The One with the Beautiful Friend

I have a friend. A very good friend. She is loyal. She is faithful. She is loving. She is supportive. She is fun. She is a listener. She is beautiful. She loves Jesus. 
When I read the Project 31 prompt “Write a Blog to Encourage Another Beautiful Woman,” I knew God was leading me to share these words with my friend, Brittney. 
Britt, thank you for being an example of what a good friend should be. I know I can always count on you to be there, and I am learning from you what a true friendship looks like. You have stuck by me through a lot, and I am eternally grateful. 
I want you to know I love you, and I pray for you often. God has a beautiful plan for your life, Britt. I have every confidence that He is working in you in a mighty way. He’s taken you through ups and downs, and you’ve followed Him faithfully. I am excited to see what awaits you and Nick around the bend. Just keeping holding onto Jesus. He will carry you.
I am inspired by your perseverance. You show this strong quality in every aspect of your life–and it is truly an example to me and to many others. Hold on to that hope you have within you, knowing God is act work.
Thank you for being my friend. 

On Jesus Leading

Jesus says, 

Follow Me. 

You do not need to know where the road will lead you, because I am your Heavenly Father. I would never take you into danger, and if we walk into a place of pain or hardship, you need not fear. I am taking you through it–you are not going it alone. 

I have a beautiful plan in store for you. Oh! I can’t wait for you see where I am leading. You will be in awe of what I will do in you life, and your heart will sing my praises. That is the point of your life, dear one–to bring me glory. You can do that by leaving your fears at the foot of the cross–I will carry your burdens–and trusting me to lead you through the troubles of this world with the peace I bring you. 

I Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you.

Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

John 14:27 Peace I live with you. My peace I give. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

The One with the [5 minute] Women

On this wonderful wintery Friday, I am joining The Gypsy Mama and others on a Five Minute Friday post. The prompt: “The Women.”
These past couple days have been a day of “The Women”–just Mom and me. It’s been lovely, really. Dad is on a Utah trip with the guys, skiing his little heart out, and mom wanted some company. I was happy to oblige for a few days. I arrived Thursday morning at 11:30 and we hit the ground running. Well, not really. We had no place to go, no plans made. It was “whatever we feel like doing” day. Excellent. 
The first thing we felt like doing was eating lunch at Steak N Shake. Burger, small fries, and small drink (The “Snack Pack”) for $2.79? Heck yes! TWO hours later, we finally decided it was time to leave. The conversation had been so sweet, so non-stop, neither of us wanted to call it quits.:) 
Side note: Have any of you been around 2 women who haven’t been together in a month or more? It’s one topic after another and back again in rapid fire succession. We had one general topic of conversation with at least 45 different tributaries–all of which were necessary to the main discussion. So fun, but so hard to keep track of. 
Since then, we’ve bought picture frames and developed wall hangings together. 
Skyped from room to room. 
And enjoyed a few too many chocolate chip cookies. 
Sounds like a perfect day in the life of “The Women.” 

The One with the Letter of Love

The glory of God is a man fully alive. [St. Iranaeus]
A letter of thanks.

Dear Kevin, 
I think you know by now how wholly and passionately I love you. But, my husband, I truly believe without your incredible love for me, I wouldn’t have the capacity for such a love. God has given you an enormous responsibility–to love me as Christ loved the Church. I can say with complete honesty that you are the greatest embodiment of Christ in my life.

Watching you become a man of God is such a privilege. You have such fire for His Word, such a passion for His people. Following you as you walk in faith toward a foreign land shows me your deepest heart–obedience to Christ no matter the cost. We may feel like Abraham and Sarah at times, but holding hands and seeking the voice of the Lord is all He has called us to. I never would have dreamed we would be on this journey. But it is true discipleship, and I would have it no other way.

Thank you for loving me. Just me. All of me. You accept my whole being without making exceptions or corrections, and you encourage me to do the same. You see the woman God created me to be, and you love me enough to walk alongside me as I journey to that wholeness. 
You have made my heart come fully alive. God sees and rejoices. 
Walking with you, 


Linked up with Day5 of Project 31.

