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Friday, June 28, 2013

Looking Back.

I just recently started a new Bible study plan. I had felt God telling me (in a mostly polite fashion) that I really needed to do a more diligent/serious job of reading the Bible on a daily basis. Not for legalism or for Christian gold stars or for me to feel better about myself - but as one way out of many ways that I could 'hear' from Him on a daily basis. I got the message and I've really enjoyed this plan so far. I got the Bible, the workbook, the study guide. I don't go halfway on much in life and this was no exception.

It's been about three(ish) weeks now and I can definitely say that making the effort to read a chunk of scripture every day and then thoughtfully think about it has made a big difference in me 'hearing' from God. I really like the Bible (and the study guide) so much because it makes me think about the time frame of when each part of God's story was told - who the characters were - what the message was then - and then it helps me take all that and apply to my life -- today -- and figure out what God's message is to take home and apply in my life; here and now.

Okay - onto today's reading. Part of today's scriptures included the story of Lot's wife. Lot's wife is one of the "famous" characters of the Bible. She's barely mentioned but she's kind of got this cool vibe to her. She's the 'pillar of salt' chick. She's the one that was SO DUMB that when God was raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah - girlfriend LOOKS BACK instead of high-tailing it out of dodge. She's one of those Bible characters that make us feel so.much.better. about ourselves.

Kind of like Noah, Lot's wife is a good Sunday School story for kids. I seriously remember (very vaguely) - being around 5 or 6 years old and taking glue and gluing salt to a picture in Sunday School. I have this tactile memory of sticky Elmer's and sticky salt and salty/sticky fingers while we learned all about DUMB DUMB who would rather have fire and brimstone instead of God's cool awesomeness in Zoar (the city that Lot said he wanted to move to - God saved it from destruction just for Lot [more on that later]). As a kid, I pictured a big salt shaker in the middle of the desert.

So, I'm reading these scriptures today and it's like I've read/heard this story for the very first time. Yes, I knew the story and I knew all about Dumb Dumb and her saltiness ---- but today - I read in Genesis 19:26 "But his [Lot's] wife LOOKED BACK . . ." I always knew that she had looked back. Her sin - failure - was always in the looking back. But today, I stood outside the story looking in and I finally understood where Lot's wife was coming from. I had always felt better than her - more spiritually superior - because what idiot in their right blessed mind would choose fire and brimstone over being saved from certain destruction?

Maybe it's because of the path that I've been on this past year, but I finally *got it* and the light bulb turned on in my head. I have done a lot of looking back this year. Even recently, I've had some things happen to me that I have been looking back on in shock and bewilderment (and a little bit of anger, if I'm going to be honest about it). The biggest event that's made me 'look back' this year though is my mom's passing in October. I have looked back and looked back and looked back until I don't think that I could possibly look back anymore than I have.

Losing my mom - losing the idea of her - the mom on the other end of the phone that will always love me no matter what I've done in the past or what I will ever do in the future - I look back and I want to undo everything. Her being gone. The bajillion trillion times that I took her and my dad for granted -- where I didn't love them for them - and didn't love them in a parent-honoring way like I should have. I look back and it is so painful - so hard - - - and all the looking back in the world doesn't BRING HER BACK like I want.

I get Lot's wife now. Man, oh man, do I get her. She wasn't choosing destruction instead of salvation -- she's just like all of us - with our own plans and ideas and mindsets about how our lives should be going - or how our lives should have gone - and she just wasn't willing to give up on her plan. Her plan rocked. For all we know, she might have just gotten new carpet and new curtains and planted a new garden at her house in Sodom and Gomorrah. And so what if Lot had this desperate need to move - Lot's wife didn't want to move - she didn't want to be uprooted - where were her daughters going to get new boyfriends when they got to Zoar anyway? I picture you or I watching our house burn down and we are just supposed to look away and giggle with glee and not worry about everything that we're losing in the process -- or how we're going to build a new life for ourselves with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Right. Sounds wonderful -- where do I sign up?

Reading that story - - - and hearing from God about how it applied to me - today, and in the past year - I had to stop and pray - and cry - and pray some more - about my looking back. About how it was sin - but more importantly - that by doing it - I was choosing certain destruction instead of salvation. That of the two paths, that God wanted me on the salvation route but that I had worn a rut - a deep, deep, deep rut - on the way to the 'looking back' path.

