The One with the Hug Attack

This weekend we missed our teens. Though we had a really great time with family in my hometown, we ended up not being able to make it back for our church’s Light the Night (“trunk or treat”). We entrusted our teens with our trunk. They were in charge of decorating and manning the trunk as well as being responsible and helpful throughout the event. 
When we pulled into our driveway late last night, we saw a cute pumpkin sitting in front of our garage door. As we picked it up, we realized it had been signed by EVERY SINGLE ONE of our teens and Pastor Dale and Pam! There was a fantastic turnout–I was so excited. (If anyone knows how to preserve a pumpkin for posterity, let me know.) It was also a wonderful statement–
they. missed. us. *GRIN*
Around 10:30pm, I saw a Facebook update by one of our teens. It mentioned something about TPing. Hmmmm. “I bet they TPed our car.” We threw on our shoes, ran out to church parking lot and sure enough–there it was. Our little escort covered in toilet paper. They even put all of the used toilet paper rolls on our antenna. Again. A testament to how much they love us. (Yes, teens show their love in strange ways. :D) 
This morning I heard nothing but great remarks from every adult and teen involved. *so proud*
I was also thrilled to have 2 girls attending church for the first time. We had a great Sunday School class and then took our seats in the sanctuary–the teens have officially taken over the front 2 rows. LOVE. IT. Part of the way through the service, one of the church leaders stepped up to the microphone and asked the Pastor’s family and Kevin and I to come forward. They presented both of our families with a gift of appreciation for our ministry in honor of Pastors’ Appreciation Month. We were so honored. Then, the most beautiful moment happened. Just as we turned to sit down, ALL of our teens from the front row ran up to us, in front of the entire congregation, and engulfed us in the most phenomenal group hug I’ve ever been a part of. 
I will cherish that moment forever
Thank you, Jesus, for another reminder that the work we do is not in vain

The One with the Birthday Love

Dear Husband, 
Happy Birthday! I am so blessed to be at your side to celebrate with you. I remember back to your 18th birthday–when we had met just months earlier. You have changed so much since then, and yet, you are still everything I love about Kevin Michael. 
You have become a trustworthy, man of God, that is for sure. I know I am safe in your arms. Our love has grown deeper with each year, with each season, each argument, each hug, each secret shared. 
I have seen your passions take shape and spent hours talking with you about our dreams. We make a great team–an unstoppable force for Jesus. I love ministering at your side. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more beautiful life than the one we are sharing. 
You are the funniest person I know. I have laughed with you until my sides hurt–particularly when you’re mocking me for laughing so hard. Thank you for always keep me sane, for keeping my feet on the ground, for reminding me that God is in control. You are so patient. I’m sorry for testing that fruit of yours. :)
I truly cannot imagine life without you. I pray the Lord gives us many more glorious years together. 

The other half of your heart, 
Melanie Marie

Us. Your Birthday 2010. Perfectly content in love.
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The One with Too Many Gmail Accounts

Having multiple email accounts works for me.

It’s a necessary thing, but it can be cumbersome to sign in and out of each different email account if you want to send an email from a specific address. 
(Assuming you have all of your emails forwarded to one inbox like I do.)
To solve this dilemma, I have to thank Debbie for giving me this tip–it’s saved me so much headache!

How to send emails from a different email address without signing out of your account:
Sign into your primary Gmail account. 
Go to “Settings” (on the top right).
Then click on  the “Accounts and Imports” tab at the top.
Find the line that says, “Send Mail As.”
Here, you should see your email address. 
Underneath that, in the same section, you should see a button that says, “Send Mail From Another Address.”
Click on that and follow the step by step instructions. 
You can add multiple email address.
I have four. 
One general/personal/profession account. 
One for blogging. 
One for youth group.
One for Kevin and myself. 
Now! The Fun Part!
Go back to your inbox and click on “compose message.”
Where it says “From,” your email address should be listed in a drop down menu. 
If you click on the drop down arrow, you will be able to select the account from which to send this new email.
One more fun thing!
If you like to have an automatic signature, you can personalize each different email account signature. 
Click on “settings” again.
It should automatically open up to the “General” tab.
Scroll down to the “signature” section. 
Because you’ve added multiple email address, you should see that drop down menu again where it lists your main email account. 
Click on each separate account and create a personalized signature for each specialized email address. 
For instance, in my personal account I include my name, my job title, and my blog link. 
On my youth group signature, I include my name, job title, and my YOUTH GROUP’s blog link.
When I’m sending mail to and from other bloggers, I use my adorkable.melanie@gmail.com account and sign it like this:

Melanie 

Seriously! How cool is Google?!
It works for me! 
Check out We Are THAT Family for more great tips!

