The Truth About Identity

I’m reading a book called “Afraid of All the Things.” As it was written by a woman who spent her childhood convinced her appendix was rupturing and singing Celine Dion songs into a mirror as she wept, it’s not likely I could identify more if I tried. Ask Kristen, who turned to me just this morning and yelled rudely “STOP GOOGLING IF YOUR ESSENTIAL OILS ARE GOING TO KILL YOU. THEY AREN’T.” before adding in a more calm manner but with no small touch of cruelty: “Besides. You probably have a bug in your brain right now. Melinda. Are you now Googling ‘Is it possible there is a bug in my brain?'“ I was. (You’ll be relieved to know if one gets in there it’s not likely to live long but there’s a whole forum of people who are convinced they have bugs eating through their brain even as I sit here and I will definitely be thinking of each of them by name as I attempt to sleep tonight.)

Possibly because I identified with her so greatly, Scarlet Hiltibidal found it easy to write herself right inside my head, (LIKE A BUG) which is probably why it was so profoundly resounding when this particular phrase echoed through my brain:

“You probably don’t tend to think of yourself as brave or courageous. But you can wear that identity, because it’s your truest one. Your truest identity is that you’re God’s chosen, rescued, on the way to glorious child. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit and He has all the power.”

In that moment something I had heard hundreds of times became incredibly clear to me. I realized:

My truest identity is that I am a child of God.

It makes a lot of sense. I would like to think my truest identity is: Dancing around the house, worshiping around the throne, toilet scrubbing, adventure finding, tender hearted, gumbo making, lovingly correcting, pom pom encouraging, card writing, present buying, incredibly insightful, always forgiving, super sympathetic, book reading, book writing, party throwing, thoughtful journaling, self sacrificing, talented, anointed, interceding, “Let me hold your baby while I make us some soup and you tell me all about it” Melinda.

Yet, if I am all that, if that is my identity, then I am also forced to acknowledge my identity as: Too depressed to get out of bed, deadline pushing, snap judgment making, hiding in my closet, willfully sinning, easily angered, tantrum throwing, self indulgent, self seeking, self serving “Nobody talk to me I have enough problems of my own, your problems are NOT EVEN PROBLEMS” Melinda. Those things are a part of me too.

identity.jpg

I can’t make Melinda the mentor my identity without Melinda the malicious getting some screen time. I’m both, and there’s a fine line between #queen and #diva. (My sister will tell you. She’ll tell you too much actually. Don’t ask her.)

That’s why my truest identity has to be in Him. Because I’m His kid when it’s 5:00 AM and staff parking is somehow full and it’s raining and my bags are soaked and the drink I just purchased introduces itself to the concrete and I am cussing words like “SANDWICHES” and God only knows what I’m actually saying in my heart and it turns out God is the only one that really knows me anyway. I am not a condition of my own identity. My true identity is in Christ. Only He can make me who I need to be, but as I fumble and fall and fail through that process I’m reminded:

I haven’t gotten where I’m going yet, and might not yet be who I want to be, but I’m already His regardless.

That’s who I really am.

Always and ever, already His.


Standing Still - Staying Silent

The Words turned bold and leaped right off the page at me:

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’” - Exodus 14:13-14

The message reverberated through my bones like only His Word can.

Just. Be. Quiet.

It’s the part I had missed, you know? I remember the “stand still and see salvation” but forget to shut my mouth. Sometimes it’s all greenery and gorgeousness on the surface and shark skeletons underneath but when I open my mouth what’s inside will come out. What’s inside is often chaotic. And dark. And bitter. That word I don’t like (“bitter”) meets the Word that gives life this morning and I know:

There are some things I need to stop talking about. Words are like water to a root of bitterness. They are. It is how it is.

bittterness blog.jpg

Completely by accident (and most likely not) a book by Lanette Kinsey comes across my cataloging desk this morning. There are three steps, she says, to killing a root of bitterness, three things to do:

1.) Shut up

2.) Die

3.) Praise

When I want to talk about it, shut up. Sure, confide in mentors and safe places, but learn to discern when the water of my words is keeping something alive long after it would have naturally expired.

When I want to remind myself how right I am, how justified I am, when I seek restitution, when I crave vindication, I must die to my selfish desires and my own ambitions. They were wrong, yes. But that was yesterday, this is today, and another day is another practice in dying. That’s how He made us, with bodies that degenerate daily. That’s how He wants us, the inner man crucified with Christ.

When I want to complain, when my vocal chords are straining against the wrongs committed against me and I am convinced I’ll feel better if I just get it out one more time, I must praise. There is enough of His goodness to go around. Enough grace to ground me. I must let it reverberate long and loud in my life.

There is enough of His goodness to go around, enough grace to ground me, if I will choose to see it - if I will let go and let it.

There are things I can do nothing about, a past I cannot change, a future I cannot dictate.

That’s fine.

All I really need do is stand still and stay silent.

It’s then that I see salvation.

Kissing Princes

“I know you think kissing is for marriage but…”

“Wait, what?” I said, interrupting what was sure to be a juicy confessional segment.

“You know, how you think kissing is for marriage.”

We had never discussed this topic. Not ever. I do happen to think kissing is for committed relationships, and I am about to hit the milestone of thirty having refrained from both kissing and telling. So 1.) I expect to be called by someone seeking movie rights to the story any day now and 2.) I was pretty proud that whether he phrased it exactly correctly or not, my lifestyle does communicate a little something about my values. It’s not a rule. It’s not a thing I want to impose on everyone, but it is a thing I do think I’ve done right for me.

However. There are a lot of things I’ve done wrong, and I’d be fooling myself not to understand those things have likely been communicated just as clearly, not with words or diagrams, but just by doing life with me through certain seasons.

So, this love month, I thought about those things. The things I wish I had known, or done differently, and I wrote those down. Then I talked them all over with Denae King and she, it turns out, had so many good things to say at points that her words begged for inclusion. You will find those words italicized below.

frog prince.jpg

1.) Don’t answer phone calls at any and every hour.

Honestly, running around kissing strangers would have taken up less of my time than making myself readily available to anyone who called at any hour. Not that I wasn’t relieved of that duty the minute they got girlfriends to answer their calls. Which brings me to:

2.) Don’t waste time filling in for “the right one.”

I’m all for appropriate male/female friendships to this day. I love my boys. I cannot imagine what life would have looked like living without them. My sister married one of them. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those times when you are desperately needed but never enough and are filling a void specifically so someone else doesn’t feel lonely. Providing constant companionship to someone while they consistently seek and chase after the company of others OR playing pretend games of house in your head while you know there is no future. Don’t do it. Run.

3.) Don’t measure your worth by your relationship status.

“I think girls need to take a good hard look at how they truly feel about being alone. Can they be alone? Or are they constantly needing to fill their time jumping from one boy to the next or even incessantly hanging out with their friends. Can you be alone? Can you sit alone and read and think and commune with the Lord? That’s where the Lord is. In solitude. You are who you are independent of anyone else. Your worth should not be tied to anyone or anything but Him.”

Confidence is not just “becoming okay” with yourself. It’s getting over yourself entirely, looking out at the world and thinking “Is everyone being taken care of? Is everyone okay?” Instead of thinking “I hope my own needs will be met” or “I hope everyone is viewing me in the right light in this moment. I hope my behavior is okay.” It’s not about not caring what people think of you, it’s about caring for their personal well being more than you care about their opinion.

4.) Don’t read so many romance novels.

“What you digest is so important. It informs your thought processes. You’re going to want whatever it is you’re thinking about all the time - even if it’s not right for you in that season. Pay attention to what you read, watch, listen to etc.”

animals-3628277_960_720.jpg

5.) Do realize that a person who is interested in you will let you know.

“Amen. This is not just something cute people like to say in order to sell more magazines or something. It’s the TRUTH.”

6.) Do understand the difference between interest and action.

Action really does speak louder than words, and you want a man of action anyway. It’s not even about “He did something and now I’m sure he’s interested.” No. You should want someone who DOES SOMETHING about his feelings period. More power to you in this day and age if you want to go ahead and pursue some man but you had better be prepared to be the one who keeps doing it the rest of the relationship.

There’s also a lot of time that goes into “Does he have feelings for me?” Feelings are nothing without the intentional decision to pursue someone. If I were going to be consumed with a question I wish that had been the one I was asking.

Not “Does he have feelings for me?” but rather “Does he intend to do anything about them?

7.) Do understand the difference in an interest and a crush

“There’s a guy you see in the airport running to a different gate and you’re like “Wow. That man is beautiful.” And then you don’t see him again. Girls take that type of fleeting feeling like you have in those moments and build castles in the sky on it. That’s not what you should be basing attachment on. Interest comes from being in company with someone, walking in friendship with them, realizing there might be something there. Jumping the gun for that crush feeling leads to two broken hearts where you should have just waited.”

There you have it. What I wish I would have known and what Denae thinks about it. I pray the Lord gives us all wisdom as to do’s or dont’s, could’s and should’s; I pray that that your “will he, won’t she”, plays out in His timing and turns into #blessed and “Taken.”

