About Me, Confessions, Friends, Ministry

Freshman Year of College

I’m in many “sandwiched” friendships. I’m close friends with women in their 40s who are getting ready to send their kids off to college for the first time. I’m also friends with those 16-20 year old kids of theirs. It’s a really fun dynamic.

Many of our conversations are centered around the topic of college and I’ve been feeling rather sentimental about my own experience.


Let it be known that when I left for college in 2004, I was equipped with exactly zero computers.  I may have stashed my TI-83 calculator in my bookbag for good luck, but basically I had a pile of ruled notebooks. Oh, and I had a stack of floppy discs for saving my work on the library computers. (No flash drives, no google drive or dropbox, not even re-writable cds. Kevin would tell you I was completely behind the times, and I was a tiny bit, but this was how my high school had taught me.) A few months into school, I bought Kevin’s old laptop off of him so he could buy the iBook4 (which had 60 gbs of memory).

My school email address was my first ever and it was a doozy:  mf230298@arbor.edu. Kevin taught me how to AIM instant messenger and I chatted online with my college friends as “arborfish19.” (My maiden name was “Fish.”) I had a Xanga blog (which I tried to find just now and it has been archived because it hasn’t been used in 5 years …or 10).

Gamma 2

please note: these photos were scanned onto my computer. They were taken with film cameras. I didn’t get a digital camera until junior year. 

I didn’t get a cell phone until the end of my sophomore year and it was a Motorola flip phone with…get this…an antenna you had to pull out to make a call. There was no text messaging.  Each dorm room had a land line phone with an extension and you could call for free from across campus. To make phone calls home, I was loaded with a 1000 minute calling card. You’d better believe I had those 16 digits and a pin memorized.

mel and kevin skating

Facebook was just getting started my freshman year, and I boycotted this up-and-coming internet-thingy for one and a half school years until I succumbed to the madness. There were no games or chats or even pokes on FB. It was just faces and short statuses that all began with the prompt: “Melanie is…”

I say all this as a way of confessing that I am a bit behind the times, but also to tell you that while technology changes, the disciplines with which you choose to live your life do not need to change. 


To you, sweet girl, going off to college,

What you are about to do is most definitely a big deal. It’s a big deal for you and a big deal for your family. I remember thinking to myself, “Everything is about to change. Nothing will ever be the way it was before.” And while that’s a bit overly dramatic, it’s basically true.

But here’s the bigger truth – You are at a most exciting precipice of life, getting to step more fully into the you God created you to be.

You are going to be met with many new influences – friends, professors, employers, books, theologies, pastors – and you’re going to be forming your own individual worldview. You will take what you’ve been taught by your family, your teachers, your childhood friends, and your church and you’ll add to that foundation a broader view of life.

It’ll be a bit scary at first. You might feel like you’re questioning everything you’ve ever known. (Your parents might freak out a bit too.) But it’s good to question. Questions lead to well-developed answers, answers that you’ve researched and debated and talked to death with your friends in the wee hours of the night. And those answers will transform you. You will come out the other side stronger and more confident, firmer in your faith in Christ. Don’t fear the questions; God isn’t afraid of your questionsBecause in all that searching the Truth will come out and the Truth always sets you free.

You’re going to do a lot of growing up in the next four years. It’s a beautiful time of transition, a gracious movement into adulthood. Why? Well, you’re getting a taste of independence while still having the backing (perhaps even financial backing) of your family back home. Win-Win. But here’s the thing with independence – it must be used wisely. You can survive college on energy drinks and all-nighters and last-minute study sessions and leftover pizza; tons of people do that and do “just fine.” But the thing of it is, God has called you to live a full life, a life honoring to him. I challenge you to make each of your decisions – big and small – with this mindset (Colossians 3:23)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

With that foundation, here are my bullet-pointed list of goals for you:

