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The Gift of Life’s Canvas

My grandmother, Vivian, had an interesting way of celebrating her grandchildren’s birthdays. For most of my growing up years, Grandma was not content just to give a little gift, or card or money. Instead a birthday celebration meant a special shopping trip with grandma. This shopping trip would not result in something that we could quickly pick out, put on, and move on. No, this shopping trip was more than likely a trip to Michael’s, the craft store in their small town, to select items for a project. My memorable project was a painting the year I turned nine years old. 

On this particular trip, Grandma, being a painting artist, already knew what we needed. She knew the right size canvas. She knew the colors of paints that she perhaps had run out of in her own supply and a new paintbrush or two. We picked up the supplies which to be honest, it was a bit anticlimactic. She paid for the supplies and we gathered up the yellow grocery bags.

We went to the farmhouse and set up in her studio— that is where all the magic began.

It’s funny now thinking about how impatient I was to complete the painting and how I just wanted it to be perfect and I wanted it to be done. Doesn’t that sound typical of our human nature? Let’s hurry up and get it done! Oh, but there is so much more to be found in the journey, in the process. 

And a process it was. I first had to prime the canvas, paint the background of the canvas, then work the background of mountains. Paint the background landscape. Then the trees began and those were a favorite- their spindly pine trunks reaching into the sky. But the clouds— the wisps of white— they were the best part.  I had to learn from my ever patient grandmother to loosen my tight grip on the paintbrush. I thought I had loosened enough but then she would reach over and shake my wrist. Still too rigid! To make the best clouds around I had to have a loose grip, let the paintbrush flow.  That was hard…what if I made a mistake? I made the cloud too big or what if I messed up the whole canvas? But to Grandma there was no mistake that couldn’t be fixed. 

I remember a few times her expert hand coming in on top of mine and helping me form the wispy clouds. I was in good hands yet I still felt tempted to control the process— to hurry the process. It felt as if was taking FOREVER for the finished product! But really the process of painting itself was grandma’s gift to me. Now I look back fondly on that time spent together and cherish it. I still have the painting and I always will. It’s not really about the finished product or how it turned out. 

Here is a picture of my wonderful grandmother, Vivian and I a few years ago. And the finished product from all those years ago:

The lesson I found in painting that day, my special ninth birthday gift, was it’s more about the process. It’s less about the control or the finished product.

So when I feel like I need to go into Sargent mode in life (you know what I mean, right? Trying to adhere to rigid expectations- control, hold tighter when faced with what feels a loss of control or a change happens in life— Sargent mode is not a nice place to live— for us or those we are around!) I try to remind myself of my painting gift with Grandma. I’ve just recently taken it out of my memory box and put it out where I can see it and remember this that God is the ultimate craftsman. He is the one overall, He’s in control. He’s the One who has given us this life canvas. He bought bought it for us by sending Jesus to die in our place (John 3:16).

He has all the supplies, all the paints, paint brushes, everything ready for us to paint our life’s picture.

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

2 Peter 1:3

He doesn’t leave it at that. He doesn’t just say “Great, you can use my studio have fun. I’ll check in on you later.” No, He’s like my doting grandmother who allowed me creative process, but was also there to direct and help lead. He’s leading us into making a masterpiece, His hand is upon ours. His expert brush is able to correct any mistakes. His advice and wisdom are available as He helps paint the picture of our lives.

Friend, I encourage you to spread out the canvas of your life to our loving Father God. He’’s the ultimate craftsman. He’s the one who knows our days from beginning to end. He’s the one who is Lord over all. I encourage you to release your rigid grip on the paintbrush of life— release the urge to try to control or do things perfectly (even just one imperfect moment at a time. Believe me, I am right there with you). Instead, let His wisps of grace, His gentle expert hand lead and guide you. That’s how we end up with a masterpiece! May we realize that the process is the reward. Being with Him, trusting him learning from Him, growing in Him, letting him open our eyes of faith to a new perspective letting His presence minister to us is the main goal, the main thing.

Here’s my prayer this week— may you feel free to echo what resonates with your heart in your own prayer time too:

Lord, You are the ultimate craftsman. Thank you for designing, planning and laying out my life. I want to work in cooperation with you to create this masterpiece. Help me to relinquish, to release my tight and rigid grip on life. Help me let go of perfectionism. Instead, I yield to your gentle hand guiding me in the beautiful wisps of grace. Help me to remember that you are Lord of all. You are guiding, designing, perfecting in a way that only you can do. I’m not capable of that. So I give it all into your hands. Like John Eldredge says, ‘I entrust everyone and everything into your care’ (https://www.pauseapp.com) . Thank you that we do this process together. I want to journey together. Thank you for speaking to my heart in your gentle and peaceful and wisps of grace type of way. I’ll follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit this week. To continue moment upon moment situation upon situation, to surrender control to you. I know that you are the ultimate craftsman, you will lead me in the ultimate journey, your journey for my life. In Jesus name, amen. 

Until next time, 

P.S. Picture 1: This is another one of my grandmother’s paintings that is now hanging in our house. She had a gallery of paintings all around her house, and was always willing to part with one if we felt like one resonated with us. Upon my grandparents deaths, the paintings have now been spread out to different households. That makes me smile! I like to think about how grandma’s handiwork lives on inspires others and brings smiles to my extended family’s faces in all of our different households. Her paintings are such a good reminder of God’s wisps of grace and God’s handiwork and how it lives on forever.  I’ll be excited to see the different creations she comes up with in Heaven, I’m sure she’s already started her gallery there.  (And oh the fish Grandpa will have caught! Every size and variety!)

Picture 2: Grandma and her oldest granddaughter got to continue this tradition years ago as well with a special painting day with Memaw. 🥰

P.S.S. I would love to hear your personal testimonies of the times that you have seen God’s wisps of grace in stressful or hard situations and how God came through for you. When we share these testimonies, it’s amazing how much it inspires us and reminds ourselves about the faithfulness of God and also inspires those that we tell. 

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A Brave & Tender Heart

It’s a brave thing to keep your heart a heart of flesh, tender and gentle in the midst of challenge, hurt, and the grief of this world. I

One of my favorite book characters of all time is Lucy Pevensie in “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Although we could note her curiosity, bravery, or gift of healing– instead the trait she is known for is her brave tender heart. In the midst of her older, much more mature siblings, her heart remains pure, trusting, and tender– not yet hardened by the doubts or pains of the world.

What is it about a tender heart that is so admirable? We, who are grown now, roughened up a bit (or a lot) by disappointments, challenge, heartache, remember the time our hearts were soft. In fact, we may either yearn for those moments again or in some cases resent the naivety of it.

Tenderhearted Lucy, in “Prince Caspian” finds herself on a unique journey. She has aged some since the last adventure bringing with it some of the pains of growing up. The gist of the story is that in the midst of a challenge their Savior Aslan was seemingly missing. Nobody knew where He was or why He wasn’t showing himself.  The older siblings start to lose faith in Aslan, even to the point of questioning if He was ever real. Lucy, with her child-like faith and tender heart continued to believe in her Savior, Aslan. The other children started to look to their own resources, but she was the one who remembered the One who was Truth. Later, she is the one who Aslan appeared to and spoke tenderly to. 

Oh to have a heart like Lucy! To trust the Father, even in the midst of excruciating circumstances. Our hearts started out this way and still yearn to be this way.

Did you know our hearts were modeled after our Creator’s? Yes, He gave us a heart after His own— tender, loving, gentle, trusting. The world gives its best shot against us (sometimes through choices of our own, situations we face or even just the fallen nature of this world). It can often do a number on the tender heart. The enemy would love nothing more than to injure, (“steal, kill, and destroy” John 10:10) and render our hearts beyond repair, broken, useless. But Jesus has come to give us life, life to the full (John 10:10).

In the midst of the things that would make their best attempt to harden our hearts our great Savior is calling us closer. He wants to remind us we’re never alone, to remind us even in the heartbreak of this world, or even when we don’t understand why things are going a certain way— He’s there. He’s our gentle, tender hearted Aslan. It’s in surrendering our hearts to His tender care that our own hearts remain gentle and tender. 

It’s a brave thing to keep your heart a heart of flesh, tender and gentle in the midst of challenge, hurt, and the grief of this world. It’s impossible to keep our hearts soft on our own. Often will feel like we must put a hedge of protection around our heart or we think we must never love deeply again in order to protect ourselves.

