October 31, 2010

The One with the Hug Attack

This weekend we missed our teens. Though we had a really great time with family in my hometown, we ended up not being able to make it back for our church's Light the Night ("trunk or treat"). We entrusted our teens with our trunk. They were in charge of decorating and manning the trunk as well as being responsible and helpful throughout the event. 

When we pulled into our driveway late last night, we saw a cute pumpkin sitting in front of our garage door. As we picked it up, we realized it had been signed by EVERY SINGLE ONE of our teens and Pastor Dale and Pam! There was a fantastic turnout--I was so excited. (If anyone knows how to preserve a pumpkin for posterity, let me know.) It was also a wonderful statement--

they. missed. us. *GRIN*

Around 10:30pm, I saw a Facebook update by one of our teens. It mentioned something about TPing. Hmmmm. "I bet they TPed our car." We threw on our shoes, ran out to church parking lot and sure enough--there it was. Our little escort covered in toilet paper. They even put all of the used toilet paper rolls on our antenna. Again. A testament to how much they love us. (Yes, teens show their love in strange ways. :D) 

This morning I heard nothing but great remarks from every adult and teen involved. *so proud*

I was also thrilled to have 2 girls attending church for the first time. We had a great Sunday School class and then took our seats in the sanctuary--the teens have officially taken over the front 2 rows. LOVE. IT. Part of the way through the service, one of the church leaders stepped up to the microphone and asked the Pastor's family and Kevin and I to come forward. They presented both of our families with a gift of appreciation for our ministry in honor of Pastors' Appreciation Month. We were so honored. Then, the most beautiful moment happened. Just as we turned to sit down, ALL of our teens from the front row ran up to us, in front of the entire congregation, and engulfed us in the most phenomenal group hug I've ever been a part of. 

I will cherish that moment forever
Thank you, Jesus, for another reminder that the work we do is not in vain

October 27, 2010

The One with the Birthday Love

Dear Husband, 
Happy Birthday! I am so blessed to be at your side to celebrate with you. I remember back to your 18th birthday--when we had met just months earlier. You have changed so much since then, and yet, you are still everything I love about Kevin Michael. 

You have become a trustworthy, man of God, that is for sure. I know I am safe in your arms. Our love has grown deeper with each year, with each season, each argument, each hug, each secret shared. 

I have seen your passions take shape and spent hours talking with you about our dreams. We make a great team--an unstoppable force for Jesus. I love ministering at your side. I couldn't have dreamed of a more beautiful life than the one we are sharing. 

You are the funniest person I know. I have laughed with you until my sides hurt--particularly when you're mocking me for laughing so hard. Thank you for always keep me sane, for keeping my feet on the ground, for reminding me that God is in control. You are so patient. I'm sorry for testing that fruit of yours. :)

I truly cannot imagine life without you. I pray the Lord gives us many more glorious years together. 

The other half of your heart, 
Melanie Marie

Us. Your Birthday 2010. Perfectly content in love.

The One with Too Many Gmail Accounts

Having multiple email accounts works for me.
It's a necessary thing, but it can be cumbersome to sign in and out of each different email account if you want to send an email from a specific address. 
(Assuming you have all of your emails forwarded to one inbox like I do.)
To solve this dilemma, I have to thank Debbie for giving me this tip--it's saved me so much headache!

How to send emails from a different email address without signing out of your account:
Sign into your primary Gmail account. 
Go to "Settings" (on the top right).
Then click on  the "Accounts and Imports" tab at the top.
Find the line that says, "Send Mail As."
Here, you should see your email address. 
Underneath that, in the same section, you should see a button that says, "Send Mail From Another Address."
Click on that and follow the step by step instructions. 
You can add multiple email address.
I have four. 

One general/personal/profession account. 
One for blogging. 
One for youth group.
One for Kevin and myself. 

Now! The Fun Part!
Go back to your inbox and click on "compose message."
Where it says "From," your email address should be listed in a drop down menu. 
If you click on the drop down arrow, you will be able to select the account from which to send this new email.

One more fun thing!
If you like to have an automatic signature, you can personalize each different email account signature. 
Click on "settings" again.
It should automatically open up to the "General" tab.
Scroll down to the "signature" section. 
Because you've added multiple email address, you should see that drop down menu again where it lists your main email account. 
Click on each separate account and create a personalized signature for each specialized email address. 