  1. Go to bed. For the love of all that is holy go to bed at a decent hour. Like 10 or 11pm. You can stay up ridiculously late on Friday night if you want, but you’re in college for a reason and you have a job to do. Getting a decent night’s sleep is absolutely essential to living with excellence.
  2. Eat Well. The “freshman 15” is real and is sometimes more like the “freshman 30.” This phenomenon occurs because you have an unlimited buffet at every meal and no one to tell you to stop eating. So try the soft serve ice cream, but decide to limit yourself. Eat the fancy-pants, sugary cereal that your mom never bought you, but limit yourself. Indulge in the delicious French fries and the fountain pop, but limit yourself. Go ahead and buy a pizza or a burger at ten o’clock at night, but only every once in a while. (The fourth-meal syndrome is a big problem and is often solved by going to bed at a decent hour forthelove.) Choose to try vegetables you used to despise and get to know that salad bar. Maybe even have a salad for one meal a day (not with tons of ranch or caesar dressing… that kind of defeats the purpose). Eat whole fruit once or twice a day. Go out to Denny’s at 1am with your friends, but not every week.
  3. Exercise.  This one is really tough for even the best students. Getting up early to work out or run sounds like cruel torture, but it is totally worth it. Waking up an hour early is not too difficult if you’re going to bed at a decent hour and the time alone with your thoughts (often before everyone else gets up) is priceless. You’ll be energized for your day and fight off those extra pounds with ease.
  4. Create a daily routine for yourself. All of the above kind of work into this one. You may not have class until 12:30pm, but perhaps the wise thing to do with your independence is to get up around 7am, go workout, shower, eat breakfast (I know, I’m asking a lot here), and have time in quiet with the Lord.
  5. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for private devotion with Jesus. This may be in a corner of your dorm room before your roommate wakes up or while she’s at class. It may be in a prayer chapel or under a certain tree you love or on the quiet floor of the library. But get alone with God. Pray. Listen. Journal. Read. Study. I’ll list a bunch of my favorite spiritual discipline resources at the bottom. (And I’d love to have a conversation with you about this topic if you need some guidance.)
  6. Friends. Make lots of friends. Be brave. Go up to that girl and introduce yourself. She feels just as awkward and uncomfortable as you do. Every one of you is leaving the home you’ve always known and having to live with people you’ve never met. It’s going to be hard and your going to feel out of place sometimes. But know you’re not alone. And you’re probably about to make some the greatest friendships. Living with people will do that. :)
  7. Roommates. I highly recommend leaving your freshman-year-roommates up to fate. I’ve known too many people who choose their roommate based on a high school friendship or meeting someone at registration day and then it goes horribly wrong and you lose a friend. Just let Admissions do their job the first time around. And live in a community dorm at least your freshman year. It forces you to share space with others with whom you might successfully ignore if you have a private suite-style room. It’ll be good for you, I swear.
  8. Boys. This could easily be another series of posts. I don’t have succinct advice on this one. But I will say that I made some of my best guy-friends during college and I found my husband during college. So pray a lot. Don’t give in to the pressure to get  “ring by spring.” And enjoy your friendships with guys. If you want to talk more, I’m listening.
  9. Your major. It’s ok to switch your major a million times. I don’t know how anyone expects an 18 year old to know what they’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. I’m 30 years old and only now figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up. While you have the space in your academic schedule take a class or two that interest you, just for fun. But be sure to have that 4 year academic plan nailed down as soon as you can so you don’t have to tack on a 5th year (especially if you’re going into education.)
  10. Classes. Go to them. Get to class on time, be prepared. Take that syllabus (the whole semester’s plan) on day one and write down all assignments in a planner of some sort. By doing this for all of your classes you’ll know when your weeks are going to be heavy and when they’ll be light. Maybe, just maybe, you can plan to work ahead in one class when you have a ton of stuff due for another class on the same week. Just an idea. For the most part, no professor is going to tell you what’s due and when it’s due. The syllabus was created for that reason and you’re expected to follow it on your own …or get left behind. Sometimes readings are assigned and you’ll never hear them mentioned or even referenced in class…but then there’s stuff on the exams from that material. So follow the plan.

