Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My good portion.

If I have made the past 30 years about me...

Then the next 30 will be about him.

I have had the most amazing few mornings of my life this week. Grace is in Vacation Bible School at church this week and I cant leave. I am the only mom still in the background, holding her baby, crying tears of joy.I sit and watch what Jesus is doing in such young hearts...I watch the room glow in his presence. I sit in the seats and watch my tiny blond haired miracle worship up in the front row. I am watching her sing out, cry out, and learn about our amazing creator. Love him, worship him, and let him love her back. I quiver, I smile, I cry, I get real quiet.

The story of Mary and Martha

 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).

Our sermon this week at church was about the story of Mary and Martha. If you don't know it, read it. Google it, open your bible. Because I am definitely a Martha. Filling my life with busy I need to do's...I need to be's. Wandering about aimlessly looking for the path, trying to understand the path. Carrying way more than I should. Never understanding what the good portion is or even realizing that I am allowed to choose it.

My good portion has become resting in his presence every night while my family sleeps. I take a bath, and I stare at the moon outside my big window. I talk to God, I pray to God and I thank God. I invite him in and sit in his presence.

My good portion has become spending time with my babies, not because I have to...but because I have this burning desire to just be with them. Watch them, learn from them and give them the good news.

My good portion has become spending an hour in a full auditorium with kids...sitting in the sidelines dancing to some worship songs. Not worrying about whats going on in the world outside that building, not worrying about what emails I need to respond to or what bills I need to pay or what meals need to be cooked or what doctor we need to go see...my good portion is resting in His presence.

My good portion has become trading the tv and computer for worship music and the bible, not because I am supposed to but because I need it, and it feels good.

My good portion has become honoring the sabbath. Not running around trying to prepare for the week. I have traded that in for swimming in the backyard, throwing a meal in the crock pot, eating sandwiches for lunch and curling up on the couch with my husband. So many moments I have missed in this life because I refuse to sit.

I want to be a Mary. I want to just curl up in the arms of Jesus and stay there. I want the presence of God to be surrounding me all my days. I want his presence to be my strongest weapon.

So tomorrow we will go again and I will probably stay...again. I will probably dance around and cry tears of joy because I am safe and I am loved, in his presence. I will probably watch my Grace and thank God for her and her child like faith in my life and how I have learned so much from her. And I will be praying for more of his presence in my day. I will probably be praying to be more like Mary. When the storms come or when confusion settles in...or when I feel like a big mess, I will just sit at the feet of Jesus.

I will chose my good portion, because THAT will never be taken away from me.

And my good portion is Jesus.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grace, we had a party!

Happy 4th Birthday Grace!

We had so much fun.
You wouldn't get out of that pool and you loved your princess cake.
It was so much fun watching you guys eat cupcakes on the stairs,
there was pink icing everywhere.
I cant wait for a million more birthdays with you!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grace, today you are 4


Today you are 4.

I took these photos of you last night...you were catching bugs.

I could write to you tonight and tell you how much I love you...

I could tell you that you mean the world to me...

And I could write about how blessed I feel every morning that I wake up and see your gorgeous face.

But honestly, I am scared.

I keep thinking about how big your getting, how fast your growing.

And I am starting to feel like the easy part of parenthood is over for me.

I did so well as a mommy to a newborn. Its where I shine.

I love the rocking and the feeding...I love the baths and the onsies...

But you are turning into a little lady these days. Your asking questions and your little brain is working so hard.

And I don't have all the answers.

I watch you get your heart broken sometimes when people don't say hi to you or acknowledge you...

And I get so sad every time we have to discipline you.

Most days I want to just keep your precious, fragile soul all to myself. Keep you home, cuddle and watch movies all day.

But I cant.

I am now realizing that sheltering you from pain is not the answer, its showing you how to cope when things hurt.

Just the other night Grace there was a shooting at a movie theatre. Lots of people were hurt and some  were killed. It makes me realize how precious our time is here on earth. And I want to be more in the moment with you. I want to learn to number our days...

I am so excited that you have started to wear your hair in a braid, and that you ask me to make you one every morning. Every time we get ready in the morning, I cant help but notice how beautiful you are.

Tonight you did something so cool. Daddy was so excited you took it upon yourself to try and hold your breath under water...

You did it for 10 seconds! I couldn't believe how brave you were and how excited you got! 

All of a sudden you have have become so interested in the water, I am actually signing you up for swim lessons this week.

I love to watch you try to use your goggles in the bath. You remind me of that little girl in the movie Mermaids, with Cher.

And the other day, I had so much fun with you. We went for smoothies up at the Quarry Market.

I cant believe I found someone who likes to sit and watch people as much as me. And I am so excited for you and I to hang out more like that.

Truth is, I am scared but I am also excited. I am so excited to see who you are going to be. You have the most beautiful, unique soul and I just pray that you are as much of a blessing to the world as you are to me.

I just want you to know how hard I am trying to do it right with you. You are my first baby and I am not always sure how to be a mommy. I try to do what God says to do and try to be patient and lead you the right way...

My prayer for you this year is that you are less scared of things. I was very scared when I was your age Grace and I still am sometimes...

But you don't have to be.

There is a whole big world out there and you don't ever have to be afraid if you have Jesus with you. He promises to walk every step with you, no matter where you are. And when you make mistakes, he is still there and he still loves you.

You and I have started really praying together. And I can't wait to keep doing that. Its so important to pray.

Lets pray that your fears go away this year.

Thanks for making my days so bright and for making me laugh constantly.

I love you so much...



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I dont bake...and Im cool with that.

