Category Archives: Melissa’s posts

every detail

As of right now, there are twelve people in the world who have been inducted into the Master Penman Society – twelve. And Jake Weidmann is one of those – the youngest by thirty years. You might not think it’s a big deal, and I didn’t either until I realized what that means…and how beautiful hand-written word can be. I’ve been following Jake on social media since I first saw his story – you can watch it here:

What I love the most about Jake is his patience for perfect detail. A piece of art or writing cannot be what it should be without patience for detail. His wife in the video says that he will scrap whole pieces and start again – because it wasn’t right the first time. And what you see in his finished work is perfect. It is clean, flawless, and symmetrical – always. God made his hand to write and paint and draw – perfectly.

I am a details person, although not in the way that Jake Weidmann is. I like spreadsheets and dashboards…I like totals and averages and comparisons. The things I do daily almost always involve one or more of those – and by them I can measure improvement or decline. I can see trends. I can see completion. Even at home I calculate…I measure my performance, remaining tasks, and time allocation. I size up what has and hasn’t been done…who needs to have more mom time…what is going well and what needs attention.

On the wall in my office is this verse:

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Up till about a week ago I had read it a handful of times but never really thought much about it, but now I think about it often…He delights in EVERY DETAIL. That’s a lot of details. All of those things that I measure and calculate and produce – those are steps that God orders for me. All of my relationships, all of my victories, and all of my deficiencies – He sees those too. He sees them and knows them – better than I do. In this season of my life, He put me here not to write or to draw, but to manage details and to nurture a home…and through those details of my life He will direct me, and even hold me up when I’m not strong enough.

I cannot produce a perfect work of art, and I cannot pen perfect letters to make perfect words – you probably can’t either. But I’m pretty excited and overwhelmed to know that when we are walking with the Lord, the details of our lives can bring Him – the God of heaven – joy and glory. I’m also comforted to know that He will never – yes never – let us fall.

unity matters

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comMy parents always loved music, so when I was young we went to plays and musicals and orchestra events and music festivals. There was always music playing in the car and in our house. They exposed me to all sorts of genres, and I naturally settled into those that I liked best – some that they weren’t so fond of, and some that they loved themselves. As a kid I had a leaning toward concerts that were loud and crazy…I liked the lights and the feel of the bass vibrating through the ground. But now I love certain concerts for a different reason – and I just recently figured out why.

unity mattersLast week I went to see Rend Collective, which is a Christian band from Ireland whose music really inspires me to worship. My husband and I sat down in our seats at Roberts Wesleyan College’s performing arts center, and I people-watched a little bit as we waited for the show to start. There were people from my church, people we knew from other churches, people from the Christian school I graduated from, and many people we didn’t know at all. All of these people, all together, waiting for the same band, waiting to worship together. All of us were excited to be there, and we all had something in common so even those who didn’t know each other felt free to talk and ask about each other.

The lights went down and the crowd went silent, and finally the music started – and everyone sang along. And what I realized at that moment was that none of us knew or cared about the details of each others’ Christianity, other than that we were in agreement about the most important thing – that Jesus saved us from our sin, and that He is the One we should worship. We had no idea what version of the Bible the person in front of us read, or whether the person behind us was Baptist or Pentecostal. We didn’t know whether the woman across the aisle had a Calvinist or Armenian leaning, or which denomination the band was. The details seemed less important at that moment because we were gathered for a common reason – to worship the one true God together.

unity matters

I looked around at the rows upon rows of people and wondered whether that would be what heaven will be like in some respects – all different Christians, from all different backgrounds, worshipping God together. Different in the details, but unified at their core – in their belief of who saved their souls from the sin they could never pay for themselves.

In our minds I think we know that there will be many different kinds of Christians in heaven. We say amongst ourselves that we will be surprised who will be there and who will be absent (Matthew 7:21-23). We think we have a good grip on the fact that God alone sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). But so many times in practice we look at other Christians and the biggest thing we see are the differences – and we dwell on them. We allow our feathers to be ruffled because other Christians listen to and worship using different music, read different versions of the Bible, and attend churches with different labels. We are called to unity as a body of believers but we look skeptically at each other, and even question each others’ salvation at times, because of details that we don’t agree with. We so often don’t consider that perhaps others truly ARE seeking God, and that He has for them a different freedom or a different restriction than He has for us.

This is dangerous ground, I know, because our convictions and preferences are part of who we are, and they determine how we live out our faith. There is theology that we strongly believe, and we can back it up. There are practices and traditions that we strongly adhere to for reasons that we may never loosen our grip on. We have a defense for what we do and why we do it…we have seen results, and fruit, and blessing. We have a defense for why we disagree so adamantly with certain others. Our views and interpretations and ways of life are important to us – and they should be. Practices and traditions and theologies ARE important, and some of them are worth fighting for, and fighting over. But not all of them. Not all of them are worth sacrificing the unity of the Church – and by the Church I mean the whole body of Christ.