Ok, well, it’s past my grown-up bedtime, so I think I’ll close with this:

I love you. I believe in you. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and challenge you and help you become more fully the person God intended you to be.

 

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About Me, Confessions, Parenting

Limitations

When people ask how I’m doing with motherhood, I’m never sure what to say. On one hand I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m fairly confident that I never will. As soon as I think I’ve figured something out, our daughter changes and we have to learn everything over again. On the other hand, I feel like I have settled into mothe2016-01-17 16.28.59rhood very comfortably. I love loving my daughter and parenting next to my wonderful husband. I am so thankful for the pretty decent amount of sleep we’ve been getting. I am over the moon grateful for successful breastfeeding (and for a more balanced milk supply and hardly no more pain). I am amazed at the quick recovery my body has managed before my very surprised eyes.

I was afraid of how frazzled my life would feel. And yes, part of me feels frazzled. But somehow I don’t feel like I’m at my wits end. I have been bathing and putting on nice clothes and make up every day, and I’ve tried to balance productivity with rest. But alas, balance is elusive. I have had moments of tearful breakdowns because I had high hopes for accomplishing all-the-things and feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing. I spent four hours working ahead on worship sets and got exactly one week ….ONE WEEK… finished. The previous version of Melanie would have had 2 or 3 months worth done in that amount of time. I came home in a tizzy from a day when I tried to cram too much in with my newborn daughter. I should have just tackled the trip to the Chiropractor, but instead I added a long visit to Meijer and the result was two girls in stressful, hangry (hungry angry) tears.

I have re-developed a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist. It tends to flair up once a year when I’ve been sleeping with a crooked wrist for too long. But that is not the case this time. This flare up is because of the way I’ve been holding my baby’s head in my bent wrist multiple times a day. Normal flare ups are moderately annoying numbness. This case is insane. Four of my five fingers are numb and stay that way for hours at a time. The pain is like lightening and is now shooting all the way up to my elbow. I’ll thank my dad for passing on this genetic disposition and pray that I don’t have to have surgery like he did.

Limitations are so hard for me. My time must be spent so differently than before. Caring for my daughter is my first priority. I can’t accomplish nearly as much in my day. And that’s a beautiful ok thing (Do you hear me, Mel?!) I get exhausted so easily, no longer capable of marathon sessions of office work or even just-for-fun outings. By 3pm I feel spent for the day. And if I don’t get a n2016-01-18 17.53.40ap in before 5pm, the evening may or may not go well. My body feels amazing and new and ready to do-all-the-things but I must realize that I’m still healing for a very strenuous labor and delivery…not to mention 10 months of sharing my body with a growing baby!

 
Time.
Rest.
Grace.

These are my new life mottos. Feel free to remind me of them when I appear frazzled or frustrated or in need of a reminder that my value is not attached to how many items I check off a to-do list.

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About Me, Confessions, Fitness, Holy Yoga, Jesus

Why Yoga

As of May 8th, 2015, I have completed my 225 hour certification program to become a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor (R-HYI). The journey to this moment is many years long, winding and God-led. Allow me to share. Holy Yoga Logo

In 2009 I began exploring the blog world and happened upon the writings of a girl named Mandy {originally called shebreathesdeeply, now writing at mandyreidyoga.com}. She was about my age, married, loved Jesus, and was always talking about this Holy Yoga thing. I began corresponding with Mandy via email, asking her some questions about yoga and the Holy Yoga ministry in particular. Before long I had ordered two of their instructional DVDs, and I was hooked. As I learned the physical practice of yoga, I began discovering the Truth in this accent physical exercise. Many Christians struggle with yoga, believing it can only be rooted in Eastern Mysticism, using our bodies to worship self or earth. I believe yoga is just a tool, as money is a tool. Both can be used for good or used for evil.

