The Missing Orange Backpack

The triplets start kindergarten this year! Can you believe it? They were just little babies, all three of them crying and wearing diapers. How did we get here? How did the last five years just fly by?

A fellow incoming kindergarten mom organized a few play dates at parks in the neighborhood so we could let the kids meet each other … and we could get to know one another too. We were only able to make the last one, last night.

2045cr-orgThe boys ran ahead, SO excited to be playing on their big school’s playground. I had this moment … this gut wrenching moment.  I saw three boys running to the playground. I saw three boys getting ready for kindergarten. I saw a blue, green and an orange backpack running to the merry-go-round. Owen should be going to kindergarten too.

Shortly after Owen died, I decided to still call the boys triplets. I carried three babies darn it … Owen’s death didn’t change that. I figured it would be a temporary thing. Everything was going from three to two … I at least had control over what I called them. At the time, I imagined I have to let go of the term triplets when we started kindergarten. It would be too hard to explain to everyone. Just dragging up Owen’s story when I didn’t have to.

Well kindergarten is here. The sting isn’t any less. They are still triplets.

As the boys jumped on the merry-go-round, one of the moms at the playdate said, “Oh wow, twins?” I tried it on for size. “Yes, twins.” I said, trying to smile through it. I just couldn’t do it. I had to correct her. “No, actually they are triplets. Their brother passed away when they were babies.”

I was foolish to think that one day it would ever be ok to call them twins. Naive to think that one day it would ever be acceptable that Owen isn’t at a big life moment. It’s not fair and it’s not ok. I should be buying three backpacks dang it! I should be seeing six little feet run towards school on Thursday morning. And you know what? There isn’t a thing I can do about it either.

These sweet memories will always be laced with a thread of loss and sadness. I sighed when Logan introduced himself to his teacher at Open House. “I’m Logan. I have a brother who died. His name is Owen.” The sweet, blonde and smiling teacher looked down at Logan, and said “I know you do. I’m sorry he died. Thank you so much for telling me that.” Logan ran off, not missing a beat.

I still have a choice in all this. I can still chose what to focus on … a beautiful, painful story of love, loss and healing. Two beautiful boys who are thick as thieves. Two boys who are so ready and so excited to start “big boy school” with their big brother. It will never feel “right” to buy two backpacks. Who knows, maybe one year I’ll still buy three. Just because.

Love, Mel



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Let me clarify something about my “truth tellers”

Since I’ve posted my When you want to rip your mom’s face off! post, I’ve had this pit in my stomach. When I re-read my post, I was worried that my point was missed. So I wanted to clear a few things up.

My mom isn’t the nagging mom type. I FELT like she was. In hind sight, she was hitting on decisions I was ashamed of. So my feelings of her not being a safe person, had more to do with me being frustrated she wouldn’t just let me just do whatever I wanted. She loved me enough to tell me the truth even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. And you know what? I’m so thankful she did!


You know God is trying to get your attention when all of a sudden everything you read or hear starts to relate to the same topic. This verse first showed up in my email:

“Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 15:32 (NIV)

This verse is at the root of my previous post. I interpreted my mom’s guidance or discipline as judgement … she was being my mom … and a good one. She was offering instruction and correction … I disregarded her discipline … therefore despised myself. I lacked understanding and therefore, made bad decisions for myself.

The corrections my “truth tellers” offer me still hurt … a lot. I still want to huff and tell them I know better. Their words still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. What I have learned is how to pause and let it sink in. I’ve learned how to remind myself that they love me … they are looking out for me. It’s up to me to let it soak in. It’s up to me to take their comments and transform them from judgement into guidance.

Please hear me that my “truth tellers” aren’t being nagging, “I told you so” family members. They are love warriors who risk being despised in order to save me from my own mistakes. They sacrifice being liked in order to show me wrong choices.

Do you have someone in your life that you feel judged by? Ask yourself why … In my learning, it usually has more to do with my own insecurities than it does with the other person.

Find your “truth teller” and commit to at least thinking about the feedback they give you. Take a deep breath and just listen. Give it a day or two. If you don’t have any “ah ha” moments about what they said, than move on. But I would guess that you’ll find something to have some merit. You won’t want to admit it … but it’ll be there.