Today was the day that I brought in treats for the kiddos at MDO to celebrate Grace's birthday. Again, a moment of freedom. I didn't spend hours on Pinterest or google...or even call my own mother. I just know that in the very deepest part of my soul...I don't bake. I never have. I don't even really like baked goods. Id rather have a steak and a baked potato smothered in cheese and butter.

But I have a very dear friend...who shall remain nameless...Jill in NC ;) She is an amazing woman. I actually met her on sitter city. She was the first babysitter I ever hired. I called her pretty much in panic mode because I never like to leave my kids with anyone. She came to my house with her son and calmed me down. I was gone for an hour and never felt more comfortable. She was there for me during an entire deployment and was always ready and willing to meet any of my needs. We actually hit it off and never had to hire her again to babysit. She just became a friend. Actually she was a Godsend. I was meant to know her.  All of us military wives stationed at Camp Lejeune would get together for brunches at her house, the oven on, smells of cinnamon rolls and breakfast casserole filled her home.

On a good day, when you walk into her house, there are toys everywhere, art projects going and things her sons have built. There are stacks of blocks, towers of leggos and piles of crayons. Her oven is about a million years old and I used to joke with her about that. She doesn't particularly enjoy putting her laundry away either . There are crumbs on the floor from breakfast and maybe a baked good on the counter with plastic wrap over it ready to go to a deploying marine and his family. There is always a list on her fridge of what she needs and coupons for pretty much everything. Her garage is full of Rubbermaid bins. I always want to know whats in those bins but I can imagine she has saved every single thing from her kids so she can be ready and able to bless a new young mother who is in need. She also has many babysitting jobs always lined up and trips around town to pick up free clothes and toys from our local yard sale website. Never once has she ever apologized when a bunch of women come into her home for toys being everywhere or dishes in the sink. I have never once heard her panic on the phone because there is just so much to do all the time...I actually don't even think I have ever heard her complain.

She is hands down the most tangible example of a living, breathing Proverbs woman. Shes it. She works hard at home, she loves her children and is always finding ways to save and be a blessing to others. Her oven is dirty because she cooks meals from scratch almost nightly for her boys and her husband. There are crumbs everywhere because she is too busy helping other people to obsess about her floor. Her heart is in her home and in her family and she works hard.

I guess if you know one of these amazing women, you know what it means to be a little jealous of her. How does she do all of it? But really its not about what she does, its her heart. I am a little jealous that she has the desire to do all of that,mostly in the kitchen. How does she muster up the energy everyday to make things with actual ingredients?

Something that God has been laying on my heart lately is that we are all made for our own families. Our own lives. I have been trying to be a rockstar in the kitchen for many years, obsessing over meals and thinking that the only way to my husbands heart was through his stomach.I picture women in aprons, full makeup on shaking their heads and waving their fingers at me. We have had many arguments over me not feeling good enough because I don't make enough homemade meals. And one day, I think he had just had about enough and told me that he didn't care. He didn't care! He wasn't making me feel that way. I was. Putting my own unrealistic expectations on myself and trying to be something I am clearly not.

But does that make me any less valuable?

Slowly, I have been starting to look at our own family, our own marriage and realize that my strengths are the things my husband actually enjoys. The ways I am a blessing and an asset to my family is not necessarily the way you are to yours. Some women can sew, some woman can cook...but I am not one of those. But I am a gift to my own husband in different ways. I am an entrepreneur. I am able to take risks. I can see the big picture. I am highly organized and methodical and take care of all the bills. I am the one who coordinates all of our moves...every two to three years, sometimes every six months! I am able to adapt very easy to new environments and can set up a home like nobody's business. My husband is a very neat and also methodical person, he likes everything to be in its place, and I am very OCD and a clean freak...nice pair. We work well together. What I am good at, he is not and what he is good at, I lack. I am always antsy and need inspiration and creativity therefore cant stay at a job for very long...but my husband thrives on routine and his job. He is a slow and steady and I am not. We are a good pair.

God made me on purpose, with purpose.

So here's to you Jill... because I am so inspired by you. You are everything I am not. But that's okay. Because I am a different kinda wife and I have a different kinda husband. I am constantly inspired by you and motivated to be better. Not with what I do around my house, but in my heart. You inspire me to always be on the lookout for someone to bless. You have this way about you, you never think twice whether its with money or watching kids. You just do what the Lord prompts you to do and you live each day grateful and obedient to that.

I have put together an omage of some things that have recently come out of your oven. I am now just choosing to be inspired and not feel guilty. I cant eat 99% percent of them anyways. But they all look so good. And I have had your beer can chicken and it is fabulous. Thanks for being such an amazing woman!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The laundry

Our laundry basket.

There is so much freedom in this post for me, I just have to get it out there. Now if your your next question is "where does the baby sleep?" then that is another post. But yes, this is Lucy's crib and this is where we put our laundry. Now if I could only get her to learn to fold it...

For many years after I had recommitted my life to Christ, I had a flood of self help books, books on being a good wife, and many women speaking to me about wifehoodery. That's my word, if it was a word. And many of those books had made me feel like I was being a very bad wife for not having everything in order. Not being perfect at managing my children, the cooking, cleaning etc. And I have been known in the past to get very judgy when it comes to other women. Judging the food they put on the table, the state their homes were in and even the state their children are in. Shame on me. But something so big has happened to me its hard to even describe. I know I say that alot, hard to describe especially since i am throwing in my attempt to be somewhat of a writer....but it is hard to explain. If I was an Oprah fan it would be an aha! moment.

