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Fully Present

I learned about living in the present moment from my creative, life-loving Grandma Huston. Oh, no we never had a conversation about it, but just observing her for a day (or even just a good ten minutes!) you would realize that she lived differently. She lived in the moment and said YES to the opportunities brought to her.

One of the ways I saw her model this “embracing of the present moment” was through the Famous Sledding Excursion. As kids, my sister and I watched Grandma Huston grab one of our sleds and sail down the side of the snow covered hill, leaving us both to figure out how to get along with one remaining sled. She was living in the moment and enjoying the sledding adventure with her grandkids… not content to sit on the sidelines and observe, but rather ready to be going down the hill, side by side with one of us (or the both of us crammed on the remaining sled) hearts beating with passion, fun, and adventure in the current moment.

One of the other many ways she displayed this to us was when my sister and I visited her home as kids and played in the woods she had cleared for us. A game of baseball together (using the tree trunks as bases), a sip of sugar water in a special cove she had made into a hide out, and learning to suck the sweet nectar from the honeysuckle– these were all things Grandma did with us, taught us by example. She didn’t just observe or stand by– she was there in the middle of it with us, present. She was an expert at living in the present moment.

In recent years, I called up to invite my grandma to join me for lunch as I stayed at a famous castle for a writer’s retreat that was located not too far from her home. She was quick to say YES to the opportunity presented her and we discovered the castle together, ate luxurious food and laughed– all in the moment. And somehow this adventurous grandma of mine also found out a way to finagle a seat next to the popular author and lead teacher of the event, without batting an eyelash. She sat there and enjoyed herself, even sharing funny stories (that is just how she was) and becoming the life of the party. It’s as if she was able to fully dive into the moment presented her and also fully be herself. I absolutely loved that about her.

Much of Grandma Huston lives on in me– all the way from the creativity that bursts forth from my heart to the gentle tinkle of our laughter (yes my sister and I inherited her giggle- especially when together).  One of the things her life taught me most was to be engaged in the moment– to live fully in the present moment.

Lately, I have seen my own opportunities to live in the present moment crop up in my day to day life. It’s an invitation to fully participate in the present moment. A few of the smaller opportunities being:

Sledding:  (I made sure to bring my own sled 😂) The kids and I raced to go over the jumps and compared how far we could get our sled tracks to go. By participating with them I was not just “hearing” about how awesome the jump was but also experiencing it side by side with them.

Iceskating: Again, resisting the comfortable urge to cheer them on from the sidelines and instead lace up my own pair of skates, identifying with the joy (and frustration at times too) of the experience.  

Laughter moments: It may seem like no big deal, but even just taking a moment to belly laugh with my kids  over silly things they say or faces they make or accents they make up (you can ask my youngest about that last one!)

Karate: Yes, I said Karate! Through a series of events I found myself with a choice— sit on the sidelines and cheer the kids on (no problems with that folks) or participate in class with my kids. I wanted to say YES to that “Grandma Huston moment”– living in the present moment that so innocently presented itself to me. I have to admit it was a bit intimidating taking those first steps… the adults watching, the current class filled with kids, and even the instructors were so young they could probably “technically” be my children! But I am so glad nothing stopped this mama! I was amazed after the 1st class just how much fun we had together and how empowering it is to kick collapsible boards and bring out all your ninja moves with no limits (talk about full out abandonment). I’ve chose to go back again, and again, and again. We are getting in a routine and it is fun and there is nothing like our hearts beating in tandem as we all complete our kicks and at the end of class we high five each other. And, after yesterday’s class, I just realized I am teaching my kids a powerful lesson too, that they can do what they put their mind to and they can always choose to live in the present moment regardless of age, situation or any other factor. That is the lesson of the “Grandma Huston” moment.

This being fully present (in whatever shape or form it presents itself) makes our hearts beat with excitement, passion, adventure. It adds an extra little sparkle to our eyes, a pep to our step (or a sore limp to our step depending on the week at karate! 😂) In fact, it is a bit reminiscent of the verse in John 10:10,

“I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

In Scripture we read many verses about dealing with anxiety and worry. Each time Jesus makes it clear he doesn’t want us to live in a haze of the past and in anxiety for the future. No, instead He wants us to revel in the present moment and all He has done for us through His sacrifice on the cross. We don’t have to wait until we enter those pearly gates to have abundant life- we can have it here and now because of what Jesus has done for us.

I have found that living in the present moment takes a child-like faith (Matthew 18:3). With this faith we can be brave enough to look at the circumstances ahead and the situations in the past and say: I will rest here. I will choose to live in this moment knowing God is taking care of all of my tomorrows as well as all the days past. There is an immense joy and blessing to be found in today and I will not miss my chance to say YES to it and anything else God brings my way.

This week, may you find yourself saying YES to “being fully present” daily. May you recognize the nudge that calls you out to do more than just observe… and may you have the courage to act on it. All we really hold on our hands is the moment of NOW. Trying to hold the past or the future is like trying to hold water. It just trickles out of our fingers… but the water flow of NOW– let’s splash in it, soak ourselves in it, fully immerse ourselves in it. Let’s thoroughly enjoy the time of NOW and saying YES to the “Grandma Huston” moments that come calling in our days.

Until next time,

PS. I would enjoy hearing your stories. ❤ Was there someone who encouraged you to live fully in the present moment? Comment below or message me.

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An Unlimited Supply

What a sweet time of year it is! With treats around every corner, it’s easy to keep reaching for a sweet, but what happens when they run out?

Growing up, we had a crystal cookie jar. Yes, crystal! It was impossible to open that jar without alerting my mother (and maybe the whole house) to the fact that I was sneaking a cookie before dinner, which of course was against our rules. Believe me, my sister and I tried everything: muffling the lid with a towel, pulling the lid off quickly, pulling it off slowly. No matter what we did, the clang of the crystal glass would always happen in one way or another causing an echo to ring across the house.  Wherever mom was in the house, we would hear her call out our names and we knew that we had been caught. Rats! 

 As kids probably one of our best dreams would be to have an unlimited supply of cookies in the cookie jar— with unlimited hours of availability. Thank goodness, our parents knew better than to allow us to afford us that luxury as it would not be healthy in the long term. 😆  

But wouldn’t that be just dreamy? A cookie jar that we could reach into that would never run out? I guess the only better thing was a cookie jar with tasty calorie-free cookies! 😉

Well, we do have an “unlimited cookie jar” of sorts. No not a physical cookie jar (I can hear your sighs of disappointment) but rather there is an everlasting container that holds just what we need, and it never ever runs out. In this “jar” we find the unconditional love of God that’s always stocked! It doesn’t matter if it is Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July or just a plain old ordinary day in-between. It’s always stocked— crammed packed— with the unconditional love of God. Now that’s a sweet treat! (And no cavities either!) No matter how many times we dip our hand into this “cookie jar” it will not run out. Even with the crystal laid ringing and alerting others…there will always be more of that sweetness within the jar. And unlike the cookies that were not allowed before dinner, there is never a limit to the amount of times you open this jar of unconditional love or when or where you can access it. Now doesn’t that just make your little seven year old heart sing?  Unlimited cookies of God’s unconditional love! That sounds pretty good.

 Here’s some favorite “Valentine Verses” all about the love of God. (Good news- they apply to us all year long!) 

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

1 John 4:9-10

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” 

Jeremiah 31:3

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

It’s obvious through these verses that God’s love is so GREAT, undeserved, enduring and everlasting. Now, that is one amazing kind of love. In fact, God’s kind of love is referred to as Agape Love. 

Agape Love is the unconditional love of God that’s there for us. No matter what. It’s not an earned kind of love or a falling in love kind of love even though it can feel like that.

It can feel like the excitement like that of a first falling in love yet it outlasts that “newlywed” season and is so much more steady, strong and sure– perhaps like married couples who have proven the test of time.

Have you ever watched the show were teams race around the world completing challenges for the chance at a lump sum of money? The teams, usually made up of couples, either will be teams that work together or attack each other— either to their team’s betterment or their team’s detriment.  There’s often young couples or people deciding if they’re going to marry as they race around the world. And more often than not, because their relationship is just newly starting out— they don’t know how to work together. They often don’t know how to unconditionally accept each other, inspire each other or encourage each other that well. Then every once and awhile there’s an older couple in the race. Perhaps they will not last long on the race because of the physical demands, but the entire time you see them treat their partner well with respect and unconditional love, many times showing and conveying with their words, the importance of the relationship above the race. That kind of love is steady and sure. That’s the kind of love I’ve seen between my grandparents who met when they were in fifth grade and who will soon be celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary. And also my own parents who met as teenagers— set up because they were both those “crazy Christians” of mutual friends. Immediately their relationship was based on the Lord and the passion and fire in their hearts for him. It’s the kind of love I see between my husband and I, as well. It’s a love that grows and love that steady and true. (Remind me to post our story about how we met… it is Ah-mazing!) ❤️

Even though a human can’t ever convey the depth of unconditional love that God can, we can see from this example, how steady, true, strong, and supportive unconditional love can be in our lives. 

So whether you celebrate Valentine’s with your honey after many years of marriage or if you are spending your first Valentine’s with a new special someone or if you’re celebrating with your children, or even celebrating on your own— God’s sweet jar of unconditional love is filled for you. So come take off the crystal lid and dip your hand in and then dip it in again. Grab hold of this sweet love that God has for you. His love is more than enough. His love has conquered oceans and has conquered every problem to reach us. His love is the deepest, steadiest, most true unconditional love that we will ever receive in our lives. 

Thank you God for your unlimited supply of unconditional love for each of us. Thank you that your unconditional love never runs out. It’s not limited to certain times or certain seasons. It’s always there for us. Open our eyes so we can see the truth of this. Speak your words over us so that we can experience your unconditional love in a deeper, fuller, and stronger measure than ever before. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Also, you know how that crystal lid caused a clang to ring out around the house? When we reach for the lid on our “unconditional love” jar, it causes a clang too! People all around us hear it, see us dip our hand into something so wonderful they might not understand it. It’s our opportunity to invite them to the jar of God’s unconditional love. They can dip in too, maybe for the first time experiencing the love of God. Oh, they will be addicted to the sweetness from the start. So invite others to dip into that jar of unlimited supply of God’s love today! 

Until next time, 

PS. Here are a few of our pictures over the years of the kids enjoying Valentine’s. Each year, the kids go down to the table and there’s always something sweet as well as a special book on the table. And don’t forget the special card– it expresses how much we as a parents love and treasure them. And of course, Telly and I exchanged cards as well. What a special day to share the love, not just natural love but the wonderful, unconditional love of God. 

PPS. One of our favorite cookies to reach for in the cookie jar are these oversized soft sugar cookies. They are a family favorite to decorate and enjoy at any time but especially perfect for making a special cookie valentine. ❤️ I dare you to give them a try! 

Or find the recipe online at http://peppermintplum.blogspot.com/2011/03/thick-soft-sugar-cookies.html?m=1 

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Journey On

Bilbo Baggins, who became the unlikely hero in The Hobbit, was completely fine with staying in his underground hobbit home, eating his normal seeded biscuits and buttered scones, wearing his normal outfit and performing his normal routine. In fact, he and his family “never had any adventures or did anything unexpected” (Tolkien, p.15) and they liked it that way.

So how could it be that suddenly he found himself whisked away on a wonderfully dangerous adventure amongst mismatched dwarves where he faced evil forces, unknown dangers, and confronting the notorious dragon Smaug? It was because there was more of a deeper plan for Bilbo than he knew or could see with his own eyes. He was a vital part of a much bigger plan.

Like Bilbo, most of us have found that we don’t want to easily move from our comfortable spot. Whether that means the job you’ve had for years, the place where you live, relationships, or even just the way you handle things— the perspective you have on life and what is expected or not expected of yourself. I believe each one of us has ingrained in us a thankfulness and a contentedness for comfort, routine, and the simple things of life— and that is so, so good. But, I also believe that, like Bilbo, we can hear a new call… deep down in our spirit. A “call” that means we are made for greater things than just our regular routine. Have you felt that call? Maybe it comes in the form of a thought, idea or dream that wakes you up in the middle of the night. Or perhaps it was more subtle, like when engaging with something new your heart just starts to sing… a new passion may be arising- a passion from our King himself. 

Like our fictional friend, Bilbo, we have been called to a higher and different purpose, more than likely something far beyond imagination. Bilbo never even comprehended the adventures he’d go on, the bravery that would rise in his heart, and the way his character would be renewed, changed and challenged.  The Bible says,

“It is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The adventure, the break away from our own life, routine, and “normalcy” is awaiting us. And the good news is it is Holy Spirit led. We don’t know where to start, what to go, what to do… but the Holy Spirit does.

We are being led by the spirit the new things God has for us to do before we walk on from this earthly life, they are being revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Remember the little twinges in our heart for more—the things that clue us into the fact that we were meant for more? That’s the Holy Spirit. It’s His gentle tap tap on our hearts.

“Wake up, sweet one.” He whispers whether we are physically asleep or even just “asleep” in our own normal lifestyle. “Wake up and come with me.”

We rub the sleep from our eyes, or maybe the more stubborn of us will turn around and go back to sleep until that gentle tap tap comes back again.

“Come with me.” He calls again.

“But where? How? Why?” We want all our questions answered before we inch one foot to the ground from beneath our comfortable blankets.

“Come and see.” He says with a sweet smile.

Somehow we know all will be okay. Somehow we have been waiting for this exact moment even though we did not know it. The moment we come alive again. A Great Awakening of sorts.

So, we inch one sock covered foot out from underneath our warm covers. Perhaps, like Bilbo, we look longingly at our warmth, our comfort, our place of normalcy. Will we shirk back and ignore the call or follow?

The Holy Spirit stands there like a gentleman, waiting. No pushing or shoving, but we can feel an urgency from him.

