Chocolates of the Spirit

A month ago I made a change that I never imagined. I texted my sister and said “I’m officially turning into mom now. I’ve joined Weight Watchers and I’m exercising to ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” My life has now come full circle to a time when I remember my mom trying the different diets and exercise videos. I remember very clearly working out with my mom and Richard Simmons in our living room when I was just 7 or 8. Now my kids will get to share those same memories 😂

I started WW just a few days before we left for our second church camp of the summer. So many people told me what a bad idea that was, but it was actually the best time for it. For one, it held me back from gorging all week long. Two, I was able to recognize my unhealthy eating habits. Some choices I have made over the years have been mindless decisions to just eat and not even realize it.

When I was growing up, my mom struggled with her weight. I always found her beautiful no matter what size she was, but she detested her body. I understand that now. When my dad got married for the first time, they planned a big wedding. I was determined to lose the weight, make my mom proud. Over several months, I lost 25 lbs. It was a goal that I met and that’s it. I wasn’t prepared to keep it up. I just wanted to lose the weight to fit into a dress. After the wedding, I was so depressed and disappointed that without thinking, I gained all that weight back. I didn’t even see it coming. It just happened. I remember going to the ER with heart issues and the doctor asking if I’d been under any stress the last 6 months. “Does my dad getting married count?” I gained more weight. Then a month later I went to get my hair cut and the stylist asked “have you been under any stress the last 6 months? Your hair is thinning from stress.” Same answer. Same result. I gained more weight. In the end, I gained 35 lbs. I didn’t know how it happened, but I realized that I needed to make changes. My friend Jamie told me about her success with WW. I had already been doing research and saw that many studies showed it was the best program for losing and maintaining weight. I signed up … then went to camp. I started the week out trying to make good decisions. Water only. Walking several miles a day. Limited snacks. I was feeling good. It was tough at times, but I was making the best decisions I could under the circumstances. Then Thursday hit. I was tired and weary. In the afternoon, we needed to run into town to get some things. I was standing at the checkout, complaining about an incident that had happened earlier in the day and bought myself a piece of my favorite chocolate. The girl put it in the bag and before I had even paid, I opened up the chocolate and popped it in my mouth. Without missing a beat, Betsy gently said “I have some Fiber One brownies in the car if you want one?” I must’ve glared at her because she simply said “I think you are stress eating.” I whirled around and looked to Anita for reinforcement. Anita just nodded her head in agreement. Lightbulb moment. Had I really been eating when I was stressed? Had I lost all self-control?

The Fruits of the Spirit are: peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Unfortunately, they aren’t called the “chocolates of the spirit”. We need to be healthy spiritually AND physically. I finally feel that I have found peace in my self-control.

In 1 month I’ve lost 8 lbs. I have no idea where they went. I don’t feel smaller, but I do feel stronger. And sore. All the time 🙄 I’ve made some discoveries about myself and how I view food. I’m making the necessary changes to get my life in control and eat healthier. I wanna be around for a long time. I want my kids to see how to eat well and know that I care about myself. I want them to be proud of me. I’m actually looking forward to taking care of me, for once. Some days I feel like all I do is count points and exercise, but those days are fewer and far between. I have a weight-loss goal. I also have a goal of being happier and healthier. God has blessed me with this life and I want to honor Him with a healthy body. I want to be on this earth for a long time with my family. And I want to be able to handle the day-to-day stresses of life without depending on food to comfort me. That’s what God is for. He is my comfort in all times of trouble


My workout buddies. Such encouragement!

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THIS IS A SAFE PLACE

We are preparing to go to camp and in order to be a chaperone, the camp asked each adult to watch a series of videos and take a quiz. I struggled to block out an hour of my busy day and decided to wait until Hope was asleep so I could watch uninterrupted. Around 8:45 she finally fell asleep and was snoring heavily. I took the opportunity to start the videos on my phone. I settled into bed, lights off and fan on high. The title of the first video was “The Definitions and Effects of Sexual Abuse and Child Molestation.” I quickly put down my phone and held back the tears. I snatched up my phone, swiped the app shut, and texted John (who, yes, was just in the next room). I texted out the following message: I’m not sure I’m emotionally able to watch the LifeWay videos. I know I have to and I will try my best.

