Holding our Breaths

When my sister and I were younger and we would go on family vacations to the beach from Ohio, we had an exciting experience of traveling through at least 2 tunnels.  (Being from Ohio—this was very exciting as it was the only time we had ever seen a tunnel like this.)  As we approached the tunnel, we would get ready and as soon as we entered—we held our breath.  Did you ever play this?  We tried to hold our breath for the entire length of the tunnel.  We never made it until I figured out (being the older sister and all) how to breathe through my nose while acting like I was holding my breath.  Then I finally won!  

It’s a silly story and fun memory, but I hadn’t realized until recently how often I hold my breath in my everyday life.  I doubt this is an uncommon practice for us either.  Waiting is part of life, and in waiting we find ourselves holding our breath—waiting to make a decision until something else happens.  

I realized about a year and a half ago that I was struggling with my health.  I was eating a bit too much, eating when I was stressed and not engaging in any physical activity.  I held my breath—waiting until the perfect moment to make the decision to do something different.  Maybe once the kids are in school, maybe once the weather is nicer…the list goes on and on.  And you know what happened—my health continued to suffer, while I was waiting for a sign that it was time to start. 

I was allowing the unknown future to dictate how I lived today. 

In the summer months, our back porch gets direct sunlight from about 1:00 until 5:30.  Summer is about the only time the sun shines on a regular basis in Western Pennsylvania, so that back porch would be the harshest place to sit and watch my kids play in the afternoons.  Yet, I didn’t buy an umbrella for the first two summers we were here.  I was holding my breath—I couldn’t trust how long we would be here.  (This of course is merely a side effect or symptom of being in itinerant ministry.)  But I struggled through those first two summers—just sitting in the sun, not buying an umbrella, literally moving my chair inch by inch to save myself from the sun. 

Again, it’s a silly story, but I think it points to a deeper issue we have as a people.  We live life for the future and not for today.  We hold our breath, waiting to make decisions based on what might happen in the future—and in turn we are miserable in the present.  We don’t allow ourselves to be fully present TODAY. 

There must come a moment when we make the hard decision to exhale.  To breathe deeply the power of the Holy Spirit, surrender to God’s plan and will for our lives and live for today.  To breathe deeply of the courage God gives us to make decisions today that will impact our future.  

We bought that umbrella this Summer.  

I invested in my health this past March. 

I decided the “what if’s” weren’t worth waiting for any longer.  It was time to be fully present today—to embrace the journey now. 

It was time to exhale and breath deeply.  

What I am listening to today.  https://youtu.be/pw8IgPHRBr4

The Drought

I opened my Bible for the 3rd day (almost in a row) and read these words:

“In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”

–1 Samuel 3:1b

You guys, I almost broke down right then and there. This was what I had been feeling for months. The word of the Lord was rare—the presence of the Lord was like non existent. It’s been a rough several months in our little corner of the world, and my devotional time has well, been replaced by survival time—take a shower, pack a box, unpack a box, search the internet…you know…everything else other than read the Bible, or talk to God.

It’s probably what a lot of people would call a spiritual drought. A time in one’s life when you don’t feel connected to God any longer. For me…throw in a little anger at God, some disappointment, some bitterness and sure call it a drought.

Honestly I didn’t even realize the water was drying up until the soil was hard and cracked.  I hardly noticed the absence until well, it was almost too late. So when I read those words from 1 Samuel, I had to sit and wonder how it all happened. How I got here—dried up, bitter, angry, and sad.

My kids have been so cranky lately. It’s like school ended and they lost all ability to be kind to one another and get their shoes on in a timely manner. I was taking note of this for like the 200th time since Memorial Day and it hit me! They have lost all routine. During the school year, we had a routine, and they followed it—they were champs. Now, it is summer, and every thing is just willy nilly—they have no routine, and it is making them crazy.

And that’s when I knew when the drought began to set in. When I lost my routine. When I stopped being intentional about meeting with Jesus on a regular basis. Seriously I have never been a pro at this, never been great at sitting down at xyz time, 365 days a year…but I had my own sense of routine. It was just something I would do, when I had a minute—whether in the morning, mid afternoon, when the kids were watching a show. It just happened—Once I stopped being intentional about spending time with Jesus…well the bitterness, anger and sadness swept right in and took their spot where thankfulness, grace and compassion once stood.

