Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Parenting Goal = Survival

When I was assigned to write on 2017 parenting goals I wanted to have something really profound for you. Something that would make you think, “Oh, that’s so good.” But, here’s the truth -
My parenting goal is survival.
I know that this doesn’t sound like a pretty, Christian answer.
But, if we are honest, parenting is the best, hardest job ever. EVERY DAY we wonder if what we said will help our children become better adults or drive them to the therapist’s chair. We question if we spent enough time with time with them or if they felt ignored. Are we doing enough to translate safety and love from us and their God or did we miss that boat loading the next load of dishes?
My girls will tell you that... 
To finish reading please visit Mothers of Daughters
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Monday, January 2, 2017

3 Lessons I Learned From Cancer (with my 2017 Bible Verse of the Year)

My hubby and I sat discussing 2016. Cancer colored our year, forcing us to do hard things. Anger and sadness make us wish so much wasn’t.

But would we undo it all?

It’s a breath-taking question.

When life knocks us on our knees is all a loss? When our world is flipped upside down does the good go with it?

No it does not.

Though we would never choose the situation, we realize there are gems from the year we would.

No (wo)man stands alone. Letting others in breaks down glass walls. I thought the quiet protected me. That keeping things to myself and dealing with emotion in the dark would free me from the self-projected pain of discovery and conversation. I don’t know who I thought I was - that I could deal primarily on my own - but I’m glad that was a fail because I would’ve shorted myself some of the most beautiful goodness and friendship-deepening moments of my life.

God uses cracked spirits to glow bright. My girls love glow sticks. You know, the ones that look like nothing until they are cracked? Well, I’ve come to recognize that parallel with life. When we first found out about the cancer, my greatest fear was that if people saw me for my real emotions, feelings, coping, I would somehow let my family name or God down. Wrong, God said. If we claim that we need a Savior but live like we are our own, then we miss the pulse of our faith. And, the most appealing people in life have never been nor will ever be the ones that have it all together, but the ones who name struggle and draw people into God’s grace through it.

My pain shapes me into something more. The invisible scars I carry are not something to hide from but unique invitation to do something that makes a difference. Some of the experiences that form us feel overwhelming. Cancer feels a beast, but I can lay down in defeat or choose to use my experience to impact tomorrow for better. Do I feel “enough?” Hardly. Yet it only takes one look into the Scriptures to see that, since the beginning of time, God has used unlikely, unqualified, unfit people to accomplish His purposes.

Who are we not to think we are one of them?

With these lessons in mind (and real opportunity on our local horizon), I’m choosing

Micah 6:8 as my 2017 Bible Verse of the Year.

Did you choose a verse or word?

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Maybe 2016 Wasn't the Year You Hoped For. Now What?

If you’d have told me 2016 would end like it did I would’ve said you were straight up crazy.

I could never have imagined feeling such joy when my baby went to kindergarten (because she would finally get to do all that she’d been eagerly anticipating) or beginning work that so perfectly weaves all that I am passionate about into one purposeful position.

I could also never have imagined my father-in-law’s death.

Not in a million years.

I told you that I entered 2016 hopeful. When I chose my Bible Verse of the Year it was an honest struggle because I wondered how to calmly balance shock/grief and your well-wishes when we were in disease management mode. This year had nothing on us. The doctor, who understandably cannot know all things, made mention of years and a positive response to chemotherapy. Cancer was going down.

Only lung cancer took me down instead. With abrupt speed it ripped love from my life, mocking my understanding and testing my hope with a headstone and the toughest parenting year of our life as remains.

Darkness fell.

There is safety in the black that hides us from the voices. Answering the hard questions. The need to feel put together when the batty mind games strike.

How could this happen? Why must this be so hard?

I begged Jesus to take my cup of suffering. My hands lay crossways over my heart with desire to piece back together all that was invisibly broken. My mind exhausted from navigating life pain I didn’t plan.

When this is true. When life looks different than we want it to, can we still enter 2017 with hope?

Circumstance won’t rob us of hope. Sight will.

