This past weekend I spent some time alone in silence. Sometimes I forget just to be still and to turn off the noise – all of the noise. I’m often amazed at how uncomfortable silence can be, for in the silence we remember that we feel, and we can hear our own thoughts.  Silence usually speaks much more loudly than any volume of noise used to try to drown it out.  

Sometimes, I don’t like what I hear in the silence…my own thoughts… which should make me want to flee from it.  But as usual, He draws me in.  It is often in the still, silent solitude that those all-too-often-whispered-lies merely serve to remind me of what I forgot in the chaos…that the Victory Banner is already raised over them.  So as I exhale into the complete rest that waits for me in the shadow of the His Banner over me, I melt into the One who stands ready to take those thoughts…those lies… captive.  


Sometimes the victory banner is raised before many to the sounds of trumpets, shouts and pomp and circumstance.  

And sometimes, the victory banner is quietly raised over a single shattered heart, as the Master tapestry-maker sews it all back together with threads of grace, mercy, and peace. 

The more I embrace it, my pull toward spending time alone in deep reflection and prayer has become more and more intense. Scripture tells us in several places to go to the “secret place” to pray to the Father.

On this day, I thought about a long list of things and prayed about an even longer list of things. As I looked out on the water, I caught a glimpse of something beautiful. The water was perfectly still and smooth, like glass. The reflection in the water was perfect…a gorgeous blue sky…heaven. If the water had not been at rest, I could not have seen this incredible picture. Only when we are perfectly still … when we are at rest in Him … only then can we reflect heaven. Only then can we reflect Him.

There are so many times when God speaks to me through music, other people, and of course through serving others. And I am moved to incredible heart change during corporate worship at times. But nothing can replace the intimate time I spend alone with my God. He says things and shows me things in the still, quiet place that I cannot hear or see anywhere else. And I sure would hate to miss that. 

“The more I seek You, the more I find You. The more I find You, the more I love You. I want to sit at your feet and drink from the cup in Your Hand… to lay back against you and breathe, to feel Your heartbeat. This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand. I melt in your peace.” (The More I Seek You“, Christ for the Nations)

My Offended Heart

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm…” (Song of Solomon, 8:6)

A few years ago, my pastor asked me for advice on how to teach about finding contentment with being single.  My response?  I laughed. That sort of laugh when you find yourself somewhere you never in a million years thought you’d be.  It had been a long journey to contentment in this area of my life. 

You see, for my entire life, I have longed for a husband and family. Even though many would testify that I am a woman of strong and committed faith and have been for a long time, the truth is that I placed my pursuit of a husband much higher than my pursuit of God for many, many years.  To be quite honest, I resented my single status for a very long time.

It was not uncommon for me to cry out the same prayer over and over again during the dark seasons of loneliness and depression that would pop up rather frequently. “Deliver me, Lord, because I can’t do this for one more day.

But one day, about 3 years ago, it was … different.  On that day, as I cried out that familiar plea, the Lord gave me a vision of a woman crying out just as I did, as she looked at her husband.  She too cried, “Deliver me, Lord. Because I can’t do this for one more day.”

This old girl is rather stubborn and hard-headed, so I don’t have many “in that moment” transformational experiences that “stick”.   Usually, God has to knock me over the head several times before I really get it.  But not this time.  In that one single moment, my entire paradigm changed … and my heart changed.  I could no longer view myself in a category that is “less than” my married friends.  I realized that I am not unique. We all feel lonely sometimes. We all feel envious or jealous or offended by what someone else has sometimes.  And we’re all in this together.

In that one single moment, the Lord transformed my offended heart.

I stopped being offended by those who had what I wanted and began to trust the One who knows exactly what I need. Instead of being so focused on scanning every room I walked into for men without a wedding ring, I am now able to be fully myself and fully present in the moments of my life in the way that God has designed.

And y’all… It’s SO much better this way.

It was the beginning of a freedom that I never knew that I didn’t know!

The freedom in finally realizing that my heart’s true and deepest yearning was for the Husband – “the One” – that I already have.  Jesus.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm… (Song of Solomon, 8:6)

And as a bride vows to her husband on her wedding day, I have finally learned to allow Him to be the husband that He always has been.  He’s a really, really good catch, and I fall more in love with Him every day.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  God did not change or take the desire from my heart for marriage.  Quite the contrary.  But He has changed the desire and moved it to a different – and its rightful – place.  