Finally, we sweep ourselves from the warm environment we have been so comfortable in.

We take one step.

His face lights with a smile. “Now let’s go.”

Together, hand in hand, we are led out to the new calling, the new adventure.

Oh, I guarantee just like the fantasyland of Middle Earth, there will be danger. There will be uncomfortable moments. But somehow, we are becoming who we were meant to be, who we really are. And there is no greater joy than to be fully alive, fully who God made us to be.

So we continue step by step on a wondrous journey that not only brings new steps, but also fulfills the longing in our heart that we’ve had all along: To be a part of HIS plan. Our true identity. Our true place.

The very best first step I have found in taking this new journey is: making space for God.

This can look like:

  • Taking a few moments each morning before getting out of bed to ask God His plans for the day
  • Realizing the next time you have that “heart zing” of a new passion for something and paying attention to it
  • Taking the opportunities God sends your way even if they seem out of the norm, uncomfortable, or something you wouldn’t usually be interested in.

In all these things, “Listening” is the common denominator.

Let’s listen for that gentle nudge towards that new path. Let’s be willing to step out from what has been comfortable.

“See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Isaiah 43:19

The awesome thing about this “new thing” God is doing in our lives is it not only transforms us into who God made us to be— but our life is used for His purposes and for His glory— shining the truth to those who wouldn’t have seen the light. It opens new avenues for others to see Christ’s light in us and come to know and love God for themselves. (Matthew 5:16)

Yes, there are others who are dependent on the message He has placed inside of us. They need His light so desperately. So let us go forth knowing that the Holy Spirit will lead us. Our job is to take that first step, to make room for Him. He will continue to lead and guide us. And, what an adventure it will be! And the light… the light that will shine as we journey on and also as we share our stories— that will make all the difference. It will help bring a great ray of Jesus’ light into the world… and as we know the world needs the LIGHT now more than ever before.

So may you be inspired by dear old Bilbo Baggins (it might be time for you to read or re-read that book!) and may you realize that God has great plans for you— adventures! He’s calling you out to a new place… a place where you become who you are meant to be. Let’s take the first step and make room for Him.

Until next time,

PS. I love the worship song “Make Room” by Community Music. Listen to it this week and commit in your heart to acknowledge His ways this week and see where He leads you!

Another P.S. Next blog post I am so super excited to share with you our most delicious sugar cookie & icing recipe as we get ready for Valentine’s Day. (I dare say the recipe would be “Hobbit approved”, those hobbits sure love their snacks)

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Snow Storms of the Soul

Living here in Colorado we are not unaccustomed to a snowy, even at times, blizzard-prone winter (and let’s not discount spring too!) We find ourselves at the beginning of the season, singing the four part harmony of “Snow, Snow, Snow” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, but after the successful or unsuccessful white Christmas, the snow allows for two opportunities: (1) playing in the snow (yes, all the sledding, snowball fights, and building of snowman galore) and (2) becoming discouraged with the amount of snow and frigid days (thankfully Colorado can be quite mild at times, but still…). We are always happy when the ground begins to thaw and that possible “last” snow has passed (even if it is early May- yikes 😮). It’s something akin to the “Long, Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, although not quite as destitute, yet don’t tell our “hope for spring time” souls that, because it sure does feel long and endless. 

It makes me think about Ecclesiastes 3:1 and how Solomon wisely proclaims that “there is a season for everything”. I do enjoy living in a state that experiences four seasons, but what about the seasons of the soul? How do we endure the seasons of challenge, opposition, or disappointment? I saw a quote (although I do not personally know the author) that resonated with my soul:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

LR Knost

I think that could be interpreted as a modern version of what Solomon was advising his readers in Ecclesiastes. There’s a time of all kinds of different seasons of the soul, and situations we face… but we can breathe and hold on through them all. And for us as Christians, we are not merely “holding on” to get through these different times, we are actually being HELD during it all. 

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 

I think about the snow, and snowstorms, and it reminds me of my favorite blizzard (yes, being a Colorado Native I have been in several!):

I remember a blizzard when I was a kid where we all got snowed in at my Grandparent’s farm. Both my family and our cousins’ family made a visit, and before we knew it, large snowflakes started to fall, and fall fast. Hearing the news updates of the conditions of the road, as well as the power going out, caused us to hunker down using candles for lighting and the stove for heat as vast amounts of snow fell. I always remember that night, because as a kid, it was so magical to be able to spend the night at the grandparents (on the couch & floor) snuggled with my cousins for warmth. I remember, even then, writing in my notebook about the experience, knowing it was a special moment in time. After figuring out cold dinners, how to borrow diapers from the neighbor for the baby, and plenty of story telling by the fire–the next morning came, the skies clear. The snowing had stopped. With plenty of shoveling, we were able to four wheel out with an Uncle’s truck and return back home via snow logged roads.

The point of the story being, what could have been a scary blizzard actually ended up being an adventure (as a kid) because we were sheltered, safe, together, and we knew the storm would eventually end. One thing about storms of any kind (as well as seasons of life and situations) is that they are not permanent. Yes, it’s the impermanence of snow and storms that gives our heart courage. During this instance, I’m sure my parents were frazzled about our house, the powerlines, the pipes, etc.— but knowing the snow would soon stop, the roads would soon clear, and things would return to normal— we were able to nuzzle in at our safe place and enjoy a special time inside during the storm. The clouds were white, the snow poured down, the power went out… yet inside, next to that stove we were all nice and cozy. In fact, we all recall that day with fondness because it somehow tore us from the endless marching on of regular days and gave us space for a deep breath and connection together. 

I know in our own lives the storm clouds can gather, situations can pour down that feel out of our control: relationship trouble, finances, health or any situation of sorts. Opposition, anxiety and fear. We feel like we must hold our breath, get through it. But God’s calling to us: 

“I’m here in the storm,” He says and motions us into the old comfy farmhouse. “Come and be safe.” 

We walk, with weary snow-covered steps to the porch, then enter inside stomping our feet as we go.

He has the stove warmed and roaring, the red hot fire in its belly. 

We would peel off layers of jackets, pants, and wet socks. 

He’d snuggle a blanket around our shoulders, light a candle and come sit next to us. 

Slowly, the cold would release from our fingers and feet, our cheeks rosy with warmth from the stove. 

He’d begin to speak and the time of sharing would begin. 

It’s the kind of sharing that would only happen here and now. It’s a treasure of sorts.

We find ourselves less focused on the flicker of the power lines, and instead, focused on the warmth of His presence, and the snap and crackle of the warm fire before us. 

Instead of focusing on the howling of the storm, we hear His voice and His heartbeat in our ear as we lean on Him. 

The place of the storm is transformed into a place of special connection, warmth, and love. 

Instead of fear, we see Him. We feel His love in our hearts, warm as the embers in the fire stove before us. 

I’m starting to learn our times of stormy, difficult weather of the soul is bearable because He is with us in the storm, providing safe shelter and protection. And not just that (like that isn’t enough! 😮) But also he provides His LOVE and the constant companion of His presence.

All fears are gone because Perfect Love casts out fear (1 John 4:8). ❤️

Nothing can separate us from His presence (Romans 8:38). ❤️

So next time the snow flurries start to fly from all angles– sending storms of challenges and opposition— Let’s get to the fire, the warmth, and the safe shelter of His presence. 

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 36:7

It is a place we can live in. 

It’s a place that we can feel at home, safe and free until the storm blows over and the sun comes out. 

Because even then, even in joy, He is with us. 

(For a great companion article to this please check out my last entry https://melanietalevski.com/2021/01/01/a-guarantee-for-the-new-year/

Until next time, 

PS. Here are some pictures of our snow adventures and fun over the years! 

Fun fact: We got engaged in the middle of a huge blizzard here in Colorado in March of 2003. We got over 32 inches of snowfall over 3 days, making it the second snowiest storm in Denver’s history! 😮 

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A Guarantee for the New Year

All around us “Hallelujah” choruses break out— We are done with 2020— bring on the New Year! 

I have always loved how new hope arises at the start of a new year. Around the new year I often like to sit down and record all the best thoughts of the year we are leaving behind and record hopes and dreams for the next year. My eyes are always opened to valuable nuggets from the past year as I go back and do this, but I know most of us are saying “Good Riddance” to 2020. We are ready for a New Year with a new start and along with that hope of the New Year perhaps we’d like some guarantees for 2021…

Like maybe a guarantee that we will be home free from coronavirus 

Or that our local coffee shop will be open for dine in again. 

Or how about a guarantee of a nice vacation— perhaps somewhere tropical? 

Or guarantee of a new house, 

Or return of a loved one. 

Or freedom from an illness… 

What about a guarantee for a year of better health? For ourselves, family and friends. 

Or a guarantee of a good, productive year 

Perhaps finally doing that thing we’ve always wished to do…

Yes I’d like all these guarantees and more… wouldn’t you? 

As much as I wish these things were guaranteed for 2021 the truth of the matter is that a new year will unfold and there is only one thing 100% guaranteed for sure— and that is the steadfastness of God. 

Each Christmas season I find myself meditating on one of Jesus’ names: Emmanuel- God with us. In that name is all the treasure trove, all the help, all the secure protection we could ever hope for. 

God loved us so much He sent His Son— apart of himself— into this dark night— dark world. The Light has come! 

The same is true for us today— His name still is “Emmanuel: God with us”. He is here— in the darkest night— in the moments of 2020 we thought we couldn’t go on. 

And now we can know, without a doubt— 

It is guaranteed 

He will be with us in 2021 too— 

Steadfast to the end. 

Now the truth of that, if we’d just take a moment to mediate on it, will wrap us up in comfort and hope just like a big cozy blanket. Big cozy blankets… they are just the thing we need right now, aren’t they? They are warm and safe. Our kids each received a fuzzy blanket for Christmas, and let me tell you, it is hard to get them out of those things. Once they are snuggled in, reading a book or watching a show, it is a most comfortable spot they are not willing to forfeit easily.

The same can be true of us—sure grab your physical blanket— but also make sure to “clothe” yourself in the peace that comes from meditating on the steadfastness of God. It’s a comfort like no other. It drives away the darkest night, sends fear packing, and brings light into the situation. 

In Psalm 119: 7-12 it says is no where that we can go to flee His presence. There is no year that He is not there. No situation that He’s unaccounted for. 

He is with us. 

And perhaps in these moments of extra challenge— we see His light burn brighter than our eyes would have seen in the normal light of day— it’s in the darkness that our hearts yearn for the Great Light and, just like a cozy blanket, it brings us warmth and comfort to us weary travelers. 

I think of the shepherds— accustomed to roaming the dark fields and guarding their sheep— that night the dark sky lit undeniably with Heavenly Presence and their night of darkness was interrupted by the news of a baby in the manger. 

And the wisemen— their scopes in hand— took in the night sky, yes they had each star memorized. But there— something new— a star— a Presence of Heavenly Glory guiding them to the Christ Child. It interrupted their normal sight for a view of the spectacular that led them to the new king. 

So you see— the darkness— the normalcy— it is interrupted by a Great Light and that light shines even GREATER because so dark was the night all around.  

Perhaps in the darkest night (or a challenging year) where our normalcy is tested— we see Him shine all the brighter. 

We see that He is “Emmanuel- God with us”. 

Nothing (no virus, no lack, no fear or worry) can separate us from His presence— from His love (Romans 8:38-39). And that is about all the guarantee I need for this new year— that I will NEVER be alone. His presence is with me. And just as surely as He is with me, He is with you too. 

So cozy up with the warming truth of that statement— yes drape that warm fuzzy, comfy blanket on your shoulders— and ask God to continue to reveal who He is to you more and more. Ask Him to teach you, to open your eyes in a new understanding. I believe He will. And that truth, it will set our lives ablaze… for when we behold the steadfastness of our wonderful Father, we in turn realize that we are steadfast because we are found in Him. Nothing moves Him, nothing shakes Him. And because we are found in Him, we can be immoveable, unshakeable through the greatest challenges too. 

Yes, it is the best guarantee (only guarantee we can be sure of) is that He is Emmanuel God with us. 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Happy New Year, friends! 

Until next time, 

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An Infusion of Strength

One of the best cups of tea I have ever was from the breathtaking, historic Brown Palace Hotel in Denver at their afternoon Christmas tea. The Brown Palace is featured in many books, movies, and tv series (Hallmark’s Sign Sealed and Delivered being one of them) and with its history dating back to 1892, it has been visited by royalty, presidents, celebrities and the like. And my, it is a beautiful site especially when all spiffed up for Christmas.

Our tradition is going to the Brown Palace for afternoon tea during the Christmas season with the women of our family: my grandma, my mom, myself, my sister, and just recently my oldest daughter. We make sure to dress up and take our time.

Once tea time is announced (it has been reserved for at least a year!) we make our way to the dining area where the quaint tables and chairs are. After cozying up in a spot (some have nooks and crannies) we all order: would it be earl grey, rooibos or perhaps an oolong? And your choice of finger sandwiches: classic cucumber, a turkey with spicy aioli on rye bread, or curry egg salad? (They are finger sandwiches, so try all three!)

We make our selections and settle back to enjoy conversation and the beautiful atmosphere of this historic hotel.

Soon the server arrives with the tea, and after making quite a production (at least it feels that way to me— I do not usually enjoy meals at such a refined place!) the tea is poured and the teapots set to the side. The infusion is the perfect blend— not too strong or too weak. Yes, they are masters at their craft. They also add a little server of real Devonshire cream (shipped from England) and sugar cubes (both raw sugar and the refined white). We use the little tongs to place the proper amount of sugar in our tea cups and add cream if we like, then lift our pinkies and smile as we act like the refined ladies that we are (not). 😆

The rest of our tea time unfolds as if it was straight from the pages of a story book, and far too quickly our appointment is done. But we comfort ourselves with the thought of coming again next year (or one year soon!) and enjoying this special holiday tradition. 

