Posted in family, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Minutes or Moments?

180731_170208_collage-11755689728.jpgA new dad waiting for his first baby to be born understands the value of a minute.
A new dad hearing that baby’s first cry understands the value of a moment.

Lately I’ve been pondering the difference between minutes and moments.

I don’t know about at your house, but at my house we seem to talk about time – a lot. It’s time for bed! Time to get up! Hurry up! Time’s a wastin’. Bathtime! Dinnertime. Storytime. Time out. Time’s up!

In the Beginning…

In my cover-to-cover trek through the Bible I’ve just finished reading Genesis and Exodus. The first concept introduced in Genesis, besides God as Creator, is time. Time is necessary. Its parameters were among the first set in motion in the beginning. By the end of the first chapter, the first 6 days have occurred. Ask my 10-year-old what happens in Genesis chapter 1 and he’ll surmise that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and he rested on the 7th.

Ask my poet’s heart and I’ll tell you that the first chapter takes much longer than a week to ponder. Why? Because I stop and wonder what it was like to bow in reverence at that first sunrise. I want to grab a blanket and go sit in an open field and marvel at the sea of stars overhead. I want to be there as the first waves tumbled to the shore. I want to see the dolphins jump and hear the wolves howl. My heart wants to savor every single moment.

So why don’t I? Why don’t I savor each moment? Why do I waste so much life enslaved to my planner when I could be living and doing and savoring?

A New Approach

My end-goal for this blog is not another 350 words on a page that take up more of your time. My end-goal is that we approach life in a new way.

Let’s savor our moments.

A collection of moments makes up a beautiful life. Don’t miss a single one. Be present.

Posted in Life Lessons, Word

Startled – What is This?

What is This?

You’re sitting there, tears falling over freshly dried tears, wondering how on earth you got to this place. Whatever your this is, it feels like hell. It feels like nothing is ever going to be right again. Maybe you’ve done everything right. Maybe you’ve done everything wrong. I’ve been on both sides of the right or the wrong of the “this.”

Whatever happened, this was nowhere in the original plan. Whatever happened, you’ve been finally, fully startled awake.

My THIS List:

Here is my lifetime “this” list (so far):

  • Divorce
  • Sexual assault
  • Financial ruin
  • Being cheated on
  • Being deceived
  • Deceiving others
  • Facing Cancer
  • Losing a job
  • Losing family members
  • Almost losing a child to suicide
  • Losing a ministry
  • Being in an abusive relationship

That’s the short list.

Moving Forward

I was talking with a friend recently and he gave me some amazing advice that I want to pass along.

  • People change only when there are no more options.
  • Start forgiving right now so you can start to heal. Don’t wait.
  • Move on.

My Dad always taught me that I need to:

  • “face reality squarely,” (Job 38)
  • “live a life that pleases God,” (Colossians 1:10), and
  • “separate the precious from the worthless.” (Jeremiah 15:19)

So I’m suggesting that right this minute you should begin to sift through the rubble, call it what it is – rubble, own your part in what happened, retrieve the precious, and walk away from the worthless.

I’ve learned by experience (mostly by falling on my face) that the Lord really does work all things for my good because he has called me according to his purpose and I’ve tried to live my life with a “yes, Lord” posture. (Romans 8:28)

Sift. Separate. Own your part. Pray. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Do it quickly. Ask God “what’s next?”. Move forward.

This, too, really shall pass. But you’ve got to get up out of the rubble.

And if you need to talk, my ears are always open and I’m always up for some good conversation over a skinny vanilla latte.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word

Don’t Read This Blog, Please

It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.

But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:

  • I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
  • I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
  • No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.

So let me back up and set the scene.

Broken Lives

In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.

In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.

It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.

I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):

Separated is still married. 

We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.

This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.

We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.

So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.

Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.

And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.

I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.

Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.

Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.

Faithful in Prayer

I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.

I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.

I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?

So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”

That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.

If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5

Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.

Lord, how do I restore her heart?

Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.

I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.

And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.

