Posted in healing, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Girl, Lift Your Face

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I look in the mirror in the mornings. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women usually did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why she was there alone. She felt shame. She was hiding.

Hiding from other women. From society. From her soiled reputation.

Guilt will always point out what I’ve done (which is healthy), but shame sneaks in and replaces my own name.

Hello, my name is (fill-in-the-blank).

  • Adulteress
  • Fat girl
  • Single Mom
  • Divorced
  • Lonely
  • Heart-broken
  • Insecure
  • Flawed
  • Unwanted
  • Ugly
  • Annoying
  • Unworthy
  • Useless
  • Stupid
  • Unlovable

Has shame ever replaced your name with something else?

It has replaced every one of the above names for my name at times throughout my life.

So there she was – sneaking away to get water, and that’s when she met Jesus – the man who would change the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m (fill-in-the-blank).” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

How many times over the past 16 years have I been asked to go get my husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows I don’t have one? By a mean girl? I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of my trembling mouth. My eyes glance down, or away.
I, I… have no husband. He left me for someone else he got pregnant.

Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”

Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here.

Can I just be honest? Every time I read this story I put myself in her place, but I imagine Jesus’ answer to me would be more like, “You’re right – since your husband left you’ve had 2 other women’s husbands and 2 boyfriends you let act like a husband.”

The fact that Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life always astounds me. He did this same thing for me when I was in a similar place as that woman.

Forgiveness heals.

I want to address something else shame has done to me over the years. Because I was sexually assaulted, shame has said I’m damaged – permanently.

I hope you’ve never endured a sexual assault of any kind, but something tells me someone reading right now either has or knows someone who has.

It was not your fault. It wasn’t.

Shame likes to whisper that it was. Shame likes to whisper that if I just wouldn’t have opened the door it wouldn’t have happened.

That’s a lie.

Girl, lift your face.

Enter Jesus who replaced my name with who he says I am.

My name is:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Righteousness
  • Beautiful
  • Daughter
  • Lovely
  • Loved
  • Lovable
  • Pure

The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus gave me back my hope and strength and dignity. And he wants to do the same for you.

I had to stop going back to the places I thought would give me the love I want so badly. It just made me thirsty for more so I just kept going back.

But I was never satisfied, because that was not love.

My Jesus met me where I was – even though I was trying to hide my shame from everyone. He gave me all the love I’ll ever want.

Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh darling, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity. THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes, I absolutely do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Drink up, sister. Drink deeply of His love. Nothing else will ever satisfy.

Hello, my name is: Melissa, Loved, Beautiful, Hand-crafted, Adored, Poetess, Daughter of God.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Poetry, Spoken Word, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

You can be quiet

The sun slowed down and
Took one last look over the horizon.
It had had a long productive day and
Could finally meander on to
The other side.
Meander.
That’s what my car did –
Steady and slow like the sun.
“I’ve been… feeling really quiet.”
My text whispered through the screen as I
Wiped an unbidden tear.
“You can be quiet it’s okay,”
Came the reply.
I laughed out loud.
I needed to laugh in that moment.
I knew what they meant:
It’s okay to have a quiet moment.
But I’m a word girl and always quickly assess
Multiple meanings words can have
If taken out of context.
Perhaps I need to be quiet more often. Lol.
I’m glad my friends get my
Inappropriate laughter.
Even via text.

The truth is
I have not shut up lately.
Not with my friends.
For context I’m naturally
Quiet, especially
Around people I don’t know.
But when I trust you
I lay my soul bare.
And do so often.

But the truth is –
I need to be quiet.
I need to take a step back and
See things as they truly are.
The truth is:
I’ve been walking in
A daydream for far too long.

I need to regroup and refocus.

This blog is meant to meander.
Like the sun.
Like my car.
Like my thoughts.
To make you, reader,
Pause.
“Be quiet.
And in the quiet – be still
And in the stillness – rest
And in the rest – listen.”