With every ounce of who I am, I want Him more.  I can say with 100% honesty and enthusiasm that if God does not call me to marriage, then I am content and full. I used to say that because I knew it sounded like the “right answer”.  But now, I actually mean it.

I am so thankful that He heard and answered my prayer … “Lord, Deliver me. I can’t do this for one more day.” And that’s exactly what He did.

Are you struggling with an offended heart today?  I promise that if you will allow Him there and allow Him to breathe new life and new Truth into your heart, He will.   

My Wedding Day

I don’t often write about being single. Mostly because while my “singleness” is a part of my life, it’s simply not the main focus of my life or ministry. For today, however, I am choosing to talk about it. But this post is for everyone, so if you’re not single, I hope you’ll stick around.

I have an amazing, fulfilling life. I am surrounded by the most incredible and devoted Godly men and women who challenge me, love me, bless me, minister to me, and just generally “put up” with me every day. Moments of loneliness do come, but they are rare and usually short-lived. It wasn’t always that way, but God has transformed my heart over the years to bring me to this place.

Yet even with a fulfilled life, there is a very short list of things that occasionally make me “feel” single. One of those things is coming home from a trip to a quiet, empty house, with no one there to hug me and tell me I was missed. I don’t love that part of being single.

The other is being sick, and this is probably when I “feel” it the most. I really struggle emotionally and spiritually with the vulnerability of being alone when I’m not well. No one to hold my hand and tell me it’s going to be OK, pray over me, drive me to the doctor, or bring me soup and meds. Several months ago, while driving myself to the emergency room, I lost it. In a feverish panic, crying out, “God, I’m going to die alone!” Oh, the melodrama of a single Italian woman with a fever!

And then came October 17, 2011.

October. My favorite month of the year. I love the crisp air, the colors, the sound of the leaves blowing, and the promise of the harvest. In fact, I’ve often said that if God called me to marriage, I would want an October wedding.

On this beautiful day in October, though, sickness would enter my life in a way I’d never known before. This wasn’t the flu. This was no sinus infection. This wasn’t going to be me driving myself to the store to get my own OJ and cold meds. This was way bigger than that.

About an hour after I got the news, I was driving across town to my parents’ house to tell them. That hour had been a whirlwind of information overload and emotional chaos. And as the surreal became real…

Oh my God. I have cancer. And I’m single.

I immediately started to pray, and I remember my exact words.

OK, God, this is going to be a weak area for me spiritually, so I need you to perfect my weakness in your strength. Like right now. Set me like a seal upon your heart.

From that moment on, as tough as this road has been, not for one day have I felt single or alone in this journey. Not for one second. His presence has been felt at every step. He is faithful.

I have also been lavished with love and the presence of my community. But God would show me that as wonderful as my community is, they are not the reason that I have never felt alone in this crazy ride through cancer.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was reading verses that I’ve read a hundred times before, and the familiar words jumped out at me in a new way.

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a doorway of hope…“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’ … I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:14-15, 19-20, NIV).

Upon reading those words, He captivated me with new truth. How had I missed it before? I haven’t felt single through this journey because quite possibly for the first time in my life, I have allowed Him to be my Husband. And just as that realization began to penetrate my heart, he allowed me to recall the prayer I prayed in my car two months before on that dark day in October…

Set me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal on your arm… (Song of Solomon 8:6)

His wedding vow had long before been spoken over me. But mine was spoken in the car that day when I prayed… Set me like a seal upon your heart. And I meant it. From that point on through this journey, I finally allowed Him to be the Husband that He always was.

October 17th was the day I found out I had cancer. But that day was about so much more than that.

October 17th was my wedding day.

2012: Praise

For the past two years, God has given me a word for the year. 2010 was Breakthrough, 2011 was Dreams.

One night this past November as I was in excruciating pain and had been bedridden for weeks, and told by doctors I would likely never walk “normally” again, I heard God’s word for me in 2012.

Praise… 2012 is going to be all about Praise, Melissa.

That’s such a God thing to do, isn’t it. Seriously? To give me a word like praise on a night like that. I tried to talk him out of it, trying to convince Him that we could focus on praise later.

God, you can raise me like a victory banner on a battlefield, you can allow me to multiply your Kingdom and you can give me a melodious voice to proclaim your majesty. I want you to do all of those things. But for now, God, can you please just let me weep? Can you just let me grieve for a minute? Can you stop time and just stay with me and sit with me for a while while I catch my breath?

He did.