When Colette and I started this blog, we came upon an issue that we didn’t agree on…It really doesn’t matter which issue so I won’t go into that, but we had to face a conflict. So we came together, talked about what we believed about that issue, came to an understanding about its importance, and came up with a solution that we believed that God would be pleased with. What we did not do was allow an important but non-essential issue (meaning an issue that isn’t truly central to salvation and Christianity) to divide us completely, and we were able to work together in unity regardless. You’d never know we disagreed at all! Extend this situation to the Church – the body of Christ…If we can grab hold of unity, if we make it a priority, we can accomplish things together that would never have been possible otherwise.

[blockquote cite=”Richard Baxter” type=”center”]In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.
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Christ said in John 13:34-35, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” We are commanded to love other Christians as Christ loved us (laying down our lives for each other), and the we be perfectly unified as followers of Jesus. We are, of course, bound to disagree on some things – but that doesn’t mean that our love and our unity in Christ should be compromised.

I know, beyond a doubt, that when we get to heaven our eyes will be on Christ alone, and not on each other. If we can practice that here, before heaven, we can accomplish so much more together. The world IS watching to see how we love each other, so when we are tempted to dwell on the details instead of on Christ Jesus who unifies us, let’s remember the amazing place heaven will be when we will worship together in spirit and in truth – one Church, one body, one focus.

The song I’ve included below (or if the music isn’t your preference, I included the lyrics there below as well) has become my favorite for so many reasons – it reminds me of those who have gone to heaven before me, of how unworthy I am of the salvation I have been given, of the power of the blood of Jesus, and now of the unity we have in Him, despite our differences. I looked around me at that concert as tears rolled down my face, and saw others doing just the same…Overcome with emotion because they know what I know – that we will approach Him one day, and that we have everything to celebrate. Fix your eyes today on Jesus – and not so much on the details.

[blockquote cite=”Rend Collective, Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration)” type=”center”]
By grace alone somehow I stand
Where even angels fear to tread
Invited by redeeming love
Before the throne of God above
He pulls me close with nail-scarred hands
Into His everlasting arms

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

Behold the bright and risen Son
More beauty than this world has known
I’m face to face with Love Himself
His perfect spotless righteousness
A thousand years, a thousand tongues
Are not enough to sing His praise

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty

This is the art of celebration
Knowing we’re free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Celebrating who God made us , Melissa[/custom_headline]

bragging rights

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comFour years ago a group of seven other people and myself decided we should try to do the Tough Mudder, which for those of you who aren’t familiar is a 12 mile long military-style obstacle course. It entails what you might think of as “normal” obstacles – like scaling 12-foot walls, army crawling under barbed wire, and jumping from three stories into water…But there were also what I consider to be the “extreme” obstacles, like jumping into ice water and running through hundreds of dangling live wires that electrocuted us as we ran through them. We trained for ten months (we didn’t practice the electrocution part!), and in September of 2012 our team traveled to Maryland and completed our race.
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Our particular race had two electrocution obstacles – one that I described above, and another which I think was way worse. I started through the obstacle and thought that it wasn’t too bad, but then I heard the sound of a grown man screaming…and I knew I was in trouble. I got through, after being thrown around by the travelling current of electricity, and that man that I had heard was still standing there waiting for the rest of his team. I looked at him and shook my head and said, “We PAID for this!” and we laughed at the irony.

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Why DO people pay for those races? Why do they subject themselves to the torture? I’ll give you two words: bragging rights. Sure, our team wanted to accomplish the feat of finishing, and it was fun to do it was a team. It was great to be in the best shape of our lives. But an equal component of us wanting to do that race was bragging rights. When I wear my Tough Mudder finisher shirt outside my house I can be sure that most of the time I will get a few glances, if not a full blown conversation. People are intrigued by a person who would do that to themselves on purpose, and so it gets attention. The race is far gone now and I’m kind of over it…but at first it was really fun to talk about it with random people.

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This gets me thinking about all of the things we do in front of other people in terms of serving and obeying God, and about our motives. We serve and take selfies of ourselves doing it…We post quotes and verses on Facebook that we read…We share stories about what our kids say about God or church or heaven. We make our walk with God public, which in many ways is a very good thing, but we need to be careful that we are directing others to who GOD is instead of to who WE are. I like to underline what I think are great passages in books and then take a picture and post it – but I wonder if that’s more for God or for me and my image? Am I bragging on Him because of something great that He showed me, or am I bragging on myself for reading it? I need to be careful.

At some point in all of our walks with Jesus, there must be the realization that we cannot do anything good without Him. The truth is that we can’t do ANYTHING without Him, because it is He whose will holds us together. The sin of others should pale in comparison to what we know is in our own hearts, and because we CANNOT save ourselves in any capacity, we should be humbled and broken before our Holy God. And the bragging rights fade.

