February 27, 2011

The One with Watoto

Spending an hour in worship with beautiful African children whose love of Jesus shines from every inch of their being is such an incredibly moving experience. The Watoto African Children's Choir came to our church on Friday evening for a concert, and managed to blessed our hearts, move us in the depths of our spirits, and call us to a fuller life of following our Almighty God.


It was impossible for me to hear their stories--young lives impacted by such loss and pain--and not feel called to deeper ministry. These 22 children (and their 2000 "siblings" in the Watoto Village in Kampala, Uganda) have lost all of their parents to HIV AIDS and rampant wars. They have seen more death and experienced more devastation than most of us will in a lifetime. Hundreds of babies are discarded on the streets of Uganda, in toilets, dumpsters, sewage drains--abandoned by young girls unable to care for them. Watoto founders began a ministry branching off their child sponsorship program called Baby Watoto to nurse these babies back to health.

And here I sit in my comfortable living room, complete with television, ice cold glass of water, full stomach, and warm blankets galore.


HOW do I sit here in my abundance and continue on as I always have? Pursuing what? Home ownership? A car manufactured in this decade? More space for my ever growing collection of shoes? It's interesting to notice the alterations God is making in my spirits. I was just sharing my experience with clearing out my overflowing closets and being convicted, and now this? And for weeks now, each time I turn on the faucet and let it run freely as I wash the dishes, I have been seen the faces of widows and orphans seeking clean hydration.

And through all of those moments, I hear the words of James 1:27--
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

For now, though, I am praying I won't forget this feeling, this churning in my depths. God, use me, use us for your glory. Mold us to be fit for your plan, for truly affecting your Kingdom. Let us not go on living for ourselves, but willing, truly, wholly willing to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Open our ears and our minds to be in tune with where "our" world is--today and years from now.




"Uncle" Ronny was one of the adult vocalists,
a "parent" to two boys on this 6 month tour, and stayed with us Friday night. 



This, THIS is true worship.

Kevin and me with our household of boys.
Uncles* Mike and Ronny, Justus (13), Peter (11), Brian (11), and David (9).

*All of the children in Uganda refer to adults as Aunty or Uncle out of respect and love. 

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February 25, 2011

The One with the Miracle of Mercy Land

It's hard to know where to begin when it comes to River Jordan's novel, The Miracle of Mercy Land. There is so much emotion, so much suspense, so much frustration, so much beauty, so much triumph.  

This book tells the story of the young woman named Mercy Land who was born and raised on the back rivers of Bittersweet Creek under the faith and wisdom of her Mama and Daddy and her Aunt Ida Mae. Throughout the story, she continually recognizes the impact those individuals have had on her life--on making her who she has become. Mercy has a beauty and softness accompanied by a strength and fierceness that are unrivaled, and she uses her unique mix of character qualities to alter the path of her life. 

 She is committed to her work at The Banner, the Bay City paper, and will go to any lengths to present a full, honest story. Mercy is also influenced by Doc Phillips, editor-in-chief of the newspaper. This old sage and mentor of Miss Land, comes in contact with a book that has the potential for changing his life--and the lives of everyone he's ever met. He and Mercy face impossible decisions, all while fighting the overwhelming pull of the mysterious book. 

Throughout this gripping story of love, of commitment, of heartbreak and restoration, the reader joins Mercy and Doc as they play with destiny in a very real way. 

I highly recommend this novel! Special thanks to WaterBrook Publishing for providing me with this book for reviewing. 


February 23, 2011

The One with My Baking

In case you didn't know this already, I love to bake and cook and create in the kitchen. My love of baking stems back to my toddler days when I would spend hours with Mrs. S, our pastor's wife. At that time, my mom was struggling with debilitating migraines, and Mrs. S stepped in to take care of me on various afternoons. She let me help her bake up numerous batches of her famous chocolate chip cookies, teaching me how to measure and stir, all the while instilling in me a love for the kitchen.


I fostered my love of baking for the next many years of my life, but it wasn't until I got married that my inner chef was truly unleashed. I give my darling husband credit for teaching me the art of cooking. I was a recipe-only cook before him, but now I'm creating my own recipes left and right. A little of this, maybe a little of that. The trick is documenting exact amounts of my random use of ingredients. :) 


These past few years, I've watched hours of cooking shows, read countless cookbooks, and searched hundreds of amazing recipe blogs. I've learned my own techniques from watching the pros and discovered my favorite resources along the way. 


