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God Is Our Helper

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Scripture openly tells us of an enemy who is prowling like a lion, seeking to steal, kill, and destroy.  That information alone should cause Believers to be on guard and to expect the unexpected at all times.  If an actual lion were prowling around our homes, seeking to kill us, we’d be on guard, right?  But our human nature is to not worry about those intangible things we can’t see or touch.  And so we are shocked when the demonic scoundrel makes his move.  Shaken to our cores, we’re left to make sense of something that makes no sense.  But it should’ve made perfect sense to us.  BECAUSE we’ve been told there is an enemy prowling around like a lion who is seeking to steal, kill, and  destroy us.  haha.  UGH!  We’re so stubborn and set in our ways.

If you’ve ever felt like your foundation has been rocked, this video might be for you today.  I hope so.

Many Blessings!!!

~Melanie

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A Windy Day, Our Faithfulness, & The Heart Of God

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What is God’s price for Kingdom real estate?

What is the down payment for that mansion made of gold?

The parable of the talents, found in the book of Matthew, suggests that how we use our lives will hold weight in heaven.

The cost?

Faithfulness.

Just as the soft whisper of a drifting spark can ignite a roaring blaze of heat, every person has been given a gift, a purpose….a spark.   Within each of us, lies a flicker of hope, love, and encouragement that can set the world on fire.

For God.

Some have been gifted with monetary wealth, some are able to build with their hands….while others have the ability to empower and teach.  Think about it.  Among us are listeners, gift givers, thinkers, healers, servants, inventors, writers, and  sympathizers.  We each have something that was given to us so we could give it away.

We all have something unique to give.

Scripture doesn’t say “Well done thou good and successful servant” … it says “faithful servant”.  We aren’t measured, then by how the world rates success.  The Lord cares about our efforts.  He wants us to unleash our gifts with reckless abandon from an abundance of love.

For Him.

So when all is said and done, on the day we face the Lover Of Our Souls, we will be measured simply … by the purity of our hearts and by our love.

Just my thoughts!

Blessings!

Melanie

Bad Days & God’s Feathers

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Do you ever have those days when you feel sad for no reason at all?  Not all days can be good ones, can they?   But the dark days, perhaps, serve to make the bright days all the more radiant.  Maybe they serve a purpose.  I know on days when I feel disconnected, I long for a connection with God even more.  And on all days, He is the there.  Always ready to wrap me up in his feathers and allow me to feel His presence.  If you can relate, then you’ll enjoy this short vlog:

Blessings to you!!!

~Melanie

Birthdays, Big Hearts, & The Widow’s Mite

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Today is my 49th birthday.  Don’t you find that as you get older, birthdays serve as a time of reflection?  They become milestones, markers of sort, that represent who we are and the meaning of our existence.  I’ve made some brilliant moves in my life, but I’ve made some whopper mistakes as well.  While my heart holds fountains of joy, it also reflects the stagnation of regret.  It’s life.  And all blended together, the final hope, perhaps, is that our lives end up as a mirror, displaying only the image of our Creator.  Where Melanie once was, now is only God.

My two youngest are non-verbal.  And they get it.  They were born getting it and as a result, they’ll never harbor an ounce of regret.  Hope and Charlie will always be image-bearers.  People consider them to have special needs, but those people have it all wrong.  It is we who can learn from them.  Here is my morning birthday celebration with the two who have turned my life upside down and all around in the most amazing way.  Happy Birthday to ME!!!

Blessings!

~Melanie

No Sleep? No Problem.

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As a parent, how often do you rush to meet the wants and needs of your children?  If you’re anything like me, it’s a constant.  And it’s a pleasure, too, isn’t it?  To have the opportunity to pour into a life.  How much more, then, does our Heavenly Father, who is perfect love, pour into us without a moment’s hesitation?  If you can relate, you’ll enjoy this vlog:

Would love to hear from you!!!

Blessings!

Melanie

God Cares About The Little Things!