Having tea prepared for you at a fancy tea is much different than trying to make the concoction at home! I just recently experimented with brewing loose leaf tea at home and, without the proper strainer,  I  ended up with tea leaves floating in my tea cup. Yikes! I have since brewed a few more cups and the results have often resulted in too weak of a tea. How long should I let it soak? These things are a mystery to me! What talent goes into making that perfect infusion…

The other day, while enjoying a (imperfectly infused) tea, I sat next to my Christmas tree and the whole house was still and quiet. I don’t know if you value quiet like I do but my, it was just so peaceful! I felt the spirit’s nudging… to get out my Bible in that moment instead of waiting until my usual time before bed. I pulled out my Bible and sped read through the first few verses as if I was on a deadline…. Just grabbing the necessities. 

Slow down, my heart whispered. 

Oh yes, that’s right. This was not a race or a “read quick to absorb main gist of things” situation. This was God’s Word… God’s presence awaiting me here, beside the Christmas tree– with my Bible and weakly infused tea in hand. I took a deep breath and reread the verses, slowly— taking in the details of the angel telling Mary about his plans and vision for her, then the majesty of the birth of Jesus. And you know what? The story came alive. It was the same when I turned to my verses for the day. They spoke softly right into the crevices of my heart— the part of my heart that I didn’t even know was tender, worn, or tired. 

And let me tell you friends, this was seriously no longer than 10-15 minutes (I mean that is only 1/4 of a binge worthy show to watch, right?) and the results were incredible.

I felt that “infusion of strength” inside of me in the form of encouragement, a glow, and excitement for the Word– for God and what He has done and is doing in the world and in my little life.

I was amazed at the results I encountered from that special time away SOAKING in the word and with the Lord. It was just the perfect blend… perfect infusion that I needed for the moment.

Just like how that tea needs just the optimum time to infuse properly we need our own time to let the Word and God’s presence INFUSE into us in the proper measure.

If we allow time for the Word, for time in His presence, His infusion of strength will transfer to us and we will emerge different, new, BOLDER than we were before.

Oh, that time with the Lord is so precious! I now find myself forward to that special “infusion of strength” time again… and again. I still hold onto my nightly devotional routine (because that is just what works for right now) but I am learning to also let God speak to me in random times (not just my scheduled times).

I’m learning the strength that comes from the example of the tea brewing… the proper infusion of the strong tea leaves and the lifeless water to make the perfect blend. The blend that emboldens my heart and sets my heart on His path for the day. Do you know it can be the same for you too? Soon presents will be unwrapped and moments of the content afterglow of Christmas will linger. I plan to take time (maybe while my kids tackle their new lego projects! 😉 ) to grab my Bible and settle in by the Christmas tree. I’ll go in with the purpose to just soak with the Lord, letting Him infuse me with His strength, direction and encouragement. I encourage you to do this too. He knows just what each one of us need!

And, in being realistic…. there are those moments we aren’t able to sit still or quiet ourselves. And that is okay. Perhaps we are in the middle of errands or doing family activities or making a first cup of coffee (or tea) when we feel that gentle nudge on our hearts— the gentle tap of God’s whispered, “I am here”. Even in the busyness, we can acknowledge His presence and let the Lord transfer a bold emulsion of His strength.

Just this week we had one of those nudges of His presence while busy viewing the Christmas lights together as a family. Coming upon a beautiful scene, including the nativity scene, our youngest called from the back seat— “Mom, I feel the Christmas Spirit. Do you feel it?” I took a moment to breathe, to smile, to acknowledge the sweet reminder of His presence there with us even in the midst of the simple notion of looking at Christmas lights. “Yes, sweetie, I feel it…” we proceeded to talk all about Christ– the true Spirit of Christmas. Even in the quick, little things God has a transfer of just the amount of peace, love, PRESENCE that you and I need. 

I encourage you to INFUSE yourself in the word this week and in relationship with God. I get it, there are so many things calling our names…. Deadlines, appointments before the end of the year, children’s school work, not to mention all the things that need to be done for Christmas/New Year…. But this season is precious, so much deeper than any one of us comprehends.

Take time to slow down and savor the “royal blend” our savior Jesus has for you today. You will find it is exactly what you need! 

So grab your tea (or coffee), your Bible and head over to the Christmas tree. Sit there, and even if it is noisy… imperfect, or interrupted, let God speak to your heart through His Word. Let His Word infuse you. It’s the perfect blend every time! 

Here are a few of the scriptures that spoke to my heart the other day: 

Luke 2:1-7

2 Corinthians 13:11

Galatians 5:22

Ephesians 2:14

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 

Until next time, 

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My Top 3 Favorite Fiction Reads of 2020

There is nothing like snuggling up with a good book next to the Christmas tree, warm drink in hand, fire crackling in the hearth. Whether you are looking for a good read for yourself or an inspirational idea for a book to gift, you have come to the right place. I want to share my top three favorite fiction reads of 2020 with you (not necessarily published in 2020, but books I found in 2020!) I hope you pick up a copy, whether through your local bookstore, online retailer, or library to read and be encouraged this season or you can add to TBR list for 2021.

Quite the coincidence (or maybe not– after all they do produce great writing!) all three of my favorite books for this year are by authors who are on “My Top Five Christian Authors List” (along with Rachel Hauck and Denise Hunter).

So let’s get right into it:

BOOK ONE: A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen

First up is my latest read of 2020, A Castaway in Cornwall by author Julie Klassen. It just released December 1st so grab your copy online or request from library as soon as possible!

The main spiritual theme seen in this book is FORGIVENESS: Forgiveness of others and also forgiveness of self.

From the back of the book:

Laura Callaway daily walks the windswept Cornwall coast, known for many shipwrecks but few survivors. She feels like a castaway, set adrift on the tides of fate by the deaths of her parents and left wanting answers. Now living with her parson uncle and his parsimonious wife in North Cornwall, Laura is viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong somewhere again.

When ships sink, wreckers scour the shore for valuables, while Laura searches for clues to the lives lost. She has written letters to loved ones and returned keepsakes to rightful owners. She collects seashells and mementos, and when a man is washed ashore, she collects him too.

As Laura and a neighbor care for the castaway, the mystery surrounding him grows. He has abrasions and a deep cut that looks suspiciously like a knife wound, and he speaks in careful, educated English, yet his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. Their attraction grows, and while she longs to return the man to his rightful home, evidence against him mounts. With danger pursuing them from every side, will Laura ever find the answers and love she seeks?

My review: FIVE STARS! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ This story couldn’t have held me more captive! Julie Klassen takes a different and new turn in this book, adding a huge element of mystery and adventure, in an all new English location. With beautiful descriptions of the scenes off the shores in Cornwall, an action-packed journey to Jersey and two lovable characters who transform before the reader’s own eyes– Julie has a masterpiece on her hands! I enjoyed the book tremendously and felt as if I had journeyed with the characters– identifying with Laura in her need for closure from her past and Alexander in his long journey back home to make things right.

I just found the writings of Julie Klassen the end of 2019 and have blazed through thirteen of them this year! Some of her other books that are my favorites are: An Ivy Hill Christmas (New Release), The Tutor’s Daughter and Girl in the Gatehouse.

Check out https://julieklassen.com for more information!

BOOK TWO: The Number of Love by Roseanna White

This was my very favorite read of 2020! I had never read this author before and have come to find she is now one of my top favorites.

The main spiritual theme of this book is authenticity in relationship with God, relying on God. The main character, Margot, faced tragedy in the book and also wrestled with a time of frustration in not being able to hear from God. The book showcases her struggles when it seems God is silent, her authentic calling out to Him, and His answers for her– mainly through His presence. I felt this was one of the most real portrayals of a Christian walk that I have read in Christian fiction thus far and it resonated with me deeply, especially how the world seemed to come alive again when she found her faith restored in Christ. It also holds spiritual notes of love and loss.

From the back of the book:

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together. 

My review: FIVE STARS! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ (Can I please give 6 or 7? 😉)

Roseanna White’s book is a page turner! With a masterfully crafted plot and characters, she thrusts the reader into the secret intelligence hub of the Admiralty, Room 40: Codebreakers. I found myself enraptured with all the action of intercepted messages, espionage, and a good love story. The main character Margot, was so different from usual heroines with her love for numbers, quirkiness and determination to not fall in love. The love interest, Drake, was swoon worthy as a secret spy and tender brother to his sister, Margot’s best friend. Together they get into quite a tangle, including an unnamed enemy who’s narration shows up through the book causing quite the element of suspense. Things go topsy-turvy and get nitty gritty in this amazing read and this was definitely a page turner– one I couldn’t put down (I truly think I read it in record time 😮). It’s definitely on my re-read list– yes, it is that good!

Make sure to check out Book 2, On Wings of Devotion, and Book 3, A Portrait of Loyalty in the series as well. This is my favorite new series and on my Christmas list this year!

News! Roseanna has a new book, Dreams of Savannah, releasing January 5th.

Find out more about Roseanna and her books at https://www.roseannamwhite.com

BOOK 3, Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt

And while so many books clamored to be named in this third and final book slot, I am always sure to enjoy an Angela Hunt book! She’s been my absolute favorite author since I found her in my college days with The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor series. Lately she is writing Biblical fiction and I loved how each time I read one of her books, my eyes are opened to the historical context of Biblical events (Esther, Bathsheba, Mary of Magdalene, Cleopatra to name a few) and possibilities within a fictional context. (And guess what? I have come to know Angela as a fellow writer by attending her writing conferences in 2017-2019. She’s a creative soul and such a pleasure to know.)

For this specific book, The main spiritual theme of this book is the process from DOUBT to BELIEF. Through the eyes of the disciple Thomas’ sister, Tasmin, and Jesus’ brother, Jude, we see them process the unbelief at Jesus’ transition into ministry and claim as the son of God and go on a journey leading them to their own proclamation of faith.

From the back of the book:

When a miracle-working stranger draws Tasmin’s twin brother away from her side, she becomes determined to win him back. Thomas and Tasmin, twin siblings hired to oversee a wedding feast in Cana, worry when the host runs out of wine . . . until a guest tells Tasmin to have the servants fill the pitchers by the gate with water from the cistern. Reluctantly, she obeys, and is amazed when the stagnant rain water turns into the finest wine ever tasted in Cana. When Thomas impulsively decides to follow the teacher from Nazareth, he and Tasmin argue, and since the twins have been together since birth, Tasmin can’t accept losing her brother to some prophet-magician. Aided by Jude, younger brother to Yeshua of Nazareth, she decides to find the wandering group of idealists and do whatever she must to mend her fractured relationship with Thomas and bring her brother home.

My Review: FIVE STARS! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️I absolutely love how reading this book opened my eyes to the troubling doubt that Jesus’ own brothers (and sisters) could have had about him being the Son of God. The book includes Jesus’ first miracle–the turning of water to wine– and the author is very careful to have Yeshua’s dialogue only come straight from the Scriptures (keeping it accurate and unpolluted). Hunt also weaves a fictional story of what Thomas’ twin could have been like, and her own process of coming to believe in Jesus as the son of God. So much action, history, and excitement are included in these pages making it a stellar read.

News! Angela Hunt has a new book, A Woman of Words (Jerusalem Roads Book 3), featuring a fictional account of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Matthew’s retelling of Jesus’ Ministry, coming out May 4th. (Did I mention her Biblical fiction is just soooo good?! 😉)

Find out more information at https://www.angelahuntbooks.com

So, as you can see, I gave each of these books FIVE STARS and I am very picky with my book ratings. Not many books I rate get more than a 4 or 4.5. (Ha ha!) So that shows you the caliber of these wonderful reads. Check my profile out at Goodreads Link at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/74295832-melanie-talevski to see more of my reads for 2020.

Happy reading!

Until next time,

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An Unexpected Gift

I have to say that unexpected gifts are the best, wouldn’t you agree?  I will always remember the Christmas that I received the best and most unexpected gift…

I heard my sister’s soft socks muffled on the upper stairway as I snuck around the corner of the downstairs stairway to where we would meet on the main floor. The scene of the tree, aglow with plenty of presents beneath, took our breath away. It was Christmas morning, 2 a.m., and my ten-year-old self was excited to see if any present under the tree would fit the shape and size of something on my wish list. As I took a closer look, I gasped out loud, for there, sitting on top of a large box was the kindest, royalist, softest lion— a tribute to Aslan, the main character, from the stories my dad read me aloud from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. I could see, even from a distance, the flowing mane of the lion, and the kind brown eyes– just like I had imagined as we read chapter after chapter each night. More than anything I wanted to go touch it, feel the wispiness of the mane. Instead, my loyal sister and I snuck back down to my room to talk about the unexpected gifts we had seen…I don’t think we got a wink of sleep after that “sneak peek” and if my memory serves right… it was the last year we had a large unwrapped present under the tree. 😆

These pictures are a few years prior of me & my little sis at Christmas time:

That Christmas, so many years ago, remains a strong memory because the gift was exactly what I desired even though it hadn’t been a part of my official wish list. Isn’t that true of unexpected gifts? It can be exactly what we need before we even know we need it! 

This Thanksgiving weekend, I am surprised to find a gift in my hands. After all, isn’t the gift giving supposed to wait until a little closer to Christmas?

I pull back the gift wrap a bit at a time… 

I hear God’s gentle and loving whisper, “It’s a gift especially for you… and in it is the greatest power to overcome this current world and all its challenges. Every attack that would come against you.” 

Now my curiosity is really running rampant. A sword to fight my way through battles? Something that could erase all wrong? No, neither of these sound right.

