Mental Illness and Christians

The term “Mental health” is a buzz word right now that’s getting thrown around and used in direct relation to school shootings and other horrific violent crimes. A blog post of one’s opinion can’t say what needs to be said regarding mental health but I have thoughts on mental health that I want to share. Just like my eyes are being opened to racism in new ways my eyes are also being opened to mental health issues in new ways. I desire to learn even more.

Hang with me as I share a story that I’ll never forget as long as I live.

One particular morning after praying I loaded up our toddler son and headed to the grocery store. As I pulled into a parking spot a friend flagged me down from in the parking lot and motioned for me to roll down the window. She had a desperate look in her eyes and said, “I need you to pray.” I told her to hop in and she said, “I can’t go into details but it’s Michael (her husband), I need you to pray for him. He deals with depression and it’s real bad this time.”

I grabbed her hand and we prayed for Michael together. She cried. And I was confused because Michael was a prominent figure in our community in terms of evangelism and outreach. He was a missionary with the NAMB and did resort ministry in Helen, GA. But nonetheless we prayed for his soul to be lifted and for God to bring a fresh hope inside of him.

My friend Natalie and her husband Michael attended a different church but lived in the same town as we did. After this incident I still didn’t know the extent of what was going on. Natalie shares in her book Tears to Joy that Michael was bipolar and for years together they hid his illness from others. When he was manic she would go to his personal office and do his work for him because he couldn’t function.

They hid Michael’s mental illness because somewhere along the line in reaching out for help initially they were told to pray harder and that it was a spiritual problem. So they kept hiding, praying and trying harder. Patterns of coming off medicine because he’d start feeling great and thought that God had healed him and then falling into a deep depression and becoming suicidal became normal cycles for them. Natalie didn’t always know when he stopped taking his medicine.

Finally in wisdom Natalie told Michael they had to tell one other person of his struggles. He resisted initially but she insisted. This proved to be a tremendous help and support. Michael had a phenomenal Doctor who they worked with but still Natalie eventually had to have Michael admitted to a mental health facility for additional help. She describes that as one of the hardest days of her life. In her book she writes about that day and I still have a mental image of her sitting in the parking lot alone weeping and crying out to God as she just helped admit her husband who was angry at her for doing so. But Natalie’s story is one of hope in the midst of such great pain. She shares that God was with both of them and He never left their side although those were some of the darkest days of their life.

Michael eventually got out of the hospital and was doing great. So great that he assumed once again he’d been healed and came off his medicine and fell into one of the deepest depression pits he’d ever experienced. And on a cold January day in 2006 he took his life in the mountains and entered his eternal home leaving Natalie and their 5 year old daughter. I’ll never forget Michael’s funeral. He was an amazing man who had an incredible impact on people even through all his struggles. It was one of the hardest yet sweetest celebrations of life I’ve attended.

A year after Michael’s death Natalie and I met at a donut shop and she told me, “I think God is calling me to write a book and get my Ph.D.” She was a single Mom with a first grader and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s quite ambitious.” But we prayed about this together and didn’t stop praying for years. She’d come to my house and we’d talk and pray and wonder what the future would look like. She enrolled in classes and started writing although it was extremely difficult to relive and recall those dark days. But she knew God was putting it inside of her to share with others.

It’s been 12 years and Natalie has written her book and earned a Ph.D. in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. She is Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Degree Coordinator for the Masters in Counseling at the Leonhard Schiemer School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling at Truett McConnell University. She facilitates a Survivors of Suicide (SOS) support group and is an advocate for eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the prevalence of suicide. She has since remarried a godly man and their family is living out God’s call on their life.

I love how God has shaped Natalie’s heart to help the church understand mental illness and how it’s not always a spiritual problem. Sometimes depression is a result of spiritual darkness but not always. In her speaking she encourages people who are struggling with depression or any kind of mental illness or are living with someone who has a mental illness to just tell one person. She claims this is a huge step in moving forward because the more you hide the harder it is to seek help. And seeking help starts by telling one person.

Natalie’s story has helped me tremendously. Her book opened my eyes and although it’s a hard book to read I think it’s necessary we read books like hers to help us understand how mental illness impacts families.