I'm not saying my rear-view perspective is 100% fixed but I definitely feel a lot better. I feel more healed and a lot more whole than I have in months and it's my prayer for you today that you will also be healed of your looking back - - -


Oh, and Zoar (which in Hebrew means "little")? That happening city that Lot specifically asked God/angels of destruction to spare just so he could live there? Yeah, Lot was such a chicken in the end [I think he had Biblical PTSD after all that fire and brimstone] that he decided that he'd rather live in a cave instead. This is the same guy that was Mr. Choosy Choosenstein when he and Abraham were originally dividing up their lands - he now decides the cave is where it's at. Which could lead to whole 'nother lesson on all the things we ask/beg God for and then we get them and we're still dissatisfied. ;)

I'm super thankful that I've started reading my Bible 'for reals' again every day!! <3 p="">

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Smashed. Shattered. Stolen. Surrendered.

As I start this post, I realize that it has been over a year since I have written on here. I guess God has used this time in my life to keep me quiet externally so that I might grow internally - although if you know me in person, you know that I am anything but "quiet." I have felt Him speaking to me lately to write again though and tonight, when I couldn't sleep after a church service I attended, I knew that the time was now.

In the past few months and weeks, I have had various friends who have had their entire realities altered in deep and unchangeable ways. One of my friends, Erin, lost her 3.75 year old son in a tragic swimming pool accident. Another of my friends is dealing with separation from her husband and restarting life as a newly single mom. In trying to help them, I have realized that I needed to tell a story from my past in hopes that it might encourage them in any small way with what they are dealing with right now.

I went through a single pregnancy with my daughter Emelia. It is hard enough to be single with little or no family support - let alone being a single mom raising kids with little or no family support - BUT I think it is crazy hard to be single and pregnant. Not a lot of people have dealt with this. Especially not in happy, shiny Christianland. We say as Christians that we don't believe in abortion but what do we do when we see someone who is single, pregnant, and struggling? What do we say? When our eyes go to the enormous belly and then to the left ring finger (that's empty) - what's the next step?

Being single, pregnant, and Christian is a very lonely place to be. There are not a lot of sins that can be committed where you end up wearing them like a 30-pound weight around your entire body. There are not a lot of sins that throb moment by moment as a heartbeat inside of you. Having a baby out of wedlock, by yourself, as a Christian, is an all-consuming, never-ending, lonely and painful journey. t-shirt.

As I mentioned in my testimony earlier in this blog, I recommitted my life full-throttle to Christ 2 weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Emelia.

When I became a born-again Christian at age 18, it wasn't exactly on my life's plan to get knocked up and have a baby (and no husband) roughly 10 years later. When I felt called into children's ministry at age 19 in order to save children's lives and lead them to Jesus, I didn't understand that my most important ministry would be to make the hard choice to save my own child and bare my sin to the public for 9 months+. When I recommitted my life to Christ in September of 2002, I really didn't schedule anything else on my agenda except sunshine & rainbows and skipping down the paths of life with Jesus as my bestest friend.


When I sat on the cold tile of my bathroom floor and the pregnancy test showed 2 lines instead of 1 - life as I knew it was OVER. It's hard for me to even fathom now how I felt in those moments. Disappointed. Discouraged. Dismayed. Now that I am married again and I have had a joyful, hold-your-breath-am-I-really-pregnant-Ohmygosh, pregnancy - it's difficult to look back at that time and face the regret that I felt while looking at that test.


I had already broken up with my boyfriend at the time because I knew it wasn't God's will for us to be together. When I went to the door of his apartment that night to tell him I was pregnant and his response was that he would pay for half of the abortion like we were going "dutch" for dinner, I knew that I would be walking the road less traveled - all - by - myself.


When I called my mom and dad (who lived 24 hours of drive time away) to tell them what I was facing and my dad quickly got off the phone and refused to talk to me for 3 weeks, I knew that any wishes, hopes, or dreams that I had for an easy solution to my "problem" had been stolen away like the innocence that I had so freely given away weeks earlier.

I made the choice to commit the sin that I did. I then repented FULLY of my sin and turned the stern of my heart DIRECTLY in God's direction. I chose willingly to come running back to God and into His arms of Grace. But once I was there, single, pregnant, and more alone that I had ever felt in my life, I came to terms with the consequences of my sin. On a daily basis, I grew (literally) more consciously aware of what it really meant to live with one's "mistakes."

