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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Five loaves and two fish

Do you ever feel like the five loaves and two fish?

I do this morning. 

I just read Luke 9, and listen to this:
"Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.  And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full." 
Luke 9: 16-17

Many days I feel like I was made to be enough to feed one person, and I'm being asked to feed 5,000 hungry men instead.  I feel stretched and thin and lacking and so obviously not even close to enough.

Jesus knew the five loaves and two fish were not enough to feed all those people.  But He also knew that He can do the impossible.  And so he blessed the small amount of food and broke it. 

Ouch.  That's the part that hurts me, I think. I don't want to be broken.  I want to feel like I am sane.  That I have some control over my own life.  I want to be whole. 

But my desires look so small in the light of the fact that my Savior's hands are on me.  That He is blessing me. 

And so somehow. 
The food turns out to be enough after all.  Not just enough but overflowing.  Twelve extra baskets full.  Plenty for everyone and then some! 

And maybe?  Impossibly?  That means that in the hands of Jesus, with His blessing on me, and His hands breaking me and giving me away, I can be enough too.  Not just to survive and get by but to overflow. 

Overflow with joy in the midst of sadness. 
Peace in the midst of chaos. 
Hope in the middle of despair. 
Goodness and patience with my kids. 
Love when I've been hurt. 
Grace for sinners. 
Joy in being broken.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Look up!

Most of the time, out here in the middle of nowhere in the flat, field- covered plains of Nebraska, the most spectacular thing about the scenery is the sky.  Since we moved to the country, I have found myself spending way more time than I ever thought I would staring at the sky.  In town, there are so many trees and lights and buildings that my view was always obstructed.  But out here I can see to the horizon in any direction if I'm in the right spot. 

And so I've been watching sunrises and sunsets and the clouds and stars in between.  I find myself amazed that the spectacular sunrises and sunsets are so short.  The sky lights up in a blaze of glorious pinks, oranges, reds, and purples, and then fades to blue sky or the black of night so quickly.  If you're not looking at exactly the right time, you'll miss it all together. 

Then one day, it hit me.  I was mourning the loss of the colors, but they didn't actually disappear.  I mean, they did in this spot - at my house.  But actually they just moved west. 
The sun is constantly rising and setting somewhere in the world.
The sky doesn't just display the glory of God for a few minutes of the day every 24 hours.  At this very minute, the sun is rising somewhere west of me - maybe at Micah and Allie's house by now.
A few hours ago it set in Chiang Mai, on Rob and Christina's family.  And a few hours from now, it will set in Zambia on Kristi. 

God created the world so that someone on earth at any moment of any day is able to look up into the sky and see the marvelous glory of God displayed by the light of the sun moving down toward the horizon or up off the horizon.  He's doing this right now.  As I type. 

That's incredible to me.  My God is so big that, as one in a million routine things that He does to sustain life every day, He creates a spectacular reminder constantly, always changing and moving and screaming the glory of our Creator to our desperately hurting world. 

Look up!

Psalm 19:1
"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

September 17, 2010

Bet you don't know what happened that day, do you?
Well, neither would I.  Except...
Caleb found a hand-written (as in: on notebook paper in pencil like a junior high note) blog post dated 9/17/10 in a stack of papers the other day. 
It makes me laugh, so you get to read it too.  Be happy.  =)

"I am unaccountably annoyed with my husband today.


Well, to start he actually looked good when we went to church this morning.  His face did not look like he was 15 due to an uncontrollable flood of hormones.  He did not have giant puffy bags under his eyes from getting up with the baby every two hours last night. 
I.  Need.  Sleep.  
Ava's nine months old, and I've slept through the night twice.  
Major sleep deprivation.

And the man keeps telling me how I get crabby at night and start whining.  As if I have no reason.  You try not sleeping decently for years on end and see what it does to you. 

Ok, back to the looking good for church thing.  His hair was not frizzy and unruly.  His toenail paint was not peeling, and his butt did not look like an old lady's in his only pair of black dress pants.  Oh!  And the ruffles on his shirt were not frilling the wrong way.  