As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.

It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.

To this day  – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”

Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:

  1. This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
  2. Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
  3. If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.

If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.

So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.

And I am forever changed.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

Posted in Cancer, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Poetry, Uncategorized, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Playing Hide-and-Seek (my life story)

I was out shopping with the most beautiful girl in the world. She was 3 years old – with gorgeous red curls and bright, happy green eyes. We were at a major department store looking for a size 3T Easter dress – with extra frills, ruffle-butt tights, and those fold-down socks with the lace that look beautiful in patent leather Mary-Janes.

She kept running off – looking at the tiny purses and teddy bears. I was afraid I would lose her. So I did what any good mom would do to teach an object-lesson: I let her get lost.

hide_and_seek

This was the perfect moment – no one else was in this section. I got really quiet and just let her wander from rack to rack. Books. Toys. Purses. I didn’t let her see me. I kept hiding until I watched panic slowly set in – all over her tiny little body. Her eyes got wide. Her feet starting running. Her eyes darted all around looking for safety. Her little voice began calling out – “Mommy. Mommy? MOMMY!”

I let that go on for about 30 seconds before I scooped her up in my arms and said, “It’s okay, Baby Doll. You’re safe. Mommy’s gotcha.” And she looked up at me with her big green eyes and said, “I lost you, Mommy. I thought you were gone.”

She didn’t lose me. She only thought she did. I was right there all the time.

I’ve felt this level of panic set in before. Have you?

The first time I felt something like this I was 7. My 2 brothers and sister were all playing together behind the apartment building and I wasn’t allowed to play. They had formed a “no-Melissas allowed” club. I ran around the building to try to play anyway. They circled up. I just couldn’t believe it. Panic set in as I realized that I was alone – and left out. Big tears formed in the depths of my universe. Something shattered. I remember this being the first time I found solace in making up a story in my mind as a form of self-comfort. This was the beginning of writing for me. My parents figured out what was going on and they formed a “let’s-walk-to-7-11-to-get-a-Slurpee-club” that my siblings weren’t invited to. I learned from this to run to my authority figures for comfort. As an adult, I remember this incident when I feel left out and it reminds me to turn to God. I’m always welcome in his club.

The next time I felt like this, I was in high school. At age 16, a boy I liked from school took an interest in me. I was over-the-moon excited. I had “his-initials-plus-my-initials” written all over my school notebooks. One afternoon, when I was home alone after school, he came to my house. I was so excited that I ignored the rule about not having friends over when my parents were gone. I let him in – only to find out that he had come with 5 grown men. They made me go to my room and would not let me out. One-by-one they came in and took turns doing awful things to me. The boy who I thought liked me left me humiliated, ashamed, and feeling very alone. They warned me they would hurt my family if I told. I never told. Not anyone. This may actually be the first time my family is reading about this.

In the middle of the whole thing, one of the guys told me he loved me. This shattered my heart. If that was love – and love was what I was so desperately longing for – I didn’t really want to be loved anymore. I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to live anymore. It was at this point when I made an attempt on my own life.

I looked around and couldn’t find anyone there to rescue me. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt led me to keep this a secret – even from God. Through counseling years later I was able to open this horrible memory up and see that God was there in the room with me that day. He was screaming at those men – STOP. THIS IS MY DAUGHTER. YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS.

But His voice was drowned out by the voices of Lust, Desire, Control, and Greed simultaneously screaming – DO WHAT YOU WANT, TAKE WHAT YOU WANT, SHE’S JUST THERE FOR YOU TO USE.

God showed me that He was there that night to comfort me. He was my pink teddy bear and the blanket I slept with over my head. He was there then and on so many other nights when I cried myself to sleep and felt alone in my shame. I didn’t lose him – he was right there all along.

These incidents plus the fact that my bio-dad left before I was born caused me to have a decades-long thought pattern that said – “You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy of real love. You’re just an after-thought, a second choice. You’re not wanted. Get lost – no one wants you around here anyway. If you want love, you’ll have to do something to earn it.”