If I closed this blog post now, we could all go and stick our heads in a collective oven of depression over what I was facing. Up until that point in time, being single and pregnant was definitely the worst thing that had ever happened to me. A lot of my Christianity had been based on being perfect. Trying harder. Doing more. Doing the splits for Jesus. One of the big reasons that I fell so hard after getting divorced at age 24 was that I hadn't prepared myself to ever make a mistake. Christians don't make mistakes!

You see, until I was single and pregnant with nobody but God to rely on, I had no idea what grace was. I had no idea what it meant to fall fully into the arms of Jesus, to surrender yourself to Him to the point that you simply don't care what happens to you or what anybody thinks about you. To wake up in the morning and rely on Him to get you out of bed. To go to work that day and count on Him to keep the smile mostly on your face. To go to bed at night physically alone and reach out to Him to satisfy the ache in your heart and psyche. I had given my heart to God many times before, but I had always kept a piece of myself away from Him, protected so that I could still be "in charge."

Looking back on that time and realizing how much I had to learn - instantly - to trust and rely on God for my every waking moment, I actually almost feel sorry for people who have never had to totally give themselves over to Him. When you can still get by on your own and you use God as an occasional pick-me-up and not your everything, you don't understand what a true relationship with Him really is.


I used to think that surrendering meant giving up . . . quitting; but in those moments of pure grace, I came to know and understand that surrendering to God and allowing Him to give you His peace for the next five minutes, and the next five minutes, and the next five minutes is what the Christian relationship IS. When Melinda-as-I-knew-her was smashed.shattered.stolen (scattered, diced, chunked, chopped) . . . I was able to surrender myself to God in a miraculous way.

At the time would I have ever in a million years picked being single and pregnant? NO. Would I ever change it now 9 years later? NO. God gave me a PhD in trust in those 9 months. God gave me Him in the form of a sky-blue-eyed little girl in these past 9 years of mommyhood. God gave me "ME" by teaching me that when I am all alone - smashed, shattered, stolen - that I am HIS.

Surrender yourself to Him today. Give him YOU. Give Him the last little bits of yourself that you are keeping in reserve "just in case" this whole Christianity thing doesn't work out in the end. Get to the end of yourself so that He can give you beauty for ashes and strength for fear. Stop fighting a meaningless battle with the perfect life that you were supposed to have and start living intentionally in the moment that is within your grasp.

I don't know how your reality has been altered. Maybe it wasn't by your own sin like mine was. Maybe it was something that just happened even though it shouldn't have. Maybe you did everything right and life still went wrong. Maybe you poured your heart and soul into something or somebody that was ripped out of your grasp against your will. I don't know what you're facing, but I do know 100% beyond all shadow of a doubt that you aren't facing it alone. I do know that Your Heavenly Father is right there by your side waiting for you to surrender yourself to Him so that He can carry you the rest of the way. I can tell you through my life and through my testimony of coming out of the other side of His grace that there is hope and healing and redemption to be had in your pain. Seek Him and Surrender.
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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Good or Great?

This post will probably make you laugh at my stupidity, but that's okay. The faux pas that I am going to tell you about isn't my first and I'm sure it won't be my last. My husband is in the Army Nurse Corps and is currently mobilized to Virginia. We have 3 kids together (his, mine, and ours) and I was blessed to be able to take them to see their dad a couple of times this summer. It was a super busy time that was lots of fun but quite action packed. Since he is stationed right outside of Washington D.C., we had the opportunity to see things this summer that we probably would never have had the chance to otherwise. No matter what though, I would skip the cool summer vacation in a heartbeat to have my husband home!

When we visited him this last time, we took part of a day and went to Great Falls in Maryland. It was a much needed respite in the otherwise monument and museum filled trip. This is where the "Melinda is so dumb" moment comes in . . . We had been deciding what to do for the day and Al brought up going to Great Falls. I said that it was in my "Things to do with Kids in Washington DC" book and that it sounded great. However, I did not get on any website or anything before we went and we kind of just flew by the seat of our collective pants. So, we get there, and I make us go to the visitor center because I am "Queen of Information" and we start scoping the place out. We had no idea where we were going. So we walk to this one look-off point and because Al and I don't know any better, we start telling the kids that this is Great Falls and what do they think and don't they think it's great and all that. That's when Trey, the 10 year old, pipes up and says that he doesn't think it's all that great and that it's kind of let-down. To be honest, it kind-of was! When I hear the word "falls" that means something is falling, right? - Exciting - water-colliding-with-rock-drama, right? This is where we were standing at that moment:
See how peaceful and serene (and dare I say, boring) everything is in the background? All of us were trying to make the best of it - like - "Yay!" "Great Falls!" and all of us were thinking, "This is it?"

