Beauty after the Boom (Fireworks)

As a child, I was terrified of fireworks, specifically the loud sound they made. I mean, c’mon, those noises can be loud (please tell me I’m not alone in this). My parents would patiently comfort me, giving me ear muffs to lessen the noise. I would sit trembling even before the fireworks started, the anticipation of the frightening noise scaring me just as much (or maybe more) than the actual event.

Then it would happen. There would be a beautiful display of lights shooting through the air in various colors. I would sit mesmerized by the beauty, even seeing past my fear for the reward at the end.

How often have I let the fear of something (whether real or perceived) hold me back from the beauty God is trying to show me?

The magnificent display of lights after the boom is worth the scariness. When we push through what scares us, we can see the beauty on the other side. Even if the beauty is really hard to see and our fears are big and legitimate, God is always there with us and that in itself is beauty.

Let’s not stop when something scares us, instead keeping on to see the magnificent works of God being displayed. Let the fireworks you see this year remind you of perseverance and God’s beauty.

Changing Seasons

If I’m honest with you today, I am both excited and weary. This time of year is full of changes, especially this year. Recently there was graduation for local high schools and the last day of school for many of our local students. This month also marks big changes in the pandemic response, with more places and events opening up and the mask mandate being lifted. There is also the changing of the actual season from spring to summer (I know technically summer doesn’t start until June 20th, but it’s getting hot and that marks summer for me). All of these changes ignite excitement in me for future activities and getting to sleep in a little bit each morning now that we don’t have to rush to school.

But I am also weary and anxious. When things start changing and time keeps going by at lightning speed, I get a little sad. Both my youngest daughter and I celebrated our birthdays this week, which is just another reminder we are growing older and moving on to another year of life. Kids are growing up and people are moving and life is going on whether we want it to or not. We try to freeze frame special occasions and etch memories into our brains because we don’t want to miss out, to miss these precious moments.

We’ve seemingly missed out on a lot this past year when we didn’t have gatherings or special occasions together with loved ones and it makes me sad. Friend, I see you sitting quietly thinking about loved ones who may no longer be with us, or who have moved on to another stage in their life and things are different. I see the pent up tears hiding behind a smile (or mask).

So my question is what are we to do? Well, for me, I need to remember God’s promises and fill my thoughts with gratitude for what he has done for me, for the moments he has given me with loved ones. I can be thankful I have these seasons to remind me that God is my focus and He is holding me through life’s changes.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s not fret about life passing by too quickly or missing out on things, but let’s instead use these changing seasons to grow our faith in God, allowing Him to stretch us and bring us closer to Him.

Happy Friday friends, Melissa

Fighting against braces

My oldest got braces yesterday. This is a day we knew was coming for awhile now, but it didn’t make it any easier. My girl was brave and sat there and let Dr. Brown work her magic on her teeth, getting the braces put on. Macy was so anxious and nervous. She made it through the rest of the day okay with only a few meltdowns over pain, food, and brushing. She tries hard to overcome and push through but sometimes she feels stuck and overwhelmed. So here we are on day 2 eating soft foods, brushing just the way they showed us, and taking pain meds. Multiple times Macy has cried out “I don’t want braces! They hurt! Take them off!” I sit with her and reassure her that the braces are necessary and we cannot remove them. Having them removed will make her teeth worse off in the long run, I remind her, and we are going through this pain right now so her teeth and whole mouth will be healthy in the future. I am trying to be patient and loving as she struggles through the meltdown.

As I have watched this sweet girl fight back against her braces I wonder if we don’t do this in other areas of our lives as well. How many times have I fought back against some pain or problem I had, only to find out later it actually helped me? The times I have faced troubles are the times I have grown closer to God. My faith has deepened during trials, even if I have initially pushed away from God. God is always there waiting patiently for me while I throw a fit, and when I am done He is there to assure me that all things work together for His good.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Does this mean I want to go through trials? Absolutely not. Does this mean I will look to God and lean on Him in trials, knowing that it may be helping me grow stronger for the future? Yes! Friends, I don’t know what your problems are, and what areas of your life are throwing you a curve ball right now, but I do know the One you can turn to to be with you in your trials. Let’s stop fighting against God when things don’t go our way and lean in to Him. Who knows? Maybe someday we will look back and see how that fire we went through refined us and made us stronger and better able to handle situations now. Maybe our “braces” will help straighten our life out.