Lies. All lies.

I had a fairy-tale wedding right out of high school that resulted in two beautiful redheaded daughters.

One day my husband came home and was acting strangely. We’d had a great first 7 years. We had our moments, but it wasn’t anything major. But I’d noticed that he had become violent with his words and sometimes with his hands. I confronted him and he said he did not love me anymore. His porn habit had turned into real affairs over the last 3 years of our marriage – resulting in his latest girlfriend becoming pregnant. I didn’t know. I guess I didn’t want to know. Devastated doesn’t begin to describe what I was feeling. Some words I have for the next months after that are numb, lifeless, severely depressed, and hopeless. Once again the voices crept back into my thought-space.

I was angry. Very angry. I was angry at my husband for hurting me in this way, angry at myself for not having seen this coming, angry at God for knowing this was coming and not letting me know for 3 years, and angry at life in general. I had to move out of my home and back in with my parents while he moved his pregnant girlfriend into my home. It was humiliating.

So how does youth minister/housewife cope with this kind of tragedy? In my case – I did not cope very well. I began a secret life of binge drinking on weekends when my kids were gone to their father’s house. They say bitterness is a poison you give yourself – hoping the other person will suffer. My drinking and lifestyle of masking my pain through any means necessary was a poison. I felt unlovable. I was taking out all of my frustrations alright – but all that I was doing was only hurting ME.

The lowest point for me was in the middle of the divorce. I was at a party one night at an apartment when everyone all went home at once – everyone but me and the guy who lived there. He kept pouring and I had kept drinking, but that last drink after everyone left must have had something in it – because the room began to wobble and I only remember bits and pieces of a torturous, sick, violent rape that must have lasted a couple of hours – and I was powerless to stop it. I woke up in an upstairs room – alone. I stumbled around, found my keys, and left – still full of liquor, or whatever it was I’d been given. I honestly think an angel rode in the passenger seat while I drove home that night – because how I got myself and my car home in one piece is a mystery. I decided that night I wanted to try to reconcile with my husband and make things right with my little family again. My kids deserved a whole family – and I was hell-bent on making sure they had one – even if it meant I had to do a makeover on my marriage. My husband agreed – but he had already told my parents about my having gone to a party and that I’d been drinking – so they kicked me out and, because I had no other alternative, I could not take my kids. I tried to explain about the night before and my transformed heart, but it was too late – the decision had been made. I was furious with what had just happened to me, and now I was furious that my desire to start over had failed. I lived the next two weeks out of my car, in the backroom of the store I managed, one night at a laundry mat, and at different friend’s apartments. After two long miserable weeks, I told my dad I was coming home – taking my kids, getting a divorce, and moving into an apartment. Enough was enough. I stopped drinking, reconciled with God, and tried to get my life back in order.

If I’m with you and you have a glass of wine and I politely decline, this is why. I’m not judging, it’s just that it reminds me of where I’ve been – and that’s a place I’d rather not remember.

Three years later I was back on my feet, studying for my undergrad in English at the local university, and raising my two girls. We moved out of the apartment after a year and back in with my folks so that I could focus on my studies.

During my time at the university, my brother died of cancer and my sister decided to leave the family – for good. Just because I don’t give these incidents many words here doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt me to my core.

Life thus far had been a hide-and-seek game with God – mostly hide. But what happened in 2007 changed the entire course of my life.

It was July 2007, right in the middle of my summer session at the university. I was taking what amounted to Poetry 101 and it was my day to be “workshopped.” I had printed enough copies of my poem for each member of the class and was expected to distribute them and have everyone critique my words. I was nervous. It was Texas Summer hot outside. I was suddenly overcome with nausea. Breakfast became a memory.
After the grueling 90-minute poetry workshop where my writing was called mediocre, at best, I made my way to the on-campus medical clinic.
I gave blood, endured the necessary pee-in-this-cup moment, laid down on the paper-covered table, and waited.
I must have fallen asleep because the Nurse Practitioner shook my shoulder.
Miss Fairchild?
Yes?
I figured out what’s wrong.
Okay?
You’re pregnant.
I almost fell off the table.
My mind raced to an awful night four months before. I looked at her calendar and pointed to the date.
Yes – I remember. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just one lonely moment during March Madness. Just one.