The One with a Flash of My Future

Top Ten {Tuesday} 
Top Ten Ways I Got a Glimpse into My Future 
This morning was just dandy–everything going according to plan my desire. Or not! The first two hours of my day gave me a vision of what the rest of my life will be like–you know, once my days are filled with our offspring throwing a wrench in my lovely little schedule. Of course, it’ll be worth it and probably a good thing to rid myself of my fairly self-centered lifestyle
1. As I’m cozy in bed, still fighting with the reality that the alarm clock was close to buzzing, I heard Kevin down the hall. He was shouting, “No! No!” and then the bright hallway lights turned out, shining into my sleepy eyes. The cat was throwing up
2. I rolled over and pretended I was none the wiser. 
3. After my workout, I came upstairs with a plan to head to the shower. Kevin beat me to it
4. I came up with an alternate plan–eat breakfast. 
5. As I was toasting my cinnamon raisin bagel and dreaming of spreading it with Nutella, I realized the trash can was overflowing
6. I took out the trash, only to realize the bag was leaking some sort of liquid all over the kitchen floor. 
7. Grabbing a rag, I began wiping up the mess. It was at this point that I almost stepped in a pile of cat poop conveniently located on the floor entrance into the cat’s bathroom. 
8. The litter box was overflowing, and someone decided it was high time we did something about it. Thanks, Cat.
9. Still donning my sweaty workout clothes and ignoring the fact that my bagel has been done for 15 minutes, I dumped a billion pounds of cat poo and swept up $11 worth of kitty litter from the floor. (Why can’t they just shake their feet off in the litter box?!)
10. At this point, I had no other choice than to sweep the entire kitchen floor and then pull out the hated mop bucket for a thorough cleaning. I had been putting this off for weeks, knowing that the wintertime does nothing but make my floor dirty again in moments. 
If you have any doubts of the accounts of my morning, just ask my husband. He can attest to this story in it’s entirety. (Oh! Except don’t tell him I was awake while he was cleaning up cat vomit!)
Do you ever have mornings like this?! (or a hundred times worse?)
linked up with Oh!Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.
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The One with the Beauty Inspiration

I have so many beautiful friends. For real–these girls are drop dead gorgeous and their inner lives shine the same light. I am blessed. 
One woman who inspires beauty in my life is Brooke.

photo by studio bree.
I met this gorgeous girl when we moved in across the hall from each other our freshmen year of college. As soon as I saw her, I thought, “Oh my gosh, she’s so pretty. I’m sure she’ll be nice, but I can’t imagine ever being friends with someone that beautiful.” No kidding.

photo by studio bree.
But from that day on, Brooke proved me wrong. She was the most genuine person I had ever met. She laughed without embarrassment. She loved with her whole heart. She listened with her whole being. She prayed with the depths of her spirit
I was supremely blessed to get to spend an entire summer with this girl. We were the only two females on a traveling worship team of eight. We clung to each other. We laughed and cried. We talked late into the night–sharing dreams and secrets. I never could have survived those months without a real friend like Brooke.

(yes we both fit into this sweatshirt.)
Nearly five years have passed since that summer, and I still feel Brooke is a sister of mine. I am honored to have her in my life. Being around her makes anyone want to experience the joy of the Lord that pours of our her smile. She is constantly doing too many things, but you’ll never hear her complaining. She works hard to be everything God wants her to be–and I have to say, she’s doing an awfully good job. 
Thank you, Brookie, for loving me and showing me what true beauty really is. 

She Breathes Deeply

linked with Day 3 of Project31.

The One with that’s Uniquely Me

I pray many of you were encouraged by the words Jesus has spoken into my life concerning the beauty of a woman. My heart’s desire is to learn how to fully embrace the beauty God has created in my life and to help all women experience that same freedom.

Part of this process, I believe, is seeing who YOU really are–all of your quirks, your passions, your thoughts, your talents, your hobbies, your needs. Though many of us share some aspects of our personalities, each one of us have an almost-DNA-like conglomeration of qualities. We are beautifully unique.

What makes you uniquely you?

I’ll start.

Hi! My name is Melanie, and I don’t have to work very hard at keeping up with my “adorkable” title. Sure, I can be cute, but much of the time I evoke a response of “aww, well isn’t that cute?” I have some serious quirks. Idiosyncrasies if you will.

My toilet paper must roll over the top.
My toothpaste should be squeezed evenly from the bottom.
I insist that water be turned off when not actually in use–such as while brushing my teeth.
I keep lists.
Scrap paper notepads are in drawers all over my house–desk, bathroom, bedroom.
I fold my underwear.
I stack my socks.
I bake for fun. And to relieve stress. (Though I’m not so sure it’s the baking that relieves stress or the eating.)
I really can’t stand more than 5 emails left unanswered in my inbox.
I can watch hours of tv at a time, but half an hour into any movie and I’m asleep. (Kevin thinks it’s the “canned laughter” that keeps me engaged during tv.)
I like skim milk, natural peanut butter, homemade wheat bread, fresh cut vegetables, and granny smith apples.
I also like chocolate chip cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, fudge brownies, and 99% of other ice cream varieties.
I used to really not like cats.
Now I have two.
Our bed has a severe sink hole in the center. I’m a chronic snuggler.