It was at this point that Al and I decide that there has to be more to this place and that surely this isn't "it" for Great Falls. We whip out the map and take a good hard look around and realize that this is just some look-off point BEFORE you get to the falls. DUH. So we get the kids in hand and head off to the real location, feeling pretty dumb that we had touted "The Falls" before we had even gotten to "The Falls!"

We took a beautiful hike and it was amazing to just be outside with a soft breeze blowing, and then, slowly we got to our true destination . . . 


To say that, at the point of being at the "real" Falls, that I felt pretty stupid was an understatement. To think that Al and I had been trying to be excited about the look-off point before the Falls instead of the real Falls! And then, at that moment, God whispered to my heart about how many times I had done that with my walk with Him. How I had fallen into legalism of "having" to do my quiet time or "having" to go to church, instead of surrendering myself completely to full relationship with Him at every moment. 

This summer has been strange. I haven't hardly had time to do anything and yet, God has used the most unique moments to speak to me and to strengthen our relationship. Even this moment of going to the wrong place and thinking it was "the" place was used by Him to show me how shallow I have let myself be with Him at times. How many times have settled for a look-off point instead of the amazing depth of real intimacy with Him? How many times have I bought a book, a CD, or gone to a conference to hear someone else tell me about Him instead of listening to Him directly?

Today, I challenge you to look at your relationship with our Father. Examine it closely. Look at a map - look around you - are you speaking to and with Him directly or are you settling for a cheap imitation of Him? I have done it too many times to count and that's why His whisper to my heart hit home so hard. I thank Him for this lesson of "good" or "great" and pray that I will keep intimacy with Him on the forefront of my head and heart as I refuse to settle for second best.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Coming out of the Woods

I am going to try and start blogging again. Since this blog is to talk about my personal walk with Christ and my journey with God, it seems ideal for said blogging situation that I would actually have a personal walk with Christ and a journey with God to discuss with my readers. I know I am assuming that I actually have readers. Ha.

If you have read all 5 posts of mine in this particular blog, you will see that the last couple were dealing with some hard stuff. That hard stuff didn't go away and actually, over the past several months has only gotten worse and worse and worse. Since this blog isn't about the joyous adventures of stepmotherhood and trying to keep your Christian blended family somewhat intact while your husband is deployed, I won't bore you with the details. When I tell you that things have been HARD, please believe me.

One of the only things that has gotten me through this time (other than God's amazing grace) is the new song out by Amy Grant:

I was so angry and bitter and wanting to control the situation that I/my family have been in that it GREATLY affected my devotional/prayer/God life. We found out for sure in March that Al was getting mobilized/deployed and right before then, I finally found out why I had been feeling physically awful for a year+. Thankfully, to feel better, I have only had to have a greatly restricted diet (I have what the docs think is celiac disease and sensitivity to other grains). But completely changing your lifestyle, husband getting mobilized/deployed for a year, and dealing with unnecessary ex-wife-in-law drama greatly hindered my Godlife. I wish I could say what an awesome Christian I am and how all the struggles in my current life have only brought me closer to the throne room of heaven. I also wish I was 6 feet tall and 110 pounds with real red hair and an unlimited bank account.

Instead, what I have learned during this time is that no matter what God still loves me and He still loves you. Really exciting, I know. Earth-shattering Christianity, isn't it? I'm the next Stormie Omartian, I tell you.  Even in my barely-communicating-with-God devotional life (doesn't a person have to have devotions to have a devotional life?) - even when I could only whisper to God how sorry I was that my heart was so dark and angry and ask Him to fix me right before falling asleep. HE WAS STILL THERE.

Even in Virginia, when I was so sad and upset with my imperfect state of motherhood while trying to be a perfect Stepford-wife while visiting my husband for 2 weeks and keeping 3 kids (age 10, 7, and 2) happy while being mostly confined to a 1-bedroom condo apartment and driving a STICK-SHIFT (*&!!%%$*) in Washington D.C. traffic, God sent a sweet lady to the park to pray with me. I didn't know her, she didn't know me, but God KNEW both of us.