I heard him rustle around in the next room and he quietly entered where I was. He whispered in the dark “you don’t have to watch it tonight, Baby. It can wait.” He slipped back out of the room and I prayed. “Lord, give me the strength.” I picked up my phone and hit the play button. I got about 2 1/2 minutes in and began to sob uncontrollably. I had thrown my phone down somewhere on the bed and covered my face when I heard John walk in. He gently sat beside the bed and tried to comfort me. “This is a safe place, Megan. There is no one here who wants to hurt you. You are in a safe place.” I don’t know how many more times he repeated that. Maybe a dozen or more. Bless his sweet heart, he had no other words to comfort me, but he tried desperately to calm me down as I began to hyperventilate. “This is a safe place. No one can hurt you. You are safe.” I finally composed myself. I had never reacted that way before. It was unsettling.

I began apologizing to John for my hysterics and I stopped myself from saying “I am so sorry that I am broken … “ The lyrics to “Just As I Am” by Travis Cottrell flooded my mind.

I come broken to be mended, I come wounded to be healed. I come desperate to be rescued, I come empty to be filled … and I’m welcome with open arms, praise God, just as I am

John left to get me some water and I thought “that’s Hope’s age.” I just had to hold her and hug her and pray over her. I prayed over my 6 year old. “I was 6 once …” my thoughts trailed. “May my children never experience something so terrible, that fundamentally changes you into a totally different person.”

John came back in the room and prayed over me. “… Lord, hold her and give her a peace that surpasses all understanding. God, love my wife.” He left after I assured him that I would be fine. I picked my phone up again. I had been texting with my dear friend Laura earlier in the evening and I texted to tell her why there was such a delay. We talked it out and she said “I am praying that God grants you a peace that surpasses all understanding.” He certainly answered their prayers. Peace washed over me. Peace that didn’t come from me.

As I laid in bed and tried to settle down, I searched my Facebook for a post that I had made the year before. I had attended a women’s conference and had posted the following:


Today I had the privilege of attending the gatHER Women’s Conference. The theme this year was “My Story … His glory.” Things I have known for years were finally made clear to me today…

When I was 5 years old, the 18 year old neighbor took me into a room and hurt me. Although God blocked specific memories from my mind for many years, the emotional and physical scars it caused stayed with me. Daily. It led me down a path of searching for approval, anxiety, confusion, and destruction. For decades I felt ashamed and dirty. For years I felt worried and confused. I began to ask myself “How can God use me? Would people want or allow me to work in ministry if they knew that I was damaged goods?” “You’re not good enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re unclean.” Whispers in my head filled with lies. “They know your secret. They know you are disgusting. So unworthy.” This one moment in time shaped who I was and how I perceived my relationship with God. Unworthy. Unrighteous. The actions of another made me feel unlovable and unforgivable. But today, I realized something…

We sang a song today that literally knocked the breath out of me

“I keep fighting voices in my head that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I won’t measure up …

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours

And I believe, oh I believe

What You say of me”

Salvation means that we have been delivered. That we are set free. Today I found the forgiveness toward someone that I had held bitterness for. Today I found freedom from the thoughts and lies that have flooded my life for so long. Today I found the freedom that I have so longed for for over 30 years. Today I focused not on the hurt, but on the healing. Today Jesus assured me that I AM FREE!


That was 11 months ago. And I still feel that way. I feel free from the bitterness and lack of forgiveness (for myself and my molester) I felt for so long. But in that one video clip, it all came rushing back to me. The pain, the torture from years of thinking I was worthless; sick to my stomach, overwhelmed by the weight of feeling dirty, angry, scared. In the dark, for a split second, I heard a voice whisper “This is a safe place.” It wasn’t John. It was the Father. Wrapping His arms around me, blocking out the voices in my own head, simply saying “you are MY child and this is a safe place!

If you have a similar experience, please know you can talk to me. It really is a safe place. I will listen. And know you can talk to God. He has the ultimate safe place, in His presence.

