Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DNA Evidence

My favorite color is red, just like the color of my mixer, but I cannot stand the sight of blood.  I couldn't pull my children's teeth even if the tooth was dangling.  I couldn't sit in the operating room and hold my toddler son's hand when he was getting stitches after busting his head open.  My husband had to stay in there with him while the nurse got me a wet wash cloth as I hunched over with my head between my knees to keep from throwing up. 

My OBGYN doctor even wanted me to watch a video before my son was born showing a woman having a C-section.  I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me?  I'm not going to see it as it happens to me, so why should I watch it happen to someone else?"  I sat in the room by myself as it played on the television screen.  I kept my eyes closed during the whole thing.  I never saw one drop of blood.

Blood is the flow of life through our veins- it's our life line.

The blood of Jesus Christ is our life line to the Father.  There is no hope of eternal life without the blood of Jesus.

We all need a blood transfusion where our sinful nature is replaced with the holy nature of Jesus Christ.  I call it Divine Nature Accessible (DNA).  We can have the DNA of Jesus if we will just choose Him to be our LIFE. Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to live holy lives.  We have a new nature (His nature; His likes and dislikes) living inside of us now.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new" II Corinthians 5:17.

It's like my dad said after his blood transfusion.  He said he didn't like watermelon before, but after the transfusion, he loved it!  (Only my dad would think of that!)
I love watching CSI: Miami.  To find out "Who Done It" requires the criminal's DNA most of the time. If DNA can connect a criminal to a crime, like fingerprints on a coffee cup, then my DNA (Divine Nature Accessible) should connect me to Jesus.

If so, then those with whom I come in contact should be able to identify me with Jesus.  Can they? Do they?

Therefore, if we have the DNA of Christ, we should like the things He likes and despise the things that He despises.

Do a DNA check-up today? 

As horrific as the cross was, a relationship with Jesus is worth every drop that He spilled for you and for me.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Brown Paper Bag

A brown paper bag greeted me at my back door as I came in from lunch today.


Our neighbor, and long time friend, had placed it there. 
Although she doesn't know what today is,  this sweet gesture is very precious to me. 
Why?  Because God has blessed me through her
to tell me that this special day in my life is not forgotten. 
Today is the anniversary of my adoption.  March 27, 1963.  I was adopted 49 years ago! 
 My adoption announcements began, "Hello!  I'm Adopted."
And on the inside, continued, "I wasn't expected.  I was selected!"





For 42 of those years I had parents who celebrated every March 27th with me as if they just brought me home. They took me to The Shrimper many times to celebrate. I would always order popcorn shrimp, fries or baked potato, and coleslaw. 
Guess what I had to eat for lunch today?  Yep! The same!

My dad has since passed away- almost 7 years ago now. With the death of my dad we lost much of our mom as well.  Her dementia restrained her ability to keep up with time and dates. She has never remembered birthdays or adopted days since.

Although our mom lost the calendar portion of her memory, she never forgot two of the grandest moments of her life- the days when she and dad brought each of us home to be their daughters.  She could tell our adoption stories over and over again and we would never tire of hearing them. 
(Mom holding me the day they brought me home.)
Adoption was always something to celebrate around our house because a husband and wife, who tried to conceive the natural way for nine years, decided to adopt.  After living in foster care for about 3 months, at the age of five and a half months, they brought me home. God had given them the desire of their hearts; the desperate desire to be parents. 


As I sit here today with my laptop and share with you my thoughts, it is really sad for me since my parents are no longer here to celebrate with me.  My mom passed away a little over 2 weeks ago now, and the only one that ever remembers is my sister. 


But today, through my friend, Barbara and the brown paper bag, God gave me a precious gift . 
 It's like mom and dad didn't forget!  Inside of the bag was a cd of piano music- fabulous arrangements of old hymns.  I am a pianist and my parents gave me the gift of music.  Not through their genes, but out of their love for music, and the fact that I had come from a musical family, they provided every opportunity for me to learn and develop my God-given talent. 
 They were my biggest fans!

So today, instead of dwelling on the sadness that I will never again celebrate with them, I want to celebrate the gladness in my heart that I had parents who chose me, who loved me with every part of their being, who taught me about the Person of Jesus Christ, and most importantly, lived Jesus before me.  He gave me such a treasure; parents that God selected just for me
through the precious option of adoption.

(The evening I came to my new home-
Over 80 people came to visit that night and mom says I smiled for them all!)