It’s a good thing that keeping a tender heart is not 100% up to us:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26 

Next time that something hurts deeply and we are tempted to close off our hearts—we must surrender our hearts again to our Savior God. Let’s place our heart in His hands- the only place it will be truly safe and secure. To do this is an act of bravery, an act of trust, an act of faith. 

We put trust in the fact that He’ll hold our hearts, He’ll be there with us. He’ll even mend us and put us back together. If you find yourself questioning Him and His faithfulness— don’t turn away. Talk to God about it. He can handle it and show you a new way of trusting Him. Let Him minister to your heart today.

The parts of your heart that are broken, hurt, closed off, barriered off, even forgotten— let Him bring your whole heart back into His tender love and care. Let Him, in His own tender and gentle way, restore life and tenderness to your heart. The places of the heart that were stone gray, dead, lifeless  now spreads a fleshly pink, the life returns because of His touch. Don’t be afraid to admit to Him all the shortcomings, hurts, fears, griefs and sorrows you’re facing. He knows anyway. The act of telling Him and letting Him in to connect with you over those things, brings great healing. 

He’s the faithful friend that sits with us as we pour out what is in our hearts. He listens, He understands, He feels. He himself has such a gentle and tender heart that He feels our heartache as His own.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:15-16

He’s the ultimate empath, the ultimate compassionate God. We see over and over in the Scriptures about how He felt compassion in His heart towards the people (Luke 7:13, Matthew 15:32, Matthew 9:36). I know one day when look in my Savior’s eyes I will see a depth of love and love never known before.

I encourage you friend when you feel:

like boxing your heart off,

breaking away a piece of your heart to keep it safe,

or hiding away to keep your heart unaffected or untouched by the world and its problems—

to entrust your heart to the Lord, place your heart in His hands. Yes, even if it is in pieces. Yes— even if it is stone cold. We are jars of clay– human, imperfect— (2 Corinthians 4:7). God made us this way! And guess what? He knows us, loves us, and does not demand perfection from us.

When we trust Him fresh and anew, in enters His grace… it is actually in the admitting of being broken—not able to do it on our own for ourselves— that we throw open our faith in the Lord and lean on Him for our answers. Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:16-28)? There was no way they could save themselves… God saved them from the fire. But their prayer had been “even if He did not save them they would still trust Him”. Now that’s extreme devotion! (Thanks to a long time family- friend and his wife for their recent talk with me about this and inspiring the completion of this blog! 😉)

My prayer for you this week:

Father God, may you encourage my friends today. May you help them to see and to feel your tenderness and faithfulness this week. May you take the pieces of their hearts and hold them gently and safely, like You always do. You are the great Aslan— we ask you to administer your life and healing. You are the expert at that.

May You help all of us in this in the midst of this cold world to stick close to you, to allow you to breathe life, health, and faith into our hearts.

May we shine as the daughters and sons of the King that we were meant to be (like Lucy) until you bring us all home where everything will be restored to its rightful place, and our hearts will sing. No longer will there any be any more pain or suffering (Revelation 21:4)

So until that day, we continue to trust you, King Jesus, with our hearts. Keep us tender, compassionate, and gently in your care. Help us know, that like Queen Lucy, we can make a big difference in the healing of hearts by leading people to you while there’s still time. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Until next time, 

 P.S. Another book series I’d like to recommend to help grow your children’s (or grandchildren’s) faith this summertime is “The Kingdom Series” by Chuck Black. https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Volumes-Kingdoms-Quest-Reign/dp/B01JMW71QM

Summertime is a perfect time to invest into the hearts of our children and to encourage them to to place their hearts in His tender care— that no matter what goes on in the world, no matter what tries to bend or break or hurt their hearts they can know without a doubt that Jesus loves them, that they’re safe and cared for. Do you have any Christian book recommendations for children or teens? Adults? I’d love to hear. 

Here’s a few glimpses into our summer so far:

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The Love That Was There All Along

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Jeremiah 1:5

“For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” 

Ephesians 1:4

It’s hard for us to grasp – we were, we are, and forever will be loved by our Father God. The more time I spend with Him the more He’s been teaching me of His tender love and kindness. 

I was blessed to be raised by a tender loving father (I know this isn’t the case for many). Through my dad I have seen the love of the Father and also relate to my Father God through my dad’s faithful example and ways he has led me closer to Christ. 

I pray today, no matter what your circumstances have been with your earthly physical father, that God would lead you and help open your eyes to see His unconditional, never ending Fatherly love He has for you.

“I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination (understanding), flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling —that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that He finds in us, His holy ones!”

Ephesians 1:18 TPT

There are many truths God is teaching me about His love and tender mercy, three that stand out in particular:

1. His tender love and mercy for me does not depend on us and what we do. It is 100% dependent on Him and His covenant to us.  

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  

Isaiah 54:10

“But God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!”

Ephesians 2:4-5

But I will never, no never, lift my faithful love from off their lives.

My kindness will prevail and I will never disown them.

How could I revoke my covenant of love that I promised David?

For I have given him my word, my holy, irrevocable word.

Psalm 89: 33-35

2. His tender mercy meets us where we are at:

“Hurry to our side, and let your tenderhearted mercy

meet us in our need, for we are devastated beyond belief.”

Psalm 79:8 

“For the Lord God is brighter than the brilliance of a sunrise! Wrapping himself around me like a shield, he is so generous with his gifts of grace and glory. Those who walk along his paths with integrity will never lack one thing they need, for he provides it all!”

Psalm 84:11

3. His tender love and mercy is very intimate and personal, just like His personal name: Yahweh.

It’s a story as old as time, yet unique as each one of us: How He can tenderly fall in love with each one of us is galaxies beyond our understanding. Yet it does not change the truth of the matter. You are completely loved by Father God.

I have been reading the Passion Translation Bible the last two years or so and have started to call my Father God, Yahweh, as described in the text. Thanks to several friends, I came to see Yahweh as His personal name, an intimate name.

There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what His name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name he gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.

Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.

But scholars and Rabbi’s have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.

YH (inhale): WH (exhale).

So a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God.

A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words.

Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breathe is giving constant acknowledgment to God.

Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filing their lungs.

So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?

Being alive means I speak His name constantly.

So, is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?

In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs.

In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst.

In fear, we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.

When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

When I think about it, breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.

All of us, always, everywhere.

Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.

written by – Sandra Thurman Caporale from the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston

A few of my most favorite movies of all time remind me of the love of God (displayed in human form) are “The Magic of Ordinary Days” and “Love Comes Softly”. In both movies the plot is similar: a woman in dire circumstances, a man with tender love and compassion. She pushes and resists his love, not understanding it, until it capsizes over her tenderly, reminding her that the love has been there all along— if she can just accept it. 

The love story mimics our story with Christ! That is why it resonates so.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:6-8

Yahweh is our Savior, the one who has loved us for all time. My heart aches— How have I not seen this before? How could I have turned away or kept myself distanced from such a great love? 

Even when we are impossible- walking the other way- God’s love doesn’t jump ship! It’s there— steady, strong, ever available. In fact, I’d like to go even further than that… God’s love is waiting, yearning for the moment He’s planned for us… the moment our eyes open (the scales fall off our eyes like Saul– read Acts 9) and we are forever changed. Forever changed by His love. 

Can your heart feel His love? Now is the time to say YES even if it is the first time, the third time, or any number of times. There is no limit to how or when we can accept His love. 

Here’s a simple way to accept His love fresh and new: 

A prayer like this: 

“God, you’ve been here all along. Your love— tender kind and strong has come up to meet me, it’s available for me. I heard you knocking on the door of my life (Revelation 3:20). You want to come into my life in greater measure. Be my Savior, my Lord, my deepest, truest love of my life. I ask you today to open my eyes continually so I can more clearly see your love for me. I accept your love for me. I love you too. Thanks for waiting for me so tenderly and patiently. Thank you for meeting me where I am at, for loving me even when I didn’t know you or even when I turned my back on you. I accept your loving embrace and hug you back with my whole life. I am ready to start the next part of the journey with you— filled to overflowing with your great love for me. Amen.”

Wow, that just resonates so deeply with my heart. I hope it does with yours as well. I encourage you this week to soak in the love He has for you: the love that has been there all along. Here’s a good place to get started:

Ephesians 3: 16-19

Psalm 103:8

I encourage you to look up all the scriptures mentioned in this blog and mark them in your own Bible as well.