As we live our lives for Christ “out loud” as a reader so aptly put it recently, we need always to consider who we are bragging upon.
[blockquote type=”left”]

We are lost, and our Lord Jesus finds us.
We are blind, and He gives us sight.
We are sinners, but He is good.
We are in need, and He is our provider.
We are guilty, and He is our defense.
We deserve punishment, but He is merciful.
We are hungry, and He is the Bread of Life.
We are weak, and He is our strength.
We walk in darkness, and He is our light.
We are wavering, and He is our Rock.
We feel alone, but we can be assured that He is with us.
We strive for more, but He is enough.
He is EVERYTHING.

[/blockquote]

Brag on Jesus, because all of the good in you is HIM in you.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]For HIS glory, Melissa[/custom_headline]

race cars, risk, and walking with Jesus

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comA few years ago I was presented with the opportunity to ride in a race-ready Porsche with a professional driver on the Watkins Glenn racetrack…It was set up privately by a guy who was a member of the Porsche Club of America (which I didn’t know existed till then), and my husband and I literally got the rides of a lifetime. But let’s just back up for a sec…and then I’ll tell you about my ride.

I get motion sick. In a big way. I can’t ride in the back seat of a car, or backwards on a roller coaster. If something rocks or spins or circles over and over, I’m toast. I went on a cruise, and was sea sick for three WEEKS after it was over. Enter the Porsche.

If someone says, “Hey, do you want to ride in a Porsche on a NASCAR track?”, I cannot even fathom saying no. It became an instant bucket-list item, and I whole-heartedly accepted the invitation. In the back of my mind I knew that it might not end well, but honestly I didn’t care – I probably would never have the chance to do it again, and so I did it.

IMG_0193We got to the track and I met my driver. He gave me a helmet, and showed me how to use the restraint and release it in case I needed to get out emergently. He called attention to the fire extinguisher that would be between my feet, just in case. I got into the car and he strapped me in. The driver looked at me and said, “Don’t puke in my car.”, and off we went.

Did I puke in his car, you ask? No, thankfully I didn’t. But by the time I was done with three laps at 170mph, I couldn’t feel my arms or legs and I literally had to be lifted out of the car because I couldn’t stand up. There’s some science behind that, but I’ll just say that my body didn’t like what had just been inflicted upon it. I did throw up eventually…just not inside the Porsche. Mission accomplished! It was an amazing experience, and despite the negatives I am really glad I did it.

So why on earth am I telling you my motion-sick Porsche ride story? Because I had to take advantage of the opportunity despite what I knew what might come afterward – and the risk was worth it. Sometimes risk is necessary – big risk – to get big return, big stories, big outcomes. God puts us in these positions in our lives and so often we let opportunities pass because we know there might be pain or humiliation or discomfort involved, but then we don’t get the win for Him. And while I know that He can use someone or something else to accomplish what He would have through us, we forfeit being used by Him at all.

God asks us to risk our whole selves…To have an outward faith and to spread the Gospel (Mark 16:15), to live fearless (Matthew 10:24-33), to love like crazy (John 13:35) – so that more people will come to Him with their own faith. And the risk seems great. He asks us to be a light – a beacon to those in darkness. And to do that we’ve gotta be willing to bull through the fear of risk and DO what He’s asking. It’s scary to tell people about Jesus in a personal, life-on-life way. It’s not easy to live like Christ when those around you do not. It’s not easy to love the unlovely when others might lean toward condemnation and raise an eyebrow. It’s not easy to give time and resources when we’ve planned so meticulously for the future and don’t want to risk our own discomfort. But that is what our God expects. Christianity isn’t safe – it’s a constant trying of our trust, and the willingness to do what seems backwards to us to see what God had in mind the whole time.

If you want God to use you in the LIFE CHANGE of others, risk is inevitable. But the return is beyond what any of us could imagine on our own. Take those opportunities, and pray for more of them…Listen to that still small voice and DO what He asks. I promise you won’t regret it.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Trusting and taking the leap, Melissa[/custom_headline]

transparent

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comWhen I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I had the keen idea of writing on my bedroom wall with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t write a lot…just a little dime-sized scribble right at the head of my bed. So the night after I did that, my mom came up to read a book to me before I went to sleep. The whole time I “casually” covered this pen scribble with my hand so she wouldn’t see it, and I was SURE she didn’t because of the oh-so-subtle way I hid it. She didn’t say anything about it that night – score! But what was I going to do the next night? And what if she came into my room during the day when I wasn’t there? I would have to strategically place the pillows, and continue hiding the mark with my hand. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever, and I felt awful for doing it at all…So I called my mom into my room and told her what I had done. And once she knew, it was over. No more worries, and no more hiding.

At the time that seemed so big – and for a five year old I guess it kind of was. But what was in my heart is the same as the guilt I feel, or at least should feel, over sins I commit now. Only now, I’m a big girl and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. There are flaws and sins about me that literally no one will know if I don’t confess them. And why should I?

