Friday, February 24, 2017

The Purpose/Meaning of Life.....


As I write this, it's hard to describe all of the feelings/emotions that are wrapped up inside of my mind and heart.  I elaborated a bit this morning on facebook, with words like anger, sadness, fear, a desire for justice. But those few words just skim the surface.  There are more words that could be used like pain, hurt, trauma, heartbreak, devastation.  I don't want to be dramatic, as I have been called that before, but really, what has happened in my hometown is heart-wrenching.  It's making me re-think everything in life.  Where we live, how we raise our kids, our lifestyle, as well as the meaning/purpose of life.

Shortly after the news, I went through a time of everything feeling meaningless.  The news, the newsfeed on facebook, cleaning my house, etc.  Everything that once held meaning, seemed meaningless but my family. And, I think that's kind of how it is supposed to be and should be. It has made me aware of all the things that I let distract me, that steal my attention, my time, my energy. Things that quite frankly, don't matter and shouldn't matter, but that I made important.  My smart phone.  Scrolling the internet.  You know, time suckers that creep in that don't matter; they never did matter, but somehow I made them matter. But this, this has shaken me up, it's woken me up and it's made me more aware of and more in tune with my calling and purpose/meaning of my life.  {Now, let me say this.  This is MY purpose/MY calling. That doesn't mean it is yours.  Ask God what He made you to do with this life He gave you. Your calling is yours because He made you you.}

I remember sitting on the porch of my house in Delphi, IN shortly after moving back from Chicago. It was a season of moving home before moving up to Madison, WI to work in campus ministry up there.  Hard to be a college graduate and living back with my parents, but it worked. Very clearly, I remember reading Isaiah 61 and hearing "this is the call I have on YOUR life, Melissa." Yikes.  That is deep.  Have you read Isaiah 61? If not, do so now.  It's amazing, but scary at the same time.  At the time, I actually thought it meant for Greek {fraternity/sorority} ministry, and wrote that in my Bible, However, I think over time that call has changed on who it is for.  The call hasn't but I think who He is asking me to reach is different now.  

In total honesty, the call has been a struggle. Does anyone else just think that when God asks you to do something that it will be easy? And, He will make things just fall into your lap?  Does anyone else struggle with that mentality?  I did it coming on InterVarsity staff, thinking my funds would magically appear and I would be on campus in weeks {which doesn't happen!}, and it's happened again.  He's had to remind me that it is about His timing and His purpose, not mine.  I dumbly thought that by stepping out in faith that He would just do the rest and I could sit back and bask in my obedience.  LOL.  Not how it has worked for me, friends.  If it has for you, please share....I'm curious :)  I've been unfriended by people on facebook and to be honest, that hurts {remember, I am a person with feelings.  When I get unfriended, I wonder why.  Sometimes I sit in that hurt, other times I move on and don't let it phase me.  Anyone else feel this way?}  When I invite people into the call and what God is doing, I get ignored {which also hurts, to be honest.  Am I too sensitive here?  Or maybe I am "raw" from the hurt from my hometown?}  

BUT, in the midst of the struggle, the hurt, the pain, etc.  my purpose and the meaning of life has been made crystal clear to me.   My purpose is to glorify and share His love, as it is for all believers. Everything else is meaningless.  The things that hang me up ~ unfriending, being ignored, etc.  All that stuff is rubbish and doesn't matter.  Philippians 3:8 actually says it better ~ "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."

As you can imagine, this has been a process and it's been a time to really practice what I preach in terms of self care.  What I have done during this time is what has worked for me in the past and I know to work for me in times of stress, struggle, etc.

* Abide in Him and the Word.  Press into Him in prayer and worship.
* Eat clean.  When I eat chemicals and processed junk, it makes me wonky ~ mentally and emotionally.  Think food doesn't do that to us?  Please contact me and I can share my own experiences with this as well as provide resources :)
* Exercise.  This has been a challenge as I haven't wanted to, but know that I need to for my mental well being.

* Sleep.  Truth, the early morning workouts haven't been happening, because I have been letting myself sleep in.  My body has needed that and I believe it's important to give our bodies what they need, whether it is food, exercise, rest, etc.  It's the total package.
* Journal/process time/margin.  This is something I have recently discovered is a need for me.  When there is rushing, it creates stress for me, so when there is margin and time to process, it is better for everyone around me.  It's meant being intentional with my time this week to give myself that time.

