Monday, April 30, 2012

My abundance is not your abundance, my lack is not your lack.


I normally don't watch Oprah, in fact I have never really been a fan but ever since she started her OWN Network I have been catching some of her work. I am a huge fan of documentaries and short films. I am deeply moved by people documenting and sharing life, the way other people live and the conditions in which they do so.

 I am a big believer in "if you know better, you do better." And this particular documentary on India just blew my mind. I also believe that there are so many answers to current day problems if we would just look outside the small circle of life we live in. The challenges that I face in my day to day life nowhere compare to what other people half way around the world face, and yet I find myself focused on my problems too much, too often.


 I have been praying for a long time, many years in fact, for God to just show me other things to focus on. I have always been led to people in need. I have always had a heart for people who were less fortunate. And I say this with a grain of salt because being a one income military family, we are pretty much at the poverty level according to American standards. We are the typical live paycheck to paycheck, no savings kinda family. My husband joined the military later in life and because of that, we started at a different level than what most military families are at in this stage of life. But the weird thing is, I feel like a millionaire. I cant describe what it feels like to open my drawers in the morning and put on my worn old navy go to tshirt, and my lived in black stretchy pants. Then I go to the grocery store and sometimes I just sit and cry and my full basket of groceries. I am so grateful that God leads me to thrift stores for my children and and the end of the day we all have clean beds to lay our heads on and say our prayers. Give thanks for our abundance.

My abundance is not your abundance, and your abundance is certainly not the Hedge family abundance. They live in a 10 x 10 concrete space that has been in their family for 33 years. It is the mother, father and three children. There is a point in the documentary when Oprah asks the oldest girl if she is happy.

Her answer, yes.







I hope you were able to watch this 5 minute clip. It brought more awareness and gratitude to my heart than I could ever express into words. It got me thinking about how we all live, what problems we face, and how other people see the world. Those kids were brought into this world with the life they lead now, they don't know anything better. But the eldest girl does, she dreams. She dreams of being a school teacher in London. Oprah grins and says, "you should just come to the USA!" They all smile and watch "Man vs Wild" just like my family does. They sleep all together. It makes me wonder why so many Americans are so concerned with co sleeping. We do it. They do it. Why does this matter?

I was watching this last night in bed with my Lucy. I actually got up and walked around my house with tears in my eyes. Grateful tears for my HUGE house and the means to pay for the electricity. This family shares and toilet and shower with the whole building and they have no shower head. They carry buckets of water in with them. I found myself thinking about my attitude towards cleaning and housekeeping. My goodness if I ever catch myself not being grateful for my toilets I will end up on my knees begging for mercy.

But what I am most grateful for in this life is my relationship with God. I think about it often, what would happen if I had NOTHING left on this earth. What if my house was gone, my family was gone and it was just me. Living in the slums. What if I had no earthly possessions and nobody to share my life with? Because the only thing I need is Jesus. Its true that family is pretty much all ya got but I wonder about when even they are gone. Or if I go to Heaven and my family is left without a mother, my husband without a wife.

You cant count on many things now a days...one moment you are making good money and living "the dream" next you are unemployed and your house is under foreclosure. What then? But I know that I can always count on God to be my provider, my healer, my friend, my father, my encourager and my sustainer. And Jesus, my way to Heaven.

There is a lot of knowledge and truth in seeing outside of your box. Outside of the generations in your family, outside the house you live in and even outside the country you live in. I find that the best cure for my challenges in life are to simply find someone else with a problem and meet their need. Take the focus of me and be exactly what I need, for someone else. Sometimes I like to take just a few moments out of my day to just pray for people such as the Hedge family. Praying and doing for others in need just naturally brings you to a place of gratitude in your own life. It will shift your brain and heart into one that looks more like Jesus. It pains me deeply to see that this family lives in the conditions they do, but it fills my heart to just hear the eldest child say, "yes, I am happy."

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

My trip to Chicago!

Part of my wedding gift to my sister was taking some photos of her and the bridal party getting ready. We had an amazing time and I am so blessed to have been able to be there. My husband did great at home and so many people helped to get me there, I am so grateful. Here are the photos, enjoy!



































































and here we all are!




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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Teeth, stress, worry and our new routine!

This is my attempt to create something good from something bad...its what I like to call a "Romans 8 moment". I hope that you can make some good choices after reading this and let God turn my bad into your good!