In the time I began spending on my mat, I was experiencing worship and intimacy with Jesus Christ in a whole new way. Not only was I praying and centering my spirit and mind on the Holy One, I was engaging my whole body in worship. Spirit. Soul. Body. This resonated with Jesus’ words from Mark 12:30 –

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

For the next many years, I continued practicing yoga in the privacy of my living room, either with my two Holy Yoga DVDs or with my own flows and worship songs. I learned about the Instructor Training program and I thought to myself, “I would love to do that!” For the next few years, the desire stopped there. I couldn’t convince myself to spend the money, nor did I believe my community was ready for something this spiritually “edgy.”

This past January I took a risk and invited the people of our church to join me in a Saturday morning Holy Yoga practice. I used my HolyYogaTV.com subscription to guide us through a gentle flow, the whole time wondering what people were thinking of this new fangled idea. That first Saturday, we had eight people show up, age 17 to 75, of all physical abilities. And it. was. AWESOME. Everyone loved it and couldn’t wait until next time.

And just like that, God gave me a big booming, “YES!” My community needed this. They were ready. Holy Yoga would be a means of drawing our congregation and our town together. It would allow us to become physically vulnerable and honest with one another, to struggle alongside, and forge the way to be spiritually and emotionally transparent. We would learn how to experience the grace of God through physical activity (and inactivity; shout out to shavasana) and in worship. I went home and signed up for the 225 Hour Program.

promos_community (5)

The next nine weeks were spent pouring over Scripture, reading material like Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book and spending the first half of the weekly two hour webinars in Bible Study. The leadership team at H0ly Yoga insists on our foundation in Christ and the Word. Each class must begin with a Scripture meditation and devotional (or mini-sermon). Each class must incorporate worship music, songs and lyrics to focus on praising God and relishing in His goodness.

Additionally, I spent an hour each Tuesday in a Guided Prayer small group, via a group phone call service. We were taught the practice of Lectio Divina and spent time at the end of the call sharing our personal reflections or God-inspirations from the Scripture Passage. It was deep and raw and intimate.

The second half of our nine-week training module focused on the practical aspects of yoga, teaching us the postures, along with detailed physical anatomy. For every pose we received repetitive teaching, including two books with pictures, our manual with additional directives, and then a verbal instruction from our trainer online. Repetition is the key to memorization.

Finally, all 140 of us traveled to Arizona (Lost Canyon: a Young Life Camp) for a six day retreat intensive. Here we received in-person demonstrations of poses and were given opportunities to work on the postures and teach each other step by step. The word “retreat” was slightly misleading. Our schedule started at 5:30am every morning (with a guided prayer and meditation), and was booked every subsequent hour of the day through 9:30pm. We had two full yoga classes each day, plus 4-6 hours of classroom instruction. The only time we sat in chairs (and not on the floor of the amphitheater or practicing yoga) was at meal times. I snuck in 20 minute phone calls to my husband when we were given bonus breaks between classes.

It was beautiful. It was intense. It was the most emotional I have been in a year. It broke me. It built me. It was a God-thing.

The community I formed with my small group cabin-meets was absolutely incredible. Those women spoke into my life with God-given prophecy and exhortation. We loved each other instantly, shared honestly, and prayed almost continually. Since Retreat, we have continued communication in group texting. What a gift.

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But I did it! I graduated along with these beautiful souls. I am officially a R-HYI (Registered Holy Yoga Instructor), and am teaching my second class this Saturday morning. I have dreams and plans for what the future of this ministry job might become. I am praying and struggling through doubts and disbelief in my ability and qualification. I am waiting for God’s leading. Training Group

So until I launch the full-fledged Holy Yoga Monroe, I will continue hosting classes each Saturday at 9 in the fellowship hall of Monroe Free Methodist Church ($10 suggested donation). The first Saturday of each month will be a FREE class, perfect to check it out and see if Holy Yoga is right for you. Men and women of all ages and stages are welcome. You say you’re not flexible? Then that’s the perfect reason to come to Holy Yoga. It is a practice, every day our bodies respond differently and every week we see new struggles and new improvements. Let do this together!