I know… it’s a Bible. Perhaps that is what is inside. The Bible does hold such power to overcome every attack. But no, this box is as light as air…

I release the ribbon and slowly ease open the box… a tuft of a sweet aroma fills the air. I am suddenly at ease. All the world’s power, the enemy’s power, even my own struggles… they melt. They have instantly lost their power. Song lyrics swirl through the air causing freedom inside of my soul, the tethers that have bound me, instantly loosed: 

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand

Till He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I stand

“In Christ Alone”

“What is this gift?” I whisper, in awe, not wanting to break the beautiful aura around me. 

“Eternity.” He whispers and the words reverberate in my heart. 

“Yes,” I find myself saying. “That’s it.” 

“This is a gift that no one can ever take from you. No problem, challenge, enemy, not even death itself can take this gift from you. It is my gift to you and it is secure, eternal.” 

I (Jesus) give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:28-30

Somehow, minutes, hours, even days after receiving this “gift” the words continue to circle around in my heart and head. I think on them, meditate on them and the truth shines it’s light into my heart. 

I find something shifting inside… the way I was so focused on making things right here in this world, fending off challenges and pain like this was my place to live for all eternity… that is gone. Gone is also the power of death and problems and hurts and fears. It has tried to bombard my soul for so long, but suddenly… the tethers of the soul are ripped away. Fear no longer has a hold on me because of this precious gift God has given me through His sacrifice. I now have a secure eternal destination in my Savior. I am not fighting to get to heaven… I am awaiting heaven, knowing it is my home and everything here on earth that tries to hold me down, limit me, hurt me… it cannot have a hold on my eternal destination. 

I feel the truth of that changing me… 

When we live from that truth, that precious unexpected gift, it rips all power from sin, death, hell, the grave. It no longer has the hold on us it once did. Our heart can now be established on the fact that no matter what comes our way, no matter what the enemy tries to rail against us, there is one thing that is untouchable: Our secure eternal destiny. (If we have made Jesus our Lord and Savior https://www.agapelife.org/next-steps/ for more information) 

And with this knowledge, something releases deep down. Fear is gone. Freedom is here. Peace is here. 

And along with that… an urgency. An urgency to tell others of this gift that God has for them too. God, in His goodness has a gift for each one here on earth. It has been marked with their name. It is theirs for the taking, yet so many of this “eternal gift” lie unopened. Some even cast aside, or thrown in the trash. So many people right now are without hope. Looking for the smallest ray of sunshine… the smallest glimmer of hope. We know that “hope” and how it is found only in Jesus. Only in His gift of eternal life. The fact that we can say, “come what may… my eternity is secure”. 

It’s so important for us to reach people with this knowledge and this gift. They are hungry for it… so many hearts are ripe and ready for this good news in this time and hour. We want them to know the hope and comfort and peace and security we have found in the Lord and to experience it for themselves too. Nothing else matters. No other gift compares to this unexpected and perfect gift from the Father. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (Eternal, secure, destiny!)

John 3:16

So as you start your gift shopping, searching for that perfect gift to gift to a friend or family member, include in that “gift” a few words, encouragement of the eternal gift we have—the most perfect, yet unexpected gift. If they do not know Him yet… make sure that is on your “to do” list for the holidays. I will be praying for hearts of relatives, friends, and loved ones to be opened in new and wondrous ways and that the accepting of God’s gift would happen in great measures all across the globe this Christmas season. 

And may we remember, as the presents are opened and another holiday comes and goes, that God’s great gift of eternal life is really the only gift that carries weight for all of time. It’s the one that will last through all the difficulties and mess of this present world… the gift of a secure eternal destiny. Heaven. 

Until next time, 

Make sure to check in next time for my family’s favorite Holiday tradition & our family’s soft ginger cookie recipe!
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A Spoonful of Hope

When they were younger, my kids used to go around the house singing the song made famous by Mary Poppins, “Just a Spoonful of Sugar”. The last thing I needed for my kids was one more teaspoon of sugar (ha ha!) but I loved to hear their voices singing the positive message of the song. I mean, who doesn’t remember the iconic scene when young Julie Andrew’s reaches out the window and the whistling robin lands on her finger to help her complete the singing of her song? 

This song comes to mind this morning as I think about the meaning of the lyrics in a quite literal way. Yes, each of us parents have had a time where we all but bribed our children to suck down the icky pink medicine or the strong cough medicine that made them wince (or even gag!). Perhaps they were offered a “spoonful of sugar” to help the medicine go down, or perhaps it was more in the form of a sugary lollipop from the doctor’s office. Something about those yucky medicines is made a bit easier with the reward of a sweet treat immediately afterward.

It got me to thinking about our lives now as adults. Most of us have figured out how to stomach the gross tasting concoctions that will help our bodies grow stronger or fight off infection without a sweet treat. But in real life, many of us have faced many difficult situations, situations that seem that have no way of escape… I know I for one would rather swallow a million spoonfuls of the icky stuff instead of face some of the heartache and pain of the challenges of life. But, there they are. The hard days. The difficult moment you didn’t see coming, Maybe it comes in the form of grief, sadness, lack of health or loss. The thing is more than just a sour taste left in your mouth, it can sometimes cause your heart to break in two. Perhaps we look around… how are we to outlast something so hard? 

That’s when the power of the “spoonful” comes in. No, not a mere spoonful of sugar to help stomach life’s aches and pains both mentally and physically. But a spoonful of something so much more effective and necessary in these days we are living in. It’s the “spoonful of hope”.  

Our darkest days. Our hardest challenges. The moment we don’t know if we have strength to go on. Our body or heart may just crack in two. Those are the days to take the spoonful of hope. Hope diffuses the darkest situations with light. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5 

When darkness is all around and there is no light to be found… in enters the spoonful of hope. 

Now, as much as I wish this “dose” was a classic delivery from the Amazon truck— arriving at your door at 8 a.m. each morning to be taken before facing your day. It’s not. Instead, this dose of hope comes in the form of the very physical Bible lying on your table, your nightstand or perhaps lost somewhere in the shuffle. It’s time to dust it off and get our dose of hope for the day. 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

No, don’t loiter around in the Old Testament for today— your best friend will be the Psalms and New Testament. Crack it open to the middle- the Psalms- and identify with a person much like us, riddled with human emotions from soaring positivity to moments of anxiety and fearing for his life. Yet, he poured it all out to the Lord and time and time again he saw how the Lord came through for him. Here are some verses from the New Testament and the book of Psalms based on Hope. Look them up. Mark them. 

  • Romans 15:13, Romans 12:12, Psalm 39:7, Romans 8:24-25, 1 Peter 1:3, Psalm 31:24, Mark 9:23

And a few more from the Old Testament: 

  • Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 23:18

This verse is a favorite of mine: 

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Hebrews 6:19

Because we have hope in the Lord, no matter what tries to DROWN us and sweep us under its current, we will buoy back up. We will not be swept away. We have hope as an anchor. We have Jesus as our anchor, our light, our shield. 

Even in the moments where my mind has been so overwhelmed I couldn’t physically read the Word, I drew comfort from the fact I could listen to the Word. I could listen to praise and worship. A song would come on the Christian radio and just filter its light deep into the darkness that was trying to surround me. 

A Christian friend’s presence, a loving spouse’s hand to hold, a hug from my children… these are other ways to get in a daily dose of hope. 

I encourage you this week to get your dose of hope in. The good news about this nutrient is you cannot overdose! You can take as much as you want. In fact, the more we take now, the more we are prepared for the next storm that comes our way and tries to sweep us off our feet. 

If you need a hope partner, I encourage you to reach out and find one. Find one that speaks the Word, will pray with you, and keep you anchored in the Word. I know for me, my husband, my parents, my sister and specific friends have been this for me, each of them shining in different times of my life. Just this last week, my mother’s words straight from the truth of the Bible shone light into the darkness that was sweeping by. The good news about the spoonful of hope is that we can share them with others. There is no risk of covid or germ infection from sharing… no, it’s something that actually grows in us the more we give it away. The more we shine God’s light into others lives and speak against he darkness that threatens others, the more hope grows in our own hearts, ready to face and fight back any darkness that would try to overcome. 

My oldest daughter’s name was chosen specifically for her and the meaning is “the beautiful light of God”. Don’t you know that every day she is fulfilling that call? She’s bringing light into dark situations, into friends’ lives. We also wouldn’t be surprised if one day she may want to visit her heritage from her father and shine the light of Christianity into the situation there. Do you know that God names each of us? Each of us have specific name meanings and callings but we all are cloaked with the name “CHILD OF GOD” and, “BOUGHT AT A PRICE”. “PRICELESS”. “COVERED BY THE BLOOD”. “LIGHTBEARERS”.

Yes, we are lightbearers to this lost and dying world. It really is just a short time (and it will seem even shorter in the light of the length of eternity) that God has us being His light here in this dark world before He gathers us together and takes us all home where there is no darkness, there is no shadow. Only the light remains there. 

So, I pray that this week: you may find the light– the dose of hope– breaking through any darkness you may be experiencing in your body, heart or mind. May you reach for the Word– the Light– and take your daily dose (and more) each day! May God cause the song you hear “randomly” to speak hope deep and cast away darkness. May you find songs rising up even from your own spirit, causing you to praise God and combat the storm even as you face it. May you find His light and experience HOPE the anchor of the soul. May you also, as you are filled with His light, become a lightbearer to this dark and dying world. May you take Hope from the God of Hope who never fails to minister hope to our hearts in the moment we most need it. 

Now, spoons up! Here’s the dose of hope your heart needs today! 

Until next time, 

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Jumbo Sized Dreams

Each year the squirrels in our backyard get a JUMBO SIZED dream in their little heads. It comes the moment we bring enormous pumpkins home, placing them on the front porch, awaiting the moment they will be carved and lit with a candle inside. It’s almost as if we can hear the squirrels cheer as we place the pumpkins on the porch. Never mind that they have garden remains from the whole neighborhood or more than enough trashcans to root through… those pumpkins and the consuming of those pumpkins become the squirrels’ goal for the next week or two. How in the world can a little squirrel or two manage to eat through not just one jumbo pumpkin, but three?! It seems impossible! Their little stomachs are like the size of a nickel and the pumpkins must have weighed in at a good thirteen pounds each! So how in the world did a small squirrel(s) manage to “carve” our pumpkin so completely? 

One bite at a time. 

Maybe he’d saunter down the tree… take a bite or two and then go about his business. 

Then, later, on returning home, he’d see the pumpkin again… and guess what? 

He’d take another bite or two. 

Let’s not even talk about how he might invite all his friends over for dinner—On our jumbo sized pumpkins. 

As I looked at these carved out pumpkins, I started to think about the determination in that little squirrel. Determination to come back and take one bite at a time until the whole pumpkin was gone.

What if that determination was a major key for us to obtain something great, too?

Now I’m not about to recommend you go take a bite out of your raw pumpkin on the porch…  😆  But what about that JUMBO SIZED “dream” God placed in our hearts? When I look at it, wow, it seems sooo big. Bigger than a prize winning pumpkin to a squirrel (did you know they can grow to be over 1,000 pounds?) Looking at our enormous dream seems so grand, so exciting, so wonderful! But yikes, where to even start? Anything I do seems so small, so insignificant compared to the big, wondrous dream. That’s where the small steps of determination come in. 

During his time here on earth Jesus was given a HUGE mission: The redemption of mankind. He could have done it anyway He wanted, He could have even called down angels and gotten the whole ordeal out of the way quickly, yet He entered His ministry one small bite sized moment at a time: talking with the temple priests when He was only twelve, growing within His parent’s household, the calling of the twelve disciples, performing His first miracle, facing the enemy out in the desert. His ministry started with the bite sized moments and, as we know, grew into the full ministry that God ordained for him to have here on earth before accomplishing the greatest sacrifice by dying on the cross for our sins. If Jesus, the Son of God, started out this way, isn’t that such a good lesson to us too?

A major key to fulfilling our God-sized dream is this:

determination each day to consistently take small steps. 

These small steps can feel frustrating… like they will never add up to much. But, like those squirrels, if we can just take one small bite size at a time, before we know it, the big dream will be ours. And that’s not even counting that we as Christians have the Spirit of God working in us: He’s faithful to whisper to us what steps to take and when. He takes our small steps and multiplies them bringing us to our destiny in Him.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose”. He is the One working in and through us… helping us take one step at a time to fulfilling the destiny He has for us. 

Philippians 2:13

When I think about determination and faithfulness— consistency in taking small steps again and again— my parents come to mind. They followed God’s call to become pastors here in Colorado nearly 40 years ago! The dream– not only to pastor here in Colorado but to pioneer their own church– was a big one that God placed in their hearts. Talk about one JUMBO SIZED dream! Hand in hand with the leading of the Holy Spirit they learned to say yes to the bite sized moments that came every day…. First— how about gathering for a Bible study in someone’s home? “Yes, we can do that”. And they did. Next— church is growing… can we meet at a high school? “Yes, that’s going to work”. And they did that too. Then next up—we need somewhere even more permanent… can we find a building to rent? “Yes, we can”. And they did. Next— maybe we need to buy this whole building… “Yes!” Several years later—let’s tear up the mortgage check because this place is paid off. “Yes!” And they did. That’s just an example of the physical needs of the church. I see them both being faithful each day to say “YES” to the moments God brings them in spiritual matters, too! Saying “YES” when God whispers for them to ask someone if they can pray with them. Saying “YES” when the Holy Spirit nudges them to be a witness in word and deed. All those “YESes” have gotten them to where they are at today. Oh, I’m sure there were quite a few big “I am not ready for this” moments too (maybe that will be another blog post!) but showing up every day, saying “YES” to the moments that come… no matter how small they are, is part of what has led my parents to the BIG dream God had for them. In fact, those moments didn’t just “lead” them to the big dream… those moments are apart of the BIG dream.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9

And here, in the spirit of October as Pastor’s Appreciation Month, I’d like to say: I couldn’t be more proud of you, Dad & Mom, both as my parents and pastors! ❤️ I thank God that you followed His call. You have reached so many for the Kingdom. Love you!

