The One with Watoto

Spending an hour in worship with beautiful African children whose love of Jesus shines from every inch of their being is such an incredibly moving experience. The Watoto African Children’s Choir came to our church on Friday evening for a concert, and managed to blessed our hearts, move us in the depths of our spirits, and call us to a fuller life of following our Almighty God.
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It was impossible for me to hear their stories–young lives impacted by such loss and pain–and not feel called to deeper ministry. These 22 children (and their 2000 “siblings” in the Watoto Village in Kampala, Uganda) have lost all of their parents to HIV AIDS and rampant wars. They have seen more death and experienced more devastation than most of us will in a lifetime. Hundreds of babies are discarded on the streets of Uganda, in toilets, dumpsters, sewage drains–abandoned by young girls unable to care for them. Watoto founders began a ministry branching off their child sponsorship program called Baby Watoto to nurse these babies back to health.

And here I sit in my comfortable living room, complete with television, ice cold glass of water, full stomach, and warm blankets galore.

How?

HOW do I sit here in my abundance and continue on as I always have? Pursuing what? Home ownership? A car manufactured in this decade? More space for my ever growing collection of shoes? It’s interesting to notice the alterations God is making in my spirits. I was just sharing my experience with clearing out my overflowing closets and being convicted, and now this? And for weeks now, each time I turn on the faucet and let it run freely as I wash the dishes, I have been seen the faces of widows and orphans seeking clean hydration.

And through all of those moments, I hear the words of James 1:27–

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

For now, though, I am praying I won’t forget this feeling, this churning in my depths. God, use me, use us for your glory. Mold us to be fit for your plan, for truly affecting your Kingdom. Let us not go on living for ourselves, but willing, truly, wholly willing to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Open our ears and our minds to be in tune with where “our” world is–today and years from now.

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“Uncle” Ronny was one of the adult vocalists,
a “parent” to two boys on this 6 month tour, and stayed with us Friday night. 
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This, THIS is true worship.

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Kevin and me with our household of boys.
Uncles* Mike and Ronny, Justus (13), Peter (11), Brian (11), and David (9).
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*All of the children in Uganda refer to adults as Aunty or Uncle out of respect and love. 
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The One with the Miracle of Mercy Land

It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to River Jordan’s novel, The Miracle of Mercy Land. There is so much emotion, so much suspense, so much frustration, so much beauty, so much triumph.  
This book tells the story of the young woman named Mercy Land who was born and raised on the back rivers of Bittersweet Creek under the faith and wisdom of her Mama and Daddy and her Aunt Ida Mae. Throughout the story, she continually recognizes the impact those individuals have had on her life–on making her who she has become. Mercy has a beauty and softness accompanied by a strength and fierceness that are unrivaled, and she uses her unique mix of character qualities to alter the path of her life. 
 She is committed to her work at The Banner, the Bay City paper, and will go to any lengths to present a full, honest story. Mercy is also influenced by Doc Phillips, editor-in-chief of the newspaper. This old sage and mentor of Miss Land, comes in contact with a book that has the potential for changing his life–and the lives of everyone he’s ever met. He and Mercy face impossible decisions, all while fighting the overwhelming pull of the mysterious book. 
Throughout this gripping story of love, of commitment, of heartbreak and restoration, the reader joins Mercy and Doc as they play with destiny in a very real way. 
I highly recommend this novel! Special thanks to WaterBrook Publishing for providing me with this book for reviewing. 
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The One with My Baking

In case you didn’t know this already, I love to bake and cook and create in the kitchen. My love of baking stems back to my toddler days when I would spend hours with Mrs. S, our pastor’s wife. At that time, my mom was struggling with debilitating migraines, and Mrs. S stepped in to take care of me on various afternoons. She let me help her bake up numerous batches of her famous chocolate chip cookies, teaching me how to measure and stir, all the while instilling in me a love for the kitchen.
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I fostered my love of baking for the next many years of my life, but it wasn’t until I got married that my inner chef was truly unleashed. I give my darling husband credit for teaching me the art of cooking. I was a recipe-only cook before him, but now I’m creating my own recipes left and right. A little of this, maybe a little of that. The trick is documenting exact amounts of my random use of ingredients. :) 
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These past few years, I’ve watched hours of cooking shows, read countless cookbooks, and searched hundreds of amazing recipe blogs. I’ve learned my own techniques from watching the pros and discovered my favorite resources along the way. 
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In case you’ve never visited my recipe blog (www.adorkablerecipes.blogspot.com) or it’s been a while, you should really check it out. Between our new Canon Rebel, my growing photography skills, and my increased drive to create in the kitchen, The Adorkable Recipes is quite the happening place. 
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linked up with The Goodwin Family’s Wednesday’s Walk
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The One with Too Much Stuff