For instance, in my personal account I include my name, my job title, and my blog link. 
On my youth group signature, I include my name, job title, and my YOUTH GROUP's blog link.
When I'm sending mail to and from other bloggers, I use my adorkable.melanie@gmail.com account and sign it like this:


Seriously! How cool is Google?!
It works for me! 
Check out We Are THAT Family for more great tips!

October 26, 2010

The One with My Ministry Gifts

I have no idea where God will take me in the future. Will I be at home, loving on my family, gardening, baking, housekeeping, homeschooling? Will I write a book? Will we live here forever? Or move across the country? How will I be using my musical gifts? 

So many questions, yet I don't really need to know the answers. I am identifying my passions and my ministry gifts and doing my best to use them fully. After youth group on Sunday night, I was convinced that the strongest ministries God has given me are of prayer and openness and vulnerability

I have always been an open person. I thrive on honesty and transparency. I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Though that phrase can be construed in the negative, I believe I know when it is appropriate to be completely open about my emotions and when it's okay to keep them to myself. That being said, a girls small group ministry is perfect for me. 

The past two years of small group efforts have not been all that successful. Conversation topics were scattered and lacked depth. I was frustrated by this--being the deeply emotional people person that I am--but I knew I wasn't supposed to give up. I'm so thankful that we kept trying. I know not everyone enjoys opening up, some even dread it--especially with a small group of individuals they might not trust quite yet. But this past month of girls' small group have been life-changing--for me and the teens. 

I have kept my agenda to a minimum. I'm learning the more I plan, the more frustrated I am when things don't go as I anticipate, and the farther away we move from the path God has laid out before us. The "planner" in me has stepped aside. I ask an introductory question or two, but then I step back. I pray--beseeching God to move in their hearts. And sure enough, He leads in a very specific way and I follow as best I can. 

This past week there was such brokenness. So many wounds were exposed. As girl after girl shared her heart and tears with us, others were moved to do the same. It was powerful. I was privileged to pray over each of them. I have learned to pray boldly, with confidence, listening to the Holy Spirit as He guides my words. Intercessory prayers are so powerful when they are not in my own wisdom. 

And through each night, I have been able to be open and honest as well. This is, I believe, one of the most powerful tools God has given me. In being vulnerable with my girls (within reason, of course), I lead by example and I show them my true, authentic self. They are able to see a glimpse of the love and passion I have for each one of their lives. They realize that I have had many of the same struggles as they are experiencing. They see Jesus' love for them, through me. 

Oh, what a privilege. My heart is overflowing. 

October 24, 2010

The One with the Inner Artist

Another blog makeover. 

I'm really falling in love with it, though if I had more editing and coding skills it could be way more awesomer. Honestly, that is one of my little aspirations--to grow in my photo and logo editing skills and maybe possibly one day in the future earn some extra cashola creating beautiful designs for people. I have VERY limited resources right now which is one of the reasons I'm at a standstill. Kevin has been messing around with GIMP lately and I honestly have no idea where to begin with that program. I just need a few (hundred) hours to find my feet. 

If I could hone these skills and learn about ditigal scrapbooking--even better! I enjoy getting the creative juices flowing and thinking of beautiful ways to show off and preserve photo memories. BUT. Scrapbooking takes a ridiculous amount of time, way too much cleaning, far too much space. It's just rather impractical. It takes 45 minutes to get in to the creating groove. I work for a couple hours. (And it's RARE to find a couple hours to work with.) Then I clean up for 30 minutes. Sheesh. That's a big commitment. I think I'd rather use a digital program. And click "save" when I need to walk away. Perfect. 

But this requires me figuring out the wide world of graphic design. 

Along those lines, I'd love to learn more about photography. Even as a young girl I had an interest in this art. I would set up backdrops for my baby dolls or my sister--whichever would cooperate best for the vision I had. I'm not sure what ever happened to that dream of mine. I think I forgot about it. I'm a little sad about that, but hey, I still have time to learn new skills, right? 

I even had an opportunity to take a photography class in college, but I opted for Art Foundations instead. I won't tell you the reasons for this decision, because you'll find me ridiculous and petty, but I did have reasons. I just wish I would have ignored my pocket-protector personality for just a semester and went for it

Kevin also has an interest in photography and editing. The thought of sharing a hobby and possibly a mini-business with him thrills me. Who knows if this will ever pan out, but we like dreaming about it. In the meantime, we'll be saving for a digital SLR camera. If you would like to contribute to this fund because you believe I could be the photographer ever, just let me know. 