And since that time, He’s been faithfully showing me that the new scars on my body and on my heart can become unexpected pathways to joy. I’m learning to trust Him in a brand new way.

But that’s not the whole story. I tried to think of beautiful words that I could post about this new year of Praise, to convince you that I have it all together. To convince you that I am as strong as so many of you tell me I am. The fact that so many of you have written to me and shared that I inspire you to a greater faith just makes me laugh. Because my faith has been so intermittent through this journey. If you only knew.

The truth? The praise that I have for God’s miraculous healing of my body from cancer is quite possibly the highest praise I have ever brought to God. I feel a depth of gratitude and utter thankfulness that I have never experienced before. I can’t seem to lift my hands high enough or sing loudly enough to reach the level of praise that my heart has for Him. 

But here’s the thing. It coexists. It coexists with a deeper sense of suffering…and fear… than I have ever experienced. A heart cry for further healing from the relentless pain, the horrible swelling (lymphedema), and the new deformity of my body. A grief that goes deeper than I can describe, and that I am ashamed to admit in light of the amazing blessings already revealed in this journey. Yet I can’t seem to bow low enough or cry deeply enough to convey the level of pain and fear that I feel.

What is wrong with me? I have been wondering how the high and the low can coexist, and asking God to show me what it is about Him that I don’t trust. Trying so hard to “do it better”, to be more “holy”. Surely, those two things shouldn’t exist at the same time if I’m a “good Christian”, right?

And as I seek and pray for wisdom and peace, I keep coming back to Jesus’ agony in The Garden. (See my last post.)

There, in the Word and in The Garden, I find Truth.

Jesus asked God for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him if it were God’s will. He was in so much anguish that His body released bloody sweat. I believe that He was afraid. He longed to please His Father, and He would have done (and did) everything God ever asked of Him. Yet His fear and His faith were both present in the Garden that night.

There is a very powerful Truth present here.  The very place from which a few weeks later He would ascend to Heaven was the place He now cried.  And we are told in His Word that to this place, one day He will return(Zechariah 14:9).  

And guess what else? God could have resurrected Him with a perfect body. But He didn’t. Jesus arose fully restored except for one thing… His scars. So everyone would know who He is.

So whether I “feel” it or not, I choose to praise Him, no matter what.

Because I know that the very place that I find myself broken now is the very place from which one day, I too will arise. And my scars will ensure that everyone knows who He is.

So with gritted teeth, a lump in my throat, a tear-streaked face, and a heart full of hope…

I praise. 

Because He is faithful. Because He is grace. Because He is love.

Because He is worthy.


After He Was Strengthened.

I wonder what the angel said.

We aren’t specifically told that the angel was Gabriel, the same angel that told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God, but I like to think that it was.

I imagine the passion of a father racing across town to be with his son in the emergency room.

God, sending His angel Gabriel, to Gethsemane.

“Hey, Gabriel, 34 years ago I sent you to tell Mary that she, a virgin, would give birth to Jesus, the King of Kings. Now, I send you to earth again. Go to him, He’s in the Garden. Hurry. My Son is crying.”

I wonder what he said to Jesus. Well, we will never know for sure, because the Bible is silent about it. But we know whatever it was, it strengthened Him.

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 39-44, NIV)

Wouldn’t you think that after Jesus was strengthened, He would have quickly dried his eyes, offered a brave smile, and enthusiastically resumed His mission? But it didn’t happen that way. Before He rose from the anguish, He cried even harder. So hard, in fact, that His own sweat turned bloody. This happened after He was strengthened.

My Jesus, after receiving encouragement, prayed even more earnestly and cried harder.

Me too, Jesus. Me too.

Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the richest hope permits the deepest suffering

Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the deepest suffering releases the strongest power

Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the strongest power produces the greatest joy.

In the deepest part of my soul, I long more than anything to live in the fullness of His power alive in me, and to further His Kingdom. But for tonight, from my personal garden, with a strengthened heart, I cry out even harder to Jesus:

My God, My Jesus, bind up my wounds, erase my fears, and deliver me from disease and pain. Breathe life into my dry and tired bones. But not before you teach me how to die, Lord. Not before you teach me how to die so that I can live.

Simple Things.