When we have no routine in our spiritual life, our life begins to look a lot like an unsteady, out of control toddler.

Yeah, it is ugly. But I know it doesn’t have to always be ugly. The rest of 1 Samuel 3 depicts the call of Samuel—it takes a little while, but Samuel finally hears from the Lord and the drought ends—and something new begins.

If you are finding yourself in a spiritual drought of your own, know that you are not alone. But also know, that we worship a God who does not desire to be silent in our lives—He desires relationship with us, He desires to speak into our lives transforming us, guiding us, challenging us and comforting us.

Here’s what I have been listening to, to guide me into a renewed relationship with Jesus: New Wine by Hillsong

What has helped you in periods of spiritual drought?

Beauty in Remembrance

For the first time in several years, I have friends. Yeah, I know that sounds super dramatic, but it is actually true. Let’s be real—unless you live in the same town you grew up in, making friends, and building relationships is tough. The normal ways you meet people, when you are in college, or just getting started after college aren’t really either an option or appropriate when you are pregnant with your first kid! Right?!?

Four years ago my husband and I were sent to the little town we are getting ready to leave. Yeah, that’s the life of a Methodist pastor and family.
When we arrived, our son was just 8 months old. I still considered myself a new momma who was pretty much clueless on everything, except I was pretty sure I was screwing everything up when it came to mothering.

You would think, perhaps, that being at a larger church with younger people around, that it may be easier to build relationships…but not really. Life with kids is hard—they pretty much take precedence, and when they are super little they are literally in charge of everything—including your schedule.

When you are a new parent, building a family, entering into a new community—you sometimes need a little push. I got my push from a discipleship program called Wellspring. I completed the year long program twice with two different groups of women. This was the push I needed to open up—to allow myself be vulnerable—to let people know me and love me.
My first group was made up of strong, professional, and independent women. They loved me so well—they celebrated with me when we welcomed our second child to our family and they supported me when I had no idea how to get two kids anywhere. This group of women shared their wisdom with me, and helped me to see beyond the crazy that I was living in with two under two.

During my first year of this program I realized that in order to protect myself from being rejected I would often avoid social situations with women of my own age. I deeply desired relationships with people my own age, in my similar stage of life—but because of fear, I sabotaged myself and never allowed people into my life.

Uncovering this, was transformational in my journey of faith, and it is what pushed me to enter the process again with another group of women—women who were just like me—they were moms. During our weekly meetings, while we prayed together, read Scripture together, shared our struggles and triumphs, our kids played together in the church nursery.

These women loved me so well—they empowered me, and encouraged me. I would like to think we empowered and encouraged each other.  They celebrated with me when I felt called to lead the young mom’s group at the church and they grieved with me when we found out our family was being moved to another church. We walked with each other in the big and in the small of every day life.

IMG_0821

And just like that, I had friends. I know…still a little dramatic. But it’s the friendships—the relationships that I will remember the most. It is a discipleship process that ushered me into seeing a clearer vision of God’s heart for my life that I will remember the most. It is being authentic and brave and vulnerable and pursued that I will remember the most. It is the beauty that I will remember the most.

Surrendered to Joy

There are a lot of transitions in life that are desired—transitions that we ask for—that we are excited about. You know what I mean—transitions like getting married and having children—in so many ways these transitions are something we may have prayed for and yearned for and deeply desired. By no means, does that mean these transitions are somehow easy—I mean hello…
One minute you are dancing at your reception having the time of your life and the next you are washing someones laundry other than your own and learning what it means to do life together.
— Or what about this one—one minute you are planning your gender reveal announcement and the next you are covered in baby puke while the toddler is screaming about a freaking commercial on the tv, all while the dog has puked up something disgusting and oh yeah—you haven’t showered in days.

Even the transitions we ask for are hard—even the transitions we pray earnestly about stretch us and challenge us.

My family is in the midst of experiencing a transition we did not ask for—a transition we have prayed against in many, many ways. Don’t get me wrong, its not like we are being forced against our will in this circumstance, but even in all the complexities that are a part of it, this transition is still one of the most difficult I have ever experienced.