Those are the random facts–that honestly don’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of eternity. The rest of my life goes a little something like this:

I grew up learning about Jesus. Mom and Dad taught me Scripture memory verses at a very young age. They even have a video of my whipping off I John 5:11-12 as if it was to save to my life. (Funny thing–it pretty much was.) I was the first one to raise my hand in Sunday School class with the answer. (Yes, I’m still that kid. I’m a firstborn ok??) I loved singing Bible songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” “Beloved,” “Have Patience,” Special Specialitiy,” and every song my mom every led during our summers of Vacation Bible School.

My little sister and I fought all the time–most of it was blamed on me. The first born has to be the one responsible and the responsible one, right? But we also loved each other dearly. We’d rather spend hours playing Barbies or “house,” or “school” by ourselves than with lots of friends. We became best friends as I went through high school. I’m so thankful for her.

My years in high school were fairly uneventful. I didn’t do a whole lot with school friends–church and youth group was my life. I was on my youth group leadership team from 9th grade on and I loved every minute of it. (Foreshadowing, maybe?) I learned more and more about Scripture, I memorized more Bible verses, and I learned the true meaning of getting outside my comfort zone.

I graduated Salutatorian with a 4.0 GPA, was class speaker, and on Homecoming and Prom courts. I really don’t know how those things happened. I was far from cool. I just pray it was because people were drawn to the Jesus in me.

I spent the next four years of my life meeting adulthood head on at one of the best universities–Spring Arbor. I learned how to live with people other than family. I learned the true meaning of stress. And how to deal with it. I learned what friendships are really made of. I learned how to think for myself–and how to not think I know I all. I learned so much about worshiping, and studying Scripture, and pretending to understand philosophy. (It’s still beyond me and I was Philosophy/Religion major.) I learned what it meant to fall in love once and for all.

And all of those experiences are what have made me into who I am today. I’m not done changing. Becoming. But for now, I’m embracing who I am. I am Melanie. Wife of Kevin. Daughter of Karen and Danny. Sister of Ashley. Leader of teens. Lover of good books and hot tea and piano music. I will forever be a list maker, a family girl, a homebody, and a pursuer of no-nonsense relationships. I hope I will also love baking and hostessing–opening my door to anyone who will enter. I will continue to pursue the heart of God with as much passion as He has pursued me. I want each day of my life to matter in eternity.

Who are you?

She Breathes Deeply

Linked up with Day 2 of Project 31.

The One with the Beauty of a Woman

Jesus says, 
“I created you.
I had a plan and a purpose for you life even before you were a dream in your parents’ subconscious. 
You are beautiful
You are wonderfully made.
I knit you together, stitch by stitch, placing every limb, every bone, every organ, exactly where I wanted them. 
I make no mistakes
When I was forming the land and the sea, 
the birds and the fish, 
the sun, moon, and stars, 
the animals and plants, 
I wanted to save the best for last.
I created man in my image, but I knew it was not good for him to live on his own. 
Though Adam knew no different, I knew he would not be complete without a counterpart. 
Together, the two would more perfectly display my qualities
He would be strong
She would be sensitive
He would rule with power
She would reign with grace.
They would fit perfectly together and, in my image and because of the capacity I gave them to love, they would be given the ability to create life. 
And so, I created you. 
As a woman, you came from man, because the two of you were made to be reliant and inseparable.
You were given my image, my glory. 
It is in you that I display my breathtaking beauty
You are the crown of creation
Only then did I say, ‘It is very good.’
And yet you reject the very body I created. 
You look in the mirror and ignore all that is perfect and look only at what you wish to change. 
You see flaws
I see unique beauty. 
You complain
You believe the lies Satan whispers in your ear, telling you how ugly you are, how you are too fat or too skinny, or how you’d be better if only you had that jean size or that cup size or that hair color. 
And the more you listen to his deceit, the more difficult it becomes for you to hear my gentle voice. 
I weep when I see you degrade yourself. 
I am saddened when you don’t trust my Truths
I make no mistakes. 
I made you wonderfully–exactly as I intended. 
What right does the creation have to question the wisdom the Creator
Believe me when I say I take great delight in you
I rejoice over YOU with singing.
Embrace my all surpassing love. 
Know it as yours and float in it.”