 In the past few years I have had to undergo thousands and thousands of dollars of root canals, crowns and mouth guards. I have really bad TMD so I grind and clench at night and for many years did not wear a mouth guard. I have worn down all the enamel in my teeth and have caused cracks and breaks which have led to premature decay. My dentist says I have the teeth of a 75 year old woman. I am telling you all of this so first you can understand what worry and stress does to the physical body when you don't trust God. I have spent the last 30 years of my life worrying myself sick, causing all my own consequences. And before you know it, I will wake up one day in Heaven and God will have me account for all of this. Its a good thing He is a loving, forgiving God.  On a side note, this is a very serious subject. The effects of stress, worry and anxiety is so great on the body. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and push my "do over" button. But God is now restoring me and making me new...so that I can move forward. I cant physically do anything about the damage I have done, but God will restore my mind and heart so that I don't do any more damage.

I guess it all started back when I was 19. There was a period of many years where I did not see the dentist at all. I know you can relate. I was a very careless young person, like most today, and did not understand the value of our human body. Also, I smoked for 10 years. I quit the day I found out we were pregnant with Grace and haven't gone back. It has been over 4 years, praise God! I also used to drink a lot of alcohol. All factors that play into my health. I always took care of my mouth but sometimes that isn't enough. Your lifestyle is key. Lets face it, if your out at bars, eating crappy, smoking cigarettes, you probably aren't being too mindful of your health. True story.

So on top of that, my grinding and clenching. It causes wear and tear on the surface of your teeth which leaves room for bacteria to slip in the cracks and cause MAJOR problems. All of a sudden I would wake up and be in pain in a tooth, go to the dentist and $2000 dollars later come home with a root canal and a crown. On one salary, military pay, we are in major "Melissa has caused her own problems" debt. But please understand that as a person who has been on anti anxiety meds and anti depressants for many years of my life, I am not downplaying what worry has over you or me. I understand that it is like a black cloud or a deep hole and its hard. When I was on medication, I felt dependant on it and after a while just icky. I hated having to base my mood on what pill I took or only be able to calm down with a pill. I wanted to be only dependant on God and I knew that until I made that choice, things wouldn't get better. But once I knew that the devil was laughing every time I worried, I wanted that part of me to end. I have been praying and reading scripture, people have been praying for me...God is showing me a freedom to this and I am praying for you too. Please understand today that whatever you do to deal with anxiety or stress, whether it be overeating or alcohol...or even tooth grinding, its destroying your body and your spirit. Sometimes we don't see the damage until its too late, like heart attacks or complications with diabetes.

So now I have two daughters. One is almost 4 and the other almost 1. My Grace went to the dentist last month and had some issues...I cried the whole day and you can read my post about it here. Its a looong one but worth it if you have the time. So I decided to move forward and really attack this issue. Confront it without fear. I am choosing to be proactive instead of reactive and would like to develop some new, healthy routines so my girls don't have to go through what I have. First, I would like you to know that I have been praying for them that this "generational curse" end with me. Both my mother and grandmother have had issues with their teeth and I would like this to be done. In Jesus name. Second, I have some new products and procedures to share with you.


Did you know that breast milk contains enzymes that kills bacteria in your babies mouth? And did you know that formula DOESNT??!! I didn't. Lucy was nursed for 8 months until our move to San Antonio, then we had to switch to formula. So this whole time I didn't know that I was not taking care of her gums and teeth properly. Graces dentist gave Lucy a "teether" with a brush on it when we were there, I also found them at target. And here are her new brushes. I also brought the gum and teeth finger cleaner with the baby toothpaste. I use that on her after her morning bottle and before she goes to bed.


Also, we have added toothbrushes and mouthwash to the downstairs bathroom. Its right off the kitchen so right after we eat lunch, we brush.




So I hope that somewhere, someone out there will benefit from my experiences. If you have not been good to your body lately, don't be afraid to start over. Don't be afraid to start new and make changes today. You cant go back and change what you have done in the past, but God can renew your spirit and heal where its necessary. He will give you new hope and determination to make the rest of your time here on earth healthy and full. I am praying for you friend...wherever you are. I am praying that God shows you where you could be better and I promise He will give you all the tools necessary to make that happen!

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Money.




Money.

I strongly dislike it.

I often sit and daydream about how I would love to go back in time when people would just trade goods and services for life's daily needs. You need some flour? Well I have some, let me trade you for some housework! I am running a little behind today and could use some help!

Ahhh...the good ol' days.

I have realized many things about life in the last 30 years, but if I had to sum all of it up into one sentence it would be...

If you don't consider your life joy in the present time, no matter what circumstances you are in, you will never enjoy it, EVER.

It was my intention to sit down and write this whole big deal on money. But the fact is, God has different plans for everyone. There is not one way to spend or save. God calls people to give differently and save differently and because of that, there is not one answer. But there is ONE answer and here it is folks...