I have vivid memories of my childhood summers. Constantly at our neighborhood swimming pool from its opening hour until booted out by the teenage-angst-filled lifeguards at closing time, my olive skin became very dark. I would be stopped regularly by the nosy inquirer who wanted to know if I was Brazilian or from some other far-off exotic place. But no, I was merely a little small town southern girl. As I think about that memory, I find it comical. I was not an exotic foreign heir to fortune or fame. I was a simple girl from a simple town with simple taste. And I was the luckiest girl alive (and still am), because the values instilled in me by my parents were based upon recognizing the extraordinary in the simplest pleasures in life.

God has blessed me with the most incredible earthly father a girl could have. He oooohed and aaaahed when I twirled in my new dresses, he graciously pretended to eat elaborate imaginary platters of food I designed with little plastic “pegs”, and he never once forgot to leave me a beautiful heart full of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Every Saturday morning, we had breakfast together at Kay’s Drugstore…it was our date every week. And every single day (no exaggeration), I would wake up to a handwritten note from Dad wishing me a good day, affirming me, and telling me that he loved me “very, very, very, very much”.

My most treasured memories with Dad, though, are the ones framed around those Georgia midsummer days that were so humid you could barely breathe. He and I would sit out on our deck in the hot sun, and we would share an ice cold can of fruit cocktail. Two forks. We would sit and talk and laugh with the sweltering sun beating down on us as we took turns reaching into a fifty-cent can of ice cold fruit. At the end, one lone cherry always awaited…and Dad always gave it to me of course. We would stay and talk and talk and talk until the sun came down. Dad worked hard to support our family. But he and a silly can of fruit cocktail always had time for me. From my perspective, there was no finer cuisine. The experience was not framed around an iPhone or iPad or Playstation or designer jeans or fancy trips or cameras or computers. There was just me and my Daddy, and an aluminum can of processed fruit between us. I was content, satisfied, and loved. I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas or my birthday every year, but I can tell you about those times on the deck with my Dad like it was yesterday. That, I remember. And that, I treasure.

If you look in my refrigerator today, you’ll notice a can of fruit cocktail on the top shelf. Because I need to be reminded that there are opportunities every single day to find the extraordinary in the simplest of things.

Needle and Thread

I wonder who she was. What she dreamed about. Did she have a husband and children? How old was she? Was she happy? Was she struggling to understand her life’s purpose? What did she think about? Was she tired, drained? I wonder if her hands were blistered or crippled with arthritis. Did her neck and shoulders hurt at the end of her workday?

We know nothing about her; not even her name. Yet she holds a critical place in history. Not one of prominence or notoriety, but instead behind the scenes of a story that has been passed down through the ages and will continue to be for all of eternity.

For the rest, go to (in)courage, where I’m a guest blogger today!


The past few mornings have been light and cool, with just enough of a hint of Fall to tease me into the excitement I feel every year as the humid midsummer days relax into the softer beauty of Autumn. The release from one season into another.

But it’s not just the weather. I feel the seasons changing in me, too.

Is it true, Lord? Is this season coming to a close so that another can come?

I feel the cool wind on my heart. I see the leaves, fallen on the ground, tired from their exposure to months of extreme heat, making way for new growth on strong trees. I sense it. The time for harvest is coming. Soon. It’s almost here.

The past 10 months have tested, challenged, tried, and proven my faith in the One who is my God over and over again. I would not trade one day, one hour, one minute, or one single second. Through every moment, He has revealed something new to me about Himself. He has breathed new life into Scriptures that I’ve read hundreds of times. He has breathed new Truth into me. I am more hopeful for His preferred future for me than ever before.

Your love is extravagant,

Your friendship, it is intimate.

I feel like moving to the rhythm of your grace…”

To the melody of those words, and in anticipation of the new season to come, my inner child took over…

And right there, in my living room, without even thinking about it…

I twirled.

If anyone had seen me, I doubt that words like “graceful” or “lovely” would be used to describe the vision of me dancing in my living room. But I really don’t care.

I twirled anyway. Again and again and again.

And maybe, just maybe, from now on, when I sense the seasons starting to change,

Instead of walking into them,

I’ll twirl into them.

Because I can.

Because His love IS extravagant.

Am I Beautiful?

This seems to be the topic of the week. In the space of only a few days, six different women, ranging in age from 19 to 55, have reached out to me to walk them through doubt, uncertainty and pain over one simple question.

Am I beautiful?

I am so not qualified to answer this question. On most days, I see myself as anything but beautiful.

What is beauty? Of course, this is a huge question. Creation is beauty. Worship is beauty. Family is beauty. Love is beauty. So many things reflect God’s creation and presence and can be called “beautiful”.