So this week, may you be reminded of the “big dream” God has placed in you. You know what I am talking about… the dream that is right there… nestled next to your beautiful, beating heart. It’s something you feel passionate about, hold dear, and it even makes you cry. That’s the dream God gave you… His gift of a “JUMBO” plan waiting for you. It is yours for the taking. All we got to do is whisper a “Yes” and get ready to dig in for that first bite, no matter how small it is. 

Bon Appetit! 

Speaking of a big bite, here is a recipe for my family’s favorite Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins. It’s delicious! 

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Outlasting Chaos

If I was expecting to find a nugget of inspiration it couldn’t have been in a more unlikely place. There, stapled on the rustic wood fence rail, was a white poster board proclaiming truth in bold, blaring letters for all to see. Yes, it was just the encouragement this world-weary heart needed to hear. 

It was a bit of a dreary Monday morning and after dropping my kids off at school, I made my way through the back roads towards home. This certain morning seemed filled, once again, with chaos. As if all the headlines have not already fully overwhelmed a body. Fires. Hurricanes. More storms to come. Political unrest. Election nearing. Coronavirus. It’s all too much and it is blaring louder and louder every day. I had chosen, months ago, to chose to turn the volume down— to be particular in the news broadcasts I allowed in my home, in my reading and media, and ultimately, in my mind— yet still, the negative news still hammered down hard. With these thoughts swirling in my head, I looked up and saw the poster board of truth tacked to the fence ahead of me: “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”, it proclaimed, loud and clear in black permanent marker.

Something about the simple reminder reached into my day and wiped away the negative tint that had been threatening to overtake my thought process. Yes, these days seem saturated with negative… but the fact of the matter is that THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

There has never been a single event in history that has never failed to pass. It’s impossible! Seasons change, days change, situations change, people change, weather changes, disease changes… it all changes (Ecclesiastics 3:1). It all shall pass away (Matthew 24:35). The one who is eternal and who will never change… never pass away, is God (Isaiah 44:6, Rev. 1:8).

Something about that silly handwritten sign on the corner fence made me smile and shifted my day into a better perspective. What truth was in those words! 

Perhaps the encouragement you and I need today is not posted on a physical poster board on a fence, abundantly clear for all to see, but I guarantee you that there is plenty of encouragement here for the finding (in fact it may not be further than the person next to you). Yes, one of the primary ways God reminds us of His faithfulness is through other believers. There is something amazing that happens when we take a moment to “testify”. Testify meaning “give evidence, bear witness, give a testimony”.

For us Christians this “testifying” means recalling about something particular God has done for us or retelling of how we became a Christian.

When we put words to what God has done, we just naturally receive a boost in our Spirit, just like when we hear someone testify about what the Lord has done in their lives.

This “testifying” can look like this: a chat over coffee with a friend and exchange of encouraging words, a brother in Christ sharing a scripture passage, a sister in Christ posting her answer to prayer on Facebook. It can look like: Church services, Bible studies and seriously any gathering of believers (yes, even on Zoom!) We are to gather together and encourage each other in the Word and also encourage each other about the faithfulness of God— how He came through for us then. He did it then, He will do it now. One other AWESOME thing about this “testifying” is that it is a sharing of testimonies— it not only boosts our faith and other believer’s faith, but it reaches out, offers light, and draws those who have yet to believe.

So, in a similar spirit of encouragement as my last post (all about the importance of legacy https://melanietalevski.com/2020/10/02/sprinkles-of-tradition/ ) let’s put words to our testimony. Let’s talk about it at our dinner tables with our family and children. Let’s talk about it on social media and in church services. Let’s talk about it any chance we get. By doing so we are reminding ourselves how God’s faithfulness outlasts anything it ever comes up against. Present problems included. 

THIS TOO SHALL PASS/ THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD WILL LAST. 

It always outlasts, outshines any chaos.

Until next time, 

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Sprinkles of Tradition

Tradition. What’s the first thing that you think of when you hear that word? Quite honestly, I cannot help but hear the strains of the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof— Tevye singing in his robust voice as he snaps and dances down the country lane. I also instantly think about the tradition of the holidays that will soon be approaching! 

This last week, our family was introduced to a new experience. Something that more than likely will be a new tradition in our family of five… 

It all started with a simple question I asked my husband: What would be a fun way to celebrate his birthday this year?  

“Maznik, Zelnik,” his answer was instantaneous.

I repeated the words quietly… I’d heard them before… oh yes, the special delicacies his grandma would make for him as a little boy in Macedonia. He’s talked of them often but we’d never prepared them. 

I listened as he recalled the process of preparing these pastries, his eyes lighting up showing me a glimpse of that lovable twelve-year-old boy he used to be. 

So it was settled… we would make Maznik and Zelnik together as a family for his birthday this year. 

The birthday rolled around and it was time to get down to business. 

My husband gathered our three kids in the kitchen, causing them each to gasp as he flung a handful of flour on the table. “Let’s make it the way my grandma used to…”

Each child was instructed to throw a handful of flour on the table, roll it out, stack it up and repeat the process several times. We did this, one sprinkle of flour upon another, until we looked up and there was flour everywhere- including the floor and our cheeks! 

We continued the process (outlined in recipes below) and into the oven the Maznik and Zelnik went, delicious smells wafting through the house. 

When my husband cut the Maznik and Zelnik, sharing them with the children, the truth hit me. This event wasn’t solely for the purpose of celebrating his birthday. Something else rare and wonderful had occurred… a sharing of my husband’s history, culture, tradition. And in sharing this our children are finding out more of who their father is… and the heritage they have. One child’s eyes lit up as her dad talked about his upbringing in Macedonian and Grandma Neta.  Another child laughed as his dad told him about eating nearly half the tray in one sitting. Our youngest smiled as she rolled the dough, doing a more efficient job than any seven year old I’ve ever seen (she’s got her Great Grandma Neta’s rolling talent). 

So to see the kids enjoying this tradition of their dad’s past— here in our own kitchen in the good old USA— it made me realize the importance of tradition, of legacy. Of passing down what we know, what we love, and parts of us that are true no matter how many years have passed. By passing that down, it is also opening our children’s eyes to a part of who they are. 

Later that day, as I cleaned the flour that had been sprinkled on the table and floor, it got me thinking… how much more so are we to pass down God’s legacy into our family? 

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 

Loosely paraphrased this verse says, “Listen! This is important! You must pass the faith legacy on to your children. It’s your story, your life, your love. Without it, there’s nothing of kingdom importance. Do everything you can to sprinkle the tradition, God’s Truth, into every day.” 

If we don’t pass these stories— our story of how the Lord has changed our life— how He is our everything— how else will our children know? How else will future generations know? It’s a lot more serious than just losing a family recipe. This is urgent— there are literally millions of things competing for our kid’s attention— most of them with no eternal significance. 

It’s our job as parents to protect our stories, share our stories, inspire our children— open their eyes to their legacy and who they are— because we believe and serve the one Almighty God. And how do we share this faith legacy? By living it, displaying it.. But also talking about it. Sprinkling it around—a bit at a time— like that flour as we rolled out the dough balls— until, next thing you know, you look up and there is an abundance of testimony! 

Melanie Talevski

I find myself whispering a prayer. 

 “God, may you help me sprinkle around truths from your word. In every conversation. During meals, Bedtime. When we rise and when we sleep. May you be sprinkled throughout our day… may your truths be bound on their hearts. Just like the over abundance of flour sprinkled in our kitchen, may your truths be overabundant, sprinkled everywhere in our household. May we gift our children with your presence, your words, your truth that it would not depart from them when they are old (Proverbs 22:6). That, along with their own traditions in the future with their own families, the Truth would continue to ring out, strong, purer than anything else. May that faith legacy– remembering all you have done, dwelling on your truths from the Bible– may that be the tradition we grasp on tightest to. “ 

So, with one piece of Maznik in a hand and one piece of Zelnik in the other, I call to my children. Let’s talk of our past, our history. Our legacy. And, most importantly, the One who has always been there and always will be. 

Until next time, 

PS. My husband recommends eating these delicacies with plain yogurt for the authentic Macedonian taste! For American version, dip in spaghetti sauce.

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Falling into New Beginnings

Pumpkin Pie. Chai lattes. Fuzzy sweaters and falling leaves in rustic shades of orange, burgundy, and yellow. It’s nearing the official start to fall, and some of us are screaming at the top of our lungs with excitement while others are sighing with resignation. It depends on the day, but lately I have been falling into the latter of the two. If I could just 

hold 

on 

to 

summer 

longer…. 

Our freak snowstorm a week ago sort of hindered any thoughts of a long Indian summer. Sure, we are back to eighty degree weather, and the trees have yet to lose their leaves (that’s a good thing considering often they fall in one fell swoop after a snow), but the cucumber vines and the squash plants… they have turned into that palish green color. The lawn too. Not such a dark, healthy green… but more of a fading into fall green. Even the sky has dulled slightly too– The bright blue of the summer now seems to bend to the light airy blue of fall time. Nothing is wrong with all of this per se (you fall lovers may still think I’m crazy!) but something in the season signals a shifting from days full of light and life into a time that is… well, less full of life. I’d find this discouraging… overwhelming in fact, as I watched my garden freeze under the first frost and the harvest slow considerably. That was until a whisper came on the light fall wind… 

Fall is actually a new beginning.”

It’s funny that in all my years of living here, I have never thought to phrase it that way, but it truly is. Here’s just a few examples of these new beginnings: 

*School starting: The kids begin new grades with new teachers, new friends, new backpacks and new school supplies on their desks. 

*Sports: In both baseball and football a brand new chance is offered. MLB-  although it is almost through, with it comes a brand new chance in October for reaching the World Series. Teams that haven’t made it hold their breath in wonder… could it actually be their year? And the NFL- your team has a brand new chance to start out their season right!

*Fashion: It seems as if there are always new cozy sweaters, patterns, boots, scarves galore for this season. It’s a chance for a new wardrobe (and an excuse to get those boots that are on sale!)

* Coffee Drinks: It seems as if every fall there is a new fall line up of drinks. Pumpkin spice, creme brûlée, a cloud macchiato, anyone? (what is that anyway? I’m sure it is delicious!) But again, a wonderful new chance to change or vary up your palate even in the coffee industry!

*Babies! I know that I have several friends welcoming new babies this fall and nothing could be more exciting! I was born in the fall as was my little sister, niece and nephew. What a glorious time for something new to begin, best of all, a life. 

This season, although it is beautiful, it can honestly be quite a hard season for me. I hate falling away from the long days of summer, baseball, gardening and no school. I love having my kids around me without any homework involved. So fall can be tough, but I have challenged myself to see fall this year as a new beginning, not an ending. 

Here is one quote I found and posted on my facebook wall awhile ago: 

“She saw every ending as a beginning”

Naturallife.com  

I love that. Because yes, fall is an ending. An ending to the wonderful long days of summer. An ending to the carefree afternoons at the pool. An ending to staying up late past bedtime and hearing the crickets chirp. An ending to so many things I love and live for. But… the good news is it is a season of a new beginning as well. For there cannot be an ending without a new beginning right on its tail. 

So may this season of fall, this new beginning of sorts, be one that you run into with arms wide open. May we embrace the new adventures and challenges that come. May we not squirm away when things change or get uncomfortable but may we embrace it, knowing that God had the last season in his hand and he surely has this season too. 

(I cringe as I write this blog post because often I will make bold statements encouraging others in my blog only to be met with the challenge to live it out myself within the next day, week, or sometimes even hours!) 

But truly, God, would you take us all in your arms… hold us tight, steady, fast, during this time of transition. Whatever that may entail for each one of us. 

Whisper to us. We are waiting. Tell us once again… we belong to you. 

Here comes your gentle whisper now…“You are mine,” you say. 

I feel that truth reverberate all the way to my toes. 

I am yours. Your daughter, No matter where I walk or what I do, I am yours. That is a mighty safe spot to be. 

In that spot, I can confidently look at any change that comes and know without a doubt that somehow, someway God works it out. 

I can look at challenges that arise and not be fearful, because I know you are the God who holds my hand. 

I can look at the times to come, I can face the thoughts of tomorrow— because you are the faithful God. 

And even when the green, the newness falls away… I can know that there are new beginnings with you, God.

May it be true for you, too, dear friend. 

He is whispering to you now, “You are mine.” 

And there is no safer spot to be. 

May you find that in every ending, every change… there is a new beginning, 

And God is right there with you. Holding all your days. 

Until next time, 

PS. The fall scenery pictures above are from last year’s wonderful fall drive through Guanella Pass here in Colorado. I hope you get to enjoy the fall colors this year!

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Simple Summer Days

Sprinklers. Beautiful summer sunsets. The smell of fresh grass. The garden growing. Bicycles and laughter. Baseball.

These are the pleasures of simple summer days. 

Here we are in mid/end of July but until this week… these moments had eluded me. Sure, I’d watch on while the kids ran in the sprinkler, or played catch in the yard. I’d encourage them to lay on the grass and watch the leaves sway in the breeze (isn’t that just the best?). Perhaps we’d take a nice bike ride and watch the sunset with its brilliant pink and orange hues over the Rocky Mountains. But in the midst of these simple moments, my mind was anything but still. 

This summer has been a different one, hasn’t it? Sure, we all have summers of “adulting” and regular work and chores. But this summer, with the pandemic, it feels like my mind has been on a search for the solution. It’s like trying to place the correct order of a puzzle—a figuring out of items both present and future… a preoccupation of sorts. It’s this knowing that somehow we need to get through this— but how? Somehow the puzzle pieces will line up if I keep working on it, right?  Then I can rest. But no matter how I work it, no matter how many times my thoughts go around… there is no where concrete to settle. There is no producing of the so-desperately-needed solution. 