That is wisdom from one of my favorite pastors.

Quiet doesn’t always happen
In the dark, or
In depression.
In fact, the best quiet times I have
Are in the light of a brand new day when I
Sit outside with a cup of morning
And a copy of my favorite book
And just breathe it in.

So…
Meander. Be quiet. Breathe.
Thanks for letting me be transparent and vulnerable
While my thoughts find their
Rest on this page.

Rest well.
Goodnight.
I love you.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Truth, waiting, Word, Writing

Lookin’ For Love

My mind wandered this morning to John 4 and the woman Jesus spoke with at the well. I’m often reminded of her when I mentor single moms. Why had she come to this well to draw water alone? That was an activity the women did together. For safety. For social interaction.

I’ll guess why: shame.
She was hiding.

From other women. From society. From her shame.

That’s when she met Jesus – the man who would alter the course of her life.
Jesus was sitting there alone, waiting on his disciples to get back from town with food. He asked her to draw him some water and you can almost hear her audible gasp.

“Who, me? I’m detestable.” (Paraphrasing here.)

She actually said:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Let’s stop a sec.

Single momma, how many times have you been asked to go get your husband? By a salesman? By a snarky married woman who knows you don’t have one? By a mean girl? You know what this feels like. I know what this feels like.
And the answer stammers it’s way out of your trembling mouth. Your eyes glance down, or away.
“I, I… have no husband.”
Then Jesus spoke a truth that walked right through the solid, heretofore impenetrable walls around her heart:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
Ouch. Yep. There it is.
But let’s be real. I’ve often wondered if there was a more shameful truth exposed here. I’d be willing to bet more than one of the 5 wasn’t her own husband, but someone else’s husband. Just keeping it real.
But Jesus knows everything and chooses to forgive anyway and offer a second chance at life. He did for me when I was that woman.

Forgiveness heals. You. The other person. It heals.

I know this hits more than single moms, but that’s who is on my mind today.

Girl, lift up your face.
I’ve done worse than you. Don’t believe me? Sit down for coffee with me one day. I’m not afraid to tell you about my past anymore because it does not own me. But hearing about it might just set you free.
Because if God can know my heart the way it was, forgive me anyway, give me a new heart, and offer me forgiveness and fill me up with love, He can and will for you too.
The Samaritan woman in this story had looked for love all her life, but was handed counterfeited love. I’m not sure what happened. Like me, did her husband leave unexpectedly and take her hope and strength and dignity with him?
Jesus wants to give you back your hope and strength and dignity.
Drink deeply of His Word.
You keep going back to the places you know will give you the love you want so badly, but you get thirsty again and just have to keep going back. And truth be told, you do the walk of shame all the way there and all the way home. Because it’s not love.

Enter Jesus.

He’s waiting to meet you and give you all the love you’ll ever want. Trust me. I know what you might be saying. “But I want a husband’s arms to hold me and love me.”

I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I care to admit because I want that kind of love, have it to give, yet have no one to share it with.
Oh, I know.
But each morning I choose to meet Jesus and allow His love to restore my hope, strength, and dignity and THAT is why I walk in joy and peace.
Do I want a husband?
Yes I do.
Oh, but not if it costs me even one precious drop of the love Jesus gives. I’m not giving that up. No way.

Now a man who loves Jesus and drinks deeply from His love, I’ll walk with THAT guy forever and five days.

Seriously: drink up, sister.

You’ll never thirst for love again once you’ve had the real thing.

Posted in heartache, Life Lessons, Love, Word, Word, Truth, Life, Love, Writing

One heart. Many faces.

I made a huge mistake at work today. To be fair, it’s my first week of actually doing my job and I’m still onboarding. But the impact of this was far-reaching.

I control 2 email inboxes from the same email account. One is my personal company email. The other is my team’s email. I was tasked with sending our team’s newsletter out to 500+ call center agents and managers from our team’s email. I made the newsletter, hit send, and waited for it to arrive in my personal inbox (since I fall within the recipient list).