*I don't consider myself a writer, even though this is writing. I consider myself a literary mess with a small vocabulary and a huge heart for Jesus.

I started to learn about grace.

And if you have never heard about it or taken it freely, I highly recommend it. It wasn't really until I started reading other blogs that women write that God really showed me how it really works. What do you mean you eat fast food? How does your husband feel about coming home to a cold sandwich for dinner? You don"t fold your laundry right away?

*or if you are me, hardly even put it away anymore...

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2: 8-9

It's a freedom that I have never felt before. It has released me from so many years of high expectation of myself and frankly, expectation I thought came from God himself.

Be a perfect housewife.
Raise perfect children.
Avoid hardship.
Change my husband.
Get things right the first time.
Don't ask for help.
Be physically attractive.
Expect perfection from my husband.

The list goes on and on. I have now realize that living a life where I had to adhere to all those expectations, sucked the joy right out of everything and literally separated me from him. Because in my heart, I desire to be an amazing wife. With everything I have I wish that a hot meal would be on the table every night and my house perfect...and my children well behaved at every moment.  But that is just not happening.

The only perfect thing about my life is Jesus.

Something really fascinating happened last night in our house. I have fought my husband tooth and nail for 10 years, about our laundry. Putting that heavy burden on myself to make sure it all got done and it was perfect for him. But things have been sort of crazy around here lately with the blog and my art that its just not happening the way I would like it to. He was looking for a pair of shorts last night. Wandering around aimlessly searching in all the corners of the house. He does this with pretty much every article of clothing he is looking for. And socks? Forget about them. They never end up in the same place, at the same time. So I think we both reached a moment in our marriage where we were quite comfortable enough to say hey, lets find a better way...this way is stressful for all of us and living this expectation causes strife, not love. Me stressed out trying to do all the laundry and keep track of uniforms and him not ever knowing where things are is NOT the way God desires our house to run. So I said, I will get you your own basket and you can do your own laundry. His reaction?

"Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!"

(If I could convey the enthusiasm here I would, but it was big)

Well that's settled. And what an incredible exchange of grace in our own marriage, for each other. Just freely being able to say, lets just do what works for us. So often I think we get caught up in our biblical roles, in our own standards and what we think is right that we let our pride run our lives and not God himself. And we don't give people enough grace and we don't walk in it ourselves enough. I think I have struggled so much with Gods grace because I believed he wanted me to be perfect. I believed that I could do it all. But I cant, I clearly cant. And right now, God has put some big things on my plate. The art...the blog...my children. And how crazy is it that I measure my success based on what I think of myself. What a horrible way to live. And my very own husband has nicer things to say about me than I do. I have found myself crying out to him many times, stressed out, trying to be superwife when he just answers with compliments. My very own husband sees me as a treasure and that should be enough. I get discouraged over things that he doesn't even give a thought to.

So even though I still want to be able to do all the laundry, have it neatly folded after the first, not the third dryer cycle, and put away in the same day...its not my life right now. It's not the highest on the priority list. Starting a family business, sharing the good news and learning to navigate this new stage in my children's lives is more important than neatly folded laundry and a grumpy husband.

Thank you Scott, for giving me some grace. Thank you for loving me not because of what I do but because of who I am. I love being your wife and working hard for you behind the scenes here. And I am so grateful that you are supporting me during this time of transition. And last night you texted me while Grace and I were out and asked me if I wanted you to do the dishes. I cried in my hot honda while I sat in traffic thinking about how much I wanted to say no, and come home and do them myself. And nobody will understand that because nobody knows how much you hate doing the dishes, but I do. I let you do them. I let go. And I recieved your love with a side of grace.

And that felt good.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

God answers prayer.

I think for me, prayer has been the biggest challenge in my walk with God. Because I am the type of gal who likes to have an answer for everything, a list, a calendar...a clue. Well, if I could back up just a little I would like to admit that 100% of all my stress so far in 30 years has been simply because I didn't pray. Well, I did pray but not the right way.

I have spent so much of my time trying to make things happen it almost is exhausting to think about and I am glad, no overjoyed God stopped me in my tracks, knocked me upside the head and messed up my world big time in this area of my life.

Its simple prayers or big prayers, they always used to start with...

"please God, take this away from me..."

"God, I need this..."

You  know, those prayers. But something has changed in me. I feel like he has created a warrior. Someone I don't know. Someone who has been through many challenges, fallen many times and is tired. Tired of trying to do it all myself. I used to have the mentality that life was only good if circumstances around me were all good...the bank account full, no dental issues, no surgeries, no deployments...but the reality is, the world is full of evil. We are constantly being attacked. Things are going to happen and there is no stopping it. God never said circumstances would always be good. Our cars will break down, air conditioners will break, our kids will get boo boos. Gunmen will appear in a dark movie theatre and start shooting for no reason other than to spread evil. There is no telling what is ahead for any of us.But there is one thing for sure...

God answers our prayers.

I was just upstairs with Grace and we were praying (which we need to do more of). I asked her to sit on my lap and I just wrapped my arms around her and thanked God for her. For giving us 4 great years so far...and for everything he is doing in her. I asked her when we were done if she really knew who were praying to.

Yes mommy, we are praying for God.

I don't know how but kids always seem to carry this special wisdom with them. Praying for God, not to God is what she said. And that's the truth. Its amazing the burdens that get lifted off my shoulders when I start speaking that truth over my circumstances, my life. When I stop asking to be rescued but give thanks for it in advance. When I stop asking for restoration but claiming it, like it was always mine. Healing, because of the blood of Jesus.