I pulled into my driveway 15 minutes later and spied my Mom on the porch swing reading to my 6-year-old, whose auburn pigtails wobbled as she flew into my arms. My 11-year-old was inside getting ready for the water park trip I’d promised them that afternoon.
Mommy’s home!
My heart felt sick. How do I explain this to my girls? How in the world was I going to make ends meet with another kiddo on the way?
I sent the kids to their bedroom to finish getting ready for the water park and began to weep uncontrollably. My parents noticed.
All I could think was – my folks are gonna kill me. They are pastors at a local church. How do you tell your Dad, who is also your pastor, that you’re unmarried and pregnant?
Between sobs, I finally formed the words – I’m pregnant.
The truth escaped my mouth with finality. I repeated it to myself. Wow.
Mom started to ask several questions all at once, but Dad quieted the room.
He looked at me, right into my heart, and he slowly and deliberately spoke these words:
“You are my daughter, and I love you.

In one sentence, years worth of feeling less-than, feeling used, abandoned, abused, picked last, feeling unlovable, unforgivable, unworthy, and like I just didn’t belong came to a grinding halt.

In one sentence I felt God speaking through my father’s mouth.

He spoke to my identity “You are my daughter,…”

He spoke to his identity “…and I love you.”

I belong to him and am fully loved because he IS love.

I’ve had many more adventures and mishaps since this day. I’ve written or will write about most of them—just look back or wait for the next blog if you want to see what else has happened in my crazy life. But since that day I’ve had a deep-seated knowing in my gut that I’m not alone. And I’m not alone because God is with me. And because God is with me, he won’t let me panic for too long.

And in the times where I’ve panicked and looked around, frantically searching for God where I’ve thought – “I lost you, God. I thought you were gone,” He has been so faithful to remind me that I didn’t lose him. I only thought I did. He was right there all the time.

I hope you feel God speaking to you from your screen, “You are my daughter (son), and I love you.”

And I hope your life will change – starting today.

If you’re going through any of the things I’ve gone through – please email me or message me and let’s talk about it. I’m always good for coffee and conversation.

And if you don’t know the God I’ve been writing about, please let me introduce you.

He’s a good, good Father. The best way to find him is to stop hiding and start seeking. Let’s seek him – together.

Posted in Letters

Dear Me(lissa),

Tonight I allowed my heart
To envision myself
As I sometimes envision
My daughters:
7-year-old dimples with
Auburn ringlets
Spilling out of a
Bobby-pinned bun
With tattered ballet slippers
And a fresh recital bouquet.
Carefree, joyful, graceful feet
Pirouetting across the stage.

Grandma used to say
“Beauty is only skin deep –
Ugly goes to the bone.”
But she meant bitter.
Bitter lives inside and eats a person up
Until callous actions flow out of a
Bitter, hard heart.

Whereas
Beauty bursts out through the
Kind of smile you can see
In someone’s eyes.
Beauty lives inside a heart
But can’t be contained, so it
Flutters out in
Thoughtful words and kind gestures.

So I wrote myself a letter that I should probably re-read often:

Dear 7-year-old-me,
Your heart is full of kindness and grace.
You are worth fighting for, being faithful to, and being loved unconditionally. You never have to chase love or earn it. You don’t have to give anything to receive it.
God IS Love.
Love created one unique Melissa with a blonde mane, ocean-water eyes, and a sassy, creative, caring personality.
He didn’t mess up.
He didn’t give you used parts.
He methodically, wonderfully designed you exactly like he wanted.

Unfortunately, this world has made a mess out of what God designed. Because of this you will be hurt, abandoned, used, discarded, abused, and rejected.
God didn’t order any of this, but when it happens he promises he can bring beauty, growth, love, acceptance, grace, peace, solace, order and joy from it.
But hear me – you have to let him.