And today, Dear Friends, I offer this prayer for each one who knows the lies all too well. 
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 
may have power, together with all the saints, 
to grasp how wide 
and long 
and high 
and deep is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
–Learning to embrace my beauty,
This post was originally posted We Chase the Son (the devotional blog of my husband and me), and is also participating in Project 31 at She Breathes Deeply

She Breathes Deeply

The One with the New Living Room

I have to confess–I’ve always been a “rearranger.” Growing up I moved everything around in my bedroom every 3 or 4 months. (Until I rearranged it in such a way, that all of the other possibilities were completely overruled by the placement of the oversized dresser. It was impossible to move things around after that. I was sad.) In college, I was lucky to have a roommate who shared my love of rearranging. It was harder work with all of the dorm room furniture and the stacking and lack of space, but every few months we gave our room a makeover. It was great. 
Our living room got a bit of makeover last week. I rearranged a few pieces of furniture about nine months ago, but something was just calling out for refreshment of sorts. When Kevin mentioned for the tenth time that he wanted his computer desk in the living room so we could chill out together in the same room (I’m a tv girl. He’s a computer game guy.), I figured I’d make something work. Heck--my husband really wanted to spend time (or at least space) with me. Sweet!
It took me about an hour of envisioning and moving and thinking to come up with something that was totally fresh and new, while remaining functional. I think I like it! 

I’m pretty proud of the room dividing I did. :)

Kevin’s space is quite nice for him. 
Please don’t look too long and hard at my only wall arrangement on that ginormous wall. It’s something I really want changed–just waiting for the right items. 

I love the “bookish/study” look to the leather chair and end table. And that new little lamp, proudly propped on my Greek Lexicon, is turned on by the switch over the piano and adds the perfect amount of lighting which the room was lacking before. 
So, I know it’s totally different (and honestly it looks better in person), but what do you think? 

The One with the OPPOSITE Sexes

Today, I would like to share a little word of encouragement:
It’s ok to be different from your spouse.

Every form of media seems to have something to say about this topic of relationship compatibility. (Which, oddly enough, is easily mistyped to form “comBatability.”) We hear messages about what type of person you should marry based on your Myers-Briggs indicator or your astrological sign or even your birth order. 
Kevin and I failed at all of those. 
No, seriously. 
We are complete opposites on all of 1 of the MBTI test. 
We are both Scorpios. (Which doesn’t matter at all to either of us, but most secular relationship advice says no Scorpio should marry a Scorpio. Volatile connection apparently. Ooops.)
We are both FIRST BORNS.* (That’s a no-brainer. Two bossy, head-strong individuals getting married?! We are dumb.)
*I know a few other first born-first born couples, and they have great marriages too, so THERE!

But you know what? I’m so over those worldly interpretations and you should be too! No, Kevin and I don’t have tons of commonalities. But our faith and our standards and our passions and our dreams are spot on. We share a sense of humor and a love of good food. We love learning and playing good music together. We are both utterly ridiculous at times (me much more than him). We love to think deeply and read good books.

And we’re pretty cute.

I don’t understand why he loves to play computer games so much and I don’t think I ever will. I will probably always be a bit annoyed by it, in fact. But it’s something he enjoys and it’s what he does to relax, so I’ll go with it. 
He may never comprehend why I get so dang emotional all the time or why I can’t just shut off those nagging thoughts until things are resolved. He’d rather be able to say “Move on, Mel” and have it really work. But it never will, and he’ll keep learning how to deal with it. 
All those remarks aside, the truth remains– you can be different from your spouse. It’s so cool to learn about the opposite sex from a person you know and love deeply. It seems there will never be an end to this educational process–we’re in this for the long haul. 
And honestly, I can’t wait to keep getting to know him better. 
Your spouse is always changing, learning, growing. It’s a beautiful thing. And you get experience life with them. It’s annoying sometimes, sure. It can be completely angering every now and again. But I encourage you to be thankful. Look for the growth and commend each other–spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Make an effort to enjoy each other’s activities. Go out of your way to spend time with each other, experiencing new things. 
So what if you’re not very much alike or if ALL the research says your relationship is doomed! Are you willing to prove them all wrong
One really really awesome way to learn more about each other is through reading the books entitled For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. I simply cannot say enough wonderful things about these books. Within hours of reading each chapter and having our perceptions about each other totally rocked, both Kevin and I have made diliberate efforts put into practice what we’ve learned. And the crazy thing? We’re BOTH reaping the benefits! It’s astounding! 
Both books are candid–no fluff. They are easy to understand and give straightforward advice that really works with immediate results. This couple did serious scientific research by interviewing thousands of “regular” men and women. They present their undeniable findings in these small books–each written specifically from the man’s or woman’s perspective. 
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read these books! (women read the Women book, men read Men, of course.) Borrow them from the library, buy them online or at a used book store. Do what you have to to get snag a copy and change your perspective, your marriage, and your life. 
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