Natalie is an excellent speaker and if your church or group is looking for someone I can promise you God will use Natalie’s story and teaching to help dispel common myths about mental illness as well as realize there is always hope with God. It’s a message our churches need to hear.

Later this week I’ll be posting about another book that was written specifically to help churches relate to and foster an environment to help those with mental illness that currently find church intimidating. I learned a lot in this book and could personally relate to some of the chapters as ADHD touches our family in a very real way.

Have you or someone you’re close to been impacted by mental illness? If so, what has been helpful in walking this journey? Leave a comment below and I’ll be drawing next week to give away a free copy of Natalie’s book Tears to Joy. 



Should I make my teenager go to church?

 Should I make my teenager go to church? 

This is a question I’ve been asked before and while I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it I’ll try my best knowing I could be wrong and could change my views on this as I grow in wisdom and in parenting.

Let me paint the scenario based on conversations I’ve had with people.

You’re trying your best to raise your children in a way that points them to Jesus. Your kids may or may not have realized their need for Jesus and called on him to save them through a relationship with Christ.

Hang with me…..

For years you have attended church with said children in tow. Or perhaps you haven’t been going to church for various reasons but now you’re ready to attend.

But there’s just one problem…..

The kids.

They’re teenagers now and they give you major attitude about going to church. They won’t get out of bed on Sunday mornings. They argue and plead to stay home. It’s an all out struggle and you wonder if it’s worth battling.

So do you force them to go to church or do you pray like crazy they will just one day desire to go?

If I force them to go to church won’t they end up hating church and God? I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that.

These are common questions and very real scenarios.

Let me start by saying a word about the big picture of the situation – only God can put inside of us a desire to respond to him. We can’t force that heart response on anyone. It will always be a work of the Holy Spirit that draws our children (and us) to Him. We don’t have the power to turn anyone’s heart towards Jesus. And we can’t “mess up” God’s plan for us or our kids. This can either be totally terrifying or completely comforting. The more we understand who our God is the more comforting his sovereign control over all things, including our children’s spiritual growth, becomes to us. Of course we all have a free will and a sin nature that brings on natural and spiritual consequences that play into the mix of things. There’s a tension there and something we won’t completely understand until we get to heaven.

Knowing that God is ultimately the drawer of every soul to himself is also the fact that he has sovereignly placed us as our kids’ parents to guide and lead them towards Jesus Christ.

How will we steward that God-given role?

We’ve all heard it said before and it’s true – it’s got to start at home. Modeling faith at home is where it starts. Modeling what walking in the Spirit looks like. When we mess up we confess in humility and apologize. We model what it looks like to go to church not because we have to but because we get to. Allowing our kids to see us engage in Bible reading and prayer will help them see what it looks like to have a daily devotional time. Talking about how we see God at work while having dinner and in the carpool line and over ice cream reveals to our children that a desire for God doesn’t just show up on Sunday mornings. It’s a way of life that weaves itself through everything.

This is where it starts but even in starting here doesn’t guarantee our children/teens will desire to be in relationship with Jesus or want to go to church and participate in spiritual disciplines.

So what then? 

Disclaimer: I’m making an assumption you are attending a healthy church with healthy leadership and there’s no apparent reason for your child being resistant to church other than they “just don’t want to go”.  I would try to find out what they’re most resistant to – maybe you can understand where they’re coming from and offer guidance. Is that even possible with hormonal teenagers? I’m not sure. But try. If you need to root out a deeper issue going on that could be related to your church then make the time to check into that. Maybe your child deals with mental health issues or disabilities that make attending church (or other large group social settings) really hard. I’m not talking about that kind of a situation in this post. I’m talking about the grumpy teenager simply not wanting to go to church because they want to sleep in on a regular basis and declare it’s too boring to go to church anymore.

For me personally, I believe that attending church for Christ-following parents, falls under your household “way of life’s”. Every family has their “way of life’s” or their non-negotiables. In our house we don’t____________________ and in our house we will _______________________. They don’t have to be  written out on a cute chalkboard to realize you already have family values and “way of life’s” in place and at work in your family.

Make going to church one of them.

Even if my kid hates going to church and complains the whole way and looks mad the entire time while being there?

I think we let our kids know that part of living under our roof includes the privilege of attending church – even if they don’t see it that way.