The Bible gives us some guidelines for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (a churchy word for asking for what we need or want)…But honestly I think the confession part goes right out the window a lot of the time, and it makes me wonder if we even think we’re really that bad. Why don’t we worry when we sin, like I worried when I wrote on the wall as a kid? Why don’t we tremble at the thought of God’s disappointment? Why don’t we run to Him for the reassurance just that He knows what we’ve done and forgives us? Why don’t we WANT Him to know every fiber of who we are? We hide, like Adam and Eve…or perhaps even worse, we don’t even acknowledge the trespass we have committed against Him and we go on with our lives ignoring our injured relationship with God. Depth and satisfaction in any relationship comes from transparency – and it’s no different with God. Confession to Him is a gift…It gives us the freedom to be known completely, to be restored in our relationship with Him, and to hide nothing.

God tells us not only to confess sin to Him, but also to each other…I think He knows that there are things we just can’t overcome on our own, and that He made us to depend on more than just ourselves. He tells us to share the darkest parts of our hearts with each other…but we usually share the best of us instead, for the sake of our image or reputation, or for our perceived protection. We tend to think that hiding what is in us somehow makes us less vulnerable, when in reality the opposite is true. Granted we can’t go telling everyone everything – that wouldn’t be wise. But our inner circle, the ones we call our very closest friends, should know who we really are so that they can come beside us when we are too weak to stand alone.

Confession and transparency lead to freedom because through them we know that we are truly known…that there is nothing to hide…that there is nothing that anyone could find out about us that we didn’t already admit out loud. And honestly, in my own life I’ve found that living a transparent life is just about the best way to show other people why I need Jesus so desperately, and why they need Him too. I need saving with every single breath, and the last thing I want to do is hide that. We live in a time and culture where people want proof of things…and one thing I can prove and reproduce an infinite number of times is the fact that I cannot possibly live up to the standard that my faith demands. My need for Christ is absolute and irrefutable.

So be known…Be known by the God you serve and by the friends you keep. Be real, and show others why salvation is so necessary. Be transparent and live in the freedom that comes with it.

[blockquote type=”center”]This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9 [/blockquote]

camping, complaining, and the condition of our hearts

My husband, our three kiddos, and I went camping in the Adirondacks a couple of weeks ago. It was a really good trip – the kids are at such great ages for it. We saw bugs and toads and deer and even a black bear! Our son had a whole day of man-time with his daddy in a canoe, and I shopped with my girls in the little town nearby and took them swimming in a lake with the mountains in view. But despite all of the good stuff, my middle daughter found something – no, everything – to complain about.

camping, complaining, and the condition of our heartsLet’s see…She complained that the car was too hot. The trip was too long. Having the windows down was too windy. There was a bug in the car. She was hungry. And thirsty. We were going too fast. The roads were too hilly. It was too hot when we arrived at our camp. And there were bugs in the woods. She was hungry and thirsty. She didn’t get the top bunk. She didn’t like the chairs we had. The fire was too smokey. There weren’t enough water bottles. Her water bottle was dirty. She didn’t want to eat chicken. Or hot dogs. Or sandwiches. She couldn’t use the iPad. She couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. The shower was weird. She wanted to stay up later. The slides at the water park we went to were too steep. The water was too cold. She was hungry and thirsty. She wanted a different towel. Our hike was too long, and it was hot outside. We brought the wrong snacks. She wanted to wear different shoes, but without socks. The ride to and from the hike was too long and hilly. The ride back home was too long, and we went too fast. And she was hungry and thirsty.

I almost. Went. Insane. But God really showed me a LOT from enduring all of that complaining.

Complaining can be expressed in a lot of different ways.

Of course when we think of complaining we think of finding faults or problems with things that aren’t really that big of a deal. But that’s not the only way that we tell others that we’re dissatisfied. My husband and I have movie nights sometimes, and when he picks a movie I don’t like I complain by doing something else while I “watch” the movie. I was at a friend’s house recently and when one of the kids didn’t get the swing they wanted, they complained by refusing to play. If someone feels that a co-worker isn’t pulling their weight, they might complain by gossiping about that person. Complaining takes a lot of different forms, and depending on the circumstance we choose which method will be most effective in communicating it and rallying others to our cause.

Complaining communicates a lot of things about who we are.

Complaining is thanklessness. Complaining is an attitude of entitlement and greed. Complaining is lazy. Complaining is arrogant. And complaining communicates a lack of contentment for what God has provided. It tells other people that we think we are the center of the universe – or at least that we think we should be.

There are things about our lives that are inconvenient, uncomfortable, and irritating – and till we get to heaven there’s nothing we can do about that. But WE are responsible for our responses. God has given us power and freedom to view our circumstances the way He wants us to, and at times even to change our circumstances – and it’s up to us to follow through.

Complaining affects the people who hear it.

There are some activities that many Christians hesitate over because they fear leading others into sin – and that’s a good thing. Drinking and entertainment are a couple of hot topics that come to mind when I think of things that might tempt another Christian to sin. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 contain instruction regarding our freedom in Christ, and not allowing our freedoms to cause others to stumble into sin – that is the context that we most often think of causing others to stumble. Sadly, I never – NEVER – considered that complaining might make others more likely to sin. But it does. Mark 9:42 shows us how seriously God takes the matter: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Wow.