Mostly, I pray we understand we are extremely #blessed and thoroughly taken right here, right now, regardless of relational status and, as always, that we steward our status well.

Sweethearts and Stewards

I love Valentines Day. It’s actually very Ghanaian of me. (If you know you know.) People say Valentines Day is arbitrary. Or commercial. Or unnecessary. All of those things. My blonde half called me from Europe this morning, as she was speeding towards a conference without her husband (who circumstances dictate she be absent from today) to expound on our love of this calendar date (and obviously for each other.) She loves the day as much as I do, and is forever making sure I remember it with flowers and gift cards and notes and phone calls. “It’s like your birthday.” She said. “OBVIOUSLY I should be loving you every day of the year but your birthday I take time out to really hone in on that.” That’s true. And it’s wonderful. (I also LOVE my birthday. Let me tell you.)

Sure, Valentines Day isn’t “necessary” and you should be showing love all year round but that can be said of any holiday. Any holiday whatsoever. I feel like Valentines Day should be celebrated because I feel like life should be celebrated.

“We’re here. Let’s party.”

Is it a good motto? Debatable. But it’s working for me!

51838901_1193672040809148_2194638338755919872_n.jpg

Bottom Line: Every day of the year, I should be a sweetheart. Whatever season I am in, whatever state I am in, I should steward that well.

How should you spend Valentines Day? It’s up to you. Stay in. Don’t spend. Do you, Boo! However, I do think it’s a perfect opportunity to say how you feel about others. And to do it with candy. And balloons. And CONFETTI!!!

Let’s stroll down memory lane. I was feeling a little extra “meh” this particular Valentines Day so decided to hang out with some people we didn’t know very well. (Whenever life makes you '“meh” try reaching out to others. That was for free.) It was our “first date” if you will. We’re still going steady. Like this blog design? Thank Brianna. Want to hang out? I don’t even know what my schedule is now. Ask Brianna.

51910922_536148230217598_7713728269677232128_n.jpg

This is the Valentines Day after that. Amanda (and so many others) helped throw a big Galentines Bash where we invited everyone we could think of. It was such a sweet time!

51654228_548829115601605_888590804686209024_n.jpg

There have been Valentines Days where I saved up and spread love everywhere that I could, Valentines Days where I was pampered or where I pampered others, a beautiful Valentines week my Senior year of college wherein I received so many bouquets of flowers my dorm resembled the hospital room of a rich heiress, and many many wonderful Valentines Days spent with my precious little sister.

52033955_2186505508283860_1470033620268744704_n.jpg

This Valentines Day I am taking it easy. It’s going to look a lot like this picture above as I spend it with Kaeli except we will be less fancy but still not wearing shoes. (Side note: I was going to emphasize how little I really did this Valentines Day actually but when I began making the list I realized it was still pretty extra. :-) I am who I am.)

A word from the Word:

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” - 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

You may not be holding roses today, but you are holding the mysteries of God.

May the Holy Spirit help you see it, know it, and act like it.

You don’t have to wait for a Valentine to be one.

Whatever you do today I pray you show love.

However you feel today, I pray you know love.

And whatever season you find yourself in, I pray you steward the love (or the laughter or the loneliness) in it well.

All the love in the world to you, my friends!

Happy Valentines Day!

Have My Heart

I came into the world full of heart. I was full of heart and my heart was full of love. I had this one heart. It’s the only heart I’ve got. There’s only one like it. I knew that it was valuable. I could feel it. I knew that it was wanted. I could feel that too.

Mistaking value for currency I went out into the world with the best thing I had to offer to see what it would buy and as time went by I realized, it didn’t buy much at all. Standing at the counter, attempting to be cultural, I offered this world the very best of me and it said:

“Meh. What else you got?” So I gathered up my talents, I over-extended myself, maxing out my time I hoarded treasure and hauled it to the counter and that wasn’t enough so I taxed my resources and tempted the fates and tried my best. I woke up early and I stayed up late and I tested my intellect and I trained my heart not to hope. I tricked it into silence. I told my heart to shut up and sit still and my hands to do anything I thought would matter. Anything I thought would make a difference. Nothing was ever enough.

But He called to me. And He said that He wanted my heart. And I told Him “no.” I said “You don’t want that, let me give you something that matters. Here, take this talent. Why don’t you accept my worship? How about You have Your way with my bank account? You can have my time. You can have ALL of my time You want. Take this song, or that blog, take some dinner, come with me on this mission’s trip, let’s go feed the homeless. Let me lock myself in the prayer closet or visit the hospital. Let me give you something that will be useful to You. You do not want this heart. It’s been tossed around like trash, caught and released so many times it is carved out with fissures from fish hooks. It’s been worn and wasted and weighed in the balance and found lacking. It’s been cast carelessly out of car windows, returned to me as an afterthought, left untouched in display windows as every one picked over every thing and chose to chase everything and everyone else. You do not want this heart. Let me give you something worthy. You do not want this heart.”

But He did.

He does.

The thing this world screams will never matter, is the only thing that does.

The thing that nobody else wanted is the only thing He needs.

I begin to think maybe, I could give Him my heart.

It’s the only one I’ve got. It is the only one like it.

I wonder, would He take it, in pieces?

Noted

I am not the only one who uses my kitchen, or the products in it. I just generally make dinner. I am also not the only one who shops for groceries, although the task falls to me more often than not. More and more frequently, I had been noticing how I would go to reach for something basic and it would no longer be there. My immediate and unvaried response would go something like this:

“Did anyone find it in their heart to think to tell me we are out of milk? That would have been GREAT INFORMATION to have before I STARTED TRYING TO MAKE GRAVY.”

Milk. Sugar. Flour. Butter. Season salt. These are staples. I need to know when the staples run out and I’m not too spiritual to yell about it.

I was having devotions at the kitchen table a few days ago when this unfortunate situation came up again. The simple thought occurred to me (for the first time ever) and I made a note that we needed something to stick on the fridge. We needed a chalkboard or whiteboard or something like that. That way needs could be listed as soon as they were discovered, and if the magnetic device were connected to the fridge it would be in easy view of all involved. I hated the thought of a chalkboard because of the mess, OR a whiteboard because it would be an eyesore, so I knew I would have to search for just the right thing.

Y’all. My sister walked in the door to pick up a package that had been delivered, came over to me and said:

“Hey Mel. I bought you this.”

“This” was a notepad made for list writing, with a cute design featuring a terrarium, and a magnetic back.

I had not expressed this need to anyone. I had barely discovered it myself. Almost before I knew I needed it, it was provided.

table-1558811_960_720.jpg

Here’s a Scripture I’m so in love with:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

The commentary I referenced in study of this stated the LORD showed Himself to the children of Israel as a sun and shield because He was providing them with both comfort and protection.

Sun: Keeping from cold

Shield: Keeping from danger

It was just a notebook, but it wasn’t just a notebook.

It was a reminder that God sees. He knows all about me and what I need and want. God used a notebook to remind me that the things which concern me, concern Him.

In His arms I am held safe, kept from cold, kept from harm, kept from pulling my hair out because no-one told me we were out of eggs.

Before I can even say my need aloud, He says:

“Noted.”

Side Note: Pro cooking tip, which would also save me from discomfort if only I would put it into practice: check for all the ingredients before you start making or baking.

Rear View

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was twenty eight. It was right before I turned twenty nine actually, if we are going for profound honesty here. Jared Hunt took me to take my test and I was scared to death. He was a veritable rock, but I think we were both realistically worried I would fail. I know he sat in the waiting area rehearsing a “try again next time” and “you are not a complete failure” speech. The girl right before me came in and loudly complained to her mother about failing right off the bat. She mentioned two things I didn’t even know about. The only two things I didn’t even know about. If that hadn’t happened I also would have failed immediately. Eaves dropping. It’s a skill. When I pulled back into the parking lot after a short jaunt around the block (and an encounter with someone being pulled over by the police into the exact lane the instructor had asked me to get into because, obviously, I was not nervous enough already) Instructor Tatum said:

“Congratulations. You’ve passed your driving test.” Then he said “That’s God’s grace isn’t it?”

He was referring to my key chain, a gold Adinkra symbol which means “Except God” like “except the Lord build the house,” but it was also a moment of God’s grace in every way. I had prayed to have the same instructor I had talked to on the phone. His voice was just kind, and I thought he might match it. He was the instructor I got. And he did.

My score was near perfect. I had failed at turning on my brights as quickly as needed. He said everything else was “excellent.” I parallel parked the car in one try with no adjustments. I have not done that before or since, but Stephanie Gossard’s voice in my head was loud that day. It should have been. She had spent many Saturdays getting up and meeting me at my house by 6:00 AM so we could practice in minimal traffic.

Kaeli took me to get my license on my 29th birthday. Just like that, years of anxiety and fear had been defeated. Or at least received a crippling blow. The thing I genuinely thought impossible for me to attain showed up in the mail days later.