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Are there times you feel guilty about praying about the small things?  Especially when there are BIG things going on all around you in world?  Well let this VLOG encourage you today.  God cares about the little things!

Blessings!

Melanie

Mork & Mindy, God’s Calling, and YOU!

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Have you ever wondered what God’s calling is for your life?  The answer is probably much more simple than you ever imagined.   Click the YouTube link below and leave a comment to share your thoughts:

Blessings!

~Melanie

Love Is The Absence Of Judgement

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She was running late.  Could her morning have been more disastrous?  It all began when the battery on her phone died, which meant her alarm didn’t go off.

“I’ve told you over and over again to get a real alarm clock,” were words she could already hear ringing in her ears.  Her mother was quick to offer unsolicited advice.  She always had been.

Throwing off her comforter, the second her bare feet hit the floor, the single mother of two was in a mad dash toward the kitchen to check the time on the microwave oven.  How long had that darned light been blinking?  At some point the power had obviously gone out, knocking her clock into oblivion.  She had no choice.

“Mom, hey…my cell phone died and so my alarm didn’t go off.  Can you believe it?  I was just wondering…what time is it?”  As she asked the question, her eyes were squinted tight.  She knew her mother’s response was going to hit her like a brick in the head.

“It’s about high time for you to grow up, Sarah.  You’re a single mom who needs a job so you can support your family.  How many times have I told you that you need a real alarm clock?  That interview today is important….”

Before her mother could continue, the twenty-something year old with long auburn hair, interrupted.  “Uhhhh, mom, the time?”

“It’s eight-seventeen, which means you’ve got exactly forty three minutes to get to that interview.”  The words weren’t spoken, but were spit at her through gritted teeth.  Unlike Sarah who was currently unemployed, her mom’s current full time job seemed to be constantly reminding her that she was a big failure.

Gathering as much courage as she could muster, Sarah took a deep breath.  “Mom, could I ask you to  come watch the babies?  I’m not going to have time to drop them off at day care.”  Her heart was pounding.  Time was running out and she needed her mother’s help.

Following what seemed to be a dramatic pause, her mom finally answered.  “I might as well be their mother….I’d certainly make a better mother than you.  Yes, I’ll be there.”  Without saying good-bye, her mother hung up.

What her mother couldn’t see was how embarrassed she was that her husband had had an affair, the tremendous toll the divorce had taken on her, and how much her children were suffering because of it all.  Sarah couldn’t recall the last time she’d had a full night of sleep…nor could she remember the last time she’d washed her hair.  If it wasn’t one of the toddlers waking in the middle of the night, it was the other.  They needed water, had wet their bed, had a bad dream, or just wanted to get up and play.  Sarah was a walking zombie.

Sleep deprived and feeling worthless, Sarah pulled into the parking lot just on time…but found no empty spaces.  Driving into the parking lot next door, there was one slot left, but a car had parked at an angle and had taken up most of the empty space.  Carefully creeping into the spot, Sarah tore her skirt as she shimmied out of the six inch space that was left on both sides of her car.

As she opened the front door of the office building, she caught a quick glimpse of her reflection.  What had happened ?  She used to see beauty when she stared back at herself, but now saw unkempt hair, dark circles under her eyes, and a frumpy frame.  Wiping a quick tear from her eye, she shook her head to clear her mind and entered the building.  She had to have this job.  With this salary along with the child support, Sarah could keep her home.  Without it, she’d have to move in with her parents.  “That can’t happen,” she whispered, racing to the second floor of the building.

Stretching out her hand, Sarah gently took the hand of the towering man before her.  “I’m Sarah Johnson, here about the office job.”  Forcing a smile, she did her best to appear warm, friendly, and capable.

Her heart dropped, though, when he told her there was no need for an interview. She was a few minutes late for the interview, and for her would-be boss, that told him all he needed to know about her character.  She was ushered out before getting a chance to explain herself.   To make it all worse, when she made it out to her car, someone had taken the time to leave a note on her windshield to express what a horrific driver she was to have parked in such a tight spot.  In addition to several expletives  the letter called her an idiot who didn’t deserve to be on the road.  Crumpling up the paper in her hand, she sat in her car and cried.  How could she go home and face her mother or her children?