I think my Grace has it right. Praying is not because God needs to know what we are going through. Praying is so he can comfort us through it. Its all for him. He already has the plans layed out, he knows the detours we need to take, he knows exactly whats going to happen next and he is ready and able to let us in on his amazing plans.

I so often forget that God already knows. And he is hurting right along with us. And I forget that he just wants to talk with us. Not to us. He wants to get into our lives so deep that its impossible to make a move without him. He just wants all of us.

My prayers have turned from a frantic mess to a wonderful moment in time where I feel nothing but peace. Because sometimes I am a frantic mess, but not as much as before.  My mind is quiet and my soul is tuned into his comfort. I am able to hear him clearer and receive all of him, instead of what I just want to hear. I feel confident that he is always there, working things for my good, in every area. I am confident now that even when things seem to be a mess, he is there. And I am looking for the lessons and the blessings in the challenges now. Not just asking to be rescued all the time. But that's a whole other post in itself...learning to be content in your trials.

I was watching a 48 hours special last night and one of the victims of the Colorado shooting was on from his hospital room. He talked about how he dropped down and started praying. He said he could feel the dark presence of the shooter and that when he started praying he was comforted. He felt peace amongst the bullets. He got shot a few times and was in alot of pain. But he made it out. And I know of a few others who have come out with their stories of that night. And they all prayed, and all felt Gods presence in that place. And that man, well he said, there was dark there but when you have the light inside you, it shines brighter than any darkness.

I am thankful beyond words tonight that he allows us to come to him. It just blows my mind sometimes that we are able to do that. Just go to him. Whenever we want. I find myself trying to find time with him more everyday just so I can experience his presence. His peace. I need that. I need help. I need answers. I need a road map. I need comfort. I cant imagine what it was like for those people, bullets whizzing by, chaos, chemicals...but all those who prayed found themselves in a peaceful moment amongst the storm. Its almost too much too explain but I get it now. I have been there.

In his presence.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The stage

When I close my eyes and think about what makes me the most happy in this world,
It think about singing.

Ever since I was about oh..in middle school, I have wanted to be a singer.
I wanted to move to New York and sing in a piano bar.
I sing in my car, I sing while I paint, I sing in my soul...
My most complete, full , happy and content moments are while I am listening to music.

the dim lights...

the watchful eyes...

the judging minds...

the sweaty palms...

my beating heart...

the tense muscles...

I am so uncomfortable on the stage.

The literal and figurative one.

I don't know why I would have such a pull, such a deep passion for music and singing and have the least amount of courage in this world. I still don't know why I haven't done anything with my voice.
I would give pretty much anything, besides my family, to be a singer.
But I just cant get on stage.
In fact, I cant even sing for people who ask me to. Just normal people.
I have had so many people tell me to just do it.
Just audition somewhere.
Find a band.
I did once, when I was a teenager and I had a few beers in my car before I could even meet them.
I didn't sing for them.
I don't know how to read music, I don't play an instrument.
I just love to sing.

I have been thinking alot about that and my art lately.
About how I cringe every time I put a painting up online.
I don't know how to accept compliments.
I still think my work is worth nothing.
I tried starting my own business doing in home nutrition consulting but that failed
because I couldn't charge anybody.
And the first time someone bought a piece of my art...
I couldn't believe it.
And to this day,
I still am in shock when someone asks me to paint them something.
I always ask my clients how they heard about me
just to make sure a family member or friend didn't put them up to it.
I don't know why its taken me this long to take a step out from underneath all of
I keep measuring my worth based on what the world thinks is beautiful.
I compare my art with others art.
I am so afraid of being in the spotlight.
I get nervous every time I write a blog post.
I sometimes leave and come back and reword something
or add something
or take something away.
I am a zero on the confidence level.
I am constantly evaluating,
should I have said that?
Does that sound weird?
Does that look bad?

I cant public speak.
I get so nervous my i actually feel my body shutting down.
I shake so bad.
I am really at a point in my life when i am questioning the real reason to this.
Why is it so easy for some people to sing or talk or write?
What am I really afraid of?
I don't even really think I am afraid of failure.
I think I am most afraid of being judged.

Lately i have been thinking alot about gifts and talents and why we have them.
I am really starting to understand that they really aren't for us.
Because my relationship with God is way different now that even a few months ago...
And every time I paint something I feel like I am painting for him.
Not a client.
I feel like every time I write a blog post,
I am worshipping him.
By admitting my failures, talking about my fears...
And letting him take the stage.
It feels way better to be up there with him.

I don't have the best voice.
I don't paint the best pictures.
I don't write the best blog posts.
In fact, I still to this day don't know if anyone reads this...
But it doesn't matter.
Because its all for him.
I keep thinking about when I was pregnant with my babies
and how each week they would grow bigger and bigger in my belly.
And i think about how each week, God was putting something else into their souls..
a passion,
a gift,
a talent.
And I think about how he did that for me too.
And I think he intends for us to use them.

So if you ever meet me in real life,
please don't ask me to sing for you.
And don't try to tell me that I paint beautiful pictures
or write good blog posts,
I wont believe you.
But maybe someday,

I can feel those dim lights...

the watchful eyes...

the judging minds...

the sweaty palms...

my beating heart...

the tense muscles...

and just relax.

and feel him smile...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A story about prayer, money and how God is always faithful.

*I have been struggling with this post for a while. Going back and forth on sharing, not sharing and how it might be perceived. But I am feeling 100% confident this morning that this is good news and my heart is in the right place.