Don’t let bitter dwell within.
Don’t even let it knock at your door.
Bitter (ugly) takes up residence in you when you:

  • Delay grieving
  • Keep reminding yourself you got hurt
  • Stay in a bad situation too long
  • Take on responsibilities that belong to others, not you
  • Willfully sin
  • Join in with mockers
  • Close your mouth in prayer but open it to gossip
  • Fail to guard your eyes, ears, and heart
  • Keep your Bible closed, but your TV on
  • Rely on yourself rather than him

You’ll have 3 amazing kids, adorable future grandkids, and be a bonus mom to so many hearts in need of a mother’s love.
Above all, baby doll, remember to walk in beauty.
Remember you are worthy of love – in fact – you were born with both a capacity for receiving love and the capability of giving love.

Keep walking with God and never get too old to enjoy the promise and beauty of a sunset.
Go be amazing.
Love,
Me(lissa)

Posted in Life Lessons, Love

Just Start Walking – Together

The longer I spend walking beside someone through life, the more comfortable we get with each other. The more comfortable we get, the more we find we have in common. Eventually we find we’re sharing all of the important things with each other. Eventually even the shared silences are comfortable and being present with each other is enough. Sometimes we get a ways into our walk before we realize just how comfortable we are and how much better our lives are for walking beside each other.

This accurately describes my walk with Jesus lately. Sharing, laughing, being quiet, loving, talking, sharing sunsets. The more we walk together, the deeper I fall in love with Him.

If you don’t talk with someone daily, it’s a lot harder to really know each other.

So I challenge you today to just start walking and talking, and then wait and see what happens.

Posted in Life Lessons, Love

We Just Don’t Clique

This piece is about women – but if you’re a man – please read all the way to the bottom – I need your help.

Enemy Tactics

Lately I’ve seen one main tactic of the devil against women: ISOLATION. And I’m about to throw it down and stomp all over it. Read on.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve felt like this: “I just don’t fit in. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m sure not skinny enough. My clothes/shoes/accessories/car are not fashionable enough. I’m not ‘extra’ enough. I’m not up-to-date enough. I’m just not enough.”

I’m about to take a sledgehammer to all of that nonsense.

These aren’t thoughts. These are enemy-grade tactics whispered into our minds so often we think it’s truth.

Last month was my daughter’s junior prom. She looked forward to it and she looked spectacular. She made plans to go with a group since she didn’t have a date. A week before prom, her friends said they weren’t going as a group anymore since they all had dates. No problem. She’d meet them there.

Prom night came. I did a photo shoot with her. My 10-year-old son surprised her by putting on a suit and bringing her a single rose. It was awesome.

And then there was social media. She began seeing pictures of her friends.

Getting ready – as a group.
Having dinner – as a group.
Riding in a Limo – as a group.

SAY WHAT?!
She didn’t have a date – so she’d been left out. I took her to prom and she texted me to pick her up 45 minutes later. She was in tears.

This is what the enemy does – he picks us off, isolates us, lies to us, gets our hopes up, thwarts our plans, and then kicks us while we’re down.

Battle Plans

I spent the next 2 hours on a park-bench-swing holding her hand – her in her beautiful dress with mascara-stained cheeks. We cried together until we were laughing again. TOGETHER.

This is our battle plan:

We do life together.

We laugh, cry, partake in retail therapy, do dishes, take road trips, go to the bathroom, eat too much ice cream to console ourselves, pray, encourage…BUT WE DO IT TOGETHER. We must.

Cliques

I want to address something here.

Friendships are great. Cliques are not.

Cliques isolate. They leave people out. They don’t allow others to join.

I remember that when I got divorced I lost most of my friends. Married people groups are necessary. They help strengthen marriages. Married friends who exclude just-divorced friends – now that’s just mean. Especially if the divorce just happened. That’s kicking someone when they’re down.

Cliques happen at schools, in churches, at the workplace, and even in families.

