My Dwelling Place

I attended a Christmas party with our church this past weekend. Over 1700 single adults from all over Atlanta were there.

Some call that fun. Some call it overwhelming.
I call it both.
Oh, and I should mention that I took my dad so that he could be Santa and take pictures with everyone.

I cannot make this stuff up. It was actually really fun to see him bring so much joy to folks. Nothing like Santa to bring the child out in everyone!

I happened to meet a new friend of a friend at the party; she asked me if I was single or had been married before. When I told her I was widowed, she was shocked. She couldn’t believe that someone with my story would be at an event with so many single people with a big smile on my face.

I get that.
So I decided to respond by telling her about my dwelling place.

{We’ll come back to that in a moment.}

Last week, I had the honor of leading our staff through communion on the roof of our church. It was such a cool moment for us to be standing in a circle together, ushering in the Christmas season.

I had only planned to share a few verses from the Bible about the Lord’s Supper. Instead, I started with, ”I just want to tell you that I’m so excited about Christmas this year. And that’s a really big deal because this is the first Christmas I’ve been excited about in 5 years.”

I went on to explain that after being to the depths of the depths of sorrow…and honestly not giving a care in the world about the traditions, or songs, or overall cheer that this season typically brings…that I had gained a fresh perspective on Christmas.

That again led me into sharing about my dwelling place.

So what on earth is this dwelling place all about? Let me tell you what it’s not.

It’s not my past, and it’s not my accomplishments or my mistakes.
It’s not grief, and it’s not widowhood, though I’ve had many seasons where I’ve felt so comfortable in the depths of sorrow…that I very well made it where I dwelt.
It’s not my home I’m so grateful for, or my city that I absolutely love.
It’s not my ministry or my job, though both are things I look forward to every day.
It’s not my incredible family and friends whom I love dearly.
It’s not my fears or disappointments.
It’s not my hopes or my dreams, though I can finally say I’m believing God for good and great things for myself again…and that’s a major milestone.
It has nothing to do with my circumstances, or my emotions, or quite frankly anything I could earn on my own accord.

It has everything to do with my Savior, my God, my Redeemer, my Healer.

Jesus is my dwelling place.

So, I told that friend at the Singles party that I was there laughing and dancing the night away because Jesus had done a great work of healing in me. And, I told my colleagues that when everything else I loved about the Christmas season was stripped away, I realized the only thing left was Jesus. I’ve learned from first hand experience, especially over this last year, that He really is enough. He is all I need.

He is my dwelling place.

So I celebrate this season with excitement this year. It’s not about the festivities, or the presents or the decorations (though I’m quite proud of my first Christmas tree in my home in 5 years).

It’s all about the coming of the Savior to dwell with man, in the flesh, as a baby.

God with us, Emmanuel.

I love these verses from John 1:14 NIV:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This Christmas season is one I’ll never forget. I’m so very grateful to be excited about Christmas again.

Dearly loved, in my dwelling place,

11 Lessons Learned From My Dog

Happy National Dog Day! I know, there’s a national day for pretty much everything. But this one stands out because my  world revolves around a furry 7 pounder that stole my heart 3 years ago.

So as a tribute to Ralphy Edge, here’s 11 things I’ve learned from my dog over the last few years (and a good excuse to pack a whole lot of her pics into a blog post.) Enjoy!

Warm greeting

Always be ready with a warm greeting for those you love.

safe place

Relax! There’s always time for a puppy nap (or two or three).

dig in

Don’t give up. Dig until you find what you’re looking for.

smile sneakers

Find yourself  “stuck” in an awkward situation? Put on a smile anyway.

lifelong friends

Treasure your lifelong friends!

work too hard

Stop working all the time! Unplug and play!


Give yourself a little extra grace on “grumpy” days.

take self too seriously

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

treasure meal time

Treasure meals around the table with family and friends.

step out of your comfort zone

Sometimes you just have to face things way bigger than you.

Enjoy the ride

See life as a great adventure…enjoy the ride.

And that, my friends are life lessons I’ve gleamed from Ralphy.

Dearly loved, dog lover,


When Life Doesn’t Seem Instagram-able: Courage to Live the Ordinary

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” ~ Acts 4:13 NIV

It’s been an extraordinary summer for me. I conquered my mountain, turned in my glasses for LASIK surgery, launched a new blog, checked off the number one item on my bucket list by going to Sydney for Hillsong Conference, then I slept it all off at the beach.

Pretty amazing.
I’m incredibly grateful.
I posted pretty much all of it on Instagram.
I mean, come on, that’s what it’s for, right?

