Tuesday, December 5, 2017
"The earlier the better!," I say, but there are those who snarl at even the thought of Christmas melodies lilting through the air before Thanksgiving. A cashier at a grocery store I frequent said she tires of Christmas music after about two weeks. WHAT? How is that even possible?
My Christmas playlist begins October 31st (unless I can sneak it in earlier without my husband knowing. He's one of the not-before-Thanksgiving kind.) The moment the first note sounds, my heart leaps and lightens.
My head-over-heels love affair with Christmas music rewinds all the way back to my earliest childhood memories. Joyous songs always filled the air in celebration of the season with church, school, parades, as well as, in our home. On Christmas Eve each year, my mom or dad would load up the stereo turntable with multiple Christmas albums. From Bing Crosby to Dean Martin, from Andy Williams to the Boston Pops, music filled that magical night as we lay in our beds anticipating the arrival of Santa, the presents and family gatherings.
Falling asleep listening to Christmas music is probably my most favorite Christmas memory of all. Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Little Drummer Boy, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, The First Noel, Parade of the Wooden Soldiers... the list could go on and on! Nothing makes my heart smile like the musical sounds of Christmas.
To this day, I still get to experience, in a nostalgic kind of way, that same child-like joy playing my parents' Christmas albums. Listening to them takes me back to precious memories filled with great times with mom and dad and other family members no longer here to celebrate with.
After retrieving the vinyls from my parent's house, I needed something to play them on. So, for Christmas that year, a Crosley turntable and stereo system was under the tree. I was like a teenage girl again on that Christmas morning when I got my first real stereo for my bedroom. I was ecstatic!
And as long as I'm able, I will play these treasures over and over and over again.
What role does music play in celebrating Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, in your household? What songs do you play over and over? Carefully crafted hymn melodies with the Christmas story scrolled through them are timeless and will forever stir our hearts. It's these songs I will never tire of. It's these songs I want to fill the air with in our home.
It's the music, filled with truth and grace, love and joy, peace and hope, that adds so much in making all of our Christmases merry and bright.
Christmas Memory-Making and Stress-Relieving Tip: Turn off the TV, and turn on the music. Fill the house with the sounds of Christmas in a memorable, unforgettable way for your family, friends and all of those you love. Sing or hum along with the melodies as you busy yourself with the chores of the season. I bet you'll find yourself smiling more and a little less stressed.
My Pleasure, and Merry Christmas!
Monday, November 27, 2017
Christmas Memory Lane is where I love to travel back to this time of year. It's not that I don't love Christmas in the moment, I do. But drawing from a well full of joy from way-back-when enhances my Christmas experience today. So, as the countdown to Christmas begins, I thought it would be fun to take a sneak peek into what Christmas was like for me growing up in a small, suburban town in the midlands of South Carolina, and I hope my memories will bring back some good memories for you too.
In the 60's at 2815 Wilton Road, where our streets were still unpaved, and the backyard was my playroom of choice, my parents knew how to make Christmas magical and wonderful for my little sister and me. Decorations were always aglow with lots of lights, tinsel and fake snow.
One of my earliest Christmas memories is kneeling beside my mom around our living room coffee table. This table usually held a large family Bible, but during Christmas, a very tiny, colorful manger scene was put out on display. Not for being told, "Don't touch!," but rather the opposite. It was for little hands to hold and play with.
My mom was a great story-teller. She filled hours of our childhood reading books and telling us stories. She's the one who made the little manger scene come alive with the power of story from the greatest Book ever written, the Bible.
That tiny manger scene quickly became one of my favorite pieces of the season. Each Christmas, after it was unpacked and safely in its endearing spot, I would get on my small knees, eye-level with all the characters, and tell the story of Jesus' birth not only in my mind, but out loud I'm sure. I could place the donkey, cows and sheep anywhere I chose, and the shepherd boy with the lamb on his shoulders was always placed where he could see the newborn King with ease. The itty-bitty baby Jesus in the manger was snuggled tenderly between Mary and Joseph with the angel right behind them. Then, I would march the wise men into the scene bearing gifts from afar and place them in their positions of worship. With child-like awe and wonder, I would repeat the story over again and again.
