Thursday, October 24, 2019

Step One: Say "Yes" to God {With an Online Book Club Invitation for Moms of Birth-12th Graders}

The Sioux Falls tornado took out our fence. All sides were destroyed.

“We have to get this fixed,” I told my husband. “The dog.”

He responded with confidence, “I don’t think we have to worry about her. She’s stayed in this space her whole life. She’s not going to explore now.”

But the next day Zoey proved him wrong, trapsing her tiny little self right over to undiscovered territory in the boulevard. 

I took a picture to send Charlie’s way just to be a smart aleck, like any good Proverbs 31 wife would, and then I watched her. 

Because I was intrigued.

She’d always lived happily within a boundary but with walls down there was new opportunity to be examine grass and leaves and cement that she wasn’t about to pass up.

I often live my life in safety. I do what I know I’m good at. I prayerfully dream with purpose but admittedly make calculated decisions.

I like the fence and, as I watched an exploratory Zoey, I knew Charlie’s comment was striking me. 

When the barriers blow over and the gates open wide will you try something new, Melissa, or will you keep to what you’ve always done?

Motherhood is hard. It’s busy and taxing and we question if we are getting it right. Meanwhile, we see everyone’s highlight reel in public and on social media and the lonely “not enough” feeling creeps up, uninvited and crushing, in our minds.

One day in my work I was visiting a mom friend living some tough stuff. Sharing real life and nurturing relationship over a good cup of coffee, we shared stories and I asked her if I could pray. Then she looked up at me. “I’d like to use this time to grow my faith.”

I’m giving you space to explore something new.

The Holy Spirit stirred in me.

My inkling was to create new community for moms to cheer each other. A book study done differently than any way I’d ever done one before was on my heart. One that any mom could do regardless of her work schedule, volunteer commitments or timing she needed to be her child’s Uber.

But I didn’t feel confident in having all the answers so I gave God my safe “prayerful considerations” and remained in territory I knew well.

Then a mom messaged me. “It seems like you have it all together. How do you do it all?”

And I replied in truth, “I don’t.”

There is community in this. We moms belong together in that we all feel imperfect. Our common thread is that we are trying our best each day to meet life’s demands, honor our commitments, and love our children well but rarely do we lay our head on the pillow at night and think, “Well, I got today perfect.”

Lucky for us, we are loved by a perfect God.

I’ve cleared the way. Take the steps. Make it happen.

Our church is beginning a Belong series. In true form, I began planning like a boss. An Inside Out Movie and Pizza Shuffle to create meaningful parent/child discussion about feelings in a fun way. An original Skittles Chat Take Out Church to generate conversations around belonging in homes. Kindness Rocks in the hallway for people to share with loved ones and friends in need of prayer. A Make and Take Snack Plate Cross+Gen to gift to another in this season of gratitude.

Congratulations. You nailed your strengths. And what of all the siloed moms?  Go there, too.

So, I’m saying “yes.”



OverBOOKed Moms will take place through a private Facebook group (confession: I spent a nerdish amount of hours researching best ways to do an online study together) for mothers with a birth to twelfth grade child. Our read will be Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequst. I’m praying the format allows mothers to grow closer to God, engage in conversation at any time of the day or night that works for their family schedule, and that in hearing understanding we might be more comfortable in our own skin. For it is only when we are filled that we can give our best to our loved ones around us.

I sent an email to my families at church and the group requests instantly came. Responses brought tears to my eyes and I once again found myself humbled and saying to the Lord, “You were right.”

I invited our mothers to let their friends outside of our congregation know about this community, because they belong, too. And that is happening. So I invite you, moms of birth through twelfth grade children, as well. 

It’s new territory for me, and there’ll be a little learning as we go, but I can’t wait to see how God meets us here and look forward to joy in cheerleading each other on.

Blessings,
Melissa 


Friday, July 5, 2019

Nora Hallard the Mallard's Ducklings: A July 5 Miracle


This time it was my husband. Not me.

But for the same reason.

Last Saturday Charlie was pulling weeds when he discovered another nest in our flowers.

Nora Hallard the Mallard, or one of her friends, was back and the Nesdahls five were over the moon



Officially on baby watch.