Even this past week in Columbus, MS when I was shopping at a consignment store trying to have some retail therapy to drown my blended family/stepmother/husband is deployed/mobilized sorrows, God sent a sweet ON FIRE FOR JESUS store-owner to speak His Word over my life. I didn't know her, she didn't know me, but God KNEW both of us.

Those are just 2 examples. I know that lots of prayers from friends and strangers have also gotten me through this time too. Whatever it is - I am SO OVER letting my life situations keep me from my Lord. My life will never be perfect. The lives of others around me are never going to be perfect. This stupid-ding-dang fallen world will never be perfect. Satan and all the junk he pulls will never be perfect. Other people are never going to treat me perfect. I am probably going to treat them imperfectly too (can you imagine?) - so I NEED TO GET OVER IT AND TRUST GOD.

I get really tired of having to learn lessons over and over and over and over. I feel like a bad puppy with a shock caller most days. But, it's a self-imposed shock caller. I wouldn't have to live that way if I wasn't so stupid. If I would just run to my Abba Father and stick everything in His hands instead of trying to fix and control absolutely everything in my life myself.

Until I actively get my act with God back together, I probably don't need to write much more, but let me just say this: If things are not where you want them to be with God today - FIX IT. Get down on your knees (on the carpet preferably) and FIX IT. And if you have things "GOING ON" with God - PLEASE speak your going-on-ness into someone else's life TODAY. Needy people are all around you: at the park, at your place of business, on Facebook, in your family. If you don't feel bold enough or called to speak words audibly in their life, do it by prayer. But don't just sit stuck in the mud in your Christianity - not for yourself - not for others.

I'm out of the woods and on my home - I'd love to walk on the journey with you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Winter of my Discontent

Fractured, frozen puddles in the yard
remind me of a past
filled with discarded ice skates and
parkas with sleeves as thick as marshmallows.

The pond is congealed with ice and
the top provides the illusion of solidity
I stand outside with red cheeks and a red nose
wishing I'd found my mostly unnecessary mittens.

I shove my hands in my pockets out of necessity,
and I take stock of this icy blast in my life.

Are these plummeting temperatures a wake-up call
or rather, a recollected past that I willingly walked away from?

Are these hibernating, crystallized blades of grass an allegory of
my present, my future?

How long will I stand still, on the edge of something great and
continue to choose to be frozen, rather than growing?

How long will I be held down against my will - fighting unseen
forces not in my control?

Winter is a necessary evil - a time to stand still and
face cold realities -
a time to acknowledge fear and to learn to put it aside,
a time to drive roots deeper and to make convictions stronger.

Even though I cannot see spring, my faith tells me that it's there.

As the ground crunches beneath each step, I hear
the trickling of water and smell the dew of new beginnings.

The icy reality laying in front of me helps me to develop
the courage to believe once again.
The trees sway in their barren acknowledgement of my dreams -
and I stand - solitary and isolated - but not alone.

Waiting and trusting in unseen daffodil blooms.

Joshua 1:1-9  2 Timothy 1:7

mks 1.10.10

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stunted Growth

Have you ever been in a place in your walk where you know you should have chosen one thing, but instead, your flesh won out and you made the wrong choice?  Kind of like "Let's Make a Deal" --- you should have chosen "Door #1", but you went with "Door #3" and instead of the Maserati sports car, you got a year's supply of chicken feed?  Yeah. 

Right now I have a situation in my life where someone is directly attacking me and my family.  Their behavior is unprovoked (for the most part, unless I stop breathing, I can't stop the attack) - I WISH I had done something awesomely awful to deserve this person's hatred and wrath.  I wish I had yelled at the top of my lungs and told them exactly what I thought/think of them and their ridiculous behavior.  I wish I had sprung off a witty one liner that put them completely in their place.  Then, at least I would know, oh, he/she is acting this way because I did "xyz" to them last year.  I did/and will not do any of those things.  But - OH - how my flesh wants me to!

Earlier this week in Oswald Chambers (December 14th, if you are playing along at home), he spoke about the "great life."  He wrote that any problem that comes between us and God is the result of disobedience on our part.  That's really heavy.  I look at the situation that I am in right now and how I have, at times, totally allowed it to steal my peace.  How I have thought of witty comebacks and how right I am in the situation and how everything being done is wrong and unfair.  But, as I'm sitting there dwelling on that person and dwelling on the problem - that problem is preventing me from unity with my Lord and in some aspects, it is stunting my growth as a Christian.  Is it worth it?