In case you've never visited my recipe blog (www.adorkablerecipes.blogspot.com) or it's been a while, you should really check it out. Between our new Canon Rebel, my growing photography skills, and my increased drive to create in the kitchen, The Adorkable Recipes is quite the happening place. 


linked up with The Goodwin Family's Wednesday's Walk

February 21, 2011

The One with Too Much Stuff

I'm blessed. Or a bit materialistic. Or both. This past week, I have spent hours going room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet in an effort to rid ourselves of the stuff that has built up over the months. 


Currently, I am overwhelmed by the pile of bags and boxes that sits by my back door. I am stunned by the gifts we've been given, the funds we've had to accumulate so much. Yet, I'm also looking at the face of greed and selfishness, and I just want it OUT. 

Rid me of this, dear Jesus. 

No, having "things" doesn't automatically make me a sinner. And although I never went to the store or the garage sale chanting, "More, more, more!" the pile tells me otherwise. Why did I ever need two extra drawers and a second closet for all of my clothes when so many people are barely covered by tattered tshirts? Why do I have 8 sweatshirts and almost that many coats when thousands fall asleep freezing at night? 

Dear Jesus, thank you for bringing me a new awareness of your heart, your world. Move me to make a real difference. When I want something new, bring someone else's need to mind. Instill in me a constant attitude of contentment. Please, Lord, don't let me forget this feeling.

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February 19, 2011

The One with the Huge Savings!

Now that you know I'm a penny pincher, you might have guessed I'm not a big fan of shopping. I love grocery shopping--I really do!--but I've never been anything close to the typical female shopaholic. When I do feel like shopping, I love going it alone--with my goal in mind and no reason to feel like I'm holding others back. I could spend half an hour looking through one sales rack, after all. My mom has always been my favorite shopping mate, most likely because I learned my habits from her. :) 

Yesterday morning, I had a wonderful date with myself and Kohl's. After spending an hour last week purging my dresser of clothes I haven't worn in years, shouldn't wear again, or are around just for sentimental purposes and have a few too many stains. It was a good feeling. (And I'm sure Kevin will appreciate having half of his dresser back. Yeah, it was bad.) What better way to celebrate that multi-pile purge, than to take yourself on a little clothes shopping spree?! 

Armed with a list, a 30% off coupon, and my gift cards, I was totally stoked. I quickly found the tank tops I desperately needed--and they were 50% off! (Seriously, you should have seen what I was wearing before. blech.) For the next hour, I pushed aside hanger after hanger on the 5 racks of 70% and 80% off sale items. I even pursued the shoe section and came up super lucky! New Balance running shoes--one pair!--a size 8!--for $21! woah! 

In the end, with all of my gift cards and discounts, I spent $17 and saved $360! Four beautiful blouses. Running shoes. Two tank tops, a bra, and a belt. I say that was a morning well-spent.  


February 18, 2011

The One with the Window Shopping

I'm a window shopper. I enjoy going into a mall or a department store or even a furniture store and just looking. I can try on outfits, imagine that new couch in my living room, or become emotionally attached to the latest food processor, but when it comes time to check out, I can walk away having not spent a dollar

This is a good thing. It's wonderful to have self-control, right? And to get to spend time with my favorite companion (or my mom :D) while walking the mall is a bonus. I am totally ok with day dreaming and never opening my wallet.

But this is also a bad thing--for one reason. My husband and I share a bank account. Since I'm the tight pursed-one, I tend to call the shots on how we spend our money. This isn't always the way it should be. Sometimes I make the decisions because he leaves it up to me or because he asks. Other times, though, my domineering side comes out and wam! bam! I take over. Not. cool. Besides this small rather large weakness of mine, the never-spending-money-always-window-shopping thing keeps my wonderful husband from being able to spoil bless me with a gift now and again. He loves buying me things. And I never let him. 

Why would anyone do that? 

I'm convinced, I'm a little insane at times. 

However, in the moments when my window-shopping is in a mode of positive fun, I love browsing Craigslist or Amazon or CSN stores and dreaming till my heart's content. One particular item that could only ever be in my dreams is this Eames lounge chair. wowzers. Can you imagine the stress relief of stretching out in that chair? oh. my. 

But, like I said, I can't spend money. Or at least I can't spend my money. Which is why I can confess that I'm about to take myself on a little Kohl's shopping spree with the Christmas gift cards Mom and Dad gave me along with my 30%-off-everything-in-the-store card. There are a few essentials I need--such as white tank tops/undershirts. I have three right now. But none of them are white. Gross, much? 

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February 17, 2011

The One with Our Love Story. [part 5]

If you've been reading along as I retell our love story, hand written by our Great God, I hope you've enjoyed it. To catch up, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and The Proposal.