I’ve been a licensed driver for almost a year now.

While this story makes me cry with gratitude over the people God has placed in my life, it is also incredibly humbling. Why am I sharing it?

I share it so when I tell you about the moment, right before Christmas, when I was waiting with Kristen for traffic in the left lane to pass so I could turn into my church, and a car whipped around the corner and smacked into the car stopped behind me, shoving us into the direct path of an oncoming vehicle, you will better be able to understand that:

Thank God the Lord helped me react quickly and swerve off onto the shoulder.

Thank God the shoulder was there.

Thank God Kristen was with me.

Thank God the car in the middle took the majority of the impact I would have suffered.

Thank God my parents were already at the church.

Thank God Tyler and Dad were with us within minutes.

Thank God my vehicle was completely unscathed, without so much as a scratch. (The other two were not.)

Thank God we both were unscathed as well.

Thank God the officer said I had done everything right.

But see, I need you to understand, that’s my fear. That’s the exact fear that has haunted me for a lifetime. That I will do everything right, and something I cannot control will still slam into me and destroy everything. Because it can. At any moment, it can.

mustang-2648054_960_720.jpg

I’ve made myself keep driving. I’ve used wisdom, of course, reminding myself to be sure I’m in the proper emotional state to handle it, but I have made myself keep driving. I was obsessed with looking in the rear view before, making super sharp turns, constantly paranoid of being hit, but I had been getting better. The anxiety was nowhere near where it was in the past. Now, here we are again. Making it to my destination with clenched hands and teeth, shaking with fear. I am terrified at every stop that someone who is not paying attention will not notice I am there and run me right over.

I would tape over my rear view mirror if I could. I would. That would help me stop obsessively checking it. But I need to see what’s behind me. So I literally pray without ceasing, and I operate in extreme trust exercise each time I get behind the wheel of a car.

Driving has taught me so much about life. Through this journey the Lord has spoken to me in so many ways. One of which is how I can only control what my car does. I can obey the rules, I can stay in my lane, I can be alert, but I can’t put down someone else’s cell phone or make someone else pay attention, or decrease or increase the speed of someone else’s car. It’s a valuable and hard lesson to learn. I am still in the process of carving it out - in my vehicle and out of it. Here’s another lesson, and it’s the worst part of me obsessively checking my rear view:

I cannot change what is behind me.

Hindsight is twenty twenty, and what’s behind me informs the path I need to take in my future, so I need to check my rear view occasionally.

Occasionally.

But constantly looking into the rear view and letting fear and anxiety over the things I cannot control consume me? That’s not helpful. It’s not healthy. And it doesn’t make me happy. Not now. Not ever.

Looking back into your past and letting fear, anxiety, or regret over things you cannot change or control consume you is not helpful or healthy, and it will not make you happy. Not now. Not ever.

Reflection is useful. In the same way looking into the rear view helps me make the safest driving decisions, looking into the past can inform my choices as well. For example, when I look into the past I see how I encountered my worst fear, and the Lord preserved me without a scratch, and I make the informed choice to keep driving even when it can make me feel like I’m going into cardiac arrest. However, my windshield is bigger than my rear view mirror for a reason.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:13-14

It’s a good thought as 2018 disappears into the rear view I think. A good thought indeed.

Of Promises Not Present and Girls Who Believe (Seriously Single Series - Part Three)

I was never going to write this in this way. I now know this is the only way to write it. 

The Christmas of 2016 my heart was completely broken. I mean it, it was broken to bits. I was broken to bits. Worse than any emotional pain I could have possibly been experiencing was the ever present and burning reality that, had I been smarter, I would not have been experiencing any pain at all. The constant internal dialogue was as follows: "Congratulations on being too fascinating to let go of while simultaneously being too much to commit to. Also. None of this would be happening if you hadn't been such an idiot." 

I was reading a book about Sarah when the Lord spoke to me. As clearly as I have heard Him speak anything in my life, as certainly as I have witnessed insider information He has ever let me in on prove to be true, I heard Him. I needed to write down the date. In one year's time we would know exactly who my husband was. 

I believed this without question. I wrote it down quietly, but I believed it loud. 2017 was a full year, but it was void of anxiety about this topic. Trips and trials, Youth Congress and Conference - it was fine. Was I by myself in a sea of coffee dates and text message analysis and wedding after wedding after wedding? Yes. But I didn't care. Because I wouldn't be for long. Christmas was coming. 

Christmas came. My sister brought her boyfriend home to spend the holiday with our family. I brought the book with me. Even in those final days I was confident. I knew what I had heard. 

The date passed. Nothing. 

chihuahua-820085__340.jpg

I would love to write for you another story. Literally any other story. I am actually open to almost any alternative plotline. Melinda doesn't have to get married and have seven children. She doesn't. Melinda could move to Uganda and raise orphans in a hut. Melinda could get her doctorate in English Literature. Melinda could write books in Brazil or teach in Ghana or become a professional shopper. I don't know how to adequately explain to you how painfully aware of all of my flaws I am, or how incredibly open I am to being happy and content and to let the dream die. Father in heaven, I wish I could communicate to you how much I want to JUST. LET, THE. DREAM. DIE. To hear Him say "That's not for you. Get over it." So I can get over it. 

But that's not what He said. 

It's not what He's saying. 

And I tell you I had heard Him say to write that date down in the same way I have ever heard Him say anything else. And I believed it with every fiber of my being. And when it didn't happen,  I questioned everything. About myself. About His plans. About our relationship. As a side note, let me express, I can buy my own coffee, but when what I have going on with Jesus is not working that is a problem. I questioned everything, and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to die. 

It's not cute. It's not catchy. You can't put it on a trendy feminist poster. But it's the truth. I wanted to die. If I couldn't hear God accurately, if there was no end to the waiting in sight, if I was just going to be stuck in an endless cycle of other people getting exactly what I wanted while all I got was the privilege of getting them more gifts, life could go ahead and end. I was pretty sure I could happily worship God for all eternity without having to buy a new dress or RSVP or like anyone else's instagram photos to do it. 

And I repeat: This did not have to be the dream I was chasing. This did not have to be the hope my heart harbored. I would have been happy to race toward a prize I had any control over. A prize which was in any way attainable. 

I heard right. So what went wrong? Unlike my teen years, the darkness only lasted three days. The Lord spoke clarity to that, to both me and my two closest friends and mentors when I finally let them know what was going on, confirming what He was already speaking to me. Thanks to that, the ache became easier to bear. It dissipated, but did not dissolve. It remained in the back of my mind, quietly mocking me. 

So it was that in the quiet of a hotel room at Missouri Ladies Conference, I looked one of my precious friends in the eye and I said:

"I just don't believe He can do it. I believe He'll do it for everyone else in my life, but He will not do it for me." 

It was not cute. It was not catchy. I don't think it was even all that Christian. But it was the truth. I didn't believe. I couldn't have if I tried. I just didn't have it in me any more. And I was thankful. It would be easier not to hope. 

The next service there was a powerful move of God. Towards the end, I was sitting on the floor, with my back to the wall, when my sweet Haleigh came and sat next to me. You'll know immediately what a moment this was because of the insider information provided in the previous paragraphs, but Haleigh, she hadn't heard. She sat close. She held my hand. She looked straight into my eyes. She said: 

"God has told you recently, that He cannot lie. You know He cannot lie. Every promise in His word, you can mark it down, it came to pass. Every promise He has given throughout history, it has come to pass. He has shown Himself faithful throughout all generations. He is a promise performer, He is a good Father, and that does not stop just shy of Melinda Poitras. God's promise is coming Melinda. It is coming straight for you."

I knew exactly what she was talking about, and so, I think, did she. 

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

doggy-2763664__340.jpg

It's 1:20 AM when I write this. I have been crying.  I see (or rather do not see) all of my "prospects." I am painfully aware, as previously mentioned, of each and every one of my horrific, overpowering, disqualifying flaws. Someone asked me if I "liked" someone the other day and I said "These days it's more like people I would not hit in the face with a frying pan if they approached me, and people who need to not." It wasn't cute or catchy but (and you're probably getting the picture by now) it was the truth. But here are a few things I know: 

If it is good for me, I've either got it, or its on its way.

If it is good, 

I have got it. 

Or it IS on its way.  

I taught a Sunday School class one time where I remarked how Abraham (in that story about Abraham and Sarah) also laughs. God lets Abraham in on it  first. And Abraham laughs. The men in the class said that Abraham's laugh was not one of disbelief. Actually, the Word says:

"He laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?  Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?' And Abraham said to God, 'If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!'" 

He states reasons why it's implausible, he bargains for the son he's already got - sorry fellows, sounds like doubt to me. 

When Sarah laughs, she's called out. Why? 

I'm not a scholar, but here's what I think: 

It’s one thing for someone else to doubt God’s hand in your life. It’s another thing entirely when you doubt it yourself. The miracle wasn’t happening in Abraham. The miracle was happening in her.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave me? I don't know. We're not automatically promised a husband of course, but the Lord has let me into too much info about the man for me to pretend he doesn't exist. 