If not, well, I'll love you anyways. 

October 22, 2010

The One with the Joneses

I have to be honest with you. 
I'm not perfect. 

I know, I know. 
You're shocked. 

But it's true. I'm not perfect. I struggle all too often with uncertainty and inadequacies. Kevin could attest to how frequently I'm worried that I'm not doing my best or that I don't match up to so and so or that maybe, deep-down-inside, those people don't approve. I know the Truth and it's in the process of setting of me free, but in the meantime, I wanted to be real. 

I believe I'm called to a life of ministry. I want to be a wife who lives her days building into my marriage. I want to be a mother who teaches her children to love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. I want to be a servant to the poor, the broken, the hurting. I want all people to know that the reason I lead small groups, bake delicious meals, clean my house, hug my (future) children, snuggle with my husband, play the piano, open my home, or laugh with friends is all for the glory of God. He is the very reason I take this next breath. My life is His instrument--to be used however He desires. 

With that said, I want to admit that I battle these lies in my heart. "Why aren't you living to your full potential? You could be doing SO MUCH more! Why aren't you working full time and ministering at the church and taking care of your home? HUH? All those OTHER women can do that--why can't you handle it? You should be contributing to your family finances--get off your lazy butt! Why do YOU get to make your own schedule, work from home, spend tons of quality time with your husband when so many women do not have those luxuries?" 

There. I said it. I'm a "comparer." I'm certain that I'm not good enough, not working hard enough, not living life according to the American standard. 

But wait. That's just it, isn't it? I'm comparing my lifestyle to the ONE (the only one) set up for 21st Century American Women. Work full time, be a full time mom/wife/homemaker, volunteer in the community, work in the church, exercise daily, eat right, make balanced meals for your family. People, this is CRAZY! Or at least it is for me. I have complete respect (and even awe) for the women that can handle that lifestyle and live it all for the glory of God. That. Is. Incredible. But I have to be completely honest--I am NOT that woman. And every single day, I have to be reminded by Jesus himself that that is okay. Because it is. 

I know I could go to work, I know I could do that job well, and I would be helping out financially. But I am convinced that God has called me away from that. He has called us--Kevin and Melanie--to live completely dependent on HIM. If I were working, we wouldn't "need" His help. We'd be doing just fine. But our lives are to be a testimony of God's provision, protection, and providence. He has a plan for us--a brilliant plan that we cannot imagine. (I'm *SO* excited!) The more control with give over to Him, the simpler our lives will be. Surely, God's plan will be done in the end despite the crappy decisions we make along the way. But what if we stopped making the decisions? And waited for His voice on where to take the next turn. 

It's kind of like taking a map with you on a trip when you have a GPS announcing your every move. The whole point of the GPS is to not have to worry. Everything is under control. Even if you mess up and make a wrong turn because for SOME REASON you decided to take the route into your own hands for a moment, that trusty GPS will reroute you again and again until you've reached your destination. Taking a map along for the ride is saying, "GPS, I don't trust you. I think I might need a backup plan." 

Speaking from experience, I will always take a backup plan with me when using a GPS. They have failed me time and time again. But Jesus has NEVER failed me. And He promises He never will. Making my own choice, creating my own plans, bringing in reinforcements is shouting "I DON'T TRUST YOU, GOD!" But the Lord says,  
"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, 
       who rely on horses, 
       who trust in the multitude of their chariots 
       and in the great strength of their horsemen, 
       but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, 
       or seek help from the LORD." (Is. 31:1)
       "Surely this is our God; 
       we trusted in him, and he saved us. 
       This is the LORD, we trusted in him; 
       let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." (Is. 25:9)

SO. I will take a stand against the devil's schemes of comparing myself to the rest of the world. I will live a life worthy of the calling I have received--even if that's a totally different life than the world's mold for me. Jesus has not promised an easy life, which is why I have to stop thinking about how my life is weird compared to everyone else. He has set me apart and demanded that I stop conforming to the world. We are all created with individual purposes. We are Christ's body which requires hundreds of different functions. I will live confidently in the path marked out for me, trusting that my God will meet all my needs according His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Look to Jesus, Mel. End of story. 