And here we are, six and a half years, two college degrees, one white dress, and 2-1/2 years of marriage later. He's still hilarious. I'm still a spaz. He still calms me like no other. I still make him chuckle. It's a beautiful thing to be in love.

We've had our share of hard times--what do you expect from a relationship between two hard-headed, Type A, "I'm always right", my-way-or-the-highway firstborns? But WE are exactly what God wants us to be. He's the logical to my emotional, the strong to my weak, the procrastinator to my over-achiever, the peanut butter to my jelly. 

He's my lobster


I love you, Babe.

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The One with Our Love Story. [part 4]

continued from our love story [Part 1] [Part 2] and [Part 3].  

The Perfect Proposal
August 21st, 2007

as recorded by Melanie just days later.

Melanie had spent the evening at Kevin's house and around 10:30pm he was driving her back to Somerset Beach Camp (where she lived and worked for the summer). He started reminiscing about his childhood years spent there, and they both agreed that it was a blessing to have shared a summer of camp counseling alongside one another. As they were pulling into the drive, Melanie suggested they go for a walk on the trails around the lake since neither of them had done so in 2 years. They made their way out to “The Point” (a narrow jut of land in the middle of Mission Lake), and Kevin's arms were immediately wrapped around her.  As they were standing there in the cool fog, hearing the water lapping against the shore, and lovingly gazing into one another's eyes, they realized what a perfect night it was. 

For nearly a half hour Kevin went on and on about how much he was blessed by Mel. He told her how he had always had confidence in their relationship, and that God had granted him complete peace about their future together. After a few more precious moments Kevin said, "But there's one more thing left to do." With that, he got down on one knee and said, "Melanie Marie, will you marry me?" Melanie responded quickly with a gleeful "Of course!"

He placed the ring on her finger, but since it was dark she didn't bother looking at it right away. When she finally asked to see it, he shone the flashlight on it and tears rushed to both of their eyes.  The white gold that wrapped around the central diamonds and the eight smaller gems flanking it on either side was exactly what Melanie would have asked for if she could have come up with the image of that perfect symbol of everlasting commitment.  For the remainder of their time together, they laughed, shared their dreams, and embraced the moment and one another. It was absolutely perfect!

February 16, 2011

The One with Our Love Story. [part 3]

continued from [Part 1] and [Part 2]

All my family ever heard about was "Kevin this" and "Kevin that." Things really turned a corner when my birthday rolled around. Kevin woke up at 7:20 to meet me in the DC with a birthday card. So sweet. He left a note on my chemistry seminar door that say, "Happy Birthday, Melanie. She's 19 today." He passed a cute note to a mutual friend who left it for me to find on my dorm room desk after class. (He was encouraging me to leave my homework for later and enjoy the night. Little did he know he would be trying to get me to relax for the rest of his life.) And then he came with me a few friends to a Sanctus Real concert. (Unfortunately, we were the only people at the concert, but it still rocked.) 

A week before Thanksgiving Break, I was working on a big research paper in the library...on a Saturday night. (I seriously don't know what this guy saw in me. I was lame.)  Every 10 minutes I'd check my email and have another one waiting from him. He was so distracting. I was completely intoxicated with him. Finally, he decided we "needed to talk." I met him in the lounge of his smelly dorm building, thinking the worst. (Thinking the worst is my default. Not the best habit to have.)

He sat me down and said, "I don't want to rush you, but I want you to know I'm ready to take our relationship to the next step. I would like to date you, Melanie, but I will wait for you as long as you need. Go home for break and think about it. We'll talk when you get back." 

That was the longest holiday break of my college career. I was thinking, mulling, talking to family and friends. When I had made my decision, I had to sit in a car for close to 8 hours (rather than 4-1/2) in Thanksgiving traffic. It was torture

We pulled back onto campus, and I called him up immediately. We met in the Cougar Den--the little "cafe" connected to the DC. I told him, "YES!" as soon as we sat down. We talked for quite some time about who knows what, and on our way back to our dorms, I asked, "So now what?" I had no idea what to expect, what to do next, what was "supposed" to happen when you're dating someone. Kevin chuckled and said, "Don't worry about it. Just keep being you and the rest will fall into place." 

So that's what I did.

Read Part 4 HERE.

this post linked up with The Goodwin Family's Wednesday's Walk
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February 15, 2011

The One with My Valentine's Day Top Ten

1) We spent time snuggling on the couch and reading. 