My encouragement for you this week: May you experience the love of God in tiny and large ways this week. May you open your heart fully to His love. He will meet you there. He’s your tender, compassionate, merciful Father, Savior, Lover, and friend. He is always near, so near He is referred to the “Near One” (Psalm 75:1).

In closing, here’s encouragement from the Word right to your heart: 

“For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you! And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for he keeps his promises to every generation!”

Psalm 100:5 TPT

Until next time, 

PS. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! You have the amazing ability to show your family the love of Jesus! Here’s two of the men in my life over the years: My dad & my husband. Thank you for how you show the love of the Father to me and our family! 

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Hope for the Hard Places

Are you feeling stuck in a hard place without a way out? I know friend, I’ve been there too. Why does it drain us so much to be stuck between a rock and a hard place? It’s like a tiredness, a restlessness like none other. I know if we are not careful, hopelessness can suck the life out of us quicker than anything else. When not dealt with God’s way it can really can be draining and overwhelming— overtaking life even to the point of extreme hopelessness. 

But, friend, we do not live like those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have the source of all HOPE, Jesus Christ Himself, living within us, strengthening us, giving us grace for the day— for every moment to come.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Romans 15:13

I don’t know about you, but I have this picture in my mind of “hope”. It’s innocent, lovely, graceful, perhaps even appearing flowery, light, beautiful. But really that’s not an accurate picture of hope. No, hope is strong, like an immoveable large boulder–the ones you have to dodge on the most intense of hikes. Nothing is going to move that rock from its location. It’s solid, sure, stable, held fast. Not so different from the ROCK that we are instructed to build our lives on in Matthew 7:24-27.

When built upon the Rock, no matter what comes we are able to withstand it because our hope and our lives are built on Him! So “hope”— instead of being some flowery wonderful, pretty thing— is actually earthy, solid, strong and movable. If only we could reprogram our minds to think of hope this way. So when Jesus offers us hope it’s a solid place to stand. Yahweh offers us a future that’s good. He offers us his hand to hold.

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

Isaiah 41:10 

So if you feel like you’re stuck, and there’s no way out, what can you do? What should you focus on? What should you look to? 

First of all, I want to encourage you you’re not going to be stuck here forever. Things are going to change. Things are going to shift. Just like the passing of a river over the rocks or the passing of clouds in the sky— life, situations, and seasons will change. It is a guaranteed promise!

While “change” often times isn’t welcomed, we can take hope from the fact that most definitely change happens. So you will shift from this moment, these troubles, this feeling of being stuck (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

Second, can you change a dance step? I know when I was feeling stuck, I was given advice… change a dance step! What does that mean?  Let me do my best to explain: 

 I’ve been taking dance classes with my daughter. We’ve been learning the waltz, the foxtrot, the promenade and read more recently swing dancing. If you see me in person, don’t ask me on demand to do these things. 😉 I’m still learning!

In all these dance classes I’m learning that it doesn’t take much to change up a dance. In the foxtrot there is a step we call  “change your mind” where you do a front step, back step, and shift to the side. It’s a helpful step if getting too close to the wall or if wanting to change direction. If I decide to incorporate that dance step, we will still be doing the foxtrot, but will be changing our direction.

So as you can see here, even just one small step change, changes the whole direction of the dance. So, that place you’ve been stuck in— perhaps even starting to feel pressed against a tight spot— even just one step, one “change your mind” step, will cause you a new freedom, a new direction. I want to encourage you you can change your dance. If you’re feeling stuck— Change one step. I know that we long for a HUGE change— we long for a deep freedom and a release from where we feel stuck— but it all starts with one step. One step can lead to a great crumbling of the wall around us.

Often changes come about one step at a time, not a great change all at once.

I encourage you to make one “change your mind” step in your current life this week. Ask God to help you with changing one detail this week in your regular lifestyle.

It can be a simple thing such as: choosing to speak with kindness, driving a different way home, reaching out to a friend, or taking a brave new step with a hobby or being involved in a church group. Or maybe it is other little things like eating at a new restaurant or venturing out on a different vacation or finding a way to invest money in a Kingdom project supporting church projects, missionaries, or Christian orphanage ministries. A “change your mind” step really can be quite anything!

God is the ultimate dance master. He’s the one who sees us, knows us, loves us and He’s the One with great plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He’s leading us in a beautiful dance for our lives.

Sometimes the way He delivers us to this new place of freedom is by helping us change one dance step at a time. You may hear His whisper, feel a prompting in your heart, or be inspired as you read the Word.

Act on those little nudges God gives your heart. In doing so, it will offer you space— freedom. The wall won’t press against your back, and you begin to have some wiggle room. When we choose to follow His promptings it breeds new ground for more change. The more you change a step here and there, the more the dance changes until before you know it you are dancing a completely unknown and different dance of freedom for your soul that you have never danced before!

“He will bring us by a way we did not know. He will lead us in paths we have not known. He will make darkness LIGHT before us and crooked places straight.”

Isaiah 42:16 

So friend, be strong. Don’t give up. Take courage. He is here and He is good. He is watching over you. He is whispering to you:

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”   

Isaiah 30:21

Things will not stay the same. That’s a guarantee.

Just as the seasons change your situation is going to change. Take hope dear friend— and remember real hope is not that flowery light wimpy hope but that rock solid, deep, earth kind of hope that is based on God and His Word. God is changing your season even if it is just one little dance step at a time. Be faithful to follow him in the small things and before you know it You will be free from those stuck place. Yes, you will be dancing a new dance and walking in a new season, free from the places that kept you trapped and stuck. Hold onto His hope!

Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Until next time,

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Grace & Gratitude

We’ve all heard of “Power Couples” perhaps mentioned in Hollywood or the media, but did you know there is an ultimate “power couple” mentioned in the Bible? Priscilla and Aquila were married ministers who knew the Apostle Paul and worked together as a team in the ministry working to encourage fellow believers in the Lord (Acts 18). Now, that is a true power couple! Another power couple I love and adore is my own Pastors, Rich & Jan. I am blessed to call them both my pastors and my parents! They truly are the modern day example of Priscilla and Aquila, working together in the ministries, their whole lives and hearts intertwined in this calling they have received from the Lord to serve as pastors (and yay for celebrating 40 years of faithful service next month!).

In Psalm 50:23, another “power couple” is found: God says, “The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right.”

This passage got the wheels turning inside my head—grace & gratitude? How do they work together? Come to find out through studying other passages like 2 Corinthians 4:19 and Psalm 9:1 that Grace & Gratitude surely do go hand in hand! It’s not enough to have one without the other. They belong together and belong in the life of anyone who is a believer. And there is great POWER released when they operate together.

Let’s look a bit closer: Grace is “charis”: the favor, blessing, kindness of the Lord towards us. He chooses to cancel the curse (we deserve) and instead pour out His blessing on those who call Him Savior. Grace is the gift(s) God gives us because He loves us and calls us His own (Ephesians 2:8).“Gratitude” is being thankful, showing appreciation for, returning kindness. We’ve learned through passages like Hebrews 13:15-16 that our gratitude is a sacrifice of praise. When we have a grateful heart, we thank God for His undeserved graces in our lives. We also, as an action of gratitude, spread His grace to others as well.

Psalm 103:1-5 is a “Gratitude List” in the making. The author, David, urges his own soul to recount and remember the blessings the Lord has given him. He lists them…
forgives all my sins

heals all my diseases

redeems me from death

crowns me with love and tender mercies

fills my life with good things

renews my strength like the eagle’s

(read the passage on your own- it’s so good!)

The same blessings God gave David He has provided for each of His children as well! Now that sounds like a good overflowing amount of grace He has extended to us, doesn’t it? And what’s our response to all these blessings? Gratitude!

I encourage you to write out David’s Grace & Gratitude list and even add some of your own personal blessings from the Lord! Put it up in a spot you will see it—the mirror, the refrigerator, even the lock screen on your phone. Let us recall and remember the gracious blessings our Lord has poured out on us and turn our hearts and words of thankfulness to Him.

God generously pours out His grace on us and we continually life up our sacrifice of praise. Now that’s a “power couple” I want to be linked up to in my life, how about you?

Until next time,

P.S. Here’s a picture of my faithful Pastor parents then & now. I am so grateful for both of them.