Right now our tween and teenage kids like going to church. Do they have a choice in going? No, they don’t and it’s not because they’re “pastor’s kids.” It’s because as their parents we know how life-giving the local church can be and we don’t want to rob them of this.

Helping them form a habit of being involved in church now will hopefully direct their heart in such a way that they continue this privilege when they leave our home. I can only pray and ask God to do these things inside of them.

Our daughter is in that awkward stage of almost being old enough to go into the youth group but not quite. She’s still in the children’s ministry and she is so ready to be in the youth group she can hardly stand it. We’ve had some good conversations about her being a part of the group that she feels she’s ready to leave right now. We’ve had to work through some attitudes as she doesn’t always want to attend her age group activities. It’s not a reflection on the teachers or the program. It’s just where she is in her heart right now and I’ve seen so many other kids go through this at the 5th-6th grade level.

We let her stay in the adult service this past Sunday instead of going to her age group activity just as a one and done kind of thing. And of course she’s now begging to stay from here on out. But we’re not letting her. We acknowledge and validate that it’s hard being the oldest in a group and understand her wanting to move on but because church isn’t all about her or anyone one person but a community of people, we are telling her to respectfully stay where she’s at. She can still learn with a sweet attitude if she is willing while waiting for what’s around the corner and when given opportunities to step up and lead she can do that. And in the meantime I am praying that the Holy Spirit will help her be content where she is and that she’ll learn some neat things while being there.

But for now we will enforce what we feel is the right and best for her not necessarily having everything wrapped up in a cute box with a neatly tied bow. And we can only trust the outcome with our God who knows our desire for our kids to walk with him and love him.

I know that not everyone will agree with this method. I’m not saying it should be this way for everyone. Some would say as long as she’s getting instruction then let her stay in the service. But we are committed to her being a part of the group because we so believe in the God-designed concept of church community that if we let her bail then we’re teaching her that church is a self-serving buffet. You can pick and choose what you like best and attend. And while we don’t make our kids attend every single outing and event offered we do want them to be at the majority of the activities since they’re a part of the group. It’s easy for me to say this right now because they genuinely love their church and want to be there. I attribute this to the grace of God at work in them and to a church committed to serving and teaching well. But if we ever go through a stage where either of the kids don’t want to go to church just because they’re tired of it they will not have a choice in going as long as they live at home.

This is where finding a church that fits your family and your goals for a church is so important. Once you find a church, knowing that no church will be perfect, then decide to plug in and make attending a non-negotiable. You will be surprised at what God does in your life as well as the life of your kids even if they’re not convinced it’s all that great right now.

Lord – help us as Christian families to never give up on your brilliant plan of the local church community. When it gets hard and we want to check out and when our kids beg us to let them stay home will you help us push through the inconvenience of going. Help us to extend grace to ourselves and others when they need an occasional Sunday at home to regroup. Help us not to judge others when they don’t come but to look for ways to encourage other Christian families to join the community of believers so that we can all work towards a common goal of bringing you glory and taking steps closer to you and each other. We can’t do this without your help. And for any grumpy teenagers stubbornly refusing to attend church we ask you’d soften their hearts and until you do that give their parents wisdom in knowing how to handle their own personal situation. We ask you would give guidance in how to expose that teen to your word and your body of believers. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Finding our Rhythms as a Family

As in most families I’m seeing ours where we’ve established some unplanned but definitely a pattern of rhythms, or traditions you might say.

Our family is not necessarily “musical” like you might think a pastor’s family would be. That’s pretty much my fault all the way around because Randy, the hubs, has a great voice and can follow music well. Me on the other hand? Not so much. My worst nightmare was having to sing a scale for my teaching music teacher in college. She looked at me and said, “Let’s try that again.” We did. And we did it again. And again. Until she felt bad for me and simply checked it off as having completed it. I won’t remind you of the fact that I lip syncing my way through teen choir for four years in a row just so I could see that cute pastor’s kid that I was falling in love with.

So as you can see I bring nada to the music table. But now Sophie and Mitch can sing well and they enjoy music, each having their own style of music they prefer.