I’m blessed. Or a bit materialistic. Or both. This past week, I have spent hours going room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet in an effort to rid ourselves of the stuff that has built up over the months. 
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Currently, I am overwhelmed by the pile of bags and boxes that sits by my back door. I am stunned by the gifts we’ve been given, the funds we’ve had to accumulate so much. Yet, I’m also looking at the face of greed and selfishness, and I just want it OUT. 
Rid me of this, dear Jesus. 
No, having “things” doesn’t automatically make me a sinner. And although I never went to the store or the garage sale chanting, “More, more, more!” the pile tells me otherwise. Why did I ever need two extra drawers and a second closet for all of my clothes when so many people are barely covered by tattered tshirts? Why do I have 8 sweatshirts and almost that many coats when thousands fall asleep freezing at night? 
Dear Jesus, thank you for bringing me a new awareness of your heart, your world. Move me to make a real difference. When I want something new, bring someone else’s need to mind. Instill in me a constant attitude of contentment. Please, Lord, don’t let me forget this feeling.
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On Seeking Perfection

I am Melanie, and I am letting go of perfection. 
This is a scary thing for two reasons. 1) I am a seeker of perfection and have often driven myself crazy as I strive. 2) Doesn’t Jesus call us to be perfect just as He is perfect
Yes, he does, but he doesn’t call us to work and achieve and beat ourselves up when we fail. He calls us to himself, He draws us near, and the closer we become to His heart, the more in unison our hearts will beat with His. The goal is not the trying, the striving. The goal is to be Holy as I AM is Holy. We can only reach such perfection when we release our efforts and accept the life changing, new-covenant-making, total atonement of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 
He became our once-for-all sacrificial lamb
This doesn’t mean we give up, stop seeking, or accept our sinful state as part of the deal. Absolutely NOT. By receiving that redemptive blood of Christ over your sinful heart, you have been given new life. We begin to stumble along beside our Master and experience discipleship for all it’s worth. We are created to learn from Him, to long to be like Him. 
It all starts with believing in the Lord Jesus and accepting His all-surpassing grace and love into our lives. Then we offer all we have back to him–our love. Jesus will know the truth of our love by our obedience, and our obedience is simply the outpouring of our heart’s desire to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  
There is no striving, no achieving involved. Only grace. Only love. Only pursuit of the One who has given us life. We can’t know our Lord intimately and not experience His holiness as a part of our life. He commanded us to be perfect, knowing it would be the natural result of a life truly and wholly in love with Him. 
Freedom.

The One with the Huge Savings!

Now that you know I’m a penny pincher, you might have guessed I’m not a big fan of shopping. I love grocery shopping–I really do!–but I’ve never been anything close to the typical female shopaholic. When I do feel like shopping, I love going it alone–with my goal in mind and no reason to feel like I’m holding others back. I could spend half an hour looking through one sales rack, after all. My mom has always been my favorite shopping mate, most likely because I learned my habits from her. :) 
Yesterday morning, I had a wonderful date with myself and Kohl’s. After spending an hour last week purging my dresser of clothes I haven’t worn in years, shouldn’t wear again, or are around just for sentimental purposes and have a few too many stains. It was a good feeling. (And I’m sure Kevin will appreciate having half of his dresser back. Yeah, it was bad.) What better way to celebrate that multi-pile purge, than to take yourself on a little clothes shopping spree?! 
Armed with a list, a 30% off coupon, and my gift cards, I was totally stoked. I quickly found the tank tops I desperately needed–and they were 50% off! (Seriously, you should have seen what I was wearing before. blech.) For the next hour, I pushed aside hanger after hanger on the 5 racks of 70% and 80% off sale items. I even pursued the shoe section and came up super lucky! New Balance running shoes–one pair!–a size 8!–for $21! woah! 
In the end, with all of my gift cards and discounts, I spent $17 and saved $360! Four beautiful blouses. Running shoes. Two tank tops, a bra, and a belt. I say that was a morning well-spent.  
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The One with the Window Shopping

I’m a window shopper. I enjoy going into a mall or a department store or even a furniture store and just looking. I can try on outfits, imagine that new couch in my living room, or become emotionally attached to the latest food processor, but when it comes time to check out, I can walk away having not spent a dollar
This is a good thing. It’s wonderful to have self-control, right? And to get to spend time with my favorite companion (or my mom :D) while walking the mall is a bonus. I am totally ok with day dreaming and never opening my wallet.
But this is also a bad thing–for one reason. My husband and I share a bank account. Since I’m the tight pursed-one, I tend to call the shots on how we spend our money. This isn’t always the way it should be. Sometimes I make the decisions because he leaves it up to me or because he asks. Other times, though, my domineering side comes out and wam! bam! I take over. Not. cool. Besides this small rather large weakness of mine, the never-spending-money-always-window-shopping thing keeps my wonderful husband from being able to spoil bless me with a gift now and again. He loves buying me things. And I never let him. 
Why would anyone do that? 