Over my week of camping with my glass-half-empty daughter, I responded to her complaining in a variety of ways – some good and some bad. The good mom and Jesus follower in me answered patiently, and disciplined in love. But at other times, I lost my temper, I was sarcastic, I complained about something myself, I gossiped, or I distanced myself in an unloving way. I take ownership for every one of those responses. But what I realized was that when I complain, others are tempted to respond poorly – just like I was. When we complain, we may be causing others to stumble into their own sin in more ways than one. And as for those who are not saved, complaining will keep them from seeing Christ in us. 

Complaining is a condition of the heart.

Complaining is more than just a statement about something we don’t like – it’s a condition of the heart. God is our provider, and the Bible tells us that He will always give us what we need (Luke 12:22-34). So we don’t need more than what He provides for us! Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that we should do all things without complaining so that we can be a light in a dark world…so that we can be set apart…and set apart is what it means to be HOLY! In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says that he had learned to be content in any and every circumstance, and that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him – I can only imagine how difficult it was sometimes to be content in jail as he was, and persecuted as he was.  But the same power that rested on Paul rests on us…The same God that empowered Paul empowers us…The same Jesus that saved Paul saved us. And Jesus is enough. Always. If our hearts truly believe that He is enough, we will find nothing to complain about.

My family survived our camping trip, and I’m really glad we went. The same daughter who complained about so much is also the one who is fearless to try new things, who is crazy fun to be around, and who loves to sing songs about Jesus. I feel like God allowed me to catch just a glimpse of what He sees in our hearts when we complain. My prayer is that He will teach me, and all of us, to live a life overflowing with thankfulness toward Him for all that He has graciously given to us.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]With a grateful heart, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Time is running out! Enter our July Giveaway NOW!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes: 

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
and a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!

1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!! The giveaway ends this week!!!
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by stillwellmike http://flickr.com/photos/stillwellmike/9539948576 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

the heart of friendship

Melissa @ awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”[/blockquote]

We NEED friends.

The Bible talks a LOT about relationships, and about the needs that we have that only a true friend can provide. God made us for relationship, and right from creation we read about people needing people. Adam and Eve, Moses and Aaron, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Christ and His disciples, Christ and God the Father…The Bible is full to the top with people who needed other people. Even God desired fellowship with man – a thought I can’t even wrap my mind around – but it just goes to show that we weren’t made to go it alone. I’m naturally introverted, so I gravitate to solitude. Instinctually I want to be alone, and I want to prove my worth by taking on challenges by myself. But God made me to need others, and despite my tendency to make an island of myself it’s important for me not to think that I should do life all on my own. We need each other for so many reasons…For accountability, for companionship, for joy, for sharing heartbreak, for corporate worship, for encouragement, to learn humility, to learn about what insights others have into the heart of God. God gave us friendship for our benefit!

Friendships change because other people change.

[pullquote cite=”C.S. Lewis” type=”right”]“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” [/pullquote]Friendships begin under all kinds of circumstances and conditions, and it’s unlikely (if not impossible) for those conditions to always remain the same. A friend who had a particular need at one time will more than likely grow out of that need; a friend who was strong at one time may stumble into a period of weakness; a friend who was always available may become busy and preoccupied with other things – and so on. We know in our HEADS that people change and that their circumstances change, but it’s difficult to swallow when a friendship we value changes. A dear friend of mine always says that there are “seasons” of friendship – even endings of friendships – because all of our lives are in a constant state of flux. Change may not be what WE always want, but so often it’s what a friend needs.

Friendships change because WE change.

Are you different than you were when you were seventeen years old? Of course you are. We all have seasons of life which will dictate our needs, and we tend to seek out friends that can fulfill those needs. It sounds pretty selfish, but we all seek community with those who understand us best. My daughter was in sixth grade this past year, and as far as friends are concerned she did a lot of growing up. She had a group of friends at school, and she ended up deciding that they weren’t people that she wanted or needed to be around – so she kindly started sitting with another group of people and integrated herself into a new group. That’s no small feat for someone her age! It showed me something important – that it CAN be done. Our needs can and will change, and we can kindly engage in new friendships that better fit us – all without animosity and drama.

Some friendships exist not because WE need them, but because someone else does…So we need to consider what God has for us in those relationships. There are friendships that are REALLY messy and inconvenient, but God can show us so much about ourselves and about Him through those friendships. Let’s be careful not to count out the people that are hard work to be friends with…Those might be the people who need us most.

BFFs are few and far between.

To find a friend who understands not only what you’re going through but who you really are is rare and precious. I’ve only had a handful of people over the course of my life who I’d say were “best” friends. They are the ones who I let see me at my worst, the ones who lovingly tell me when I’m wrong, the ones who encourage me to be the woman God wants me to be, and the ones who stand by me during my own seasons of weakness – times when I give nothing back. They are friends who can see how I feel without my having to say anything, and who know what I need before I realize it myself. If you have a true BFF, cherish them and be a great BFF in return!