Love, Mel


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When want to rip your mother’s face off!

When You Want to rip Your moms face off

Anyone else have a mom whose favorite phrase is “I told you so?” GAH I want to rip her face off every time she says it. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Really Mom? Why do you have to be so judgmental? I often feel like my mom is my worst critic; always judging my choices and saying that she could do better than I … she always “knows better.” I began to feel like she wasn’t a safe person to share things with … all she did was judge and point out what I was doing wrong.

This past year has been rough for Jaden … like really rough. He’s been struggling with life stuff that kids shouldn’t have to worry about. We’ve been going to therapy for two years now trying to work on this and we’ve reached this place where he thinks I don’t love him. When these feelings started coming out I was irritated. Seriously kid? I give you everything! I fought like hell to bring you into this world, you have been the center of everything for me and you have the guts to say I don’t love you? Really?

I decided to bring my mom to one of our therapy appointments. My therapist was a little surprised when we showed up together, and then I laid it all out for her. Look, I can talk to you about how I see the situation until I’m blue in the face, but it’s not helping. We aren’t making progress. Jaden and I just keep fighting more and more and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it better.

So we sat and we talked. Mom had a few good jabs and the therapist picked up on it right away. “Mel, you didn’t really like what Mom just said.” Ummm no I didn’t really but I know she loves me so I need to just sit and wrestle with it until I can sort it all out. After each wrestling match, I found a piece that I could say, “Yeah, ok, this part is probably true, I just don’t want to have to admit it.”

It took my divorce to give me a wakeup call … when the weight of my “I knew better” outweighed my mom’s “I told you so.” For the first time, I saw how many people care about me … like really care about me. When they were all “judging” my decisions, they were really telling me what I already knew to be true, I just didn’t want to admit it. My family loves me so much, they are willing to step in and tell me the truth even when it’s not what I want to hear. They are looking out for my best interest, not just looking to make me happy. I call these people in my life, my “truth tellers.”

Whenever my “truth tellers” share something that bothers me, I need to sit and wrestle with it. I allow myself to marinade in the conversation. Let it soak in. What you said hurt but I know you wouldn’t say this to just be spiteful. Where is the truth in what you said?

I started to realize that every time I wanted to rip my mom’s face off it wasn’t because she was judging me, it was because she was calling me out on something I was trying to hide.

So when you want to rip your mother’s face off, it probably has more to do with you and not her…

Love, Mel

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A 5 year tale of transformation

5 years ago this afternoon, a few new friends were over making iron on t-shirts with the aspiration of starting a mom’s group at church. I didn’t know how these women would become a life support for me while Owen was on life support (and continue to support me in the years to come). Little did I know that Tony Maroni’s pizza would be the last meal I had with all four of my children healthy. I didn’t know my little sister would be a rock at home so I could hop in the ambulance and focus on breathing.

These past five years started with a mother’s worse nightmare coming true … and have taught me what healing feels like. It’s taught me how surrendering brings strength. When you can’t breath … a mother’s hug, a friend’s card in the mail, a therapist’s ear, a Sunday morning church service, a family remembering your baby brings the air you need. My family and friends have literally breathed for me at times.

To my friends and family, thank you for walking these 5 years with me. Thank you for carrying me when I wasn’t able to stand and for bringing the sunshine through my rain storm.

I still cry during the month of May at random times of remembering what life was like. I am still moved by other women’s stories of loss and wish there was something I could say or do to lessen their pain, knowing all too well there isn’t anything I can say or do but listen, pray and just show up.

Thank you for being a part of a beautiful story of healing. You have helped me. You have helped my family. Without you, this might not have been a story of healing but rather just tragedy. Owen’s story is a beautiful tale of transformation. A beautiful monarch butterfly and you as the cocoon that have wrapped me with protection and shelter.

As Logan and Weston have told me, Owen lives in my heart now.

Love, Mel

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Why I Have All Boys

I learned just why God gave me all boys on my first Cub Scout overnight.