I was driving with the kids in the car today and I was looking up at the sky, driving and praying about the situation at hand.  I looked up and I saw all these trees by the power lines that were completely shaved off on one side.  They were these tall, amazing, beautiful, alive trees - but they were completely stunted and misshapen on one side (or the top) because they were growing next to a power line.

I looked at those trees and I looked at my own heart and I realized that by focusing on the problem in my life, by letting that problem be a self-imposed boundary in my life, that I was no better than those trees.  When they first started growing, someone should have had enough sense to dig them up, to move them away from the power lines, to put them in fertile soil.  Instead, they were allowed to grow and now they are ugly, misshapen, and pathetic to look at.  But, how am I any better?  How am I any different?

Looking at the trees, I remembered what I had read in Oswald Chambers this week.  He goes on to say in the same devotional that:  "Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel any problems."  Wow. 

When I used to live in rural Alabama, I remember driving by someone's house and they literally had a huge banner hanging off of their front deck that said "Alabama Power Killed My Trees!!" (or something like that) or something like this:

At the time, I thought, "Man, that's pretty whackadoodle, get over yourself, they're TREES."  But, now, I wonder about my own walk in life.  I wonder what would have happened if I looked a problem dead in the eyes and said "You're not gonna kill my tree!"  What if I had gotten that angry about what was being robbed and stolen from me?  About the peace inside of my heart that I was voluntarily relinquishing - for what? 

No matter what, if I act out in my flesh in this situation and try to solve it myself or take matters into my own hands and let my mouth say what it really wants to say in retaliation, I am a misshapen and stunted tree, trying to grow up to the heavens, but pathetic to everyone who looks at me.  Instead, I need and want to turn this situation over to God.  I want to be happy that I have an overwhelming problem because He will do great things to unravel it and resolve it. 

Lord, please give me that faith and that trust in You today.  Amen.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)

Exodus 14:13
But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.
New Living Translation (©2007)

2 Chronicles 20:15
He said, "Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's.
New Living Translation (©2007)

2 Chronicles 20:17
But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Calling

It's hard to start this post, but I know where I want it to end. You see, it's hard to condense the last 16 years into a decent beginning without starting at the 18 years preceding that (I'm 34 and you can do math in your head, very impressive!).

I grew up in a small (and I ain't kiddin') town in northwestern Minnesota. There were three choices of religion on the buffet - everyone I knew was Lutheran, and everyone else was Methodist and Catholic. It humors me now to think how exotic I used to think it was to go to the Methodist church in Beltrami, MN every year for some special community dinner that they used to have. As a kid, I thought that they were so different, so foreign. And now, I think - for goodness sakes, they were METHODIST - how tame can you get? And don't even get me started on how naive I was about the poor Catholics. I thought they were mystical and weird and I begged my friend Valerie to teach me how to say the "Hail Mary" prayer so I would have something to say while we rode the scary rides at the annual Fertile Fair.

To some, this childhood would have been idyllic. But, I stuck out in Fertile, MN like a sore thumb that had been struck one too many times with a rusty hammer. I am, how shall we say, slightly creative --- and quite emotionally demonstrative --- and I didn't fit in so good with the "farmer kids." As I grew up and was confirmed in the Lutheran church as a pre-teen, I felt like I didn't fit in so good anywhere. I would have moments where I felt so close to God . . . but as I struggled with my self-identity and hating myself as a teenager, I struggled to get by every day and keep my head above water until I could go to college and "find myself."

The fall of my senior year, I had enough. The summer preceding that had been particularly difficult and culminated in me seeing the inside of a padded room for three days. I got myself together and managed to land a role in the school play, starring as "Honey Hotchkiss" in Woody Allen's "Don't Rock the Boat." I had so much fun and I will be forever thankful to my drama teacher, Mr. Rickey, for allowing me to end my "Fertile Experience" on a high note. After that, I enrolled at Moorhead State in Moorhead, MN starting that November. Minnesota had a special program where you could start your freshman year early and your tuition would be paid by the funding that would have paid for your senior year of high school. THANK GOD.