It takes one to know one.

Good friendships come from two peoples’ involvement, not just one. Granted, there are times when one person or the other will bear more of a load, but overall a friendship needs to be a two way street. It’s easy for us to analyze the quality of friendship based on someone else’s performance, but we can’t forget to evaluate whether we are being good friends ourselves.

Friends will let us down because they’re people.

No matter how good our friends are, they WILL let us down – because they’re human. I’m not saying that we should overlook it when friends consistently treat us poorly, but we should expect some imperfection – and at times let it roll off. The trade off is that we, too, will let our friends down, as well-intentioned as we might be, and those friends will hopefully do the same for us.

Jesus is our ultimate example.

[pullquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”right”]”Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.”[/pullquote]One thing that I cherish most about Christ is that He is predictable – always good, always loving, always just, always righteous. No matter how I change, He is the same. He’s reliable, eternal, invested, perfect…PERFECT. His expectations of His friends always remain the same, too – simply obey (John 15:14). That’s a tall order, but I can rest assured that His expectations will never vary.

During His ministry He called Himself a friend to those closest to Him, and He laid down His life for them. Even before He was crucified for the sins of man He laid His life down for those around Him – He was patient, kind, forgiving, generous, self-sacrificing, sympathetic, honest, gentle, loving, and endlessly seeking the souls of others.  He calls us to do the same – to lay our lives down for our friends. THIS is true friendship. John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Leaning on Jesus, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better – AGAIN!!![/custom_headline]With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes Godiva Chocolates, a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
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Feature image attribution: flickr photo by Dani_vr http://flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/8261614253 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

six things we must remember in an argument

Melissa @ awriteheart.comSince last week’s Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, I’ve read and heard a LOT of debate…Unfortunately the vast majority of those discussions ended poorly or without resolution. As I’ve continued to read and listen to these dialogues, a few thoughts have come to mind that I believe we must remember when arguing or debating with someone. Whether it’s an online discussion or an argument with our spouse, remembering these principles can help us keep the peace even when we can’t agree.

Your “opponent” actually believes what they’re saying.

The person who is so adamantly opposed to your viewpoint, whether that’s your husband or some online stranger who thinks your opinion is too extreme, really truly believes what they are expressing to you. They believe it with the same passion and vigor that you have for your own opinion. We tend to think that those with opposing views haven’t thought out their opinions, and are just argumentative people looking for a fight – and sometimes that IS the case. But most people hold their opinions for a reason, and can substantiate why they think and feel the way they do. They aren’t unintelligent, they aren’t necessarily uninformed, they aren’t crazy, and most of the time they aren’t intentionally trying to oppress anyone…They just happen to disagree.

There may be angles that you haven’t explored – and that’s ok.

In any argument, we all are hesitant to admit when we’re unprepared or can’t defend ourselves…but in truth, everyone is unprepared for what could be said. It isn’t always the worst thing to tell a person that you don’t know the answer to a question, or that they brought up a good point that you never considered. Conversations can be continued after you’ve done more research, or after you’ve thoughtfully considered new points of view. Being defensive about someone’s thoughtful conclusions won’t win anyone over – so in humility, be willing to concede that you haven’t thought of everything.

People can believe whatever they want – and that’s a good thing.

This is America, right? Unless you’re reading from a place that doesn’t allow citizens the freedom to speak and believe what they want, no one is obligated to believe as you do – and that is something to be thankful for. God gave us freedom to choose, right from the time that He created us, and we can’t take that freedom from others. As well-intentioned as we might be trying to “convert” people to what we believe is the right way of thinking, it isn’t our job to change anyone’s mind or heart.

Listening well goes a long way.

5 things to remember in an argumentThink about the last time you had a heated discussion with someone. While the other person was talking or writing, were you thinking about the next thing you were going to say? So many times, our lack of willingness to stop and listen prevents us from  hearing where another person is coming from, and all we do is reiterate our own opinions over and over instead of having a real dialogue. Understanding someone’s point of view is valuable even if you don’t agree with it, and the person on the other end of the debate will be more likely to feel as though you respect them if you conscientiously listen to and acknowledge their side.

Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation.

How many times can I say this…Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation! Humor, sarcasm, compassion, kindness, sadness – all of those are difficult to convey by written word, and it’s easy to misread someone’s tone or miscommunicate your own thoughts and feelings. Too short a response can be read as aggressive…No response can be read as passive-aggressive…Too long a response can be read as controlling…Too long between responses can be read as uncaring…Too many responses can be read as overbearing. We make some pretty sweeping assumptions based on how and when others respond. So be careful debating or arguing online or over text massages…And if possible, just take the person out for coffee and talk it out.

Love for God and for others is your obligation, even if the conflict remains unresolved.