A few weekends ago, Jaden and I drove up to Camp Rokilio for a two night stay with his Cub Scout pack. This wasn’t tent camping. We were staying in themed dorms. We were in the castle. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I missed last year’s overnight because I was recovering from my broken foot. We arrived at camp when it was already dark out and took turns unloading all of our cars.

It certainly wasn’t a 4 star hotel … or a Motel 8 for that matter, but it would do. There were only three moms so we got our own wing and posted a “Mom Only” sign on our bathroom. I can’t remember the last time I slept in a sleeping bag!

We made popcorn and hot cocoa for the boys, let them watch a movie and then put them to bed. They were sleeping by 11 ish .. late, but not too terribly bad.

Then the dads busted out the cribbage board. I convinced Nicole to let the boys teach us how to play. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I think part of the fun was skunking them a few times 🙂

Saturday the boys played outside all day long. I led a few crafts inside when they came inside to warm up a bit. The camp fire was burning all day long. Later in the afternoon/evening we took a walk down to the bog. I hung out in the back of the line laughing at all the funny things the boys were saying.

I remember looking around thinking, “This is what life is about. These are the moments that make it all worth it.” I just loved watching Jaden run by with a stick in his hand. Watching as his face got dirtier and dirtier as the day wore on.

I was oddly aware that I was a single, divorced woman hanging out with a bunch of dudes. Most of whom I haven’t met their wives. It was odd, but the guys were really nice and made fun of me all the same. I admit, making fun of me isn’t that hard to do. haha!

We ended the night with a bonfire and s’mores. I was right next to the boys, teaching them how to make the perfectly golden brown marshmallow. It’s all about the coals and not the flame. I loved watching the 1st grade Tigers trying to keep up with the older boys and the dads showing their boys fire safety.

I whopped the boys in cribbage again that night and someone started a tally on the wall for how many times I snorted when laughing. I have to admit, I think I enjoyed myself so much because of the good company. The boys were all so well behaved and the dads were very welcoming to me.

On my drive home, exhausted and dreading having to unpack the van, I couldn’t help but feel like this weekend was the reason why I had boys. God knew how much fun I would have with them. That my heart would melt watching them play in the dirt. He knew that I don’t mind getting dirty when having fun and that sleeping on a squeaky bunkbed wasn’t all that bad. He knew that I’d love learning pocketknife safety with them and that I think archery is cool.

Most importantly, I remembered why all the hard mommyhood stuff is worth it. It’s about vacations and sleepovers. It’s about the fun random times and not all about the work and chores. I came home that weekend physically exhausted and spiritually rejuvenated.

I go real tent camping in two weeks … we’ll see if I feel the same way after a weekend without flushing toilets.

Love, Mel

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The Newest Member of Our Family

It’s been a real rough school year for Jaden. He’s been getting into all kinds of trouble, which is totally not like him. I started offering incentives for doing well in school. He’s got a behavior chart and can earn up to three points in the morning and three points in the evening, for a total of six.

Our original goal was five 6’s in a row but that proved to be too much pressure. If he didn’t get a six on Wednesday, the rest of the week was shot. He didn’t have anything to work towards for the rest of the week. We decided that he needed to get six 6’s without going to the principal’s office, then we could get a pet. That meant he could get as many 4’s & 5’s as he needed to … but he needed six 6’s.

This pet thing is a big deal … I’m not an animal person. I believe animals belong outside, not in my home. Maybe that makes me cold hearted. Animals just sort of freak me out.

Then began the conversations about what kind of pet to get. My rule was that it couldn’t be something that would get lonely. We aren’t home enough during the day to have something that needed company, i.e. no cat or dog. Like any rational mom, I suggested a fish. Easily replaceable when it croaks, cheap and not hard to care for.Jaden suggested a turtle. Not a horrible idea. A turtle makes a cool “boy” pet.  I figured that would be ok … I could use plastic gloves if I ever needed to touch it.

Then, my brother brought home his guinea pig, Ruby, for Easter. Now she was cute … from a distance. I didn’t mind watching others hold her, or snapping a cute pic of her in an Easter basket. Jaden on the other hand, was totally in love. He held her for 12 hours straight … just chillin’ with Ruby on his lap; loving the little piggy snot out of her. Crap.