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He Will Bring You Through

If I could go back in time– back to that difficult season of my life– I’d like to tell myself something like this:

Keep your chin up, buttercup. ☺️ 

This thing that is trying to break you, God will turn it around and use it to remake you. 

This thing you grapple with, perhaps even feel stifling your breath… it will fade away. Rest in Him, Dear one.

This race you run, this toiling you do… the striving… it will cease. You will rest. 

You will be brought to a place of freedom. 

You will be new, remade, and stronger than before. 

Do you find yourself on a journey you did not plan for? Facing challenges you never imagined being met with? May this resonate and encourage your heart too.

Friend, I wish we could press “fast forward” and skip the scenes of dark nights, problems, challenges, illness, loneliness and devastation. Oh how I wish we could. But the journey, the journey has so much to offer us. 

We come out stronger, refined by the fire. 

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

1 Peter 1:7 

God didn’t send the fire… no, He is good. 

But He turns the storms life directs at us, and in His powerful hand, He transforms them from something that is set out to break us, and instead uses it to make us even stronger in Him. 

I wish I could say it will be easy, friend.

I wish I could say you only have ___ days, ____ hours, and ___ minutes left before you find your freedom, your belonging, your safe harbor. I know this is what I wished when faced a difficult season of my life. I wanted someone to tell me things will be okay. And tell me when, how and where. 

Instead it felt like all I was met with was silence. I even went as far to wonder, where is God in this? Why can’t I feel Him near?

But then, in moments of reflecting back on that difficult season… I see His hand in everything. 

I see that He was there with me through it all.  

I see that while I felt like I was left to weather the storm on my own, actually, I was safe inside His “cabin” the whole time— fire crackling, warm, safe and secure. The storm raged on outside… the rain, snow, and hail pelted the windows. But, I couldn’t have been more safe or more held. Interesting how I couldn’t see that in the midst of it all, but now, now I see. I was safe all along. I was in His hand, and still am. You are too. 

If you find yourself weathering a storm, and feeling all alone, please know friend, God is here. He is MIGHTY TO SAVE.

The LORD your God is among you; He is mighty to save. He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zeph. 3:17

He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Be open to what He sends your way to help. His help can come in so many different shapes and forms: a deep connection with an authentic friend, a specific sermon, Bible studies and prayer groups, art, a Christian therapist, reading a specific passage of the Word, doctors and vitamins/medicine, the beauty of nature— yes, He can use any of these means (and so much more) to help you— to lead you on His path of restoration for you— the whole of you— mind, body, soul and heart. Follow Him there, friend. 

He’s our gentle Aslan (Yes, I learned so much as a tender seven year old about relating to my Savior through the series “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Read it!) He can turn and face the enemy with just a snarl from his teeth, a deep throated growl and the evil goes running. He can also be our friend, companion, champion, and friend. And there is nothing that our “Aslan” likes more than being real with us, and letting us be real with Him. Standing so close, face to face, we can feel his “lion breath” and presence upon us.

“Connect with me”, He says. “Come further and deeper. Come with me.”

We feel the tickle of His breath upon our face as we nod and follow.

In His presence, no matter what outward circumstances we face, we find life, love, safety and belonging. I promise you, friend, if you hold onto Him, delve into the deep with Him, things will be alright. You will make it through. Cement these truths on your heart, they will take you through the rough times: He is with you. You are not alone. Hold tight to Him. He will bring you through.

If you’ve been on shaky ground, only an inch from losing it all… call out to Him. I’d like to promise you that He will swoop in and instantly restore you, redeem you, take you from that situation. But our Aslan… He does things different than we would have chosen. He is gentle, patient, kind, present. He is there when we call out in desperation, when tears drenched our faces. He is here even when when we don’t feel Him here. He will see us through.

I can see now how He wove all together for good… and how now, my feet are settled on His rock. He’ll do the same for you, too.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Psalm 40:2

He brought me to His safe harbor. He will bring you to your safe place too.

Then they were glad because of the calm, And He guided them to their desired haven (harbor).

Psalm 107:30

My relationship is now deeper with Him than ever before. He has been the anchor for my soul (Hebrews 6:19). He will be for you too, friend. Just reach out to Him. Draw near to Him. It can be as gentle as a whisper or as loud as an angry rant. He hears you, He is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and always… always believe that He is good. 

I know for me, during a tough time, I leaned on the song “King of My Heart”.

  It repeats over and over again, “He is good, He’s good, so good”. I repeated it to myself, my voice wavering at times, my voice strong at other times, my voice just a tearful squeak at other times… He is good. My spirit revived when I sung that tune over and over and over again. Yes, it is true! No matter what it looks like, no matter what we face, He is good. 

And there is nothing in all the world that would cause us to be separated from His love (Romans 8:38). Our job is to keep the communion lines open. He is here, He is good. Repeat that to yourself daily. And again and again. As many times as you need to hear it. Outloud. Let your spirit sing with that truth. 

Not yet convinced? Get to know Him from the Word. See His faithfulness and goodness in the Bible stories in the time line of the Bible… of how He sent His son to redeem us and bring us back to Him. He loves us so much.

Find the passages and promises you are standing on (there are a lot of good scriptures here in this blog to look up and start with now). Mark them in your Bible— and it doesn’t have to be beautiful calligraphy and doodles (it can be if you want it to be though)— underline it, underline it again— stand upon those words with so much force that your Bible now looks like a battlefield— marked, worn, and even tear stained. Write the scriptures down, post them around your home. Believe them in your heart. Speak them out loud. This helps change our focus from the problems instead to the WayMaker. We magnify Him and all else becomes “strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” (Hymn: Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus). 

It may seem so long, so hard, insurmountable, but friend, there will be a day you look out from the mountaintop, Aslan by your side, and you’ll say, WOW! Look how far I have come. Look how You’ve brought me through.

His brown eyes will meet yours and you’ll realize not only did He deliver you, but He turned that challenge into the ultimate bonding experience. Your heart and His now beat as one. And that, my friend, is the most wonderful place to be.

Would you like to read more encouragement on this subject? Click on my previous blog posts below:

Until next time, 

PS. Here are some pictures of the latest Mountain hike we conquered last summer on our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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A Reason to Rejoice

What do we act like when we rejoice?  My own example of “great rejoicing” was a few years ago when my sister and I were chosen through a ticket opportunity to have a chance to go to the set of a favorite television show based in the early 1900’s.  If chosen, we’d travel to Canada (an exciting adventure to say the least!), tour the set, and meet the cast. It was such slim odds that we would be chosen, but when we found out we were we did some great rejoicing in the form of screams, hugs, and even dancing a crazy-sisters-only-understand kind of dance (to see pictures and read more of our adventure click here: https://melanietalevski.com/2021/04/23/the-better-path/)

When we “rejoice” it is the release of a burden replaced with a spirit of gladness. This is how it must have been for Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter morning (John 20:11-18). Just forty-eight hours before she had seen her Savior and Lord, the one she devoted her life to, crucified. He was placed in a tomb with guards posted outside. Easter morning, when Mary approached the tomb she found two angels in white, seated where the Jesus’ body had been. “Why are you crying?” they asked. “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turned away and saw Jesus there but mistook him for the gardener, until He said, “Mary, it is I.” She cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni (teacher)!” Can you imagine her moment of surprise followed by extreme rejoicing? She went from great distress over Jesus’ missing body to exuberant jubilation when realizing He was alive! She proceeded to run down the mountain yelling all the while, “I have seen the Lord!”  Her rejoicing was loud, excited, relieved, and full of elation. It was perhaps even a bit crazy to those who looked on. She couldn’t care less. She had seen the Lord and He is risen!

When was the last time we let ourselves feel that amazed about the wonder of Easter? I encourage you to read the story and also read it to your kids or grandkids. See fresh and anew the excitement in the story, the pure rejoicing that occurred. Imagine yourself in Mary Magdalene’s shoes. She was delivered from seven demons (talk about deliverance and healing!) and had spent a year’s worth of wages to buy oil and anoint Jesus’s feet, washing them with her hair. What a pure love she had for this man who had rescued her, redeemed her, called her by name.

We, too, are rescued, redeemed and called by name (Isaiah 43:1). How do we react when hearing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection? Is it something we still get excited about? It should be! It is because of His death & resurrection that our future is secure and safe! We have a place of belonging with our risen Savior (John 10:28-29).