2) Kevin wrote a little something for me on his blog. 

3) There was no pressure. 

4) I told Kevin he could pick out my clothes for the day, and he did a great job. 

5) I got to wear a skirt!

no. not this skirt. but I hadn't seen this picture in years 
and I thought it was appropriate. circa 2005.

6) The sun was out and it was warm enough to go without a heavy coat (yes 38 is warm). 

7) We had a lunch date. Because we savor our evening down time at home. 

8) Our friends, Josh and Amanda, recommended this great new pizza joint. It was our 5th year of the find-a-new-pizza-place-for-Valentine's-Day tradition. 

9) After our delicious pizza where I didn't over-eat (for once!), we went window shopping at the mall. It was lovely--strolling hand in hand, taking our good ol' time, people watching, Teavana tea sipping, and book browsing. *love*

10) It was my 7th with my first and only Valentine


linked up with Oh! Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday

The One with Our Love Story. [part 2]

continued from [Part 1]

Kevin and I had become good friends that first week on campus. He was a "local"--and a very smart one at that--so getting his help to find my way around campus, to edit my first college papers, and to tell me no one uses floppy disks anymore was much appreciated. He was super funny and really easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable and totally at ease--not an easy feat, people, not at all.  

So when this guy called me right before my choir retreat and asked if I wanted to have dinner with him in the DC (dining commons) I didn't think twice. Of course I could eat my dinner with the one person who seemed to be able to calm me. My mind was going a hundred miles an hour by the time I met up with Kevin, and never once did I think he wanted to have dinner with me because he liked me. 

I was oblivious, and honestly, it was probably better that way. 

For the next month, Kevin kept showing up. We had a class together a couple times a week, so we always sat beside each other. He came over to visit "my floor" (why would he come to visit me? We were just friends.) during "open hours" each week. He invited me to his birthday party that his college friends were throwing. I declined because I had "too much homework." 

(Side note: To this day, he's still upset I didn't go to his party. I confessed that the reason I didn't want to go was because I wasn't a part of "the group" that was going to be there. I don't like feeling awkward, so I avoided it altogether. Now, I feel a little bad.) 

At the end of October, our Core Group headed 4 hours north for a 3 nights of straight-up rustic camping. No tents, no toilets, no electricity. One tarp. Some rope. An outhouse overlooking the river. AT THE END OF OCTOBER IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN. It was freaking cold, my friends. Despite the awful sleeping conditions and the frigid temperatures, I still had a great time--solely because Kevin volunteered to do every activity with me. We scrubbed potatoes together, we killed the dinner chicken together (you read that correctly), we washed dishes together, we canoed together. And yet, throughout the entire weekend as we made references to our future, I was very deliberately referring to our separate futures. No leading on, here. Nuh uh. 

The next week, I started realizing what everyone else had seen weeks earlier. I was smitten. 

more to come. tomorrow....

read part 3 HERE.

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February 14, 2011

The One with Our Love Story. [part 1]

I didn't date. 

When I entered high school I knew I was joining the masses in their hormone-infused lifestyles. I had seen all the movies, watched all the shows. I knew what dating was all about, and frankly, I thought it was ridiculous.* Even as a 14 year old, I knew I didn't want to date. To me, the point of dating was to find the man you're going to marry, and there was no way in heck I was going to get married in high school (or even shortly thereafter). Rather than put myself through the emotional wringer of high school dating, I opted out. I made my own decision. I went against the flow. I was not going to date in high school.

*(Note: please don't take my personal opinions as offensive. I am talking about my life and my situation alone. I don't think dating is inherently wrong. I am just thankful for my naive perspective that saved me from pain.)

The plan went off without (much of) a hitch. Sure, there were times I wanted a boy to like me, to show interest in me, to ask me out. After all, I was still a teenaged girl. I didn't receive many opportunities to turn a guy down (not that I was looking to disappoint a boy). I'm pretty sure most guys knew me and my pure reputation, and they figured "Why bother?" I was totally ok with that. Once or twice my "I don't date in high school" mantra came in quite handy, and once or twice I felt a twinge of "I wish I could change my mind, just for a minute." But I came out the other end, heartbreak free, and I consider myself very blessed.  

Then, on Labor Day 2004, I moved into Gamma 213 on the campus of Spring Arbor University. Suddenly, it hit me. I was no longer IN high school. I had no defense! What would I do? What would I say? How would I keep from getting hurt? Would I find The One? Was he walking by me right this very minute? ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

*deep breath*

I put the thought aside and figured I'd just go with the flow. (Yeah, right, Mel, who were you kidding? Go with the flow???) It worked. For about a week. 