The One with My Ministry Gifts

I have no idea where God will take me in the future. Will I be at home, loving on my family, gardening, baking, housekeeping, homeschooling? Will I write a book? Will we live here forever? Or move across the country? How will I be using my musical gifts? 
So many questions, yet I don’t really need to know the answers. I am identifying my passions and my ministry gifts and doing my best to use them fully. After youth group on Sunday night, I was convinced that the strongest ministries God has given me are of prayer and openness and vulnerability
I have always been an open person. I thrive on honesty and transparency. I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Though that phrase can be construed in the negative, I believe I know when it is appropriate to be completely open about my emotions and when it’s okay to keep them to myself. That being said, a girls small group ministry is perfect for me. 
The past two years of small group efforts have not been all that successful. Conversation topics were scattered and lacked depth. I was frustrated by this–being the deeply emotional people person that I am–but I knew I wasn’t supposed to give up. I’m so thankful that we kept trying. I know not everyone enjoys opening up, some even dread it–especially with a small group of individuals they might not trust quite yet. But this past month of girls’ small group have been life-changing–for me and the teens. 
I have kept my agenda to a minimum. I’m learning the more I plan, the more frustrated I am when things don’t go as I anticipate, and the farther away we move from the path God has laid out before us. The “planner” in me has stepped aside. I ask an introductory question or two, but then I step back. I pray–beseeching God to move in their hearts. And sure enough, He leads in a very specific way and I follow as best I can. 
This past week there was such brokenness. So many wounds were exposed. As girl after girl shared her heart and tears with us, others were moved to do the same. It was powerful. I was privileged to pray over each of them. I have learned to pray boldly, with confidence, listening to the Holy Spirit as He guides my words. Intercessory prayers are so powerful when they are not in my own wisdom. 
And through each night, I have been able to be open and honest as well. This is, I believe, one of the most powerful tools God has given me. In being vulnerable with my girls (within reason, of course), I lead by example and I show them my true, authentic self. They are able to see a glimpse of the love and passion I have for each one of their lives. They realize that I have had many of the same struggles as they are experiencing. They see Jesus’ love for them, through me. 
Oh, what a privilege. My heart is overflowing. 

The One with the Inner Artist

Another blog makeover. 
Thoughts?
Suggestions?
I’m really falling in love with it, though if I had more editing and coding skills it could be way more awesomer. Honestly, that is one of my little aspirations–to grow in my photo and logo editing skills and maybe possibly one day in the future earn some extra cashola creating beautiful designs for people. I have VERY limited resources right now which is one of the reasons I’m at a standstill. Kevin has been messing around with GIMP lately and I honestly have no idea where to begin with that program. I just need a few (hundred) hours to find my feet. 
If I could hone these skills and learn about ditigal scrapbooking–even better! I enjoy getting the creative juices flowing and thinking of beautiful ways to show off and preserve photo memories. BUT. Scrapbooking takes a ridiculous amount of time, way too much cleaning, far too much space. It’s just rather impractical. It takes 45 minutes to get in to the creating groove. I work for a couple hours. (And it’s RARE to find a couple hours to work with.) Then I clean up for 30 minutes. Sheesh. That’s a big commitment. I think I’d rather use a digital program. And click “save” when I need to walk away. Perfect. 
But this requires me figuring out the wide world of graphic design. 
Along those lines, I’d love to learn more about photography. Even as a young girl I had an interest in this art. I would set up backdrops for my baby dolls or my sister–whichever would cooperate best for the vision I had. I’m not sure what ever happened to that dream of mine. I think I forgot about it. I’m a little sad about that, but hey, I still have time to learn new skills, right? 
I even had an opportunity to take a photography class in college, but I opted for Art Foundations instead. I won’t tell you the reasons for this decision, because you’ll find me ridiculous and petty, but I did have reasons. I just wish I would have ignored my pocket-protector personality for just a semester and went for it
Kevin also has an interest in photography and editing. The thought of sharing a hobby and possibly a mini-business with him thrills me. Who knows if this will ever pan out, but we like dreaming about it. In the meantime, we’ll be saving for a digital SLR camera. If you would like to contribute to this fund because you believe I could be the photographer ever, just let me know. 
If not, well, I’ll love you anyways. 

