Sunday, February 8, 2015

Praise God!

About a year ago when my family and I were in the midst of a very dark valley, God gave me two verses as if Isaiah wrote them directly to me.  These verses were Isaiah 43:18-19, a portion of which says "Behold!  I will do something new, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it?"

Wow, am I aware.

And since I process through writing, I am sharing with you just a few of the many ways God has proved His love and grace and faithfulness and power through the last few days.

For those of you who don't know, at the end of September I accepted a job as the Children's Ministry Director at our church.  It was not even on my radar of options for life, and then it happened so fast.  And I have enjoyed it so much, I can't believe I didn't know I should want to do this.  I get to work at one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people doing something I'm passionate about.  I am so thankful.

On Thursday night, a fire started in our church building.  In our infant nursery to be exact.  The children's ministry hallway of our church building is a complete loss.  I am going back in tomorrow to see if anything is worth saving, but it's not looking good.

Processing this has been hard.  I got dressed for my wedding in that toddler nursery.  I cried with my grandma that day on that north stairwell.  My kids love those halls, those rooms.  It's safe space for them.  Ava was playing on the floor in the nursery four hours before the fire started.  So many memories.  How many times have the preschoolers jumped during music and it sounded like the building was falling over?  How many times did I look in that doorway and see Mindi rocking a baby to sleep?  How many times have I walked by and seen Virginia with her Bible open on her lap and her felt people walking across the flannel board?

You don't need all my memories because most of you have thousands of your own.

What I really want to share with you is a list of things you should praise God for with me.  I know I have a unique perspective, and I think He should receive all the glory for the things He has done!

*  The thing that has not left my head for three days now is - praise God there were not kids in the building when that fire started!  We had literally just been planning a fire evacuation system for our children's ministry in the office Thursday afternoon.  We have absolutely zero plan for evacuating our kids, and while I'm confident teachers would have led their children out, in the chaos of parents running up to rescue their kids, and everyone trying to get out quickly, it would have been so so easy to miss a child.  There are no words.

*  I took my laptop home.  Not a normal thing.  And get this, to type up a fire evacuation procedure.  Not kidding.  My desk is water damaged from wet ceiling tiles collapsing on it, but our laptop is safe at home with me.

*  The amazing Central City Fire Department.  I was not personally there watching them work Thursday night, but they saved our building from complete destruction by putting themselves at risk and working so quickly.  They were on the roof with the flames shooting out.  I just want to thank all those firefighter's wives.  I would not be happy if that were my husband.

*  Several of our faithful volunteers were in the building working on different issues to serve our kids on Thursday afternoon.  Praise God that it was quickly obvious that none of their hard work had unintentionally caused this fire.

*  We've been doing a Beth Moore study on the Fruit of the Spirit, and we've just been talking about how what's inside me will come out.  If I allow God to control me, what comes out is love, joy, peace, patience, etc.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  It's not something I can work to do.  It just happens because it's His nature coming out through me.  I have seen the Spirit of God in the people around me in so many ways I think you'd get bored and stop reading if I named them all.  Here are just a few.

Ok, as many as I could manage to limit myself to.  =)

So many people have offered to donate or let us borrow toys, I've had to ask people to just wait.  Mindi, Christi, Judi, Sarah's friend, Niki, Jennifer, and whoever else offered and I forgot, Thank you!

My husband for being mommy and daddy for days and folding laundry and washing dishes and brushing little girls' hair.  There is no way I could have dealt with this without you.  You are the best.

So many people have offered to help with kids on Sunday mornings.  I am overwhelmed.  Thank you so much.  I will have jobs for all of you and more.  =)

Jamie for being my personal assistant Saturday.  I didn't know how badly I needed you until you texted and asked for a job.

Mindi, Sarah, Jamie, Kate, Aiden, Claire, the Stromsburg E-Free church people, Kristy, Larry, and everyone else who set up our nursery for our littles Sunday morning with such concern for their comfort in a new place.

Sandy for giving me a hug in the parking lot.  I just needed a hug that day.

What would I do without Tracy?  For telling me when I've gotten carried away and when to go home.  And modeling a true servant's heart.  And for so many, many other things.  I will be happy to have my desk next to yours again.

Our pastors and elders and staff and their spouses for walking with God and loving our community with their best energy.

Tara for asking how I was doing at just the right time.  And making me feel a little less crazy.