I found myself being hotly pursued by two guys--one a freshman, who intrigued me with his "godliness"--and one was a junior, who intrigued me with his "junior-ness." I was flustered and honored and totally confused. I had every girl on my floor listen to a voice message by Mr. Junior and give me advice. I had no clue what to do. But then, my roommate asked me a very good question: "Melanie, you have to decide if what you're feeling is attention or attraction." Hmmm. 

A few days later, I recognized that I was just giddy because of the attention I was receiving, not at all because I was attracted either of them. (Though the ice cream did help, Mr. Junior.)

At the end of that first month on campus, I was getting packed for a choir retreat. I was stressed trying to finished ALL of my homework by 4pm*, pack, eat dinner, and meet the bus in time. Out of nowhere I received a phone call. It was this guy from my Core Group.

*yes, this was a crazy deadline I had placed on myself.

to be continued

Read Part 2 HERE.

February 13, 2011

The One with a DaySpring GIVEAWAY!

Between guest posting on (in)courage, participating in a wonderful ongoing book club discussion of Ann Koskomp's One Thousand Gifts, and having the joy of reviewing a DaySpring product (seriously, those Mr. and Mrs. mugs are just perfect!), I thought it would be the right time to share the love with all of YOU!

Because it's that Valentine's-Time-of-Year, because I've been eating far too many cookies, because the community I've discovered in (in)courage is exactly what I needed, I present to you--a giveaway!

one $20.00 gift card to the DaySpring Online Store! 
How amazing is that?!

Perhaps you'll put your gift card towards a set or two of DaySpring's gift card sets (it's what they're known for afterall!)

Maybe you'll spoil yourself with a beautiful piece of jewelry, like something created by Lisa Leonard just for DaySpring. 

Or, maybe you'll seek a soul retreat by selecting one of the many books listed in DaySpring's collection, such as One Thousand Gifts or Jesus Calling (my favorites!)

The choice is yours! (though I'm sure, if you're anything like me, it won't be an easy decision!)

Please note: The winner will receive one $20.00 gift card, courtesy of (in)courage and DaySpring. Shipping is not included and will added to the cost of your purchase. 

How to Enter
First Entry: Leave a comment telling me which DaySpring item you're loving! (Be sure I can find your email address in your comment or your profile.)

Second Entry: Follow my blog and leave me a comment telling me so (or tell me if you already follow.)

Third Entry: Subscribe to my blog feed and comment to let me know. 

Fourth Entry: Follow me on Twitter @adorkablemel. Leave a comment with your twitter name so I can check out your twitter feed too!

Fifth Entry: Tweet about this giveaway including @adorkablemel and @incourage in the tweet. 

Giveaway ends Wednesday, February 16th @ noon. 
Winner will be announced by Thursday, February 17th @ noon. 

Full Disclosure: I received this gift card and the Mr. and Mrs. Mug set in exchange for a product review from (in)courage.

February 12, 2011

The One on the Foresight of Jesus

Today I have the honor of guest posting over at one of my favorite blog communities--(in)courage. Won't you visit me there?

As I opened my favorite devotional (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young), I read these words that went straight to my heart:
"Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don't know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith--not by sight. This doesn't mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul."
Oh, Jesus, how perfect those words fit the needs of my spirit today.
....read the rest of this post over at (in)courage.


February 11, 2011

The One with the Mr. and Mrs.

We love to be together, him and me. 
No pretenses, no plans, the whole day free. 
Sometimes we talk.
Sometimes we dream. 
Sometimes we argue a bit. 
But it's always the best, even put to the test, when it's just my husband and me. 



I have always said I'd rather be with the one my heart loves--even on the worst of days--than with anyone else in the world. I am so blessed to have him. We are a perfect team. (We really need jerseys.) 

We enjoy just being together--particularly with a mug of hot tea or coffee. Last Christmas I attempted to decorate personalized "Husband" and "Wife" mugs. Unfortunately, the writing instrument I choose was not intended to last through a washing. Bummer. But when I saw DaySpring's "Mr." and "Mrs" mug collection, I knew I had found what I was looking for.


Not only are the mugs adorable and matchy-matchy, but the inside rim hides a Scripture reminder, and the bottom of the mug holds a secret heart. In addition to these adorable mugs that will likely be used every day for the rest of our lives (or until I break one of them), (in)courage sent me a perfect coupon book and a Mr./Mrs. Journal. It's like they KNOW me or something. :) 


It doesn't really matter if it's the Valentine's-time-of-the-year or not, this little gift set is the perfect way to keep the health of your marriage at the forefront of your mind. 


