Posted in Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, waiting, Word, Writing

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Miracle. This word used to conjure up images of Sunday School mornings in 1984 with 9-year-old me in blonde pigtails in a flowered dress with ruffle back panties, lacy socks, and Mary Janes. It made me picture a flannel graph board with felt-backed cut-outs of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus inevitably had on a brown and tan striped robe and sandals. He was always healing a blind man.

That was then.

The word miracle began taking on a new meaning for me in April 1998. My husband had just left to go to his Dad’s garage to work on his truck, and I had just picked up a tiny redheaded Katie (now 22) from her playpen and headed out the door for groceries. It was spaghetti night.

We laughed and cooed at each other on the way out the door, as always. She’s always been a living doll.

We lived in a good-sized trailer park community just outside of town. I turned around to lock the front door behind us, when something horrible caught my eye at the back of our lot. I reopened the door, put Katie back in her playpen, picked up the cordless phone, and ran outside, calling 911 as I ran.

“Little girl, sweetie, are you okay? Sweetheart, can you hear me?” I screamed this at the limp little girl hanging from some coaxial cable some kids strung up in the alleyway from a tall Oak tree.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

I can’t remember much of what I said to the operator. No, I didn’t know how old she was (turns out she was 11). No, I didn’t know what race she was. She was purple. I reported that. Purple. She’d wet herself. She was ice cold.

I’ll never ever forget how cold.

All I knew is that I couldn’t climb this particular tree because it was too high.

Just then my neighbor and his friend came out of their house and I called for them. They raced to the tree, climbed it, and got the ropes (and the girl) down. Paramedics arrived and started CPR in my front yard while I prayed out loud using words only my spirit could understand. She was not conscious when they took her to the hospital. She was in ICU for 3 days.

I called my husband back home and we were questioned by the police. It turns out the girl was a part of a group of kids playing and this little darlin’ got caught with the ropes under her armpits and across her chest, which cut off her airway. Her friends got scared and ran off.

I was numb for 3 days. I went to work like a robot, then came home and waited for word.

She woke up asking for her Momma on the 3rd day, like nothing ever happened. I got the call and was overjoyed. That little girl – she was dead when she left my yard, then revived in the ambulance, and now she was alive and okay. It was a miracle.

The man who climbed the tree came by the next week. We went together to check on her now that she was home. We gave her a teddy bear. She hugged me so tightly and thanked me.

But what happened with the Mom was amazing. Her Mom spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. That day we had a full conversation just with body language. No words were necessary to express her gratitude or my relief and joy.

Smiles. Hugs. Tears of joy.

This is why I say:

“A smile is a complete sentence.

A hug is a full conversation.”

When I say that, I remember a little girl who had a chance to grow up because God had me at the right place at the right time and a conversation with a grateful Momma.

Two more minutes and I’d have a different story to tell. But God…

Do you believe in miracles?

Tell me about it.

Posted in family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Word

When the Unexpected Happens

Has your life ever come to an end punctuation that you weren’t quite expecting? Haven’t you been so sure of one thing, only to, at the turn of a phrase, been suddenly unsure, and ended your sentence with a question mark instead of an exclamation point?! (Okay – that’s the word nerd in me.)

More practical:
Have you ever gone home to what you thought was a solid marriage, but then had to pack your bags suddenly because you discovered your spouse was cheating or wanting out? Or have you ever had an unexpected Cancer diagnosis? Or have you ever gone to work carefree one morning only to find out your job was suddenly ending? Or been in the car talking about dinner one minute and been hit by a deer the next and found yourself covered in glass and debris? That last one happened to one of my best friends this week. (Praise God she’s recovering well.)

I’m saying – there’s not much in life that is constant. At least not in mine. I feel like for the past 16 years I have been living in “what if” mode.

I’m constantly wondering what’s next.

But I’ve found some constants that keep me steady when things change suddenly.

  • Daily Bible reading
  • Worship music in my earbuds at work
  • Family time
  • Intentional time with friends

If I am not in the Word and constantly reminding myself that “God’s got this even when the unexpected happens,” then when the unexpected does happen, I return to my former ways of thinking. These include being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger.

But the Word reminds me to “…understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
James 1:19‭-‬20 CSB

And that, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.”
Psalms 145:8 CSB

I want to be more like Him.

So I perked up when I came across Beth Moore’s quote from “The Faithful” Bible Study on Old Testament Heroes that says “When our old priorities don’t go with our new life, we either return to our old life or adopt new priorities.”

I love my new life. If you knew me before I surrendered to God, you know why. My old life was a mess. With Him life is not perfect, but the storms don’t shake me as much. And new friends and readers – if you read back over archived blogs about my life, you’ll find more storm damage than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew combined.

In fact, it’s stormy season for me right now, but you probably have no idea – because I’m in the boat with the God who tames the winds and rains and waves. Like this:

“…and as they [Jesus’ disciples] were sailing he [Jesus] fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!”
Luke 8:23‭-‬25 CSB

In my old life I lived on my own time, with my own priorities, and on the little faith I thought I had (which was mostly self-centered.) In my new life I find that I need so much more Jesus than I think I do. Contrary to popular memes, I’m really NOT enough. In fact, I’m NOTHING without Jesus.

One final thought about new priorities that go with a new life: it’s so easy in this social media era to revisit our past and to “like” things just to be noticed. Please avoid this. If you’ve moved on to a new life, just move on.