MOOD

By Grace

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:15‬

Recently while watching The Hobbit (all three of them in one day, because I am that nerd), I thought about what a relatable character Bilbo Baggins is. I don’t really know what it is about him, but several times throughout the three movies, I found myself thinking, “That would be me if I were the protagonist of a story.”

Funny, isn’t it? How often do you think something like that while doing … well, anything? A while back, after I had tripped and laughed at myself, a friend of mine chuckled, and said simply, “Me.” Somehow, for some reason, that’s just what we say now. “Me,” or “I would totally do that,” or “Relatable.” Sometimes even just “Mood” (Not something I have heard often until I spent a weekend with twelve of my peers). When we watch TV and movies, or read books, or play video games, or scroll through pages of social media accounts of celebrities we admire, we always tend to gravitate towards the one person we find relatable. A relatable character or person is very important to us, because we long for someone who understands us. Especially as teenagers, we want to be understood and have someone sympathize with us. We love characters that represent us, because we believe that they know what we’re going through.

I’m not exactly sure where this longing comes from, but it really is everywhere, especially in lonely people. I am a slightly lonely person, and I love relatable characters, too. Bilbo Baggins? Totally me. Peter Parker? I would definitely do… most of what he does. Charlie Brown? Mood. Doesn’t even matter what he’s doing or how he’s feeling, I relate. I can sympathize with him, and I know he could sympathize with me.

“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownie-est”

So, for all of you lonely people, I have good news. Jesus sympathizes with you. Whatever you’re going through, He understands. No matter how you’re hurting, He gets it. He can relate. Jesus knows you, and He knows how you feel, because He’s been there. He’s suffered in every way you have. Anytime you’re feeling lonely, or like no one understands you, or like no one knows you or what you’re going through, remember that Jesus does. And He’s there whenever you need Him. He’s there to talk or listen or just be a shoulder to cry on. Jesus is your comfort and your joy because He understands.

Jesus Got It Wrong?

I was the person you came to when you needed something done. I was the person who you came to if someone was sick and needed a substitute teacher or a dish for the potluck. I was the person you came to because I never said “no”. There was an understanding around the office in the Children’s Department that if you needed anything done, just leave a sticky note on Megan’s desk and it would get done.

One year at VBX (Vacation Bible eXtreme) I had a real “ah ha” moment. We were prepping for VBX and I was in charge of purchasing supplies and all the set up for the various age groups. My 20 hour work week went to 50+ as we prepped the week before. The week before VBX was always very chaotic, whether that’s writing our own curriculum, filming movies to go along with the theme, or buying craft & snack supplies for 400 kids. This particular VBX, however, was stranger than normal. The week before VBX we discovered that the spouse of one of our key team members was having an affair. It was devastating for our team. We hurt for her spiritually and physically. We did our best to comfort her and allow her time to grieve and save her marriage. But this was right in the middle of us taking registration forms online, which she was in charge of. Our Children’s Pastor asked me to take over registration and I received a crash course on how not only to take the registrations, but carefully place each child in their group. It was a very involved process, but I was able to figure it out. Then the day before VBX, one of our Bible Study leaders had to quit so she could care for her ailing father out of state. Again, he approached me about taking on the job of teaching kindergarteners the Bible Story, 4 times per day. I had less than 24 hours to prep. But I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. I went to Bible college. I had read these stories over and over. I CAN DO THIS! I repeated to myself “God loves a servant.” Little did I know what the first story would be. In the midst of all the studying and registration, my daughter Grace began throwing up. I had no one to watch her, so she came with me to my classroom, where I made a pallet for her in the closet with a trashcan and saltine crackers. Did I mention this was all just 4 weeks after a miscarriage and surgery? It was a crazy time.