Adoption
has always been a part of my testimony in proclaiming the greatness of God.  I claim Psalm 139 as my Scripture picture and take immense joy in knowing that God designed me and designed my parents to "train me up in the way that I should go." (Proverbs 22:6)

(Woah! Look at those cheeks!)
In Romans, Paul uses the word adoption to explain how we became God's children. 

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:12-17).

I give praise to God today for the gift of my parents.  Their love, their patience, their care and nurture, along with my Savior, Jesus Christ, have made me into the woman I am today.
 I pray that I can carry on their legacy with my children. 


Have you told your parents lately how grateful you are to have them as your God-given parents? 
If not, and if it's possible, why not tell them today?  
There will come a day when they will no longer be here for you to tell.

Have you been adopted into the family of God?  If not, I pray that today you will be led by the Spirit of God to ask Him to receive you.  Pray believing.  Turn from your sin and seek to follow Him today.
If you need help in doing this, please don't hesitate to comment on this blog,
and I will follow up with you.  I would love to welcome you to the family!

The following is my own arrangement of the song "You Raise Me Up".  I changed the title to "You Raised Me Up" as well as the words to fit my story.  This is my "Thank-You" tribute which I was able to sing for my parents in concert.

Before time began, God had a plan
To place me in the home He chose for me
And so you came and took me in your arms
And loved me through to more than I could be.

You watched me grow and loved me so
I felt so safe and secure when you were there
You taught me how to pray and call on Jesus
You taught me how to love and how to care.

You raised me up so I can stand on mountains
You raised me up to walk on stormy seas.
 I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raised me up to more than I could be.

(Arranged by Melanie C. Shull, 2006)

"For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.  I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Marvelous are Your works, And this my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139: 12-16).

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Friday, March 23, 2012

Beauty Comes Through Suffering


When you look at this picture, what do you see?


I see a burst of radiant pink; an azalea bloom among pollen laden leaves. 
The flower makes me smile.  The pollen makes me cringe. 

My mouth feels as if someone has poured powder into it; my eyes itch; I sneeze, "A-choo!"
I don't know about you but it's hard to see the beauty when the suffering is so strong.

The pollen is the culprit of the suffering that many of us experience in the spring. 
But without it, the flowers wouldn't and couldn't bloom into beautiful perfection.


                                                   
 In our Bible Study last night, we were continuing our book study of the 66 Love Letters by Dr. Crabb.  Part of our discussion was on the Book of James.

The book of James is a lot about how we should respond to the suffering in our lives. 
 James 1:2 says, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,"
Trials or sufferings are faith-testers. 
"knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience."  (James 1:3) 


In this life, sufferings are inevitable.  As Christians, our sufferings are our participation in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Peter 4:12-13)  1 Peter 1:6 encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings.  This may sound strange, but it is a priviledge to be faith-tested.  I'm even going to go so far as to say that we should look forward to the testing of our faith.  Each trial that we endure shapes us to look more and more like the image we were created to mirror- the image of Christ.  Our sufferings are necessary as we journey on this narrow road to reach and meet Perfection-Jesus Christ, face to face.

So, just like the pollen is necessary for the beauty of the flower to be complete, our sufferings are necessary for the beauty of Christ to be completed and perfected in us.

What trials have you been through?  What sufferings are you going through right now? 
How is your faith being tested? 

Whatever your answers, know this...
"But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete,
 lacking nothing." (James 1:4)

Dear Lord Jesus,
The sufferings and the testing of my faith, which pale so in the reality of Your sufferings, are perfecting me and completing me into the image of Yourself.  I know this because You promised that the work which You have begun in me You will complete.  I want so much to "count it all joy" for Your sake.  Please, Lord Jesus, help me to rejoice as You continue to work. Help me to be patient as You walk with me on this narrow road to perfection- Your perfection, Lord.  I want to be like You... Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie





Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Time to Turn the Page


Faith:  Turn the page!
Flesh:  No, I'm staying here.
Faith:  It's time to move forward and see what's on the next page.
Flesh:  No.  I want to stay on this page. I like it here.  It's comfortable.
Faith:  God is writing more of the story.  I want to move on and write with Him.
Flesh:  I don't want to write anymore.  I miss my life that is tucked away in the comfort and security  
            of these pages.                       
Faith:  I know you do, but God wants me to press on toward the goal- the goal of Jesus Christ. 
            I've got work to do.  There's more adventure ahead.  Let go!  I'm turning the page!


Have you ever battled out loud with your flesh?  Sometimes it needs to be an audible conversation to hear how ridiculous the flesh sounds and how incredible faith is. 

