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, Word

3:14am Christmas Morning – 2018

Early Christmas Morning

It’s 3:14am as I begin writing. You may ask: “Why on earth are you writing at this hour, Melissa?”

It’s the best reason, but if I fall asleep making the ham and Keto-friendly green-bean casserole tomorrow, this is why:

My 11-year-old son rushed to bed last night after carefully putting out cookies and milk for Santa and lettuce for the reindeer (since we’re out of carrots). He fell asleep quickly.

Oh, but this is his last elementary school Christmas and he’s way too excited to bother with sleep.

So at 1:30 this morning I heard him come into my bedroom with his Spiderman pillow and blanket and he announced – “Santa came!” This means presents and stocking stuffers and everything an 11-year-old’s dreams are made of. “Santa” is always generous, and this year was no exception. Gifts spilled out from the tree all over the living room.

So for almost 2 hours he tossed and turned and asked “what time is it?” and recalled his wish list until I finally announced it was time to get up and have a glass of milk and open 1 gift – from me.

He opened a red set of headphones. Music makes his heart beat (specifically soundtracks and symphonies), so I knew this was the perfect gift for my budding composer. He was so grateful. Then he went back to reading tags and shaking presents. His wide-eyed wonder and curiosity caused my slow-blinking eyes to wake up and remember something – I need to live like this.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Matthew 7:9-11 says “Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”

How much more?

Luke 11:13 expands this to tell us what specifically God is anxious to give us more of: his Holy Spirit.

Above these verses it says ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open. (Matt 7-8; Luke 11:9-11; Paraphrase mine)

Wonder in My Life

Now it’s 3:33. I’m letting my son try to sleep in the living room. I’ll go check on him shortly. I’m sure he’s wide awake.

But let me ask you what I’m asking myself: “What is it that keeps us up at night anticipating good things?

I know what it is for me. I received it last night on Christmas Eve. I received the gift of presence. Presence – quality time – is my love language. I got to spend some quality time last night with some people I dearly love. Not on the phone. Not via text. Live and close enough to hug. What a perfect gift! My heart is so full.

It’s exactly what I prayed for – for presence.

Ask and it shall be given. Ask for more of the Holy Spirit. Ask for good things. Your Father is excited to give you good gifts. Just like I knew the key to my mini-Mozart’s heart was red headphones, God knows the key to mine. And yours.

Merry Christmas y’all.

Whatever you do, be present and be grateful.

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 family, Friends, Life Lessons, Love, Parenting

My Thoughts on Raising Kids After Divorce

Good evening. It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts to paper. Tonight has me feeling reflective. So I thought I’d write til my thoughts are exhausted. I pray you are well, wherever you are.

This was the kind of week that had no breaks. None. Every day was long. Tuesday I spent almost $400 on new tires. Then my son’s school nurse called – he was sick with upper respiratory sinus junk. He’s been home all week, so I’ve worked from home all week. This was the kind of work week I like – full of learning new things, of reaching for new solutions. I love to learn. I love my job.

Friday, though, is what is on my mind tonight. On Friday, I had an accommodations meeting for my daughter at the High School where she is a Senior.

In preparation for this meeting I reached for a binder I made for her last year when she was undergoing inpatient treatment for depression and anxiety. I made a title page that says Stephanie’s Story. Included in this well-organized binder were basic program information sheets, attendance notes for multiple days missed, worksheets she had done in individual and family therapy, notes from psychiatrists and therapists, and at the very end – divorce/custody papers.

I hadn’t looked at this notebook in over a year. Looking through its contents reminded me of how far she’d come; it reminded me of how far we’ve come together. She went from depressed and anxious and cutting and low self-esteem to Miss bubbly 4.0 who almost has her cosmetology license and wants to be a pediatric nurse. You can read her backstory in a previous blog called Pocket Full of Shoestrings.

You see, in the middle of that rough patch, she decided she wants to be the kind of nurse who helps kids who need psychiatric care. So she is pursuing a cosmetology license in high school to pay her way through nursing school. I love it when God takes what was meant to harm us and uses it for good.

She inspires me.

It’s the last document in that binder, though, that has me thinking tonight: the divorce/custody papers.

Here are a few things I learned through divorce and custody issues:

  • You cannot get over a divorce until you’ve owned your part of what went wrong. In my case, it was being too focused on ministry.
  • Your only job is to love and advocate for your kids.
  • Even if what happened on the weekend they’re with their other parent was less than wholesome, this needs to be the first thing out of your mouth after you say “I’ve missed you/I love you”: “Tell me about the best things that happened this weekend.”
  • Pick your battles wisely – let some things go.
  • Never put down the other parent in front of or to your kids. The kids will realize it themselves if the other parent is doing something on the not-approved list. Actions speak louder. Yours included.
  • Safety first.
  • Do something kind for yourself every single day. Be intentional. You deserve it.
  • You deserve a break now and again. A vacation, even.
  • Who you hang around is who you become like. Choose your friends and adult outings when the kids are away wisely.
  • You are always a parent. You’re never off-duty. Even when they’re at the other’s house. Never be so impaired that you can’t pick the kids up at a moment’s notice.
  • Create a support system. Church. Community. Friends. Family. Don’t skip this one.
  • Write everything down (appts, financials, custody issues). You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Laugh.
  • Play board games and have movie nights with your kids. Leave your cell on the charger in the other room.
  • Be present.
  • Don’t bring your dates around the kids until you are at least “Facebook official.” This assumes you’ve vetted them and have made sure you two are going to last.
  • Remember that you’re not raising kids, you’re raising adults. Proceed with their future in mind.

I could go on.

The bottom line is, I’m at peace with who I am and where I am.

But don’t let my calm demeanor fool you. I’ve had many rough seasons over the past 15 years. My battles have been fierce and have taken a toll on me.

I learned, however, that losing is not an option, that I must keep moving forward, and that whatever I’m walking through is a life-season, not a life-sentence.

And now…I need a grande sugar-free pumpkin-spice latte made with coconut milk and 2 Stevias, si vous plait.

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 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.