Just as she was ready to bang her head on the steering wheel and scream, her cell phone buzzed.  It was her neighbor, a middle-aged widow who loved to come visit her and bring fresh bread.  Picking up the phone, she read the text.  “Praying for you.  No matter what happens today, just be reminded that God sees ahead and knows.  He’s at work right now preparing a way for you.  Trust Him.  He believes in you and so do I.”

The question is this:  Who are we?  Sarah?  Sarah’s mom?  The Would-Be Boss? the person who left the note on her car?  or the neighbor?

Do we lead with compassion and love?  Or with Judgment?

There are so many lessons we can learn from the special needs community, but I think one of the most important is about judgment.  They don’t judge.  Ever.  I guess when God created these amazing individuals, he just took the judgment gene right out of them.  And you know what?  They’re a lot happier than the rest of us.  The key, I’ve come to believe, is that they don’t really have much of an expectation of others.  Their primary expectation is for themselves, and they give 100% every day.  If you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you…but if you’re not nice to them, they’ll still be nice to you.  Because they’re kindhearted.   It’s who they are regardless of who you are.

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If you’re frumpy, grumpy, running late, or running on empty…they’ll never judge.  Instead they’ll love you, flaws and all.  And it’s powerful.  There is something incredibly disarming about being in the presence of friends who always lead with love.

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I once heard it expressed that “expectations are premeditated resentments”.   And I believe it’s true.  It’s our expectations that entrap us.  Think about it this way…if we always imagine people have a reason for doing what they’re doing, as with the case of Sarah in this example, it’s much easier to lead with kindness.  Which leads to a much better life for everyone.  It’s not about encouraging people to be victims, but about erring on the side of forgiveness…and believing the best in people first.

Maybe that person who was late to the meeting had an alarm clock that didn’t go off as planned…perhaps their intentions were pure and they feel really horrible about being late.

Maybe the reason that person parked in the tight parking spot next to you, making your efforts to get into your car uncomfortable, was because there were no other spaces.

Maybe she’s a single mom, raising two young children on her own for the first time.

You get the idea.

Grace.  Mercy.  Redemption.

It’s who Jesus IS.

And Who we’re supposed to pattern our lives after.

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In this process, will we sometimes give a free pass to some nasty, thoughtless, inconsiderate individuals?  Of course.  But who cares?  What does it really matter?  In the whole scheme of things, especially in light of eternity, what matters most is the “who” we choose to be.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.    ~Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Just my rambling thoughts today.

~Melanie 

Patience Is A Conquering Virtue

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Can you imagine what it would be like to be nonverbal?  I mean, completely non-verbal?  Not one word.  Ever.

That’s the life of Hope and Charlie.

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The way they communicate is the way I would communicate if I was non-verbal.  Through behavior, they show me how they feel and what they want or need.

Big hugs mixed with giggles means they’re happy.

Pulling me to the pantry or the fridge means they’re hungry.

Peering out of a window means they want to go outside.

Sounds simple enough, right?

At times, though, being non-verbal is so much more complicated.  A bit tricky even.  Because sometimes Hope and Charlie want to tell me they’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry.  Other times they want me to know they had a bad dream or that they feel bored or that they have a tummy ache or that they miss their big brother so much it hurts.  During those times, they might throw things, pull my hair, melt down into a heap of wild and wooliness on the floor….or else find a corner to hide in with head down as if wishing to give up and disappear.

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I wish on every single star every single night that they could be given the gift of speech.

But at this point, those stars are not the wishing kind.

So we keep waiting, sojourning together, working with sign language, picture cards, and iPad apps….hoping to make communication easier.  Not giving in.  Not giving up.

I try to put myself in their shoes.

Would I want to try different foods?  Explore different places?  Meet new people?

If I would, they would.  Even though they can’t tell me.