I've taken time this past week to grieve my mom's death.  I know you can't shut off grief with an on/off button any time you want to, but you do have to live and move on with life.  I'm not one to wallow long, but closing this chapter of my life is much more difficult than I thought.  Turning the page means I'm moving on... without my parents who have always been a huge portion of the story.


Now, both parents, the mom and dad who adopted me, gave me a Christian home, a name, my identity, an incredible legacy of faith, are gone.  The chapters with mom and dad as main characters are now complete. 

Even though life changes dramatically through the years (marriage, children, etc...), parents are still a solid security system that you don't think about ever being without.  In fact, if the relationship is healthy, the bulk of a person's life is "doing life" with parents in the picture; birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc.


Turning the page, though, doesn't mean that you can never reflect on what's already been written, but it does mean that you have faith to let God continue His story. The story that isn't over yet.  The words that are written are LIFE.  It's so exciting to write along side of God and intentionally be involved in what He's up to. 


I wrote a song last summer called "Living Glory to the King of Kings".  In the song, verse two says, "Writing with the Author on this page of life.  Writing as His glory pen.  Writing the good story as He guides my strokes, until we reach THE END." 

That's why I have to move forward and turn the page.  I'm His glory pen and His glory is the ink that He writes with.  There's more to this LIFE and I have to proclaim His greatness, and speak His gospel.
So, in faith, I'm pressing on!  I'm turning the page!


Thank you for allowing me the time to blog through my grief and sadness over the last several weeks.  The vast range of emotions are very much a part of the healing process and a powerful component of the story that I will never forget. But, because of this page that I am now willing to turn, I will be stronger. God's grace, compassion, mercy, love, and comfort have "hugged" me and my family through. What peace.  What hope.

Stay tuned....

The next chapter begins...now. 

Hear the words of Jesus.  "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63 NKJV

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Last Time

The morning was foggy as we traveled to the cememtery on Wednesday. We began our goodbyes to our mom with a private family burial.  One of the pastors that knew my mom well asked if we would like to keep this informal and just sit around and share some memories and thoughts about today and Junelle.  We loved the idea because it was so personal and gave us some close family time together that we had not been able to find during all of the preparations.

As we sat under the tent on this beautiful spring morning, the sun began to break through the fog as we talked about mom and the memories that came flooding to our minds.  A bird even flew in under the tent and over the casket as it lie in wait for it's final resting place.  My mom's favorite time of year was spring.  She would have loved the morning dew, the warmth of the sun, the birds singing and the soft breeze blowing.

I couldn't help but think back to our childhood in the spring as mom would be hard at work sewing our Easter dresses, then take us shopping for shoes and matching purses.  She wanted her two little girls to look their best for the most important day of the year.  Then on Easter Sunday morning we would stand on the front lawn in our new fancy duds, with our beaurtiful mom and her flowered hat, to smile for the camera.  "Cheese."

After some time of sharing and talking about the legacy our parents have left for us to continue, we made our way to the church for lunch.

Her celebration service was at 2:00 pm.  I especially loved planning this part, because it's such a part of who I am.  The music was designed with her favorites and with a heart of praise to how faithful God has been to her and to our family.

After a dvd of pictures as we played her favorite hymn, "Living for Jesus", the family processed in to the congregation singing "Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine".  Once the family was seated, Bill and I played "Shout to the Lord with Great is the Lord".  Then pastor Eddie continued with Words of Encouragement.

The group I used to sing with, Together For Him, sang a song that I wrote about 15 years ago called, "A Friend Loves At All Times" taken from Proverbs 17:17.  I chose this song to encourage all of our friends who had meant so much to my parents over the years. 

Chaplain Chong from Agape' came and participated, as well as, one of the nurses.  They had rewritten the words to "My Favorite Things" as a tribute to what my mom's favorite things during her six plus years at the senior community.  It brought the house down.  People laughed and applauded after their rendition.


After pastor Don concluded with Words of Wisdom, to end the service, Bill and I played "The Hallelujah Chorus".  I held it together through the whole service until the end of that song.  The tears began to flow as we finished playing. I could just picture the reunion of mom and dad and their rejoicing in the presence of Jesus Christ.

My thinking was, as I played and sang for her service today, that she and dad were my biggest fans.  They gave their all for me to flourish in my musical ability and skills.  They listened to everything I played, sang, wrote, came to every concert, school or church, etc... The least I could do was blow them a kiss with my music as I played and sang for them one last time.  Click below to hear the arrangement we played.


Then the family recessed to the last verse of one of my favorite hymns, "My Jesus, I Love Thee" which says,

In mansions of glory an endless delight
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now.