On rest…and focus

You know, I’ve realized in my many many years on this earth (Soon to be 24 of them) that there are a few things that Christianity just doesn’t do well.
We are absolutely terrible at learning from those we disagree with.
I’ve went through life cursed with an overabundance of confidence. I frequently joke that my left brain killed off my right brain shortly after birth. I don’t have a whole lot of respect for an argument unless you can make it logically, and from a sound premise.
Unfortunately, Christians allow ourselves to fall into a pretty deep pit…every theological or moral discussion we enter into starts with “God says” or “The Bible says.”
I’m waiting for that last sentence to sink in, and just checking to make sure that I haven’t offended everyone to the point that they quit reading…yet.  Maybe there’s still time for that.
I think that every time we start an argument with our interpretation of the Bible or of God…God winces just a little bit. I think that our reliance on our religion’s truth being an accepted and foregone conclusion for everyone isn’t an endearing little quirk…it’s a dangerous flaw.
To explain that sentence, let me be a bit more blunt. When we assume that we’re talking to people that believe that the Bible is true, that there is an Absolute Truth, and that there is a God…we’re subtly implying that we can’t prove these things.  Worse yet, we’re implying that we can’t make an argument for what we believe unless you agree with our perceptions of God, the Bible, and Truth.
That gives those that aren’t already Christians free license to ignore us as a marginalized, irrelevant oddity that will go away in time if we’re only ignored and patronized for long enough.
I’d like to propose something different.
The Bible is God’s Word. God is Truth. Truth is the most important thing we have, because it leads us to a right relationship with our Creator.
If we really believed those three statements, then shouldn’t Christians be leading the charge into Scientific inquiry, logical argument, and passionately (and respectfully) debating facts? Shouldn’t we be the most assured, the most logical, and the most fearless investigators of all things Truthful?
Paul went to Athens. He found an altar with the inscription “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”  Rather than dismiss the Athenian beliefs as wrong and sinful, he set out to show them that he knew exactly who that unknown God was. Rather than run from understanding those who disagreed from them…Paul sought to understand them, and explain how their own experiences and beliefs led to the God of the Universe.
How often do we seek to understand those we disagree with? How often do we dismiss them as being wrong, sinful, misguided, or simply stupid? Shouldn’t we, as loving children of God, be the first to seek to understand and sympathize? If we are to effectively love our enemies, shouldn’t we understand them first?
I realize I started talking about this from the perspective of my own experience, being Science and Logic. But what about that insensitive person at church that just keeps grating on your nerves? Do you really understand where they’re coming from? What would they say about you, if they were to be asked what they really thought? If you don’t know, then you haven’t made anywhere near a decent effort to bridge that separation. The Church needs to stand unified, and we can’t afford your petty squabbles to get in the way of the greater Work of God.
As a society, I think Americans severely undervalue peace. We’ve become accustomed to having our secure borders, our victorious armies, and we like being able to assert our will. We were shocked and appalled when the two towers crumbled on September 11th…and we saw it as only fitting when we started a war on two different fronts to punish those responsible.
We’ve taken that national perspective, and we’ve gotten very good at creating a nation of individuals. We’ve created a Church filled with individuals…which has resulted in a group of individuals gathered in a church building.
Subtle differences, but they are there.
We devalue peace, so we assert our will.  When things don’t go our way, we try to arrange those around us to fix the issue. We never stop to realize that we’re attempting to arrange other peoples’ lives to make ours more convenient. We’ve lost the art of compromise.
The old phrase goes: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” I think that we’ve strayed one way or the other. In convincing the Church in America that we have let some of our moral boundaries slip, we’ve become obsessed with keeping the baby in that tub…at the expense of the fetid pile of sludge the kid is now sitting in.
It’s time to change the water…clear the air…relax and let things go.
To quote a movie, “To let that which does not matter…truly slide.”
If you are not being sinned against, why hold a grudge? If someone is doing something in a different way…is it working well enough? Then why not let it be?
Let the chips fall where they may.
Focus on what matters.
Pray more.
Read your Bible.
Care for others…
           …more than yourself.