It arrived. But it was NOT from the team email. It came from my personal account.

Audible gasp.

My breath caught. My lungs seized. My heart chugged deep and slow like the 2am train that runs through town. People who matter would see my mistake.

Got me thinking though. How many times in life do I live duplicitously?

How many sides can there be?

Work me. Home me. Friend me. Inner circle me. Church me. Mom me.

And how many times have I been caught saying something that must sound strange to an audience who either knows a different side of me, or who knows me better?

I used to be this way more than now. Now I try to always just aim for being real.

I find that this throws people off though.

I’m an encourager. I just am.

But when I struggle nowadays, and people read it in my blog or on my social media pages, they’re like…”that’s the girl who is always up. Why is SHE struggling?” And my private message box fills up with concerns.

Here’s the thing:

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

I’m gonna repeat that in case someone missed it.

I am only ever up because I have chosen to get back up.

Fallen is my natural state.

But see, now when I fail and when I fall, I get excited. Not right away. Not till I dust off my knees and clean up my wounds. But eventually I get excited.

Not for me. I get excited for others.

Because now I can see when someone else is about to fall in that same pit and I can say…”HEY! YOU! THERE’S A HUGE PIT RIGHT THERE.”

And if they fall anyway, I get to say…”Here’s my hand…let’s get you get back up. Keep going.”

So when I broadcast on social media what my inner circle already knows I’m struggling with, people aren’t ready for it. They’re ready for more encouragement. More happy.

But conversely, my inner circle probably rolls collective eyes when they see me broadcast supergirl encouragement when I just blew up our group or private chats with how I cried myself to sleep for the fifth time this week.

But what I understand is – I learn and grow best by struggling, being transparent, and getting back up.

I really do possess the capacity to walk beside people who have hurt me. And this is because I have been forgiven much, and have been loved much – so I am quick to forgive much, and quick to love much.

My teammates at work expected to see that weekly newsletter from the team, not the new-hire.

But at the end of the day (after I recalled the email and had another team member send it correctly) I realized that all the information I sent was correct.

And that’s the point. If you’re correct in what you say and how you live, you don’t have to worry about who sees or hears you.

Side note: it wasn’t my fault after all – my email lacks a setting that allows me to send anything from the team.

I’ll put in a ticket to IT on Monday.

Y’all have a great weekend.

Live with integrity.

One heart. One voice.

Life is short. Love well.

I love you.

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

I am NOT Enough

Everyday for weeks now I’ve watched women champion and repeat and chant the phrase “I am enough.” It’s on mugs and graphic t-shirts and books and billboards:
“I am enough.”
Really? Are we? Why do we say this? What are we REALLY saying? What are we enough of or who are we enough for?
I have a graduate degree and it took 5 months to find a job when my last contract ended.
My body aches and takes longer to recover from workouts because age is creeping up on me.
I have to hold my phone out an extra foot to read because I have over-40-year-old eyes.
I snap at my family when I’m tired or hungry or stressed or lonely.
My laundry multiplies faster than my want-to.
Oh, I have great qualities. I’m a great friend. An encourager-extraordinaire. A great writer. My smile might even momentarily cure your depression.
But when I see this phrase, I cringe.
Because the TRUTH is:
I. Am. Not. Enough.
But. My. God. Is. Enough.
He knows me and strengthens me when I invite Him into my broken places. He was with me in my long job search. When I pressed into him I found peace enough and hope enough and joy enough for the journey.
In Exodus, God gave Moses the task of liberating the Israelites from slavery by the Egyptians.

“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:13‭-‬14 CSB

I AM is enough.
Moses wasn’t bringing the Israelites out of slavery. I AM was doing that.