Yes, if there is one thing worth getting excited about it is the fact that Jesus conquered the grave and now and forever there is not one thing that can stand between us and Him and eternal life (Romans 8:31-39). Now that is something to rejoice over! 

Let’s rejoice this Easter!

Until next time,

PS. Here are some of our Easter Photos from the past several years. What are some of your Easter traditions?

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God’s Great & Glorious Plan

It’s the arrival of spring! And with it comes the hope for warmer temperatures, sunshine, and less snow (am I right?). I don’t know about you, but something about the spring season inspires me to make a plan. Perhaps it is a plan for a garden, an upcoming celebration, spring break plans or a simple change of schedule at work. What kinds of plans are you making?

As we enter spring and start to make our plans, let us also remember that God has a specific season and plan ready for each one of us! What specific assignment has He given you for this time and place? You may find yourself in a season of growing your marriage or family God’s way, advancing your career, ministering to grandkids or even a season of patience and waiting. How can you seize and use the time that God has given you in the present?

One example from our Bible of a woman who seized her God-given moment was Esther. Her cooperation with God’s plan and being willing to stand up and seize her God-given purpose helped save a whole nation! It’s even remembered and celebrated to this day as Purim. When faced with the decision to stand for the Jews or not, her cousin, Mordecai, encouraged her: “You have come to this position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). She believed it and acted on it, and God’s people were preserved from harm. Do you know the same is true for us? We “have come to this position for such a time as this”. It isn’t an accident that we are in this season, this moment. Each of us are a necessary part of God’s plan to accomplish His purposes. The opportunity is here.

Perhaps we may be tempted to say, “My current season doesn’t feel like it has that much significance”. Oh but friend, it does! God gave us just enough moments to live out the plan He has for us. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). And His promise is that He will send us His spirit to be there right alongside us, equipping us all the way (John 14:16-17).

If you don’t yet know the assignment He has for you for this time and place I’d encourage you to spend time with Him. Ask him. Read His Word, listen to His voice, come to church and fellowship with other believers. God will reveal the plan and purpose He has for you now! There is no time to waste. Just like Esther let’s seize the opportunity to step up, link up with the Holy Spirit, and fill the assignment God has placed before each of us.

Be encouraged! You are apart of His plan here on earth- a great and glorious plan!

My blessing for you this week: May you be encouraged in the season and moment you find yourself in. May you listen to the Holy Spirit’s soft whisper to you this week and may you be open to following the Holy Spirit’s nudge. I pray that your eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit and that you are able recognize your part in God’s plans and purposes right here, right now! His plans are great & glorious and you have vital part to play. May you have the courage to step up and seize the moment He has placed before you knowing that it is His Spirit that fills you & enables you.

Until next time,

P.S. One of our plans this spring was to make a new memory with our family at Mount Rushmore! We had never been before. A six hour drive later, here are some of our family pictures:

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Pockets of Grace

When listening to a live Q&A with a favorite author of mine, I was surprised at the answer to one of her questions. “How do you meet your deadline? Do you enforce a certain number of written words each day?” Instead of a typical answer, her voice softened, her light eyes twinkled. “I could give you a list of “to do’s” but what we really need is to say, “grace to me”. ” Robin Jones Gunn, the author, went on to explain how often we need to bless ourselves and give ourselves grace. It’s only then that we find the strength to flow God’s way- and with that, great things happen (even writing of manuscripts). I have found myself repeating this soft and gentle phrase– “grace to me”– when stretched in a hard situation or when demanding more of myself than I can give. What life giving words! 

Isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter where you go, no matter what you face, there is a pocket of grace that will provide for every need? Grace flows down from the throne of heaven, like a rolling, overflowing waterfall—offering just the exact grace and mercy that we need in that exact situation and moment. 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’

Hebrews 4:16

More than likely–like me– you have gone through a tough season and when looked back upon, you look back in wonder… the grace was evidently there. We think, there was no way that I on my own could have gotten through that time or situation. That’s the divine pocket of grace from God Himself coming up to meet you where you are at. It surely is an “amazing grace”.

They are pockets of grace that pop up at exactly the time when we have run out of options. We have run out of places or people to turn to. Every other option we had is now extinct. Now we find our real and raw hope is in God, Him alone. 

The good news is this “pocket of grace” is deep and wide (remember the song “deep and wide” from our kids church classes? 😉). His grace is deeper, wider, fuller, than we ever knew. It is even big enough to splash in! Come on in, ankle deep, thigh high, and now in over your head! This precious place of grace offers rejuvenation and fortitude from God alone. 

I have experienced this grace time and time again and could list example after example— kids’ births, change of jobs, hospital and situations, even through challenges and deaths of precious family members. How have you experienced His pocket of grace in your life?   If you haven’t experienced this yet I ENCOURAGE you to lean into your Heavenly Father, maker of heaven and earth, next time a situation beyond your control comes up. He will surely give you the grace you need for that moment. 

The key to receiving this wonderful grace comes in learning to be like my childhood golden retriever, Daisy. Let me explain… No matter what the day held for Daisy, no matter how many squirrels she chased, how stinky her fur or breath was, or how put together she was or not… one thing we could count on: Daisy would come inside and let us love on her. We’d get to scratching her ears, petting her, and before we knew it, she’d be so cozied up to us that it was next to impossible to move. She was full out leaning on us.
(Ha ha—reminds me of the movie While You Were Sleeping and the “leaning” comment made famous by that movie 😆).

She was not easily convinced to move from her spot snuggled close to us. It would take a lot (either the hope of a dog bone or a walk) to get her to budge away from her favorite spot.

So how does this apply to us? We got to get to the place that we become the ultimate “lean-ers” on Christ. It’s the spot where we know that we are welcomed, safe, and loved. We learn how to fully lean into God, knowing He is taking care of us, He is with us, and we are not budging from that spot. We are so stuck by His side and loyal to Him, knowing we can fully trust Him. So basically, we just need to have common sense like Daisy— stick close to our Savior and don’t let up. Let Him love on you. 

In cozying up with our Creator He reveals to us His Kingdom mindset:  

It’s the one that says—

My God is here and He is not going to desert me (Isaiah 41:10). 

My God is here and He provides all my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

He will bring to completion the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6).

My God never leaves me or forsakes me (Hebrews 13:5). 

My God has my life and every detail of my life in His hands (Psalm 37:23-24).

I am written in the palm of His hand- He cares for me (Isaiah 49:16). 

With a Kingdom mindset like this we become ultimate LEANERS into the faithfulness of our God. And when we “lean in” we realize that GRACE is there, like the pocket of sunshine in the midst of the clouds, like the trickle of water in the desert. We realize the answer we need lies not so much in the physical granting of our need but rather found in the larger than life God we serve. The one we lean into. The One who is faithful. 

So friends, I encourage you this week in the Lord: When you face insurmountable odds or even just daily challenges may you lean into our Maker God, our Father God, and know He provides for us, takes care of us, and is the answer we need and crave everyday.

It reminds me of this hymn: 

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
by Iris DeMent

Friend, may you experience the pockets of grace, the waterfall of grace rising up to meet you today. 

In light of upcoming St. Patrick’s Day here is an Irish Blessing for you this week: 

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Traditional Irish Blessing

Know you are in the palm of His hand. You are safe and secure from all alarm. Not feeling it yet? Lean in deeper… come further with your Savior God. 

Until next time, 

Speaking of PUPPY LOVE here is our youngest (years ago) with the beginning of her stuffed dog collection. ❤️

Some pictures of growing up with Daisy. 🌸

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The Ultimate, Outlasting Love of God

We’ve all heard of the cosmetic lines that are advertised to “outlast” the day or at least several hours. It may claim it “stands the test of time” or that it “gives you beautiful, next 24-hour looks” or gives you “perfect skin all day long”. Even if we are convinced by this advertising to give their brand a “go”, often we are disappointed. Nothing lasts forever, we tell ourselves. Sound familiar? 

If we aren’t careful, this same attitude can affect our perspective on many things including God’s great OUTLASTING love for us. We may find ourselves saying, “sure the Bible ‘advertises’ it as such, but God’s love really couldn’t be that enduring, right?” As much as we want to believe we may find ourselves cynical, with a lack of trust. “Nothing lasts forever,” we may mumble under our breath. 