Over the last 7 years we have found out that our home has the perfect dance floor in the foyer. It’s wide and has room for tumbling and breakdancing (cue 80’s playlist…and another broken leg)

Some Friday nights we put on play list and go crazy breaking it down in the foyer. Nobody can take the dance out of me when the bass drops. I’m not saying it’s a pretty site or anything but I can’t help but move. What I didn’t realize until recently is that apparently when our front door is open at night with the front porch railing lights on and lights inside the house you can see everything from the street. We were at a recent community event and a lady came up to us and said, “Yeah, I saw your daughter just dancing away the other night as I drove by your house.” For reasons clearly stated we now make sure the front door is closed when spontaneous dance sessions break out in the foyer.

In the last few months our kids have faced some pretty basic but real nonetheless heart breaks: break ups, mean kid comments, making poor choices, etc. And there’s nothing better to lighten the mood after a listening ear and affirmation of the pain than to play some appropriate songs that speak a message. And even though we know sarcasm is not becoming I will admit we use it sometimes in our household. So when Mitchell’s girlfriend broke up with him the night we were decorating the Christmas tree we all had a good rallying together and expressing our sympathy. Just being there ya know. Then all of a sudden we eerily hear from the other room “Hello” by Adele start playing. Because you know it just seemed perfect. Sophie secretly decided it would be an appropriate song for the night. We all started laughing hysterically. Even Mitchell.

Fast forward to a rough day at school this week where some careless comments were slung around and aimed directly at the heart. Adding to the crummy day were injuries and dropping things and spilling stuff. Over dinner said victim shares what went on. Not much advice was shared in that moment just listening and validating, “yeah, that stinks.” Big brother and Dad may or may not have devised a hypothetical torture plan. And then suddenly out of nowhere we hear “Bad Day” start to blare. Randy snuck that one in on us. It was time for comic relief. We all laughed and then it led to more songs. In fact Randy dedicated one song he sang in his head. No words came out of his mouth but he head-sang the entire “Fight Song”. It was an epic, you-just-had-to-be-there, moment that had us cracking up and quite alarmed all at the same time.

We’ve been married for 24 years and my man still won’t dance with me. I try about twice a year to get him to but still he won’t do it. Last night I tried again. He wouldn’t do it so what did Sophie decide to play? Well of course “Shut up and dance” It brought the roof down – on all four of us at the kitchen table.

So yeah, I’m seeing the rhythm of music playing out in our household on tough days and even good days where you just need to “C-e-l-e-b-r-a-t-e Good Times….” Come on!


Should I say “Black”, “African American” or “Person of Color”?

I’m going to admit that I get uncomfortable talking about racism. I fear sounding racist in talking about it and fear even more the possibility of being racist without even realizing it.

So I’m still fumbling my way around understanding racism and what part I might can play in helping it go away. There’s no place for racism in a Christian’s life so I keep reading and asking questions. I listen deeply to Randy when he comes back from a group he’s a part of that consists of 6 black pastors and 6 white pastors. They meet to discuss racial reconciliation and it’s been very eye opening. They have read several books and they ask hard questions and tell extremely hard stories. Our children listen in on the replay of these meetings at our dinner table because we want them to know how horrible racism was and still is although not as bad.

I’ll never forget hearing about “The Talk” for the first time after one of these meetings. Immediately I thought, “Okay, is talking to our kids about sex really any different for black people than it is white people?” He went on to explain “The Talk” had nothing to do with sex but everything to do with what to do when being pulled over by a policeman. Every black person knows what this means. As a white person I don’t even understand this. But I’m understanding it more now. The amount of fear that is in many black people when being pulled over by an officer is astonishing to me. And after hearing many stories I can understand why there would be so much fear associated with it.

The video clip below is of three college students on a panel speaking about what it’s like to be a black student in a predominantly white Christian college as well as racism in general. They answer some hard questions with incredible grace and strength in my opinion. It was eye opening ways yet echoed many things I’m coming to understand through Randy’s group experience and conversations with some of my own black friends.

So the answer to the question, “Do I say Black or African American” is actually a question asked in this panel. I found the answer interesting. I’m so proud and thankful these students had to courage to do this.

There’s still so much I don’t understand and even this panel raised some questions for me but taking the time to listen to these student share their experience and thoughts was helpful to me. And maybe it would be for you too.

Let’s keep striving to live in unity for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God!

