Hashtag. I Lived.

It’s taken me 7 months to share this photo publicly.

I suppose I wanted to take some time to really ponder, to really reflect what this picture represents.

I get teary just thinking about it.

I made this sign and carried it to the top of Stone Mountain this past March. (Actually, let me clarify that my sweet friend Sue offered to carry it for me.) I got the inspiration for the words, “I Lived,” from the OneRepublic song blowing up the radio then. More so, I wanted to make a statement when I got to the top of that mountain representing one of my greatest fears, a literal mountain that I needed to conquer in my life and in my faith.

So I made it to the top, and with the background of my hometown Atlanta behind me, I made my statement.

I lived.

It tells my comeback story. It points to the impossible that my great Healer God has made possible in my life. I can’t tell you how many times I was ready to give up after having my life, my heart, my every hope and dream shattered on this mountain.

Yet, God never let me give up.
He never let me.
He is relentless like that.

I do recognize I did have a choice in the matter. I could have chosen to let tragedy very well destroy my life.
I chose to lift my hand up to heaven instead.
I chose to enter into my sorrow, to a storm so intense, to a pain so deep. Jesus, only Jesus, could meet me in it.

And He did.
And eventually He led me through it.

These last few months have been a season of treasuring what God has done and continues to do in my life.

Often in the Old Testament, God calls His people to create a memorial so that they could remember what He has done for them.

Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:21, 22 & 24

“Then you can tell them…” I love that line.

I’ve got the biggest memorial in all of metro Atlanta, the very mountain that I swore I’d never be able to look at again. I’ve got almost every spot around the city where I can catch a glimpse of it memorized; I’ll even catch it at times from my airplane window.

Stone Mountain is now my memorial mountain.

It reminds me of the great work God has done in me.
It reminds me that I lived.
It reminds me that I didn’t just survive tragedy, I lived in the midst of it. I lived to see the other side of it.
It spurs me on to keep living.

Dearly loved, grateful,

To Speak Love Through My Eyes

“He will call us to pour our lives into the cracks around us, and sometimes into the cracks far from our doorsteps. But wherever he calls us, we pour, not wishing for a larger crack or a more noticeable one, or even the one we were expecting.” – Jeannie Allen, Anything

I’ll never forget the first time I looked into the eyes of women living on the margins. I was on my knees in a tiny school room in the middle of Africa, washing their feet. Though we spoke different languages, we communicated through our eyes.

A year later, I was back in that same community in Uganda. This time, I bent over to look into the eyes of these same women. Our team brought ribbons to braid and tie around their foreheads. This small act symbolized the crowns of beauty our Heavenly Father gives for the ashes of our heartaches, our losses, the broken pieces of our lives.

No words were necessary. Eye to eye was all that we needed to speak love.

To speak love through our eyes.

Last month, my friend Susanne and I had the incredible opportunity to lead a group at a local women’s shelter through an 8-week conversation about faith. Meeting women marginalized in my very own city just further solidified my desire to serve women both locally and abroad. Though we spoke the same language, my favorite part was just seeing them, really seeing them, not for what they had been through but for how much the God of the Universe cares for them.

I’m one month away from embarking on a trip to a place I never imagined myself going. I’m heading to Israel with a team from our church to serve women pushed to the margins of society, many who are treated like property.

We’ll be in the very land where Jesus walked. Of all the stories in the Bible that inspire me, none bring to me to tears like the ones about Jesus and the women He loved and healed, the women He made a point to see with His eyes.

I don’t write all this to make much of me. I write all this as a thank you to the One who continues to answer the earnest prayer of a grief-stricken widow in more ways that I can ask or imagine. That prayer came 5 years ago this month; it came through darkness and utter pain so deep that I never thought I’d survive it.

Just 5 months after my entire life and heart shattered, I asked my Great God to give me a glimpse of something, anything to look forward to in my life. I asked Him give me a purpose in my pain.

And He has answered…and He continues to answer, over and over again.

I want to speak love through my eyes to women on the margins, anywhere, everywhere. I want to pour my life out as a fragrant offering to the One who gives me life, the One who loved me first.

I realize this isn’t the life that anyone would sign up for; it’s not the American dream by any means. But it’s my dream, my unique, God-given dream. It’s my “anything” as Jeannie Allen talks about in her book quoted above. My heart’s desire is to get to the end of my days on this earth and know that I have not wasted the opportunities given to me.

Dearly loved, for women,


The Next Step

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last couple of years. One thing in particular is that I’m a do-er. I’m not a brain-stormer. I’m the person in a creative meeting who’s always thinking, “that’s a great idea, but how are we gonna do it?” I have some incredible colleagues who do their best work at the 50,000 foot view of ideas and possibilities. I am at my best at sea level cranking out a “to do” list.

I seem to want that when it comes to knowing my future too.

I wrote in a recent blog about feeling “empty-handed.” This first half of 2015 has seemed like a constant stream of letting go.

In January, I turned 35 and let go of my idea of “where I thought I’d be at 35.” There’s something about those years divisible by 5 that seem to be mile markers for me.

Then in March, I felt it was time to finally face that “skeleton” in my closet, my fear of climbing Stone Mountain. I conquered it, I let go of it’s power. I also let go of very precious marbles representing years of shattered dreams.

Last month, as it came time to put my house on the market, a house that holds 10 years of memories for me, including most of my marriage, quite honestly I was just tired of letting go.

I was lamenting over my seemingly empty hands recently to a wise friend when she said to me, “Melissa, perhaps it’s time for you to ask God for a new vision.”

Vision. There’s that 50,000 foot view again. Sigh.
I felt exhilaration at what “could be” and sheer terror at how I was going to “get there” all at the same time.