If you know me, you know that I have the strongest desire to meet peoples basic needs where hunger is involved.  I could say I have a spot in my heart but that would be small minded thinking and I just don't think that way anymore. My whole existence has become based on needing spiritual food, finding that, receiving that and wanting everyone around me to be filled with it. I myself have not been in a spot where physical hunger was an issue. In fact, I have battled my own addiction to food for many years now and am receiving much healing and power in that area of my life. A while back I wrote a page for my art website and quickly took it down for fear that it sounded like I was looking for people to buy my art so that I could give to the poor, in turn people might think that it was a ploy to sell my art. I took it down because I didn't want anyone to think that, it is so far from the truth I don't even know how to defend that. But God has given me this desire to show Jesus as a man who feels deep concern for the hungry, whether spiritual or physical, and is waiting for all those who call him King to reach out and make much of his life, and death.

Here is the story

Two years ago I was laying in a bed with my daughter in Toronto, Canada. It was Christmas time and we were visiting my father for the holiday. I was pregnant with our daughter Lucy and my husband was serving in the war in Afghanistan. Two days into our trip our daughter Grace had gotten sick and we had to take her to the ER. She had a virus which left her listless, coughing and with fevers, she could barely breathe. I found myself so alone and scared. I stayed up with her all night, watching her struggle to breathe. I held her in the bath tub. We took hot showers to help her breathe and I just wept. I was crying out to Jesus to heal her. There was nothing I could do for her, except pray. I found myself reaching out to everyone I knew to pray...

For some reason the tv upstairs in the room we were in only got a few channels, one of them happened to be "the church channel". And as I lay there one night praying over Grace, James and Betty Robison were on with their Life Outreach International...Mission Feeding show. God had carved a special spot into my heart at an early age for people who are hungry and in need, so this caught my attention. And this is what God said to me that night...

Melissa, my child, don't you know that I am already healing Grace? I hear your prayers... and I am meeting your needs. I have brought you here, to this place of feeling so helpless and scared so that you may understand what I am asking you to do. I need you to pray for all of my other children who are in need. All of the children who don't know me, and are hungry. I needed you to understand what it felt like to not know how to meet your child's needs...I needed you to understand that there are millions of mothers who cry out to me every night in desperation because their children are on the verge of death...because they are hungry.Everything I have let you see in this life, everything I have allowed you to go through, is for your good. It is for me. Just as you lift up your child to me tonight, so many others do, and they don't have the resources you do. Wont you help me? Wont you lay down all your fears and just allow me to work through you? Help me tonight, my child.

So what did I do? I gave 100 bucks. I didn't tell my husband, I lived in fear that he wouldn't understand that God asked me to do this. I just knew he would think I was crazy. Grace got better and we went home,just in time for Christmas. The day we got home, I went to get the crazy amount of mail that had stacked up. I opened a card that caught my eye, and it was from my mother in law. And in the card was a check. For 100 bucks.

It was then that I truly understood what God was asking me to do.

Lay down my fear, trust and follow Him.

So here I am a few years later, still in the same economic status, still on a military salary...still full of hope that someday I will be able to just do something. So about 6 months ago I decided to start painting as a way to make money for my family, to help provide. I believe so deeply in our service to the military that I have never once felt ungrateful for the salary we have. I feel so blessed to have health care and benefits in case my husband is called to lay down his life...but the fact is, we don't have alot of money. I say that very lightly and carefully because we are so wealthy compared to other cultures. Just the fact that we have electricity and running water sometimes brings me to tears. And I also have been known to cry over full baskets of groceries...

Speaking of groceries...

So I have been praying hard. Praying that God would just show us something, anything really where money is concerned. A very good friend of mine, who has the biggest heart for the Lord, once revealed to me that I along with many others have a "poverty mindset". What does that mean?

I don't give what I have because I think its all I am ever going to get.

What does that really mean? Well, to me it means that every time our paycheck comes in or an unexpected bill or disaster like our recent air conditioner incident happens, I get all human and icky and hoardy. Is that a word? You know what I mean.I just obsess and cling onto every dollar we have trying to save, never saving, try to figure out the answers, and that never happens either. I am always in constant battle with my human small mind and Gods big bold plan for our hearts, our finances, our lives... I question always why some people are so wealthy and they have no heart to give. Most days I feel my heart does not match up with my faith. And I am slowly learning that we must use the faith that we have so much to the point of being left alone on that very narrow road, and just stare at Jesus. Just stare at him with both eyes, and our hearts. Claim that there is no fear in faith and that the measure we give is the measure we are to receive. Not out of obligation, but out of joy. Not because we have to or we might be called to but because we desire to reach a place where God knows no limits with us. He is able to freely give to the point of overflowing because he trusts his people to never question what he asks of us.

This is just what he is speaking to me.

So lately I have been praying some pretty bold prayers that maybe might not make sense to you. And this is why I was hesitant to share. Because I pray that he just shows me. That he just tears down the walls of fear so that I know when I give I know my needs are met. I'm not talking about giving like a few dollars here and there...I want to be able to answer the call when I see a young mother struggling with her kids at the grocery store, looking like she has been through a rough few years and might be faced with the choice of food or gas that month. I want to be able to just freely swipe my card and bless her. Because Jesus asked that of me. And I want to do that with 100 % confidence that I am also being delivered from my own financial mess. I just don't want to be scared anymore.

So I decided that since my heart is on people and hunger I would just jump out in faith and start small. At our local grocery store we have a way to give every time we pay. They have these little tear off sheets at the register.