What does this mean going forward?  As mentioned above, these events have made me crystal clear on my focus, my call, my purpose.  It means from now on saying no to things that aren't in line with that.  No in terms of time, energy, brain space and posting on social media.  This has been the biggest struggle for me to be honest.  As I look at the selfies and the various posts, I don't want to be cluttering up the feed or posting about myself.  I want it to be for Him, for His Kingdom, what He is doing.  There will be changes in terms of what is posted, but not crystal clear on how that will look yet, but you can count on me to share once it is :)  That's why the site was created, to be about HIM, not about me and my kingdom.

Curious what you think your purpose/the meaning of your life is?  Do share.....Love to hear from you!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ah, That's Why That Hurts So Much....

Delphi, IN, where the zipcode is 46923.  A small town {population was 2,893 at the 2010 census.  In 1996, my graduating class had 89 people in it.  #smalltown} in the midwest.  It's the county seat for our county. Like many other midwestern towns, there are a mix of small businesses and agriculture in the community.  It's a place where everyone knows everyone and people are for the most part, kind and friendly.   It's a place where some people stay after high school and choose to raise families of their own there.  For the most part, it is safe.

However, if you haven't heard of Delphi yet, chances are you will soon, as there was some heartbreaking news that happened there this week. {The article is here:} In my hometown.  Where I grew up.  In this small town in the midwest where things like this don't really happen, unless you remember 1980.  

I couldn't quite put my finger on all the uneasiness I have felt since hearing about these girls.  Yes, I knew one of their parents as well as one of the girls {not well, but I knew them}, so there is that connection. There is also the connection of it being my small hometown, where these things don't generally happen, unless, again you know what happened almost 40 years ago.

As the press reports would go live, I would tune in, hoping and praying for good news. Then,  when words like "foul play," "homicide," "murder," "death," "investigation," and the like are brought up, it triggered me.  Back to 1980.  The biggest question that took my breath away was "Deputy, do you know when the last homicide took place here was?"  The fear and shame that overwhelmed me was unreal.  Why the fear and shame, you ask?  See, my dad {bio dad, not the step dad who just passed away a few months ago.  Yes, I've had a lot of loss, friends}, was murdered in my hometown in 1980.  Ugh.  Do you know how gross, ugly and disgusting that is to even type?  Let alone read out loud?  Granted, I was just 2 at the time, but for me to talk about "how safe my town is," and "how things like this don't happen there," aren't 100% entirely true to my reality. The bizarre thing as I look back on it is that it felt safe growing up there.  It's like I lived in this little bubble of denial maybe?  Or just unaware since I was so young when my dad was killed? {Ugh, I normally say die, so those words take on a new meaning as I type them out.}  And, that's why what has happened there hurts me so much.  

So all that to say I suppose this hits super close to home for me, since I experienced something similar in that same town many years ago.  The loss, the grief, the mourning, the unknown, I get it.  I've lived it.  I grew up with it as close to me as the shirt on the back of your neck.  It was so woven into who I was and my identity that I didn't know any differently.  See, growing up with that happening to me gave me a "victim mentality," or the "my dad was killed when I was young, so have pity on me," that sort of thing.

It wasn't until fairly recently that God set me free from that and showed me HIS mentality. The Daughter of THE King Conquering mentality.  And, ya know what?  Regardless of what you've been through in your's there for you too.  So if you wonder why I'm passionate about freedom and helping women be free in Him, there's a bit of the backstory for you.

Please keep my hometown and these sweet families and the students in your prayers.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hmmmm.....Mixed Bag

A friend posted this quote the other day and I've been thinking about it since.  "If you're struggling and your people are just sitting there, watching you struggle. They aren't your people." At first, it made me sad, but then as I thought about it more, I realized the truth in it.

The other thought that comes to mind is "Not everyone will understand your journey. That's ok, it's not theirs to understand." And again, that's true. Here's the thing. I'm not like everyone else. I've spent so much of my life trying to fit in and be like everyone else/to be approved/accepted/liked that I've missed out on being who God made me to be for much of that time. All those years slipped by because of my own insecurity. How sad. One of many things God is teaching me lately is WHOSE I am. That means what He has called me to do. What He is asking of me. And, again, that is something people might not understand. They might not accept. They might not support. As you may know, I started a new website recently to help women find freedom to be who God made them to be. And in my usual fashion, my expectations were way off, so I'm learning and growing in the process {isn't refining fun?} And, it's happening again. Friends don't understand. I have to remind myself, that's ok, it's not theirs to understand. Obedience to Him is more important than if I am accepted/liked/popular/etc. In a training I did, they kept saying "you're not here to be popular, you're here to share your purpose." Ugh, that is so challenging for me. Again, it's a constant reminder that I'm swimming upstream. And, along the way, people will misunderstand, they won't get it, some may question my intentions. And, again, I have to remind myself to guard my thoughts and renew my mind.