I was talking to the Lord about this the last couple of weeks—how it feels like the simple joys of summer are being upended and replaced with this puzzling, wondering and swirling thoughts— and God, as sweet and gentle as He is, doesn’t give me a lesson on “doing more” (exactly what my mind thinks I need to do). Instead, I feel His Presence settle upon me. His Presence has been there the whole time but now that I take a moment to reach out, to quiet my mind, I am reminded He is there. 

“But what about the solution?” My heart asks. 

It’s almost as if I feel his warm brown eyes on me as his gentle, loving presence surrounds me. 

“But what about this?” I whisper, outlining some of the concerns on my mind.

His hand on my back. He’s here and He’s listening. He cares.

“And this?” We go through my questions. One at a time until, they drop from my mind and instead a peace comes over me. 

He doesn’t rush me as I talk openly to Him… baring every part of my mind and soul. He already knows my thoughts… my feelings, emotions. Yet there is a great connection that happens when I (on-purpose) become transparent with Him.  

Have you ever experienced a friend or spouse or family member being there for you in just the right moment? Perhaps you spoke to them openly, and they listened. They didn’t judge or have pre-put together phrases to say or perhaps they didn’t even offer a solution. They just sat there with you, perhaps over a cup of tea or coffee, or maybe on the church bench after service, or maybe just over a long distance chat. It usually isn’t anything fancy— but that’s not important. The most important thing is that connection you shared. That you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were there for you… when you needed them most. When your heart needed a bond. That’s how God’s been showing up for me this summer. Like the gentle friend who listens and is for me. 

After this time of sitting together and sharing my thoughts, my heart with Him, and feeling His heart towards me too… a realization dawns on me: Perhaps I have been looking for the wrong “solution”. I have been looking for a solution that was of brick and mortar… something I could touch, feel, contain. Something that could be written down as a to-do list and if I followed it, it would lead me to the ultimate solution. But after sitting with Him… my cheeks warm in embarrassment. 

“It’s you… isn’t it?” I whisper. 

His eyes are warm, accepting, and full of love. “Yes, Dear One,” He whispers and a surge of awe and reverence reverberates through me. 

No longer do I need to search for a concrete solution… no matter what other pandemic, trial, challenge or disaster comes. He is the solution. As long as I have Him with me, I have all I need. I have the ultimate solution. 

I may not be able to write it down, puzzle it out, figure it out… but I just have to hold tightly to His hand with the trust of a daughter with her loving Father. 

I know that this can come off as such a basic thought… but to truly live it out and experience it is such a powerful, wonderful, awe-inspiring journey. 

And this journey continues…. With God as my source. My solution. My all in all. 

There is such treasure to be found by coming to God in every circumstance. Just as we’d come to a friend. Or even perhaps more honest than we’d meet with a friend…messy “mom bun” hair (with growing out highlights! Ha ha) , pajamas on, morning breath or tears streaking down your cheeks… He is the friend who is there for you, just as He is for me. 

I read the verse this week, a verse I am sure you are no stranger to: 

“Do not let your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me (Jesus).” 

John 14:1

Before when I’d read this verse and my first thought would be— I know this is true. I know this is something I need… but HOW? 

The great news is God always equips us to follow His word. The ANSWER is Him- His Presence. 

The only answer to “not be troubled” is to come to him. Through prayer. Through sitting together. Through reading the Word. Yes, reading the Word like looking God in the eyes. Hearing his heart. 

So when we need a dose of His peace… something to slow the swirl of thoughts in our minds… sit with him. Look Him eye to eye through the Bible (the Book of John is a good place to start, or even Psalms- as it is filled with emotions and ups and downs but how the Lord was there for David just as He is for us). 

It’s these moments that put a peace and a calm into my soul. It’s the moments of being transparent with God, soaking in the great reminder that He is my all in all, my solution to every problem… that lead me to the freedom of enjoying the simple days, the simple moments of summer.

So excuse me while I go grab my favorite chai latte, sit on the porch and smile as my children squeal as they run through the sprinkler, this time with a lighter heart. (I encourage you to do the same. 🙂 )

Until next time, 

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Handlebar Helpers

A few months ago I watched as my youngest daughter learned to ride her two wheel bike. I buckled on her helmet, set her on level ground, and it was time! I watched as she tippy toed down the parking lot—afraid to put her feet up. Then something wonderful happened… just as I was about to reach for the edge of her seat in an effort to guide her—her older sister and brother came up. “We got this,” they said with a smile. They each took hold of one handlebar and one edge of the back seat. They began to walk with her, and then run with her— holding on the whole time and saying things like “Hold on!”, “Pedal”, “Steer right”, and “Good job! You are getting it!” 

I watched from a distance– amazed. My youngest was learning and it was all possible because of her decision to get on the bike and her “helpers”. Her big sister and brother were holding her up while whispering words of encouragement and teaching. Before long, she left them in the dust as she rode alone her own smile so big. “I’m doing it!” 

This experience speaks to my own heart as well. When I am faced with something that looks big, daunting, intimidating, unsure…. I try to tip toe around but then, in an instant, I feel a Helper at my side. Jesus promised to send us a Helper to teach us, to guide us: 

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. 

John 14:16

Yes, this is the Helper that has one hand on the handlebars and one on the seat of my life. He’s the one whispering the encouragement and guidance my heart needs most. 

Although He is often behind the scenes… I recognize that He’s been there all along– My first challenge, my current challenge, future challenge and all the challenges in-between. He’s constantly there and reminds me that I am a child of God. 

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 

The Helper’s job is to direct us into all Truth. 

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

John 16:13

Yes! My heart cries. That’s exactly what I need—something solid (Truth) to hold onto these days. 

So I encourage you (just as I encourage myself)—

Hold onto the Helper 

Know He is there for you 

He never stops until the job is completed 

Even then he is always available for the next thing

Invite him into current situations

Listen  to his promptings

Trust His way, His plan

Live  life confidently 

Know, without a doubt, that He guides us into all Truth. 

MELANIETALEVSKI.COM

Until next Time, 

PS.      It is amazing how the Holy Spirit can also use us to step in and help each other—just like the older kids helped little sister on her bike the other day. I know I have been on both the giving and receiving end of these kinds of interactions and they bless my heart. 

I know I have been missing from my blog posts for awhile… the words would stir in my spirit but not quite make it onto the page in the right order. It can be like that during uncertain times. Thanks for being patient with me and letting me be authentic. Hugs to all of you!  

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A Harvest of the Heart

Summers when I was a kid were filled with: games of baseball in the culdesac, riding bikes down the greenbelt, licking popsicles as they dripped in the summer warmth, and visits to family and friends. One of the family members I liked to visit best was “Aunt Susie”, although she wasn’t truly related to us at all. All of the kids, probably even the adults, at our church came to know Susie and she wasn’t content to leave it at that. She’d shower hugs, attention, and love on us and immediately we all knew, regardless of relation, she was and would always be “Aunt Susie”. 

It’s interesting that just a week or so ago, I was reminiscing about “Aunt Susie” to my family, wishing with all my heart that somehow they would have had the chance to know this wonderful lady. It was coincidental then, when just this week, a childhood friend posted a picture of her “Aunt Susie” (truly related). I hadn’t seen a photo of her in years and I scrutinized it with my now adult eyes. The first thing that stands out to anyone who knew her was her smile. Her smile was big and wide and just seeing it made me feel like I knew Jesus more. Her eyes were often crinkled up in laughter. Next, she had dark brown hair and I do remember her often wearing a skirt. I don’t know if that was typical on her farm or if it was just the fact that usually I saw her at church and she had “dressed up” for the occasion. All I know, is no one could be around Aunt Susie without feeling more blessed afterward. She had a way of exuding Jesus at every turn. 

Today in my devotional time, Colossians 3:16 was the central focus: 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

-Colossians 3:16

 As I thought and meditated on that verse, the picture of Aunt Susie came to mind. I realized this verse was one she truly lived. She didn’t just “act kind” or “smile a lot” or “think of others first”. No, she had the word dwelling richly and deeply on the inside and that word transformed her and made her like Jesus. She wasn’t trying to be like Jesus, she was just so full of Jesus that her actions, attitudes and love showed it. 

Maybe that is what the world needs now more than ever. While there is a constant tug of war urging people to be kind… loving… perhaps we should realize that people will never act like Jesus until they are filled with Him. I mean, is it little wonder that problems break out all over the world when people are not giving God the first place in their lives? Truly, when we scale it back we realize we cannot give what we do not have. So the solution then, is to fill up to overflowing by “dwelling with the word and with God richly”. Only then will the attitudes of our hearts and the actions in our lives correspond with kindness, love, acceptance, peace… and all the fruit of the spirit. 

Aunt Susie, I am sure, would be surprised to hear she is definitely on the first portion of my personal list of “Heroes of Faith”. She would probably wave her hand, dismissing the notion. “It’s all about Jesus,” she would say, her smile beaming wide, her eyes crinkling in joy. But she is on my list and truly inspires me to become the type of person that God wants me to be. No, not by following a list of rules or “trying harder” but by her example of being filled with the Word. 

I will always remember the first time I entered Aunt Susie’s house. It was a lived in farmhouse and perhaps not outstanding in any way. Yet, there, I saw the truth. Every cabinet, every wall, every free space was plastered with papers or index cards with scripture on them. The way they differed in appearance, some weathered and worn and some new and crisp, one knew that she was constantly filling herself with the Word. It wasn’t just a “one and done” thing. No, it was a constant thing. 

I also remember one time going into her backyard for a party. I believe it was a birthday party she was throwing for her father. The table had a bowl of punch on it and there were cookies and cake. Us kids eyed the table hungrily waiting for when we could have the special treats. The adults did a little talk about James— what they had appreciated about him— and everyone wished him a happy birthday. I remember Aunt Susie then turning to us children and saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice for the kids to share a scripture song for Grandpa’s birthday?” Immediately my stomach went to my feet. A song straight from Scripture? I could sing “Jesus Loves Me” or something like that… but a song verbatim from the Bible? My mind went blank even through more than anything I wanted to sing to fulfill sweet Aunt Susie’s request. Us kids were quiet for a moment, trying to think about what song we could all possibly know that was rooted in scripture.  Being the sweet Aunt Susie she was, she gently came up and put a hand to our backs. “How about 1 John 4:7-8?” She wiggled her eyebrows and smiled. Oh yes, I knew that one and was confident my younger sister and some of the other kids would too. We started to sing:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. So Beloved, let us love one another.

-1 John 4:7-8 
Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Pexels.com

Somehow, even now—twenty five plus years later—the words of this song describe Aunt Susie (and what she lived for each day) perfectly. She was born of God, knew God deeply through relationship and His Word, and that love that welled up in her was shared with others. It’s only through this formula that True Love can be extended. Anything else is just a farce, just a surface type love. But the True Love that broadens smiles, adds joy sparkles to eyes even though difficulty…. That only comes from a deep, rich, constant relationship with the Lord.  

Aunt Susie continues to have such a remarkable influence in my life, someone I aspire to be like. Like her, I want the Word of God dwelling in me richly… overflowing me until it is all others see. It’s God’s love in me. It’s not a love that is manufactured or a forced belief or lifestyle… it is just a gentle overflow of all the good God is pouring into me. 

Thank you, Aunt Susie, for your inspiration. I can’t wait to catch up on life together in heaven and see your beautiful smile again. 

Until next time, 

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Home, Finally Home

In our house, it is not uncommon to hear the country-like strains of “Home, Finally Home” crooning from the sweet voice of my six year old. She picked up the song from a movie and will sing it anytime anywhere, but especially when returning from a long day at school or a long outing where all she wanted to do was be “finally home”. She would lay her backpack down, kick off her shoes and plop down on the couch— burying her head in the pillows and relishing the deep feeling of truly being home, happy, and able to relax. 

I can relate— I have always been one who likes to be home. Don’t get me wrong; I love adventures— especially being out in nature, seeing sights I have never seen before, taking in a peaceful or majestic view. But there is something just wonderful about being home. I know that is true for my husband too, as he traveled and lived many places overseas before finding his home here in Colorado and creating his life and family here. Something within each of us likes to be home. It’s that feeling of belonging. It’s the feeling of being safe, loved for who you are, and able to “let down” in every way. 

During this whole pandemic we have all been home more than we ever imagined. I am blessed in the fact that I have been able to enjoy days filled with checking in on the garden, making a new recipe, homeschooling the kids, taking a walk. Yes, the last six weeks or so, we have had our fill of our natural home. But… why it is then that my heart still seeks after the true “Home, Finally Home”? Something in my heart is so happy and thankful for what I have here, but there is a constant yearning, constant groaning in my heart for my home: Not this home situated in a suburb neighborhood of Denver with it’s green lawn, garden and flowers, a comfortable inside and relaxing outside. Oh how much I appreciate and love my natural home, but still my heart cries out for “Home, Finally Home”. Have you felt that own yearning in your heart as well? 

The Bible says,  “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). It reminds me of a hymn:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Oh Lord, you know I have no friend like you

If Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

– Jim Reeves This World is Not My Home

Yes, this yearning is for the Kingdom—God’s Kingdom. It’s the deeper and fuller life God meant for us to experience even here on earth. It was how life was for Adam and Eve before sin entered the world. Can you imagine how their hearts ached for their “home” after they had been sent away from the garden? Their hearts cried out for being near God again. This cry continues today… but the good news is that Jesus came as restitution for sin. He restored us our original position with God by taking away all sin through His death on the cross. Because of Him and what He did for us, we can now live with a hope to see our “Home, Finally Home”. It’s a possibility, not just a desire. One day those who believe in Jesus will return to our home. The cry and the longing of our hearts completely filled. 