Philippians 4:19
"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

This does not say, " And my God shall supply all of your needs according to what your neighbor has and also according to what the world says you should have..." This doesn't mean that a brand new 2012 suv is part of your needs, or stainless steel refrigerators are part of them either.

If you are alive today and struggling financially, read this carefully, God has met all of your needs up until RIGHT NOW. Sometimes when I am in a crisis or there is a huge unforeseen circumstance that seems to suck the life right out of our bank account my first reaction is anger. I get angry that there once was a cushion and now its gone. I get mad that whenever we seem to get ahead, something happens and we are back to square one. But my wonderful friends, this is the devil. Meet him and his madness. He speaks things into my heart and I get caught up in it!

" you will never have money"
"you will always be broke"
" you were meant to just hang on"
" don't worry saving or giving to people in need, you might need it someday"
" don't listen to God when he asks you to give, you will have a problem next month and will need that money"
"go ahead and buy that _______, God will always give you what you need even when you are careless"
"its okay to wake up and feel like you are owed something because of what you have been through"

The list goes on. LIES. all lies.

The key to this scripture is " according to His riches". What does that mean? Well it could mean any number of things to any particular person reading this. All you need to know is that He will meet your needs and it will be according to Him with the details. How much, how often, where, at what age...all things to consider. But God does ask things of us that we need to pray about and be accountable to. He says to:

Be wise
Be a giver not a taker
Constantly trust Him
Don't let the love of money or possessions take over your heart and replace Him
Be humble and grateful for every single penny that He gives us
Consider ourselves less than everyone else
Use our talents and gifts to bring glory and honor to Him

My husband and I have just recently had a HUGE chunk of money go into our home that we turned into a rental property, my dental health, and unforeseen moving expenses. Just like that, bank account drained. It came in so fast and left even faster. And here we are again, or here I am angry and bitter. But I was talking to my husband today about it and I realized some things. If I am constantly basing my mood and value on what my bank account looks like, I will never have the riches God has promised me. Because He has promised me a rich and full life...

Phil 4:11-13 (Phi) ...For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry--of facing either plenty or poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.


Just as there are physical dangers within poverty, there are spiritual dangers in prosperity. God will test us in both. In the sense of money, if we had too much, we might lose sight of who our actual provider is. And that to me is quite a danger.

Luke 12:29-34  "You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety. The whole heathen world is busy about getting food and drink, and your Father knows well enough that you need such things. No, set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink will come as a matter of course... Sell your possessions and give the money away to those in need. Get yourselves purses that never grow old, inexhaustible treasure in Heaven, where no thief can ever reach it, or moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!"

God blesses the giver. Not the person who stores up and saves it all for himself. God blesses in different ways. Money is not the only form of blessing. Remember last week and the mega millions lottery??? My husband and I bought 4 dollars in tickets just for fun. We don't play the lotto I don't know why we did...but I had a very special moment with God. About an hour before the drawing I remember dropping to my knees with so much gratitude for my current life. I thanked Him for allowing me to paint and serve Him in that way...I just was so thankful for everything I have that I caught myself telling Him that I didn't even care if I ever had that much money.

 My life wouldn't change. Because I know Him, and He is my life.

My life is not my car or my house, or my husbands rank or the food we eat. My life has value because of my creator. I feel like a millionaire being able to see what He wants out of my life, come to pass. Sure, I wish I had more money so I could give more...but right now, there are other ways I can give. So when I wake up, I will not be angry that my bank account was depleted, but be excited for what the future holds for me! I will be eagerly looking for ways to serve and pray for areas where my husband and I need to learn and grow.

Proverbs 28:20

A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cops, Cavities and God's Mercy...my day today.

As things change around here, I am finding less and less time to write but that doesn't mean that I wont make time if the Holy Spirit prompts me to share...so I would like to share a story with you today. I would like to tell you about my day and how God showed His amazing Grace and Mercy to me today and how I could not be more in awe of our amazing God.

As some of you may know, I have ALOT of teeth and jaw issues. Just out of nowhere. I do everything I am supposed to do, brush, floss, rinse 2 or 3 times daily. I wear my mouth guard at night for my TMJ/ TMD... the list goes on. My physical body is just a mess most days and it has been ten years of this. But praise God that He has shown me things in the last few months which have led to a lot of healing. However, recently I have had an abscess under a tooth I had root canaled 2 years ago. I was in danger of losing the tooth but I told the endodontist that I was staying firm in faith and to try to save it. So last week I had phase 1 of 2 of the second root canal! This is a whole other story, however I would like you to know that it has cost my husband and I THOUSANDS of dollars in the last few years that we don't have. So whenever I wake up in pain, I immediately go to a place of anger and defeat. I get so angry that sometimes I even question God. Why would a God so loving and forgiving give me such burdens to bear and so much pain? WHY??!!!!!!