And every time I go, no matter what I have decided to tear off that five dollar sheet. Actually I didn't decide that, that's what God told me to do. If I go for the week, or if I go for some milk. Five bucks. If I have 2,000 dollars in our bank account of if I have 30. And every time I feel like I am crying out to God. I have become less hesitant, less shaky, more confident in Him, less confident in me. More aware of a heart full of pride. More aware of the way I hang onto things and don't look to the eternal. More aware of the way I stockpile Jesus in my heart for my own problems and struggle to get out and just admit, I cant do this on my own. I cant fix our air conditioner, I cant afford to pay our electric bill this month. I cant...I cant... I cant!

But he can.

So one particular day, I had a grocery bill that was about 53 bucks. I filled with more pride and thought, oh well I could give 1 buck today and that would still keep me under 55. Because I don't think I had much more than that in our account. There were people behind me, I could feel myself starting to get anxious, but I stayed in conversation with God the whole time. Well pretty much just prayed for me to be able to do it. Just tear it off. Just give it to her he kept saying...

Just trust me.

So I did. And then I made it about halfway to my car when I pulled out my phone and I had a message. I had an email. It was from the wine bar. My art is at the wine bar. I have alot of art there and nothing has ever sold there, so it was weird to be hearing from them.

Hi Melissa,
It's Carl from Riverside Wine Bar. You have sold a small Cubs painting for $60 and I have your payment for pick up. Please let me know how you would like me to give it to you.

My receipt is dated June 26 at 6:19 pm. It was for 60.63

This email is dated June 26 at 6:31 pm. I had sold a painting for 60.

An divine exchange.

This is not a post about testing God. It is not a post about money. But it is a post about crying out to God to deliver me from my own selfish ambition and pride and replace it with open hands. Give my open heart a measure of faith so I can begin to open my hands more. Help me to stretch out my faith and do what I fear the most in my walk with giving. I sit here right now facing many financial hurdles. And again, I say that very lightly because I am drinking a diet dr pepper typing on my computer sitting in 72 degrees. Sometimes I just want to cry. I just want to cry about how much I do have. And those mothers, and their children. I just cant bear it anymore. I cant bear looking into my own children's eyes and see health and vitality and know that some mothers look into their own children's eyes and see sickness and poverty. I cant save all those kids.

But I can start somewhere.

With what I have right now.

What God has been showing me lately is that I don't need a million dollars to start giving. I don't need to wait until my bank account is full to give. I don't need to wait until my air conditioner is fixed to be able to give 5 dollars at the grocery store.

Because whatever is in our bank account, is his. And if he can create the stars and the planets, if he can build and move mountains, if he can send his own son to die for my own selfish pride, I can surely put my bank account in his hands and trust him to provide.

And if I can trust him to always provide, no matter what the economy looks like, no matter what challenges come my way, then I can surely give with an open heart, and open hands, with a smile on my face and overflowing joy in my heart that I have the healer, the hope, the savior walking right beside me.

I never want to walk alone again. I never want to have my heart so full of pride that I believe the lie that I am in charge of my own finances. I pave my ways...I create or seize opportunities. And I never want to believe the lie again that giving is only for those that have money. I want BIG faith. Because I serve a BIG God. I have tasted Gods love and his faithfulness and it tastes sweeter than anything I ever thought possible.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

The dreaded email I was not hoping for....

This is what we were doing a few hours ago when I got the dreaded email in my inbox...

This email is something my husband and I have thought about and consumed ourselves with (probably just me since I am the worrier) since we moved.

What could possibly be so bad that it would make me write 2 blog posts in one day breaking the blogging rules???

Our air conditioner in NC quite working.

Deployments? done it.
Physical disease? Had it.
having a baby by myself? did it. not scared of it.
But the air conditioner...

Its a big deal when you don't have any savings. Its a big deal when it was a mistake to even buy a house in the first place and you don't have any means to keep up with it.

But what was I just writing about turning my worry into worship???

I just feel like this is it.
These are the moments that having and using faith are made for.

I have turned a major corner in my relationship with God lately. I am in a place where I am so interested...no, desperately seeking to be closer to him. I am so tired of worrying and stressing over everything in my life and then calling myself a believer. I am so tired of rushing around everywhere trying to make things happen for myself.

I want to run into these trials with the full armor on and not ever look back.

I want to quit writing about James and how we should count our trials joy. I want to live the very life breathing word I write about and watch God move mountains, clear paths and be my savior.
We need a savior.

Its either a 100 dollar fix
a 6,000 dollar one.
 And we are only prepared for one of those scenarios.

Either way, there is nothing I could ever do to to fix this.The only thing I can do is pray.
I could rush around trying to paint some stuff...
I could panic and eat some cake.
Or I could enjoy the day with my girls and read and re read the very life breathing words I am in need of.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved
Psalm 55:22

What can we learn? What part do we play in our own problems?
I guess if we have made mistakes, done things without asking God, like buying a house, we have some consequences. There are consequences to our actions that aren't in line with His will.
We make mistakes.
But I know that God works all things for our good.
And he is a God of infinite love, mercy and grace.
And we need all of that.
And I am standing on his promises today.

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Trading my worry for worship

Today was an interesting day, to say the least.

My husband has duty so he was up and out the door early. I woke up, got ready for church and got the girls ready. As we were all reconvening downstairs Lucy threw up and Grace was coughing up a lung.

My husband told me to just go on without him...