Thanks, (in)courage for providing me with the gorgeous gift set. 

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February 9, 2011

The One with the Ache and the Glory

My heart is utterly broken for the loss that our friends' families have been experiencing since last weekend's surprise snow storm. Upon our arrival from our Dare2Share teen conference, we received word that a former SBC co-worker's new bride had been killed in a snowy car accident. Just moments after hearing that devastating news, we were sent to an online newspaper article* depicting a second local accident. Another young woman--this one 37 weeks pregnant with her first child--had had her life taken after a semi truck crashed into the side of the stopped mini van. Though I only knew this couple from one encounter, I know the husband's brother and his wife, as well as his parents quite well. 

Once again. 

Over the last couple days, updates have been posted to facebook and Chad's blog depicting the story of his newly born daughter, Miranda. The baby was delivered after her mother died, leaving her without a heartbeat. The team of doctors and nurses re-started her heart and put the fragile girl on a ventilator. She was also put on a body cooling treatment for the duration of her 3 day life in hopes of stopping the swelling and damage to her brain. 

Last evening, Miranda Evangeline was disconnected from life support

Thousands were praying for this precious baby girl, and reading Chad's unwavering faith in the Almighty God moves me in the very depths of my being. To be stricken with grief. To lose the one who completes you. To be the survivor. To hold your new baby girl all alone. To say goodbye to that precious gift from God so quickly. All the while praising God for his grace and his goodness. Oh, to watch as Chad sets an example of what it means to learn to be content whatever the circumstances.

Chad saysThis has been the worst three days of my life, and yet, at the same time, it has been three glorious days, full of shekinah glory.

My heart will keep aching, but my soul will find reason to be thankful--even in the midst of grief and loss. I am praying the same for Chad and Sara's family.

*for a complete listing of the news articles click here.

February 7, 2011

The One with the Dare to Share

For the third year in a row, we took our students to an awesome youth conference run by Dare2Share Ministries. This year, the theme was UnTour

Through worship, step by step training in sharing the Gospel, soul-searching dramas, real-time challenges, hilarious skits and riveting speakers, students (and adults) are given the encouragement, the tools, and the practice they need to become disciple makers. And that is our purpose as Christ followers--make disciples who make disciples (aka "The Great Commission"). If we call ourselves Christians, we are commanded to do ALL we can to keep everyone we know from an eternity in Hell--separated from God. We have the best news in this world. Why keep it to ourselves?

Because we'd make a fool of ourselves in front of our friends?
Because someone would think we're weird? 
Because we'd do anything to be cool? 

(ps. This goes for us adults too.)

We must learn to embrace being...
un.cool - God using uncool people to accomplish his misson
un.alone - always in fellowship with the Trinity
un.afraid - taking a stand & defeating giants in their lives
un.leashed - motivated & mobilized to share the unstoppable Gospel message

I'm so proud of our students for their bravery as they called and texted their friends, and I'm asking you to pray for them as they return to their school campus and bring the Light into the darkness.

Throughout the weekend, all twenty-seven (!) of us managed to have TONS of fun. We are so appreciative of the six adults who drove and chaperoned the event--without them we could never have managed. (In case you were wondering, leading a group of 27 is way way way different than the group of 8-10. *whew*)

My husband is an outstanding leader. He was balancing so many plates all weekend (including my emotions at times!), and he did it with such grace and confidence. We were all in good hands. Besides his directing abilities, he is just plain amazing at holding the attention of this large group and is totally ok with making a fool of himself to direct the group in hysterical antics. 

I give you The Roller Coaster Flash Mob.

chink, chink, chink, chink....




I was cracking up as I was taking those pictures and watching the reactions of the crowd (and knowing I would never be brave enough to pull something like that off so well.)

(All that to say, I love you, Kevin. I'm so proud.)

Thanks to everyone who prayed for us this weekend--for our hearts, for the work of the Spirit, and for our travel. We made great memories, and (hopefully) a significant impact eternity. 

February 6, 2011

The One with in Face of Life (and Death)

What am I striving for? Why do I rush into the day, so eager to jump into the predictable routine

Exercise. Breakfast. Shower. Tea and email. To Do Lists. Groceries. Meal Planning. Sitting. Talking. Cleaning. Sleeping. 

And why do I run from hardship, pain? From the illnesses, the loss, the arguments, the cancer? These are the evidences of my humanity--that my life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Why do I feel the need to accomplish A, B, and C before death takes me? Why do we pray for more years? To do what? Clean more toilets? Wipe more runny noses? Do more laundry? Work longer hours? Sit in front of the tv? 