Friend, I can’t vouch for the cosmetics or the other beauty treatments that promise to “outlast”. There is only one thing in the world that is truly outlasting, enduring beyond all, outstaying, and remaining against the odds—and it is the Ultimate, Outlasting Love of God. 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Believe it or not, it is true! God’s love for me and you is ETERNAL, outlasting anything and everything it faces not only in this physical world but in the new world to come! And it isn’t just the kind of love that hangs on by a thread, ready to be snapped by the hint of a mere trouble or problem, no this love is STRONG, full, and steady. 

It’s a love that goes far deeper than the fairy tale singing of “This is Love” (remember that Disney princess rendition)? This is the nitty gritty, real depth of love: God’s ever present, outlasting love was demonstrated as Jesus’ blood hit dirt as he hung on the cross. It doesn’t get any more real than that! 

It’s a lot less of a “valentine hearts and love dove” representation but rather a “nitty gritty, holds on, never lets go” type of love. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of love I need, the kind of love my heart cries out for each and every day in this less than perfect world. 

Here’s a few more scriptures for further study on this ultimate outlasting love of God: 

Ephesians 3:18-19

1 John 4:9-10

John 15:9

Ephesians 2:4-5

May you be encouraged today that HIS LOVE is just what we need. No matter how scary the situation, how big the challenge, or how hopeless things may feel– His love outlasts all and we can rest in that. 

You can read more on God’s Great Agape Love here:  https://melanietalevski.com/2021/02/12/an-unlimited-supply/

Until next time,

PS. It’s always about this time of year my heart yearns for the first signs of spring! But here we are, in the midst of sunshine, snow, cold weather, etc… and we are learning to embrace the moment. Here’s some of our recent snow fun:

Thanks to Agape Life Church for letting me cross-post my writing & thank you also for the great graphics!

An all new- original to melanietalevski.com blog coming in the next couple of weeks. 🙂

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Want to Flourish? Start to Nourish

* This week I am excited to share with you a guest blog post I wrote for Agape Life Church.

My daughter just recently got a new batch of plants—all shapes and sizes. She’s careful to nourish them each day: give them just what they need to grow and reach their optimum health. The way she transports them to a sunny spot, waters accordingly, and researches about each specific plant shows her care for her plants. And it’s not just a chance that her plants are flourishing it is because she does the necessary daily work of “nourishing”. Oh that we would pour such care into our own spiritual life! Our spirits long to be in the sunny presence of God, to breathe Him in each hour of every day, to grow healthy and strong putting our roots down deep into the soil of His Word.  
To be nourished means “to be provided with everything necessary for growth, health, and good condition”. Anything that is nourished will naturally flourish– it’s a law whether it applies to plants, mankind, or our spiritual lives. (And the good news about a flourishing spiritual life it also impacts your mind, body and any situations that come your way!) I don’t know about you, but I’d love a year of flourishing! To flourish is “to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, rapidly and successfully, reaching new heights especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment”. Doesn’t that sound like a good deal? No, not another year of barely holding on, barely getting by or being rocked by the world’s circumstances. We’ve had our fill of that! But it is time to move on into flourishing. 
The secret to flourishing is being nourished by our loving Savior day after day. This nourishing happens in the form of: opening our Bibles and letting our roots grow deep (check out Agape’s One Year Bible Reading Plan https://www.agapelife.org/abide-365/ ), soaking in the presence of Jesus each day… spending time in His presence (Psalm 34:8), guarding our thoughts and setting our minds on the pure, good and lovely (Philippians 4:8), changing our focus from the world and it’s death, dying and decay and instead placing it on the Savior of our souls, His faithfulness, and what He has done and what He is doing (2 Corinthians 4:18). Nourishment also comes by gathering together for encouragement in church community, church services, and the encouragement of Christian friendships (Hebrews 10:25).
When we become nourished in these ways our roots go down deep (Colossians 2:7) and we become like a tree planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1:3). I’ve seen trees next to a river and my, are they flourishing! This is God’s will for each of us—not just a barely getting by or holding on lifestyle—but a thriving, blooming, fruit-bearing life! (John 10:10) Yes, friends, I bless you with a year of being spiritually nourished so you can flourish in every way! Be blessed in Jesus Name! 

Until next time,

PS. Here’s some pictures of our new addition completed! In my previous post https://melanietalevski.com/2022/01/15/22-things-im-looking-forward-to-in-2022/ I featured a few of the “in progress” photos of our addition. Here’s the final product! And, as you can see, it’s a peaceful and sunny habitat for plants as well. Be nourished & flourished this next week. ❤️

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22 Things I’m Looking Forward To in 2022

1. By far, one of my most exciting things I am looking forward to in 2022 is opening my Bible every day! Here’s the reading plan I am following this year https://shereadstruth.com . Just 15 days in this has already been such a blessing! I’m excited to see what the year holds as I read my Bible each day. Hope you will join me in reading your Bible each day the next year.

2. Enjoying a new space. My husband is in the midst of putting an addition on the back of the house. Here’s where we are at for now:

3. Taking more walks around this beautiful lake I enjoy every season. Isn’t that a beautiful view?

 4.  My oldest & driver’s ed! 😲😲😲

5. Probably way too many coffees and Chai teas consumed! 😆  I have a local coffee shop that’s known to feed my addiction. It’s the perfect place to read, write, and enjoy coffee! 

6. Celebrating 19 years of marriage with my husband. Then & now pictures. I’m amazed at how the years go by!

7. I’m excited to get to my TBR (To Be Read) bookstack. Here’s a link to my goodreads account https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/74295832-melanie-talevski Check it out to see what books I read in 2021 and what books I want to read this next year. 😊

8. Baseball. You know I love it! And how blessed am I that I have kids who love baseball almost if not more than their mama? Plenty of MLB radio listening in my future & attending my kids’ live games. Love it! 

9. Church Events and Functions. The gathering of community together and sharing joy with each other as we gather in Jesus’s name— It’s the best!

10.  Family vacation in whatever form that takes: Arizona for spring training?  A trip out to the beach? A family gathering at Estes Park? Whatever it ends up being I know we will enjoy time away from the daily grind & time together as a family out in God’s beautiful creation!

11. Continuing to see my children grow and change in their own ways. I have a daughter who is super into guitar and is even planning to play with the church worship team this next year. I have a son who is an inventor and creator like his father. Who knows what inventions they will come up with? But I do know they will genius! And our youngest who is coming into her own and like her mama often has her nose stuck in a book. 

 12. Celebrating birthdays with family and friends! What greater occasion is there than getting together and enjoying celebrating someone’s life? (And, I may have the big 4-0 coming up…) 

13. Health goals. Nourishing. Listening. 

14. Getting away on a Writing Retreat. Not sure which one yet, but I’m open to whatever comes up whatever path the Holy Spirit maybe nudging me towards. Here’s pictures from years before:

15. Being fully alive, and embracing whatever this next year brings. Just like I’ve learned how to bundle up and walk in the cold over the winter time— to embrace the present moment, even if my nose and feet are cold— So I endeavor to embrace whatever comes up in 2022. It’s called FLEXIBILITY and I am not that good at it, still practicing… 

16. Hot chocolate and board games with the family. This has been our go-to for this winter so far and keeps us busy and joyful during the dark evenings. (Here’s the link to my latest blog where I mentioned some of our favorite games: https://melanietalevski.com/2022/01/01/plan-be/ )  

17. Creativity. If you were to peek into our home, you’d see at least one of these things unfolding before your eyes in my little home: strumming on a guitar (or ukulele) sketching, creating on the circuit machine, paintings, building inventions, writing.  There’s a lot of creativity going on at the Talevski household. And I love every minute of it! Here’s to even more in 2022. 

18. Continuing to spread God’s encouraging word to others in whatever shape and form God leads me in. ❤️ Here’s my writer profiles where you can follow this process.

https://www.facebook.com/melanietalevskiwrites

https://www.instagram.com/melanietalev/

19.  Deepening my walk with the Lord. Letting my roots grow down deep into Him (Colossians 2:7) Also, learning to trust Him, to have Him as my bedrock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2ld1wI2hT8

20. More laughter! I want to learn how to take more moments for full out belly laughs, embracing the silliness of certain situations, and not be so “focused” I miss out on the humor in each day, in whatever form that takes: whether it’s silly AFV clips, talks with a cross-country friend, being with my sister (she’s always adding joy and humor to my day ever since were were little!) or laughing with my kids (kids are just walking comedians at times, aren’t they? 😉). Yes to more joy in 2022! 