Even social media circles can be cliquish. They can isolate. Think all the way around a post before you post it. Social media can be Mean-Girls kinda hurtful.

So I teach my girls: Sweeties – we just don’t clique.

BFFs

I have a strong circle of BFFs. We are mostly a crafty, goofy, transparent crazy bunch of mommas. That doesn’t mean I’m not really close with other people. And that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome to join us.

Every woman I meet is a friendship waiting to blossom.

BFFs are necessary and cool.

Leaving people out intentionally because they are not whatever enough – not so cool.

Being Intentional

At the first of the year I set a goal to be more intentional with friendships. Guess what happened? I have more friends that I’m close to.

I realized I was half of the problem. I would see groups of friends having fun and think – I guess they don’t want me around. I’m not fill-in-the-blank enough. I won’t even try.

And I’d walk away bitter.

There’s only one letter between bitter and better – and that letter is half of the word “me”.

This year I decided I am enough and I’m going to act like it, and the result is – I have laughed and made deeper friendships this year than ever before.

Huddle Up Fellas

I sat at Zera’s coffee shop one Saturday morning waiting for a new friend. We met at church one Sunday and decided to have coffee the next week. How’s that for intentional?

I went an hour early to do my Bible Study and overheard a group of married men talking about how to be better men and better husbands. As I refilled my cup I walked by and casually thanked them for being great men of God. I said that it was refreshing as a single mom trying to raise a son to hear men of good character discussing prayer, purity, and the Word.

My friend came and as we began to talk the men came and huddled around us. One by one they prayed over me. That I’d be a strong mother. That my son would have a strong father in the near future. That I’d find a godly husband.

Men: do this for us (especially for my single-mom friends. Open your Bible in public. Pray with other men of God. Pray boldly against this isolation tactic the devil is using against us. Refuse to use (and further isolate) women. Make a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully at a woman (because lustful looking also isolates women).

Will you pray for your sisters?

Finally…

My email is open. My Facebook page is open. My blog comments are open. My instagram feed is open. My Saturday mornings are usually open.

So let’s get to know each other ladies. Let’s connect – because I don’t know many people with whom I don’t click.

Posted in Cancer, Life Lessons, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Vines, Cancer, & the Gardener

The problem with my busy life is I seldom find myself on the back porch with a decent cup of coffee and an open Bible. I did that today, for just a moment. I listened to the birds, watched the dog chase squirrels, and marveled at the beauty of the first open blossom on our Magnolia tree.

At first glance, this is just a blossom. But just like people – we all have a story. Let me tell you how this blossom came to be and how it relates to your life.

The Blossom’s Story

You see, for years this beautiful spot in my backyard was a vast tangle of vines, so much so that we didn’t even know this Magnolia tree was trying to grow. But because of the vines, there was not sufficient light getting to it, so it stayed small and insignificant.

One day my Dad decided to hire a crew to start chopping down the vines. The mass of dead trees, leaves, and branches overtook our front curb, but the crew just kept on bringing them around from the backyard.

When the crew went home, the backyard spot looked sparse – almost sad. I wondered if this little area would ever look good. The city brought out it’s wood chipping trucks the next week and the old dead branches were gone.

If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:6 HCSB

That was two months ago. Today I walked outside and saw this:

My Cancer Story

Last October I found myself at the doctor’s office due to abnormal bleeding (TMI? Maybe so, but it’s worth telling if it gets you to go to the doctor if this happens to YOU.) The doctor ordered a sonogram of my abdomen to see what was causing this. My uterus was abnormally large, it’s walls abnormally thick, and the look on the doctor’s face told me a story I didn’t want to hear. He ordered a biopsy because I had all the markings of early stage Endometrial Cancer. My insurance was awful, so I waited until January to get the biopsy. In the meantime, I lived in fear of what might be growing in me.

January came and I had a D & C. The biopsy of that showed a lot of precancerous cells. The Dr removed most of the cells; we decided to wait and see what happened.

