Sunday, February 21, 2016

What Love Isn’t: The Painful Truth about Teen Dating Violence

When I found out the theme for this month was “Love” I mentally prepared a very Mary-Poppins-ish piece on if we moms truly love ourselves and how that filters down to our girl’s view of herself. It’s important, to be sure, but then I responded to some teen emails that wrecked me, and I found myself digging deeper into teen violence stats. In my research, I discovered it to be National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the Lord has moved me to address differently.

I want to believe that we fail to recognize this problem because we look at these kids as young and cute. We get caught up in their butterflies and the excitement of being wanted so we err on the side of assumed mutual goodness and begin discussion of date plans and, maybe, sexual boundaries without clear definition of what is and isn’t healthy.

We’re not doing them any favors. Our silence is begetting theirs. Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. It’s time that we get educated and educate the children we love. It’s time we talk.

Let’s start... 

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

God is Faithful: A Love From Above Recap

At the beginning of this month our family set out to make discussing God-sightings habit through our Love from Above activity.

We aimed to grow our family faith-life by making purposeful effort to see and discuss God's working in the midst of our everyday. I also secretly knew my father-in-law's rescan was coming. The unknown energy sucker rattled me and evidence of faithfulness (regardless of results) proved this a lesson Charlie and I needed just as much as the kids.

So what happened?

14 days of AMAZING happened!

The girls couldn't wait for supper time. Discussions were meaningful. We looked at the sliding glass door awed.

How did we see God? Here are just a few:

"Two words: Family Sandwich" Ha! No joke. Our family had a massive pile on top of each other moment that led to so much laughter. This. Pie Face. Collective giggles bind.

"When I received a Bible verse to send mom." What my hubby didn't know is that when he sent me this verse a friend of mine sent me the exact same verse. The Holy Spirit is alive and active.

"I saw God today when I lost my volleyball game (poop emoji)." If you were at our house you'd see it so why hide the added detail? I'm not out to change my children's emotions. I just want to help them discuss the real. Grace's volleyball team was undefeated as a group in regular season play and they lost for the first time. There were tears. LOTS of tears and Big Feelings. Eventually she came to a place where she said, "I realized God is there whether I win or lose and I just need to do my best." She's got her mom and dad's competitive spirit so this was not a fun lesson. It was, in fact, one that "stunk" (hence the drawn out emoji), but it was character building and reminder that bad times don't equate to absent times.

"Having a restart and second chance." Second graders process recess drama in a way that reminds of grace offered to us each day. Sometimes we are hurt. Sometimes we do the hurting. But, that isn't the end of the story. God makes us as white as snow and provides a new canvas for us to write on.

"Surprising my family and friends." This is a 4-year-old's version of seeing God when we showed up unexpectedly at grandpa's chemo. Grandpa and grandma's smiles were HUGE and the nurses found Ava hilarious. Now she wants to go see her "friends" whenever grandpa is there. Such reminder that there is beauty within trial.

"I saw God when someone gifted Gary and Andrea a snowblower." People show up in the most unexpected ways from a kind comment to a physical gift and, in the moment, it makes all the difference. Watch. Be grateful.

"Grandpa's/dad's/Gary's test results." Only one heart necessary to represent all 5 of us one day. Many of you have asked about my father-in-law and the rescan gives us scientific news to celebrate. His tumor has SIGNIFICANT decrease in size (more than 50%). We rejoice and thank all of you for the continued prayers.

Love From Above gave eternal perspective to an earthly holiday. Our God IS near and if we open our eyes enough to see the Lord's presence versus solely circumstance, the heart adopts an appreciative spirit. We can choose joy, find purpose, and appreciate complexity. 

Though writing on the hearts is done this discussion will most definitely continue around the Nesdahl table. I pray it blessed all of you that joined in.

Now I have a window to clean :)

xx Melissa

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Puzzle(d) Faith

I had a freak out moment and threw a puzzle to the ground.

Information was coming, and I can be an "impossible-to-please" kind of girl. The part of me that doesn’t want to know because it means being forced to deal with the unknown wrestles with the side of me that does because then I can take on what is.

I didn’t know what to do and I most certainly couldn’t sleep.

Take it out on a puzzle.

I went to the closet and reviewed our puzzle options. I’m the mom of three young girls so I was limited to a smattering of princesses or a couple varieties of Noah’s Ark. A God puzzle seemed most fitting.

I watched the pieces fall. Bounce. Break. Separate. The pent-up emotion within met its match in the crazy release.

“What are you doing?,” my husband questioned, looking at me like I just punched a one-way ticket to crazy town.

“Do you remember Pastor Sami’s Kid Talk?”

My hands busily flipped the pieces.


I’m normally a very put together person that handles things methodically. I’m pretty sure my appearance on the floor in my robe encircled by a kid puzzle threw him for the loop.