Surprise, surprise Jaden now wanted a guinea pig as his reward pet. I started googling and consulting with other mom friends. Adopting a guinea pig seemed like it might be a plausible idea. At least it wasn’t totally ruled out.

Then the week came when he got four 6’s. Dang we were close. Then Monday he came home with another 6. Tuesday morning when I dropped him off, I just knew he was going to have a great day. In fact, I submitted an application to the Humane Society that morning when I got into work. The text came right after he got off the school bus. “I’m getting a guinea pig.” Funny thing I was so dang proud of him, I hardly thought about the fact that I was about to let a rodent live in my home.

When I got home from work, we hopped in the car and headed straight to Petco. I wasn’t ready to buy one just yet, but we were going to LOOK and get the supplies so we’d be ready to adopt. This is what I was shopping with:

The young man helping us was very sweet answering all my dumb questions. Then he mentioned that there was one more guinea pig in the back and she was the littlest guinea pig he’s ever seen. Yes, of course we wanted to see her.

Out he came, with this little fur ball in his hands. It was love at first sight. Jaden held her and I knew there was no leaving her at the store.

Welcome to the family Buttercup Cookie Dough 🙂

This is what life is all about. These moments are what fill our love tanks so we can do the day to day crap. I’ve been stuck in a no vacation-homework every night – pay the bills – do the laundry – wash the dishes kind of rut.

The glitter in my boy’s eyes and how they just love her up is totally worth it all. I’ll deny it until the cows come home, but I think I just might love her too.

Love, Mel




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Fun New Writing Opportunity – MKE Moms Blog

Milwaukee_Contributor_BTNI’ve got some exciting news to share with you! I was recently accepted as a new contributor for the MKE Moms Blog. Can I get a whoop whoop?!?! My “Meet Mel” post went live a week or so ago and I’m super excited to let my creativity run wild and share my love for the Milwaukee area with other moms.

I’m positively excited about this opportunity. I’m not so positive how much of Mel I want to share. Do I allow myself to get all messy all over the computer screens of Milwaukee? Do I let them know I can drop an F bomb when something goes wrong? That sometimes I have NO clue what to do so I just ignore issues hoping they will resolve themselves until the moment I have to accept that it’s not going to get better and in fact, I let it get a whole lot worse and out of control.

I’m in probably the most stable season in life that I have been in the last 12 years. My nights are pretty uneventful. I’m not longer just struggling to survive, but I’m starting to focus on making life better for my children. I own a home that I love to be in. My nights are filled washing dishes (sometimes), crime tv and little boys crawling in bed to snuggle.

I’ve got this fresh slate on this new blog. These readers don’t know me as Owen’s mom. They don’t know about my abusive ex husband or the struggles I had leaving him. This is a chance to live out the life that I’ve wanted. That I’ve fought HARD for! This is a chance to share the good parts of me and not the parts that, while inspiring and brutally honest, are not high points in life. All these other moms are beautiful working women. SUPER OOBER nice and totally real … but I feel like I’m still a mess compared to them.

I have a photo shoot (don’t I sound legit?) tomorrow for a professional headshot to be used on the website. There were conversations about getting hair cuts and highlights. Postings of adorable heels and ankle boots. I haven’t gotten my hair cut in six months … and it didn’t occur to me that I might need one until all these other beautiful ladies started talking about it. Then all of a sudden I needed a cut and color before Thursday. I stood in my kitchen, making mac’n cheese, yelling at Weston to put some underwear on, when I thought to myself … Stop. Stop trying to be like them Mel. Just be you. You’ve worked so damn hard to be the women you are today and you should be proud of that. You are a no fuss, only wear mascara kind of gal and that’s good enough. Who are you trying to impress? Just be you … and they’ll love you for it!

I’m scared to show them my messy side. I’m writing for a Mom blog … shouldn’t I know a thing or two about motherhood? The only thing I know is how to survive when things fall totally and utterly apart. I’m not good at keeping a clean house. I don’t know the first thing about teaching my kids how to tie their shoes … I get just a frustrated as they do. I know how to kiss away the tears, how to talk to them about their brother in heaven and how to snuggle with them on the couch while ignoring the laundry in the corner that should be folded. And some days the only thing I know how to do is keep them occupied enough so I can get lost in my facebook feed without the house totally burning down.