My very wise mom understood the importance of story and play, and because of her, I learned the true story of Christmas at a very early age.
A Christmas Memory-Making Tip for Parents and Grandparents: Find a safe, non-toxic, non-breakable manger scene with moveable pieces for tiny hands. As you tell your young children or grandchildren the story of the birth of Jesus, use the characters to bring His story to life. Tell it often. Ask some simple questions to see what they are learning. Then, give them the freedom to play with the pieces. Every once in a while have them tell you the story of Christmas using the manger scene characters. Hearing the story from a child's perspective is not only precious, but it can be quite entertaining.
Stay tuned for more Christmas memories and tips as we move through the most wonderful time of the year!
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
About two decades ago, my best friend gave me a nickname that has stuck - Barn Girl.
It all came about at one of our Together For Him concerts (a singing ministry we were a part of). I can't remember the exact incident, but after I spoke up without reservation about something, she said, "You're such a barn girl."
Well, I wasn't raised on a farm or in a barn, but my maternal grandparents were farm people and I had cousins who lived out in the country. We visited often, and I have fond memories of visiting, riding their horse, playing hide and seek around the barn, and the smell of hay and the animals.
Over the years, my friend has continued to use this endearing nickname to describe my boldness to speak up, or my where-with-all to get 'er done, in a plethora of situations. Maybe I should have been raised in a barn.
But, after the lesson this past Sunday, I'm proud to own it!
It was an ah-ha moment for me as my husband was continuing to teach about the appearances of Christ in the Old Testament in our Sunday School class. One of the appearances took place on a wheat threshing floor belonging to Ornan, the Jebuzite (I Chronicles 21:14-15). As my husband unpacked the incredible scene and began explaining the significance of Jesus Christ standing on this particular threshing floor with Ornan, the place where the wheat was separated from the chaff, I took notice of the place where the owner would store the wheat - in his barn.
It was all a foreshadowing of Christ standing on His threshing floor as the Judge with His winnowing fork, separating the wheat (the saved) from the chaff (the unsaved) and placing His wheat in His barns.
Now, there's so much more packed into this lesson that we don't have time to get into here, but at this point, I began to beam! I realized that being a Barn Girl is quite the compliment and not just a friendly tease. I can wear my nickname and smile because Christ, who separates the wheat from the chaff, keeps His children (His wheat) safe and secure in His beautiful barns and storehouses. How cool is that?
Now where did I put my boots?
Melanie, aka Barn Girl
Monday, July 31, 2017
Now don't get me wrong. Opening my Bible was never a waste of time or energy. I was developing a life discipline, but without expecting God to speak, I was just spinning my wheels.
As the years have passed, and I continue to grow up in the faith, tasting more and more of His delectable truth for myself, I now know God has something for me each and every time I open my Bible.
I want to read to see what my Father has to say to me.
In this moment.
Right where I am.
Reading the Bible out of obligation produces boredom and discontentment.
Reading the Bible with expectation produces great satisfaction and fullness of joy.
Soaking in the Word of God is the most important thing we do as disciples of Christ.
Why? Because Jesus is...
- our Bread of life. (John 6:48)
- our Portion. (Psalm 119:57)
- our Sufficiency. (Matthew 6:25-34)
- our Deliverer. (2 Timothy 4:18)
- our Strength. (Psalm 46:1)
- our Help. (Psalm 46:1)
- our Breath. (Acts 17:25)
- our very Life. (John 6:63)
Without God's Word, there are no words, no life, no hope, no joy, no peace, no salvation.
His Words are eternal. So, why do we continually run after and feast on temporal, unsatisfying, tasteless morsels?
Pay close attention to what you feast on today: social media, books, gossip, the news, movies, reality shows, the Internet...
Let's walk away from the useless, empty words the world has to offer and meet God in His Word with great expectation.
To help you with this, I would like to personally invite you into the conversation. To join the discussion, join The Red Carpet, Girls Only private Facebook Group (sorry guys!) on my author page @writermelanieshull. This will be a space for encouragement to stay in the Word of God, for real conversation, and where you can post what great things He has shown you so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:12 ESV).