Although beauty is not gender specific, I do believe women struggle with this concept more than men, in that at the core of a woman’s soul is a longing to unveil her beauty. And usually, for a woman, the context of the question starts with standards placed on personal, outer beauty. I am forty-something, yet still delight in my earthly father’s affirmation of my beauty. When he says, “you look very pretty, Melissa” (which he does often because he’s a wonderful father), my heart still melts.

This idea of beauty isn’t limited to the external, although the world certainly places an emphasis on that. Our desire to share beauty is far more than external: it not only includes, but demands the presence of an internal beauty – a beautiful heart. I do not feel beautiful when I am critical or mean-spirited or impatient or harsh. I do not feel beautiful when my relationships are not healthy and whole. I am not married but know that if God calls me to marriage, then I will long to unveil beauty to my husband, both in my outer and inner appearance.

Before others, we long to offer beauty to the world. This shows in many ways – our bent toward decorating a home, putting flowers on a barren table, or nurturing those we love with encouragement. Simply put, I am not at home if I feel as though I am not offering beauty to the world. If taken in the context of God’s image, Scripture says that “God created human beings; he created them Godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female” (Gen 1:17, MSG). God’s nature defines beauty, and if He created us to reflect that nature, then it’s easy to understand the longing to unveil beauty to those we love, and to the world.

That all sounds nice and flowery. It probably is in heaven. But it’s not down here.

Because down here, it’s hard. The mirrors are distorted and deceptive. There are many other voices and pictures and ideals that tell us we are not enough. The first experience of rejection in our young lives can catapult us into a lifestyle of striving and performance. It is a bitter root that bakes slowly in us and over time, burns into our minds and hearts so deeply that we no longer recognize it. We move from freely offering beauty to withholding it, out of fear that it will not be enough, or even worse…rejected. But the desire to unveil it remains despite the rejection…so we strive and strive and strive to achieve some imagined benchmark that God never intended to exist.

I have been thinking and praying over this question for days. And God has reminded me how simple it really is. I feel beautiful when I am not striving to be beautiful.

When I’m not obsessed with my appearance.

When I’m not worried about what others think of me.

When I’m truly listening to someone else.

When I openly share my heart with someone else.

When I freely accept God’s love, mercy and grace.

When I am no longer Melissa the earth-girl, but Melissa the Spirit-filled girl.

I feel beautiful when I am at rest, because that’s where He is.

And He is beautiful.

Those who look to Him are radiant (Ps. 34:5).

In the Listening.

I’m finding it hard to believe that Fall is already here. This is hands down my favorite time of year. The time of year that this non-outdoorsy girly girl actually enjoys the outdoors and nature. I was actually giddy last night during my evening walk/run as I saw the first leaves dancing down the street, singing the familiar pitter-patter song of Fall. A perfect, cool, breezy Fall evening. Windows open, pumpkin-scented candles burning, and beautiful evening skies with the constellations of the season returning their beauty for us to enjoy. I love everything about Fall.

I’m a bit under the weather tonight, but still enjoying this Fall evening from the indoors. The cool breeze, newly fallen crunchy leaves, and gazing at Orion through my window relax me to a place of quiet stillness. And tonight I find myself keenly aware of a simple truth about God…and about me.

God speaks.  And sometimes I am so busy talking that I forget to listen.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it…” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)

He didn’t speak in the great and powerful wind. He didn’t speak in the earthquake. He didn’t speak in the fire. He spoke in the gentle whisper. And Elijah was listening.

Sometimes I am caught aware not only by my failure to stop long enough to listen for God’s gentle whisper, but also my failure to listen to others whom I truly love and care for. Albeit with good intentions, often I am so quick to say “I’ll pray for you!” that I don’t take the time to truly listen to what the other person longs to express. Sometimes I am so quick to offer encouragement or counsel that I miss the sweetness of the opportunity to truly listen to a friend. Maybe the encouragement that would reach that person’s heart is in the listening. And sometimes not with the best of intentions, I am too busy, impatient, or prideful to listen.

When we don’t listen, we miss something precious. We can see a person when we truly listen, when we study them and patiently listen for the whispers that reveal the deepest parts of their hearts to us. And after all, isn’t that what all of us want in our relationships – to be seen and known? Isn’t that what God wants from us – to see and know Him?

God, may we stop speaking long enough to hear You so that we may see and know You. For in that, you not only speak to our hearts, but you faithfully equip us with quiet hearts to hear, see and know others.