Niki for taking Ava last minute and telling me which totes I need and doing Valentine's Day card for my kids for school and making us supper and listening to me process.  I hope all of you have such an amazing friend.

Everyone who is praying!  Keep it up!  We need the Spirit of God to walk us through this just as badly today as we did Friday.  And we're more tired and farther behind on laundry today.

All these people and so many more have showed up and been the body of Christ these last few days because of the power of the Holy Spirit.  I would have given up without them.

Ps. 62:8
"O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


School has started in the Merchant house.  I'm a little panicky and excited about it all at once.  I get up at 6:00 now - instead of 7:30 or 8:00 for the last three months.  And the kids are getting up at 6:30 instead of 9:00.  Brutal - especially for those of us who are not morning people...  But my house is cleaner already, and it's only been four days.  =)  Kind of a toss up...

Ethan is a FIFTH grader this year.  As in he's learning how to play the trombone.  We maybe should have sound proofed his bedroom.  Although Ethan's too much of a people person to play his trombone in his room anyway.  If you don't have an audience, why play?  Right?
The fifth and sixth graders also take some responsibility for chores like emptying trash cans and wiping tables after lunch at school.  Apparently my son volunteered for what he thought was the hardest job on the first day cuz he didn't figure anyone else would want to do it.  I'm so proud.  Now if only I could get him to volunteer to clean up the kitchen after supper...

Kylie is a THIRD grader!  She's excited to move up to Mrs. Schreiber's classroom.  And has suddenly started reading constantly - chapter books!  Third grade is quite a leap up in terms of responsibility at our school, and I'm praying Kylie can keep up.
So far she's forgotten her gym shoes, her verse cards, and her reading homework.  In three days.  And (here's the part that baffles me!) didn't seem very concerned about any of it.
I would PANIC if I forgot something, but not Kylie.  She's just says, "Mom.  It's fine.  I'll get it later."
The good news is I won't have to worry about her being a worrier like her mother when she grows up.  ;)

And Julia is a FIRST grader.  She is in the same classroom with the same teacher as last year, but still cried from the minute I woke her up until I peeled her off of me and left her at school on the first day.  She is NOT A MORNING PERSON!  But when I picked her up that first day, she bounced by me on her way to the playground saying, "I've decided I like school, Mommy!"  And she hasn't cried since.  
I was a mess that first day.

This picture has nothing to do with school.  I just think it's hilarious!  And I know it got scrunched to a weird shape, but I don't know how to change it....  Help!  

And Ava and I are just hanging out at home, enjoying the quiet, playing preschool games, and reading books.
Oh and folding endless piles of laundry and cleaning bathrooms and driving two hours or so a day and grocery shopping and starting projects that were completely forgotten during the chaos of summer.  Normal stuff like that.  =)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Family pictures! =)

I promised myself I'd write about something fun.  Like giving bright pink, bubble gum flavored amoxycillin to 16 cats.

Yes.  You read that right.


Anyone want a few kittens?

You'd think that a person would make mouse-flavored amoxycillin for cats.  Nope.  Pink bubble gum just like you give your kids.

Huh.  Cats HATE bubble gum.

The first time, we caught them off guard, so they didn't really know to scratch and claw and run.  But after that, we couldn't get anywhere near the smart ones.  I guess they're just gonna have to live sneezing with gooey eyes.  We tried.

Or I could tell you about our family pictures!

Why is it that no one ever wants to take family pictures but me?  Julia and Ethan got upset and ran off in the middle and had to be tracked down and bribed with candy to come back and smile for the camera.  And Caleb suddenly noticed how dry the grass was and decided to water the yard.  Oh, and our half paralyzed kitten pooped all the way down the front of Hudson.

So all the smiling and happiness you see in these pictures is mostly fake because I told my family they would smile and look happy for our family pictures so I could print them huge and hang them on our walls so everyone could see how happy we are.

But they turned out awesome.  Because I have the best, most talented sisters ever.

Seriously, have you ever seen better family pictures than that?  We have too much fun!  I could never have even imagined all the love and giggling and silliness and chaos that God was giving me when I married this man.  I am so grateful.

And a little tired.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What do I love?

This thought is more philosophical than my brain normally handles.  And I can't get over the feeling that some famous quote somewhere already said this, and so my brilliant idea for the day is rendered...well... not so brilliant.