I know I just need to be the real Mel. I’m the best me when I’ve prayed hard before writing. That’s what I’ll do! Sounds so silly, but seriously, as I share my uncertainty with you … it might just be that easy. DUH Mel, just pray about it. Before each writing assignment, pray. Allow God the time and space to whisper what He wants me to share. Maybe I’ll be called for some great DIY posts … or maybe I’ll be the one who gets “real” … a lot. What I need to focus on is that I’m enough. I have a story and I shouldn’t try to be someone I’m not.

It’s time to celebrate a good season! It’s time to be thankful for the stability in my life and it’s time to protect that.

I’m absolutely tickled for this opportunity. If you have chance check out the blog and like MKE Moms Blog on facebook and show the gals and I a little love.

Love, Mel


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No One is a Pinterest Mom

2I love my kids more than anything. When my day at work gets tough, I look forward to snuggling with my little men. I want to enjoy my kids. I want to spend Friday nights building forts, watching movies and eating popcorn. I want to spoil them and make memories. I want to really enjoy life with my children. What I didn’t anticipate is how hard discipline would be. I absolutely hate having to be the bad guy.

When it comes to discipline I’m dumbfounded. I’ve read books. I’ve followed blogs and watched videos. I know how important it is … I just find it so hard! I lose my temper instead of staying calm. I don’t know what to say when the timeout is done. I also find that I tolerate a lot from my kids. My sister looked at me during dinner and said something about Jaden’s comment being so sassy. I didn’t even notice.

For my children’s sake I’ve got to figure out how to be good disciplinarian … and fast! I’m great at the loving them up, supporting them, being there for them and having fun with them. I want my teaching to have meaning … purpose.

During a phone conversation with my mama, I mentioned to her that I knew discipline was my shortcoming of being a mom. I know I can do it, it’s just harder for me – it takes a lot of effort. Knowing what to say when you child is pushing the boundaries comes naturally to them. That’s why I value her and my sister’s opinions so much. If it’s not something I’ve read about in a Love and Logic book, I’m not totally sure what to do. I’m also pretty quick to forgive so I tend to let my kids off the hook pretty easily. My mom said she was glad to hear me acknowledge that. No mom is good at everything and if we aren’t honest about our areas of weakness we won’t ever improve.

It takes a lot of self-awareness to know where my strengths and weaknesses are. Moms tend to think we are horrible at it all … but that’s just not true. Each of us have special gifts. We are all uniquely paired with our children. There is a reason my kids are my kids and not yours.

When we are transparent, we can hep each other. My weakness is someone else’s strength and visa versa. I know I’ve helped some of my friends lighten up. When the entire box of cereal spills on the floor we take a moment to laugh about it, play a little and then clean it up. Some of my mom friends would just get angry at the wasted money and food on the floor. I get it … I feel that too. My response doesn’t make me a better mom, it’s just a product of my strength in enjoying and savoring moments. Now this same mom, when her child acts disrespectfully, she knows just how to respond. My kids are the ones who run wild and I struggle to pull them back in line.

See? We need each other. We can learn from each other.

Rather than trying to pretend we were all perfect Pinterest moms, what if we were honest about what our homes and lives looked like? What if we let each other in and allowed our fellow mom’s strength become our strength? Rather than sit envious and feel ashamed because my children act out in public, what if I asked her how she does it. Have any tips for me? No one is a Pinterest Mom … let’s stop acting like we are.

Let’s spend more time building each other up, rather than comparing ourselves to each other. It’s the only thing I am 100% sure of, we need each other.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Mommyhood Meditations, Posted by Melissa

Bow and Arrow Practice

Jaden got a bow and arrow for Christmas. This has been the year of “boy toys” … BB gun, pocket knife and now a bow and arrow. Jaden and I went to Buck Rub last weekend where Jaden participated in a youth bow and arrow league. The league is run by volunteer hunters who spend time giving kids pointers and keep score.