What a day.  What a lady.  What a mom!  She was truly our picture of grace!  It was an honor to be her daughter.  Her children did rise and call her blessed. (Prov.31)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep...

Our beloved mom, Junelle Blizzard Cook, 82, passed away on Sunday afternoon, March 11, 2012. 

Sunday night I layed my head on my pillow and a strong dose of reality hit me.  I don't have parents anymore. I will never get to see them or hug them again on this earth.

Although a good bit of my mom had already left us through her dementia, she was still a tangible parent.  Someone I could talk to,  take care of, and tell often that I loved her.  She would smile and tell me she loved me too.  She was also that special connection to my dad who passed six and a half years ago.

She loved to repeat over and over again our adoption story of how she got her two girls.  She'd say, "I had to buy my two girls!" It didn't matter how many times she told it when I was there; it was one of her happiest memories, and I am most grateful.

Up until about a week ago, my mom could communicate with us.  But by Friday, she was full of infection and became very lathargic. She was on oxygen, and became non-responsive. Because we weren't made aware of the seriousness of her illness, I didn't know how close to death she was until I talked with my sister on Saturday.  I went to see mom on Sunday afternoon. 

The picture that is burned into my memory is one of labored breathing, fighting for life- more likely fighting to go home, and not live.  One of hardship and struggle.  She had smiled at me on Monday, but I didn't realize that would be the last time I would see my mom smile.

Weak, sick, and weary, I stroked my mom's head one last time and thought, "Dad, she's coming to see you soon."  I left the room, went to my car, and made the decision to go to the mall and buy her burial dress.

After shopping for about an hour for the perfect dress, I purchased one. I had made my way to the shoe department when the hospice nurse called to tell me that my mom had just passed away.  He said, "Even though she was non-responsive, she must have waited to see you and then just let go."

My next thought was, "God you did it again.  You gave me the feeling that I needed to go, that she wasn't going to be with us much longer." 

This is the same feeling He gave me the night my dad passed away.  I went to spend time with my dad who was still carrying on a conversation with me at 10:00 p.m.; also on a Sunday night.  I left him and my mom, who was in his room at Agape', where they lived together.  A couple of hours later, I got a call around 1:00 AM to let me know that my dad had just passed away.  God gave me precious time with both of my parents right before He ushered them into His presence.  "Thank you, Lord, for that very special gift of quality time with both of them.  You truly are faithful and wonderful."

Until you experience the death of a parent, it is very difficult to express.  There is and will be a void that has been filled for your whole life until now.  Who do you go to for the advice of the wiser?  Who do you call for that special recipe that just isn't working out for you?  Who is there to lean on when the shoulder of a parent is the only one that can console? 

But, when you know that they are together again, rejoicing in the presence of the Almighty, you could never ask for them back.  Jesus is now my Parent, my Wonderful Counselor, Strong Tower and my All in All.

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I count my tears instead of sheep.
When I wake in the morning light,
I'll be missing mom with all my might.

Thank you, Lord, for her love and care
And please fill this hole with Your presence there.
A heart of compassion, and mercy to see,
She lived out Your love and Your grace so free.

                                                      The next few days will be filled with talk
                                                      Of how blessed we've been because of her walk.
                                                      She honored You, Lord, in her own special way
                                                      She lived to serve others, which was Your way.

                                                     So as we plan to honor her life
                                                     as our mother, friend, and devoted wife,
                                                     Help us to tell her story so true
                                                     So she will be honored as we worship YOU.
                                                                                                          (written by Melanie Shull)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Itching to Blog

I had calendared a meeting of the PCWN (Palmetto Christian Writers Network) for 9:00 am this morning.  I was running late, and all the way here I said to myself, "I'm -not- missing- this- meeting."  Today we are discussing the Wonderful World of Blogging and I need to learn more!

Here's why I'm late...
Three days ago I ingested something that caused an allergic reaction.  My scalp is still tingling and itching.  My ears are itching, inside and out.

The culprit is usually ephedrine, but I haven't taken any decongestants!  The only new thing added to my diet has been One a Day Vitamins with immunity and energy boost.  I'm 49. I need an extra push. I scanned the ingredients of the vitamins last night but didn't see any ephedrine listed.  This itching is miserable.

 Although I've had interrupted sleep for the past two nights, I was determined I was not going to let this get the best of me this morning.  Itching or not, I'm going to this meeting.  So as I'm sitting here on the floor at the meeting, because there is no more room at the table, I had to begin this blog entry.  I'll continue after the meeting.  Shhh! 

Ok, I'm back. 

