts that make me laugh, the parts that make me cry, the parts that I wish He didn't know, the parts I struggle with, and on and on and on. And I know Him. I know His comfort, His love, His grace, His guidance, His whisper, His nudging, His mercy, His hope, His faithfulness . . . .

And as I explore more into this call to make a difference for His kingdom with my life, I am realizing His nudges aren't always safe. Sometimes He nudges me to scratch off the surface from a podium in a room full of women, sometimes He is poking me to trust Him with the outcome of taking down my mask and sharing my life with a friend, sometimes He encourages me to share my struggles with a prayer partner, and sometimes He encourages me to open the doors to my heart and share deep pains of my life with the ones I dearly love.

To make a difference, you have to give yourself, and in giving yourself, you run the risk of being known and with being known there is always the risk of getting hurt. But I believe it's in the mess of being known and in the grace found in those times of hurt, that we are able to see more clearly the hand of Jesus Christ, offering an unimaginable love and an indescribable hope and an offer like no other  to provide healing, restoration and new life.

So, may we all (especially, you Mel) allow people to get close, to let them really know you, permit them to see your flaws and failures, hopes and dreams and trust Jesus with the outcome.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eyes on the Path.

It's been a while now, but I use to go geocaching often. For those of you who are unfamiliar, geocaching is kind of like an electronic treasure hunt. People from all over hide these "treasure chests" for others in the geocaching community to find. It's pretty simple, especially now that every smart phone is loaded with a GPS system. You pull up a "cache" or find the coordinates to where "X" marks the spot, whip out your handy dandy iPhone loaded with the geocaching app, and off you go. Once you discover the treasure you can sign the log with your “super duper adventurous born to do this” caller ID and you can rummage through the container to see if there is anything that suits your liking. (Take something, leave something is the motto.) There are also Geo Coins or travel bugs that are looking to find their way to a certain destination. Some come from Germany; others we have found seek to find a ride to NYC or South Carolina. It's pretty exciting.
In the midst of the hunt, it's thrilling to know you are on the right path as you watch the little dot move closer to the "jackpot." Usually the "treasure chests" are hidden far off the beaten path (watch out for snakes), some require hiking or crossing small streams, and every now and then you will have to descend down some large hills (which means an uphill work out on your way back to the car-like the time we descended the massive hill in the waist high grass on 288 at Westchester Commons.) Once you are in the thick of the woods, you find the container and it becomes easy to spot the way out . . . but coming in, the way was hidden, because the focus was on the map-the GPS, not necessarily on the surroundings.
We can view life like a treasure hunt at times. We can be so intent on finding what we are looking for we forget to see the path that we are on.
I feel lately that my eyes have been glued on the GPS, on the goal vs. the path that has been set before me. I've been striving to get to whatever "X" marks the spot on any given day, rather enjoy my path and its surroundings. My sight has been so self focused and future driven, that I have missed several opportunities to love well the people who have been passing through, or to stop and share a word of encouragement with the hiker who is resting from fatigue, or to take the time to venture out into overgrown thicket and help that wandering traveler find their way back.
Psalm 16: 11 found its way in front of me this morning. It says "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasure of living with you forever."
In geocaching the joy and excitement are found in using the GPS and discovering the treasure at the end of each hunt, but in life, the game is different. We, as Christ followers, know what the treasure is--meeting Jesus face to face and spending eternity in His presence. And as I've tried to process my foul mood, and the root of my discontent this week, I realize that joy doesn't come from knowing the final destination and in waiting for that day to arrive, striving to accomplish every goal I envisioned my life would hold.
Hello?!!?!!! Mel, it's not about you!!!!!
The joy comes from walking with the Holy Spirit everyday of life here on Earth, following His lead to love others and to invite them to accompany us on this incredible journey. Yes, I do believe we all have desires and hopes for our lives, and that's a good thing. I have just discovered that when I start focusing solely on my goals and dreams, my life tends to get out of wack and I become Miss Grumpy Pants. (My apologies for all who have been witness to that this week.)
I don't need to worry which path my life needs to venture down. Psalm 16 states, that He will show me the way. And He does. I just have to let Him lead, and choose to follow. My joy comes from walking Him, knowing that He is forever by my side, covering me in love and strength and grace.
And today, I am rediscovering that God is the listening ears we all crave in our lives. He wants to hear about my dreams, and goals and desires, and every little detail of my day. But He always wants me to trust that He knows best, and to believe that the map He has already created, will lead me to a life beyond my wildest imagination.
Sometimes, there are bumps along the way. And for me, this has been a week of crawling over them, for struggling to get myself out of the way, to put others first and to let the Holy Spirit take the lead and direct me down a joy packed, love filled treasure hunt of my life.

Eyes on the path, Mel, not the destination!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Goodbye operating room, Hello physical therapy.

You can hear everything in cube world . . .well most everything. Walking through the halls you hear bits and pieces of conversations, of stories, of people's lives. It's an interesting place. And one that has started the wheels spinning in my head this morning.

Surgery. Scalpels. Operating Rooms. Physicians. All parts of a conversation I overheard as I waited at the printer for my stack of audits.