So we mix it up.  We try new things.  Sometimes we score big…other times it’s a total bust.  But we try.  Together.

We’re partners in the truest sense of the word.

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Oh, you may say, that requires so much patience.  Indeed it does, but not on my part.  I have it easy.  I have the voice.

It’s the Hope and Charlie’s of the world who can teach us all about what it means to be patient and to endure.   Stop for a minute and think about all the things we get impatient about day after day.  A restaurant forgot a portion of our to-go order.  The traffic light took too long to turn green.  The lines were too long at the grocery store.  Our order from Amazon didn’t get delivered quick enough.  The pastor preached beyond his time limit.  A friend didn’t return a text until the next day.

We complain.  We grumble.  Then we post about it on social media.

And even worse.

We feel entitled.

To an easier lifestyle.  To fast service.  To perfection.

UGH.  Isn’t it supposed to be the millennials who have the entitlement issues?  haha.

I didn’t realize I had this mentality until Hope and Charlie came into my life, turning the world completely upside down.  Or right side up.  Yes, definitely right side up.  They blasted into my space with their extra chromosome and shook things up big time.  Changing my priorities.  Showing me the difference between what’s important and what’s a throw-away.  I don’t have it exactly right yet, but they are certainly teaching me.

How long will it take mom to find the splinter in my finger?

When will it dawn on her that I need her to lie down with me for a little while at night before I go to sleep because I’m afraid of the dark?

How can I let her know she’s tying my shoes so tight I can’t feel my toes?  that bananas make me gag?  that I’m scared of bumble bees?  that I can’t manage steps too well?  that I fell off of the swing today?  that I lost my tooth two days ago?  that someone stared at me and made me feel bad?  that I can’t find my favorite toy?  that I nearly choked on a piece of candy?

Until she figures it all out, I’ll manage.  Making the most out of life.  Wearing a smile.  Giving hugs.  Being happy with all I’ve been given.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be nonverbal?

Can you imagine what it would be like if we were all so patient?

Just my rambling thoughts.

~Mel

When The Heart Of America Stops Beating

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There was a time in America’s history when individuals who had special needs were locked away from society, imprisoned in institutions.  And during that time, those defenseless individuals were experimented upon, subjected to routine abuse, and neglected.  Read here and here and here … just to link a few articles that elaborate on the subject.

Reliant upon a wheelchair, and unable to utilize her arms and legs due to a rare form of arthritis, my grandmother was significantly disabled.  I vividly recall a time when there were no handicapped restrooms, parking spaces, or ramps … when we’d have to spend time locating a door wide enough for her wheelchair to fit through.  Her hands were so gnarled with the disease.  People would stare and treat her as if she didn’t belong.  My grandmother went home to be with Jesus, receiving complete healing, before the laws changed thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) … and before attitudes changed.

As a country, we’ve experienced twenty-seven glorious years of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion … where as a nation, we’ve genuinely worked to live up to the greatest document ever written by humans where “All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Have we been one-hundred percent successful?  Of course not.  We’ve failed from time to time, but as a whole, over the last three decades, we’ve chosen to look at all life, regardless of ability or disability, race, or sexual orientation as valuable and worthy.

Special Olympics is a tremendous force of positivity that has reached out and touched nearly every individual on the planet at some point in time.  We’ve rooted for those amazing athletes to overcome obstacles.  We’ve cheered for them as they’ve exceeded even their own expectations.  And we’ve learned from them, haven’t we?  How incredible is it to watch one special needs competitor reach out to encourage another?  Do they want to win?  Absolutely!  But not at the expense of their friends.  That’s the way it is in the world of those who are special.  They bring a breath of purity and goodness that we all need.

Best Buddies, birthed from the same family who gave us the Special Olympics, is another powerhouse organization determined to break down the wall that divides the typicals from the specials by initiating friendships between the two worlds.  If you meet anyone who has ever been involved in the Best Buddies organization, you’ll find that the typical peers receive as much (or more) of a blessing than the individuals who have intellectual challenges.  Their focus is to end the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and they are doing it…one relationship at a time.