On a major side note, I am so grateful to have a husband who doesn't just "babysit" our kids but in my absence throws major dance parties and takes videos, cleans up, feeds them without being left a list or a meal plan and loves them like crazy. I am just so blessed and so are they. And no, it wasn't always like that but I watch him get more confident with them everyday and it makes my heart go crazy. And its not the fact that he has now started to clean up or do things without a list that is so amazing to me, its the fact that he says, go! i got this! I just think about how hard it must be for a man to be alone with 2 girls and not go crazy. There is no fishing or man talk...I know I cant go to work and do what he does. And I don't think I would even want to try. But if I come home to a huge mess, dishes still on the table, toys everywhere I have learned to love that to.
And sometimes I wish, I pray to be more like him.
More messes, more dishes left out, more toys everywhere...

I came home today with alot on my mind that just doesn't need to be there.

My unrealistic expectations of myself, my thoughts of how bills are going to get paid...
the next steps with sharing larger pieces of my story with the world...
how to navigate through working and being a mom and wife...and how to make that a beautiful experience, not a draining one.
Lots of thoughts.
Very draining, consuming thoughts.

Its funny because I can always tell when I have let my worry effect the mood of the day because my husband will always say something.
I will be sitting with him on the couch watching baseball very peacefully and all of a sudden I will get up and start picking up toys.
Then I will start doing dishes.
Then I will start panicking about all the laundry that needs to be done that is just waiting upstairs...
Then I will be consumed with thoughts of dinner...
And then he just comes out with a funny song.
Today it went, "today was going great and then it all went to crap"
I cant make it sound like he sings it on the Internet but just imagine Doug from King of Queens ;)

I needed some time to just be peaceful, so I sat outside.
But it was so gorgeous I grabbed Grace and we sat out together.
One second we were talking about ants and then next she was asking me about Heaven.I just love talking to her at this age. She is so bright and fresh and not consumed with anything yet in her little world. I wish I could just talk about ants and Heaven sometimes.

But I was thinking about all the time I had wasted today worrying about stuff and just had an overwhelming moment with God over it. Whenever I start to worry, God usually shows me in sort of a slide show in my brain, what He has already done for us. And what he has been faithful to and brought us through.

Did you know...

Our mortgage has been paid in full every month since we rented our house out over Christmas?

God has provided full rent on our current house and mortgage every single month.

We have been given so much grace in the area of our vehicles, I am in need of service and my husband has squeaky brakes, but we are still up and running, praise God.

I have alot of dental work needed, again, but my benefits ran out months ago. God has taken away all the pain until my benefits renew in August.

We have been able to send Grace to preschool at our church for almost 4 months now and pay for it each month even though we can not afford it.

I have either had a babysitting job or sold a painting and was able to pay $150 extra every month.

I sure need to be reminded sometimes.

I just need to start trading my worry for worship.
I need to focus on what God has done and is doing every moment for us...
I think sometimes, well I know sometimes I get caught up in the how's and what ifs and forget that the very life I live is because He allows it.
And there is not a moment where he is not in it with me.
I also need to start praising God for the confusing moments more.
The moments where I am just so lost I couldn't even come up with an answer myself.
Because that's when He is the greatest.
When I praise him for always being our provider, and set my mind on his promises,
the worry starts to disappear.
And when I am worshipping Him, nothing can separate me from him.
Not any bills, or dental problems. Not fear of the unknown...

I took Grace today on a mini impromptu date to Whole Foods. It was so gorgeous out I decided to make a stop at our fav smoothie place. Because we are both sick, I got a vitamin boost in both of ours and she was so funny...she kept saying "mommy, this smoothie is making me feel so much better."
That kid. She just gets into my heart.
We sat on a bench and watched all the people walk by...
And of course Grace greeted everyone with a
"good morning"
"how are you today?"
"you have pretty shoes"

I am definitely going to do that more with her. She loves to get out and just people watch and chat and so do I so we are a great team. I have definitely come to a place with her where I am really enjoying being with her. Its especially good when I get one on one time.
Her mood shifts. She isn't as panicky or high strung.
She is calm and gentle.
I love to watch her navigate the world around her. She thinks the potted plants are gorgeous and she loves to point out when peoples wheels on their cars don't match.
She saw this outside Whole Foods and could not stop hysterically laughing for about an hour...
"Aww mom! The apple has a mustache!"
I didn't have the heart to tell her its a cherry.

linking up with Bits of Splendor
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

He says its okay ;)

Last night I went to be with the intention of spending my Saturday morning alone. in the car. maybe some drive through Starbucks. and a much needed haircut. Not a Fantastic Sam's kind of hair cut but a real big girl salon. I haven't had a hair cut since before Christmas last year and decided today was the day. I don't ever actually do anything like that. The last pedicure I had was for my sisters wedding a few months ago and before that...years.

But I woke up with a really really sore throat.

And my corpsman husband went and got his "tools" and investigated. Didn't look good. So I traded my morning for a trip to the urgent care. I still don't have a doctor here so I went to the place I found about 2 months ago when I had the exact same thing. This sore throat, cough, runny nose stuff is not leaving us alone. All of us.

So I got there and saw this place. Instantly, I knew why I was sick.

So he could lead me here.

Sometimes I just wrestle around with ideas, over think, over analyze, over research, ask too many questions...and God is just telling me, HERE! Just do it! Here it is! Stop thinking about it! Its okay...

Its okay ;)

Its a indoor swim and tumble place. Grace has been begging to learn to swim and do anything that involves other kids. I bought her a pair of goggles for a buck at the dollar store for no reason one day and she has been obsessed with them ever since. She talks about a swim class and I don't even think she even knows what that is.  On a side note, I am just so interested in what this kid is going to do in her life. Both of them, Grace and Lucy are such lovers. Lucy especially at only a year is always hugging and patting our backs. If someone is crying, she immediately reacts. But Grace...she just is so concerned with every ones welfare. Its such a blessing to me.