Jaden has been going thru a phase … or maybe he has reached the age where mom isn’t cool anymore. When we are home he is a total mama’s boy. He holds my hand when he falls asleep. ::insert sigh here:: However, when it comes to things like Cub Scouts, or bow and arrow, mom is no longer qualified. He just wants a dad. I thought Cub Scouts would offer him some male role models … it seems that in some ways it has only magnified the fact that the other scouts have their dads at tent camping and he has only his mom.

Kids are smart. My family is incredible and my dad and brother do a ton with him and show him father figure love and role modeling. Again, kids are smart. He knows it’s not the same as having a dad. For whatever reason (I may never understand but need to acknowledge) he feels a hole. It tares me up knowing that when I was pregnant with him, and his biological father walked out … this was my biggest fear. My one nightmare … that my precious, loved-beyond-words baby boy would feel the loss of a dad. I was determined to not let him feel this kind of pain. In fact, I have gone to great lengths of trying to compensate and ensure this didn’t happen. Yet, with regret, I know that his feeling of loss is also the product of my failed marriage and mistakes.

On Saturday morning, I sat at the table on the other side of the glass window and watched Jaden learn how to shoot bow. He looked up at these male volunteers with eyes that he doesn’t give me. His shoulders were held back and he was proud.


I looked at these male volunteers and knew they had no clue the impact they were making on my son. These men were kind and instructive. They gave him a whole hour of their undivided attention – correcting him when he was loading his arrow pointing at the kid next time him. They offered him pointers on how to hold the bow steady. They walked out onto the range with him and helped him find the arrows that missed the target.

Thank you. Thank you for giving an hour or two of your weekend to mentor these young men. You may never know the boys who are looking at you with eyes like Jaden … you may never know the impact you made on a young boy’s heart. To you, it’s a simple few hours of shooting. To my nine year old boy, it’s filling a hole.

Love, Mel


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Put Me In Coach!

Have you ever walked into a place for the very first time and thought to yourself, “Wow, this feels like home.” After a long, two year search for my new church home, that’s exactly what I felt when I walked into Shorepoint City Church. It’s not something I can totally explain. In fact, it doesn’t make much sense. How can a place you have never been before feel like home?

After being so hurt by the church, I’ve found myself critical and angry. That church turned into a place that didn’t need or want me anymore. The work I had done as my ministry, the way I served my church, was taken over by staff. I tried to convince myself that I could know God without being a part of a church. Churches are run by people. And people hurt each other. I don’t want to be hurt, I just want to serve and worship and serve God. I told myself that I worked in a church, therefore, I got my weekly dose of church. But I’m not worshiping when I work. I’m not singing about God’s greatness. I’m getting things done. I’m preparing for others to come and worship.

Imagine being a kid who has been away from home. Imagine what it feels like to walk through your parent’s front door for the first time in years – excited yet comforted. I belong here. I have purpose here. There is a place for me here. I am needed and wanted here. I’m where I belong. I’m home.

God is in this place. He is doing amazing things at Shorepoint and I want “in.” I’m all in. Put me in coach! Use me! I want to be a part of what’s happening in this place. Planting a church sounds like a whole lot of work, sweat and hurt feelings. But it also sounds soooooo worth it!

God gave me gifts, just as He has given each of you a special set of gifts. I turn my palms towards the heavens and offer every gift I have received back to Him. I’ve been to hell and back and all I want is for the pain to mean something. I want something good to come from my story – even if it means that just one person knows the eternal kind of love I know.

Sometimes I get so excited to get in on the action, that I jump ahead of a process. I forget that good things come with time. Relationships need time to cultivate, deepen and for trust to be formed. My insides feel like they could burst I am so excited to do God’s work. I forget that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one conversation. The introduction has been made and I just need to wait patiently. I’m committed to the team, I’ve got the team colors on. Now I need to wait for my turn to hit the court and continue to pray for God to point me in the direction He needs me.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gifts you have given me. Thank you for a church that awakes your spirit within me; a place where I can go each week and know that you’ll meet me there. Please use me. Use me to tell of your goodness. You have planted in me a passion for communication, writing, graphic design, technology. Show me what you want me to do with these gifts. Lead me in the direction you want me to go. I’m ready and willing to go wherever you lead me. In Jesus name, AMEN!

Love, Mel


Filed under Faith, Posted by Melissa