October 20, 2010

The One with the Racing Brilliance

I loved today. 
1. Because I got another chance.
2. Because it's fall. 
3. Because my cats snuggled with me. 
4. Because I made enchiladas and brownies. 
5. Because my dedicated husband went to work even though he was feeling crappy. 
6. Because I was super productive. 
7. Because I checked everything off of my to-do list.

But mostly because I checked everything off of my to-do list. 

It's amazing how accomplished that makes me feel. I'm constantly thinking something that's needs to happen--something to work on, fix, brainstorm, prepare, create, etc. And if I don't write down my thought on a piece of paper RIGHT THEN, it slips out within an instant and is gone forever (or until it floats back into my subconscious for a moment.) I keep little pads of scrap paper around every corner--in my nightstand, in my bathroom drawer, in the kitchen, in my purse. Most of my brilliant ideas happen when I can't get to piece of paper, though. It's so unfortunate. 

In any case, this morning's checklist is now in the trash can with every single line item crossed off. 


Now I can rest easy. 
Assuming my mind doesn't decide to be brilliant when all I want is sleep. 

The One with the Benefits of Tithing

I'm talking about money. 

Read on if you dare. 

Yes, these are economically unsettling times for all of us. 
Everyone has been affected in some way by this financial depression. 
But that doesn't change the fact that we've been called to obedience to our Lord. 

Tithing is a bit of a controversial topic. This is mostly due to the fact that a majority of Christ followers would rather not talk about finances and would prefer to be left alone in their sin. Yes, I went there. NOT tithing is a sin. It is direct disobedience to the God we call Almighty. If I were you, I wouldn't mess with that. 

Check out Malachi 3:6-10:

 6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. 
      "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 
      "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 
      "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

Umm, hello???? This is completely relevant to our nation...right now. We are in sin--we are robbing God. Sure, we drop a few coins in every once in a while OR maybe we even give $20 regularly. But if we are not giving at least a tenth of our (gross--first fruits) income to the Lord then yes, I'm afraid you ARE robbing God. Because of our selfishness and greed, we have given the Lord no other choice than to curse our nation. We are reaping the harvest of our disobedience.

Disciples of Jesus, I charge you to run from your lukewarm behaviors. Either you love God with ALL of your heart, all of your money, all of your life OR you don't--in which case He doesn't know you. Do you trust the Creator of this  universe, of chocolate, of C# minor, of childbirth, of wind to care for YOU? If he takes care of the birds through winter and creates lilies in all their glory, how much more will he provide for ME and you? 

I dare you to take the Lord's challenge. Will you bring the WHOLE tithe into His house? Even when you're not sure if you can afford a gallon of milk this week or whether or not you'll get another paycheck? Will you trust him? 

I promise you, out of my own life's testimony, he is faithful. Give when you think you cannot and God will surely open the floodgates of heaven onto your life. And you will know it was His provision and you will give HIM the glory--because that, my friends, is the whole point of our lives. 

Tithing has worked in my life--giving back to God what He entrusted me with in the first place always results in blessings I could not have imagined. Join me. 

This post is participating in Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

October 19, 2010

The One with Our Girl, Maisy

My mom won't believe it, but it's true. 
We are now the parents to two cats! 
I was never a cat person.
In fact, I largely disliked the feline variety of pets. 
But ever since Butterscotch/Reginald came into my life, my heart has grown for the lovely creature. 

Reg has been in our home for nearly a year now, and there's hair in every corner of every room to prove it. 
He's lovable and lazy, demanding and cuddly. 
I heart his old man self. 

A couple months ago, my friend Debbie asked us if we wanted another cat. She and Brian had rescued it from along the side of the highway and it needed a home. I wasn't ready for the commitment at the time, but it got me thinking. Kevin jumped on the idea. I, of course, needed an obscene amount of time to process the situation. When I finally came to the conclusion that I would like to have another kitty around the house, I was fully aware of the fact that this would probably never happen After all, cats cost money, and money is a precious commodity in these parts. 

I guess it was meant to be, though. Two weeks ago we went to a wedding. At this wedding, I was chatting with a former classmate and he introduced me to this lovely fiancée. Erin and I hit it off, and later that evening I connected with her on Facebook. As I was stalking her profile I found a picture of her cat with Erin's plea. Maisy, the cat, needed a home. 