I have spent much of the last few months fighting—fighting against this transition—fighting against the politics that created it—fighting against all the feelings I was feeling and fighting against feeling as though I had no voice. In many ways, I have felt voiceless, helpless, even hopeless.

I have spent much of the last few weeks bitter. Bitterness and anger have risen within me with every box packed. Every time I thought about how my kids might experience this move—bitterness and anger rose within me.

Feeling voiceless, helpless, angry and bitter have been eating away at me. I wonder if you have ever been there? Have you ever found yourself in a place where you have been so angry that you have lost sight of everything else around you? I wonder if you have ever felt so helpless, so bitter that you have lost the ability to see the joy around you?  I even wonder, tonight, if you have been so enraged, so disappointed in those you trusted, so sad that you have turned into a crappy mom, or a crummy dad, an impatient husband or wife?

I have.
I have missed joy.
I have missed the beauty.
I have forgotten the strength, the courage and voice that God has empowered me with.

Today I am making the decision to choose joy.
Today I am making the decision to live surrendered—not surrendered to the bitterness or the anger—but to surrender to God’s ultimate call on my life—the call to live in Christ—and to proclaim Christ to a broken world. But also to use my voice. God has given me a voice—God has given me beauty and courage, and I am making the decision today to stand up for what is right—to choose life, laughter, joy and grace.

Will it be easy? Nope! But even those transitions that we pray for, that we deeply desire aren’t easy—that are hard, they stretch us, challenge us, but will not break us.

This will not break me.

And it will not break you either. 

And I get it–this sounds super cliche, but it is the truth–Those transitions that threaten to break us–those are the transitions, those are the moments in our lives that will make us stronger, braver–those are the moments that will light a fire inside of us, and help us to to once again see what truly matters.  

Friend, no matter what you are facing, no matter what kind of transition you are in the midst of, do not fear—God is with you, and you will not break. You will survive—and ya know what? You are going to do more that survive—you will thrive!

You will experience joy once again.

Tonight, friends, I invite you to find peace and rest in Psalm 30:1-5, for indeed, “Weeping may last through the night, but JOY comes with the morning.”

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave,[a] O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (NLT)

Holy Interruptions

If you are anything like me, you might be someone who likes to have each day planned out and organized.  It isn’t the easiest thing to do with two little kids, but I think it keeps all of us in a better mood.  Last Wednesday was one of those days, when I had several things planned.  The most important thing was taking all of J’s fundraising stuff to the church–ya know, frozen cookie dough, refrigerated pizza’s and other goodies.  They had been taking up a ton of room in my fridge and freezer for almost a week and they had to go!  A group of sweet older ladies meet at the church every Wednesday and they ordered several items, so Wednesday was the day!

You know what happened on Wednesday?  A freaking blizzard.  Everything was cancelled–schools, some businesses, and yep- you guessed it–the ladies weren’t going to make it to the church that morning.  Ugh.  Now I was going to have to drive all around town with two kids in tow and deliver all this food in the snow.

Not at all what I had planned.

Not. At. All.

It was a complete interruption to my plan, to my day, to my expectations.  Even as a mother of two preschool aged kids, interruptions still get to me.  They annoy me, aggravate me, and can send me into a tizzy.

Once the snow slowed down and the roads were mostly cleared we set out to deliver the cookies and pizza.  I admit, I was still bitter that I had to be doing this–that the snow had ruined my plans–I walked up to the first house, leaving the kids in the car, and knocked on the door.  With a container of cinnamon rolls in my hand, an older woman came to the door, who appeared to be quite confused as to who I was and why I was there.  Once she remember purchasing the food a few weeks back, she told me that she had been having a really hard day,

“My husband died in December, and I guess I am just having a really hard day.  Maybe because I haven’t been able to get out too much, haven’t really had many people to talk to.  I actually had been praying today for something to lift my spirits, ” she said with tears forming in her eyes.  Then she looked down at the cinnamon rolls, and looked right into my eyes and said, “You are the answer to my prayers today.” 

Just like that, this mundane task of delivering food, became a holy interruption.

Just like that, this annoyance, this disturbance in my plan for the day, became a gift–a moment for gratitude.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, followed by Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and finally Easter Sunday.  Days filled with expectations, plans, worship services, shopping, dinners, traveling–they will undoubtedly be days filled with interruptions.  Interruptions are indeed a part of life.