Regardless, here's my thought for the day:

I read this verse in Hosea today:
"they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame,
and they became as detestable as that which they loved."  
Hosea 9:10b

Now I realize that Hosea is not in general a highly encouraging book - although if you can get past all the death and destruction God promises to His people for leaving Him, His revelation of His unfailing love for His sinful, rebellious, purposely-running-in-the-wrong-direction people is jaw dropping.

But this verse in particular seems pretty depressing.

I don't know what Baal-peor is for sure, but it seems bad.  Shame.  Detestable.

However, it started me thinking.

We image that which we truly love.

Just stop and think about that for a minute.  I did.

We image that which we truly love.

Not only that.

We are slaves to that which we truly love.  

These Israelites spent so much time at Baal-peor that they imaged the detestable things happening there.  They didn't mean to.  It wasn't their goal walking in.  Subtly, seductively, Baal-peor became what they loved.  And it smeared its shame on their souls until it came oozing out of every thought, every action, every intention of their hearts.

This is slavery.  Baal-peor controlled them.

This challenged me this morning.  I want to say I love the LORD my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might (Deut. 6:5), but do I image Him?  Do I do what He has asked me to do as if I have no other choice?

What have I let into my soul?
Have I spent so much time looking at Pinterest and Facebook that I crave that thing those people over there have?
Have I so attached my emotions to the well-being of a character on my favorite tv show that I am consumed by what might happen next week?
Is the outcome of my son's baseball game the thing I can't stop talking about?
Am I constantly self-promoting?
Do I see the pretty things in Target and plot how to fit them into the budget?
Can I not walk away from my job long enough to engage my family?

Whatever my issues are.  As soon as I devote my heart to anything besides Jesus, it boils down to one thing.



This was the sin of Baal-peor.  The Israelites devoted themselves to something other than their God.  And they forfeited their access to grace and love and mercy and joy.  Their idolatry reaped for them a harvest of unimaginable devastation.

So what am I imaging to the world around me?

What other things are trying to sneak their way into my heart?

Destroy my love for anything but You, Jesus!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"I will do something new"

In January, God gave me this verse as my verse for 2014.

Isaiah 43:18-19
"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."

Have you ever been in the wilderness?  Stumbling aimlessly around the desert?  Have you given up hope that you will ever find your way out?

I have been there.  I spent a good majority of the last year there.  And when God gave me this verse, I had nothing but my brokenness, a desperate faith, and a very great and faithful loving God.  Nothing in my circumstances looked any more hopeful than they had the day before.

And, I think, I was finally exactly where He had wanted me the whole time.

I began to read this verse over and over.  I thought if I consumed myself with it, maybe I would believe it.  Maybe I would believe that God had promised it to ancient Israel and also - incredibly! - promised it to me in my dark valley.

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past."  Walk away, Melody.  Don't look back.  Look forward.  Fix your eyes on Me.  And let go of the hurt and pain.  Give your wounded heart to Me because I Am the ultimate healer of shattered hearts.  And I paid the price for all the selfishness that got you into this mess.

"Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it?"  Look at Me!  I am doing something!  Something new!  Will you notice when I move?  Will you give Me the glory when it happens?

And I did a fair amount of asking, "When is "now", God?  Like today would be nice!"

"I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."  Really?  A roadway in my wilderness?  A river in my desert?  I don't think you realize how bad it is here, Jesus.  Are you sure you are big enough and good enough and love me enough to care for my issues?  After all, what seems impossible and hopeless to me pales in comparison to the mother with no food to feed her babies in Africa.  So many truly life or death problems in the world.  Do you really have time and energy to spend on my broken heart when there is so much despair in the world?

And I am here to tell you today that God has done something new.  Something unexpected and so obviously from Him that I can do nothing but stand in awe of His grace and His endless LOVE.  He has made a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.  In ways I could never have even imagined to ask.

Are all my problems instantly solved?  My every desire satisfied?  No.

But I KNOW that what He has given has come directly from His hand.
And I trust Him to be good.
And I feel so perfectly loved.
And I have learned to trust.
To pour my hopelessness out to Him and then walk away from the hurt and watch my God act.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Challenge

Sometimes I think I've given up.  Maybe it's just four kids home all summer that destroys my sense of being able to plan to do something and actually get it done?