I mentioned this to Kevin and he, of course, jumped on board immediately. I was a bit slower on the uptake, but just one week later, Maisy was dropped off at our humble abode for good.

I was completely nervous about the prospect of having two cats--
would Maisy like me?
would she cause problems our old man, Reg, never could have?
would she and Mister Crotchety Old Man Cat get along? 
Eeek, my world stomach was turning. 

Maisy quickly found Reginald in his usual hiding place. The two took sides in the boxing ring that is the underside of our bed. There was hissing and pawing and growling and groaning--all sorts of weird sounds I had never heard before. I was just praying Reg would try to eat her. They chased each other and neither was very happy. Poor Reg had to share his house AND his food AND his toilet AND his mom and dad. And little Maisy was dropped off in a foreign land and was now having to hold her own against the present ruler.

Thankfully, they are both fixed, both semi-old (she's 8, he's 13), both declawed. These facts make my life easier.When Kevin left for work Monday morning I was really worried about the carnage I would be home alone to deal with. Would there be a blood bath? Kevin told me not to worry--they would be fine. 

And sure enough, they were. Maisy took over the living room and spent much of the time perched on the back of the couch behind my head. She's about 400 times more agile then Reginald. Reg, on the other hand, resigned himself to our bedroom or, if he heard me in the kitchen, he'd come out for some attention. It was sad having to divide my time. and I hope they can learn to cohabitate. 

Today showed progress. They actually sat in the same room--staring at each other--but without hissing--for at least half an hour. When hissing ensued, I mediated--"NO. Be NICE!" And Reg would back down and walk away--most likely hoping she'd be gone upon his return. 
(watching each other from around the corner)

But no, Maisy is here to stay. She's already made her way into Kevin's heart. He's a bit smitten, I believe. But that's ok. I have Reg. He's my little old man. Don't worry, Reg, no one will replace you. :)

October 18, 2010

The One with Girls Questioning God's Creation

God is not done moving among us. 
Satan, of course, has had his turn at attempting to tear down the stronghold Jesus has on the hearts of our youth group.
The Enemy has done his best to conjure up conflict and create strife and put a wedge in between all the good that is happening. 
But I see what you're pulling, Satan, and I raise you eleventy billion. 
Because God's on our side. 
So there!

I'm all too quickly becoming an expert in conflict management, 
and the methods of Matthew 18
But I won't give up.
Even though my efforts seem for naught, I refuse to throw in the towel. 

Last night at youth group, Kevin and I led two separate (unrehearsed) discussions on forgiveness and on living a life far from lukewarm
As the girls shared the areas in their life where they are lukewarm--where they have given God enough, but not all--my heart was being moved towards a specific topic. 
I didn't plan it. 
In fact, I've all but stopped planning--God's will is so much more evident when I don't try to force my outline into His agenda.

With 12 girls listening intently, I began to broach the taboo topic. 
Girls and body image. 
I wanted them to see they are not alone--
that every girl has something she dislikes or even despises about her body. 
There were nodding heads and open hearts. 
I told them of my own struggles. 
And I shared with them the message only God could place in my mouth--
what right does the created have to question to the wisdom of the Creator?

I gave them this example from my marriage:
For a while, I constantly held a very negative opinion of my figure. 
Kevin would always tell me of my beauty, but I still complained--
basically choosing to call him a liar by refuting his statements. 
He finally stopped me in my tracks.
My loving husband told me that when I talk badly about myself, it hurts him.
It tells him I don't trust him enough to believe that his words are true. 

This is just one example of how Kevin exemplifies Christ to me. 
Jesus is saddened when we compare ourselves to others, when we talk badly about the body we've been given, when we mistreat our body, when we believe the lies from Satan. 

We are wrong, women.
We are not just living stunted lives because of our inability to see ourselves as the crown of creation, 
but we are living selfishly. 
We are not considering the effects our low opinions of ourselves have on our husbands, our friends, our God.
Believe Him. 
Embrace the Truth. 
And you will be set free indeed.   

(in case you don't click on that link above:
You'll want to check out my post on Beauty over at our devotional blog--We Chase the Son.)

October 17, 2010

The One with a Whirlwind Weekend

(I feel like I've used that title before. If so, please excuse me.)

Yet another busy weekend in the life of a youth pastor and his cohort. 