It’s taken me a few weeks to settle back into life as normal…back to reality… in a city I love, going to work everyday at a place I love, surrounded by people I love and a dog who follows me around like my very own shadow.

I say often, while this is not the life I originally chose, it’s a really great life.
It really is.

But to be completely honest, I struggle with the daily ordinary of it. I struggle with living in the ordinary. I struggle with doing every day life by myself.

For the last few years, I’ve preferred to live for the extraordinary travels, events, that next best thing. I’m always looking for something to look forward to. That’s not a bad thing, especially when life is really tough, but it’s just not sustainable, it’s not reality.

So often, I’m like my dog Ralphy in this photo above, watching the door to see who or what is coming next.

My best friend Casey called me at the beginning of last week, just as I could feel that slump coming on – all the things I was looking forward to were over, with no more fun excursions in sight for weeks. It literally took one sentence for her to know how I was feeling. God continues to use her over and over in my life to speak Truth, to spur me on.

She gently challenged me, “Perhaps it’s time for you to learn to be okay with life in the everyday ordinary.”

The everyday ordinary. Ordinary Melissa.
Who wants to Instagram that?

But she is so right. Later that night, I uncovered the verse above in my notes from a talk by Louie Giglio at Hillsong Conference. Under it, I had written, “The more ordinary I am the greater potential for what I can become.”

Being okay with ordinary. I’m a week in to figuring out what this looks like for me.

I’m learning that it takes discipline…discipline to not become distracted…discipline to stay in it, to not escape from it…discipline to lean in and do the very things God has uniquely given me to do.

In the everyday…even if no one else is watching.

And that’s the kind of discipline that takes courage…courage to stay the course, to not settle, to not give up when life just seems like more of the same…when it’s just not exciting enough to post on Instagram. (Well, at least if I’m trying to not be one of “those people” who posts an entire play by play of their day … ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Ironic thing is that I’m learning that ordinary is not a bad way to describe life after all. Ordinary gives me balance, it gives me breathing room. Ordinary allows me to lean in and be present with the people in my path. Ordinary gives me time and space to do the things that bring me life, like writing, and ballet class, and family time. Ordinary allows me to be ready to do ministry, to encourage, to pray for, to serve, right in the moment, not just when I have margin to get around to it.

Ordinary allows for sweet precious moments with my Savior, moments that bring me to tears as I think upon His goodness and grace. He becomes more in my ordinary. His immeasurable extraordinary meets ordinary me in my everyday life.

And that, that, makes my ordinary extraordinary.
And that is way better than anything I can ever post on Instagram.

Dearly loved, in the ordinary,

At the Gate Called Beautiful: Facing My Unseen Future

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” ~ Acts 3:9-10

These very verses keep being brought to my attention over the last several months.

You see, I’ve finally reached that gate called Beautiful in my own life. I’ve actually been sitting at it a while now.

The problem is, I’m like that man at the gate. I’ve become comfortable sitting at the gate too. I can’t see what’s on the other side once I walk through it. So I sat right down, a prisoner of sorts to my very own fear.

These words from Brian Houston hit me hard at Hillsong Conference last month: “So often we see opportunities in front of us more like an iron curtain than a beautiful gate.”

Like that man in the verses above, I’m able to walk again. I’m able to walk through that gate called Beautiful and into a glorious future awaiting me. The only thing holding me back is me…my fear…my constant desire to control my circumstances. I want a clear road map, I want to see exactly what’s ahead.

So, I chew on this question, “What is God inviting me to enter into if I allow Him to usher me through that beautiful gate?”

He’s inviting me to believe Him, to trust Him. He’s inviting me to walk with Him through the gate into the unseen. He’s asking me to dream big and yet rest in knowing He is in control.

And the comfort He offers is that’s He’s already gone before me. He’s got this.

If He was able to heal me from my deepest wound, how can I not trust Him for what’s ahead?

He goes before me. He’s got this.
He’s got my future.

I need not worry; I need not fear; I need not strive to control my future as if it’s up to me to make it through on my own.

Who will help me walk through that gate called Beautiful?
Who got me to the gate in the first place?
Who writes His name on my future?

A couple weeks back, I came across a bookmark in my Bible where I had written the verses that brought me the most hope during my early days of grief. The scripture reference that I had written down not once but twice was Acts 3: The Gate Called Beautiful.

Coincidence? I think not.
Foreshadowing that my Healer God will bring me through the gate? Absolutely.

Jesus, help me get to a place where the only thing I fear is life apart from you….even a tiny breathe of not breathing in You. Help me to believe You for a glorious future. Now, take me through that beautiful gate.

Dearly loved, walkin’ and believin’,