We watched mama bird with intrigue this week. Her nest was immediately outside Grace’s window and I won’t tell you how much time we sat watching her make way back to her eggs this week. You won’t think we have a life. I will tell you the cheer you suddenly have for a bird and hope you feel in seeing new life is real.

We approached this day uncertain how it would feel. Three years ago today Charlie’s dad, Gary, died and we still miss him. Add on top of that my three year anniversary in starting my job I so love and you can understand how July 5 serves up a calendar day of awkward. We still anticipate it with heaviness.

The phone rang this morning, startling us into adulting. Two of our windows have cracks and need replacement. The company we’d selected was arriving soon for an estimate. All I’m thinking is cha-ching, cha-ching, when I hear him say, “I thought I was going to step on a duck.”

WHAT?! A duck!

“We have a mother mallard,” we begin, inundating the man with a story he probably cared little about.

So we went outside and quietly waited, when mother Nora appeared.



It felt like a miracle. Because mama mallards protect their eggs and young so well AND they leave within one to two days, our chances of seeing them were low to begin with. That we’d get this sighting on this day? Well it was reminder that there is new life and joy in broken spaces.

Gary would’ve loved this. He’d also love us smiling today.

We held our distance but followed Nora on her trek through the neighborhood to the nearby pond.



“I wish Nora could stay longer,” Ava lamented.

“I wish she could, too,” I agreed, “But this is the way it works. We have to let her go.”

A neighbor of ours with duck radar joined us, spitting out all sorts of incredible duck knowledge. As it turns out he is a Certified Duck Rescuer.

“When she gets into the tall grasses it’ll be important that the babies all stay near mom and make it to the water with her.”

Shepherding them to safety, he walked into the tall grasses with a watchful eye over her line of ducklings.



And there they were. Going home.

Tears sprung to my eyes.

Release is never easy…but Going Home is always glorious.

Life can feel inundating with tall grasses and blinders….but our Shepherd shows up, stands by, and loves us with care.


Today gave the Nesdahls five new perspectives on July 5. I often hope to see sign of God’s presence and, in my humanity, miss it. But not today. Today some tiny ducklings kicked off our day with a smile, provided picture of God’s love, and reminded us that perhaps that best way to honor Gary is to enter the day with appreciation for life in front of us.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

"I'll Go Be Her Crutch" {On Lifting Each Other Up}

“Lord, I pray the week goes fast because I can’t wait to play in my tournament next weekend.”

That was my thirteen-year-old’s entire prayer 5 days before we were to leave.

Wishing days away to take the court with her Kairos team.

Grace loves volleyball maybe more than I’ve ever loved anything in my whole life. She practices before school and after school and uses a glow-in-the-dark ball when she should be getting ready for bed. When the actual SoDak temperature is negative eight, she is outside serving and hitting off the roof for speedy defensive play. I want to put a sign in our yard that says, “Her idea not ours. We’re inside drinking hot chocolate like sane human beings.”

She loves the game.

And not only is she a student of its mechanics, but she actively scouts tournament opponents and researches host sites. She looks up opposing club information, how they’ve performed so far this year, and, occasionally, can tell you how much the facility they are playing in costs. Her goal is to enter each tournament prepared and leave having done her best.

Needless to say, when the tournament finally arrived and her team advanced to the gold bracket, she was thrilled.

Except minutes into day two, she dove – rolling her ankle – and came up unable to bear weight. I watched as the athlete in her tried to will away the pain, pressing her foot down and losing her balance forward. She hopped off to the bench with tears streaming down her face, unleashing my own.

I could handle an injury. Watching her be sidelined in a game I knew she so desperately wanted to be part of? Not so much.

“What’s the word on Grace?,” her teammate Carlie asked.

“She’s done for the day. We don’t know what her injury is so Coach (rightly) feels it’s the only safe choice.”

“I’ll go be her crutch,” her friend replied, without missing a beat.

And I had to brush silent tears away from my cheeks once more, as I saw the game become beautiful. Her coach had one arm and Carlie took the other around her shoulder and together they supported her to the next location their team needed to be. Grace cheered on her people and during timeouts Coach pulled the team in tight near Grace so that she could be part of the plan and hold her hand in the huddle.

“TEAM!”

Team.