To be more exact, our work week starts Wednesday and goes to Sunday. 
Monday and Tuesday are our only "slower" days
--though Kevin still tries to sub--
so he never really gets a day off. 
Wednesday, I have a piano lesson, 
then Bible Quizzing from 7-8pm--though our house doesn't empty till 8:45 sometimes. 
Thursday evening is worship team practice. 
Fridays are typically the day we have lunch with the girls at MHS, 
then 5th Quarter. 
Saturdays have been filled with extra events. 
Sundays are church and youth group filled. 

THIS particular weekend was particularly busy.
Our Friday went like this:
Kevin gets home from subbing at 2:30pm.
At 3:45 we head to the church to help with worship for a marriage conference. 
Kevin then headed to a teen's birthday party, to return home at 7:30pm.
Around 6pm, I got a call from a distressed teen who was in turmoil over unfortunate boyfriend issues. 
I picked her and her friend up from the football game at 6:45pm and brought them back to my house to talk. 
People starting arriving for 5th Qtr at 8:30 and left at 11:30pm
Our Bible Quizzers spent the night at our house. 
We woke up at 4:45am to leave by 6am to drive three hours north for our first quiz that started at 9am. 
We got a bit lost--thanks a lot, gps genius--
but we still made it by the skin of our teeth. 
Our quizzers spent the next 5 hours giving it their all against other churches. 
We all piled into the caravan of cars at 4pm--exhausted--and made the 3 hours trip home. 

Kevin and I collapsed. 

The end.  

p.s. it was one of those "consider it pure joy" type of weekends.
I had a blessed time. 

October 15, 2010

The One with the Cookie Winner

A BIG thank you to everyone who checked out my blog--especially those first time visitors. 
I'm thrilled to have 98 followers after yesterday's awesome blog hop. 
I met so many more wonderful friends!

And now, I'm looking forward to whipping up a tasty batch of cookies for one of YOU!
I used random.org to generate the winning ticket. 
The winner is.....
I bet she won't believe it!
Tammy is one of the hosts of this weekly blog hop--she's the one who informed me that I was co-hosting. 
How cool is that??

Tammy's winning comment is kind of ironic, considering she won: 
"Okay, so I wasn't first in line...dang! Time got away from me.
I am a GFC follower! :)"

Congrats, Tammy! Let me know which type of you cookie you'd like delivered to your front door!
I hope you enjoy them!

And if anyone else is interested in homemade delivered cookies, check THIS out.
The Adorkable Baker: For Hire.

October 14, 2010

The One where She Hosts Thursday's Giveaway Cafe

I'm so excited!!
I have the privilege to be a co-host for today's Friends and Giveaway Cafe!
This is such a fun and easy blog carnival held by Tammy's Two Cents and Menopausal New Mom.
You really don't want to miss out on all of these phenomenal giveaways!
Go check it out!

And if you're visiting from the link-up, I'd like to welcome you to my adorkable blog. 
I love meeting new people and making new friends. 
Relationships are what I do best. 
When I'm not blogging, you'll find me...
spending quality time with my darling husband.  
working hard in the youth ministry my husband and I lead. 
baking delicious treats and savory dishes in my amazingly large kitchen. 
or spending time digging deeper into God's Word as I seek to know Jesus more and more. 
(and yes, I just realized I blog a lot.)

In honor of giveaway day, I'm GIVING AWAY a batch of my famous fresh baked cookies.
Well, as "famous" as a small town home cook can expect her cookies to be, I guess. 
If you'd like to have these delicious cookies delivered to YOUR DOOR, leave me a comment and tell me your favorite cookie.
And because I'm feeling super generous, I'm going to offer a batch of whatever cookie YOU love--
I'm awesome at:
chocolate chip
peanut butter
spicy molasses

For additional entries:
1. follow my blog (leave a comment telling me so)
2. follow me on twitter @adorkablemel (comment with your twitter link)
3. check out my recipe blog (adorkablerecipes.blogspot.com) and follow me over there too--I promise you won't be sorry! :)  (comment back here if you follow over there.)

October 13, 2010

The One with the Quick Clean-up Tip

One of my most helping kitchen tools is a little adujustable plastic measuring "cup" perfect for peanut butter, pureed pumpkin or shortening. 