My pastor mentioned something this past week that really stuck with me – we aren’t supposed to be a balance of grace and truth…We as Christians are supposed to be FULL of grace and FULL of truth. That’s how the Bible describes Jesus in John 1:14 – He was 100% grace, and 100% truth. So no matter what the argument is about, be like Christ when you write and talk to others about things you disagree on. Rarely did Jesus exhibit anger toward others – and when He did, it was because of hypocrisy or oppression of those in need. He also never chased anyone down to make sure they did what they were supposed to. He told them the truth in love, and then allowed them to make their own life choices. Following His lead takes the pressure off of us, and leaves it to the Holy Spirit to change someone’s heart…And that’s how it should be.

Arguments and debates are often unavoidable, but we can take steps to work toward a peaceful ending. It’s possible to disagree while maintaining a positive tone. Romans 12:9-12 calls us to do our best to live at peace, and with God’s help we can!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]In His perfect peace, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Colette’s July Giveaway Will Just Keep Getting Better![/custom_headline]

With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! The first thing in Colette’s basket is…GODIVA CHOCOLATES! Read our next post to see what she’ll add next!
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There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
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3. Tag a friend on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!

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Featured image attribution: flickr photo by pj_vanf http://flickr.com/photos/vanf/6124579928 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I prayed for healing…and this is what I got.

Melissa @ awriteheart.comI remember sitting in a church service about two years ago, in the back of the auditorium with my husband and a few friends. I could see my dad in the second row where he always sat, singing and raising his hands in worship to the Lord. I prayed for healing for him as I watched him that Sunday morning…and eventually I got exactly what I prayed for. But not in the way I expected.

My dad had been troubled for quite some time up till then. For many physical and emotional reasons, he was becoming less and less himself – more anxious, less able to cope with the stresses and changes of life, less able to enjoy what and who he loved. He was rarely at peace…He was restless, always searching for something it seemed. It wasn’t by choice – there had been circumstances in the past that had physically changed him. But regardless of the source of his problems, he was becoming less and less able to live free from the burdens his mind laid on him.

So I prayed that day in church as I watched Dad sing – for his physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. For restoration of relationships. For wholeness. I said to God, “Do whatever it takes”, and I remember the moment after that because I realized what I had just said to God…and I meant it. I wanted God to do whatever it was going to take for my dad to be healed. For his life to be whole. I knew that the cost could be great, but I was willing to take the chance.

A few months later my dad started slurring his speech, and he started walking more like an old man than the 61 year old that he was. He started losing his balance, and even falling sometimes. All of a sudden it was very clear that something had happened inside of his body. Tests and scans were done…There was no mass, no infection, no tumor, no imbalance that would cause such a change. And we were left with “dementia” – non-specific and unpredictable. He had a Parkinson’s-like condition as well, and his needs quickly escalated. Within a short time he was in a nursing home.

I prayed for healing…and look at what happened.

At first glance perhaps you’d say that God just said “no”…And maybe He did. But even if “no” was the answer, I think He wanted us to trust Him to fulfill that promise we find in Romans 8:28, that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him. Maybe He wanted us all to see that His healing comes in many different forms.

1620826_10152625054397645_4613765575691345274_nDuring the time that he was so debilitated, Dad needed my mom…He needed her in a way he never had. And she cared for him. She was tender toward him. Like most marriages, their relationship wasn’t perfect – but because of my dad’s needs I could see them growing closer – putting the past behind them and dealing with this new challenge together. I saw forgiveness. I saw surrender. I saw true love. I saw healing.

Dad died less than a year after I prayed that prayer…in his sleep, in the quiet. Mom and I went to see him that night last August, and he looked peaceful – there had been no struggle or fear or pain. He went home – home to Jesus, whole and renewed. Healed in every way.

1511514_10153781007155457_753299338_oAlmost a year after his death, my dad became a part of my daughter’s salvation story. She’s private about emotional things, and after he died she was quiet…very quiet. But something happened in her heart that changed her during the time following his death, and she decided that she wanted to trust Jesus as the leader of her life. She is healed – redeemed forever from the penalty of her sin. (Watch the video below of her salvation story and baptism.)

I know that there are many people reading this who are praying for healing for themselves or for someone they love, and I write it not to dissuade you from those prayers but to encourage you to see what healing can mean in the eyes of the only One who can see all of time at one glance. We see this vapor of time that we call our life, but He sees everything and everyone – and how it all fits together in light of eternity. Trust Him to heal HIS way, to use the “no’s” for good, and to take what we would never have chosen for ourselves to paint an ever expanding picture of how great and mighty He is.

I prayed for healing, and this is what I got.

1795416_10154294796710457_224403745214707738_oI got the healing of not just my dad, but also of my mom and daughter who I love so dearly. A favorite quote of mine by St. Augustine says, “…I was born into this life which leads to death – or should I say, this death which leads to life?” and the more I experience the more I know it to be true. It isn’t our gain that profits us, but our loss…The death of us – our sin, our flesh, even the literal death of our bodies – those deaths lead to freedom, healing, and true eternal life. We may not always get what we ask for from God, but as followers of Jesus we can trust Him to work all things – yes ALL things – together for our good.
[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]It is well with my soul, Melissa[/custom_headline]

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never give up!