What is it that God is calling me to? I am not asking for a glimpse into His plan for my life, but seeking the way in which He is calling me to live my days? Even if tasks are hard or monotonous, painful or exciting--HOW shall I live?

In the first chapter of One Thousand Gifts, Ann walks into the face of her pain, her questions, her anger, her doubt, her sin. And she's dared me to do the same.

But don't worry. Hope is coming. It's in the thanksgiving. (chapter 2).

The challenge of our humanness is to be satisfied with God, and what he gives. How often are we content with what He has placed in our lives? Honestly? Almost never. We are the daughters of Eve through and through as we reject the spirit of thankfulness and beg for that one other piece of fruit.

But, friends, in the midst of the loss, we are being beckoned to acknowledge the ONE who is in control. We should not seek lives free of suffering, free of challenge, free of frustration.

Because only in the darkness can you recognize the Light and truly appreciate its gift and its presence.

When difficulties confront us, we are given the choice to live in resentment or in gratitude. Oh, Melanie. What will you choose? Right now?

February 4, 2011

The One with the Crunchy Granola

Today I am excited to post one of my recent recipe favoriets in honor of the Project 31's Share a Recipe. In case you didn't know, I'm quite the obsessed baker & home cook extraordinaire. :) I have a recipe blog chock full of sweet treats and savory dishes that have been created or tried and true by moi. You should totally check it out. :) 


Crunchy Almond Granola by Adorkable Recipes. 

I love granola--particularly the homemade variety. You can pick and choose the perfect ingredients for your granola, controlling the amount of sugar as you go. The potential mix-ins for granola are almost limitless--chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, other dried fruits, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, et cetera. So good. 

I have made Peanut Butter Banana Granola and Pumpkin Granola many times and I love both recipes (especially the peanut butter one!) But alas, it was time for something new. I looked up gads of granola recipes, combined the elements of my favorites, and developed this crunchy mixture. 

It's perfect--chock full of nutrients from the oats, the almonds, the sunflower seeds and the flax seed. And the sugar level is relatively low. I cut a quarter cup of brown sugar out the recommended amount and this is still quite sweet.

I hope you enjoy!

Crunchy Almond Granola
yields: 8  cups

4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp whole flax seed, ground
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey 
2 tsp vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (or neither!)

In an extra large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds, flax seed, cinnamon, and salt. Combine completely. 

In a separate small bowl, stir together brown sugar, oil, honey and vanilla. Pour wet mixture onto the dry ingredients and use a large spoon to stir, stir, stir until thoroughly incorporated.

Spread the granola onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir gently. Bake another 10 minutes. Stir gently. If granola is not browning yet and seems to be extremely moist still, bake another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Granola will still be slightly moist. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Granola will be perfectly cooked and crunchy!

Serve atop a dish of yogurt or straight from your hand to your mouth. Yum!

linked up with Project 31 on She Breathes Deeply.

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February 3, 2011

The One with THE Blizzard

You would have thought people in Michigan were afraid of snow or something. The way everyone was talking about THE BLIZZARD was almost hilarious. Of course, I know there are hazards and dangers and power outages that accompany blizzardous conditions, but let's pull on our boots and greet this thing with open arms, people! 

I was totally excited about the prospect of 12-18 inches of snow in our area! (Most likely because I had no responsibilities to force me to leave home in the weather, so I could sit under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and watch the snow roll in. My dad, on the other hand, is the guy who HAS to be out IN the blizzard repairing power for the rest of us. Thanks, Dad.) We are in the ONLY town in Michigan that snow seems to ignore. It's a real bummer for this snow-belt-born-and-raised girl.

The "blizzard" came and went and only deposited 5 or 6 inches of snow. I was not impressed. With the crazy wind gusts, though, we had piles of snow 3 feet deep which really cause some unpleasant issues. Our front AND back storm doors were glazed over with frost and the snow had started piling up in between the storm door and the solid door. Great. 
The roads still aren't perfectly cleared, and schools called off two days in a row. We waited until today--for the snow to end--to start shoveling our way out. Some of the men of the church had plowed our driveway for us (which was totally great!), but unfortunately that left us with 3 feet of iced-over snow packed in front of our garage door and blocking the sidewalk entrance. After my morning work out with Jillian, I pulled on a jacket and started digging. I wanted to contribute to the process because I knew Kevin would do the entire MILE of the back walk way. (Not quite a mile. But it's looong.) The job was MUCH more difficult than I anticipated and my arms are barely operable at this point. I think my heart rate is still elevated thanks to lifting four hundred pounds of snow. Just for 30 minutes. Kevin was out there for an hour. He's my HERO.