The desire to be okay was the very thing that was suffocating me and it might be the very thing isolating you.

With our eyes and attention drawn to what isn’t, disappointment and heartbreak naturally follow. This isn’t something we need pretend away or hide. There is healing place for it in the light.

But emotion cannot be the final dictator of our well-being.

We must look into the Face of hope rather than at the idea of hope.

Hope is a choice.

When the situational brokenness of life weigh us down we must let the Truth of who God is reign supreme.

Making this decision isn’t always easy. It requires trust beyond the heaviest of moments and demands that we mentally defy all that is crumbling in front of us.

No simple task but the only way to peace.

I entered 2016 with hope driven by a smile, largely dependent on an earthly outcome. I will hang the new calendar with hope driven by the eternal, fully dependent on promised victory.  

What will you choose?

The beauty in choosing eternal hope is that it doesn’t always have to look hopeful. We’re freed to remove the mask of “okay-ness” and just be. Sometimes we will appear joyful and other times completely broken. But, the guarantee of an intimate God who has overcome it all + caring community who embraces authenticity means healthily making it through in the Light.

With love,

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How to Throw a Fun, Meaningful {Peanut Free} Christmas Party on a Budget

Last Sunday we braved the cold for our church rotation school (four-year-old through third grade) Christmas Party. If you're still looking for some simple, budget-friendly safe for all ideas in your church or school, this party was a hit.

We divided into three groups for stations.

1. Craft - Candy Cane Ornament: Give each child half of a red pipe cleaner and instruct them to twist one end. Then have them string beads, alternating red and white, and have them bend it into the shape of a candy cane when they are done. We also read this "The Symbolism of the Candy Cane" poem and each child took one home as reminder of Jesus' love for every time they see a candy cane.

2. Snack: Tree Decorating: Joy sugar cones are peanut-free so the kids decorated "snow covered" trees with Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Vanilla frosting. Then they used 2 ropes from one twist of Twizzler & 10 skittles to bedazzle their tree to beautiful perfection before eating :)

3. Game: Follow the Star: Every kid loves to play with balloons so I made up this simple game that I called Follow the Star. The Wise Men followed the start to Bethlehem so I blew up bright yellow balloons and had students work in pairs, keeping their eyes on the Star of the East (balloon). Their goal was to keep it in the air as long as possible, counting as they went.

The older kids finished their craft early so my back up plan was this hilarious Christmas Drawing Game. I'd played this Christmas tree/mantle version of it myself at a board fellowship night and knew it must follow at all things I attend :) Tomorrow we will be doing it at my kids' winter parties at school too. But, for Sunday School I quick came up with a faith-filled version.

Get a white paper plate and writing utensil for each player. They put the plate on top of their head.
1. Draw a line on the ground.
2. Draw a manger.
3. Draw Baby Jesus in the maner.
4. Draw Mary and Joseph near the manger.
5. Put the star in the sky.
6. Draw some hay.
7. Animals

There was So. Much. Laughter!

Since we use the Jesus Storybook Bible we started the party by showing "He's Here" to get our minds focused and hearts on the purpose of Christmas. The adult station volunteers and shepherds to move the groups made it an awesome Intergenerational event and smiles were had by all.

However you celebrate with the children in your life, have a Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Breaking Out: A New Understanding of Purpose-Filled Living

Sometimes our gate gets left open.

I know this isn’t a good thing, but it doesn’t induce panic because, despite the ability to run, our dog doesn’t go anywhere. She might eye the area, but she always opts to stay in the backyard.

Sometimes I watch her, amazed that she makes no effort.

And then I get it.

I’m just like her.

As much as I don’t like to admit it of myself, I choose a pretty safe life. I thrive in space I know, doing things I know how to do, in places I like to do them. Yes, I will take on some risk, but within the confines of a setting where success feels likely or without great loss.

I dwell in the familiar.

I like the backyard.

I tell myself that I’m better off here. That I know my grounds. That I won’t mess up. That I will claim (or tweak) what I do like a boss.

Ironically, there is a sense of bravery that comes in existing like this. But it is false, to be sure. 