So when the cry for your true home sounds from your heart, just as it does from mine— rest assured— if you have made Jesus the Lord of your life you will experience that final home. The home where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4) It will be the place we feel completely whole, safe, and free. 

So no matter what this life brings, let’s hold onto His Promise— He will come back and take us home (John 14:3). In the mean time, while still on this earth, we know trials will come our way but even then He will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He “came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]” (John 10:10).  Yes. We can take hope that surely these promises will come to pass. 

Heaven- our heart’s true home. There, we will all stand together and belt out the songs that come from our hearts…

and I have a feeling that my song (as well as my youngest daughter’s) will be “Home, Finally Home.”  

Until next time,

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A Tiny, Steady Light

“It can’t beat us!” Pa said.

“Can’t it, Pa?” Laura asked stupidly.

“No,” said Pa. “It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us. We won’t give up.”

Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.” 

– Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Long Winter”

Little did I know in February, when I picked “The Long Winter” off the shelf, that it would whisper truths that would reach past the pages and into my modern life–even life with its new tilt of this whole pandemic. Originally I read the book to encourage me to get through the last of our cold Colorado winter. I mean, how could I complain when Laura and her family faced blizzard after blizzard in the winter of 1880-1881? 

But quickly, as the news of the coronavirus disrupted our lives, similarities began to leap from the pages of this book into our current situation. Even just the fact that the virus hit so suddenly, so unexpectedly reminded me of the blizzard that took over the town in “The Long Winter”. It just happened. One day they were in their little prairie house, the house they called home, and the next they were moving into the town to Pa’s store to live. No notice, no preparation. Sound familiar?  

I also was quick to notice how the Ingalls, even in the midst of waking up to silvery frost in the morning (even indoors), running out of wood for the stove as well as kerosene for the lamp and wheat for food… somehow, in the middle of all this darkness and time of need, the Ingalls held onto a sliver of hope, a tiny fraction of light. And that was what the book was all about. That’s what kept me turning the pages. Sure, I have a pantry full of food and ways to obtain more if needed. I have toilet paper, well-functioning wifi, a mound of books yet to be read. I have my family safe by. But… what about the tiny light in the dark? That, after all, seemed to be the main essential the Ingalls’ were not willing to do without. 

Let’s talk about this tiny, steady light in the dark. It doesn’t have to be a full out flame, even just a small spark will do. It can start as warmth that is small but strong. No matter what rails against it, it will not flicker or be put out. What is this “light” Pa and Laura spoke of? Is this light simply strength in spirit?  A never-let-go kind of stubbornness that each one of us can summon up?  

No, this true lasting light comes from something deeper. The Bible says of Jesus in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ” Jesus is the light provider in our lives.

So how do we get this light? By following Jesus, specifically by putting our trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord (more information about that here https://www.agapelife.org/next-steps/ ). When we confess that Jesus is God’s Son and believe in our hearts we are saved. The light enters us never to flicker, dim or go away. 

But what do I do if I have this light, but still the darkness rages? What if I feel like the light won’t overcome? The good news is “The light (Jesus) shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it” (John 1:5). God’s light wins every time. No matter how big the challenge or how long it takes. 

I know in my life I have had several seasons of challenges, one of the hardest being a season after my third baby was born. During that time, it felt as if I were a panicked sailor on a small boat overwrought with damage in the middle of a raging storm. I was going down. But there was a small, tiny but strong light in the distance. The waves would hide it from me for a bit, but then they would toss and change and again, I could see that glimmer. It was always there. It wasn’t going anywhere. It was not flickering, or giving out or giving up on me and that gave me the amount of hope, of faith, I needed to get through that challenge. Now that I look back on this journey, I understand the reality of the whole situation is this: I was safe in God’s hand the whole time. Even when I felt my most hopeless, God was there- His light shining bright. He was next to me, pulling me out of the darkness and taking me safely home. 

So, whether you find yourself in a bleak winter like Laura did all those years ago where things went from bad to worse, or you find yourself at home dealing with unending challenges during this pandemic, or you even find yourself with a health scare of some other form of darkness that tries sweep you off your feet…. I encourage you to remember to hold onto the Light. Focus in on it, even if it seems far away or small. It is strong, steady, sure. God’s light will lead us through anything and everything that comes our way and before long you will find yourself amongst the last lines of Laura’s book, 

“As they sang, the fear and the suffering of the long winter seemed to rise like a dark cloud and float away on the music. Spring had come. The sun was shining warm, the winds were soft, and the green grass was growing.” 

― Laura Ingalls Wilder, “The Long Winter”

Spring is coming, dear friends, in each and every way. 

Until next time,

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Let Me Introduce You to Ms. Grace

She arrives at my door this morning, looking much like Mary Poppins, only somewhat older and wearing a navy pant suit with floral shirt. She has a small kerchief tied stylishly at her neck and holds a stylish carpet bag in hand. “Hello my dear. My name is Ms. Grace. I heard you called?” She asks as she peers into my home, with my children in the background using anything but their inside voices, dirty pans and dishes galore. 

“I’m sorry… I didn’t call for any…  home services? Is that what you do?” I ask as I again look over her put together outfit opposed to my slippers and pj’s. 

“Oh, I know you did not call… but an order most definitely was placed.” She looks expectedly at the house, the chores awaiting. 

I’m no fool. If she wants to help, I’ll take it gladly. I open the door, “Please do come in.” 

The kids give her a glance and continue on in their game of indoor ball. 

“I guess you can start wherever—“ I said motioning to the main room full of clean laundry yet to be folded, pots and pans on the stove, and a sink full of dishes needing to be washed. Her eyes sweep over the computers and homeschool work scattered across the table, then to my children. There is no look of disapproval is in her eyes. Instead, just a large measure of kindness. Then her eyes swing over to me, and it’s almost as if I am transparent as can be. She smiles. “Let’s take care of you. It all starts with you.” 

“That sounds fine to me,” I shrug and smile.

She places her carpet bag on the table and reaches into it, one arm nearly engulfed in the large throes of such a bag. I hope she has an abundance of cleaning supply and perhaps even some toilet paper in that pack. Instead, she lifts from the bag her Bible, weathered and worn. 

“Sit,” she says as she opens the door to the backyard for the children to escape to play. 

Somehow I listen to this absolute stranger. I sit down with no resolve. 

Quick as I do, a cup of fresh tea appears at my elbow, and Ms. Grace settles in. She reads to me slowly, methodically from the 91st Psalm. The words seep over my soul just like water sweeps over a long neglected houseplant. I soak it all in and feel better by the minute. 

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation,” She says the last words and closes her Bible. “And now, let us pray.” 

Sure enough her warm hand clasps mine as she prays words from the deep well of love for the Lord inside of her. As she gives my hand a squeeze, she says, “Now we are ready to go.” 

Again to the carpet bag she goes… this time pulling out an old-fangled cd player. She smiles shyly. “Not quite up with the times. Plug this in dear, and soon things will be fine.” 

I plug in the CD player, and press play. Sweet praise and worship flows from the stereo warming house, home, and deep inside of me. 

Ms. Grace hands me a sponge. “You wash I’ll dry.” 

I stick my hands into the soapy swirls and find joy… even in doing the dishes. We sing and laugh, and the presence of Jesus grows stronger each moment in the house. 

After several rounds of “Raise a Hallelujah” and a few more of “Yes I will”, the dishes are done. Ms. Grace hands me a fresh dish towel and we wipe down the counters, stack up the homework and more. 

No, it is not perfect, nor will it ever be… but a bit more organized and less overwhelming. 

Now, Ms. Grace goes to the door, allowing the children in one by one. I’m thinking perhaps she is like THE NANNY and will direct them one by one on keeping up the cleanliness of the house or not tracking in the mud. I watch expectantly as she introduces herself, and presses a hand to each child’s head as they pass through. “A blessing to you, and to you, and to you.” 

The children stop and glance up at her eyes. Just like my experience before, her eyes hold no disapproval or impatience. Instead, her eyes hold a great measure of grace. It feeds into the kids souls, just as it did mine, and soon we stand there stronger than before. Yes, the attitude of the whole house has changed! 

The day continues, with homeschool instruction. Each time, Ms. Grace lets me take the lead. She is at my elbow, always providing just what I need. A towel for the spilled milk and a gracious smile for the child who sits there looking on gultily. A squeeze on my shoulder after a children’s bout of frustration at their homework, leading me to give a kind hug instead of an impatient sigh. Even when the computer acts up and I can’t access the online classes, she is there with a smile. “Perhaps let’s count to ten?” She prompts. On and on we go all afternoon, and soon the knots in my neck ease and we settle into a… rhythm of sorts. A rhythm of grace.

I glance at the clock, it’s coming on five. Although I still wish she could take the lead (perhaps she will cook?), she has proved herself to be just what I need. 

At the end of the day, after supper is done (which by the way, I cooked with her by my side) she grabs her umbrella and bag.

“How can I ever thank you?” I say, my eyes sparkling with thanks. 

She smiles her gracious smile and proceeds to the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

My mouth stands a gape… tomorrow, again? What lottery did I win? To have her here, her help, her whispers…. It caused such a change within. 

“I’ll leave you with one last thing,” she says, her hand grasping mine. 

I nod in wide-eyed wonder. “Yes?” 

Instead of speaking, she hands me a slip of paper bent in two. “Read it tonight with the children, will you?” 

I smile and nod, curious for what’s to be read. I glimpse down at the paper and nod my head. 

“Oh I will, yes I will,” I say looking back up. But to my surprise the space before me stands empty. “Ms. Grace? Ms. Grace?” 

Then above me a shooting star lifts into space. 

I walk back inside still in awe at what I saw. 

The children draw near. “What is that, Ma?”

I look to the note then to each curious face. 

“Let’s read what it says, It’s from Ms. Grace.” 

So huddled together we read, 

“2 Corinthians 12:9, ‘My grace is sufficient for you—” 

“My strength is made perfect in weakness’,” it said. 

A smile lit upon each face, 

For yes, even tomorrow, 

we would have His Grace. 

And the peace that settled in our heart and head, 

Carried us all peacefully up to bed. 

*Thank you for reading my little slice of writing. I’ve never really written poems, so it amazed me that some of the story came out through rhyming. I hope this leaves you encouraged to open your door, for Grace comes knocking at your door each morning too.

I’ll look forward to our next time together.

Love,

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“The Rosemary Chronicles” Epilogue

Note to Readers: I wanted to offer a nice conclusion to our story with Rosemary and also leave a little door open for a sequel featuring a few of the new characters shown here. Enjoy!

6 Months Later 

December 24 

Rosemary held her breath as the coach pulled into town and approached the stage, snow flying in the wake of wiry wheels. Would they have dared to come? As of their last correspondence all was well: They’d accepted the tickets she’d sent and would arrive on today’s coach. They wouldn’t back out now, would they? She craned her neck to peer into the stage coach, which was full up this time of year as many people were flowing in and out of Hope Valley for the holidays. 

That’s why she insisted on coming alone… just in case they’d changed their minds. She knew to raise Harriet’s hopes just to have them come crashing down would be more than any of their fragile hearts could bear. But oh, if they truly did come for the promised visit, how her heart would sing. She clutched her fingers together inside her mink muff as a lady of fine means exited the coach, followed by a gentlemen much older. In her hurried state she didn’t have time to nose into who the new visitors were. The only thing that was of import was if her own visitors had arrived. Next out of the coach came a man handsomely dressed in a full suit and vest, complete with bowtie. His brow was furrowed under the locks of dark brown hair, and dark circles adorned his eyes as if he came weighted with more than just physical luggage. His hand lagged behind as if holding onto something… a young towheaded boy barely five years of age exited the cab and looked with wide wondering eyes around the town. It was them! 

Before she knew what was happening, she emitted a joyful shriek and made her way to the carriage. The gentleman’s blue eyes, identical to her own, widened as she came close, a small smile gracing his lips. “Rosemary, is that you?” 

She clapped her hands together. “Yes, heavens yes! And that must make you my half brother—Samuel!” 

He nodded and shifted uncomfortably, all the while holding the boy’s hand. Although she wanted to throw her arms around about them both, she instead approached them carefully, as if they could be somehow be spooked and retreat back into the coach where they would be taken back East. She reached her hand out to the small boy who was huddled behind his father. “And that must make you Liam.” 

The boy hid behind his father’s leg, but not before she could see his blue eyes, an exact replica of his father’s, looking at her in question. 

“Liam, this is the lady I told you about. Your…” Samuel’s voice caught, “your aunt Rosemary.” 

The boy kept his head down and Rosemary slowly lowered her hand. Why, he was her own nephew! And adorable as could be. “It is more than a pleasure to meet you, Liam, and… Samuel.” She looked back up to the big brother she hadn’t known she had until just recently. 

Samuel’s eyes briefly misted. “I cannot tell you how thankful I am that you reached out.” He glanced at the shy boy by his side, “Liam, say hello.” 

Liam shook his head, but after several promptings, finally offered his hand to Rosemary. 

She smiled when she realized his hand was sticky. Just as any boy of five year’s hands should be. “I am so happy that you both came. It will be the best present Harriet has ever received. Let’s get you checked in at the hotel and I’ll share the plan with you. You see, this town is small, and word travels fast, so if we want to surprise her, it must be tonight.” 

With a twist of his wrist, Samuel put a light gray fedora over his thick dark hair. “So soon?” He accepted the suede travel bag from the coach driver and flipped him a coin all with a charming smile adorning his face. 

Rosemary nodded. “I do realize it makes for a big day for the both of you. You’ll have just enough time to rest and freshen up before meeting us for the big reveal this evening.” 

Samuel clicked his tongue. “I never could imagine all this would happen this Christmas Eve… it’s just astounding. You are sure Harriet will be pleased to see us? At our last meeting we had words… nasty words, and haven’t spoke since.” 