As I returned to my desk, to my fabric covered square, those words took me back to the weeks following my Emmaus Walk. In the weeks after, I tried to write and  process my encounter with God that weekend. Blog posts about an operating room, about the need to put myself on the table and let the Great Surgeon do what He does best . . . remove the junk and  make this sinful, broken creature, whole and full of life again, spewed out. I wrote about the importance of Psalm 46:10, in my life. To be still. And I'm sitting here today, just blown away that the nuggets of truth I am gaining in this season of life, and the nuggets of truth that were revealed to me on my walk are starting to mesh together, revealing a God who pays attention and who reveals Himself in the small moments of everyday life.

Lately I have been examining the importance of studying God's Holy Word in my life. I've been able to relive the moments where He used the words of Matthew and 1 John to pierce my heart and to deepen my understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to live as follower of Christ. I have been able to find a passion for new books that I am reading for the first time, like Hosea. And I have had to sit with the convictions, that the discipline of studying the Bible, is one that I am still learning to do well, one that I can be more intentional about practicing daily.

So how does it all come together? Surgery? Operating rooms? Studying the Bible?

I wondered too . . . and as I sat here, thinking about the operating room, and of all the times in my past where I longed for change, sought His face for healing, prayed for the chains of bondage to be broken, I always found myself back in a place of shame, guilt, and failure. Where lasting change really never stuck, where I was still held captive, and where wounds never found complete healing.

The great Physician had been standing there whispering, "Sit still, Sit still" for quite some time, but I never sat still enough for Him to examine me or identify the problem, and I wasn't ever still enough for Him to operate.

So on my walk, I heard that loud and clear, "Be still and know that I am God."

I can just envision the Holy Spirit standing there, all scrubbed in for surgery ready to go, waiting--waiting to do all the healing and removal of bondage that I wanted to be done. And when I finally sat still enough for Him to begin, I realize that I didn't give Him the tool needed to start the procedure.

A scalpel.

His scalpel---the Bible, the Word of God. 

Many of us, myself included, never changed because we never got into the Bible. We never studied the God breathed words of His holy book, which left the Holy Spirit without the tool needed to do what needed to be done.

In Jeremiah 17:9 we learn that we all need surgery . . . major surgery. A heart transplant. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." The condition of our hearts can't be cured unless we get a new heart all together.

And in Ezekiel 36:26 we read of God's promise for that new heart. "I'll give you a new heart, I'll put a new spirit in you. I'll cut out your stone, stubborn heart and replace it with a tender, responsive heart."

I have lived 29 years with that old, deceitful, cold, hard, selfish heart, and it did nothing for me, but take a little bit of my life with each and every beat. Until I learned there was another option, another heart waiting, a donor who had laid down His life, so that I could have the heart needed to sustain the life I was intended to lived. A heart that is warm, and pliable and full of grace and love.

I believe His Word is not only the scalpel that allows the Holy Spirit to exchange our hearts, but it's also the key that teaches us how to use our new heart to its full potential.

Perhaps it's out of the operating room, (The surgery is done, an old dying heart for a new life giving one) and into the physical therapy office for me. Where the time to be still and to dive into His Word will strengthen this new heart, and teach me to live, to serve and to love to its utmost capacity. To have a life that beats the heart beat of Jesus with every breath and step that the rest of my journey holds. And gives me the boldness to share that my God can change ANY heart of stone, and that ANYONE is invited into the operating room and can come out on the other side new and full of an abundant life.

What a mighty God we serve!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Ramblings!

I wish I didn't take moments like stopping and sitting to eat dinner around the kitchen table, from which, outpours conversations of past hurts, changed lives and God's goodness for granted as much as I do.

Sometimes coming home, turning off phones and disconnecting from the world is good for the soul.

I am heading to October Fest in the small town of Victoria, VA soon. I am excited to visit with my mom and Larry and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins and my little brother! (And I will get to see my dog too!)It’s been too long and I’ve missed these folks!

Stepping out of your comfort zone and encircling a table of women you highly esteem and barely know and sharing in laughter and the questions of getting to you know can be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pulling out pictures of nieces and nephews and beaming with pride with another proud "auntie" is so much fun.

"But nothing on this earth is guaranteed, when you get right down to it, you know? I've been thinking about that. About how your kids aren't really YOURS, they're just these people that you try to keep an eye on, and hope you'll all grow up someday to like each other and still be in one piece. What I mean is everything you get is really just on loan. Does that make sense?" "Sure," I said, "Like library books. Sooner or later they've all got to go back into the night drop."

There are times when you just have to cut loose and act silly. I am thankful for these moments!!

I am hoping that some dreams don't come true. If so, then I am in trouble and will need help to offer care to the infant, the toddler, and the preschooler boys that will find their way onto our front porch.

The unexpected words and gifts that find their way into your mail box on just the day you needed to hear them and needed the reminder that you are loved, are nothing less than our God sending a big huge hug and wet kiss to show us His amazing love.

Sometimes you just know that you are exactly where God needs you to be. Life isn't perfect or devoid of problems. It is just a place where peace and joy abound like no other.

The 3:30am mornings where you find yourself wide awake and out of bed, leaning into Psalm 46:10 are the most precious moments.

The hotel for my annual NYC trip in January is booked. Super excited!! Now, what shows are a must see???

Sometimes the tough questions and uncomfortable topics are the doorways that lead to belly laughter and open communication. Walk through them.

"Love weighs nothing."

Happy Tuesday Folks!