"We must hold on to God's promise that we have said we believed. And we must never let go. He has promised and he will do it." Hebrews 10:23

Say it now. Say it loud. Say it before you see it. 

pit-bull-2047469__340.jpg

In a time when names were so significant, a time when Abraham would have been meeting new people almost every day, it is no coincidence that he had to say it. "My name is father of many." "Cool cool. How many kids you have Abraham?" "None." 

"I am father of many." Day after day after day, when all traceable data clearly concluded he was the father of none, he would say it. "I am father of many." 

I don't know the end of my story, but I know this: The Word is already there. The destination I will reach eventually? The Word is there, already camped out. 

I stood next to Sarah during altar call on our church platform. Sarah had struggled with fertility issues for a long time. In fact, I gave Sarah that same book about the Biblical Sarah on Mother's Day of 2017. We were told to pray over each other for the miracle we knew the other needed, so we did. I prayed as hard as I have ever prayed in my life. Then I heard the words "Dance like it's already happened." So I did. We didn't know it at the time, but Sarah? She was pregnant that day. It had already happened. In December we will hold that baby in our hands. There were two of us on that platform. Two of us shared that moment. And before we hold the miracle - we hold the promise. 

It would be great if this were a story about my finding a life mate. It would be okay if this story were about me being awesome without one. (In fact, writing this blog was  a struggle because I happen to think you can definitely be awesome without one and that's a lot more fun to write about.) I would rather a yes or a no and to move on with my life but that is not the story the Lord wants to tell with my heart and my hope and my hands. 

He wants to tell the story of a woman who believed. 

When the Lord has promised you something, you can hold onto that promise. Mark it down. It's happening. 

That is either true or it is not. And if it is true, then it is true for me. 

Me, Melinda Danae Poitras. The writer. The warrior. The wife. 

So for now, that's what I do. I hold on to the promise, and I shop online. I shop online while I can. My husband, I know he's a good deal more thrifty than I am. 

So there's that. 

dog-2944964__340.jpg

Always a Bridesmaid (Seriously Single Series - Part Two)

Let’s not pretend it doesn’t hurt. 


One of my sweet friends turned to me in a bowling alley and said “When are you doing that single series? Is it all okay? Is that what it’s about? Is it all okay?” 
Sometimes it isn’t. 
I think the greatest gift I could give her, and you, is to state that honestly. 
Will it all be okay? For sure. 
Is it okay right now? 
Sometimes. 
But sometimes it isn’t. It really really REALLY isn’t. 
And you can take it to the prayer room, and dress the wound with Scripture, and choke the medicine down with ice-cream, and wear your best and smile your brightest and love the Lord with all of your sweet little cotton picking, heel wearing, gumbo making heart and it will actually still not be okay. 


Hear me. 
That’s okay. 
You can be so happy for everyone else your heart threatens to burst and so sad for you it threatens to quit on you and not at all okay and that’s okay. 


It hurts. Enough weddings happen and that “always a bridesmaid” phrase can get tattooed straight into your ego. So I called my Hyphen Pastor’s wife and I informed her we would be having an honest conversation. (People need to know, by the way, where you’re actually at. It’s super important. Whatever the truth is – tell it. Not in a Facebook status. Not in a public announcement to everyone you know. But pick someone trustworthy and tell them the truth.) 
In this conversation, I said to her this phrase: 


“….. which is great. But I didn’t want a ministry. I wanted a marriage.” 


Whoa. I went there. There are places locked up inside of you you might never visit. But if you don’t go there, you don’t take the Lord with you there. And He wants into all of the places. You need Him in all of the spaces. 
Because I went there, He went there too. We had some discussions. The conversation went something like this: 


“Did you tell Larissa you didn’t want a ministry, you wanted a marriage?”
“I did.” 
“Interesting.” 
“Why? You don’t agree with that?” 
“Do you even agree with that?” 
“Not every day. Probably not. I actually don't think I would trade my gifts or calling for anything when it comes down to it. But think about it. I wasn’t sitting around dreaming about ministry as a child.”
“You weren’t? Why don’t you look back again?” 


When He said that, He took me there. He brought me back to that little girl. You know what I saw? Someone who played dress up all the time. She lined all of her stuffed animals up in a row and took them to church. When they got there she sang, she took up the offering, she preached the sermon, she gave the altar call, she prayed through, she prayed everyone else through. Her hands were always full. She held fake microphones where she sang power ballads and preached sermons. She held pens and pencils where she took people’s “orders” and wrote novels and poems and plays. She held baby dolls which she cared for efficiently and tenderly. She set up spas in her living room, and gave all of her friend’s pedicures and foot massages. She hosted a fake funeral at least once a week. She built Barbie worlds and took photos and hosted tea parties and baked cakes and used the good dishes when she did it. That little girl, she was just like me, and I noticed something interesting about her: 


She staged play weddings a lot. The child had a wedding almost weekly. She planned the menu, she made the seating chart, she picked out the outfits, she took the pictures, she officiated the ceremony, and she got dressed up and carried a bouquet of flowers like a boss. She was one hundred percent in charge of the show, and she made one of her friends (or, pictured here, her tiny cousin) the bride every single time. 
That’s right. Even then, I was always a bridesmaid. 

36698406_10160962893840019_532039537648467968_n.jpg


You are you, you know. You are you right now. By yourself. Or with someone. Engaged. Or married. You are uniquely you. I can only imagine the joy that comes with marriage, but there is joy here. And twenty-nine year old Melinda, she is still doing everything four year old Melinda loved to do. She’s actually only ever getting better, and so is her life. 


And this season, the one where two of my closest are having weddings mere days apart? I love it. That is the truth. I literally love it. Because I don’t have to be in love with someone to be in love with my life. 


I’m still a bridesmaid and I’m still me. They say “wherever you go, there you are.” I’ve seen enough people get married to know they wake up the next morning with the same temperament, same disposition, same passions, dreams, and callings they went to bed with the night before. If they’ve married right all of those things are enhanced, sometimes those things are diminished, but they are still themselves. Who God made them to be. 
We’re His bride every day, after all. 


So here's what I do. I pray this verse over myself every morning. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." – Psalm 17: 15 When I need to go be by myself, I go sit somewhere by myself. When I need to cry, I cry. When I get angry, I allow myself to be angry. I also love my life, laugh long, and put the "party" in "wedding party." I do that pretty well actually. I always have. 

aerial-3222082_1280.jpg

You know what I really think? I think he's out there. I believe it for you. I believe it hard. I believe it for me too. I do. (I mean, I might make biscuits from a bag but I make my gravy from scratch and good gracious to gravy there is no reason someone should be living without that for the rest of his life...) I digress. I do believe it. That's what I really think. It is okay in the end. Someone is coming for you. One day you'll wake up and you'll be sharing your life with someone. 

It's probably best then, that when you do, you actually have a life to share. 

So get out there and host some fake funerals or something. Love the life you've got. I'll bet the life you've got, is an awful lot. 
 
 

Congratulations to Me

When I come alive in my very first memory I am standing in a kitchen in Nigeria. I remember distinctly how the concrete feels beneath my feet, the cooking smells mixing with the heavy humidity in the air as rain pelts the tin roof relentlessly. There's a commotion going on. People are crowding at the doorway to the outside world, laughter is breaking out in spurts of giddy delight, and my mother is singing. 

"Raindrops keep falling on my head, and just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed, nothing seems to fit, oh raindrops keep falling on my head they keep falling." 

Investigating what has caused this explosion of joy, I push through the crowd to spot my baby sister, toddling around with her umbrella, splashing in puddles and giggling with glee. 

My second ever memory is the intense heat of betrayal. I was not allowed to play in the rain. I, with free spirit and winsome wandering stitched into the very fabric of my soul was denied every attempt at the rain frolic which so appealed to me. My sister did it, and it was a noteworthy event worthy of celebration and recording for posterity. 

My third ever memory is jealousy. I had experienced anger - that was cruel. I had experienced fury - that was overwhelming. But I had yet to experience jealousy. And jealousy? You cannot stand with that. That's the thing which will cripple you. (Proverbs 27:4) 

birthday-947438_960_720.jpg

We have some good parents. They nipped the jealousy thing in the bud with intention. (Thank God. The child has an accomplishment list longer than the road from our gate to our favorite childhood chop bar.) One of the sneaky parenting tools they used was giving me a birthday gift each time we celebrated her birth so I knew I too was special and loved. Here's the thing about that though:

Eventually they stopped doing it. They stopped because I was old enough to know: This might be her birthday but my birthday is coming. It's okay that she gets presents now. I'll get presents later. 

art-1869269_960_720.jpg

The Sunday after her engagement, people at our church came up to me, and they hugged me, and they told me "congratulations." I loved this. Not just because it's a beautiful picture of how I feel about my sister and the way they all know it, but because that is how it should be. 