The first time I used one of these simple gadgets was in my mother's-in-law kitchen. 
As soon as I ran across one in a cheap bin at a rummage sale, I snatched it up,
and boy have I been glad I did! 
Because it measures nearly any incremental amount all the way to 2 cups, it's versatile. 
It's perfect for those not-quite-liquid-not-quite-solid ingredients. 
It launches those tricky ingredients (like peanut butter) into your mixing bowl with ease. 
(I've always despised trying to scoop all of the peanut butter out of a measuring cup. 

As cool as this gadget is, I HATE cleaning it--mostly because I use it for those greasy, sticky ingredients that make cleaning a real chore. 
SO, I use handy dandy PLASTIC WRAP to make my job a cinch! 

First, I prepare my cup at the necessary measurement (i.e. get it ready for 1/2 cup or 2/3 cup or whatever.)
Then, I tear off a piece of plastic wrap that will be big enough to be pressed down and cover the bottom of the cup. 
Be sure to get it evenly spread across the bottom for accurate measurements!
I fill the cup with my ingredient of choice, push up the bottom of the cup to release the ingredients into the bowl then THROW AWAY  the mess! 

The One with the Lifelong Piano Student

Since I finally started teaching piano lessons again this fall, I have been reminiscing about my own history of piano. 
Maybe this is in an effort to recall lessons I learned for the sake of keeping ahead of my students. 
Or maybe it's just because this grand and glorious instrument has always had a place in my life. 
I remember hopping up on the piano bench next to my momma or my grams. 
I thought my playing was superb.
They, of course, agreed.

I began taking piano lessons at age 8. 
This subject matter did not come easily for me--
most likely because math was (is) not my forte.
Yeah, can you believe it?? Music--the right brained freedom of artful expression is rooted in the left brained specifics of mathematics and logic. 
I loved playing the piano.
I just hated practicing. 
My mother can attest to this. 
However, I always very strongly disliked having anyone play my piano better than me. 
Whenever my mom or a friend sat down to play, I was certain they were doing it to shame me. 

I realize now that this was likely not the case, 
but it did manage to kick my rear into gear a time or two. 
Though the ability was not natural, my musical ear was. 
I easily felt the right tempo and knew immediately if a wrong note had been played. 
This helped, but also frustrated me along the way. 
KNOWING I was wrong and not being able to play it better was just plain frustrating. 

Just six months after starting piano lessons, I began taking voice lessons from the same teacher. 
These came SO MUCH easier. 
There was nothing to it, really. 
The ease at which I learned to sing was only adding to my snail's pace advancement in piano.

Eventually, I pushed myself to improve and by senior year of high school, I was able to do a bit of accompanying for my school choir. 
I auditioned for a piano scholarship at Spring Arbor University (against my will--I knew I wasn't up to snuff).
I received a small scholarship and spent the next four years being challenged way beyond my comfort zone. 
My new instructor was loving and gifted, but was always pushing. 
For every semester's recital, I had to have my piece memorized. 
NOT a skill I had honed previously. 

I remember practicing in one of the many non-sound-proofed piano rooms and being ashamed at my playing in comparison with those piano students performing around me. 
I hoped no one would know it was me. :)

My sophomore year, I tackled Debussy's Clair de Lune and performed it from memory at the recital. 
That was my moment of glory. 
I was proud. so proud. 

Though my skills in classical music may not have heightened since my last lesson over 2 years ago, 
I have been reaping the benefits of those 14 years of piano lessons ever since. 
Each Sunday I play piano/keyboard along with the worship team for church. 
I have learned to improv from chords. 
I have been forced to understand key signatures to a greater degree.
My sight reading abilities have sky rocketed. 
I have to be ready and willing to play whatever, whenever.

And I look forward to continuing to teach students who are excited to learn. 
Teaching reinforces my knowledge of music to such an extent that I learn it twice as well as I had before. 
My students sometimes challenge my understanding and my memory and while it's a bit freaky it's also really great "exercise."
I don't know where I'll be--musically--in 10 or 20 years--but I pray I continue to use my abilities to glorify Jesus Christ. 
Because He's the whole point. 

October 12, 2010

The One with an (in)couraging Friend

Today, in honor of Ministry Appreciation Month and the first (in)courage carnival, I would like to take the time to honor the selfless work of my Pastor's wife, Pam. 
She is the most beautiful woman--from the inside out. 
Pam is an amazing example of a mother. 
Her teenage boys love and respect her. 
She encourages them and has great connections to both of them. 
She and her husband have an outstanding relationship of love. 
Their marriage is something everyone would strive towards. 
Pam does a fantastic job of leading our kids' program at church. 
She works tirelessly at an endless number of tasks with a grace that could only come from God. 
All that and she manages to work a full time++ job. 