21. One of my favorite things are these epsom salts (https://www.amazon.com/Dr-Teals-Soaking-Solution-Lavender/dp/B00LW1KAYC/ref=sr_1_4?crid=Z5178RIY5LHV&keywords=dr+teals+lavendar&qid=1642275439&sprefix=dr+teals+lavendar%2Caps%2C134&sr=8-4) and a quick soak at the end of the night in the bathtub: just a moment to be present and to slow down before hopping in bed. Looking forward to many soaks in 2022. It’s the little things, right? 

22. And saving one of the best for last, I am looking forward to following God’s presence and His teaching in my life and writing it down to share here on my blog posts. I love being able to share with you here! I always pray that these blog posts would touch your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. So stay tuned for more blog posts coming your way!

A BLESSING FOR 2022: 

May you find hope in His presence this new year and all the exciting things to come. May you find a strength filling you, surrounding you— the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you find courage provided by His presence alone for this year of 2022. I pray you’d find hidden pockets of grace, surprises in His presence, and abundance that comes in trusting the Father. May you be blessed in every way in 2022. 

Until next time, 

PS. Your turn: Make a list of your own 22 things you are looking forward to this next year. I’d love to hear about it. 

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Plan “Be”

“The One who calls you by name is trustworthy and will thoroughly complete His work in you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24 

It’s the new year, and I don’t know about you, but all of a sudden my newsfeed has exploded with “be the best you in 2022” communicated through numerous articles, links, organizational plans, goal setting… What’s a girl to do? Yes, I truly do want 2022 to be a wonderful year- but to what extent? Is my own sanity worth it? If we just “pressure” or “organize” ourselves better will a more wonderful year ensue? It sure seems like we are trained to think so.

In a time when all kinds of lists are made, goals are identified, the pressure to be something becomes great. Be stronger, be skinnier, be kinder, be more aware, be more involved, be on top of your finances, be healthy… the list goes on, and on, and on. But according to 1 Thessalonians 5:24, instead of the world’s mantra of “be something”– our mantra in Christ becomes simply “be”! As we trust Him–the trustworthy one– He will complete His work in us. He will complete us body, mind, Spirit. He will accomplish His plans for our lives. 

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” 

Psalm 138:8

Nothing’s wrong with goals, plans, organization. I plan to do a fair share of that this new year…. yet, the problem comes when we decide that “doing” these things will offer salvation, perfection, a flawless new year.

No, the only tried and true ONE who leads us into His plans and purposes in His gentle Spirit-led way, is our Lord Jesus. He’s the only one who could redeem a year in this world for His glory, shining His light both in us and through us.

The most important thing we can put on our “to do list” this next year is to “be” with our Maker, trusting Him fully to fill us, to cause us to live a passionate fulfilling life with the plans He has for us. 

So dear friends, I challenge you this new year to “be” and to trust the trustworthy one. He alone is the one who can complete us and complete His work in us. 

Spending time with Him— communing with Him all through the day—we become sensitive to His voice, His leading. And if we follow where He leads us— that is the path of truly joyful and a fulfilled life. It’s the path of fulfilling the unique and special call God has on our individual lives. 

My prayer for you for 2022:

Lord, I pray a blessing over my friends may they lean into you this year— breathe with you— Your heavenly, soothing presence each moment of the day. May they be filled with you. May they come to know you in new and deep ways and may they experience your faithfulness. May their eyes be opened to your trustworthiness and may they believe without a doubt that you hold them: You hold their years ahead, you hold their destinies in your hands. Help them to trust that you, God, will be the one to complete it. 

We trust you in all things and more than anything. We want you, your presence and divine call for our lives for 2022. Amen. 

So I bless your next year friend. I am so excited to hear of the journeys we take with the Lord. 

Until next time, 

PS. Our New Year’s Eve tradition has always been gathering with family for an evening of board games, laughter, snacks and enjoyment. Here’s a few of our pictures over the years…

PS. Have you heard of these games? These are some of our favorites.

And some new favorites this year:

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The Night Love Lit the Sky

I have heard this year that the aurora borealis is seen from many new locations– brighter and bolder than before– and how my heart yearns to see the whole sky light up in beautiful color, straight from our Maker Himself. 

The closest I have ever been to seeing the whole sky light up was one of two things: either the best firework display I’ve ever seen (Coors Field for 4th of July 😉) or the most natural and beautiful lightening storm— you know the ones that light up the sky with hues of purple. Often there is not even one clap of thunder, just flashes of lightening and color lighting up the sky. 

It’s unusual to see the sky lit in such different ways— whether aurora borealis, fireworks, or beautiful natural lightening storms. Something is almost “miraculous” when even the sky shifts in lighting and color…

Perhaps it was not so different from that special night, two thousand years ago, on the hillside in Bethlehem. Yes, that was a night that God’s unconditional love lit the whole sky… a night that changed the lives of not only the lowly shepherds out in their fields tending sheep but also changed that of a nation, that of a world— that of you and me. 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests’. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:8-15

One day, in heaven, I will wish to replay the lighting of the sky that night. How wondrous, glorious it must have been as heaven opened up and the angels descended, all singing “Glory to God in the Highest”. Now, that is one wondrous birth announcement! 

The shepherds in the fields that night were shocked (terrified even) when they saw the heavens open with their own eyes! The message so “shocking” and life changing, they left all responsibility and went to visit the Christ child, to worship the newborn King.  And even that was not enough “celebration” for the shepherds whose lives had been changed— they went out to share the news becoming the first ones to spread Christianity throughout the hillsides. 

I love that God reserved this special visitation for the lowest of people… shepherds weren’t often associated with as their jobs were the lowest of the low. It’s even suggested that these lowly shepherds were watching over the actual sacrificial lambs for the temple. The night the angels announced the birth of the ultimate sacrificial lamb- Jesus- who would die to take the sin of the world it was to the shepherds who truly understood the matter. Wow! God changed the shepherd’s lives… no longer were they just shepherds, but witnesses… messengers of the mighty event of God’s coming to earth through the baby Jesus. 

The same can be true for us too, friend. We are visited each Christmas, through God’s presence and truer-than-life Christmas story, and our hearts are again renewed to the Good News. Although perhaps the literal sky does not change its brightness for us this season, if we will take the time to let God’s story (His love brought down to us at Christmastime through His Son) soak into our hearts— God’s unconditional love will light up our lives, just as His love lit the whole sky that night two thousand years ago. 

Let His unconditional love come and wrap around you, friend. 

He whispers to you, “Accept the love I sent down… accept it fully into your heart, letting it overwhelm, soften, and fill you.” 

We look up into His eyes. 

He has done all— even descended from the highest heaven to come to earth to draw us near, cleanse our sin, and give us a right place with God again. 

Yet still… our answer hangs in the balance. 

Our answer should be quite obvious: yet due to pain, disappointment, hurt, sometimes we hold back. Sometimes we pause more than necessary. 

Just look in His eyes, dear friend, accept His love once and again for you. 

Accept His renewing, comforting, powerful, life changing love. 

Perhaps you’ve done it once before. Friend, this is something we can do anew every day. 

It’s as simple as a whispered prayer:  Jesus, I am accepting the love you sent down— the love that lit the whole sky. The love that changed so many lives back then and is still changing lives today— my own included. Thank you that your love is unconditional: you pour out your affection on me without any limitations or conditions. It’s simple pure love. The best gift of all. 

And when we let His Love enter and light even the forgotten corners of our hearts— it transforms us. We become like the shepherds who accepted the message and were instantly filled with His light, with purpose for spreading the message near and far. 

This Christmas, let His love light up your heart, give you all the love you need, transform and change you, impassion you for spreading the message of His kingdom. 

Let me tell you, friend, this is real living. It is Kingdom living and is the only thing that will last for eternity— accepting Him, living with Him and for Him each day. 

If this is the first time accepting His love into your heart, whisper a prayer to Jesus today. It can be something like this: 

“Lord Jesus, I invite you to come into my life. I believe that you are God’s son and you died for me. Your precious blood paid for all my sins and purchased eternal life for me. I now say ‘Jesus, you are my Lord and Savior!’ I’ll never be alone again. You are here for me everyday, in every way. Thank you, Lord! Amen.”