Peace in the Process

My blogging friend Kristin Hill Taylor has had my attention for the last few years. I love her writing style and her heart most of all. Down to earth. Real. Busy Mama. Jesus-follower. And not afraid to talk about the messy parts of life. I love how she takes us down whatever road she’s walking at that time. This is why I read Kristin Hill Taylor’s blog. But there’s another reason. We’ve walked similar paths with infertility and adoption.

I just read Kristin’s book, Peace in the Process: How adoption built my faith & family . It tells their story in such a beautiful way. She says, “I have a testimony of God’s faithfulness – something I wouldn’t trade for getting my own way when I thought I knew what was best.” I love that spirit of trust and humility.

One thing I love about Kristin’s book is that she tells their story which is incredible but she also invites others to share parts of their story. She calls these sections: “In their words:: ”  I enjoyed reading these stories as well and gained some neat insights about parenting, faith and adoption. Oh and she invited me in to share in one of these segments which was kind of cool too.

If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility you’ll find encouragement and hope in this book. And even if you’ve completely unfamiliar with infertility and adoption it still might be a great read for you as surely you have friends in your sphere of influence who have or are walking this road.

“Free of Me”

I read some great books in 2017 and wanted to share about one of them today.

Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller is a brilliantly deep yet practical book to read. I’ll be honest, it’s not an easy read because she hits on some hard areas that can sneak up on us if we’re not careful. But exposure to what is keeping us from a closer relationship to Jesus is a good thing.

Sharon talks about how we can make God about us. In ways we don’t even realize. From books and Bible Studies about self esteem to long looks and focus on our identity it’s easy to slip into a fast track of self absorption even when reading our Bible and seeking God. But don’t think this is a book that beats you up. Not so. Grace is laced all through this book as Sharon speaks hard yet beautiful truth which is a true gift.

I want you to hear a bit of Sharon’s voice through one of her chapters: When you Make God about You. 

“What is really interesting about the Christian self-help approach is that it’s markedly different from God’s. Moses felt inhibited by his weaknesses. He didn’t feel capable of speaking to Pharaoh or of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, because he only saw his disqualifications. And how did God respond to Moses’s doubt? Not with a self-help pep talk. He didn’t affirm Moses’s leadership or his talents or gifts. He didn’t hug him and cheer for him and speak encouraging words over him. God didn’t do any of those things, but instead he changed the subject. God affirmed his own strength, his own leadership, has own self, because the outcome never hinged upon Moses. This story was not about Moses’s strengths, and Moses was never meant to be the hero. Only God could deliver the Israelites out of Egypt, so he directed Moses’s focus back to him.” 

Later Sharon speaks of bitterness and defines it this way: “Bitterness is the fruit of believing God owes you. We witness this bitterness in the prodigal son’s brother, who begrudged his father’s mercy. If you believe faith is payment for living a moral life, bitterness will creep in whenever life doesn’t work out. That doesn’t me we can’t feel anger about tragedy – the Psalms gives us plenty of freedom for that!  – but bitterness is an anger we welcome to stay. Bitterness is the anger we nurture and cultivate, until it grows into something toxic and consuming. Rather than making a way for healing, bitterness produces even more woundedness….How you respond to God when your plans don’t work out, or how you respond to Scripture when it challenges your lifestyle – these response are a litmus test of the kind of god you follow.”

I hear Sharon is writing her second book now so I’m super excited about reading that when it comes out. I’m praying for her right now as well and if you happen to think about it pray for her too. She has two little boys and with a baby due in the next few weeks and she’s writing a book. If the thought of that hasn’t sent her into labor yet I’m not sure what will. So yeah, we sisters need to be praying for each other – even if we don’t know each other and will never meet….on earth.

So what’s on your bedside table to read this year? 

How to Pray for our Children’s Future Spouse

I’ll never forget our son when he was quite young talking about marrying a girl he was sweet on at the time. Of course I was having a full blown conniption fit over the conversation and started peppering him with questions like how he would pay for bills (chore money) and where would he live. I’ll never forget hearing his cute little voice coming back with, “We’ll live here of course. In my room.” It was a no brainer in his mind.

I figured right then it was high time I start praying for that boy and his love life because he was only in elementary school having this conversation. But this just paved the way for a good conversation on the “leave and cleave” aspect of marriage and how his room will be turned into an ART room the second the door hits his little fanny when he leaves. Kidding.