On Individual Purposes

Jesus says,
“I know you because I formed you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Your life has a great purpose. Though you are unable to see what I have in store for you, it is great. My plans are far more astounding than you have ever thought or imagined. The only stipulation is that you stop trying to out-do me. You know better, my child. You have seen me provide for you, protect you, preserve you over and over again. You have been thrilled with my work, so you must stop worrying. 
The plan I have for you life is completely unique. You are not meant to live in another’s shadow or follow in someone else’s footsteps. Look to me. Hold tightly to my hand. Sink deeply into my arms and you will not be led astray. Yes, your path may seem strange at first, even to you. Others may criticize you or question you, but remember Noah and Moses and remain faithful to me. 
In the end, after we have taken every road you never would have anticipated, through the bushwhacking, the low visibility, the rough terrain, the blue skies, and the sunsets, we will have reached the top of one of the mountains and you will see WHY. Breath in the glory around you and take me with you tomorrow.” 

The One with the Joneses

I have to be honest with you. 
I’m not perfect. 
*GASP*
I know, I know. 
You’re shocked. 
But it’s true. I’m not perfect. I struggle all too often with uncertainty and inadequacies. Kevin could attest to how frequently I’m worried that I’m not doing my best or that I don’t match up to so and so or that maybe, deep-down-inside, those people don’t approve. I know the Truth and it’s in the process of setting of me free, but in the meantime, I wanted to be real. 
I believe I’m called to a life of ministry. I want to be a wife who lives her days building into my marriage. I want to be a mother who teaches her children to love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. I want to be a servant to the poor, the broken, the hurting. I want all people to know that the reason I lead small groups, bake delicious meals, clean my house, hug my (future) children, snuggle with my husband, play the piano, open my home, or laugh with friends is all for the glory of God. He is the very reason I take this next breath. My life is His instrument–to be used however He desires. 
With that said, I want to admit that I battle these lies in my heart. “Why aren’t you living to your full potential? You could be doing SO MUCH more! Why aren’t you working full time and ministering at the church and taking care of your home? HUH? All those OTHER women can do that–why can’t you handle it? You should be contributing to your family finances–get off your lazy butt! Why do YOU get to make your own schedule, work from home, spend tons of quality time with your husband when so many women do not have those luxuries?” 
There. I said it. I’m a “comparer.” I’m certain that I’m not good enough, not working hard enough, not living life according to the American standard. 
But wait. That’s just it, isn’t it? I’m comparing my lifestyle to the ONE (the only one) set up for 21st Century American Women. Work full time, be a full time mom/wife/homemaker, volunteer in the community, work in the church, exercise daily, eat right, make balanced meals for your family. People, this is CRAZY! Or at least it is for me. I have complete respect (and even awe) for the women that can handle that lifestyle and live it all for the glory of God. That. Is. Incredible. But I have to be completely honest–I am NOT that woman. And every single day, I have to be reminded by Jesus himself that that is okay. Because it is. 
I know I could go to work, I know I could do that job well, and I would be helping out financially. But I am convinced that God has called me away from that. He has called us–Kevin and Melanie–to live completely dependent on HIM. If I were working, we wouldn’t “need” His help. We’d be doing just fine. But our lives are to be a testimony of God’s provision, protection, and providence. He has a plan for us–a brilliant plan that we cannot imagine. (I’m *SO* excited!) The more control with give over to Him, the simpler our lives will be. Surely, God’s plan will be done in the end despite the crappy decisions we make along the way. But what if we stopped making the decisions? And waited for His voice on where to take the next turn. 
It’s kind of like taking a map with you on a trip when you have a GPS announcing your every move. The whole point of the GPS is to not have to worry. Everything is under control. Even if you mess up and make a wrong turn because for SOME REASON you decided to take the route into your own hands for a moment, that trusty GPS will reroute you again and again until you’ve reached your destination. Taking a map along for the ride is saying, “GPS, I don’t trust you. I think I might need a backup plan.” 
Speaking from experience, I will always take a backup plan with me when using a GPS. They have failed me time and time again. But Jesus has NEVER failed me. And He promises He never will. Making my own choice, creating my own plans, bringing in reinforcements is shouting “I DON’T TRUST YOU, GOD!” But the Lord says,  
“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, 
       who rely on horses, 
       who trust in the multitude of their chariots 
       and in the great strength of their horsemen, 
       but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, 
       or seek help from the LORD.” (Is. 31:1)
       “Surely this is our God; 
       we trusted in him, and he saved us. 
       This is the LORD, we trusted in him; 
       let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Is. 25:9)
SO. I will take a stand against the devil’s schemes of comparing myself to the rest of the world. I will live a life worthy of the calling I have received–even if that’s a totally different life than the world’s mold for me. Jesus has not promised an easy life, which is why I have to stop thinking about how my life is weird compared to everyone else. He has set me apart and demanded that I stop conforming to the world. We are all created with individual purposes. We are Christ’s body which requires hundreds of different functions. I will live confidently in the path marked out for me, trusting that my God will meet all my needs according His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Look to Jesus, Mel. End of story. 