First lesson, don't ever question God.

Now, last week after a routine dental appt. to get yet another mouth guard, I started to have pain in the upper right of my mouth. Cold sensitive and painful tooth with what looked to be an abscess on it. I spent the entire weekend in pain...praying that it wasn't going to be another root canal. This would be my 4th in 2 years. And last week I had spent 1,100 dollars in two hours on the other root canal and new night guard. I was pretty pissed off. I kept my appt for today and just got through it.

Last night Grace and I were doing our nightly routine of shower, comb hair, get pj's on and brush and rinse. I started to brush and she was in tears. Tears of pain. The first place I went was anger. Why now would my 3 1/2 year old be in pain???!!! I looked in her mouth and saw several areas that were questionable. Some discoloration in all of her molars and lots of grooves from her grinding. My eyes saw cavities. My heart saw pain and suffering. How could this be?I put my baby into bed and just felt sick. How could I have let this happen to her? I am such a horrible mother. Why didn't I see this? What is wrong with me?

We woke up this morning and I packed us to go to my dentist appt. For some reason I packed Lucy like she was going to be gone all day even though we were only going for an hour. Thank God for that. We got in the car and headed out. Our street was being worked on so I had to take a detour. The detour led me to the back roads by our church. I was punching in the gps and driving along and I saw the lights. I have NEVER gotten a ticket in my life and I have not been pulled over since I was 16 years old. The cop came to the window and told me I was doing 40 in a 30. I told him I was so sorry and that I had a lot on my mind. I said I understand I was wrong, I am sorry and I have nothing else to say.I gave him my stuff and he went to his car.

He was gone a LONG time. Long enough for this to happen...


I cried. Of course I cried but not in a "I just got pulled over" kinda way. I found myself praying for mercy. I don't think I have ever done this in my life. I told God how sorry I was and that I had no excuse. I just said I'm sorry and I am asking for mercy.

Then I started to think about Grace. And it was as if a movie was playing in my head. A series of events that have taken place in the last 3 1/2 years that have been part of my story. The story that He is writing with my life.

 I saw being pregnant with Grace and moving across the country at 32 weeks pregnant.

I saw my husband struggling through Cardio tech school not knowing if it was the right choice for him. Supporting him through a very tough time in his life.

I saw my marriage falling apart.

 I saw moving back across the country with my baby and husband for his new job with the marines.

I saw being in such a huge depression with a very colicky baby that I needed to be medicated.

I saw panic attacks and horrible withdrawls from medication when I quit and chose Jesus.

I saw my husband deployed to war for the second time and being home alone, with those withdrawls and my baby.

Then I saw buying our first home and struggling financially.

I saw being pregnant with our second baby and my husband deployed to the war for the third time.

I saw taking care of my 3 year old while pregnant, alone.

I saw giving birth to our Lucy, alone. I saw myself with my two babies all alone trying to survive until my husband came home.

I saw myself having surgery for my skin disease which left me with an 8 inch incision in my groin.

I saw myself recovering over the 3 months with no pain meds because I was nursing.

I saw my incision constantly opening up and having to pack it myself every night while taking care of my Grace and nursing my Lucy, keeping meals on the table and a clean house. All while I had packing a gauze stuffed into my pants everyday, barely walking...

I saw how heavy my burden was the last three years. How many trials I had and how many I had made it through by the Grace of God.

I wept in the car while that cop ran my plates. All I heard was God telling me, its okay Melissa, you have had quite the three years. And you made it. I tested you and layed things on you, all for your good. Look where you are! Look at the character I have painted in you. Look at the courage you have because you had to be courageous! I know its been rough for you, but I was with you every step of the way. My mercy is there for you. You have neglected your body and sometimes the precious body of your Grace. There were some nights you were so tired with your newborn that Grace fell asleep...you didn't brush her teeth every night then. And there were some years Melissa that you didn't treat the temple I gave you, like you should. Some nights you went to sleep with so much worry that you clenched your teeth and grinded them so hard that all you had was pain. But now you trust me! There is no more need to worry. You know what happens now when you don't put all of your faith in me. I knew all of these events would bring you to the edge, but I needed to do that so that you could see right now! So that you could see how everything I allow, works for your good. My child, I give you mercy today.

The cop came back, and gave me a warning.