And as we discussed in my Sunday morning group, “If that thought, lyric, or image put Jesus on the cross, (if it causes someone else to lust, or entices them to stumble, or is aimed at irritating them in some way) then it’s probably not worth liking, commenting, or posting.”

New life. New priorities. New year.

My word for 2019 is “MORE”.

What’s yours?

Posted in Love

Swipe Right? Dating in 2018

It’s increasingly difficult to be over 35 and dating. Swipe left? Swipe right? What IS this? We’ve been dumbed down to 1 second glances now?

Who’s your type? What’s your “sign”? What’s your idea of a good first date? Do you drink: Never, Often, or On Social Occasions?

Are these REALLY the first things we wanna know about each other?

Then, when you finally think…okay…eHarmony’s matching system says 100% on Exclusivity, Romance, AND Religious Values, and he sends you a smile and you’re past all the canned questions, and you finally get into a “message” session and his first real question is –

“Hey pretty, what are you wearing?”

You have GOT to be kidding me!

BLOCK!

Big sigh.

SERIOUSLY!?

Honestly, girl, you’re worth more than that. You don’t fit anyone’s mold. Psalm 139 says you were fearfully and wonderfully made. And seriously – there is no category for brilliant-word-nerd-with-a-heart-that-won’t-stop-giving + a Jesus-lovin’-momma-who-has-survived projectile-vomiting–from-a-1-year-old-AND-middle-school-sass-all-before-8-am-on-the-same-morning.

There’s just not.

You just don’t belong in a swipe-left world, nor at the bar hoping you get picked before last call, nor in any Instagram chat session that starts out: “Hey pretty, I like to know you better, please do you have any naked selfies?”

You’re worth way more.

The truth is – I have no big plan to reveal here. No secret to all this. Nothing. I don’t know why some of my friends have gotten divorced and remarried two years later and I’m on year 15 of still looking. I just don’t get it. But here’s what I do know:

I know my worth. I know what I will and won’t tolerate, and you should too. You do this by discovering who you are. As a Christian, I found out what I believe about Jesus and I attach my identity to him.

Therefore I will not tolerate nor participate in this swipe right dating world. I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Not some dude’s selfish version of it.

I won’t subject myself to bad dates (ask me about the time I was on a date and started choking at the restaurant and my date pulled his water close to his chest and refused to let me have it, even as I turned red and tears streamed down my face from trying to catch a breath). Yep – I win on the worst date.

I’ve also had good dates that just didn’t work out. You’re looking for the one for you. There ARE great men out there.

I have no solutions other than to know your worth and wait for the one who treats you like you’re special. And don’t give up.

Just a note on narrowing down your choices: the one you ultimately choose is not just your head of household, he is also your children’s head of household. Moms, ask yourself before you date anyone: would I let my daughter date him?

I do have one request: Whether you’re married or single, if you know someone over 35 who is in this dating cycle – please stick close to them. Sisters – we need each other. Friday and Saturday nights are hard for all the single ladies. We need prayer. We need to have good, clean fun, and we need to support each other.

My challenge to my single sisters – uninstall that dating app and come to Karaoke with me on Saturday night or find some friends to hang with. Your heart will thank you for it.

Posted in Word

Is This On My Kid’s School Supply List?!

This is the week before school begins. More than usual, this week is all about family dinner nights out, Wal-Mart excursions (for school supplies), and various other ways the kids are finding to raid my bank account.

When I was shopping for my own school supplies at M.E. Moses (that was a five & dime store, remember those?) for elementary school, it was crayons, scissors, glue, watercolors, and construction paper. Now it’s all of that plus copy paper, Expo markers, and earbuds. Yes – earbuds.

Times, they are a changin’.

This is my last year with an elementary school student. My middle child is in her Senior year of high school. And my eldest is a Junior at the University. Sigh.

All of these changes lately have me asking questions.

Where did the time go?

How did we get here?

How do I make the most of this year with them?

What the heck?

I’m in the 2nd week of a FREE Beth Moore online Bible study called The Quest. The sessions are free, you just have to buy your workbook (I bought mine on Amazon.com). The sessions are free to view online until September 30th. I get there by going to https://blog.lifeway.com.

In The Quest I’m learning not just to study the Bible (as you’d expect from Beth Moore), but to let the lessons dust off the leaf-covered paths in my life of faith. Somehow I’ve become so accustomed to lacing up my hiking boots and grabbing a water bottle on my way out to hike this forest of faith, but I’ve forgotten all direction. I’m all routine. No destination.

I’d forgotten beautiful well-worn paths I’ve walked with God. I’m so accustomed to throwing in a pair of necessary-for-life (and apparently elementary school) earbuds and listening to worship music or re-listening to the Sunday sermon via podcast, or scrolling through my Bible app and letting it read the Word to me, but I’ve left my gold-edged brown leather Bible pages to stick together and gather dust on a shelf.

But the last 2 weeks, highlighter and colored pens in hand, I’ve been cross- referencing and journaling and pouring my heart out to God aloud and onto the workbook pages and my life suddenly feels right. Fulfilled.

I’m encouraging you, as I’ve encouraged my kids this week – get in the Word and see what happens.

Like poetry? Psalms

Need wisdom? Proverbs

Like great stories? Genesis & Exodus

I find a new treasure every time I read.

This weeks challege:

Skip Netflix, ditch your earbuds, read the Word.

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 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)