The One with the Racing Brilliance

I loved today. 
1. Because I got another chance.
2. Because it’s fall. 
3. Because my cats snuggled with me. 
4. Because I made enchiladas and brownies. 
5. Because my dedicated husband went to work even though he was feeling crappy. 
6. Because I was super productive. 
7. Because I checked everything off of my to-do list.
But mostly because I checked everything off of my to-do list. 
It’s amazing how accomplished that makes me feel. I’m constantly thinking something that’s needs to happen–something to work on, fix, brainstorm, prepare, create, etc. And if I don’t write down my thought on a piece of paper RIGHT THEN, it slips out within an instant and is gone forever (or until it floats back into my subconscious for a moment.) I keep little pads of scrap paper around every corner–in my nightstand, in my bathroom drawer, in the kitchen, in my purse. Most of my brilliant ideas happen when I can’t get to piece of paper, though. It’s so unfortunate. 
In any case, this morning’s checklist is now in the trash can with every single line item crossed off. 
Beautiful. 
Now I can rest easy. 
Assuming my mind doesn’t decide to be brilliant when all I want is sleep. 

The One with the Benefits of Tithing

I’m talking about money. 

Read on if you dare. 

Yes, these are economically unsettling times for all of us. 
Everyone has been affected in some way by this financial depression. 
But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been called to obedience to our Lord. 

Tithing is a bit of a controversial topic. This is mostly due to the fact that a majority of Christ followers would rather not talk about finances and would prefer to be left alone in their sin. Yes, I went there. NOT tithing is a sin. It is direct disobedience to the God we call Almighty. If I were you, I wouldn’t mess with that. 

Check out Malachi 3:6-10:

 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. 
      “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 
      “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ 
      “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Umm, hello???? This is completely relevant to our nation…right now. We are in sin–we are robbing God. Sure, we drop a few coins in every once in a while OR maybe we even give $20 regularly. But if we are not giving at least a tenth of our (gross–first fruits) income to the Lord then yes, I’m afraid you ARE robbing God. Because of our selfishness and greed, we have given the Lord no other choice than to curse our nation. We are reaping the harvest of our disobedience.

Disciples of Jesus, I charge you to run from your lukewarm behaviors. Either you love God with ALL of your heart, all of your money, all of your life OR you don’t–in which case He doesn’t know you. Do you trust the Creator of this  universe, of chocolate, of C# minor, of childbirth, of wind to care for YOU? If he takes care of the birds through winter and creates lilies in all their glory, how much more will he provide for ME and you? 

I dare you to take the Lord’s challenge. Will you bring the WHOLE tithe into His house? Even when you’re not sure if you can afford a gallon of milk this week or whether or not you’ll get another paycheck? Will you trust him? 

I promise you, out of my own life’s testimony, he is faithful. Give when you think you cannot and God will surely open the floodgates of heaven onto your life. And you will know it was His provision and you will give HIM the glory–because that, my friends, is the whole point of our lives. 

Tithing has worked in my life–giving back to God what He entrusted me with in the first place always results in blessings I could not have imagined. Join me. 
”works
This post is participating in Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.