We showed up to my dentist with my eyes swollen and my heart heavy. I just didn't have time to process all that God was saying to me. We took an x ray but before my dentist came in I just prayed. I need mercy again Lord. I have not been living within your freedom for so many years please set me free from this tooth pain and the financial burden! Thank you for setting me free. Thank you for showing me that going to sleep every night grinding away my teeth is just causing me to live in pain and its all because I have failed to give you all of me. I have failed to trust you with all my heart and truly believe that all things work for my good.

It was just an ulcer. Thank you God for your mercy.

I pulled one of the girls aside and began to explain my concerns about Grace. My poor baby is in pain brushing her teeth. I have not been the mom I should have and taken her to the dentist. She has been low on the priority list in that area. She is having pain and I see cavities. Please help me, she has no dental insurance because they are not accepting new enrollment. Our dental plan is switching and another company is picking it up. Her benefits start May 1. I have NO MORE MONEY!

She recommended a pediatric dentist and off we went. Yes, that very second we drove there. We walked in and again, I cried. Explaining all of this to the poor receptionist. It was 12 noon and they could see her at 2. I explained that she didn't have any benefits yet and I was paying for it in cash. Like that would make a difference...I called my husband and told him that was the plan and to be aware of another hefty dental bill. I asked him to pray for Grace as she hates the doctor or anyone touching her.

We went to lunch, drove around then came back and played in the waiting room. It was so cool, a room full of planets and games and tree house etc...Grace loved it. But not the actual sit in the chair part. We got one x ray and then she threw a fit. Screaming, scared and angry in pain. I understood. I have been there. Finally we all had her pinned down after many attempts of cutesy voices and toys, it was down to business. Again I prayed over her. Lord please don't let my baby suffer because I have not been the best. Please have mercy on me for not always taking care of our bodies the way we should. I have no excuse. I have lived a life of fear and for that reason I tend to neglect things like doctors and dentists because in the past I have had the mantra " if I don't go, there is nothing wrong." I guess for so many years I was used to so much disease and pain that I just wanted it all to go away so we didn't go.

It is an ulcer at the top of her upper gum line.

What??? Yes, an ulcer. Just like me, in the same spot. She said she saw a few teenie tiny cavities on her molars but it all looked good, just the big angry ulcer which was causing all her pain. And her cavities? We would take care of them next visit after some meds...so she could relax.

MERCY.

I explained to her that we didn't have insurance today for Grace and that I would be paying for the exam and x rays. She grabbed my hand and pulled me in for a hug. Don't worry sweetie we will take care of today's visit for you. You don't have to pay anything. And we will see you next month when she does have insurance to get more xrays and fill some cavities.

MERCY.


I cant even begin to tell you the release and trust and love that happened to me today. I will never be able to express to you what today was for me. But what I do want to express is that God is very real and He desires for us to run from whatever our trouble is, repent, and receive His mercy and grace. Nothing I ever do on this earth, no amount of money, no volunteer work, nothing I do makes me deserve this anymore than you. There are times in life when the burden is heavy. He was aware of this even before we even existed. And there are times when we sin. Times when we neglect. Times when we fall short. But nothing is ever given to us that isn't part of the story. Every single thing that you will experience, favor or trial, is for the constant growing and shaping of our character. Every trial gives us new experiences to look back on for when we face trials in the future. It took me 30 years to understand how much God loves me. A rough childhood, lots of trials in marriage and physical disease clouded that love. But today was a day of truly receiving Gods love without anything to give Him in return. I have nothing to offer Him that could repay what He has done and is doing for me. And surely nothing I have will ever pay for what Jesus did on the cross. But yet, just like that, in a flash, God is there to forgive and make my wrongs right. All I needed to do was stop making excuses, ask for help, put my trust into Him and move on.

I pray that if you are going through some trials in your life right now, that you might look to the cross. Leave your burden with Jesus. Understand that everything works for your good. Ask God to examine your heart and show you where you could be better. Maybe you need to forgive. Maybe you need help with anger...maybe you have a food addiction. Maybe you worry all the time, just like me. As Easter approaches this week, I pray that you really understand what happened on that Cross. All of that was for YOU. Choose to lay down your sin, your fears...your burdens, your heavy heart. Choose to live in Christs love and Grace and Mercy.

Run from your sin. Run at such a pace that satan cant catch up.

Ask for forgivness and move on.


For an illistration of Mercy click here

For some great scripture on trials and tribulations click here

Psalm 103

Of David.
  Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

 
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
   slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

 
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
   and his kingdom rules over all.

 
Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.

Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.

Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.


Praise the LORD, my soul.
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