We are a body. One body. A win for one is a win for all of us. My feet are sitting here with me right now, and they are not jealous that my hands are typing. They know their place, they know the places they get to take me, and they know I'm far more likely to get a pedicure than a manicure when the time comes anyway. A win is a win! Period. 

Somebody gets assigned a solo? Congratulations to me. 

Somebody gets a job promotion? Congratulations to me. 

Somebody is pregnant? Congratulations to me. 

It's the body. Healthy is healthy. When God blesses others, I should be just as grateful for that as if He were blessing me. 

And here's the thing about rain y'all: 

IT GETS ON EVERYONE. 

I just wanted that to be extra noticeable because I think it's extra noteworthy. An open heaven is an open heaven. I'm serious, have you seen the way rain works? Ready or not. Just or unjust. When rain falls, it's falling on us all. 

gift-1420830_960_720.jpg

There's another verse to the song my mother is singing in my memory:

"Rain drops keep falling on my head, but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red, crying's not for me, oh I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining." 

That's a beautiful sentiment about the futility of complaint in an unfortunate season of life, but that last line is not entirely true. Life and death are in the power of your tongue, and you actually can stop the rain of God's blessing in your life by complaining. 

"From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. 

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. " Proverbs 18:20-21 

What if all you had to eat today was the "fruit of your mouth?" (The things you've said about other people, the way you've spoken to or about yourself, the response you've given when met with something or someone unpleasant.) Would you be filled and satisfied, or would you contract a case of food poisoning? Would your storehouse be full of harvest or barren and dry? 

May we react to blessing with the understanding we are all one body. 

May we understand that true gratitude for blessing - even blessing given to others - is a trademark of Christian love. 

May we be the happiest, most charming guest at any party - birthday, bridal, or baby. 

May our words taste like cake as we attend the special occasion of our one life with our sisters and friends, celebrating all of God's good gifts given, together. 

Never Enough (Seriously Single - Part One)

Disclaimer: I am a fan of the institution of marriage. I love my married friends, my married mom, my married mentors, and my cousin and sister who are about to be married. I hope every single person on this planet finds someone to walk beside and build a life with. "Yay marriage! Go married people! Thanks for being such an important pillar in the community of Christ! Love you ALL!" Imagine pom poms, streamers, and fireworks. The flags are waving and the sparklers are sparkling for you, my wonderful married people. I salute and honor you, your gorgeous spouses, your beautiful children, and your cuddly grandchildren. But this blog is not about you. Don't be shocked by that. I'm telling you up front. :-)  

"Tom and Brenda sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Brenda with a baby carriage." 

single sixteen.jpg

Do we even pay attention to the narratives we mindlessly perpetrate? How old are Tom and Brenda? Do their parents know where they are? Why are they in a tree? Are they attempting to escape an animal predator? Were they rescuing a kitten when they got distracted? Have they considered that climbing up into a tree actually increases their chance of exposure to wandering eyes and gossiping tongues? Why does the kissing come first? (Someone jump on the organ.) How quickly are they headed for marriage? Why do we automatically assume it will be Brenda pushing the carriage? Are Tom and Brenda aware they are not the only people on the planet right now? CONTROL YOURSELVES TOM AND BRENDA! A STRANDED KITTEN DEPENDS ON YOU! 

Cultural narratives. Just because we don't think about them, call them out, or acknowledge them, doesn't mean they aren't there. Tracee Ellis Ross gave a poignant speech about this. (It is poignant not perfect. I do not agree with every syllable of it. If you Google it there will be language. #disclaimer) She talked about how society is perpetually reiterating this narrative: 

single nine.jpg

"Husband + child = woman." 

She's not wrong. It's hard to go to dinner, read a book, watch a movie, see a billboard, visit a museum, or navigate society with any measure of emotional health unless you constantly guard against the feeling that as a woman you will always be a third of a person until you have those other two components. Without them, no matter what you do, you're just never enough. I've had friends that made me feel that way. I've heard songs that make me feel that way. I've sat through sermons that have done more to perpetuate that philosophy than anything society has ever said. I know I'm supposed to take society with a grain of salt. The preached word from the pulpit seems a little more profound. 

"I'm Melinda, it's just me. Reading underneath a tree."

It's not just me though. Y'all are out there. I know it. Reading under a tree. Taking care of other people's babies under a tree. Giving everyone advice about their love lives under a tree. Feeding the homeless, running a business, starting a charity, getting a degree, administrating an office, crafting sermons, going on missions trips, writing books, composing lyrics, branding cows, serving coffee, "seeking wool, and flax, and working willingly with your hands." Some of y'all have gone and chopped the whole tree down and built a student outreach center with it. I know this. You're out there doing the work of three people, going to bed by yourself at night, crying yourself to sleep because you feel like a third of a person. 

single twelve.jpg

Let me tell you something. The 31st Chapter of Proverbs would be a LOT shorter if the most important thing in life were having a husband and popping out babies. I mean it. It does not say "She married her husband and gave birth to some children and that somehow magically set her apart from everyone else who also had a husband and gave birth to some children." 

I had been discussing singleness with a friend of mine and the conversation had moved on to my telling her how I'd visited a Sunday School class in another state. The class had been using my book and the teacher was telling me how every time he read it he was struck with the realization that the words weren't just for the kids but for him as well. He said "I mean, I have chills right now just talking about it." And I said to her, "And I just couldn't help thinking..." and she interrupted me and said "This moment would mean so much more if I were married?" 

Her point was well taken. No. No that is not what I was thinking. That would be ridiculous. 

But I do think like that. Often, if not all the time. Maybe you do too. It isn't founded. It is ridiculous. 

Even if you haven't seen "The Greatest Showman" it's doubtful you've escaped hearing the song "Never Enough." It's breathtaking. Look it up if you haven't. (And for sure look up Natalie Grant's instagram version because wow.) The lyrics say:

"Because darling without you, all the shine of a thousand spotlights, all the stars that fill the night sky will never be enough, never be enough. Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world and it'll never be enough, never be enough, for me. Never! Never!" 

singl seventeen.jpg

It's wonderful. I love it. There's only one thing wrong with it. Your "darling," when you have one? They'll never be enough either. I know it's not romantic, but it's true. All the love in the world will never actually be enough for you. When you get the husband you'll want the house and when you get the house you'll want the baby and when you get the baby you'll just want some sleep or to go back in time to a place where you could find the house you wanted so badly under all the laundry from the baby and the husband. You will never be satisfied outside of Christ. You won't. I promise. It won't ever be enough. And until you realize He is enough you won't ever feel like enough either.

There are two (and ONLY two) components of being a whole person. You + God = whole. You know, Tracee Ellis Ross, she also says that she came to the realization "my life is mine." I understand where she's coming from and what she's getting at but our lives - they do not belong to us. They belong to the Lord. The ultimate goal in every season is to give Him glory. And every season? Every season can be glorious if you let Him make it so. 

Let Him be enough, because He is. 

When He is enough? You'll find you are too. 

Doors for Days

I was standing next her on the platform of our church when she started talking about the doors. She could have known what I was going through that day. It would have been natural, we're best friends. We're also busy. I hadn't told her. She had no idea how her words would resonate and echo. They still echo this morning. 

She talked of how the Lord has given us this year as the "Year of the Open Door" and how it had been confirmed that we, as a church, should grab on to that and take it personally. That's something to shout about in and of itself, but it doesn't stop there. She reminded us of Revelation 3:8, that verse about doors no man can shut. I had quoted that same verse when I led worship in the weeks before, but I had forgotten half of what it said. 

door-2139535__340.jpg

"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." 

I had remembered that He places before us open doors, but I had forgotten the rest. I had forgotten that He knows what we've been up to. That when we've done all we can (or even when we haven't) and we've tried and we've failed and we haven't had enough strength to make things happen on our own He is aware of that. 

He doesn't just see us when we succeed - He sees us when we try. What we cannot do, He does Himself. 

The verse before that?

"What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open." She reminds us that He shuts doors too. The doors to things in my past I just cannot get over, the doors to all of my doubts, the doors to those relationships that need to dead-bolted but I leave cracked open? He shuts those too.

castle-2852883_1280.jpg

The rain is about to fall hard. Noah and family have labored and they have loved. They have lost their reputation, they have lost their friends, they have lost their livelihood, and they are about to lose their home. They have done all they can, they've said all of the words and made all of the appeals to no avail. The things which belong to them are gathered in and the Lord shuts the door. With their own strength depleted, in a vibrant representation of the dual principles of mankind's responsibility and the sovereignty of God  they watch as the Lord shuts them in safe Himself. 

Meanwhile at New Life St. Louis the worship goes forth. The Word goes forth. And with our faces to the floor the prophetic utterance is given that as Satan tries to steal the seed we must be on our guard, we must hold on to what's been planted. When I get home I read verse eleven. You'll not guess what it says: 

"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

oasis-2335767_1280.jpg

Are there things we need to stop doing? Yes. Are there things we need to start doing? Even more so. Our responsibility is endless but when our strength is not, by His power the doors to the past slam shut. By His power the doors to revival and harvest swing open. By His power we hold on to the precious seed we are to nurture. In His name we march forward through doors for days. Open doors all three hundred and sixty five days of 2018, and beyond. 