There are many injured people around us. And, most of the time they won’t present obviously unable to walk, though it may be physical. But, often it takes a little more to see. The social struggle to fit in. The emotional pain of not being seen. Feeling like not enough. The heartache of a diagnosis. The unpredictability of shifting circumstances. Diminished hope. Living a life different than one imagined.

But if we took a moment to say, “I’ll be your crutch,” how different might the world look?

And, when we’re the one hurt, how might we better heal if we allow others to huddle in close and say, “Team.”

We were created in community – a gift so that when the weight of the world is too much for any person to bear we’re reminded that we don’t go it alone.

Thank you, Carlie.
Thank you, Coach.  

Today I’m living with eyes open, and I encourage you to do the same. May we never to be too resolute to give or accept love. The world is better when we’re in it together.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"I Am Worthy" Pumpkin Prayer {Free Printable}


Fall is here and that has everyone thinking pumpkins! 

Because it was a long weekend in our school district, our church offered a Cross+Gen activity crafting pumpkins to remind people who they are in the sight of our Lord. 

You can find many pumpkin prayers online pointing to who God is, but I did not find anything regarding who God says we are. And, since our church is in the midst of a "Worthy" preaching series, I decided to take it upon myself to create a Scripturally motivated discussion-based activity that would allow families and friends opportunity to have fun painting pumpkins while gaining a deeper sense of self.

 If you'd like to give pumpkin painting purpose in your home or church, I've made it a printable for you. The sheet will walk you through every step! We painted with q-tips to reduce mess & quicken clean up.

It was a huge success at Our Savior's, bringing in people of all generations to create a beautiful busy with conversations to live beyond the moment. 

ENJOY!
xx Melissa

Friday, May 18, 2018

What are "Thoughts and Prayers" In the Midst of Violence?

Here we are, again, giving “thoughts and prayers” in the face of another school shooting.

It is guaranteed that there will be argument over blame. Someone should have known. Concerns went unnoticed. This is a mental health issue, some will say. Others will speak of access to weapons. What is a legal and what is not. This is a rifle accessibility issue. Yet others will make this about respect for all life. If we really care about protecting life we ought to do more about  protecting heartbeat in the womb.

Adults will raise their political defenses, taking a dig at party divides. Some will even go so far as to criticize the children who share their experience, saying they are “too young” to understand.

Meanwhile, children & school workers who heard gun shots are still shaking. Parents who were planning for graduation attire are deciding what to bury their child in. A school and community are in mourning. Real people are grieving.

In my life, “thoughts and prayers” have always been important. I believe in a God who sees and must be weeping in the face of this senseless tragedy. I believe in a Lord who collects our tears (Psalm 56:8) and promises to help us through that which threatens to seize us (Isaiah 43:2). I am understood and strengthened through prayer, and I will always be grateful for family, friends, and the faith community for loving me through tough times with words uttered beyond ourselves to my bigger God.

But, if “thoughts and prayers” becomes nice lingo for doing nothing we’ve not loved those who need us well or honored our God  who wouldn’t want us to fake connection + gives us the power to help make a difference.

I’m not going to pretend like I have the answers here. Nor am I interested in political stance. Because I think we can care about mental health, and home stability, and safe gun laws, the born and unborn, and more. All of it. One doesn’t mutually exclude the other. And, with life as messy as it is, I suspect we need to care about the mix of it.

My prayer today is simply that we focus on faces before debate. That we quietly lean into the story and show compassion. That we give space for the grieving in Santa Fe to feel supported and do something that translates in our circles: Tell the people in our lives that we love them more often. Be intentional to thank our children’s teachers and school staff for all they do to help keep them safe. That we would genuinely care about the hearts of those who endured this kind of loss and use that awareness to explore how to enhance safety in facilities we use & vote in ways that make individual sense in the spirit of love rather than criticism. That relationship with others through Christ would be meaningful in somehow making this world better.

I’d just finished volunteering in my daughter’s classroom, where I was over the moon excited about a little boy’s progress with 10 frames, when I came home to this news. *tears* Yesterday I watched teachers at my daughter’s middle school play in a staff versus student volleyball game. Oh, how I long for the day when school is only a place of growth and celebration.

Praying with purpose, leading with love, and processing along with you,
Melissa


Thank you, teachers & school staff, for meeting our students where they are at in interest and learning day in and day out. Your profession requires so much more in this changing world & it doesn’t go unnoticed.
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