At college, I fit in a lot better. At the time, I was very interested in politics (barf!) and law (gag!) and was certain that I would be a high-powered something-or-other for the rest of my life. I literally - I am not kidding you - carried a briefcase to class every day at 17 years of age. I somehow managed to get elected to the student senate and even have memories of us lobbying at the state capital for lower tuition (how glamorous!). A year later, at age 18 though, life was just "there." Things just weren't going the way that I thought that they should go and I didn't feel inside my heart how I thought a person should feel about themselves. Things were much better than being back at home, but something was still missing.

One of my friends on the student senate, Matt, ended up inviting me to his "spirit filled" church - and as they say, the rest is history. I was scared out of my mind that first night - and no thank you - I did NOT want to be filled with the "Hooooooolllllllllllyyyyyyyy Ghost." But, later, back in my bedroom, door shut and candles burning, holding my Bible and praying, I knew that I had nothing else to lose. I remember Matt and I praying together in my living room soon after that, and I accepted Jesus into my heart and I felt in a way that I never did before --- so pure, so holy, so good, so accepted.

I started going to First Assembly of God in Fargo, ND and things went so fast after that. I couldn't get enough of Bible study, or of church, or of God. To say I was "on fire" would be putting it mildly. I got baptized (again, I had been 'sprinkled' as a child) --- and that spring, I remember sitting in the service and feeling God nudging me HARD as they were asking for people to get involved in the children's ministry. I had always had a heart for kids, being so misunderstood as a child and a teen, I had always hoped that I could help other kids avoid feeling like that - and help them to know God at a much earlier age than I had.

I got involved in the children's ministry and one thing led to another and I was helping out in children's church, directing the nursery for a time, teaching 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. I strongly felt God leading me into full time ministry and took the plunge and started looking into Bible schools (I had already quit Moorhead State in the winter of 1993 when I knew that law wasn't what I was supposed to do with my life). I moved forward and enrolled at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. And I wish, on some level, that the rest of this entry was about my amazing ministry and how God has used me from there to touch thousands of lives. Alas, mine is a different and yet, still special, story. I remind myself when I start to feel down about my journey, about Rahab, and Mary Magdalene, and other very non-shiny, very non-superstar women of the Bible that God still used mightily.

Right before leaving for Lee, I got married. I was 20 and ready to conquer the world and figured that getting married was just a part of that. I graduated from Lee, but my marriage didn't. In July, 1998 I had a shiny diploma in my hands --- and that following February, 1999 --- those same hands were signing divorce papers. I could write so many things - draw flowcharts for you of where the blame should lie - but the bottom line is, I got divorced. Here's a pointer for you - before you take out 10's of thousands of dollars (x's A LOT) in student loans for a PASTORAL MINISTRY degree, you mayyyyyyy want to actually KEEP YOUR MARRIAGE INTACT so that you can ACTUALLY BE A PASTOR.

I was so angry. So very, very, very angry. I had felt God's direct calling, followed Him to Tennessee - spent money I didn't have - and BAM! - I suddenly couldn't do what I really thought He wanted me to do in the first place. I had spent those 3 years at Lee trying to be perfect. I remember sobbing up in the prayer chapel begging God to reveal Himself to me, to let me FEEL Him again - and nothing. That pain stayed with me, and soon, as I worked as a manager in the hotel industry, I would go to church rarely and my prayers were sad shadows of my former conversations with my Father.

Things had reached an all time low in the summer of 2002. By that time, I had switched fields and was working in administration. I was living a 'sexy, single' life in Birmingham, Alabama. Like Carrie on the television show, I would often scramble for rent money after buying a pair of really cute shoes or an outfit I had to have. I went out with friends on my birthday that July, and met a guy at the bar. Note to anyone who actually reads this thing: try not to pick out dates when you are inebriated. I met someone and we started dating and as they say, one thing led to another.

By that September, I was so sick of myself it was hard to look in the mirror. I looked back on the past several years and the "yuck" I felt inside was so similar to how I had felt when I was 18 and knew I needed God in my life. After a business trip to Florida, and a terrible storm on the way back, I ended up looking out the window of the tiny plane and praying a prayer of forgiveness in my head while the CEO of the company sat across from me engrossed in his laptop. I prayed to my Father and told him how sorry I was that I had made such a mess of things, and I asked Him to make me clean, I rededicated my heart to Him and I felt Him make me whole all over again.