I honestly don't know how she does it all, and I'm fairly certain I could never do all she's doing and with such peace. 
But aside from what she does, she is my friend.
She's sat me down and looked me in the eye and asked "What's up?"
And I know she means it. 
She sees the deeper emotions in my heart. 
She doesn't just brush past after the "I'm good, how are you?"
She wants to know and she'll listen with complete acceptance. 
I trust her completely and have shared with her my inmost passions and struggles. 

Her life is an example and her friendship is irreplaceable. 
Love you, Pam.

October 11, 2010

The One with Homecoming Drama

Oh! to be fifteen again! 
Or not
I was reminded this weekend of how great my teenage years were, 
but also of how I don't have any desire to go back there again. 
Pubescent teenage girls are WOW. 
You're probably thinking, "Gosh, is she just realizing this now? Two years after starting this youth ministry thing?"
No. I'm not. 
But this weekend was chock full of the drama that is high school girls. 
It was a lovely thing and an acid-reflux inducing thing all at once. 

First there was Friday night. 
At 4:30pm, we took our teens out to an annual community dinner at which they were serving. 
This is an annual volunteer service for them, and they were thrilled to do it. 
Kevin and I had to leave super early because we had to set up for our 3rd night of "5th Quarter"--
an outreach to teens and their friends after football games. 
At 8pm, we ran back to the dinner to pick up our teens and starting filling our home with adolescents. 
We had our house packed with 30 teens until 12:30am. 
(Two+ hours past my bedtime, mind you.
But it's worth it. *sleepy grin*)

I couldn't sleep in on Saturday morning because girls were going to be arriving for Salon Styles by Melanie. 
Throughout the week I had each of the three girls come over three separate times for practice runs--
I had never done anyone else's hair in an "up do" other than mine. 
I got up at 7, went running, and thought I had until 9am. 
But at 8:15 my phone rang and one of the girls was on her way. 
I greeted her and her cousin, then headed for the shower. 
I started working on Mary's hair at 8:45am. 
Amanda arrived at 9:00 to start on makeup. 
Right after that, Ashley arrived. Then Alyssa. 
We were off and curling. 
Hair was flying. 
Hairspray was coating my entire dining room table. 
Bobby pins were littering the ground. 
Every outlet was being used for curling irons. 
Amanda had her salon-sized collection of makeup spread out. 
It was awesome.

Kevin was at his desk playing video games and at one point he commented, 
"So this is what dance prep is like for girls."
Darn boys just throw on a suit 10 minutes before hopping in the car. 
Girls spend entire days preparing themselves. 
I think Kevin suddenly had a great appreciation for girls and our beauty. :)

Four hours later all three girls looked like movie stars and I had developed a deeper understanding of the hard work of hair stylists like my sister. 

Sunday morning--again while on my run--my cell phone rang at 7:45am.
For the next hour I was getting the inside scoop on some harsh drama that "ruined everyone's homecoming."
It was disappointing for me to hear my girls acting that way, but I was looking forward to forcing them all to talk through the issues. 
I knew there were deeper reasons for the conflicts that arose and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. 
None of them thought a resolution was possible and most of them would have rather swept the problem under the rug. 

We're doing this Matthew 18 style

Before the youth group headed into the corn maze for an evening of fun, I played mediator for 6 girls. 
I explained the essential importance of forgiveness (as declared by Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15.)
I heard each of their stories while the others listened.
(Not the easiest task for some of them.)
We talked about their feelings, their sins in the situation, and before I knew it the girls were owning up to their wrong-doings and asking for forgiveness without my prompting. 
It was a beautiful thing.

For the next hour, our group of 21 teens and 5 adults made our way (or not) through a 10acre corn maze.
It's a tradition of our youth group. 
Everyone had a blast--
and I even noticed a facebook status of one of the girls involved in the previously mentioned conflict. 

She said, "Tonight was amazinggggg. Better than homecoming honestly."


Also, I would just like to point out that last year's group was "huge" and had 11 kids. 
We've come a long way in a year. See:
corn maze 2009.