Best Nine (Extreme Selfish and Extended Edition)

This will be rambling and lengthy. Come along all the way if you can make it, or leave me halfway if you must - no hard feelings, I just wanted the first blog of 2018 to be a monument. I have copied the "best nine" concept from Instagram and pasted it onto a media platform where I might expound upon it in greater capacity. There will be more than nine pictures. (And likely more than nine experiences, if we're really honest.) 

2017 was such an incredible year for me. It was also incredibly hard, but you know what's funny? No element of hardship sticks out in my mind whatsoever. I just remember He was there, He held my hand, and it was wonderful. He took care of my every need down to the most minute detail. I mean, I needed a driving instructor that I could trust, and He provided that. (We haven't talked about my ridiculous and groundless fears regarding driving, but we will.) I needed a personal trainer I was willing to be vulnerable with, and He provided that. I needed a car. Done. I needed a new laptop. Provided. I needed my mentor and my person still present in my daily life. Got it. (The last of which is forever and ever the best part of 2017. In fact. Let's just begin with that as a bonus.) 

I literally added this picture, got up from where I was sitting, and danced in praise because there are no words to express my gratitude for this. None could come close. 

I literally added this picture, got up from where I was sitting, and danced in praise because there are no words to express my gratitude for this. None could come close. 

While we're taking a pause at the start for "honorable mentions" lets just include these as well: 

My Madeleine continues to be one of the best blessings I'm given. This year brought her back to me multiple times. During one of the darkest weekends she was delivered to me care of Michigan, with a full suitcase and she stayed with me until there was sunshine again. 

My Madeleine continues to be one of the best blessings I'm given. This year brought her back to me multiple times. During one of the darkest weekends she was delivered to me care of Michigan, with a full suitcase and she stayed with me until there was sunshine again. 

Elyse Brielle finally got here. Nuff' said. 

Elyse Brielle finally got here. Nuff' said. 

Preambles aside, let's get down to it. The nine major events of 2017. 

9. 

Blog and Domain

At the beginning of the year, I purchased a domain. My word for the year was "invested." It was my goal to become more intentional, to do just that - invest in my writing, to put my money where my mouth was. So I bought the domain. Brianna Oliver crafted the website, streamlined my branding, designed my business cards and updated my head shots. On this new, professional, and perfectly presentable platform I published a pitiful thirteen blogs total. (Guess what my goals for 2018 include...) 

This was one of many memorable days spent working on my "branding." I am so grateful for the skilled and giving friends the Lord has populated my life with. I am truly rich in people, especially this gem. 

This was one of many memorable days spent working on my "branding." I am so grateful for the skilled and giving friends the Lord has populated my life with. I am truly rich in people, especially this gem. 

8. 

Nayc Monologue

Y'all. This was remarkable. Not for the reasons one might suspect. Yes, it was an honor to be chosen, and yes it was an incredible opportunity. It was just also a situation where I was nauseous, nervous, and possibly neurotic. So many questions: Do I want to stand up in the arena and be visible and videoed from every conceivable angle? Will anyone even be awake? (In that vein: Shout out to my MKs, Fusion, and all my loves from Lancaster, Ohio for dragging yourselves out of bed and being present.) WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS? (I never actually figured out what to do with my hands. I was also holding a paper I did not need.) 

I had walked to my sister's hotel room after yet another bout of emergency intercession and collapsed to the floor tangled up in my purse strap and lanyard. Here is photographic evidence of my stellar job applying moisturizer that morning.

I had walked to my sister's hotel room after yet another bout of emergency intercession and collapsed to the floor tangled up in my purse strap and lanyard. Here is photographic evidence of my stellar job applying moisturizer that morning.

Dear Larissa: Thanks for sticking with me during the nerve wracking moments right before this. If you had not come all the way there to play I assure you I would have run. 

Dear Larissa: Thanks for sticking with me during the nerve wracking moments right before this. If you had not come all the way there to play I assure you I would have run. 

The best thing about this experience was this: I was sitting in my Youth Room at church when I wrote the monologue. I sat down and wrote it just like it was, from start to finish, without stopping and I really felt that it was for NAYC17. I felt it enough that I actually applied for NATS, which I would for sure never have done otherwise. I didn't make it. I was not on the list. I would not be presenting this monologue at Youth Congress. My pride was a small casualty, but my spirit was understandably confused. Did I comprehend the voice of the Lord at all? I was so sure of what I'd heard.  I let it go and moved on. After all, what other choice did I have? When I arrived home from my trip to Scotland there was a voicemail on my phone from L.J. Harry. The monologue was for NAYC after all. 

Not one time during practice did I say this all the way through without mistake. Not. One. Time. This moment on that platform is the only instance where I did. What it looks like is my face on a jumbo tron. What is actually happening is Him holding my hand. 

Not one time during practice did I say this all the way through without mistake. Not. One. Time. This moment on that platform is the only instance where I did. What it looks like is my face on a jumbo tron. What is actually happening is Him holding my hand. 

7. 

Ann

There is no way I could ever tell what this moment meant to me. I have been reading Ann's work for a long time. I have been changed as a person and challenged as a writer by her words, her heart, and her love for God and His people. Meeting her was a dream come true. It was an event I never imagined would actually occur, and one of those things that was built so far up in my mind that I thought the reality could not possibly compare. My hopes were surpassed. 

Ann Voskamp people. New York Times Bestselling Author (my favorite) and beautiful, authentic, human being. Look her up. 

I clearly kept breathing. I'm just not sure how. 

I clearly kept breathing. I'm just not sure how. 

It was such an enchanting and godly moment too.  I just. Ugh. 

It was such an enchanting and godly moment too.  I just. Ugh. 

.6

Scotland

I didn't want to go to Scotland. I was so completely confident it was the right thing to do, and so honored at the opportunity, but I did not want to go. By the end of it, of course, I didn't want to leave. We couldn't talk about the actual reason for our visit on social media at the time so had you viewed my Instagram feed it looked as if I was spending the majority of my time drinking milkshakes and chasing pigeons. Ya know? I did a lot of that. We were blessed with the most delicious days where sunlight stretched on forever. There was teaching - of course. Love given for sure. Hopefully there was even some wisdom imparted. But there were also long rambling walks through a new city, hot tea, excellent coffee, fish and chips, bus rides, gorgeous scenery, impressive architecture, and giggles. Giggles without end. Giggles galore. In this place I experienced what the phrase "high on life" truly must mean. 

Oh you know, just traveling the world with my girls. (Insert hair flip emoji here.) 

Oh you know, just traveling the world with my girls. (Insert hair flip emoji here.) 

This was the most delightful Italian dinner with the most delightful American (and Canadian) women in Scotland. 

This was the most delightful Italian dinner with the most delightful American (and Canadian) women in Scotland. 

I'm always thinking I have enough people and there's no room in my heart for any more. I'm always wrong. I was especially wrong about them. 

I'm always thinking I have enough people and there's no room in my heart for any more. I'm always wrong. I was especially wrong about them. 

View on my train ride back to Scotland from Liverpool. 

View on my train ride back to Scotland from Liverpool. 

Seeing my best friend (French and First Edition) after a decade and finally meeting her husband. 

Seeing my best friend (French and First Edition) after a decade and finally meeting her husband. 

5. 

England

I did teach one Bible study, and it was, in fact, quite a spiritual trip. However, my mission in Liverpool was not missions. Someone's best friend took it upon herself to marry a real life prince. As princes do, he tends to live in Europe. 

I WENT TO PEMBERLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This is Wikipedia's photo. None of mine did it justice. I sat on that grassy bank right there by Darcy's lake and in such contentment I cried. 

I WENT TO PEMBERLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This is Wikipedia's photo. None of mine did it justice. I sat on that grassy bank right there by Darcy's lake and in such contentment I cried. 

Liverpool Cathedral is the first of its kind I had ever visited. I had set foot in a building built for worship, but this was almost built  by  worship as though the carving of every crevice itself was praise to God. 

Liverpool Cathedral is the first of its kind I had ever visited. I had set foot in a building built for worship, but this was almost built by worship as though the carving of every crevice itself was praise to God. 

We spent the most precious Father's Day in Deandra's new home with both our fathers present. 

We spent the most precious Father's Day in Deandra's new home with both our fathers present. 

The Beatles invited me to join their band but it was too little too late. 

The Beatles invited me to join their band but it was too little too late. 

Seat at the top of a double-decker bus during what was quite an interesting day in London. 

Seat at the top of a double-decker bus during what was quite an interesting day in London. 

Prior to this photo, we had been served a sumptuous meal by the sweetest refugees. Here I am pictured with the physical embodiment of most of my sweetest memories in any location. 

Prior to this photo, we had been served a sumptuous meal by the sweetest refugees. Here I am pictured with the physical embodiment of most of my sweetest memories in any location. 

4. 