Does anyone else struggle with this, or am I alone in this? I'm sincerely curious so please let me know.

Melissa P.S. As I hit "publish" on this, God hit me with a thought...maybe the website is just as much about my freedom as it is the women in the community. #hmmm

Monday, January 30, 2017

Something NEW is coming!!!

Oh my goodness, friends, I am SO excited to share what God is doing!  Something new is coming! God has put something on my heart and I am being obedient and following His lead.  About three years ago, I started on a health and wellness journey.  What originally started as a way to lose some weight and become healthy became so much more! God has shown me that it's about stewardship of what He has given us and caring for ourselves so we can in turn care well for those around us: our families, the church, and so forth.  

I am super humbled and excited to introduce you to I Am Free 2 B.  This is a membership community for  women who desire to be free to be who God created us to be. We are women who love Jesus and desire to be good stewards of our bodies.  The word God keeps giving me is "toolbox."  This site is a toolbox for women who want to grow in the Lord with the renewing of their mind, healthy foods, healthy bodies and in turn, live a healthy life, free to be who He created us to be!

As a member of this community, you will receive the following:

* One Personal Development book recommendation for the month as we renew our minds together.
* Two clean eating recipes/week

* Suggestions and ideas for exercise
* Tips, tricks, inspiration and motivation to live the life He called you to {this will be in 1 blog post/week}.
* Access to lots of resources to equip and help you on your journey, including a meal planner, grocery template, companies that promote freedom and so on.
* Access to a members only facebook group where we can pray for each other, connect and have some member challenges.

If you'd like to learn more, please visit the site here.  This isn't about a product, or program, but about equipping you to be who God created you to be for His glory!  I'd love for you to be a part!


Friday, January 27, 2017

Love and Some Thoughts On It

It's Friday afternoon and I was watching the March for Life in D.C. on the t.v.  Now that I have turned it off to write this post, I'm listening to Pandora.  "It Is Well," by Bethel is playing.  Man, this song is amazing!  Check it out here.  Seriously, this song gets me every time I hear it. {Sometimes I might act like the keyboard of my laptop is a piano and like I am playing along with it, but I'm getting off track here....}  This is one to play on repeat, over and over again.  {Now that it's over on Pandora, it is on YouTube.  At least there you can repeat it, lol!}

Oh, and I am wearing this shirt, which is where the blog idea came from. Love. Something it doesn't seem we are seeing a lot of lately, on the whole.  I think overall, if we were asked to describe the tone of our nation now, words like angry, upset, bitter, might come to mind, but loving.....not sure it would be up there.  Would you agree, or am I just tainted here?  {If that's the case, good!}

Not too long ago, {like less than hours ago!}, I posted this picture and said something like "choose love today. #loveyourneighborasyourself" Then, it hit me!  Is the reason we aren't full of love for our neighbor because we don't love ourselves?  I don't mean like a cocky, arrogant, full of yourself love, but the love the Bible talks about.  Are we walking around with our hurts, wounds and baggage that we either aren't willing to get rid of, or don't know how to get rid of and we are just walking around in our hurt and brokenness, projecting our hurts onto everyone around us?  I'm not asking to be judgmental, I'm asking because I have been there.  Ask my husband.  

"Hurting people hurt people," is something I have heard a lot and for the first part of our marriage, it was true and lived out daily.  I was so hurt, broken, wounded, offended, upset by things that had happened in the past that were affecting my current reality.  I was a hurting person hurting those around me {often those closest because I was safe with them, knew they loved and accepted me.  It wasn't this way with others, though.}

Is this what is happening in our society, but behind the filters of social media, we throw those fiery darts at our "friends?"  Have we wanted so bad to be right and show we are right, that we have forgotten WHAT is right? To be honest, the amount of hurtful things I have read on facebook has been heartbreaking.   It makes me wonder if we were in person, or face to face, would we be as bold and abrasive with our comments?  {And, just to disclaim here, no one was rude to me, I am just speaking about the comments and posts I have seen on facebook as of late.  This is not personal, nor is directed at anyone.  If I had a concern with someone, I would go directly to them to address it vs addressing it here in a passive aggressive way.}  Thankfully, when I have posted about it, my friends have been respectful and kind.  And, that's a beautiful thing.  The ability to agree to disagree in a civil way.  You may not agree or like everything I post on social media, and that is fine.  You don't have to.  {If you don't, I appreciate you being kind about it, so thank you :)  No one has been rude to my face or on my wall, so thank you!}  

Back to our brokenness, do you really love yourself?  Do you know that Jesus died for YOU?  Do you live like a daughter or son of the King? Because you are.  So many people don't walk around in their inheritance and it's so sad.  It's like the story of the couple who saved up all their money to go on a cruise and brought their own food because they didn't realize their food was included.  So instead of joining everyone at the nice meals, they ate bread and water in their cabin.  Talk about missing out!  Don't do that, don't be like that. And, this isn't meal time.....this is your LIFE! Walk in the righteousness Christ died to give you.  It is your right as His child.  Once we are healed in Him, we have a different perspective.  Things that used to trip us up or make us angry don't have that hold on us anymore {at least from my personal experience.}  If you want to be free, but don't know where to start, please let me know.  I would love to share my journey and what He has done in my life.  

It seems to me that in order to love others, we have to first love ourselves, yes?  Doesn't the Bible say "love your neighbor as yourself," Mark 12:31.  But if you don't have that view of yourself that Jesus has for you, can you have it for those around you?  The saying "you can't give someone something you don't have," is coming to mind now, so possibly?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this as always, friends.  This is a place for me to share some random thoughts I have.  I always love to dialogue, so let me know what you think :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Marching, Time and Worth

I'm still sorting and process a lot here, so this is a work in progress as thoughts are leaving my brain, and being transferred to this blog. There was a march this weekend.  More specifically, a women's march.  For me being a woman, it's important that I understand what the objective of this was.  To be honest, I am still not 100% sure and to some that makes me part of the problem, according to their facebook post.  However, I believe that not understanding and not trying to understand is part of the problem vs not understanding and trying to understand.  So, there's that.

I have friends who marched.  Some marched for women's rights.  Some marched against Trump. What I struggle with is the lack of clarity/unity around what the march was for. Was it for women's rights?  What is anti-Trump?  Against both?  There doesn't seem to be a clear sense to me, what the purpose of the march was, as a whole.  Yes, people marched for various reasons, but the point of the march as a whole remains fuzzy to me.  {If you know, please feel free to share.  Again, I am open and want to understand.}  If the march is to make your voice heard, there are lots of ways in addition to marching to let your voice be heard.

As I look at the "Womens March on Washington" website, I see some "Unity Principles" listed, which I love, and agree with.  I think my bigger question with all of this is what is happening beyond the march? What are we doing as individuals to model unity?  How are we as women uniting to support one another?  I just recently received a magazine that on the front cover said "Mommy Wars."  On the inside, it talked about the mommy wars between working moms, stay at home moms, etc.  It was spot on.  There's an area we can unite in ~ motherhood.  Let's cut the judgmental mama junk {you know what I'm talking about if you're a mama.  The whole breastfed vs. bottle fed, Pinterest mom competition, etc.  You know.....}  What are we doing outside of the march to promote, encourage, model and create what we marched for?

A lot of people took a lot of time out of their schedules to march this weekend.  Time.  It's one of the most precious things we have and something we can never get back . Once it's gone, it is gone. Unlike money, we can't earn more time.  That's just not how it works.  To me, when you value something, when it is worth something, you invest time in it.  Let's talk relationships for example. I believe it is respectful, considerate and tells the person they matter to you if you reply to them if they have reached out.  It's a simple way of saying "you matter to me."  Just like the march, you did it because it mattered to you, right?   You spend time with and invest time in people that matter to you, right?  So if you took time to march, maybe you could model people matter to you by replying to them as well as marching?  That's one way to say you value people, in addition to marching.

Women marched this weekend because they believe it was worth it.  They believe what they marched for was worth it.  If it was women's rights, for example, the point is that women matter, yes?  {Again, if I am off here, please correct me.}  So, what are we doing on a consistent basis to show our children that we matter?  I am a woman.  For me, that looks like taking care of myself.  I read my Bible daily, I read personal development, I watch what I put in and on my body, I work out.  It's self care because I believe I am worth taking care of {you are too, for that matter!} While I didn't march this weekend, I think my children are more likely to remember those consistent acts vs a march I might have participated in once in a while.  {Again, not saying the march is bad, but adding these things IN ADDITION TO.} 

I appreciate the masses of people marching to impact change this weekend.  Let's just not forget the power of one as well.  We each have the power to choose love or hate each day. We each have the power to choose unity or division daily.  We have the power to choose positive or negative.  Let's not forget it starts with us.  We can be the change we wish to see in the world, right?  This was confirmed for me a few times today via messages from friends thanking me for encouraging them to remember the dream God put in their heart, and another one thanking me for helping her change her nutrition.  As a result, one friend is chasing that God-given dream, and the other one's friend is also changing their nutrition as well.  Each one, reach one, right?  

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Church: A Hospital For Sinners?

The hospital.  Ugh.  Not someplace I am fond of.  As I was there with my mom last week for her angiogram, it hit me.  Life.  Death.  Both take place in the hospital.  Good.  Bad.  Joyful. Hard.  Sad. Happy.  Healing. It all takes place there.  The hospital.

As I was walking the halls last week to the waiting room, bathrooms, cafeteria, all these thoughts and feelings were going through my mind and heart. God was starting to speak to me, but didn't finish it until today.  Initially, I was angry about the church being referred to as a hospital for sinners.  "Why would anyone want to go there {church} if that's what it is referred to?"  "What good happens here, at the hospital, other than birth?"  "What good happens here?"  Those are some thoughts that went through my head that day. Apparently, the newness of my dad's passing at the hospital is still fresh and "raw" in me.  Death. That's what I associate with the hospital. That brings up a myriad of emotions and feelings. Christ had to die to set us free.  Death brought life and freedom and joy and all that He gives us, so freely and without us deserving any of it.  Death.  Where loved ones leave this earth and your life, and hopefully, as my dad did, know Jesus and go their eternal home of heaven, where there is no pain, no suffering, no hurt {Revelation 21:4}.  But there's more to death, which I will get into later.

On the flip side, LIFE happens at the hospital. Babies are born everyday, bringing new life into the world.  That's a blessing, and again, something Christ's death brought to us ~ life {John 10:10}. However, last week, the experience of death overshadowed the life component.  I wonder if that's what happens in our day to day lives, we get so caught up in death that we forget life?  That death overpowers life?  Jesus died for us to have life to the full, so really death brings life.  That's exactly what we are going through now with our church, the "Live|Dead Joy" book by Dick Brogden.  Highly recommend, by the way.

I actually asked my friend, who is a pastor herself and the pastor's wife how she felt about the church being called a hospital for sinners.  She replied "we are all sinners."  I then went onto say something like "but who likes to go to the hospital?"   As I have had more time to think about that, the Holy Spirit has convicted me that my statement comes from a place of pride.  Pride in saying I want to be well, I don't want to be sick.  I don't want to need medical attention because I am healthy.  Isn't that like saying I don't need Jesus?  That I can do it on my own?  Forgive me for my pride, Lord.  I am a sinner who clearly needs Your help; I can't do this on my own.   I need the LIFE that you bring by my dying.  Dying to self.  Dying to sin.

Today's "Live|Dead Joy" smacked me right between the eyes.  He says "We are comfortable and desirous of the Spirit-led life, quick to embrace the power, guidance, deliverance, and liberty the Spirit gives - but we are slow to accept that the Spirit also leads to death."  WOW!  Quick to embrace life, but slow to accept death.  That's exactly what I was thinking about at the hospital.  He continues "All who follow Jesus must come to terms with the Spirit leading them to death; the death of self-will, which leads to the deliverance of others.  We do not live to be served, but to serve and to give our lives for the ransom of others {Matt 20:28}.  If we do this joyfully, we will indeed be baptized with the baptism of Jesus."  

So, this is my moment of coming to terms with the Spirit leading me to death and being THANKFUL the church is a HOSPITAL for sinners.  I clearly need the LIFE, support, help and aide that Jesus offers in His home.  I have to admit something is wrong, that I am sinful and in need of a Savior to go there.

Curious what your take is on the church being called a "hospital for sinners?"

Blessings on you abundantly today, friends!