I made him hot chocolate. 

Here's praying all of the roads we're about to travel are cleared as we caravan 27 people down to the Dare2Share conference in Columbus. I REALLY don't want a repeat of last year (<--longest post ever). 

(wow. I am ALL about the caps locked today, eh?)

February 1, 2011

The One with One Thousand Gifts

I am so thrilled to be joining the (in)courage community of Christ-centered bloggers on a life changing journey through Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. Though I've only read the first few pages, I am certain that Ann's words are going to move in the depths of my spirit and be a tool God uses to transform my life. I am so eager to take the dare to live fully right where I am--to wake up to a thousand blessing all around me. 

Maybe you would like to join the Bloom (in)courage book club along with me? Each week, Angie Smith and Jessica Turner will discuss the contents of these rich chapters with Ann Voskamp herself! There will be discussions on Facebook, Blogfrog, and the Bloom webpage, as well as on a weekly vlog. I can't wait to participate in this adventure with hundreds of other women who are seeking God's fullness for their lives.  

The One with the 10 Healthy Life Tips

It has been six years since I started my journey of living a healthy lifestyle. I don't want to spend my life pursuing the latest diets or counting calories--although those can be great ways to jump-start weight loss. I am learning the keys to moderation in eating and in exercise, and I pray you can do the same. I want to create a temple worthy of my God.  These tips are simple, but they've worked for me. 

Top Ten EASY Ways to Live {a little}Healthier
Top Ten {Tuesday} 

1. Drink water. For real. Most of the "hunger pangs" I feel are just my need for water, not food. Water is cheap--a great way to save money while eating out. I (almost) never order a beverage at a restaurant. And if you are able to train yourself to become a true "water drinker," I encourage you to buy a nice reusable water bottle.   My water bottle is my fifth appendage now. I can't leave home without it. If I forget said water bottle, suddenly I feel stranded in the Mojave Desert. It's awful.   

2. Exercise every morning. Walk. Try yoga. Challenge yourself to a jog. Borrow a workout dvd from the library (and then buy a couple you really like.) Force your spouse to join you in your workout efforts. :D At this point in my years of exercise experience, I'm convinced exercise is not so much about weight loss/maintenance, as it is about energizing your body for the day and filling you with exciting endorphins. Those fitness gurus aren't kidding. Even on mornings when I really rather be lazy, I always choose to work out because I know I'm going to feel 100% better. I've never regretted a workout. 

3. Chose Diet Soda. There is no way I'm going to drink my precious calorie allotment. :) Most of the heavy pop drinkers I've known have lost pound after pound once giving up the full-strength-pop addiction. I'm sure it's because I grew up drinking diet, not regular, but the regular stuff is about 200 times too sweet for me now. I bet you can retrain your taste buds!

4. Eat Breakfast. Get that metabolism going! Oatmeal (filled with raisins or apple pieces or walnuts!). Peanut butter toast. Hearty cereal with skim milk. An English muffin and an egg. 

5. Learn to love apples (or other fruit) as a staple snack option. 

6. Limit eating out--specifically fast food restaurants. Try hard to plan ahead for the day--pack a sack lunch and even a few baggies of healthy snacks. By making your own meals, you can know for sure what's in the dishes--sugar and salt and fat levels are controlled by you. (and you'll save a LOT of money.)

7. When you do swing through the drive through, choose items from the dollar menu. Your pocket book and your stomach will thank you. The portions are smaller and much more appropriate and the prices are a bit more reasonable. 

8. Learn to love fresh veggies. Keeping sliced carrots, celery, cucumber, green pepper, or broccoli in airtight containers in your refrigerator makes you much more likely to eat them when you're feeling "snacky." Try a homemade hummus for a healthy and filling dip!

9. Don't deprive yourself of a craving--just eat it in moderation. I have found whenever I say, "Absolutely NO Cookies" I end up gorging myself in a moment of weakness. Knowing I can have cookie whenever I want, takes away the enticement and leaves me to thoroughly enjoy every bite of the non-forbidden fruit. 

10. If you love popcorn, give the homemade variety a chance. Besides the small amount of oil needed to pop the kernels, I just sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt and I'm good to go. I NEVER thought I'd be ok with anything other than "Butter Lovers," but it's totally great and way more healthy. 

Linked with Oh! Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday.
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