How will you respond to the interruptions that pop up in the coming days?

Will they ruin your mood, send you into a tizzy, make an already difficult situation worse?

Or will you invite the Holy into those moments?  Will you allow the risen Christ to enter into those mundane interruptions and transform them into something Holy, something meaningful, something even eternal?

May. It. Be. So. 

 

What I am listening to: In Christ Alone

 

 

 

Grace

I am pretty sure I am failing every day as a mom.  I don’t say this to gain your sympathy–in fact, I don’t know a mom out there, who doesn’t feel like this 6 days out of 7.  It is just a part of mothering–we too often, believe we are failing, believe we aren’t coming through for our kids, believe we are screwing them up, believe we just don’t have what it takes.

It sucks–this part of being a mom.  The constant judging oneself, the constant comparing, the constant feeling of messing up.

And the spiral of despair begins–it starts with just one lie I start believe about myself, about my parenting and all of a sudden I am the worst mom in the world and my kids deserve better!  I mean, good grief–that was fast!  Have you been there?  In that dark moment, when the tears start–when you lock yourself in the bathroom because it is the only room in the house that actually has a lock and you look in the mirror and think to yourself, “What am I missing?!?

GRACE

This is what I am often missing in my mothering–not grace for my kids, because, to be honest, I think I give grace to them often.  I am talking about grace for myself.  I don’t give myself grace.  I am missing GRACE.

Each and every day, I place an immeasurable amount of pressure on myself–I make the day about how much I can accomplish, and because of this–I miss the beautiful moments of grace God gives to me through my children.  I miss grace.

I miss those beautiful moments where I believe God is letting me know that I am just the mom for my kids.

I almost missed a moment this morning.  I was rushed, preoccupied with so many things going on in our life right now–that as I drove to church with the kids, I almost didn’t notice.  I almost didn’t notice, our four year old, J, singing along with the radio.  I almost didn’t notice, his sweet little voice belting out with confidence and trust, “Your love defends me, your love defends me.”

I almost didn’t notice. 

I almost didn’t notice God’s grace bestowed in that moment.

I almost didn’t notice God assuring me that I am a good mom.

I almost didn’t notice my son, singing praises to the God I hope and pray he will one day commit his life to.  

I almost didn’t notice.

I hope that I am never too overwhelmed, too stressed, too preoccupied that I miss another beautiful moment like this.

May God open our eyes, that we might see grace, give grace and receive grace in the every day mothering moments we are faced with and blessed with.

 

What J Is Singing in the Car


 

Trust Me

I was sitting on the floor cradling a crying 2 year old, calming whispering in her ear, “just trust me, trust me, I only want the best for you—just trust me.” I really don’t remember what she had done, but it was devastating in her little world. And it was something that I had apparently tried to guide her away from, but, well things didn’t work out the way I would have liked—they ended in tears.

This was not the first time, I had said those words to one of my kids, “just trust me—all you need to do is trust me.” No, I say them often, more often that I would like. Isn’t it obvious that my children, at 2 and 4 would trust me.

And in so many ways, I am them. How many times must God be saying the same thing to me over and over again. “Just trust me, Melissa…all you need to do is trust me, I have your best interests in my heart.

Ah, but why, why am I still that little kid putting her hand on the hot stove—-knowing I will get burned, yet, I do it anyways, almost every. single. time.

I dont trust. I do it on my own. I rely on my own independence to take care of me, of my family, of my kids, of my future. I place my hand on the hot stove and cry out in pain.

And there it is again, that still small voice, whispering in my ear, “Just trust me, child. Trust me, and I will give you peace, I will give you life, I will give you joy…surrendering to me will bring you life.

Living surrendered is a daily, moment by moment decision I must make. In the midst of the messiness of life, it isn’t easy to rest in the grace of Jesus—and yet,

this is what I am called to do–live surrendered.

this is who I am called to be–a surrendered child of God.

Every day there is another part of my life that demands surrender—demands an overhaul. And so every day in the midst of the beautiful mess I call my life, I make the decision to hand it over to Jesus—to give him everything—to live a surrendered life.

What part of your life is God calling you to surrender today? What is standing in your way of surrendering to Him? What could possibly be available to you on the other side?

What I am listening to: Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) -Hillsong United

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBJJJkiRukY