Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thoughts on a Birthday and a New Decade

I have been reflecting this week a lot on my life thus far. God and I have had a few conversations about my feelings on turning 30 and I thought maybe I could share some of what He has shown me as I reach this milestone of age and close out three decades of existence. :o)
 Derrick gave me a letter today and it echoes my feelings so perfectly that I want to share some of it here:

"So I began to think about what we are actually celebrating. Why do we celebrate the fact that we entered into the world? It’s not like we did anything to make that happen. We did not accomplish any great feat in being born. Rather just the opposite, we were completely helpless and useless when we came out. Yet we celebrate ourselves like we did some great service to the world by being born.
So thinking about this I think we can come down on a very basic and seemingly obvious point. That birthdays should be a celebration of God. He was the one who brought us here. He is the One who has guided you and brought you to this point. This should be a celebration of God’s plan for your life; an opportunity to look back at where He has brought you and to see what He has taught you along the way. God has brought you through so much and has brought you exactly to this moment in time, where He is bringing about His will in your life."

I can't even explain how much I loved reading this, because it is EXACTLY what God has put on my heart. I really don't like the concept of birthdays much. That's something that's changed about me recently, probably in the last year or so. We started talking more about birthdays when thinking about what we would do with Chloe. We talked about how our own experience with birthdays growing up was that there was a sense of entitlement and "the world revolves around me" associated with becoming a year older. I really don't know who came up with that idea but I am personally not a fan. So as we discussed how we would teach her, it made me cringe at the idea of my own birthday coming up. I would have been content to let this day go by and not have anyone know about it, but of course I knew that wasn't possible. So then a friend asked me today if I was 30 and at first I said something to the effect of how I was sad to be leaving my 20s. But my very next thought, which I know was from my dear Father, was this: "Look at all I brought you through! Look where I have you now! Start this new season in your life with joy, because it's exactly where I want you. And I'm using you right here, right now." Then a few minutes later, I read the letter Derrick wrote. And I was just overwhelmed with how God was speaking to my heart. 

I've been struggling for 3 years with this. For a long time I honestly did NOT want to be here, and sometimes I still don't. I'd really love it if we just sold everything and moved to another country, preferably in South America, and just served God there for the rest of our days. Derrick and I both dream of that often, but realistically it won't happen anytime soon. Maybe someday, but what about now? Do we just wait it out, "get by", until God brings us this desire of our hearts? Of course not! What a waste of the time He has given us right NOW. And now is the most important, because it's all we have been given with certainty. Tomorrow is an unknown, because we have no idea what direction our lives will be taken in. But today is tangible, and we CAN serve Him in the moment. 

 So today IS a celebration. But it's not for me. It's not my life, my accomplishments, or my abilities. Today I celebrate my GOD, the one who has given me 30 years of life. The ONE who has been my only constant, and will remain my only constant for eternity. He alone deserves praise and recognition for the way He has loved me, and extended to me His unending grace. I celebrate the way He has never left me alone, never given up on me, never failed to provide for my needs. Thankfulness overwhelms me for the way He has just taken hold of me and has promised to never let go. 

So if you wished me a happy birthday today, thank you!! I do appreciate it. It is a good day, because ultimately I know where my joy comes from. And the life He has given me is something I can celebrate every single day. And if I am still on earth for another decade, my prayer is that I spend every single moment of it bringing glory to the One who made me. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning to Live Simply and Naturally...One Day at a Time

So this post is just as much for me as it is for anyone else! I made all these new things and realized I need to keep a record of where I got all my info so the next time I need to make it, I won't have to search the internet again trying to remember which recipe I used for which thing! So far I've made homemade shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap (same as body wash), face wash, deodorant, all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent (which I had already been making for quite a while now), insect repellent, glass cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner. So many things, I know I'm going to forget what I did! So I'm going to try to list everything on here including any tips or tricks I learned while making them, for my own reference, and for anyone who wants to try as well. :o)


  • Homemade Non-toxic Liquid Soap

    • This one was the easiest liquid soap recipe I found. It is also extremely cheap and works great! The site I used is:  http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/homemade-non-toxic-liquid-hand-soap-2
    • I did exactly what she did and mine came out more on the watery side, which I think is great because it would probably be awesome in those foam pump dispensers (which I don't have, so the regular ones work fine, too). It still cleans fine, and smells really good! Just a bit runny. If you wanted it to be thicker, you could just add more soap or use less water in the next batch. But my goal is to save as much money as possible so I really didn't think that was necessary. I used a 4 oz bar of natural glycerin soap that I got for $2.09 at The Healthy Rhino in Littleton. So, I made mine for less than this girl did, and I think this stuff is actually even cheaper than the really harsh, horrible name brand soaps! Whoo hoo! Success. :o)

  • Homemade Deodorant
    • Also very easy and in my opinion (and Derrick's) works far better than any other deodorant I've ever used! And without the aluminum, what a plus!!! It is not an antiperspirant so it won't keep you from sweating. I never thought about it before but, why would I want to prevent my body from being able to sweat anyway? It's a normal and necessary function. The awesome thing about this recipe is that the baking soda not only absorbs the odor, but it also absorbs a great deal of moisture. So I actually feel much drier using this than I ever have before with "antiperspirants" that really didn't do what they promised.  http://www.squidoo.com/homemade-deodorant-recipes
    • The only thing I did differently is I didn't have arrowroot powder/flour so I just doubled the baking soda. I also read you can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot, which I may try next time! Coconut oil melts at 74 degrees so if it's a warm day you may want to store this in the fridge. Otherwise it's fine to leave out. The great thing about this is you only need a pea-sized amount so it lasts a super long time! And I put a few drops of lavender oil in mine, smells awesome. I think next time I'm going to try a little peppermint instead, though, just to change it up. :o)

  • Homemade Shampoo & Conditioner
    • This one takes a bit more of an adventurous spirit but it's worth it. :o) It is so cheap, better for your hair, and works really well. C'mon, give it a try! And please, if you have any ideas on how to make it thicker, please share. Cornstarch didn't really help. I put lavender oil in the shampoo, but you don't need it. Also we use a squirt bottle and spray bottle to reduce waste, as both are very watery. Don't let that keep you from trying it! Things don't have to "lather" to be effective...that is a common misconception!
    • http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-shampoo/
    • http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-conditioner/

  • Homemade Facewash
    • I got this recipe right off the baking soda box. It's just 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Works very well, though it is a tiny bit drying so I recommend going easy and just using it in the most oily spots on your face. I didn't find it nearly as drying as some commercial products though, so maybe it won't bother most people. And follow it up with a good natural lotion. I buy the big 4 lb. Arm & Hammer box in the laundry section at Walmart. I think it's $2.14. That is great and super cheap! And you really can do ANYTHING with baking soda, besides baked goods! :o)

  • Homemade All Purpose/Glass/Toilet Bowl Cleaners
    • Distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are also great products to have on hand that are really cheap. This one uses a combination of baking soda and vinegar. It works, but I am going to keep searching for a cleaner recipe that I LOVE. I did read about one that uses oranges and vinegar....I really want to try that! When I do I'll update this. :o)
    • All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
    • Window Cleaner: Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 liter (qt) warm water. Use crumpled newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Only use the black and white newspapers, not the colored ones. Don't clean windows if the sun is on them, or if they are warm, or streaks will show on drying. Be sure to follow the recipe, because using too strong a solution of vinegar will etch the glass and eventually cloud it. 
    • Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
  • Homemade Insect Repellent
    • I haven't tested this one more than once yet...but plan to do it again tonight! Easy. Just get peppermint oil! I read that mosquitos HATE it so I just put a drop on my wrists and rubbed them together. You can put another drop on your ankles, too, but I didn't. I saw a few mosquitos come towards me, then fly wildly away. I think they really did get freaked out! I only got one bite after being out for a few hours. Derrick, too, and usually he gets a ton. Anyway, it's worth a try, it certainly smells better than Off! Also, Derrick suggested putting 1-2 drops in a spray bottle of water and spraying that all over. I haven't yet but when I do I'll post my results. :o)
  • Homemade Laundry Detergent
    • I've been using this for a while for Chloe's diapers and I recently just switched over to using it for all our laundry because it cleans so well! Three ingredients, all equal parts: Borax, Washing Soda (different than baking soda), and Oxyclean. All three can be found in the laundry section. The only one that's a bit pricey is the Oxyclean. The other two are cheap! And it really does clean much better than any other detergent I've used. I use a little scoop (about 2 tbsp) for a diaper load, but I could probably use less for clothes that aren't as dirty. 
There ya have it! My list will be growing as time goes on. :o) And if anyone has any ideas or suggestions for me, please comment!!! Thanks!!! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Come Home Running

This morning I was reflecting on all that God has saved me from. It's just incredible to me to think back to where I was just a few short years ago and where He has me now. It's all Him. As I was thinking about this and praising God, I started hoping that Derrick would pick the song "Come Home Running" to sing this morning when we met for church. I was happily surprised when the lyrics popped up on the screen! I love that song....it was introduced to me at the lowest point of my life, and God really used it as a way to remind me of His love and show me that He had not given up on me, even though I wanted to give up on myself. Now I just feel so blessed to be where I am, loving Him and serving Him. I'm married to a godly man who loves Jesus and me so much, I get to do a purposeful job that I love, and I'm part of a church family that encourages me to grow more and more every day. Yep, I'm really glad that I "came home running". I love that the song says, "Come home running just as you are." I keep thinking about a little child who is being stubborn, not listening to his father, and then suddenly he can't resist a minute longer...the rebellion just melts into sorrow for his disobedience and he turns and runs full force into his father's arms, crying all the way with tears of remorse and joyfulness to be back with his daddy. This is exactly what happened to me! I am so glad that He accepted me "just as I am"....or as I was....with open arms. He is such a loving and wonderful Father! I deserve wrath and judgment, but He gives me joy, peace, and comfort. Thank You, Jesus! :o)

Come Home Running    By: Chris Tomlin

Oh heart of mine, why must you stray?
From one so fair you run away
And one more time you have to pay
The heaviness of needless shame

Oh heart of mine, come back home
You've been too long out on your own
And He's been there all along
Watching for you down the road

So come home running
His arms are open wide
His name is Jesus
He understands
He is the answer
You are looking for
So come home running
Just as you are

Oh child of God so dearly loved
And ransomed by the Savior's blood
And called by name, daughter and son
Wrapped in the robe of righteousness

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reflecting on Lessons Learned

Wow, it's been 4 weeks since I last blogged.....I can't believe how fast time is going by right now! Literally the weeks just tick off like days. Soon I will be starting my new life as a mommy, and I can't wait! But in the meantime, trying to prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for this new chapter in my life. A lot of the physical stuff is mental for me. What I mean by that is, if I feel tired and like I just want to lay around all day on the couch, I make myself get up and do something. This past week we had beautiful weather, so I was outside with the children all morning every day this week, working in the yard and playing with them. It really increased my energy level, and it's helping me to avoid gaining too much weight now that I'm nearing the end. Honestly, I think I've been more active lately than I was before I was pregnant! And it feels really good, despite the few aches in my feet and legs at the end of the day. It's still worth it. :o)
 The spiritual aspect has been a bit more difficult. As the time gets closer, it's also harder to trust God with everything and easier to start letting the doubts creep in. I've always had a struggle with anxiety. Some of it when I was younger, but it mostly started around the time I graduated from college, about 7 years ago. (Wow, I've been out of college for 7 years!) Anyway, it's been a roller coaster ride. But for the past 3 years, it has gradually been getting better as I have learned to turn over fears to God and remind myself over and over that He is in control. I always hesitate to tell people about this struggle because for some reason people think it's something I can just snap out of. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've heard people say, "Just trust God!" or "You need to relax!" Seriously...I wish those people could just be me for one day. It is not that simple, nor is it that easy! Of course I believe God is in control, and I do trust His ways are best. But after years of my body physically reacting and turning stress into anxiety...well, it's kind of on auto-pilot. I often get to anxiety level before I even have a chance to think and pray about what my fears are. Basically, it's a lot of work. I was complaining to Derrick about this the other night, and he has said this to me before, but it hit me in a different way this time. I guess I was just ready to hear it. He told me I need to stop "fleeing". You know the whole, "fight or flight" thing? Well, I'm not a runner in real life (nor will I ever be), but when it comes to dealing with my issues, my first instinct is to run far and fast away from the problem. This usually happens by doing whatever I can to distract myself....and I have figured out lots of ways to accomplish this! Instead what I need to do is face it head on. Pray, cry, scream if I need to! But just deal with it instead of waiting until the feelings build and build and suddenly I am physically incapable of calming down. I had a panic attack a week ago, the first one I've had in a few years. It really scared me, because I've been doing so much better! And made me realize I need to take advantage of the victory I already have in Christ, and go to Him with this. Not just on a daily basis, more like on a minute to minute basis! God reminded me of this verse yesterday and it really sums up how I feel about this struggle. This is written by Paul, and though he never says what his weakness is, he mentions that there is a struggle he has that he wishes would go away, and even asked God to take it away. These verses are God's answer to his prayer, and Paul's response.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

English Standard Version (ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


I am having a hard time imagining being "content with weaknesses"! But Paul learned to be. And I can, too. It doesn't mean I am content to let the struggle overtake me and turn me into a basket case. It means, I am content to deal with this, to fight daily, and not to complain about the fact that it's there. Trials make us grow, that is just a simple fact, and one that gets pointed out in the Bible many times! If I want to grow, I can't just sit back and whine about my situation. I need to fight. So that's what I'm trying to do now. For the past couple of days, whenever potentially anxious thoughts creep in, I just immediately pray about it and ask God to help me fight my fears. Because they are still going to be there...I have an incredibly active imagination and  my dreams are becoming more and more vivid based on things I'm afraid of. But rather than complain, or hide, or distract myself, I'm going to meet them face to face and talk to God about them. I think that's the hardest part....talking to Him about it. When I'm afraid I usually just want to keep it in my head and not say it out loud, not even to Him. But that's the worst possible thing to do! I need to go to Him and just lay it all out, no holding back. There are a lot of fears I have that are related to having a child. I won't go into them, but I'm sure many of you who are parents can relate! Still, this child is not mine, she is God's....so I need to remember that it's not ultimately my job to protect her, especially from things I have no control over. She is in His hands, and I need to leave her there daily. It is so hard for me to think of trusting her with anyone else, even Him, after my body has literally been supporting hers for so long. She is physically part of me, and sometimes it's hard to not freak out about any possible harm that could come her way. But I can't let myself. It doesn't matter that I have carried her....she is still not mine. He is the one who is truly carrying her. He is just using me as part of the process. And I am thankful and blessed to be used in this way....but in the end it's not about me as her mother. That is not where my identity lies. I am a servant of Jesus, and exist to bring Him glory in whatever way He chooses to use me. That is what life is about. Becoming a parent does not change that! I'm sure I will struggle with this and at times forget what is truly my purpose. But for now as I'm writing it out, it is helping me to remind myself that while this is an exciting time, it's just another way of being used by God to worship Him with my life. :o) And my biggest hope and prayer for her is that she will grow to do the same.
 OK, enough about me, time to get going on my day. I'd like to enjoy this weather before it starts raining all week! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Accusations

So, this amazing Psalm popped into my head this morning. And it was totally from God. I am really thankful for all those years of verses being drilled into me, because they come back often, and it's usually exactly at the time I need to be reminded of that verse. And, I might add, we didn't have Awana where I lived growing up....so I memorized these verses with no promise of candy, stickers, patches, or whatever kinds of prizes await Awana club members! haha. Although, most of these verses were memorized for school, so I didn't really have a choice. It was either memorize the verses or get a bad grade. And I was really afraid of bad grades. So on second thought, I guess I did get a reward for my efforts! haha
 But I'm digressing. The point is that God is using these verses buried in my brain to work on my heart. This is what I awoke to this morning, going through my head. Really it was just the first couple of verses, but I liked the whole Psalm so much that I ended up reflecting on the whole thing:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
(Psalm 46 ESV)

Let me just tell you, there are so many awesome things about this Psalm! But a couple stand out to me. I don't think this will be a long rant like I usually write, but you never know, so please bear with me! :o)
 The first thing I realize is that we have literally nothing to be afraid of. God is the one who we turn to in trouble, and He is the one that created the earth, the mountains, the seas...basically everything we see as great, powerful, and majestic. All those things are no match for His greatness. This gives me comfort, because no matter what happens, I truly have nothing to fear because my trust is in God.
 Then I love the verse about the nations raging. We look around us and see lots of unrest between nations, and within countries as well. And what it all come down to is a hunger for power and greatness. Of course, all this strife and unrest causes people to have fear. But this is a fear of man, not of God! This is what Jesus said about fearing man:
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

(Luke 12:4-7 ESV)

  And then, Psalm 46 goes on to say, "He utters His voice, and the earth melts." Think about that for just a moment, it's totally mind blowing! All He has to do is speak, and this huge planet and everything in it would melt. And we fear what humans can do to us? Um, that is totally backwards! And yet, I fear man just about every day of my life. It's so easy to fall into this trap, because we are bombarded daily with tons of reasons to be afraid of man. But even though man can do some awful things, he can never have the kind of power that God does. So why do we wrap ourselves up in anxiety about people? Why do I worry so much about what people think of me, or what they say about me, or what they try to do to me? Why in the world does it even matter?
 One of the biggest things I worry about with people is them falsely accusing me. I hate it so much...it feels so unfair, cruel, and spiteful when people purposely try to make me into something I'm not, especially if they accuse me and then spread that around to others without ever confirming any of their ideas about me. This has happened to me several times in the last few years (that I'm aware of, and there are probably more times that I'm not aware of!) I let myself get wrapped up in anxiety about this, to the point where I've been afraid to trust and open up to anyone. It's a really bad place to be. I'm not there right now, thankfully, but I've been there many times and it really just stinks. I have let those accusations sink in to the point where I start to believe them myself, and then I heap guilt on myself for things that aren't even my fault. Then, when I'm feeling especially depressed, I start blaming all of those people for making me feel like this, and before I know it, I'm turning legitimate hurt into sin by harboring anger and resentment towards these people. And it makes me want to gather all of the people I can who will take my side and stand up for me, because it makes me feel better about myself to have them fighting in my corner.
 But while I was reading this passage this morning, it dawned on me that there is only ONE person who has the right to accuse me. And that is God! It might sound weird to think of Him as my accuser, but He is the only one who has the right because He is the only perfect, completely righteous judge. So he absolutely has the right to call me what I am, a sinner. He knows my heart and can see every single evil thought and attitude I have. Yep, He definitely has the right to point that finger of blame right into my face, and I'd completely deserve it. But the great thing is that I also have Jesus, the only perfect man who ever lived (who is also completely God) who took that accusation and paid the price for it on the cross! He is the perfect advocate, in fact the only one I really need. I don't need people on my side, just like I don't need to be afraid of people who aren't. God is the only judge whose opinion matters, and Jesus is the only advocate who I need on my side. It's all really that simple. Psalm 46 goes on to say, "Be still and know that I am God." And that sounds almost too simple sometimes, but really, if I truly let that sink in, then who cares what people say about me? Let them think what they want, let them say what they want, and let them spread it to the world! The only thing that would destroy me is if I was rejected by God. And that is never going to happen. So I can rejoice, when men bring their worst. Because God is still God, and while He is my judge, He has also extended His grace and mercy to me through His Son. So there's no blame or guilt on me. People are always going to misinterpret things, or just plain make things up about us. Sometimes it will even come from other Christians, or at least those who claim to be. But so what? We have the Creator of the universe-- the one who can make the earth melt just by talking--on our side.
 So, if you feel like accusing me of something in the future, or if you have in the past....let me just tell you this. Yep, you got me. I'm a sinner. I mess up. And get this.....sometimes I don't even realize it!  But, before you "crucify" me, just remember someone already hung on a cross in my place. And it's the same guy who hung on a cross for you. We all deserve the same blame and accusation, but praise Jesus, we don't have to face that condemnation because God looks at what Jesus did and declares us righteous. That's what I'm going to focus on the next time someone starts trying to point out my faults and criticize me for them. And when someone just completely makes something up and it's completely false, with no one taking my side, it won't matter. Because the entire world could turn their backs on me tomorrow, and it still wouldn't even make a dent in the magnitude of His love for me. :o)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I was a Pharisee.

When you read this passage, notice the pompous, full of himself, arrogant, prideful (hmm, can I think of any more adjectives?) Pharisee. And instead of the word "Pharisee", insert "Melyssa".
[The Pharisee and the Tax Collector]
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

Don't tell me I'm being too hard on myself, trust me, I'm not! I was that judgmental, and that full of myself, for most of my life up until about 4 years ago. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First I should just say how this all came up. Derrick and I were reading this passage the other night and I was talking about how I remember in Sunday School as a little girl, seeing pictures of this story. And the Pharisee is standing there looking up towards heaven with his arms out, appearing all high and mighty and "holier than thou". And the tax collector is sitting there, looking like a pathetic, pitiful excuse for a human being. And Derrick remembered seeing the same kinds of pictures as a little kid, too, but he had a different perspective. It never says that the Pharisee is appearing like he is better off than anyone else, it just said he was praying it. Which  most likely means it was all going on inside his head, not something that would really show on the outside. This really struck a chord with me, because I can't even tell you how many times in my life I have thought I was better than other people. I believed I was a sinner, but kind of like a top tier sinner. I wasn't THAT bad. I only did a few wrong things, like disobey my parents from time to time, or get grumpy and bossy towards my little sister. But I didn't do all of the things that seemed AWFUL to me, so I figured I was actually a pretty "good" sinner. Obviously there is no such thing, but I really believe that my religious upbringing taught me that though we are all sinners, we can strive to be better and therefore less unholy. Never once did I learn that it's the Holy Spirit working through us to become more like Christ, or that apart from Him, I am truly and absolutely the most horrible, wretched, sinner that there could possibly be. So, I always had this feeling about myself and others until really embarrassingly not that long ago. And to be honest, it is hard not to fall back into that way of thinking sometimes! It's so easy to say, "How could they treat me like that, I would never do that to them!" Without even thinking, I labeled myself to be a good person, deserving of the best treatment at all times. Umm, excuse me Miss Melyssa High and Mighty! Don't you remember that guy the Bible is about? Jesus? Oh yeah...umm, don't you think HE deserved the best treatment possible since He was like, well, GOD? And yet, even He says he came to be a servant. He gave his entire life, to the point of sacrificing Himself by dying the most atrocious death possible at the time. And I have the audacity to say that I deserve better than a little criticism, gossip, or hurtful words directed my way from time to time? Yeah, I'd better think again. I deserve all of that, and SOOOO much worse. I deserve eternal suffering in hell. I don't let myself stop think about that often enough. The worst possible punishment that could ever exist is being condemned to hell for eternity. Apart from God, apart from all goodness, apart from any comfort. Forever. And I am inherently evil and deserve that, just as we all do. God's amazing grace and mercy has rescued me from hell, and my punishment was taken on the shoulders of Jesus. But, it doesn't change what I deserve. I'll spend eternity praising God for saving me from what would have been a completely just punishment.
 I think that's why I have a hard time understanding when Christians don't really want to make their lives 100% about Jesus. I've been there....I used to say some people took it too "seriously". How is that possible, though? If we truly realize who we are apart from Him, and what we really deserve, how can we really not want to focus every fiber of our beings on serving and worshiping Him? The Bible says that many people think they are followers of Christ, but when it comes to the end, Jesus will tell them, basically, "Sorry, you didn't really get it. We don't have a relationship and never did." Ouch. I think for quite a while I may have been one of those people. I sort of got it, and I wanted to get it, but I just felt like I was missing out, because I saw people truly worshiping God, and most of the time I still felt like I was going through the motions. And the things in my life that changed that aren't important. It's the fact that somewhere along the way, it all changed for me. Now, I AM the tax collector. I AM the prodigal son who has returned home. And I AM fully deserving of eternal punishment in hell for who I am as a human being, which is a wretched and completely lost sinner. Jesus has changed all that. Not some "sinner's prayer", not reading the Bible every day, not going to church, not volunteering or giving things away or being involved in a church. What changed that is the point in my life where God showed me, "Melyssa, you are a mess. But Jesus' death is enough for me to excuse your crimes. You're free." How can I be anything but grateful? And truly grateful. I'm not talking about a thank you note, "Dear Jesus, thanks for dying for me, I really appreciate it! Your death on the cross was a really thoughtful gift, and I'll be sure to put it to good use. Oh, and the Resurrection was pretty great, too. Thanks again! ~Melyssa". (I should also mention that I think Thank You notes are kind of a silly expectation people have, but that's another blog for another day.)
 This is absolutely ridiculous. And yet how many people who call themselves Christians (including myself for a long time) live their lives like this Thank You note! Take a few minutes, thank Him once in a while, then go about your way. Put the gift on the shelf and let it collect dust, and maybe use it once in a while if you think of it. No, no, no! This is not a life of following Jesus! If that is what you're doing, friend, I plead with you to challenge your own thinking...because you may be missing out on what it really means to be a Christian! And my heart for you all is that you would truly know the saving power of the gospel!! When Jesus said we would be known by our fruit, He wasn't kidding. There should be some serious FRUIT coming out of our lives! And I'm telling you right now, I've produced some pretty shabby, dried up, rotten, worthless fruit (if you can even call it that), for most of my life, because I wasn't truly serving God with my WHOLE entire life! This is what Romans 12 talks about when it says to be a LIVING sacrifice. Are we giving our all, every day, or are we just showing up at church, or a Bible study here or there, acting like a good Christian, and then going home back to our stuff, our TVs, our hobbies, and forgetting what life is truly about? Are we looking to save money to make ourselves more comfortable, or so we can help others? Are we spending our time on projects for our own enjoyment, or are we treating others as more important than ourselves?
 I hope and pray that whoever reads this will know that I'm not saying this in a condescending way, but out of love and concern. I only feel that I can speak to you all like this because this has been my life, and I am finally realizing the truth. If I'm pointing any fingers, it's at myself. Please, use me as an example of what not to do! Please, judge me for how I was, and use that to look at your own life and question yourself! Like I said in the beginning, I wasn't hard enough on myself. And I'm not beating myself up now, either. But I am repenting (which means doing a complete 180) and turning towards a life lived for Christ. I find myself seeking Him more, trusting Him more, and having an awareness for other's needs that I never had before. This is not me, it's the Holy Spirit in me, guiding my steps. I am still selfish, and He has to constantly work that out of my life, because it's pretty ingrained in this foolish brain I have. But I know that if I keep desiring Him with my whole heart, He will change me, and use me the way He chooses. I am SO excited about that! Whatever He wants, I can and will do, because I finally see that life is ALL about Him, and never about me. I don't need to take things personally, or get offended, because it doesn't matter how I get treated. I don't need to be afraid to share my faith, because this is truth, and I want people to know it. I don't have to debate or convince people that Jesus really existed, or that the Bible is really from God, because it's only the Holy Spirit who can awaken a soul. My job is just to share my life, and do it boldly. And I intend to do more of that, as my courage grows. :o)
 OK, I think I'm done here. This is just such a burning passion on my heart, I can't help but go on and on! But I will stop. I'm not sure who all reads this, but if you are reading it as a believer, please, I implore you to search your own heart. Are you laying down your life as a living sacrifice? Or are you living your life like a thank you note? And are you judging people? If so, I suggest leaving those people alone, and taking a look at yourself, like the tax collector did. What you find may not be pretty, but in the midst of that is Jesus, and He has already dealt with the problem. He is perfect solution, the only solution, and the only reason for life.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Conviction about truth. And the truth about conviction.

I came to a realization today. One that has been sort of creeping up on me over the past few weeks and months. I'm not direct enough about my faith. And it's time for that to change.
I've had a few conversations with people lately about how important it is to be up front about things. Not just to people who don't believe the Bible, but to other Christians as well. I haven't been good at sharing the truth with just about anyone. And it's time to change that.
It may have started when I was in college. Derrick and I were talking today about how the church I grew up in decided they were going to stop having a youth group for the teens, because it was a program, and programs are bad (which actually is true, or at least, they don't do much good). So they had this meeting to tell the teens about it and let them ask questions. It was right after I graduated from highschool, and my sister was still in the group, so since I happened to be home that weekend, I went to the meeting.  Basically the pastor said it should be up to the families to teach the teens, and create fun things for them to do, and it shouldn't be run by the church. Which was all well and good, except that would mean the teens would have nothing, because there were only one or two parents who were willing to make this happen. And I made sure I pointed it out at that meeting. I was very clear and direct, and spoke out for what I believed.
 Derrick's response to my story was, "Well, what happened?"
"With the youth group?" I asked him.
"No, what happened? Why don't you speak up any more about things?"
Hmm. Good question.
I guess it's because during the course of that year, I became more and more outspoken, and not in a good way. I started using it as an excuse to blast people, or take my frustrations out on them. It made people angry and made me feel awful. So at some point, I just stopped telling people what I think. I think it was around the time I went to LBC. It was a chance to start over, and I had already gotten myself in lots of hot water with people during my first two years of college because I was too harsh with my words at times. But you know how it's so easy to go from one extreme to the other? Well, that's exactly what I did. I went from too much honesty to too much silence. I bottled things up, and in a way, I still do. I became really good at telling people what they want to hear, or at least, giving them a response that was sort of true, but only the non-offensive stuff. I have done this a lot with unbelievers. And I wonder, how much do I care about them? How loving am I, if I only tell them a half-truth about God? It may keep them from getting mad at me, but in the end doesn't teach them a thing about who He is, and what He has done for us, and their need for a Savior. All I did was serve myself by staying on their good side.
 But it's not just unbelievers. I've done this with Christians, too. And that's just as bad. I'd rather have them be happy with me and think I'm a nice, accepting person than tell them like it is. I hate having people dislike me, and I hate conflict. So it's really hard for me to proclaim the truth. But I'm finally realizing how wrong that is. And not just because I'm shirking my responsibilities, but because I'm not showing love to them! Instead, I'm protecting myself. And that's just plain selfishness.
 It's taken me a long time to be able to be open since I moved here. And it's not just because I wasn't accepted by everyone. It's because I hadn't been living my life totally for Christ before I came here. I was living for myself, and it wasn't really something I was ready to let go of. But God is changing my heart, and teaching me that He wants me to take the next step. I need to grow. I climbed to the top of a really big hill, leaning on Jesus with every step. Now I'm there, and He's saying, "OK, let's tackle the next one now."
 So I need to step up my game. I need to live more boldly for Christ. This means holding other believers accountable when I see them clearly going against God's Word. It means proclaiming the truth of the gospel to everyone I know, and not shying away from discussions that could lead to some conflict. I guess it means I'm trying to find the balance between the way I used to be, which was to be controlled by emotion and come across as judgmental and hypocritical, and the way I am right now, which is to avoid anything that might cause tension or disagreement, making me passive and selfish. I want the middle ground, which is to speak boldly and assertively, but with love and grace. The Bible says, 
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
(Colossians 4:6 ESV)
This is exactly what I want. I want to obey God and speak up for what is right. But I also want to be loving, kind, and compassionate, just like Jesus was. He never hesitated to point out sin, but He treated people with true compassion. It was the perfect balance. I will never achieve perfection, but I can strive to follow Jesus' example. I am so thankful that as a believer in Christ, I have the Holy Spirit, who is God, working in and through me to make me more like Himself! What an amazing, and real blessing that we get to experience! It's God's strength and power that gets me through these struggles, and helps me to grow in my relationship with Him and others. :o)
Oh, and one more thing. The natural progression of this openness is that it should also cause me to not be so easily offended myself, and be able to accept Biblical constructive criticism. As long as it's from Christ, and not just someone's opinion, I should be able to take it in and learn from it. This goes both ways! :o)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Possessions

I am reading through the book of Luke, and really learning a lot! This is the passage that stood out to me today.


And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:15-21 ESV)

  I could be going out on a limb here, because I know a lot of Christians who probably don't agree with me. But I think Jesus is pretty clear! What really matters in life? Having more and more stuff for ourselves? He even called the guy in this story a fool for thinking like that.

 This brings me to two conclusions. One, we don't need brand new things just to have brand new things. So....after a conversation with Derrick the other night, and then reading this scripture, I revised our baby registries.....took out a BUNCH of things that while they seemed "nice" and "handy", they were really completely unnecessary and a waste of money. If we can live without them, we really don't need them. :)

  The second conclusion is that I'm going to speak up more about things that I believe are truly, 100% Biblical. This is a big one, because it's a very common problem in America, and especially among those who follow Christ, who should be living for the eternal, not the temporary. And one thing I'm going to be more open about is one of the reasons why we want to sell our house. Yes, being out of debt is a really nice reason! But it's not the only one. The main reason is because we believe the time, energy, and money it takes to keep up a house and property could be much better put to use in serving our Creator. What good is a piece of land on this earth? Why do we need to be comfortable and have something that is "ours"? There is a much greater, much more wonderful place that we will be for eternity with Jesus. THAT is where I want to "stake my claim". That is the life I want to prepare for, and spend my energy investing in.

 Please don't get me wrong. I don't think it's a sin to own property. Or things. I just think it's important to make sure I'm constantly reevaluating how important that ownership is to me. Because I do struggle with this at times! We have lots of things that are kind of falling apart around here. One thing in particular is our yard. I often feel embarrassed at how "trashy" it probably looks to most people. I want it fixed up and pretty so people don't judge us. But this is just putting emphasis on the wrong thing. And the fact that there's lots to be done around here that isn't getting done just shows that we have made other things more of a priority. Things that matter way more than other people's opinions of our property maintenance abilities. And at the end of the day, I'd much rather have a husband who puts 110% into the ministries he's involved in than one who has a constant "to do" list of projects around the house. Of course we should take care of what we do have, and when something is necessary, we do get it done. But as long as there is a roof over our heads, who cares what it looks like, especially on the outside?

 OK, I hope no one is offended...I really, honestly write this stuff because it's what I'm learning and working through, and I want to share with others. By no means do I expect people to think the way I do.....but as for believers in Christ, I do want to challenge you to read these words of Jesus carefully, and decide for yourself where your priorities really lie. God is the only one who truly knows our hearts, it's not up to me to convince anyone! Just to look at my own heart and life and seek to bring Him as much glory as I possibly can!

 Good night, everyone. :o)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Just some recent realizations...

Something hit me last night, and it was a really sobering thought. I am having a hard time shaking it, and it's causing more and more things to dawn on me that I just can't ignore. Here's the initial thought, and how it got started in my mind.
 I read a status post by Mark Driscoll, the founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. If you are interested in knowing who he is, all you have to do is Google him, you'll find tons of info! Anyway....he posted that the state of NY ruled that churches can no longer rent out public school facilities in order to hold services. For this reason, I think he said it was 68 churches would no longer have a place to meet. My first thought? Oh, that's persecution! And it is....I am really so tired of the leaders in this country taking the whole separation of church and state thing so FAR out of context, as to use it for things like this. It just helps them to justify their rebellion towards God. But, my second thought was....Wait. This is what I call persecution? When I know perfectly well that Christians in other countries are being tortured and killed for their faith on a daily basis? Hmmmm, so I guess we're not exactly suffering for our beliefs in America. Not in that way.
 Then I asked myself, "Why not?" The answer came to me very suddenly and the reality of it was sickening, stopping me in my tracks. I know the reason. And it's not a good one. Oh, you have probably heard people say that we live in this great, Christian nation, where we are free to worship God, and how that is such a blessing, and how thankful we are to have what so many other countries don't! And while I admit, it is nice to have freedom of speech and to worship the way I choose, this is not the reason why we don't face persecution in America.
 The reason is because we are collectively living a watered down, hypocritical, go-through-the-motions type of Christianity. I have been guilty of this many times, and still am, though I am becoming more and more aware of it, and am hoping and praying that God will change me! I think Satan doesn't attack believers here as much as he does other places because....well, there isn't much he needs to do. We're already doing it. We're already addicted to our comfortable lifestyles, and attending church as a hobby (meaning whenever there isn't something better to do). We are already not loving whole heartedly, not giving selflessly, and putting just about anything and everything before God. Why does Satan need to throw persecution in the mix? We are already living a defeated life, as poor representations of who Jesus is. We aren't taking up our crosses, because that's too hard, and it's much easier to just get absorbed in all that our "wonderful" country has to offer us.
 This is sometimes why I am pulled to live in another country. Of course to serve God, but there are always opportunities to serve Him wherever we are. I don't think it's only possible to serve Him if I leave the US. But, I do think that maybe it would make me a lot less comfortable, and a lot more reliant on Him. My hope and prayer is that He would change me into someone who wants and needs the things that only come from God....His grace, mercy, peace, strength, and forgiveness. This is all I need to survive. Yet how many times to I think I need this or want that? Too many times to count. It's so easy to get caught up in this culture, that screams to every single person that you need more, and better, and bigger, and newer than everybody else. But it's all lies. Derrick used to tell me when we first got married that he'd be happy if we lived in a cardboard box, because we'd still have God. I have to admit, I've struggled with that way of thinking, because it's so hard for me to let go of my comforts. But when it comes down to it, I know he's right. Living in America makes it SO hard for me to remember that, though. With every modern convenience so easily accessible, how can I help but forget what really matters?
 If you are a believer, I ask you to consider your own life for a moment. When it comes down to it, what truly matters to you? If every comfort you enjoy was gone tomorrow, would God still be enough? I ask myself this question all the time, and most of the time I am ashamed at my answer. But God knows my heart, there is nothing I can hide from Him...and He knows that deep down, I want to grow closer to Him, and to desire Him more. I'm not where I should be, but by His grace, He will teach me more and more, if I am willing to learn.
 I am sad and burdened to see our country where it is at, and that Christianity seems to be just about blended in with everyone else these days. We don't stand out because we have lost our first Love (Jesus), and we are loving things that don't matter. We live just like people who don't love God. Why would they want to believe what we believe, when there is really no difference? These questions haunt me tonight...and I hope they will have an affect on you, too, as you read this.
 I think about this all the time, and I hope and pray that the decisions I make from this point on will reflect a life of someone who loves God more than anything else. I know I will fail, but I'm thankful that He is teaching me, and hasn't given up on me! I know He never will. :o) Praise God for that!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Marriage Really Is. And What it Isn't.

Derrick and I are reading through Ephesians and we came across the marriage section last night. I thought I'd share the main things that came up as we talked about it.
 To start with, here's the passage:


[Wives and Husbands]
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV)

Good stuff. I love how marriage is a picture of Christ's love for us. I think this gets so easily lost and forgotten among the daily routines and to-do lists of life. Somewhere along the way, this beautiful picture of God's love starts to boil down to little irritations and annoyances like dirty socks left on the floor or the toilet seat left up. Why is that? How do we forget so easily what God's plan is for marriage? I think this passage gives the answer to that question and the solution to the problem.
 Now, I know Paul addresses wives first, but in his last little summary sentence, he shows that there is a natural progression. First, husbands should love their wives as they love themselves. In other words, anything they would be willing to do to make themselves comfortable, they would be willing to do for their wives. I think it's important to remember that men are the leader of the home, and with that role comes the responsibility of being the initiator. Whether they feel like it or not, (and we know that no one feels like it 24/7!) they should put their wives' needs first. And whether she is respectful and loving in return. I would think a lot of guys would see this as unfair. And I guess I kind of do, too, because both sides should love unselfishly. But, it's pretty clear here that the husband is supposed to be the one to do it first. Derrick does this all the time. He is always serving me and doing things for me, whether I'm in a good mood or not, and whether I appreciate it or not. This has struck me about him since the beginning of our relationship, and it still amazes me. How does he love me like that every DAY without getting sick of it? I believe it's because he determined in his heart to take care of me, and now that he has done it so much, it's become natural for him, like a habit. He doesn't need to make a conscious effort to be selfless now, it just flows out of him because he's practiced it so many times! And let me just say, when he does things for me, even something simple like straightening up the living room or throwing a few dishes in the dishwasher, I feel so thankful and any little things I wanted to be annoyed about or dwell on just sort of melt away.
 And then, there should be a response from us. We, as the wives, should be loving, respectful, and submissive in return. The thing about submission is that people have this bad connotation associated with that word and think it means we have to walk around with our head down in humility and say, "Yes, husband." "Right away husband." "Anything you say, husband." This SO isn't true! Submission is about respecting the husband's role as leader, and trusting his judgment. We are still actively involved in decisions, and that's how it should be! But when Derrick says, "I really want you to stop cleaning the house now and rest, because you're tired." Well, should I refuse and just keep going on a cleaning rampage? No, of course not. I should just gladly oblige, sit down, and take a breather. This is submission. It's a GOOD thing. I believe that most of the time, our husbands know us way better than we know ourselves, and can see our needs much more clearly. So when they tell us to do something (or NOT to do something), it's usually a good idea to listen. If they are obeying this passage, and loving us as they love themselves, then they are automatically going to be looking out for our best interests. And listening should be easy, because we will know it's out of love and concern, not out of a desire for power or control.
 Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Yeah, well my husband doesn't do that for me." I'm sure there are lots of people who feel they aren't getting the love or respect that they should be getting from their spouse, so they say, "Why should I have to be the one to do it, with nothing in return?" I'm not saying it's easy to deal with that, and I'm not going to pretend that I can relate, because I don't have that problem with my husband. But what I will say is, going back to this passage, marriage is about the picture of Christ and our relationship with Him. When we turn away, rebel, and refuse to submit, what does He do? Say, "Well, I'm not going to love them until they start earning it." Of course not! This is not the kind of God we worship! He loves us sacrificially. Jesus gave up His LIFE for us. Then He says marriage is a picture of that. And let's remember that when Jesus sacrificed Himself, He did it for people who did not love Him or desire to do anything to please Him whatsoever! But He gave up everything anyway. I think both husbands and wives can look at this as an example. Since marriage is supposed to be a picture of that, does that mean we can allow ourselves to wait until we get our needs met first? I think you already know the answer to that.
 This is not easy to live out, and not just in marriage, either. This is hard to do in all types of relationships. Sometimes there are situations where we really try to show love to someone and they respond with something incredibly hurtful. It's easy to want to give up and write them off when that happens. This is when Jesus' sacrifice for us should be our example. We just need to pick up that cross, follow Him, and keep loving. Oh man, do I ever need to be reminded of this daily!! I am so weak when it comes to that. When someone wrongs me, I want to be done with them! I hate being hurt, just like anyone else does, and my response is just to put up a wall and say, "There. Now you can't hurt me anymore." But this is not what God wants us to do. We need to keep our hearts open and show His love. And I'm not necessarily talking about people who are only out to hurt you over and over and never build any type of quality relationship whatsoever. Or people who take and take constantly but never put anything in. I do think there's a point where you just have to put distance between yourself and that person, while still being kind (if you can). I've had to do that before, and it's not fun. But for the most part, we need to teach people about God's love by loving. No matter how much it hurts.
 This takes me back to marriage. I'm thankful for it, and having a husband is a huge blessing. But at the end of the day, it's not about us. It's about God. It all points to Him, and that's how He intended it to be. I'm thankful to be married to someone who does remind me of that almost on a daily basis! I hope you have someone like that, too. If you don't, it's not impossible for that person to change! Don't give up hope...just keep showing them the love of Jesus. You never know what incredible things may happen!



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Well, if that's what you want to call me....

I got called "granola" this afternoon. Yep, apparently our decision to use cloth diapers has some people talking about us, and having a few laughs at our expense (not to mention the fact that these folks are family members). My first reaction was to just shrug it off with a candid, "Yep, earthy crunchy, that's me!" But then I got to thinking about it. Now I don't necessarily think "granola" is always an insult, but I can guarantee you in this case it came with a hint of, "You're one of THOSE people." So, if that is true, who are "those" people, and what are their reasons? Here's what I've come up with so far.
 First of all, what do people think diapers were made out of for literally thousands of years? For the majority of time since man has existed, people used cloth. And did laundry. By hand. They didn't even have the modern conveniences that we have of laundry detergent, washing machines, and dryers. It was a lot of work, and people did it. Because there was no other option. Disposable diapers have only been used within the last few decades. And, cloth diapering is a LOT easier now than it used to be. They are made differently, and there are all kinds of tools and supplies that help make it as simple as possible. I've been told by many people that once you get into the routine, it's no big deal. Just like anything else.
 But what are my personal reasons? To be honest? The biggest one is money. I can't even begin to describe the amount of money it will save. I've already received some as a gift and I know some people plan to give more. But even the up front cost of buying diapers ourselves will more than pay for itself in a very short time, because lots of cloth diapers are made to fit a wide range of sizes. Even if you take into account the additional use of household electricity and water (and detergent), it STILL works out to be thousands of dollars cheaper over the course of 3 years (about the length of time diapers are needed). I don't know about you, but in these times, with the amount of money we make, I'm all FOR saving us a few thousand dollars! Yes it's more work, but it's well worth it in my opinion.
 The secondary reason is to do our part to take even just a little bit better care of the earth God has given us. Yes He gave us freedom to do a lot of things as we choose, but we are also held responsible for the choices we make. I saw a picture on Facebook today, actually I'll just post it on here so you can see it. It's going to pop into my mind every time I feel a little overwhelmed and don't feel like doing the extra work of cloth diapering. Here it is:

Yep, you read that right. 400 to 450 years for one disposable diaper to biodegrade. Ew! Talk about gross! And the irony of it all is that's what people tell me about cloth diapering...that's it's gross. I will let you be the judge for yourself, but in my mind, I'd rather get my hands dirty than leave something behind that's going to rot for centuries after I'm dead and gone!
 I was just telling Derrick the other day that I don't care about what other people do, and I don't. I know lots of people who use disposable diapers, I even use them myself while babysitting every day. I don't turn my nose up about it, because it's a personal decision, and to each their own. Disposable diapers are easier and more convenient, and sometimes you just gotta take it easy on yourself, especially if you have a lot to already juggle in your life. So I really, really, honestly don't judge anyone else about this issue, because I'm not even that strongly opinionated about it. Like I said, it's mainly about $$ for us. But, in return, all I could possibly think to ask is for others to respect our decision, and not look down their noses at us. I know that anything "different" causes people to judge. That's ok. We all struggle with that. I'm not going to ask you to stop judging me, because I know it's probably not a realistic request. It's going to happen. You don't even have to give your support! Just please, do your research, and formulate an educated decision before you laugh at me behind my back. Thanks. If you study up on it and still think it's dumb, then by all means, go ahead and laugh. You can even do it in front of my face! :)
 See, I've been doing research on this for months now. Lots. I read tons of blogs and posts by moms who are experienced in cloth diapering. I talk to friends who do it and ask tons of questions. I learn the ins and outs and try to study up on all the problem solving that people do, so hopefully I will remember some of it when I'm in the "trial and error" phase of figuring out what works and what doesn't. And the more I research, the more I think it's a good idea. So I guess all I can say about that is, don't knock it 'til you try it!
 I guess the thing that cracks me up about being called "granola" is that the word is a stereotype given to people who are into all natural, save the environment, organic, kind of things. And just because a person chooses to cloth diaper doesn't necessarily mean that they fit into a particular classification. I don't think it's right to stereotype people anyway, but if you're going to do that, at least get the facts straight. Lots of people choose to do it for different reasons, and I can guarantee you that it's all different types of people. And besides, granola is yummy. I like it.
 So if this is what it means to be granola, then I'm guilty as charged. Just make sure it's made with gluten free oats. Oh, and lots of chocolate chips and dried cranberries. 'Cause those are my favorite. :o)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Well, here I am again, back to blogging. I started out with all this drive to write my thoughts, then realized that I should never, never write journal entries late at night, because I am very bad at getting the words out in the right way, and people misinterpret my intentions. So, it's morning, I'm wide awake, and I have lots on my mind to share, with whoever feels like reading. And, please, if I ever say something and you're like, "What the heck, Melyssa?!?!" Just ask me in person about it, and if you don't live close enough to do that, send me a message! Thanks. :)

OK, so where to start? So much has been going on in our lives over the past few months. Of course, expecting our first child is the big news of the year for us! It's pretty crazy, having life growing inside of me. As I type, I feel a little kick here or there, and yet it still doesn't dawn on me that in 5 months, we will be full blown parents, with all the joy, exhaustion, and excitement that comes with it! A year ago I NEVER would have thought we'd be getting ready for a baby! I wasn't even sure if I ever wanted to be pregnant. But now that I am, I honestly wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I know I've had it kind of easy, I wasn't too sick and so far I've barely had any symptoms besides the whole growing belly thing (yay)....but still, overall, it's something that words can't describe. I'm glad God changed my mind about this. :) When we started talking seriously about having children, we had a really meaningful conversation about how we really and truly want to dedicate this child to God. And I don't mean just go through the motions of having a little ceremony at church where the congregation recites a couple sentences and the pastor asks a bunch of questions and we answer "We do." Not that any of that is silly, it's kinda cool. But, I'm talking much deeper, and much more long term than that. This baby, though being supported by my body, is not MINE. Or Derrick's. Or anyone's. This child is God's. God gives and takes away, and we fully rely on that fact every single day. Not that we're always happy about it, because it can be scary sometimes, but on the other hand, I'm so glad a sovereign, perfect, loving, merciful, gracious God is in control of my life, and our child's life. So at this moment, though we are years away from sending a grown child off into the world, she is God's. (Yes, we are pretty sure it's a "she", but that's a long story that you can ask me about some other time!) This affects the way we think about parenting right now, even during the baby stage. First of all, she's not our obsession. Yes, family is important, and yes God expects us to take this responsibility seriously. But there's a fine line between fulfilling my role as a parent, and making my life ALL about my child. I don't want to do that. I want her to grow up knowing that mom and dad love her SO much, but that we could never come anywhere close to loving her as much as God does, and that His love is what she really needs. It's all anyone needs. I love our baby already, but in the long run I know that my heart must stay focused on my Creator, who is the only One truly worthy of my worship. It's so easy to worship a child...I've seen it many times...and it's so sad. It's sad for the parent to be making their entire life revolve around their child, and it's sad for the child who has to live with that kind of pressure. Family is not everything! It's the temporary unit that God set up for us so that we can experience His love and grace through other people. But, it's just that...temporary. If we spend our whole lives and sacrifice our entire selves to be devoted to people, even those we love most, we will end up empty and disappointed. Family is an added bonus, but it is not what life is about.
 OK, I think I've said enough about that. The reason I've been challenged with all of this is because I fall short so many times. I have often made people and other things in life way more important than God. I still do! He keeps reminding me again and again that He is all I need, and that I should be longing for Him, and to know Him better...more than I should desire anything else this world can offer. Even the BEST things life can offer are nothing compared to Him! Ugh, why do I miss this so often? Hasn't He shown me His greatness over and over? Isn't His incredible mercy and grace enough to drown out the noise of any other distraction that could possibly pull me away from Him? The answer is a resounding YES, of course He is enough! Then why, oh why do I keep missing the point of life? Why do I keep falling short over and over again? I just keep coming back to the fact that it's because of my sinfulness. I am totally and completely nothing without Him. And when I let myself forget that, it's easy to fall into those patterns of thinking that so many other things are important. Life is a wonderful gift, but there is an end to it. And it is very short in comparison to eternity. What do I want to be spending my energy on? This life, or the eternity with Jesus that will be here before I know it and will stretch out past the constraints of time, greater and longer and deeper and more wonderful than anything we could ever possibly know here on earth?
 I read the first post I wrote on here, and already my thinking has shifted since then. I typed out these verses about how I am Accepted in Christ, and said I was going to say them to myself every day for 30 days. Now, don't get me wrong, those verses are all true and I am definitely accepted by Him. No doubt about that. But, what is the focus of all that? Me, me, me. I am this, I am that, the truths of God's Word are all about me. Ummm, what? No way! God's amazing Word will always be about One Person...HIM. He is the one who deserves all the glory, and thanks, and praise, and wonder, and amazement! HE is the One who created us, who gave us life, and who can take it away in an instant. HE is the One who wants us to spend eternity with Him. Why in the world would we make it about us? Well, because, we are in fact humans. And we humans tend to have a much higher view of ourselves than we should. When we really focus on humility, and remember who God is, the truth becomes very clear. He is everything, we are nothing.
 This is getting too long, so I'm done....Happy Saturday everyone! :)