It was months ago when she sat herself on the church floor with the children and spoke of things falling apart, but it was a significant day for me. As the littlest Jesus-lovers helped her put the puzzle back in place, she reminded them that no matter how many times life falls apart we’re never alone.

I’m just a grown up kid who still needs the same teaching.

“God makes me whole.”

My man no longer felt need to ask me questions or try and reason. He just joined me on the floor.

We worked mostly in silence. Our fingers pressing into place the pieces, with occasional laughter in the moments Charlie tried to force placement to shorten time spent on a kid puzzle without a child in plain sight.

He’s a good sport and when my young self said, “I do,” I had no idea how rich life would turn out to be with him by my side.

I looked at the completed product and ran my fingers along the grooves. Knowledge can tell me that I have nothing to fear in the hands of my God but getting the heart to follow is a whole nother ball of wax. The rainbow – Promise – hit me hard. My mind a mess of questions beginning before the previous thought complete. “God, just help me breathe,” slipped audibly from my mouth.

I was stripped to my weakest.... and spiritually the strongest.

Maybe you are struggling with something today. Maybe you’re like me and you just want to break but all your life you’ve believed that would show lack of self-control and make mockery of the faith you profess. Or someone will judge your mental stability :)

Who cares. 

Don’t knock the growth potential of a freak out moment, friends. Don’t confuse your bad days with lack of belief. It’s on those days -in your most broken moments - that you give God room to breathe. Where you let go of the image of who you want to be in favor of who you really are to give your faith a pulse. You’re operating in the Lord’s strength rather than your own, and only then that you can be restored.

At my wits end God revived me through the visual of a kid puzzle. I'm here. I'm working. And, I placed it back in the closet with the same circumstance but new perspective.

Had enough? Take it out on a puzzle. It’s worth looking a little crazy :)

xx Melissa

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Real Mom Confessions

Today the sun is out and our city is emerging from hibernation. Yesterday a crazy blizzard essentially shut down the city. There was no school, flights, and the police asked for no travel in the city. The mall even closed. I don't remember that ever happening.

The school district alerted parents the night before that school would be cancelled. I flipped out with perhaps more joy than I did when I was a kid. The magic of a snow day never dies. Since the kids were in bed, I shut off all alarms with awareness that I was going to sleep in. Glory Hallelujah! It didn't last quite as long as I hoped for because my early riser woke me up to ask if the Groundhog saw his shadow. Apparently my being comatose was not obvious indication that I probably didn't have a clue. We checked it out and pretty soon I had three girls snuggled up next to me. Heaven.

When we did get up for the day the only parts of my normal routine kept were coffee consumption and brushing me teeth. I adopted a "wing hair don't care" line that cracked Grace up and kept the bed head, PJs, and robe for the day. I, unapologetically, made no make-up or vanity efforts of any kind. When my hubby got home he said, "Well you fully embraced the at-home day." Yes, babe. Yes I did. The girls and I played Old Maid, crafted, and baked brownies. It was a blast.

Now it is time to remember what day it is and what needs to happen for a successful week, which brings us to true mom confessions.

1. Science Fair.  This Friday is the science fair at the girls' school. They worked on a project illustrating sugar intake and its harmful affects on the body. While they waited for their typed items to print I told them to label their Valentine's, which just happened to be these.

Irony much? {I'm not going to lie. I love this candy as much as the kids and snagged the extra one for myself}

2. Stick Figures on the Van. When the whole family stick figure thing came to be a craze I bought in to it hook, line, and sinker. Unfortunately, Ava has completely worn off. They need to come down before her non-existence sets in upon her. That's the kind of thing she could hold over our heads for years (like I did my mom the Easy Bake Oven and Moon Shoes) or put her in therapy.

3. Dancing Like Seahorses.  Apparently Ava learned about seahorses at school so I submit to you the following dinner time conversation-

Ava: Today we learned when seahorses love each other they dance. So, if you guys love each other you will dance like seahorses.

Charlie: I think that was meant figurative. (Blank stares from the girls)

Ava agitated: If you don't dance like seahorses you don't love each other.

So what do you think happened to translate stable home to our kids?

Oh yes, yes we did.

Speaking of dinner conversation, I've heard from some of you doing the Love from Above: A February Valentine's Activity with us. I'm so grateful for the way this is inspiring meaningful conversations in the home. One mom said to me, "Jesus was unmistakably present at the table." I cried, because I can be good at that. It's so cool to see what the simplest exercise can do to bond family. If you are doing it and haven't lit the candle, I encourage you to give that a shot. Last night the girls asked if we could and we talked about how Jesus is the light darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5). To our surprise, the girls asked to pray and both the four and eight-year-old quoted different Scriptures about Jesus being light from memory. We were shocked. Who knows what could happen in your home?! Special moments continue to grow.

No matter what your situation this February, I pray that you might see God-moments and know the everlasting love Jesus has for you. It's sweeter than any chocolate and more beautiful than any rose.

xx Melissa

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