That’s all… it can be as easy or eloquent as you would like. The main thing is saying it from your heart….

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Romans 10:9-10

And for anyone who has already done this first step I urge you to whisper your own prayer each and every day, accepting anew His unconditional love. 

“Lord, your transforming love has changed my life ever since I became yours. Fill me today fresh and anew with your love. Empassion me with your love and message. Give me opportunities to share YOU to the world around me.” 

It’s amazing when we give that open door to the Lord what He will do with it. He will continually fill your heart and send certain people your way who need to hear the Good News. Yes, we get to be the modern day shepherds— witnesses, messengers of His love that lit the sky all those years ago— His love that is still lighting our lives each and every day. 

Here’s my prayer for you this Christmas: 

May you feel the unconditional love of Jesus wrapping around you, holding you close. I pray that you would sense His presence in a deep and wonderful way— banishing any thoughts of loneliness— and instead filling every corner of your heart with His love. May your life shine with His glory— and may it be impossible to keep it to yourself but instead become a bright beacon for others, drawing them to the truth of Jesus Christ. 

Merry Christmas! 

Until next time, 

In writing this article I was reminded of one of my favorite Christmas songs as a teen. Take a listen: 

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Slow & Sweet Savor

I have one child who is the opposite of “in a rush” and absolutely savors each thing she chooses to spend her time on. Whether it’s reading a book out loud, drawing a masterpiece, or making a pretend land for her stuffed animals— she’s happiest when she’s allowed to move at her own pace. To rush her through things causes panic, annoyance and disruption to the little world she’s inserted herself into. After eight years of being her mom, I am finally learning how to not rush her and allow her her slow savoring process (school mornings are a different story 😉 but slowly I am learning to allow her more time to do what she needs to do).

Sadly, it’s a phase a lot of us grow out of, usually by necessity, but also by the tug and pull of the world and its distractions. 

To “savor” takes conscious effort to slow down and disengage or untangle ourselves from the pace dictated and instead, move to the rhythm of our own hearts. 

I had a moment like this recently. This week at our church service, I just sat there and savored the moment. The presence of God was there, so real, peaceful you could physically feel it. To tops things off, the kids had their Fall Fest and were tromping around in their costumes, happy as could be.  Tables were being set up for our community church lunch, the smell of lunch wafting in the air. Time just paused for a moment. It’s like my heart said, “Psst! These are the moments of our lives. Don’t miss out!”  The feeling of peace, no hurry, no rush, fell over me and I realized, “Yes, what is life worth living if not for these moments?” It makes me want to live with that purpose each day to SAVOR.  

I’ve had this yearning lately to JUST BE with my parents, my family, my sister and her family. Just soak them in, treasure them. Nothing fancy, planned, or even filled with nonstop talk—  just a cherishing of them and who they are in my life. Because what really matters more than being with the people you love? Everything else fades, disappears, disintegrates, but love remains. LOVE REMAINS. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

My mom often recalls a story about my Great Grandma. Years ago, they were sitting together and Great Grandma– who by that time was nearing 100 years old, confined to a wheelchair and did not talk much at all– focused her eyes on my mom, patted her face. My mom asked what she was doing… she said, “Oh, just beholding you.” The moment affected my mom immensely. If we all would take the time to “behold” or “cherish” each other, how much different would life be? Each time my mom tells the story, tears catch in her eyes, for it truly was a special moment— treasuring, savoring, truly feeling the LOVE God has given us. 

 It makes me think about our Lord too— how He lives like this and exists like this. He had everything in the world— yet there was one thing He wanted most: our hearts! Our love. Our attention.

“And in love He chose us before He laid the foundation of the universe!”

Ephesians 1:4a

Yet we flit about like the birds before a storm— busy to this tree and that, gathering food, chattering, and transfixed with what’s before us. But to pull out a “timeout card”— to realize that He’s so important He’s worth savoring—It brings a fullness, a richness, a depth to our lives. We find that the flitting back and forth to and fro, no longer draws us and we want to be at the feet of Jesus, savoring His every word. 

This reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha: 

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Being an older sister who thrives on responsibility, that story often rubs me the wrong way. (Anyone else? 😉) I mean, here Martha is preparing the meal, cleaning, readying the dishes and what was Mary doing? Sitting at Jesus’ feet listening. It felt so unfair to Martha I am sure, because “there was just so much to be done!” (Can anyone relate?! Yikes!) But the text here says, Martha was “distracted”. Busy with things that weren’t of the most importance. Can anyone relate with this? (hand raise over this way! 🤚)  Jesus said “Mary has chosen what is best”.

Friends, we got to stop our needless, unending frittering back and forth and instead lock eyes on the One who waits for us. Let’s pull away from distractions and seek Him. All He wants is our hearts.

It reminds me of a song called “We Dance” by Stephanie Gretzinger. Read the lyrics, listen to the song. I promise your heart will be filled. ❤️ 

“We Dance” by Stephanie Gretzinger

You steady me, slow and sweet

We sway, take the lead and I will follow

Finally ready now, to close my eyes and just believe

That You won’t lead me where You don’t go

When my faith gets tired and my hope seems lost

You spin me round and round and remind me of that song

The one You wrote for me

We dance

Oh, we dance

I’ve been told to pick up my sword and fight for love

Little did I know that Love had won for me

Here in Your arms, You steal my heart again

And I breathe You in like I’ve never breathed till now

I will lock eyes with the One who’s ransomed me

The One who gave me joy for mourning

I will lock eyes with the One who’s chosen me

The One who set my feet to dancing

It’s nice to know I’m not alone

I find my home here in your arms 

 So let’s have a sweet and slow dance with the Lord this week. Let Him lead— refuse to check your watch, your “to do” list , your never ending thoughts and instead lock eyes with the One who will fill your heart up with His Love. The One who is more than enough. The One who is worthy of savoring. That’s what I plan to do. ❤️

Until next time, 

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Peach Promises

Maybe a peach tree has more to do with life than originally thought. Yes, the branches, the fruit, the harvest—  it all can take on very easy Christian overtones. But looking at my peach tree today, a great many of the small peaches ripening, a few of the bigger ones still with a light yellow green tint, a different principle comes to mind: the unpredictability of fruit. The prime peach we wait for still clings to the branch, not ready for harvest. But a handful of other ones, they are ready for the harvest and even fall to the ground before we have a second to pick them.

Life is definitely similar… that one event, answer to prayer, thing we are believing for — it may still be up high on the tree, green and firm to the touch. The other things, things we hadn’t anticipated, are ripe and ready for the picking, dripping their juices over us, the smell sweet and intoxicating. 

I think there is an important lessons in both of these fruits: the one ripe and ready, and the one greatly anticipated but still clinging to the branch…

Ripe and ready moments: It is amazing how many of them hit us– my daughter had one just the other day. Out of the blue, after several years of acquaintance, a schoolmate texted her with a hunger for wanting to know God on a deeper level. Her desire was raw and real and she knew she could ask my daughter about it. My daughter simply beamed ☀️ with the assignment God had dropped into her day. It was a ripe fruit, a ripe situation, that just suddenly plopped into her hand. But she was ready for it, and takes great delight in the assignment God has given her. We have all had ripe fruit dropped into our lives in unexpected moments, and like the Bible says we are to “be instant in season and out” when presented with a chance to share the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2). What great harvesting of souls has happened because of Christians being ready for these types of situations everywhere they go! 

Ripe situations also drop in our laps about things we haven’t anticipated… a new job, a move, a new friendship or relationship, a blessing that pops in out of the blue. I love when that happens, don’t you? ❤️

But what about the fruit that just stubbornly clings to its spot on the branch? It’s still as hard as all get-out, green as can be, with no notion of ripening. It seems there is no answer about that situation.

You know what I am talking about… the deliverance from a situation that seems unbearable, the healing from a sickness, the next direction from God, the redemption of a relationship, etc. You know God’s promises on the matter. You’ve prayed and prayed about the situation, but nothing has budged. That fruit is still green on the branch and as hard as a rock. When will the promise come to fruition? 

Friend, I have an encouragement for you today: All of God’s promises are true. It does not matter how small the fruit, how hard or stubborn the fruit is, or even what appears to be an absence of fruit in that area… God keeps His word.

“and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”

Romans 4:21