Next reason.  
He gets the weekend off.  
He watches football games and monopolizes the computer.  Ok, in his defense, he fixed the garage door.  Yay!  
But when is my day off?  
When do I get to watch mindless youtube videos while someone else cooks, cleans, disciplines the kids, and changes dirty diapers?  
Friday was supposed to be my day off (thanks Tam!).  I went to Super Saver, Target, my chiro appointment, watched Niki's kids, Amigo's, Neat Repeatz, Once Upon a Child, the hospital, and HyVee.  Then I came home and washed dishes, cleaned the bathroom, picked up, and vacuumed.  No nap for me.  
And the only thing I bough myself was a taco and tampons.  

Did I volunteer for this?  When exactly does this pay off like everyone says it will?  When I'm too old and exhausted to care?  Making me more like Jesus must be really, really important cuz that's all I see happening here.  God sanding all my points off (ouch!) to force me to be like Him.  Can I just say it's not so fun?  

"Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven."

Sitting down sounds nice.  I think that's my favorite part.  
As a footnote, I'd like to say I had to write this with a pencil because my husband has total control of the laptop.  My hand hurts."  

Ok, it almost killed me to type that without editing it - just a little?  But I wanted to preserve it exactly.
Looking back, the being like Jesus part looks like it will be worth it someday.  The verdict on the kids is still out.  =)

And Caleb and I totally matched when we went to church the other day, so I'm moving up in the world!  ;)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Kyrie Eleison" and Kristi

I was just listening to the latest Getty album off my phone through my Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen while doing supper dishes.  (Thanks to my awesome husband for my favorite Christmas present!  =)
"Kyrie Eleison" came on.  The first time I heard this song, I cringed.  I have two memories of this song - before the Getty version. 
#1.)  A not-so-talented-as-we-thought-we-were highschool choir attempting to sing words we did not understand. 
And #2.)  The movie "Ever After" and a screeching, sobbing bride unwillingly entering an arranged marriage.

Admit it.  That's what popped into your mind, too.  =)
Here's the words to the Getty version.  You should probably just go download the entire album on iTunes.  =)  I can't find a youtube video, so you can't listen to it.  Sorry...
"Kyrie eleison; have mercy. 
Christe eleison; have mercy. 
Kyrie eleison; have mercy. 
Christe eleison; have mercy. 

As we come before You 
With the needs of our world, 
We confess our failures and our sin, 
For our words are many 
Yet our deeds have been few; 
Fan the fire of compassion 
Once again. 
When the cries of victims 
Go unheard in the land, 
And the scars of war refuse to heal, 
Will we stand for justice 
To empower the weak 
Til their bonds of oppression 
Are no more? 
If we love our God with all our 
Heart, mind, and strength, 
And we love our Neighbors as ourselves, 
Then this law of love
Will heal the nations of earth, 
And the glory of Christ Will be revealed. 
Lord, renew our vision 
To be Christ where we live, 
To reach out in mercy to the lost;
For each cup of kindness 
To the least in our midst 
Is an offering of worship 
To the throne."
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
The last line reminded me of this blog post by my youngest sister.  She's a nurse at a Bible college in rural Zambia. 
I cried when I read Kristi's blog.  This woman being pushed in a wheelbarrow to see a doctor - not to live long but to die with less pain.  Faceless and nameless to me.  She has a face and a name.  God loves her.  Her mother and her baby boy and my sister know and love her too.  I cannot - I do not dare blur her in with the millions of other suffering, dying people in the world. 
I wonder if life is a long walk through brokenness.  A continual parade past the brokenness of other people and a continual revealing of the depth of the scars on my own shattered soul.  And I wonder why God constantly puts in front of me people for whom my heart breaks with sorrow and reminds me that I am helpless to do anything.  That He is the Savior, not me.  That His ways are higher than mine.
When Jesus walked the earth, he gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, raised the dead.  I just read it this morning in Matthew 20.  Jesus was "moved with compassion" and healed the blind. 
But what I am to do when I see the dying riding to Kristi in a wheelbarrow and am moved with compassion but have no physical cure?  When my broken heart and my God are all I have to give - and even that from half a world away?
That's why I love this song.  "For each cup of kindness to the least in our midst is an offering of worship to the throne." 

That glass of water Caleb just carried Julia after the lights were out?  That can count as worship!

To the exhausted mommy who hasn't slept in years.  That compassion for your screaming two year old at 3:00 am who literally has slept through the night five times in his entire life - that's straight from the heart of Jesus. 

Teach me to walk close to you, Jesus, so I catch Your heart of compassion and use it when You give me opportunities.  That is worship!