Greece

Barak and I went to Greece to represent MK Ministries and to take care of the MK's present for the EME Regional Retreat. Preparing to go, and getting there, was one of the most stressful situations of my life to date. (Special thanks to the Poitras clan, Kaeli, and Amanda for providing oxygen when my own breath was coming up short.) Once we got there though? How do I put this... I got a facial once. The entire experience in beautiful Thessaloniki was like getting a facial at the most luxurious spa with the most pleasant and skilled attendants imaginable. Even the part of it which was work was wonderful. 

This. Hotel. Though. 

This. Hotel. Though. 

The morning view our complimentary breakfast afforded. 

The morning view our complimentary breakfast afforded. 

#tribe 

#tribe 

Pausing for prayer amid the ruins of ancient Philippi. 

Pausing for prayer amid the ruins of ancient Philippi. 

This woman. That place. My heart. I can't. 

This woman. That place. My heart. I can't. 

3. 

New York, New York

Women Ministering to Women

Sis. Jess Marquez allowed me to preach my first conference. What an honor and a privilege. It was such a powerful, anointed, spirit fused event that changed my life in forever kinds of ways. It also happened to be held in New York City, which I was not complaining about. 

These wonderful women were so powerfully used by God during this conference. They were also a joy to be around. 

These wonderful women were so powerfully used by God during this conference. They were also a joy to be around. 

Also powerfully used by God. Also a joy to be around. ;-) 

Also powerfully used by God. Also a joy to be around. ;-) 

I don't know how many times a person can say "My. Heart." in one blog post but I'm going for a record. 

I don't know how many times a person can say "My. Heart." in one blog post but I'm going for a record. 

Kristen casually drinking fancy water on a New York Uber ride. These bottles were perfect for a visit to MOMA. Which we crammed in. In fact. We did Times Square, souvenir shopping, Anastasia on Broadway, the subway system, the Empire State Building, New York slice pizza, and the Museum of Modern Art in the span of eleven magical hours. 

Kristen casually drinking fancy water on a New York Uber ride. These bottles were perfect for a visit to MOMA. Which we crammed in. In fact. We did Times Square, souvenir shopping, Anastasia on Broadway, the subway system, the Empire State Building, New York slice pizza, and the Museum of Modern Art in the span of eleven magical hours. 

2. 

Urshan college cataloging

At this point you are probably thinking (especially if this is your first time surviving a blog post - which would be unfortunate. They are not all like this, I promise.) "Does this woman even have a job?" She does. I have an AMAZING job in a BEAUTIFUL building in a GORGEOUS, spacious office which allows me to travel when needed but also is in an area I am SUPER passionate about. 

I catalog books. Which are used as resources to fuel the minds and academic endeavors of the future of Pentecost. As far as jobs go I am only completely in love with it. NBD. 

Would ya just look at my fancy nameplate? 

Would ya just look at my fancy nameplate? 

1. 

Books

This is the goodness of God, that when I am not cataloging books I am editing, contributing to, or writing them. This year there were two which fell into that last category. 

This is a textbook. A TEXTBOOK. Who even thought me capable of that? (Dorsey Burk. That's who. Grateful forever.)  It's in its final round of editing as we speak. 

This is a textbook. A TEXTBOOK. Who even thought me capable of that? (Dorsey Burk. That's who. Grateful forever.)  It's in its final round of editing as we speak. 

And this one. But y'all have heard about this one. (And your responses have been humbling beyond belief. I couldn't thank you enough.)   #casualphoto because Jennie Russell is #presidentbyday #professionalphotographerbynight

And this one. But y'all have heard about this one. (And your responses have been humbling beyond belief. I couldn't thank you enough.) 

#casualphoto because Jennie Russell is #presidentbyday #professionalphotographerbynight

These are just the highlights. They barely scratch the surface. 2017 brought me so much to be grateful for. "He's done so much for me I cannot tell it all." Nor, to be fair, would you want me to. 

Resurrection and Requiem

Hearts have muscle memory. 

When I have an idea for a post I run to the blog, cough up all of my congested thoughts in no particular sequence, and hit "save to drafts." The draft for this one says "Somehow find the words." I'm not sure it's possible. 

I don't know how to tell you really, all I'm trying to process or even to explain it save to tell you the truth - that hearts have muscle memory. That, and how phantom limb syndrome is a thing. 

Wikipedia will tell you: "A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached. Approximately 60 to 80% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful."

bottle-1282705__340.jpg

Phantom limb syndrome. Hearts have that too. 

I remember sitting in my therapists office, her dogs barking at the top of their lungs as the intense heat of a sun much closer to that geographic location beat through the windows. The condensation clinging to my glass of water lit up like crystal jewels and I remember that was what I was looking at when she said it: 

"The flowers have been cut. They are no longer attached to life but you will most certainly prolong their death if you keep them in a vase." 

My heart hangs on. He made it that way. For better or worse, both blessing and curse, that's how it is. So it is my habit to pick back up what has been plucked, plopping it into a vase just in case there is any life left. Just in case resurrection works that way. 

It doesn't. 

Nothing grows in a vase. 

glass-2593900__340.jpg

Matthew 8. Remember? Jesus asks the man to follow Him and he says "First let me go bury my father?" Turns out, that doesn't necessarily mean his father was already dead. He meant, "Let me let this play out. Let me see where this goes. Let me hang out at home till my father dies. Then I'll do what You want. Then I'll go where You say." 

What was that Jesus had said? "Let the dead bury their dead." 

Leave to get life. To get life, you let go. 

"He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty." - Proverbs 28:19 

We all have our things? You know? Those flowers we love that are so beautiful and have so much potential. They are far from priceless to anyone else but they come with memories, attached to sentimental value, and every time you breathe them in you remember how it was and who you were and all that could have been. So into a vase they go and flowers need, water right? And flowers need light, right? Sure, you're missing that all essential component of soil but vases are almost like resurrection right?

Somehow. Sometimes. But not quite. 

That's not a thing. 

flower-2562674__340.jpg

While you hold onto those dreams you birthed and nursed, struggling to bring life to something that's slipping away, taking care of business, tying up lose ends, doing all you can to save whatever it is, God is always calling you to follow Him instead. It's not because He's cruel, or unsympathetic, or doesn't understand. He understands completely. 

He understand that an empty pursuit could not possibly fill you. 

A garden will grow, if you let go. 

Delete the number. Quit the job. Clean out the closet. Make the move. Sever the connection. Close the book. Trash the mementos. Let dead dreams lie. Let dead flowers die. 

I'm not wrong, you know. A garden will grow, if you let go. 

Starry Starry Nights

No-one would have called him successful. He was a quiet, introspective child. When he grew up he tried his hand at dealing art. Quitting that when his surroundings became depressing he served as a missionary to Belgium for some time before returning home to live with his parents. His younger brother supported him financially and the two kept up quite the correspondence. He painted a lot. He drank a lot. He cut off his own ear. He spent some time in a psychiatric hospital or two. He killed himself. On this foundation much of the history of Western art is built. In roughly ten torturous years Vincent van Gogh produced 2,100 artworks, 860 of which are without question some of the best Post-Impressionist paintings ever imagined, one of which is my absolute favorite. I love The Starry Night. There are no rules to my arguably good taste. I might like something everyone loves or love something no-one likes but whatever I'm fixed on I'm fixed on that. Hard. So when Kristen and I were blessed to be at Women Ministering to Women in New York City there was just one thing we had to do. We had to go to the Museum of Modern Art and we had to see The Starry Night. I had already gone all the way to London and not seen The Globe Theater (we're not going to talk about it) and I was not missing the opportunity to see this painting. No arguing. No questions. I had to see it. 

Kristen enjoyed her subway experience a lot. Here is picture proof of that... 

Kristen enjoyed her subway experience a lot. Here is picture proof of that... 

Service ran long. (Thank the Lord. What a beautiful move of His presence we experienced that day.) We had to be on Broadway to pick up our Anastasia tickets at seven that night. The museum opened too late for us to make it the following morning without missing our flight. I had spoken that morning, and not eaten all day. (Because who has time for food? Obviously Jesus first, and then I'm trying to get to MOMA.) To further complicate matters our beautiful tour guide Sarah, (whom we would have been HOPELESS without) had learned how to perfectly navigate the subway, but the schedule changes on the weekends. The minutes ticked by, the trip was endless, I looked across at Kristen and I told her: "It's just a painting. It's just a thing. That's not even why we're here. I release this. It's okay. It will not ruin our night." I cried a little.

We got off one subway line and hopped on to another. The minutes continued to tick by so Sarah and I decided we would all just get off at the next stop though we didn't even know what was there and Kristen and I would Uber to the theater. 

Y'all. I was trying to be brave and I was trying to be fun but my heart was sad. 

Y'all. We made our way onto the escalator and I looked to the right and the wall was plastered with posters that said "MOMA." 