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About Me, Confessions, Husband, Infertility, Letters to My Kids, Ministry

In Addition to You

Dear Child,

I’ve been searching for my place – my calling – for quite some time. For the past ten years (or perhaps the last 28), I’ve been wondering what I should do with my life. As you know, the dream held in my heart since childhood was to become a mother. Having children became my sole pursuit and (if I’m being completely honest) rose to a level of idolatry. To add to my sinful view of motherhood, I began to believe my goal of mothering would be the capstone of my life. My vision was fogged, prohibiting me from seeing God’s guiding hand. As your father and I entered into our fourth year of infertility, I finally began to wonder if the Lord had been allowing time and space for me to recognize an additional calling on my life.

(In lieu of misunderstanding, I would like you to know that my desire to be your mom will remain steadfast. Should God grant me the gift of children I will mother you with great joy. I hope my recent procedures have been successful and that you join us soon. However, I want you to see that motherhood may be a part of my tapestry, but God is weaving together an even bigger picture. I think I’m becoming more fully me because of my years of waiting for you, Child. I am already grateful for the role you’ve played in my self-realization.)

In this time of longing and waiting, I feel a little bit like the Israelites on their journey through the barren desert, wondering if God really has their Promised Land waiting. With Kevin’s completion of grad school and ordination and now settling into full time ministry, I started feeling an ache for more. “What about me? What now?”

A decade has passed since my days as a naïve freshman at Spring Arbor University. (How has it been that long?) I’ve spent hours talking with loved ones, professors, and pastors about what God might have for me. Kevin has endured countless conversations of speculation, resulting in no decision. After a late-summer discussion left me with no further clarity, I started getting frustrated with my husband feeling that he wasn’t supporting me in my pursuits. He explained that he has been waiting for me to say with gusto, “This is it! I’m going for it.” He knew my calling was between me and the Lord.

In the moments that followed my complaint, the Lord spoke to me, revealing the journey ahead of me. After taking the risk-free roads for so long, I am finally willing to plunge headlong into a Masters of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary.

I have always wanted to go to grad school, but didn’t want to dive in without a clear vision and purpose for the degree. While I’m completely aware of the fact that I will need to remain pliable to the Lord’s leading (even if it means diverting from my plan….), I believe this degree program will allow me to hone my passion and deepen my knowledge of Spiritual Formation. I intend to become an author and lecturer on this subject, helping many experience God’s transformation in their lives. Ordination in the Free Methodist Church may become a part of this journey, and I’m considering the longterm goal of a Doctor of Ministry degree. (*ahem* Ruth Haley Barton, if you’re reading this, I’d love to come work for you at Transforming Center.)

I’ve not a clear vision clue what I’ll be doing in 10 years, and that’s ok. We are stepping out in faith believing that God will provide the means and the dedication to complete this step along His path. My Child, if you join us during the next year or three, I will certainly have my work cut out for me. But God’s got this.

As of November 5th, I have officially been accepted for admittance in the MDiv program at Asbury with plans to enroll in the online program for the Spring 2015 semester. And get this! I learned that ATS is creating a Advanced Standing Program in which students with an undergrad degree in Philosophy/Religion (me!) can transfer up to 18 credits of their coursework into the 96 credit hours of the MDiv meaning (woah!) my Bachelor’s degree might finally pay off!

Always waiting for you
& stepping out to follow in faith,

Your mama

(PS – check out this blurb from my in-law’s Christmas letter in 2007! I had completely forgotten this notion of mine, and felt an amazing confirmation when I stumbled across the words written seven years ago.)

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