“Now I don’t claim to know everything, but I have a feeling all will be just fine. Harriet seems to have turned over a new leaf since entering Hope Valley. This town has a way of doing that.” 

Samuel looked around the town and as he did so, she again observed the dark circles under his eyes. Perhaps they could convince him to stay too. God only knew what world-worn fatigue he was carrying with him. 

“I do say it has a certain small town charm to it,” Samuel said, his lips curving in a small smile. “Much different than out East.” 

“We sure appreciate you traveling all the way out here. I know we do not know much of each other, but I hope you know I am not content to leave it that way.” She smiled up at him. 

“I gathered that much from your letters. I do have to say it was comforting to read your correspondence these last few months. I know Liam has always wished for cousins.” 

Liam lifted his head and smiled, this time sweet dimples accompanied the gesture. 

“I hope you are ready for the attention of not just one doting cousin, but two,” she said, holding up two fingers and smiling at the boy. “They are not quite as grown as you but my, how they will enjoy a child nearby this next week.” 

She took hold of Liam’s free hand, “Let’s get you both settled.” 

After a thirty minute procedure of getting her half brother and nephew checked into the hotel, Samuel and Liam sat down to bowlfuls of chili and her with her tea, as she shared her idea for introducing them to Harriet. Of course any performance she’d directed included plenty of song, and my, she had the perfect plan. But after describing Liam’s singing part, Samuel’s eyes had grown solemn. “I don’t know quite how to say this tactfully, so I will just say it,” Samuel raked his hand through his hair, “The boy does not speak.” His jaw twitched.

She gasped and looked over the little angel who was busy crunching crackers to put in his chili. “Why not?” She had heard of such things but usually it was due to a vocal cord deformity or in some severe cases, as a response to severe trauma. 

Samuel placed his hand on Liam’s shoulder and gave him the warmest smile she’d seen yet. “Let’s just say, we are working through things. Right, buddy? We’ve got each other.” 

Liam sat silently, his crackers and chili suddenly forgotten. 

She waited for Samuel to expound on the fact, but instead, he sat upright. “So, when do you expect us tonight?” 

Rosemary shifted her eyes from the little boy. “Oh, um… 6:20 p.m. Precisely.” 

Not long after, they had stood to leave and she parted with a hug for each of them. During her whole solitary walk back to the house questions plagued her mind. Why didn’t the precious boy speak? What was the larger story? Had he endured some type of accident or trauma of some sort? Her heart broke in two not only for her nephew but also for the man who was his father. Something was not right. As tempting as it was for her to nose right into it, for now, she’d do all she could to play the part of the understanding and supportive aunt and sister. But there just had to be a way she could help. 

Now, at the Coulter home, she stomped the snow from her feet at the door and hung up her coat. The coziness of the candlelit room surrounded her, the form of her dear husband relaxed in slumber on the settee, both babies asleep under his arms. She tip-toed closer and placed a kiss on his cheek. He immediately opened his eyes and looked at the clock. “We were just taking a little afternoon nap. I guess time got away from us. Is all going as planned?” He gave her a hopeful look. 

She smiled back. “All according to plan. They will arrive at twenty past six. Just enough time for the performance and the reveal.” 

“And you think it will proceed without a hitch?” 

She nodded. “This is the time of year known for miracles. I am just giving this one a bit of… assistance.” 

“That’s my Rosie.” Lee smiled and placed a light kiss on her cheek. “Why don’t you get refreshed before our guests arrive? I’ve got it all under control here,” he motioned to the babies. 

She nodded. “I daresay you are quite capable, Leland Coulter. I will be back down shortly.” 

Fifteen minutes later, Rosemary came down the stairs in her Christmas Eve outfit, her hair freshly spun into a curly updo, and her evergreen frock shimmering with sparkles. Just as she stepped on the landing, a knock came at the door. With Lee upstairs tending to Micah, she crossed the room and swept open the door, a beaming Harriet and blushing Bill stood there on the welcome mat. “Oh, the newlyweds! Do, come in!” 

Bill and Harriet proceeded to stamp their feet on the welcome rug. Bill, with a large box in hand, went to the table to set down what looked to be a fully cooked turkey, a variety of sides, as well as several wrapped presents. Just as quickly, he went back to Harriet and assisted her in the removing of her overcoat, pausing to nuzzle his face into Harriet’s ringlets as he whispered something only her ears could hear. She giggled and pushed him away. “That’s reserved for our house, silly.” 

Rosemary lifted an eyebrow. She was still not used to the public display of affection between the two but was glad her mother has found her match. 

Hillary blushed and addressed her.  “Bill insists on carrying me over every household threshold we pass. I’ve tried to insist that it only applies at our residence but he doesn’t seem to want to listen.” 

“Can you blame me? I will take any chance I can to get my hands on my wife.” Bill  smiled unabashedly as Lee walked down the stairs, Micah Patrick in his arms. The baby boy waved a chubby hand at Bill in greeting. 

“Awe, did you see that?” Bill laughed as he waved back to Micah. 

 “His first wave,” Lee beamed at his boy. 

Rosemary approached Micah. “You are such a big boy! A big big, boy!” She said in her mushy baby voice. She hadn’t known that she had a voice like that until the babies had arrived. But truly, the first wave was a reason for celebration. They had been working on a ‘hello wave’ for simply months. 

From across the room, Madeline banged the edge of the small crib with a small toy. “I think someone else wants to say hello,” Rosemary said, scooping the little angel into her arms and bringing her to towards the couple. Harriet crooned out a hello and played with Madeline’s balled up fists. 

Bill leaned forward. “How is Princess Madeline this evening?” His voice was soft and so unlike the usual gruffness he displayed. The babies knew exactly how to turn his tough demeanor into mush as did his new wife. He was practically unrecognizable to those who had known him before. 

Rosemary smiled. “Now, we have a show, of sorts, to put on for the two of you. Presented by yours truly.” She swept a hand towards her little family. 

“Please have a seat.” Lee motioned to the settee and Harriet seated herself. 

“What is this?” Bill grunted as Lee passed. 

Lee cleared his throat. “Please, just go along with it. Rosie’s been working on this ever since—“ he let the words hang, “well… for a long time.” 

Bill nodded as he sat down on the settee and draped an arm over his new wife. 

Happy with the arrangement, Rosemary shifted Madeline on her hip, took Micah from Lee’s arms, and went behind the make shift curtain they had put together. Princess Madeline had an important part to play. So did Micah, and so did… well, one other little player. But they would get to that, soon. She only hoped that Harriet would be pleased and not too shocked. It wasn’t her wish to cause her mother grief, but judging from Harriet’s recent openness and lightness of heart, things would go along just fine. 

Lee stood in front of the curtain. “Welcome to the show”, he said and then went to wind the victrola before lifting the curtain to reveal the display underneath. Thanks to Elizabeth and Jack’s artistry, a beautiful background Hope Valley, the mountain range behind, and wild flowers graced the sheet on the back wall. In front of the display was the two babies, in their prams. 

Rosemary cleared her throat. “We have come up with a song for you, Harriet, dearest grandmother,” the soft strains of the victrola sounded in the background, “And you too Bill, as you have joined the family and are officially Pop-Pop.” 

Bill smiled at the endearment. 

“But first,” Rosemary cast a look at the clock which read 6:20 on the dot, “we would like to invite some other key players to help us with our performance.” 

Harriet looked around the room. “But I thought it was just the four of you.” 

Rosemary put a hand to chest, in effort to still her racing heart. “We aren’t the only ones who call you grandmother you know.” 

Harriet looked confused, then a look of astonishment crossed her face. “No, you can’t mean…” she put a hand to her mouth. 

“Let me reacquaint you with two very dear people.” She lifted her voice toward the direction of the front door. “You may come in now.”  

All was quiet, the room full of anticipation. 

Too quiet. Did Samuel and Liam back out of their plan after all? 

She moved from her post by the curtain just as the door scraped open. The attention of everyone in the room shot to the door where the young Liam, dressed handsomely in a suit, held a cluster of dried lavender. Samuel stood behind him, his gray fedora casting a shadow on his face, concealing the emotions there. 

Harriet gasped and tears came to her eyes. “Saints alive… Samuel is that you?” 

Harriet stood up, and Bill stood up with her, his hand on the small of her back. 

The room waited in anticipation, but then slowly Samuel urged Liam forward and they walked to the middle of the room. Immediately Harriet reached out for her son, but then paused as if wondering is he’d allow it. 

“I…” Harriet clasped and unclasped her hands, “I don’t deserve you coming here. Surprising me. Bringing my grandson. I… I have been horrid towards you. I thought you’d never speak to me again.” 

Samuel removed his hat and cleared his throat. His stormy blue eyes clouded, and the circles under his eyes seemed to darken a shade. Just as suddenly as the emotions whisked across his face they were gone. He set his jaw and put his hand on Liam’s shoulder. 

“I’d like to officially introduce you to my son, Liam.” With a shaking hand, Samuel pulled Liam closer.

“Oh, Liam, my dear!” Harriet touched the soft cheek of the young boy in front of her as he extended the dried lavender bouquet he carried with a little smile. 

“He was wondering,” Samuel nodded towards Liam and cleared his throat, “If it’s okay to call you grandmother?” 

The boy stood by silently, but the hope was evident in his eyes. Almost as if he were pleading for a chance to belong. 

Harriet reached out for the boy, her eyes roaming over his face, tears spilling from her eyes. “I would like nothing better.” 

Harriet looked around, almost as if she were afraid to speak, as if the miracle of the moment would evaporate into thin air. “What a surprise. I had no idea that tonight—“ Harriet stopped, a sob in her throat.  

Samuel’s solemn face softened, the guarded eyes now just looking resigned and weary. “It was all Rosemary’s idea. She reached out to us months ago. She said I wouldn’t regret giving you a second chance. That family is family regardless of what has gone on in the past. I…” he ran his hand through his dark locks, “I am willing to give it a shot. I’d like to know you. And Liam would like to know you as grandmother. Would you allow us that convenience?” 

Harriet exhaled in unbelief. “Allow you? I would beg you! Please, please dearest son, give me another chance. I… I want to make up to you for all the times I failed you. For all the years we have lost. Would you give me a second chance?” 

Samuel nodded and the room relaxed as they shared a hug. Liam reached around to embrace them both. 

After a moment, Rosemary motioned to Liam. “Come now! It is time to present the song we have prepared for grandmother.” She motioned to the babies in the prams, who weren’t quite ready for song instruction, yet she would sing their part. 

The boy walked to his spot on the makeshift stage, and proceeded to stand in front of the babies, his smile beaming. He extended his hand to each of the babies’ little balled up fists in a silent hello. Madeline gurgled and Micah coughed. 

“That’s their way of saying hello.” Lee said. “And I am Uncle Lee.” 

The boy looked up at him through his lashes and nodded slightly. 

“I hope you like presents because there is a whole passel of them for you under there,” Lee said motioning to the brightly lit Christmas tree. 

The boys eyes went wide as he looked at the packages under the tree.

Rosemary came close. “We have wanted to know you for so long. You are our family.” 

“And family belongs together,” Lee said from his spot near the babies. 

Harriet’s eyes shone with tears. Bill blew his nose into a handkerchief. 

“Places please,” Rosemary said and Samuel proceeded to the stage next to his son.“This is a gift for Grandmother and for our new Pop-Pop, too.” 

Rosemary nodded to Lee as he cranked the victrola anew and the three of them— Samuel, Lee, and Rosemary— sang together while Liam and the babies each twirled a ribbon in the air: 

“Let me call you grandmother 

I’ve waited for you  

Let me hear you whisper 

That you love me too 

Keep the kind light glowing 

In your eyes so true 

Let me call you grandmother 

I’m in love with you.” 

Harriet smiled and clapped her hands as the song concluded. She approached the babies in the prams and gave them kisses on the cheek as they gurgled and smiled contently. She next hugged Liam and placed a kiss on his cheek then approached Samuel and put her hand on his cheek. “I believe there is enough love in this room to right all wrongs, do you?” 

Samuel dipped his chin, one long dark lock flopping against his forehead. “I believe there is more than enough to bring us through.” 

Harriet continued to converse with the son she had missed so dearly, soft murmurs escaping her lips and tears trailing down her face. 

Rosemary sighed and turned towards Lee. He lifted his arms out to her and she accepted the hug, melting into his side as they continued to look on at the miracle that had taken place in their presence tonight. God had taken all that had been shattered, isolated and buried in fear and was in the process of restoring it… piece by piece. 

And that was what Christmas was all about… the Prince of Peace coming to pave the way for reconciliation. She had a feeling what they witnessed tonight was the beginning of a very much larger story. 

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To all my “Rosemary Chronicles” Readers

Dear Readers, 

Can I tell you something? You are my muse, my inspiration. I never imagined when I started “The Rosemary Chronicles” that the story would grow this big, last this long, or reach this many readers. I feel very humbled and blessed that it has meant something to someone.  

To be honest with you, I miss the characters, the world of the story, the situations and dilemmas they faced every day. I loved writing my heart out and editing later, sometimes coming up with some very crazy and hilarious situations. I miss posting to you, dear readers, the my weekly chapter of “The Rosemary Chronicles”. I miss it, yet I also know it is time to move on. I wish I could announce here with great flourish what the next project will be. I know many of you have wanted me to continue Rosemary’s story… perhaps I will some day I will but for now, something else stirs in my soul, begging to be written. I stare at the screen, trying to summon the words to come… yet it is not quite time. I will continue to write, continue to pray and thank God for the next story He has for me to share, but in the mean time, know that I am thankful for you and will be over the moon excited to share the next story of my heart with you. 

I will post here as my new writing unfolds.

Thank you for this wonderful, wonderful journey. 

Melanie