Over the past 9 months, I've discoverd that I love to blog.  Although I'm fairly new to the world of blogging, God has placed a passion within me to write. I've learned that the Blog World....
  • gives me an outlet to share about what Christ is teaching me and to practice writing so I can become a better writer
  • helps to fulfill my purpose in life which is to reach, love and grow people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ -Who is the Substance of what I write...my Pleasure forevermore. 
The blogging adventure can be a little overwhelming but well worth the effort, and when you are just "itching" to do something that you're passionate about, you usually do what it takes to make it happen.  So, this morning, in the midst of my itching, I was miserable, distracted and not focused on where I needed to be. I totally forgot that I was supposed to be at the meeting.  But God, knowing my heart's desire, was already making the impossible possible.


Here's how it all went down...

 
At 9:00 am I was sitting at the island in my kitchen, still in my pjs, eating breakfast with my husband, when it hit me.  I said, "I'm supposed to be at the PCWN meeting NOW!" (I had missed the last two meetings and I couldn't believe I was about to miss another one.) I finished my cereal, got dressed and headed out the door.  I don't even know if I kissed my husband good-bye, but I did manage to get my coffee, and I was itching and stinging all the way. 

As I approached the bridge into Columbia, a patrol car had the bridge blocked.  "Oh, now I'm going to be even later." I turned the corner, and about a block down the road, traffic was stopped by a train.  "Good grief! I would have only been 15 minutes late, but now I'm going to be 30 minutes late."  After this train passed, I drove on. But don't breathe a sigh of relief yet.

As I was inching closer to my destination, what should my eyes view up ahead?  "Are you kidding me? Another train?"  "OH NO!  I may as well go back.  But I want to go to this meeting."  Once this train, in slow motion, completed its boring display of vandelized train cars through this portion of the city, I was finally able to plow ahead. I rolled into the parking lot of the church where the meeting was to be held.  I had finally arrived! Better late than never.  I went into the building not knowing where the group was meeting, but soon discovered the location.  There is where I landed-on the floor, with my lap-top literally on my lap, just itching to blog. (Now you can breathe- I did.)

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4) NKJV.

Jesus becomes our true delight when we surrender our hearts to Him.  He will, then, give us what our heart desires because we have a heart like His.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Posting today with my new friend, Gail.  She was the guest speaker at today's PCWN meeting.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Think It On Sunday, Write It, Post It- "What to Wear?"

Continuing our sermon series on "Jesus Is..."

This morning the Scripture reference was John 3:22-35.  We are journeying together as a congregation with our pastor through the book of John during 2012.  As we continued that journey this morning, a portion of the passage jumped off the page at me. John's disciples are wondering why the people are now going to Jesus to be baptized instead of John. He reminded them that his assignment was to prepare the way for the One, the Messiah, who was to come, and now He is here! 

John says that Jesus is testifying to the truth of His Father.  He knows God intimately. Jesus has come from heaven to reveal the Father to us through Himself and many were not believing His testimony.  In verse 33, John says, "The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful." NIV  "It" refers to the truth. Did you get that?  Our acceptance of Christ as the Messiah, Savior, means that we certify God's truthfulness!  What an honor.  He gives us the privilege to certify that He is who He says He is by our believing what He says. Woah... that's incredible.  Those of us who believe the truth are now clothed in righteousness. God has removed our cloak of wrath.  We will see life. Those who do not accept the testimony of Jesus Christ continue to wear the wrath of God.  They will not see life- only wrath. Read vs. 36.

Then in Sunday School, we were studying the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22.  The parable connected so well with the sermon this morning that I had to share a truth from that lesson as well.  One of the characters in the parable was made clear to me today; a character I had not paid attention to before.  This certain man at the wedding banquet, spotted by the king, was not wearing the correct clothing- the wedding clothes, that the king, the father of the bridegroom, had provided for his guests.  This man was trying to attend the wedding banquet without receiving the right clothing.  He had refused the wedding clothes that the king had provided and therefore, was thrown out- "outside to the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (vs. 13)

Vs. 14 continues, "For many are invited, but few are chosen."  Why?  There are few who choose to believe the testimony of Jesus Christ, therefore refusing the clothing of righteousness.  They would rather wear the cloak of wrath and pretend that they will be accepted into the party.  They are living a lie.  It's very important to make the correct "fashion statement" at the wedding banquet.  Just make sure you are wearing the right-eous clothing when He calls for you.  Have you accepted your right-eous outfit for the party from the King of kings?  I sure hope so.  If not, receive the Truth today by believing and receiving the testimony of Jesus Christ.  I'm praying for you.

My Pleasure,
Melanie