As I read my lesson over with gusto, I began to realize I was not properly prayed up. I had spent time trying to prepare to serve, not preparing to learn from Him. I had read the story of Mary & Martha many times, and honestly, I’ve always thought that Jesus got it wrong. How could he chastise Martha? All she was trying to do was serve her Savior. All she wanted was to help. All I ever want to do is say “yes” to the Master. Then it hit me. Where is the fellowship? Where is the relationship? Serving in Jesus name is admirable, honorable, noble, but it’s not what God asks of us. He values our relationship with Him. He desires to know us. All these years, I felt that I had been doing what was asked of me out of a desire to serve, and even merit my way into God’s blessing…forgetting that what was important was time with Him. How can you serve a Savior if you don’t even know Him?

““Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬

Sometimes we are pulled in so many different directions that we don’t make time for what really matters. We get asked to teach a Sunday School or Bible Study, teach VBS, or counsel a family in need. But when our tank is on empty, we are ineffective. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit daily. And if we are always helping others, we may be missing out on HIS teaching.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in 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 ‭15:4-5‬

*Here are a few of my favorite pics from VBX that year. It really was a great week and God taught me so much. It was a blessing to spend time with Him and teach others about Him.

**John and Heath wrote and made a movie that was shown at all 4 campuses that year. It was very exciting!

Mother’s Day: IF IT WEREN’T FOR MERCY, WE WOULD NOT HAVE HOPE

In May of 2008, my mom was feeling sick. She had coughed so hard that she broke some ribs and she was feeling completely run down. They placed her in the hospital for fluids and to run tests. On May 10th, Mother’s Day, I felt the Lord prompting me to take my family to Little Rock and visit her. I didn’t tell her I was coming and as I snuck into her room to surprise her, I heard her cousin praying over my parents. He prayed for healing and comfort. He also prayed for peace as they “found the words to tell the girls” (my sister and myself). I snuck back out of the room and just looked at John. I stood there crying, having no idea what was in store. A few minutes later I walked into that sterile hospital room and said “Happy Mother’s Day!” Her face lit up and she squeeled “my baby!” My mom was able to tell me and my sister in person that she had Multiple Myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells. What a Mother’s Day. It was heart breaking, but we were together, celebrating the woman who gave us life.

In 2012 we were very excited when we found out that after 6 years of praying, we were expecting a baby. During those 6 years, Grace prayed every single night for a baby. Our entire family celebrated, from the 4 of us to our extended family and even our church family. As my belly grew, so did our excitement. We picked out a name, not quite sure what we were having yet, but excited to share with our friends the name we had chosen. But on May 10th, just 20 weeks into my pregnancy, we received news that I had lost the baby. Baby Mercy. I had surgery just 3 days before Mother’s Day. A friend gave me a heart charm to put on my “mother’s bracelet”. She gave it to me at the hospital and said “I wanted you to be able to take something home from the hospital, since you couldn’t take home your baby.” That was one of the toughest Mother’s Days I’ve ever had.

Almost a year to the day that we lost Baby Mercy, God brought us another miracle: Baby Hope. I wanted the name “Hope” because I felt like God had given us hope in this new baby. That second pregnancy made my mother feel so alive. She was still sick, but she was thrilled at the miracle of this birth. God had given my mom extra years with her family and had given our family a baby. We were all full of joy and hope!

Two years after we lost baby Mercy, when Hope was just a year old, we took our kids to the Precious Moments Museum in Missouri. I was thrilled to go there because I had a Precious Moments Bible when I was little and a doll with blonde hair. We walked around and looked at the statues and stained glass. In one of the rooms was a large mural of Heaven. I immediately began to weep when I saw a little girl having a tea party with a woman. My mom was sick at the time and I knew it wouldn’t be long. I was overwhelmed with the thought that Baby Mercy would be there, ready to welcome my mom and they would sit down and have a tea party, just like she did with her granddaughters here on earth.

Last year when May 10th rolled around, the 10th anniversary of my mom’s diagnosis, I reminisced about the difficult Mother’s Days: my mom in the hospital receiving her diagnosis, losing Baby Mercy, and the first Mother’s Day without my mom. I was thinking about the pain but also trying to focus on the joy and this thought struck me

“If it weren’t for Mercy, we wouldn’t have Hope”

What joy that thought brings!