I was once the young girl who loved her grandmother more than words can express.  I never saw her disability, because to me she was perfect.  Now, fast forward the reel by three decades, and I’m ironically called “Mom” by two special needs kiddos.  And to me, they, too, are perfect.

Thankfully, the world my children have lived in has been much more accommodating than the world my grandma lived in.  Schools offer inclusion, I can always find a parking space near the front door of any grocery store, and people are generally kind to Hope and Charlie.  But it is becoming overwhelmingly evident that this generation may be sliding into retreat mode.  These headlines should scare the heck out of us:

Seattle-area high school football players charged with attempted rape of special needs student.      

White Football Player Accused Of Coat Hanger Assault On Black Teen With Disabilities Will Avoid Prison.

Student at Silverado High School Arrested For Assault of Special Needs Student

STUDENT ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT OF SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENT IN SANTA CLARITA

JCPS, LMPD investigating sexual assault on special-needs school bus

Trial set for Springboro teen accused of special-needs student assault

Shocking Videos Show Teacher Abusing Special Needs Student at Greenville High School in Mississippi

Teacher’s awful mistreatment of special needs child

Special education teacher charged with abuse gets immunity

Police Officer Who Killed Ethan Saylor, Unarmed Man With Down Syndrome, Won’t Be Indicted

And now, today, we hear reports about the torture of an eighteen year old man who has special needs in Chicago :

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Four perpetrators, one who reportedly went to high school with the boy, not only tortured him relentlessly, but posted video feeds of the abuse on Facebook for the world to see.   Binding him, they beat him and taunted him relentlessly with racial slurs and verbal attacks against Donald Trump.  They also forced the defenseless young man to drink water from a toilet…cut his clothing with a knife…and partially scalped him.  The cruelty was put on display for the world to see.

In response, one would expect the Chicago Police to be sharp, unwavering, and stern.  But no.  In the first public statement, Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said:

“Although they are adults, they’re 18. Kids make stupid decisions — I shouldn’t call them kids; they’re legally adults, but they’re young adults, and they make stupid decisions,” Duffin said.  “That certainly will be part of whether or not … we seek a hate crime, to determine whether or not this is sincere or just stupid ranting and raving.”

  

What is going so terribly wrong with our society?

When did it become our first instinct to try to find an excuse for this type of abhorrent behavior?

In Psychology 101, we learn how it’s human nature to feel protective over babies, puppies, and kittens…that something innate kicks in, even in children,  inducing the strong to care for the weak.

Could the same case not be made for those who are disabled?

That as a society, it should be an innate quality that we feel the need to care for individuals who are defenseless or who are mentally and/or physically challenged?

However, when the trait that causes those who are strong to look after and to care for those who are weak is missing, as has been studied in the cases of children who abuse animals, psychologists warn this is a red flag.  (link here ; and here )

What would cause one who is physically and mentally superior to attack someone or something weaker?

Even in the case of children?

The answer, if not a diagnosed mental imbalance, is violence and/or abuse.  Studies show abusers have either been abused or have been witness to abuse and/or violence.  As it turns out, abuse begets abuse…and violence begets violence.

No one would disagree that we live in a day and time when violence permeates tv, movies, music, video games, and the news.  We’ve allowed it.  Supported it.  Turned a blind eye to it.  And now we are reaping what we’ve sown.  Just recently I heard about a new reality tv show coming to Russia.  It is modeled after the “Hunger Games” and will be available to stream live 24 hours a day at the touch of a finger:  Russian TV is literally making a ‘Hunger Games’-style show that will ‘allow’ rape and murder .

It’s time for change.

We must firmly stand together against violence, promoting love above all else.

We must defend the weakest among us as a standard.

And we must uphold our creed that all people are created equal.

The heart of America is at stake.  

Love wins.

Empathy wins.

Inclusion wins.

Abuse begets abuse.

Violence begets violence.

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Just my thoughts.

~Melanie