I’m convinced, I’m a little insane at times. 
However, in the moments when my window-shopping is in a mode of positive fun, I love browsing Craigslist or Amazon or CSN stores and dreaming till my heart’s content. One particular item that could only ever be in my dreams is this Eames lounge chair. wowzers. Can you imagine the stress relief of stretching out in that chair? oh. my. 
But, like I said, I can’t spend money. Or at least I can’t spend my money. Which is why I can confess that I’m about to take myself on a little Kohl’s shopping spree with the Christmas gift cards Mom and Dad gave me along with my 30%-off-everything-in-the-store card. There are a few essentials I need–such as white tank tops/undershirts. I have three right now. But none of them are white. Gross, much? 
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The One with Our Love Story. [part 5]

If you’ve been reading along as I retell our love story, hand written by our Great God, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and The Proposal.
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And here we are, six and a half years, two college degrees, one white dress, and 2-1/2 years of marriage later. He’s still hilarious. I’m still a spaz. He still calms me like no other. I still make him chuckle. It’s a beautiful thing to be in love.
We’ve had our share of hard times–what do you expect from a relationship between two hard-headed, Type A, “I’m always right”, my-way-or-the-highway firstborns? But WE are exactly what God wants us to be. He’s the logical to my emotional, the strong to my weak, the procrastinator to my over-achiever, the peanut butter to my jelly. 
He’s my lobster
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I love you, Babe.

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The One with Our Love Story. [part 4]

continued from our love story [Part 1] [Part 2] and [Part 3].  



The Perfect Proposal

August 21st, 2007

as recorded by Melanie just days later.
Melanie had spent the evening at Kevin’s house and around 10:30pm he was driving her back to Somerset Beach Camp (where she lived and worked for the summer). He started reminiscing about his childhood years spent there, and they both agreed that it was a blessing to have shared a summer of camp counseling alongside one another. As they were pulling into the drive, Melanie suggested they go for a walk on the trails around the lake since neither of them had done so in 2 years. They made their way out to “The Point” (a narrow jut of land in the middle of Mission Lake), and Kevin’s arms were immediately wrapped around her.  As they were standing there in the cool fog, hearing the water lapping against the shore, and lovingly gazing into one another’s eyes, they realized what a perfect night it was. 
For nearly a half hour Kevin went on and on about how much he was blessed by Mel. He told her how he had always had confidence in their relationship, and that God had granted him complete peace about their future together. After a few more precious moments Kevin said, “But there’s one more thing left to do.” With that, he got down on one knee and said, “Melanie Marie, will you marry me?” Melanie responded quickly with a gleeful Of course!”
He placed the ring on her finger, but since it was dark she didn’t bother looking at it right away. When she finally asked to see it, he shone the flashlight on it and tears rushed to both of their eyes.  The white gold that wrapped around the central diamonds and the eight smaller gems flanking it on either side was exactly what Melanie would have asked for if she could have come up with the image of that perfect symbol of everlasting commitment.  For the remainder of their time together, they laughed, shared their dreams, and embraced the moment and one another. It was absolutely perfect!

The One with Our Love Story. [part 3]

continued from [Part 1] and [Part 2]
All my family ever heard about was “Kevin this” and “Kevin that.” Things really turned a corner when my birthday rolled around. Kevin woke up at 7:20 to meet me in the DC with a birthday card. So sweet. He left a note on my chemistry seminar door that say, “Happy Birthday, Melanie. She’s 19 today.” He passed a cute note to a mutual friend who left it for me to find on my dorm room desk after class. (He was encouraging me to leave my homework for later and enjoy the night. Little did he know he would be trying to get me to relax for the rest of his life.) And then he came with me a few friends to a Sanctus Real concert. (Unfortunately, we were the only people at the concert, but it still rocked.) 
A week before Thanksgiving Break, I was working on a big research paper in the library…on a Saturday night. (I seriously don’t know what this guy saw in me. I was lame.)  Every 10 minutes I’d check my email and have another one waiting from him. He was so distracting. I was completely intoxicated with him. Finally, he decided we “needed to talk.” I met him in the lounge of his smelly dorm building, thinking the worst. (Thinking the worst is my default. Not the best habit to have.)
He sat me down and said, “I don’t want to rush you, but I want you to know I’m ready to take our relationship to the next step. I would like to date you, Melanie, but I will wait for you as long as you need. Go home for break and think about it. We’ll talk when you get back.” 
That was the longest holiday break of my college career. I was thinking, mulling, talking to family and friends. When I had made my decision, I had to sit in a car for close to 8 hours (rather than 4-1/2) in Thanksgiving traffic. It was torture
We pulled back onto campus, and I called him up immediately. We met in the Cougar Den–the little “cafe” connected to the DC. I told him, “YES!” as soon as we sat down. We talked for quite some time about who knows what, and on our way back to our dorms, I asked, “So now what?” I had no idea what to expect, what to do next, what was “supposed” to happen when you’re dating someone. Kevin chuckled and said, “Don’t worry about it. Just keep being you and the rest will fall into place.” 
So that’s what I did.

Read Part 4 HERE.

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this post linked up with The Goodwin Family’s Wednesday’s Walk
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