If you’ve been a regular reader of LIABOW then you know I love my Mom’s in Prayer group and reference it often in this space. My MIP group takes the month of February every year to pray for our kids’ future spouses. It has grown to be one of my favorite months of the MIP year because we find ourselves praying in unique ways for our children and their future mates or potential singleness.

Some ways we have prayed for our children and their spouses:

  • To grow up in a home where Christ is honored and loved
  • If not in a Christ-centered home that God would provide godly influences around them
  • Salvation of our children and their future spouse
  • Protection against pornography for our kids’ future spouses
  • A loving Mother and Father that is instilling godly principles
  • To remain pure through dating and engagement
  • God’s help in releasing our children into healthy dating relationships and marriage
  • To be patient in waiting for the right person God has for them
  • Future Son-in-laws to be hard working providers
  • Daughter-in-laws to love and respect their future spouses

If we still have kids at home in school it’s just hard to imagine them with a potential spouse but most likely it’s going to happen and what if……what if we had been praying for our future daughter-in-law or son-in-law years in advance. What difference might that make? I don’t know but I trust that God is hearing my prayers and I won’t stop now.

Give one of the greatest gift you could give your child and future in-laws in 2018 – the gift of prayer.


On Kissing Santa’s Armpit…

Our teenage son is getting to write an essay every time he gets a not-s0-great report from the Orthodontist ie: not wearing his rubber bands. He’s also getting the opportunity to save his money to start paying for any Ortho visits that don’t produce a good report.

What I love about Mitchell is his easy going disposition even when facing opposition. His humor keeps us going around here. Today I’m sharing with you Mitchell’s response, with his permission, to two of his recent essays on why wearing his rubber bands and brushing his teeth are important.

“Yesterday I went to the orthodontist. They told me to wear my rubber bands more. I need to find a way to remember to wear them more. One good way to remember them would be to tell myself repeatedly in the morning and after I eat to put them in. Another way to remember them would be to put them around my pinky finger after I take them out, so that the blood circulation will be cut out, ad once i realize how numb my fingers are, and how close they are to falling off, I’ll be like wanting to put them back in that instant. I could also write a note on my hand. Or I could write a sticky note and put it on my computer. If I had a phone (which I don’t yet) I could just set a reminding notification that will scare me into wearing them. I would rather kiss santa’s armpit than to get crooked teeth. M m I ain’t doing it.”

Would rather kiss Santa’s armpit? Really? I’m not even sure it’s worth that dude!

And another one he wrote the other day….. (I’m not sure how many essays it will take)

“…I also got a new color of bands. It used to be green, but now I got blue. If I brush more (which I’m doing just fine on right now) I will also get to keep the color of my teeth. They are a vibrant white right now, I do not want them to turn yellow. I would also have to pay for half of my appointments. (good heavens) I would rather wear four rows of these rubber bands than to get yellow spots on my teeth. Nooooooooooooooooo way!!!!!!!! I ain’t doing it.”

I think some of his inspirational quotes are coming from this hilarious chick that we can’t seem to get enough of right now. We laugh so hard at her videos. Oh muh-word I love her so much.

If you have any tricks of the trade on braces, bands and brushing let us know – Mitchell would be so appreciative.


Much needed laughter

You know sometimes you just gotta rare back and laugh your head off. And last night we got to do just that as a family. Nothing fancy for dinner but we used our Christmas china and ate in the dining room.

After dinner we tried to play a new to us board game – “Clue”. Whatever! That game was so stinking hard to figure out that we played our own version of it that lasted about 2.5 minutes. Together we  have 11 years of college education and neither of us could figure it out. We decided Uno would be the game of choice so we ditched Clue and grabbed the cards.

Well somewhere along the way we got slap happy crazy and Randy and I started being slightly funny-naughty in front of the kids and poor Mitch and Sophie were in shock. We decided for the good of everyone involved we needed to play the quiet game which brought on a whole new level of silent  insanity.

Still deciding to play Uno during the silent treatment game Randy gets to where he only has one card left and is totally screwed because if she says, “Uno!” he loses the quiet game but if he doesn’t say it he has to draw a card and can’t win at Uno. So the game went on for an eternity with nobody willing to win at the cost of losing the quiet game. For an extremely loud family this was pure torture. And it just wouldn’t end.