I. Can't. Wait!
Thursday, July 27, 2017
In a blog post sometime ago I wrote about how, at random times when I glance at a clock, the digital numbers 11:11 appear. It shows up on the car clock, the cell phone, the microwave, the clock by the bed, on the TV. It's become almost comical with me and my husband as to how often I look up and the time is 11:11.
The biblical meaning for the number 11 is disorder or chaos. Over 10 years ago, a magazine called 11:11 was given to me to examine. It's focus was all about the importance of self: self-awareness, self-meditation, self- reliance, etc., which is totally opposite from the teachings of Christ.
In Luke 9:23 Christ says, to follow Him we must deny self and take up our crosses daily.
After God specifically told me we were going to begin a magazine called Living Real, in the parking lot after a writer's conference I had attended, the appearances of 11:11 on clocks began to grab my attention. I believe God has been affirming through these numbers that Living Real Magazine is my call and walk of obedience to counter chaos.
Our Bible study class on Sunday mornings is studying the appearances of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. One of our three teachers is focusing on how God speaks through numbers and the Hebrew language. Numbers have significant spiritual meaning just like words do. It's all so amazing.
This past Sunday morning, as I was listening and thinking through God's perfect, infinite wisdom, I thought, "Since God specifically gave me the name of Living Real for the magazine, I wonder what the numbers corresponding with the letters of our alphabet would mean?"
I began scribbling...
172 is made up of all prime numbers, which is another lesson in itself.
Then I added the prime numbers together.
1+7+2 = 10
I was absolutely blown-a-way! Living Real = 10
The spiritual meaning of the number 10 is Jesus Christ!
To take it a step further, the total number of letters in Living Real are 10!
10:10 - Jesus Christ, perfection
11:11 - disorder and chaos (The author of confusion? Satan.)
Jesus always counters confusion.
God didn't have to give me the title Living Real for the magazine, but He did. And He never does anything randomly or without purpose. Until Sunday, I had never thought about the spiritual meaning of the numbers embedded in these words, but God knew. He also knew when He spoke them to me He would not only affirm, but blow me away 10 years later.
I'm beyond words.
How has God blown you away lately?
Please visit our website at livingrealmag.com and follow us on Facebook @LivingRealMagazine.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Monday, July 10, 2017
In Genesis 15:22-27, after the children of Israel have passed through to the other side of the Red Sea, over dry land while massive walls of water are kept at bay with the breath of God, they begin to complain.
They have been walking in the wilderness for three days without drinkable water. Their only water source is bitter in the land of Marah (meaning bitter).
Moses intercedes on behalf of the people. Crying out to the LORD, He asks Him to provide drinkable water for them.
God shows Moses a tree.
What? God's answer to the bitter water problem is a tree?
Moses had to be thinking the same, but He didn't question. Although God's instructions of what to do with the tree isn't noted, Moses was moved to throw the tree into the waters. In doing so, the bitter water became sweet to the taste.
Not only was it now drinkable water, but it was...
God didn't remove the source of water, but He changed the taste of the water.
There are so many layers of truth in just these few verses, but the one for today is:
God doesn't have to remove the bitter to make it sweet.
God didn't dry up the bitter water supply and produce a new supply for the people. He answered the cry of His people, inserted His power, and the taste of the water changed.
Isn't that how God works in our lives? It's not that He removes what tastes bitter or bad, He inserts His power into what seems bitter and stirs the waters, making them sweet to the taste.
God may not change our circumstances, but He can change our tastebuds.
God wants us to taste and see that He is good in ALL things. He is our refuge, our happy place, when our souls are thirsty for relief (Psalm 34:8).
The Lord waits patiently for us to cry out in our time of need because our cry signifies that we know He is the only one who can do the miraculous in the midst of our bitter situation.
How about you? Are you struggling for relief in the midst of something bitter tasting in your life? Cry out to Jesus, dear one. He is interceding on our behalf to the Father just as Moses interceded on behalf of the children of Israel. God can change what is bitter to sweet if we'll just allow His hand to stir the waters of our souls.