By the way, I am taking braces advice from anyone who knows what they are doing because I am a rookie and I have no idea what I am doing.

Do we see good today?

Do you think the disciples thought that Friday was good? Do you think they found any good that Friday when they saw Jesus, their leader, their Savior, their Messiah, die? I am sure they were hopeless, lost, afraid, and feeling stuck. Can you relate? Many of us have experienced tragedies, losses, and deep grief that makes us feel like all is lost.

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” Matthew 27:50

Here’s the thing. Jesus’ followers didn’t know about Resurrection Sunday, that the Messiah would rise and free us from sin and death on the third day after his death. Sure, Jesus had spoke about what would happen, but I don’t think the disciples truly got it until Sunday. Now 2000 years later, we call it “Good Friday” because we know the rest of the story. We know Jesus rises and defeats death.

Are there areas of our lives that we can’t see as good, though, until later when we have the ability to use hindsight? Sometimes when we are in the thick of battle we can’t see the good, but later on we can see at least a bit of how God was with us and working during our hardest times. 

Today, on Good Friday, let’s focus on what Jesus sacrificed for us on that cross and how He is still with us today when we go through troubles. He suffered more than I can ever imagine and He did it for me and for you. And He still steps in for you and me today.  When we suffer, when there is death, when we are lost, when we think we can’t possibly go on, Jesus is there, friend, and will never leave you. Today I am focusing on the crucifixion, even if it’s uncomfortable, because I want to understand deep in me what Jesus went through for me, His grace and mercy on this day. It brings tears to my eyes, but I know in my heart it truly is a “Good” Friday. 


Looking for the good

Whack!  A small hand comes across my face waking me from my sleep.  I roll over and look at my sleeping 6 year old.  I try to get comfortable on the twin mattress we are sleeping on together on our kitchen floor.  An hour later I’m woken again.  “Mommy, I’m cold.”  I pull the layers of blankets up over her and she drifts back off to sleep.  I laid there for a while unable to go back to sleep.  My mind started drifting to our momentary troubles, no electricity for several days.  I started getting down in the dumps, going down that black hole of negativity, but then turned and saw the small space heater we were using to keep our house pipes from freezing.  It was plugged in to our small generator outside and it was doing its job.  I was reminded that God is still there.  He is still faithfully working, like our space heater, even if we still experience discomfort.  God is sustaining us, keeping us afloat and surviving.  There is good even in this not ideal situation.

I looked over at the other mattress next to ours where my husband and other daughter slept.  I was overwhelmed with peace that we were all together.  God was showing me how to look for the good, the blessings, despite the chaotic circumstances surrounding me.  Friends, how can we look for the good, the blessings, in less than ideal circumstances?  We can pray.  We come close to God, releasing ourselves to Him, looking to Him when we don’t know what else to do.

The past few weeks have presented an extra challenge for us all.  We’ve all lived through an “unprecedented” storm during an “unprecedented” pandemic.  (I’m quite alright if I never hear the word “unprecedented” again for a while.)  The whole past year has been hard.  Each of us has encountered negative circumstances and troubles.  When we’ve lost it all or see no end in sight, it can really get us down.  The only way I know to get out of the muck I’m in is to reach out to God.  He’s always there and there are good things He wants to show us.  It may look like the sun shining outside after a week of ice and snow.  It may look like being able to go to a neighbor’s house for a warm fire.  It may look like someone texting you just to tell you they are praying for you.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8 NIV

When I think about circumstances this way, I am overcome with gratitude.  Looking for the good, how God is working, has changed my attitude.  I need to remember to look up to God, instead of down at my own problems and negativity.  Look up, friends.  God is there.