Melissa @ awriteheart.comI work as a nurse in intensive care, and the vast majority of our patients have cardiac related problems. A woman came in some time ago in need of a big surgery – she had a couple of valves replaced, and after her surgery she had one complication after another. She was older but active before she came to us, and she just wanted to get home…but at every turn it seemed as though she hit roadblocks. We couldn’t get her off the ventilator, which was helping her to breathe. She had bad reactions to some of the medications we gave. Because she couldn’t breathe on her own and couldn’t eat normally, she was fed through a tube. After a time she did improve, and from a medical perspective she had gotten past the most critical part of her treatment. But by then she was depressed and discouraged by the length of time it was taking her to recover. She was sick of needing so much help, sick of not eating on her own, sick of not breathing on her own, and sick of not being free to do what she had done before. Two things happened: she stopped believing that she could recover, and she allowed her anxiety to get the better of her. She stopped participating in her care, and mentally gave up. This is the story of not just this patient, but of many patients…The struggle goes on so long that they can’t see the end goal, and so they stop hoping, and stop trying.

[pullquote type=”right”]We are unsatisfied and unhappy, but we don’t want to work for anything better because no matter what we’ve ever done before, nothing has ever really seemed to help. [/pullquote]
We do this same thing in our lives sometimes, don’t we? We struggle for a long time with the same old things…The same old relationship problems, the same old kid problems, the same old health problems, the same old sin problems, the same old addiction problems. Every day we look into our mirrors and see what we saw yesterday, and the day before that. No progress. And after a long, long time, we stop seeing the possibility of change and we settle into a chronic unrest about our situation. We are unsatisfied and unhappy, but we don’t want to work for anything better because no matter what we’ve ever done before, nothing has ever really seemed to help. We stop believing that recovery is possible because of our past experience, and we give up completely on the future.

That patient and I had a little chat after a few days of me taking care of her. I looked her in the eye and put on my “let’s level with each other” face. I told her that she was improving, but that she would never really get better if her mind and heart weren’t in the game. I told her that she had to work for a good ending and believe that she could recover. If she really wanted to get home, she would have to do difficult and even painful things. It was within her reach, but only if she was willing to put her all into it. She pondered it all, and for the rest of that day we worked  on breathing and moving and staying positive. Unfortunately others sometimes make the opposite decision, and despite their physical healing they never really live the way they did before.

[pullquote type=”left”]We can’t give up and just let it all fall apart.[/pullquote]Let’s level with each other, here and now. Whatever you’re going through and whatever I’m going through is never going to get better if our minds and hearts aren’t in the game. We can’t give up and just let it all fall apart. We’ve got promises – promises from GOD – that tell us why we shouldn’t give up! Look at just a few…

Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not be faint.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

[pullquote type=”right”]God is not a dispenser of wishes. But when we obey and persevere through the circumstances of life and trust Him with the outcome, He promises great things – things we can count on.[/pullquote]In these three passages (which are only three out of many) what does God promise to us when we persevere through trials and struggles? In Isaiah He promises renewal of our strength; in Deuteronomy He promises the constant companionship of our God; in Romans He promises perseverance, character, and hope in the absence of shame. God doesn’t promise that you’ll get exactly what you want, and He doesn’t promise that the end will be just as you hope it will be. He doesn’t promise that we will always be comfortable or that we will see the purpose of things the way He does. God is not a dispenser of wishes. But when we obey and persevere through the circumstances of life and trust Him with the outcome, He promises great things – things we can count on.

Like the patients that I care for, we have to keep the end goal in mind – even when we can’t see it. We KNOW what the end will be for those of us who trust Christ as the leader of our lives and the forgiver of our sins. Our toughest battle has already been fought and won by our Savior, so keep in your mind’s eye the end that God promises to those who believe. Keep praying, keep fighting, keep working, keep surrendering, keep loving, keep asking, keep seeking, keep trying, keep trusting, keep believing…Get your head and your heart back in the game, and believe that God will do what He promises!

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Standing on the promises of God, Melissa[/custom_headline]

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Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of June and be entered to win a basket full of gifts! On mobile scroll to the end of any post to subscribe…On a desktop, subscribe on the right sidebar or in the footer below. OR just use the “Contact Us” tab in the main menu and we’ll do the work for you!

If you’ve already subscribed, enter by tagging a friend under any post on our Facebook wall @ https://www.facebook.com/awriteheart and encourage them to subscribe!

giftbasketkateThis gift basket includes a “Foster Happiness” designed coffee mug, gift tags and a framed Bible verse. There is also 1 set of Jamberry nail wraps, manicure set, a Zambian wall hanging, and coffee and candle donated from Cafe Macchiato in Spencerport, NY!

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