The plane landed, and I, never being one to not move forward on a decision immediately, called my boyfriend and broke up with him for the third time. That Sunday, I was in church, on my knees at the altar and made the prayer that I had made that Friday "stick." Again, this is part of the story where I wish I could tell you about how God used all of my poor decisions mightily for His purposes, where He reopened the door for children's ministry, and how I now have the ministry that I first felt Him calling me to all those years ago.

Instead, two weeks after I had prayed that prayer of dedication, I found out I was pregnant. Lesson #2 - If you ever have any hope of having a respectable, church-given position - it's not good to be divorced - but ----- it's really not good if you're knocked up. Also, it's probably a really good idea to not break up with anyone until you are SURE you are not pregnant. The story of my single pregnancy is a story for a different day because the lessons that God taught me in those months would fill this computer screen much fuller than it already is. Suffice it to say, God truly taught me what the words of Romans 8:28 meant: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. I felt God's hand on me during that time in so many ways and although a single pregnancy may not have been the 'best' plan, or a box that I would have ever have checked for myself on purpose, God used that time to change me permanently for the better.

Now, it's 2009 (almost 2010) and I was laying awake in bed tonight thinking about 'the calling' that God gave me so many years ago. I am remarried and have been active in my local church, but for the most part, God has kept the door to children's ministry at least partially closed. As I told you in the last post, God has been doing something unique and different in my life this past year, much like He did during my single pregnancy. He has revealed things to me that were pretty hard to swallow; and I know that, based on what He shown me, that the original calling that He gave me is pretty much gone. For years, while I was plodding through Bible classes and theology that were WAY over my head, I had counted on that calling. When I had felt fully restored and was remarried, I felt sure that calling would be likewise restored. When I quit my job and had tons of extra time on my hands, I knew just how to fill it. And yet, no.

So, as I was laying in bed tonight, praying, wondering about my future . . . I got a vision of my children in my mind. Sweet baby Trinity, who I get to see and hold and feed and change and love, every day - time I never got to spend with Emelia as a single mom. Wonderful loving Emelia, who has a heart so tender and filled with compassion that I wonder what I ever did to deserve such a beautiful human being in my life. Not to mention, my stepson Trey, who is well on his way to being a network newscaster and who keeps me in stitches with his jokes and antics. I had tears running down my face and onto my pillow as my heart was filled to overflowing with the love in my life from these kids. The gift that God has given me through their love.

And, that's when I realized (yes, I am a slow learner sometimes) - that God still has called me to the ministry of children. Maybe not in the way I thought it should be, maybe not according to my original plan, but in a way that He can bless and honor if I will only submit to it. I read somewhere, not too long ago, about a mom who felt called to the "mission field of motherhood." And that phrase has stuck with me. I don't even really know how amazing it would feel to be called to China or Africa or somewhere exotic and fulfill God's plan in a phenomenal way - how awesome to be able to call oneself "a missionary."

God hasn't called me to any of those places. He hasn't even called me to where I thought I was called when He first called me. Instead, I have been called to very small church with only 5 parishioners including myself. I am a very special missionary in a very exotic port-o-call (it even has sticky grape jelly on the countertops). I am called - TODAY - to be Jesus' hands and feet to my husband and my children. I am called to be the heart of my home and be genuinely kind and loving to all people under five feet tall and to honor and submit myself to the man in my life who is five foot nine.

I am called to keep a clean and tidy house and to have a mostly yummy meal on the table most nights out of the week. I am called to kiss boo-boo's and to read bedtime stories and to say prayers and sing songs. I am called to be a helpmate and to somehow maybe resemble something of the Proverbs 31 woman if all the stars are aligned properly that day. That's it. I'm not standing on stage doing object lessons. I'm not holding a microphone unless it's attached to the family karaoke machine. I am called to stay in proper relationship with my Lord so that my family can be in proper relationship with one another. That is "the calling" - my calling.

Growing up, my mom had a little sign with the words "Bloom Where You Are Planted" on it. For years, I thought that I had a say in the planting or where my blossoms would end up, or better yet, how they should be displayed. Now, I realize that instead, I need to be paying attention to my roots and focusing on feeding and nourishing my soul and those around me. God will do the rest. Blooming is a choice and living the calling that God has in your life - TODAY - is a choice. I can't say that every day in my house is like an episode of "The Waltons" or "Little House on the Prarie." Somedays, I think I might be starring in an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show" or "Roseanne." But, tonight, as I prayed, God showed me the heart that I have for my kids and even if that's the only children's ministry He ever gives me - I know now that it (and they) are enough.