Confidence is not the same as purpose-filled living.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been challenged to step beyond my comfort zone. Important work lurked beyond boundaries I’ve always honored, drawing me into conversations I often shy away from.  It took the loving encouragement of many to hold my hand and challenges that got under my skin for me to bring my wobbly knees into the conversation. 

And, it’s honestly come at a cost. 

Tears. Frustration. Investment in opportunities that lie ahead because my heart, in good conscience, will never be able to back out of this situation intended to benefit humanity (and did not resolve as I’d hoped).

I still feel scared, overwhelmed, and not enough.

But in living safe I also didn’t realize all I was missing.

Change for God's glory dwells within me. Within you. Oh. My. Stars.

I have to think God looks at me asking the same question I do of my dog. “Why do you hang in the backyard when I’ve opened the gate and given you all kinds of territory to explore?”

Friends, a world stands waiting. Will we hang in the safety nets that actually confine, restricting us from using the fullness of our given gifts? Or, will we trust that in our humility The Lord might use us – knees knocking – to benefit the good of all?

The gate is open wide.

xx Melissa

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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Gift

The sights and sounds of Christmas are already everywhere. Lights glow outside people’s homes. The Sunday ads are taunting us with early deals. People are asking, “What do you want for Christmas?”
And, yet, for some, it is reminder of all that will not be.
Homelessness robs dreams of a bank account with any extra.
Being removed from the home strips wishes of warm fuzzies around the tree.
Abuse dissolves trust and belief that anyone cares.
As people of the cross we know that our.... 

To finish reading, please visit the Our Savior's Lutheran Church blog (where I was honored to be the first staff blog writer) and think about how YOU can be a gift this Christmas
xx Melissa 

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Seize the Moment. Make Life Better for the Person in Front of You. {A Tribute to Lloyd in Retirement}

We met under the most precarious of circumstances.

He was dating my mom.

When my father died in college, I couldn’t imagine my mom ever dating again and wasn’t sure I ever wanted her too. The idea felt like a replacement of my dad, though now as the mother of multiple children I understand the ability to fully love different people in the same role.

Much to my surprise, my mom, once overwhelmed with grief opened her heart to love again. I looked at her with admiration. This woman, who knew the risk of love found the gift worthy of shared joy worth more than its potential struggle. She’d worked hard for financial stability, single parenting well, and living a new normal.

Now she saw possibility in a man at a coffee shop.

I remember telling her nothing would be immediate and that God would give us all time to adjust.

We could all quickly see what she did. In a season when this man could’ve cared primarily for my mom because my brother and I were now grown, he embraced us too. Despite never having children of his own, he showed up at the hospital all by himself when our little one was very ill, asked to see her, and gowned up to hold her. With the loss of his former wife, he shared appreciation for our experience and built conversation about all that makes us who we are. I could quickly see that this man wanted to form a family more than solely love a wife.

Lloyd made transition a gift for us. We ALL love him dearly.

We love him for the way he loves and cares for my mom. We love him for the way he loves and cares for us. We love him for the way he loves and cares for the kids.

And we also love him for the way he has long loved others.

As the Director of Facilities for our county he has worked with many. He goes in during off hours to make sure people have a positive experience. He thinks clearly about the budget dollar and its use to better life for everyone the county serves. He manages with a quiet, servant heart and uses his great bread making skills to up work satisfaction for the hard-working people he employs.

Lloyd looks at life each day with opportunity. How can I seize this moment and make life a little better for the person in front of me? seems to be his guiding question that molds his life.

Today he turned in his badge. Retired. With new dreams with my mom – whom he knows to treasure each second with – and for family life but still with that same guiding question. I suppose that is why he’s telling people his first to-do after retirement is to paint the bathroom for my mom J

Happy retirement, Lloyd. I/we know you’ve worked incredibly hard for many years and blessed the county with your skill set. But, even more, I want to say from all of us, “Thank you.” Thank you for the way you love. Our family is better with you in it.

May this transition be a gift for you and might we all take cue from the way you lead your life.

How can you seize the moment and make life a little better for the person in front of you?

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