I wish I could say that as I began to ask God to show me what was next, that his answer was immediate, that it was everything I could ever dream it could be, that it came wrapped in cotton candy and tied with a big pretty bow. I wish I could say that He showed me a great big picture of what the rest of my life holds (or at least a 10-year plan).


Instead, I reluctantly began to pray for a new vision. Honestly it was more of a complaint session, turned into a wrestling match. I kept telling God what I wanted, that I wanted to see what was ahead; I kept getting silence and a reminder that I am to walk by faith, not by sight.

So, I literally got on my knees beside my bed one night and I laid out everything before my God, my entire life, everything I hold precious, every hope, every dream. I was so desperate to hear from Him that I was willing to let go of anything.


It was not easy, but it was honest.
And it was freeing.

And weeks later, it led to the next step I needed to take.
And just last week, yet another.
This do-er is gaining clarity on what’s ahead.
It’s a one step at a time kind of clarity.

I’ll take it.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I know eventually I’ll look back to see the whole staircase.
For now, I climb and trust my Great God for the journey.

Dearly loved, stair-steppin’,

I Climbed That Mountain…

…and a month later, I still haven’t been able to put adequate words around it. I commemorated the 5 year mark of my late husband’s passing by hiking to the top of Stone Mountain for the very first time in my life.

Perhaps more words will come later, but for today, I share this journey in pictures.

And for anyone walking through circumstances that seem insurmountable right now, I humbly offer this encouragement:

Walk this difficult road…

one step…

one moment…

one day…

one decision at a time.


Allow others to help you. You don’t have to walk the path alone.

{A huge thanks to my dear friends Sue and Susanne for climbing with me. They represent so many people who accompanied me along this long, hard 5 year journey.}

StoneMt not alone

Even if you feel like fear will overtake you, don’t give up. Stay the course.

{It was at this moment that I realized the mountain was not as scary as I had imagined it to be. As my wise pastor, Billy, reminded me, fear tends to shrink when you face it head on.}

StoneMt face it

And finally, trust God no matter what. Yes, I said no matter what.

I stood in the very place where my earthly love shared his final moments on this earth because I know that this earth is not our final resting place. Because of Jesus, death does not and will not have the final say.

StoneMt-19 final moment

So I walk on. I live to face another day. I live to give all the Glory to the One, Jesus, who is my very life.

I live to tell you to keep climbing.


Dearly loved, climbing on,

Photography by the amazing Jade King Horton.

Time to Bloom

I should live in a bubble. That’s what my allergist told me 6 years ago when I began allergy shots.

Yes, I’m that allergic…to pretty much every tree, grass, and weed in Georgia.

I recall walking in for a check up about a year ago and noticed an 80 year old man getting shots too. I thought it must stink to still get shots at his age. It was that same appointment I was told that I’d most likely be a “lifer” when it came to shots.

Wait a minute. I would one day be that 80 year old too. Sigh.

I have a love/hate relationship with this season every year. I love to look at the beauty of spring, as long as it’s not making me sick. It sure would be nice if things could bloom without pollen.

It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy when it comes time to bloom in life either. I’m learning that first hand.

It’s coming up on 5 years since the first time I spent a wedding anniversary without Tony. In addition to the marble we were to toss each year, he wanted us to plant a tree on every anniversary.

I only carried out his tree wishes once on my own. Since Tony loved apples, I decided to plant an apple tree that year. My sweet mom did all the research and determined we would actually need to plant two trees in order for them to eventually produce fruit. To be honest, she really did all the work (did I mention I hate gardening?). She planted them in the perfect location in my parents yard, right in the middle of where my beloved grandma’s lilies used to grow.

She named one the “Tony Tree” and the other the “Melissa Tree.”

Neither of them grew much for the first couple of years. Just two stick figures seemingly destined to never produce anything.


Honestly for me, it was too much work with nothing to show for it. Still mom watched and cared.

Finally a few leaves popped through.


She pruned a few branches, then she waited.

Three more years passed by. That makes a total of 5 brutal summers in Georgia heat, a few snow and ice storms, and even a lightening strike on a nearby tree.

The two survived as if they were holding on for dear life.

Holding on.

I wondered if they’d ever realize their full potential. Would they be destined to “scrawny stick tree” status forever?

Mom the gardener kept tending to them, mentioning them by name. I had pretty much given up on them. She never did.

Given up. I’ve felt that way lately. It seems everywhere I look things and people I care about are changing and blooming around me. Yet my circumstances, pretty much everything in my life remains the same.

I sense God is up to something, but I just can’t see it. I’m like that stick tree, dormant and waiting for everything that needs to take place in order for me to bloom. I wrestle with these questions:

Will I ever really bloom?
How much longer do I have to wait?
What am I supposed to do in the meantime?
Will it all be worth it?


Right in the midst of a really rough week, my mom sent me the picture above with this text:

“What a beautiful sign. Your apple tree is blooming this year.”

Out of seemingly nowhere, my tree begins to bloom.
Insert: tears.

I see this as my gentle reminder that my Great Gardener God is very much at work behind the scenes. It took all that time, all those weather extremes, all the pruning, that tender care from my mom, and the cross-pollination with the Tony Tree, to produce those unexpected blooms.

It’s taking time and painful waiting, even the influence of my late husband, and TLC from the Master Gardener for me to bloom too. All these essential ingredients are almost exclusively unseen.

So just because I can’t see what God is up to doesn’t mean He’s not up to something. He is very much alive and at work in me.

I need only to abide in Him, to remain very close to Him and to allow Him to produce the blooms, to produce the fruit in His timing.

It’s not up to me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5 NIV

Dearly loved, and not giving up,