"Why do all these posters say 'MOMA' guys? Why? Why!?! Why!?!" I was not even remotely pretending to be calm. When we exited that subway station the Museum of Modern Art was right. across. the. street. We had twenty minutes. We booked it. Ran in. Bought tickets. Checked bags. "Where's the Van Gogh m'aam? You know the one." Made it to the right level of the building. Couldn't find it. Power walking past mesmerizing beauty all around us and could not locate the thing. Kristen kept saying "Just ask someone" and I kept snapping "No. I need to find it myself. I need to find it myself!" because I was genuinely near hysteria. All at once we rounded a corner and time stood still as chill bumps crawled up my spine because there it was. 

This photo is a recreation of my first view of it because in actual real time I couldn't remember how hands worked. 

This photo is a recreation of my first view of it because in actual real time I couldn't remember how hands worked. 

Kristen does a stellar dramatization of my original dramatic gasp. I'm not even ashamed of it. I did gasp. My knees buckled. Everything moved into slow-mo. I cried a little. It was so. much. better. in person. I had thought about it. I've seen pictures. I've experienced prints. I've noticed carbon copies on mugs and stationary and t-shirts but it was so. much. better. in person. I did not have all of the desired hours to read every plaque and gaze at every piece and commiserate with everyone standing next to me. It was not at all how I had planned it but there it was. Vivid and vibrant and moving. Not that it moved me emotionally, though it did, I mean it was moving on the canvas. Kristen had admonished me multiple times, knowing how I am: "You cannot touch it." 

I didn't have to touch it. It touched me. 

21850440_10159691886495019_737080819_n.jpg

This is one of the most beautiful moments I have ever had with the Lord. People faded. Sounds diminished. The lighting dimmed. I understood it. I understood all over again how very worthy of trust He is. How I can come to Him with my plans, and the desires of my heart, putting both of those things into His hands and trusting that He knows best. That His way is not only right, but good. Not just good for others, or the development of my character, or my ministry, but good for my heart as well. How trading my plans for His is never a bad deal, and ever the best decision. 

He knows what He's doing, and when He does something it is always so. much. better. than I ever could have dreamed. 

So I foresee, and I'm confident enough to state it, many starry starry nights ahead. I have an inkling  that they'll be so much better in person. 

Somewhere Someone

Somewhere someone’s in a flood

In the distance waters rise

Struggle fights with strength tonight

Something somewhere dies

Someone lies in a hospital room

Harboring hope they’ll heal

Labored breath by labored breath

With light night cannot steal

doctor-563428__340.jpg

Someone sometime breaks a heart

Sometimes some things fade

The very trust we cling to

Broken promise, never made

Some night something might make sense

Earth all settled and right

No-one offers solutions now

Someday someone might

floor-lamp-2384452_960_720.jpg

The one thing we can hold to

As we let go of our fear

Is how loneliness never means alone

There is always Someone here

He is always, forever, and here

Right here.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. - Isaiah 43:2

Where I'm At

A miracle of epic proportions has occurred in that I have joined a gym. This is a miracle for many reasons, not the least of which being that at a gym, other people can see you, and I joined anyway. The process of joining was particularly encouraging because a very blonde, very perky gym receptionist was assisting me and towards the end of our time together she put her hand to heart and with all sincerity uttered the following words:

“Ma’am. Just, ma’am. I think it’s so incredibly commendable that you are following the example of your daughter and caring for your health in this fashion.”

The “daughter” she was referring to is my sister. My sister who is two years younger than me. I pointed this out to her. Not at all embarrassed by her glaringly false assumption she laughed and choked out an excessively cheerful:

“Aaaakward!” as she flipped her blonde ponytail with abandon. 

Standing in the bathroom, staring into the mirror, attempting to ascertain exactly how much of my grey was showing (I found my first grey hair at the age of nineteen. Thankfully it is an extremely slow process, but my hair – like my personality – is a little salty these days.) I just had to smile at myself and say:

“Well. This is where I’m at.”

This quirky foam sheep showed up at a gym in Hillsboro, OR as part of a local art project. (Westside Cultural Alliance)

This quirky foam sheep showed up at a gym in Hillsboro, OR as part of a local art project. (Westside Cultural Alliance)

Comparing yourself to others is almost impossible to avoid at the gym. When the man whose muscles have muscles hopped onto the treadmill next to me and began to sprint at a pace of six miles an hour I had little choice but to continue my crawling pace next to him, slowly dying. (I don’t mean that I was dying of embarrassment, I was too engaged in the physical process of actually dying to be embarrassed.) He looked over at me and smiled (when he tripped over his own two feet #vindicated #thanksJesus #butcompassion) and I smiled back. No, I’m not running six miles an hour. (The very thought makes me nauseous.) It’s hard for me to keep up with half that pace. This is just where I’m at.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, not only at the gym, but in life. We have this “hills and valleys” mentality. When everything is going well, then we are blessed, and we’re on the mountaintop. The alternative is hanging out in the not so blessed, rather unfortunate, worst-case-scenario valley. You know how the Bible says that we are like sheep and the Lord is our Good Shepherd? Well, I was studying a little about sheep the other day when I happened upon some knowledge. It turns out that water flows downhill. (I know. Going to the gym has made me a genius.) Therefore, the reason shepherds take their sheep into the valley is because that is often where things are lush and growing, that’s where the still water is found. However, shepherds have careful and instinctive practices when it comes to timing because when the rains are descending, water flows downhill, (Again. Genius.) so the valley is no longer safe. It is during these times that a shepherd herds his flock uphill, because during those seasons, that is where things are more likely to be lush and growing and there the still waters are found.

Did you know that 30 minutes on a treadmill improves insulin sensitivity by 32%? Testing proved this by using, you guessed it, sheep. Dr. Dolittle (hilarious) included this picture in an article called “Sheep as Models of Diabetes” published via science.blogs.com in April of 2015. You get it sheep! Work that wool!

Did you know that 30 minutes on a treadmill improves insulin sensitivity by 32%? Testing proved this by using, you guessed it, sheep. Dr. Dolittle (hilarious) included this picture in an article called “Sheep as Models of Diabetes” published via science.blogs.com in April of 2015. You get it sheep! Work that wool!

It’s easy to think if you’re a smart sheep, you'll earn mountain status. Or if you’re a cute, perky, gym receptionist sheep, you get to be on the mountain. Or if you’re the sheep whose muscles have muscles you can hang out on the mountain. Such is not the case. The location has nothing to do with the success of the sheep and everything to do with their safety.

Where I am at, is best for me. The Good Shepherd knows the exact and perfect timing necessary for my own personal growth and development. Wherever He has placed me, He has done so because He knows I will rest by still waters, and my soul will be restored. I just want to be where He wants me to be. I just want to be near that water.

I’d expound more on the topic but I don’t have time. I’m off to the gym with my daughter.

It’s just where I’m at right now.

“Know yet that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” - Psalm 100:3

 

 

 

 

 

Wanting, and Waiting, and Whales, Oh My!

Has the Word of God ever come to life, sprouted wings, and swan-dived straight into the core of your being with great intensity? This recently happened to me with some verses in the book of Jonah.

“Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, but as for me I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the LORD.” – Jonah 2:8-9

Suddenly I was looking at some of the most powerful words of surrender I had ever read. Here’s the setting: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he ran in the opposite direction, a great storm came up and Jonah was cast into the sea. At the last moment, a great fish swallowed him and when he collected himself and calmed down, he prayed. This whole chapter, Jonah Chapter Two, is Jonah’s prayer to the Lord. He thought his life was fading away, but then he looked to the Lord and was saved. So now he’s saying:

“I hold on faithfully to things that will not be faithful to me. However, now I know that if I sacrifice those, I will be saved. I give what I don’t need to get everything that I do.”

Here's the thing: I read no indication that he knew what he was saved unto. He’s not dead, but he’s not exactly strolling the streets of Jerusalem either. As far as he knows, he’s the living definition of an actual fish dinner. All of his “worthless idols” or his plans for his own life are back on the shore and he is lost in the depths of the sea. So what’s he letting go of? What’s he sacrificing?

His will. His wants. The things that he hoped and wished and waited for. He’s sacrificing his longing for anything else but God. He’s acknowledging that worthless idols are not faithful, that only God is true. The minute that he does that? The minute he says: “I will sacrifice (or let get of my longing for) everything else with thankfulness because I get to have You” the Lord commands the fish, it vomits him onto dry land, and SNAP!

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” and Jonah gets up and treks off to Nineveh immediately and delivers the word of the Lord because all at once who he has to speak to doesn’t matter as much as who is speaking to him.

And all at once, me? Well, apparently, I do like green eggs and ham. “I will hear You on a plane or I will hear You on a train! I will hear You in the snow, or in the sleet, or in the rain. Or in a pit. Or in a lion’s den. Or in some great fish’s digestive system. Whether mouths are being shut or I’m being swallowed up, if You are in it, that’s enough.”

I don’t care where I have to go, what it takes, or what You take from me. Just. Speak. I’m listening.

“I hold on faithfully to things that will not be faithful to me. However, now I know that if I sacrifice those, I will be saved. I give what I don’t need, to get everything that I do.”