Or maybe I've gotten too used to going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink because I'm too exhausted from shopping clearance at Hobby Lobby for Christmas presents to care.  =)  (In my defense, I grocery shopped too!  With two little girls...)

Or maybe I'm just so used to the back side of Christmas wrapping paper hanging on the mudroom wall that I forget that actually I have real stuff to hang up there!

I see things that aren't the way I want them, but they've been that way so long, I start to look past them.
So I know the "carrots" in the garden have been completely drowned out by weeds.  And I know there's a layer of dust over every piece of furniture in the house.  But if I pull the weeds and dust the furniture, the weeds and dust will be back tomorrow.  Really, everyone knows it's a losing battle.

And I know there's mud on the mudroom walls.  But it's a mud room!
That's what it's for!

And there is so much laundry to fold!

But some people are so productive!  Like my husband yesterday.
He worked a full day from 8-5.

Came home and mowed most of our overgrown, jungle-imitating yard.  I had been trying to mow that yard for weeks but had only managed to mow the front yard twice.

Then he came inside, put the girls the rest of the way to bed, and wanted supper.  Only the dishes were piled in the sink because of my exhausting shopping trip.
He doesn't handle messes well.

So he happily cleaned my kitchen at 10:00 at night and ate a peach and some yogurt for supper.

 Have I told you lately how much I love this man?

And so this is my new goal for the rest of the summer.  (Is it possible that school starts again in a little over one month??!?  And why does this make me panic worse than the approaching summer did in April?)

I am going to wash my mudroom wall.


And fold the laundry.

And put it away.

And I will wash my own dirty dishes by 9:00 tonight.

Sounds like it should be easy enough, right?

But for this unorganized, not-clean-freak, morning person (who has now lost half the productive hours in the day typing on the computer and talking on the phone until 10:14 in the morning!), and mother of four who would rather be baking chocolate chip cookies, this is quite the challenge!  =)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Power and beauty

It's been a stormy couple of months here in Nebraska.  Truthfully I've been loving it!  I have found myself completely fascinated by the Nebraska sky.  Granted, there isn't much in the way of typical beautiful scenery out here - no ocean waves or towering mountains.  Just corn.  Lots and lots of corn.  Throw in some soy beans, ditches overflowing with weeds, pivots, and a few cows, and you see what I see most days.

And I find myself constantly looking up.  And wishing that I could somehow capture what I see in the lens of a camera and show it to you - big enough that you could see the puffy cotton ball clouds surrounded by the bright blue sky with the green laid out below.  But I'm no photographer. 

One particular afternoon I watched what is becoming a familiar line of black roll in from the west.  The towering, malicious clouds blocked out the sun too early, and a bright afternoon turned dark.  I knew storm chasers from all over the nation had been sitting outside my parents' home 30 miles away waiting for some fantastic, massive storm to develop.  They all wanted the best tornado video, the most spectacular cloud pictures.

This storm did not disappoint.  Widespread, huge hail destroyed thousands of acres of crops and smashed windows and ruined roofs.  We were spared the worst of the wind, although the corn in the fields around our home testified of the damaging hail.  Reports of homes destroyed by what had to be tornadoes filtered in over the next day.

And suddenly, the sky cleared.  We watched the black clouds march farther south and east, and the sun came out briefly in the west. 

Have you ever sat and watched the back side of a storm?  The black clouds towering to the east with the setting sun shining it's orange and red from the west?  And everything wet and sparkling with rain?  I was stunned by the beauty.  In the wake of such destruction.

And I wondered, what does this moment say about my God?  The Creator of this storm?  And the Giver of the beauty afterward? 

Proverbs says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom," and I wonder what does it look like to fear the God who loves me so recklessly?  Maybe this is how?

Because the same God who loves me enough to step away from heaven, take on a human body with human limitations and emotions and needs, and die a truly horrific death - that God is ultimate POWER. 

Listen to the thunder shake the house.  Watch the wind bend huge trees almost to the ground.  Watch ice golf balls pound your crops back into the dust.  And beg God to save the people in the paths of massive tornadoes scraping clean towns full of homes and businesses and memories and futures. 

And KNOW that this is my God. 

He really is that BIG.  He's good, but He's huge and completely beyond my ability to control or even understand.

Feel my own powerlessness in the face of such awesome power. 

And then, when the fury of the storm is spent, marvel in the glory.  The beauty.  The birds singing and playing in the puddles. 

Maybe this is wisdom.