In April a sonogram showed new cell growth. In May I had a hysterectomy that went 2 hours overtime. I’m writing this as I recover from an open abdominal hysterectomy instead of a laparoscopic procedure. The doctor had to take out an ovary because he found out it was tangled when he got in there. He also found a massive amount of precancer cells, fibroids, and adenyomyosis.

When I walked outside for coffee this morning and remembered how this garden spot used to look – it reminded me of my insides – ugly, tangled branches that were literally going to kill me from the inside out. And like the yard crew cutting down the vines to let the Magnolia tree grow, if the doctor hadn’t cut out the bad places, I would have failed to thrive, or even ceased to live.

The Gardener’s Story

(Stay with me. This is where it gets good.)

Since October of last year I have had interactions with countless old friends and relatives. In every instance I found myself faced with someone with whom I’d had conflict. Sometimes the conflict was inflicted by me, sometimes by them. In each case we have come to a new understanding. Either I got to make ammends in some way, or they finally apologized and made ammends in some way with me, or we simply parted ways. These included people who had mentored me or whom I’d mentored. They included my ex-husband, my sister, a cousin, my bio-Dad, friends, enemies, people I’d harmed, you name it. Even myself.

The more often this happened, the more I began to realize that these moments were orchestrated by God. There have been too many to have been coincidental.

It’s as if my life were the overgrown garden spot and God was pulling up some relationships by the roots and throwing them to the curb, or carefully exposing and pruning them so they could grow and begin to thrive.

Even my relationship with God and with myself is thriving. I’m walking with Him – daily. I’m remaining in Him, which makes all the difference.

I am the vine; you are the branches.
The one who remains in Me
and I in him produces much fruit,
because you can do nothing without Me.”
John 15:5‭ HCSB

The best part is – God has planted a new friend in my garden and has re-planted someone I have missed for a long time. You both know who you are.

Even the Cancer threat is gone. Pruned.

Pruning hurts (like my recovery) and requires me to be still and rest – but it is so worth it.

Your Story

My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
John 15:8 HCSB

I don’t know what your story is. I don’t know what God is doing in your life, but I’m praying today that you’ll be still, remain in Him, and let him prune out the bad and expose the good so that your life can blossom.

Don’t know the God I walk with? Just send me a private message – I’ll introduce you.

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Teenager, Cancer, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love

Going on a Bear Hunt – I’m Not Scared!

Tonight I feel like I’m in the old nursery rhyme my kids would chant about “Going on a Bear Hunt.” In the chant the kids would search for the bear in various ways (in tall grass, behind a big tree, through a pond) and realize they couldn’t get around these things – they had to go through them.

The opening refrain was:

“Going on a bear hunt,
Gonna catch a big one,
I’m not scared.
What a beautiful day.

Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it.
Gotta go through it.”

I guess I’ve been on a bear hunt lately. I prepared for this. I’m a researcher – it served me well in grad school. I prepared myself for my bear hunt – a laparoscopic hysterectomy. I was gonna catch a big one – in this case my big bear is Cancer. Getting my uterus out means a lessened threat of Cancer – because these pre-cancerous cells won’t stop multiplying.