So I am signing her up even though I say we cant afford it. I am praying and staying in faith that we will be provided for in this area. There is just too much good that can come of this for her. And we are just so excited! I am all together too serious sometimes when it comes to making moves in my life. I forget that God delights in seeing us grow and experience things. He wants to see us overjoyed and enjoying the very things he has blessed us with. I just need to let go way more and let him just take delight in my baby girl learning to swim. Take delight in watching her learn to walk on the balance beam. I just sometimes forget to lighten up.

I am also planning on doing alot more in depth writing. God has just been really telling me lately that there is so much He wants me to share about my story. My history with depression and anxiety...My struggle with weight and food addiction...the ways I have experienced healing. All of it.

Put down the art, and share.

 Prayers for healing in this snotty nosed, coughing sore throat house are appreciated.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

My food allergies

I thought I would talk a little about my food allergies in hopes that maybe somebody out there might be suffering with the same thing and not know it. I did for about 10 years, it all went undiagnosed.

I ended up diagnosing myself and got the tests to prove it.

About 10 years ago, I was driving to work and had to pull over. I felt very dizzy. It was more like an extreme sensation of vertigo.It seemed to settle in between my eyes and not ever go away for years.

 I saw about 17 doctors and specialists. Allergists, ENT's, Neurologists...I have had countless MRI's and scans of my brain.I have been to homeopathic doctors and been on anti depressants, anti seizure medications and beta blockers. I have suffered with panic attacks and severe depression to the point of not being able to work for many years. I have also always had a weight issue.

My symptoms included:

severe swelling all over
feeling of heaviness
extreme fatigue
constant infections
light sensitivity
severe joint pain/body aches

It was so bad that I was being tested for bone cancer, lupus and all auto immune diseases. My sed rate was very low and my blood counts way off. But nobody found anything. Then one day I ate taco bell. I never felt worse in my life. So bloated and gross. Just not normal. I convinced a friend of mine to go on a detox with me for a few weeks. My husband was leaving for some training and I only had Grace to cook for so it was easy. I am also a certified nutrition counselor so it was easy for me to do.

We ate greens, olive oil, vinegar, smoothies and THAT'S it. I felt great. The swelling went down and I felt more like a human. As my husband came home and life started up again life began to get back to normal...I added in most of the foods I had eaten before but left out gluten. I for sure knew in my heart I had a gluten issue.

Until one day I ate some beef stew. It said gluten free so I thought I was in the clear...but 20 minutes after eating it my stomach blew up twice the size. It was swollen and hard. I have never been so discouraged in my life. But then I looked at the ingredients and knew the culprit...


See for many years my husband and I would eat a bag of popcorn at night while watching movies and I would wake up and not be able to even walk. I was so stiff and swollen and dizzy. I could not walk. I never mad a connection. Then I got pregnant with my Lucy and had routine blood work done again and it all came back abnormal again. So I demanded to be tested...

My allergy test

I am allergic to...

cows milk
sesame seeds

With all of that being said, I am on an allergy diet. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with it all. And I hate that. Especially the corn. Its in everything. Its hard to follow a traditional gluten free diet because most of it includes almond flour and corn. Its hard to follow any diet really because I cant have most of the major food groups. So I eat MY way. Sometimes I feel guilty for spending a lot of our money on organic, non allergy food but its either that or be sick. Its been getting better for me, but its very expensive.

I have been finding new products here and there and finding new ways to adapt to this. Its been about 2 years now. There are still some days where I slip up.Sometimes I am just stuck. I might have forgotten a snack or been stuck at the airport. Or sometimes I am at someones house and there just are no options. But for the most part, things have been good.

Coincidentally when i stopped eating corn, I immediately lost 17 pounds. It seems like food allergies and weight gain go hand in hand. Especially the swelling and weight gain you cant explain. This part was especially difficult for me because I had been a weight loss consultant for many years. I worked as a personal trainer also. I opened my own business in Virginia as a independent nutrition and wellness counselor and struggled because I myself had weight issues I could not explain.

This is something that has also taken me way deeper into my relationship with God. Suffering for all those years and having so many doctors tell me nothing was wrong, despite my abnormal tests...drew me closer to Him.I had to ask God for the answers. I had to rely on Him to lead me to people who could help. I stayed very diligent in prayer and in scripture and it was finally revealed to me, when I was ready. I have learned so much along the way about food and wellness. Stuff that I would never know if I hadn't gone through this. I always have said that this will be my first question when I get to Heaven...why I had all these food allergies. But that's so silly because none of it will even matter anymore and I am sure I will be in so much awe that the thought wont even cross my mind.

I still have a ways to go with my weight loss. It always is very easy for me to lose weight when I stick to a 100 % allergy free diet. When I do slip up, it takes bare minimum 3 days to feel somewhat normal again. I am always looking for new recipes and ways to adapt my lifestyle to my family's. Sometimes the worst part of my day is figuring out meals because I can rarely ever cook for all of us at once. But that is getting easier because my family tries to meet me half way...my amazing husband has been more relaxed on eating healthier food and eats what I make for me more often.

Please feel free to email me or comment if you need help with food allergies or you think you may have some...I am pretty much an expert now!

Here is a list of foods I DO eat...

cashews/cashew butter
gluten free oats
rice pasta
rice milk
gluten/corn free breads

*all my recipes that I post on this blog are gluten/corn free.

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