Feeling known, not forgotten

To The One Who Feels Like They Don't Fit In — The Wild and Free

Okay, I’m going to be real here. As many of you in Texas have been also, I went 6 days with no electricity/power (not even a smidge), and 10 days with no power to the water well pump and therefore no water at all. It has been hard, so hard, but I am trying to count my blessings. One thing I wasn’t counting on is my pride and jealousy flaring up. Every time I got on social media the past couple of weeks and saw people complaining about rolling blackouts or having to boil water, I got upset. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely happy for my friends who have water and power, but I can’t seem to stop comparing circumstances and feeling sorry for myself. I even felt justified in my prideful attitude because I had it worse than others and I tried not to complain about it. (I cringe reading what I just wrote because I am ashamed that I felt this way. Keep reading and you will see how God knocked me down a notch or two in humility).

Don’t we all do this sometimes? We get self-focused. We want to feel known. We want our hardships acknowledged and felt by others. We don’t want to be forgotten. Here’s the thing, though. We want others to acknowledge our hardships, but do we acknowledge theirs?

There were and are still so many people who have had it way worse than me. I hate the way my emotions were controlling me and I didn’t like the frustrating feelings that were coming up. God came to me in the midst of those feelings and let me know He heard me. He hadn’t forgotten me and He knew all about me. God went on to impress upon me that I needed to help others feel that way also. I need to let others know they are not forgotten. God whacked me upside the head (evidently I can be stubborn and needed a good whack to get through to me) and told me to stop focusing on my own issues, but think about others. So I did and realized I was being self-centered. I am known and God does acknowledge my hardships. And now he wants me to help ease the burdens of others. God has shown me through this ice storm that I need to look outside of my needs to the needs of others and how I can help them feel known. I want to acknowledge other people’s hardships and work to help them however I can.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.” Psalm 139:1-3 NLT

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

Friends, you are not along in your struggles. Even if you think no one cares, there is always Someone who does and His name is Jesus. He knows your situation intimately. Let’s turn to Jesus before all else. How can we help others feel known and loved and not forgotten?

Under the Sea

My husband and I took the kids fishing at the coast last week.  As you may remember, I previously did not have much patience with my family while fishing, but this time it was a great, happy, relaxing time.  As I was relaxing on the bow of the boat (that’s the front part for those of you who, like me, had to ask your husband or someone who know about boats), I looked down into the clear saltwater.  There was so much going on down there under the water…shells, crabs moss, fish, and dolphins (yes the dolphins did come up for air but you never knew when or where).  I thought about how a whole ecosystem is going on under the surface of the water that we can’t even see.  I couldn’t get over how there was so much more going on than what I could see above the surface.

Isn’t life sometimes like this?  We can only see the surface of people, what they are like on the outside and what they show us.  There could be a whole other life going on in that person we have no idea about….problems at home, health issues, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, the list goes on and on.

“He will delight in obeying the Lord.  He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.”  Isaiah 11:3 NLT

“Stop judging based on the superficial.  First you must embrace the standards of mercy and truth.” John 7:24 TPT

It is important for us to remember there is so much more going on than what we can see on the outside, the surface if you will.  Instead of judging someone who says something rude, let’s instead be kind because perhaps they have been hurt or are going through a stressful situation we don’t know about.

Let’s reach out to others, forming community and reaching below the surface in our lives and others.  Maybe that looks like a phone call or a text or a handwritten note (my favorite).  It may look like listening and being available to help others out.  It could be setting aside our differences to work together for God’s kingdom.

Let’s remind each other to give people grace.  They could be drowning in a flood we don’t know about.

Light through the clouds

I love the start of a new year. It gives me a new start and lets me evaluate my life and my goals for the next year. This year I am picking a word of the year. After a couple of weeks of prayer and asking God what he wants me to focus on this year, I heard the word “light”. So this is what I am focusing on, trying to find the light of God around me and trying to be the light to others.

I have been reading in Genesis looking for light, first in the creation story and God bringing light out of the darkness, and then in the story of Noah. Now, you are probably familiar with Noah and the famous ark he built when God told him he would flood the earth. As I was reading through the story this time, I was struck by the rain. Rain and flooding was an unfamiliar concept to them. When it was pouring rain, a torrential downpour, it must have been dark. The sun was probably not shining. Even though God had spoke to him and told him what would happen, Noah probably still felt helpless, afraid, and alone in the dark of the ark with a whole zoo of animals.