Randy finally concluded the game by yelling, “I’m DONE!!”

I thought the perfect way to end the night would be to color a beautifully sketched Christmas design. I had made copies of a Christmas tree made up of 25 Christmas ornament balls.

We’re at that incredibly immature stage with the kids that if you say the word balls in any context you get the side eye and snort-laugh. For some reason I  thought with it being in reference to a Christmas, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” coloring page that this would be an exception. Like there might be a holy reverence that would allow my family to skip over the fact that I just said with all the glee inside of me, “Let’s color some Christmas balls you guys!”

But oh no. Of course not. Everyone busted out laughing and made fun of my choice of words. In addition nobody, I say nobody, would color with me.

Well we certainly enjoyed our family time while it lasted and then we all scattered among the house – Randy watching football, Sophie watching a Hallmark Christmas movie and Mitchell playing a video game and me… coloring my Christmas balls ornaments alone in the dining room.

And I rare back in laughter at the reality of this situation. It’s just us and I love us.


God’s provision in unlikely places

My week had been messed with in all kinds of crazy ways and as I sat in my red chair praying to God for a stranger I’d just met I found myself praying for her provision. That he would give her exactly what she needed that day and the days to come.

If you were to turn the pages of my prayer journal back you’d read where I was crying out to God to provide our own specific needs. A washing machine that blew up, a mouth guard, a big car repair, leaking toilet and…..well, you live on this earth so you know all about unexpected expenses and how when it rains it pours sometimes. We just weren’t sure how the month would play out as far as being able to meet our budget. It wasn’t looking promising at all.

But this particular day my focus was on this woman I couldn’t get out of my head and heart. I made an umbrella prayer for her in my journal and decided I would do a deep clean in my kitchen starting with the cabinets. The ones we call the black hole for a reason.

As I was pulling stuff out and organizing something white caught my eye in the waaaay back. It was a bank envelope. As I opened the envelope and started counting out the cash I realized what it was. We had lost an envelope with $575 cash over a year and a half ago. It was money we had stashed away little by little and it was in a drawer and had fallen back into the cabinet below. To be found on a day when I wasn’t sure how our own needs were going to be met but was praying for God to meet a stranger’s needs.

Overwhelmed with God’s perfectly timed provision I sat there and cried.

Then I called Randy and tried to act all nonchalant and said, “Can you meet me for lunch? I have to tell you something in person.”

We meet up for lunch and I hand him the envelope to open. Immediately he knew what it was. And his deep sigh of relief about blew me into the next booth over….which takes a lot of gusto.

I needed to talk some things out with him though. I told him about praying for the woman I had met and for God to provide her needs. I also told him about a struggle I’d had the week before that in giving to a special cause that we really didn’t have the money to give to and I didn’t want to give to. I argued with God about it. Told him we didn’t have the money and our own kids were going to get  jipped so other kids could have something (which was dramatic and not true anyways). I felt like God spoke to me saying, “And that’s okay, Melody. It’s okay to give when you don’t have it yourself. It’s okay when someone else has something you or your kids don’t have.” He settled my heart and I knew it was the right thing for us to do.

So I told Randy – I don’t want to think I had anything to do with this money being found and with an unexpected check that came to us that same day from a speaking engagement. But I can’t help but see a correlation when we give something that is hard to give or pray on someone else’s behalf for something we need it ourselves how God ends up providing in the most unusual and unexpected ways. He’s always so faithful to do this for us. And yet it surprises me every time. I don’t know what to do with it all. I know it’s all from God’s hand and nothing short of his grace. But is it wrong for me to think there’s a connection between praying for and giving to others when it’s a true sacrifice and seeing God’s provision for us? Not like we’re the ones who brought this provision on but somehow the giving, the praying for someone else touched God’s heart maybe?

Randy listend and said, “I don’t think you’re wrong. I hear what you’re saying and it’s okay to recognize when God responds to us and how he responds. It’s the right thing to give him praise for that.”

So it’s out of a full heart that I post these things. It’s out of heart that is learning how to navigate need yet giving generously and the right response to God’s provision. Not saying we get it right even half the time. We don’t. But we desire to honor God with our money and in our giving.

Lord, thank you for being our Provider. You’re so good to us.