In 2nd Corinthians 12:9 when Paul asked God to remove a “thorn in his flesh” (a weakness he had), God said this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

I am NOT enough. I am weak and broken. But God’s power is sufficient (ENOUGH) and His power is made perfect at exactly those places where I am weak.

I’m not trying to put anyone down, just to make someone think twice and edit this popular saying to: “I am enough because my God is enough.”

(c)MAF2019

Posted in Life Lessons, waiting, Word, Writing

The Gentle Gardener

One morning shortly after my divorce, as I woke up, I had this vision. I clearly saw a pair of rugged male hands reaching down, digging in, and clasping together underneath a wilted plant. Actually, the plant was beyond wilted—it was dried by the sun, and what had once been some kind of small growth was now beginning to fly off in the wind. It was that dry. It was almost entirely dead. Its roots, however, were entirely alive. As the hands came down and clasped together, they carefully pulled the plant out of the soil – carefully keeping its roots intact. The “Gentle Gardener” as I have sometimes described the owner of the hands, removed the plant from the ground with the roots sticking out between his loosly clasped fingers. The process of extracting the plant took some time, as the dry ground was caked around the roots. Some digging, pulling, and scraping went on for what seemed like an hour. As the hands lifted together and transported the plant, I noticed the hands, up to the wrists, were now caked with soil and there was dirt caked under his fingernails. Some blood began to pool and dry around a scrape. The gardener was fully invested in this process.

Then the scene in my vision widened out – as in a movie. I noticed that the whole field that the plant had been pulled out of was a dry, cracked land. I would call it parched. Thirsty. What once may have been a field of beautiful wild flowers was now barren.
At this point, I surveyed the entirety of the landscape. I began to have a new realization: I could no longer see the plant, nor the hands, nor the roots – because I was the plant, and I was being intentionally moved. But to where? Suddenly panic set in. What if I fell from this height? Was I destined for the fire pit, the compost pile, or – hold on, what’s this? As the hands came down and I descended, I (now as the plant) peeked over the edge of the hands that carried me. I saw the greenest grass, flowers were budding, new trees danced and swayed, and a bubbling, flowing mane of water caressed the soft curves of the land.
Water! My parched soul rejoiced! But the water did not come to quench me for a long time. Replanting was painful – physically agonizing. As my roots settled into the earth, something strange happened at the surface.
Nothing.
Nothing happened. Not for a long while.
While my roots underneath the surface reestablished a bond with the earth, I remained dry and cracked and thirsty above.

While all around me everything was glorious and full of life, I kept my head down and tried to hide my ugliness.

And then something else happened.

I began to cry.

I began to ugly cry. The kind of tears that run hot and wild. The kind of tears that arrive as a whimper, then become a sob, then a wail. I cried for a season – and then another – and suddenly, I was no longer seeing from the perspective of the flower, but from the viewpoint of the Gentle Gardener. Or was
I? Had I grown to this height?
Yes! I had. He had planted me in the center of his beautiful garden. I had not started as a
seed, but as an acorn. He saw that I had fallen on the side of the fence that did not have the proper environment for growth. Furthermore, I was not watered by the river, but by my own tears. My eyes were so swollen from crying that I did not notice my growth until I had become a glorious Oak. Tall and mighty.
Beautiful and sturdy. Arms outstretched toward the sun. Birds nested in my branches. Squirrels gathered and scattered my acorns. Bunnies frolicked in my shadow. I provided oxygen—I gave life where once I was almost dead.
The last I saw of the hands they were clean and glowing and applauding me.

Perhaps you’re in a dry season. Perhaps you’ve been in this season for a long time. But perhaps it is a season not of dying and thirsting, but of crying and learning and growing. That is where I have been lately: in a crying, learning, growing season. Let me encourage you to trust the Gentle Gardener.
Cry. Let your eyes swell shut if you must – but when the season ends, you’ll find you’re just what you ought to be – glorious, life-giving, quenched. And best of all, your arms will be outstretched toward the sun once more.

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.