Don’t we sometimes feel this way also? Even when we are following God’s ways, we may still have periods of darkness. We may not be able to see the outcome or how good could come from our circumstances. These periods could cause us to question God, but let’s hold on to faith, trusting there will be light when the rain stops and there may possibly even be a rainbow. You can’t have a rainbow without light. God’s covenant with Noah through the rainbow is about His light coming to us through the clouds of our troubles, worries, etc.

“When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature of earth.” Genesis 9:16

Our world today can seem like this frightening darkness, and we are holed up in an ark (or maybe just a small rowboat). Will we let the darkness overtake us or will we look for the light, the rainbow, God’s promise to us?

Peace in this abnormal Christmas season

“Why can’t things just be normal? Why do I have this new health issue coming up now?  I just want to do the normal Christmas things we do every year.  C’mon, it’s the Christmas season.”

I was having a pity party for myself.  I sat worrying about my health and life and didn’t want Christmas to be less than perfect this year.  That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  I mean, it is 2020 after all.  I wanted the normal joy and excitement.

As I sat there on my couch ruminating, I saw the nativity my kids set up a few weeks ago.  It was so cute, peaceful, and perfect looking.  But really, was that first Christmas really like that?  Mary and Joseph were dirty and weary from travel.  Mary was probably sweaty and disheveled after giving birth in less than ideal (and less sanitary) circumstances.  And the stink of the shepherds…don’t get me started.

Mary’s situation was not at all what she could have predicted.  She could have complained and had a pity party for herself (maybe she did a little bit?), but she carried on, fulfilling her responsibilities and trusting God through it all.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

A peace began to settle over me as I sat wrapped up in my cozy blanket.  God spoke to my spirit, “You can trust and praise me in uncertain times, just like Mary did.  You can have peace.”

It is hard for me to pry my fingers loose from my worries and release them.  If I’m being honest, sometimes it is hard to trust God when I am so caught up in my worries, when I am focusing on what is wrong.  Things are rarely perfect, especially not this year, but let’s not let that ruin our Christmas or our New Year.  Let’s allow our trials to bring us closer to Christ, trusting Him above all this Christmas and the start of the New Year – above all health issues, above all relationship issues, above all worries surrounding the pandemic.  Let us remember Mary and how that first Christmas wasn’t ideal either.  Let us trust God.  Let’s focus not on what is going wrong, but on Who is coming, Jesus Christ.

Grateful for fallen leaves

I look and see the ground covered in leaves, dead leaves that have fallen off the trees. I look up and see the now empty tree, devoid of its leaves. It looks almost sad, weary, and weak. I look back down at the leaves. I can’t help but notice how beautiful they look in all the oranges, yellows, and reds. They are pretty, even when they have fallen off the tree to make way for new life in the spring.

Sometimes we need to have parts of us die also, like these leaves had to fall from the tree. These parts of us that need to die may look pretty on the outside when we are adorned with them. People may think we have it all together with our pretty leaves and everything looking peachy keen (I do not have it all together, not in the least little bit, so if you are thinking that, just know I am crazy over here). These “leaves” may even be good things, but they have taken the place of better things and now need to be taken down to their proper place.

What parts of you need to fall off, to “leave”? Stress? Worry? Anger? Over-commitment and extreme busyness?

Once we have shed these “leaves” we may feel bare, weary, and exposed, much like the empty trees looked. We have to remember, though, that God is working behind the scenes making new life appear. This week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, can we be grateful for these things we have shed?

We need to see the beauty in the shedding of our “leaves”. When we are grateful for ALL things, including the not so good things and the good things we need to let go of, we become more healthy and joyful, more resilient and more able to trust in God.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Hebrews 12:1a

Where are you at today? Are you bare? Do you have leaves that need to be shed? Or are you sprouting new, healthy leaves? Let this Thanksgiving bring gratefulness even though it is the mess we call 2020. Strip off the weight, the leaves, and be free. I am thankful for you reading this and will be praying for you!

Please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message letting me know how I can pray for you!

Your sister in Christ,