I planned to take off a week and a half from work and then work from home for 2 weeks and then go back to the office. A week and a half off of work is what my budget could stand to lose without setting me too far off-track financially. The surgery would cost this much money. I’d be fine. I’ve had surgery before – three of them being c-sections. I could handle this – no problem.
I’m not scared.
And therein lies my problem – I didn’t really prepare for unexpected complications. Certainly not for the strain this particular procedure would have on me – emotionally.
This was supposed to be a beautiful day.
By nature – I’m an encourager. There is nothing I can encourage myself with tonight. I got nothing.
Nothing could have prepared me for a switch between a laparascopic surgery and an open abdominal procedure. Nor for the fact that I seem to be grieving the loss of the womb that carried my three precious children. Nor for the fact that my hormones would cause so many tears. Nor that uncontrollable sobbing would make my stitches burn. Nor for the dread in my heart as I wait to find out if my uterus has Cancer or not.
Nothing.
And why do I feel so guilty for feeling this way? I’m a woman of faith. I feel the hand of God in my life daily. Daily. I know He is with me and for me. I know His Word instructs me not to worry. I know He has not left me – He says so, and I trust Him.
But I feel so guilty.
I feel guilty that my 21-year-old daughter has taken on the full-time job of taking care of her mother because it hurts me just to get out of bed.
I feel guilty that my 17-year-old daughter feels anxiety because of all this.
I feel guilty that I’m missing Gavin’s last week of school, and friend’s graduation parties, and so many things.
And the lonliness I feel is absolutely overwhelming. It’s the dread of not having a partner to walk through this with. It’s been 15 years without a forever kind of love – and I’m wondering if I’m just always going to walk through life without such a love. (More tears.) Is it too much to ask for a loving hand to hold through this? I’m worthy of love, right?
It’s not fair for me to put this off on my friends.
So I struggle silently.

“Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under it.
Can’t go around it
Gotta go through it.”

All I know to do is let nature take its course. I will heal in time. My hormones will regulate. Life will return to a new normal. I just gotta go through it.
I just hope that soon it will again be a beautiful day.
I must close by reminding myself of the words God gave me a few years back:
“What you’re walking through is a life-season, not a life-sentence.”
Love you,
Melissa

Posted in Cancer, Life Lessons, Love, Word

Feet to the Fire

Today I’m reading in Daniel. It’s one of my favorite stories in the Bible. In it we meet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three men who lived like they believed God – even if it potentially cost them their lives. Their king demanded for all of his subjects to bow to a gold statue that was 90 feet high and nine feet wide to show him their loyalty – or else be burned in a furnace. Talk about peer pressure! These brave three essentially said – “No chance, king. We only bow to our God.” So when they stood while society bowed, King Full-of-Himself said they’d better bow, or face the fire, then dared to ask “…and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

He’s about to find out. Read with me.

Daniel 3:16 says:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king.”

But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

(Daniel 3:1‭, ‬16‭-‬18 HCSB)

I’ve read this story many times, but the wonderful thing that came alive to me tonight is this:

But even if He does not rescue us… we will not serve your gods… .”

Now that’s some kind of faith.

I don’t know what you’re facing, but I know it always goes better for me when I align my life with God and focus solely on Him.

I didn’t say it is easier.

I said it always goes better for me.

I’ve bowed to alcoholism, promiscuity, bitterness, self-pity, deceit, anger, and pride more times than old King Nebuchadnezzar had subjects.

But ever since God rescued me from myself and gave me a brand new start, my whole life changed.

You see, the things I bowed to (listed above) were actually not idols at all, but thresholds to the furnace.

Last year, when I thought I might lose someone important to me, I decided not to self-medicate and instead trust God – even if that meant facing the fire. And face the fire I did. Let’s see how it worked in the Bible story.

“And these three men fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said … “Didn’t we throw three men…into the fire? ” “Yes, …” they replied. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God — come out! ” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. When the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Daniel 3:24‭-‬27 HCSB

Last year the outcome for me was like these three. When I placed my trust in God and refused to bow to anyone or anything else – I still faced the fire, but I wasn’t burned by it. In fact, I felt the presence of God throughout the whole ordeal. It only served to increase my faith and that of others. My loved one is doing great – and so am I.

This week I’m facing a potential new monsterous idol I’m expected to bow down to. It is the threat of a scary disease. I could bow to self-pity, depression, anxiety, or fear, but I’m choosing to stand in its presence instead of bow.

I will stand with my heart lifted and say,

“God is able to heal me, but even if He does not rescue me, I want you to know that I will not serve any other gods or worship anything that could potentially take His place.”

I encourage you to read the end of this story for yourself and see how it ends for the old king.

I’ll tell you how my story from last year ended – in victory.

You can read my story here.

So what’ll it be?

Bow to an idol at the demand of society, or stand in the fire with the Almighty God?