Jesus took on the pain and sins of the world so that we might have life. So that we might be born again. And because of the mercy granted us, we have such hope (1 Peter 1:3). Mother’s Day is all about celebrating the one who gives us life. We honor our mothers for their love and sacrifice. But this year, we must remember the One who created us and gives us a new life. The One who offers us mercy, therefore we have hope. We need not only thank our mothers for all they have done for us, but remember the sacrifice of Christ who brings us the gift of eternal life!


As together John and I mourned the loss of Mercy on her 7th Anniversary, he said, “I bet she’s beautiful, all gangly and seven years old, drinking tea with Nana and Jesus, full of energy and love and joy.”

Sean, meaning Gods Gift, with his sisters, Grace & Hope.

“God’s Gift of Grace, Mercy, and Hope

May the FORTH

Anyone who knows John knows that he is a big Star Wars fan, but did you know that I am one, too? John and I both have a mutual love for sci-fi. Our dads raised us on Star Wars & Star Trek. When I was a teenager, I would come home every Sunday after church and set up my TV tray in the living room and would rotate movies. I would start with the Star Trek franchise and then finish with the Star Wars movies (there were only 3, at the time). It would take me about 3 months to get through them all, watching 1 movie per week, and then I would start all over again. I’m pretty sure by the third go ‘round, I had driven my family crazy.

So when did this start for me? I’d say when I was 4. 1983. Halloween. My parents dressed me up like Princess Leia. I not sure if there were no pre-made costumes of Leia then, or if we didn’t have the money, but my mom made my costume. My hair was so long that I could literally sit on it. She parted it in half and rolled it up into buns on the side of my head. I wore a white dress and my mom’s gold necklace. I was adorable! My sister, who is 6 years older than me (and quite a bit taller) went as Yoda. We were a pair! That Halloween is one of my first memories. Our friends had a station wagon and we all piled into the back. I remember facing each other on the bench seats and everyone comparing their loot. We drove around their neighborhood and the driver would slow down as we all jumped out of the back, going house to house to collect our treats. Such a fun time!

The year I met John, Star Wars: Phantom Menace had just come out. I can’t even remember how many times he had gone to see it, but it was a lot. His bedroom walls were filled with action figures and drawing of Star Wars. He had the posters and Legos. He expressed that Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was his all time favorite movie, because in the end, the bad guys won and he found that fascinating. When John graduated from seminary, his brother (who also has a love for Star Wars) got Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) to sign his autograph for John. I’m pretty sure that’s the best gift John has ever received.

We started celebrating John’s birthday every year with a Star Wars Day. The kids and I made masks of characters and we made special foods. We would watch as many movies as we could in one day. A few years ago, Star Wars Day on May 4th (May The 4th Be With You) gained momentum. Because it lands a week after John’s birthday, we would watch the movies all week long from April 24 to May 4th. The kids would do crafts and we would eat some fun food. My mom bought us cookie cutters and pancake molds so we could celebrate in style.

My cousin, Abbey, is a birthday party genius. She knows how to throw a good party for her boys. One year the theme was Star Wars and she got costumes for all 4 of them. She had fun party games and great party food. My uncle made an R2D2 out of a trashcan. How very “George Lucas” of him! They turned their attic playroom into a space station where they trained the Jedi in the ways of the force. It was so much fun. There were balloons around the room and the kids had to hit them with blasters (nerf guns) or light sabers. The piñata was a Death Star that the kids got to take a whack at with a light saber. The kids and their parents had so much fun.

Through the years I’ve tweaked the menu. Some years were more elaborate than others. Some years everything was homemade and some years I bought everything and just gave them a Star Wars themed name, but either way, it’s always fun to celebrate with family something that they love. If you have Star Wars fans in your house, I hope you give Star Wars Day on May 4th a try.

Cantina Fare:

HAN-burgers (cheeseburgers)

Tuscan Raider Taters (tater tots or fries)

Tattoine Blue Milk

Admiral Akbar’s Snackbar:

Leia Buns (cinnamon rolls or honey buns)

Wookie Cookies (brownies, any sort of cookies, or Starcrunch)

Light Sabers (pretzel rods dipped in white chocolate)

Thermal Detonators (Whoopers)

Yoda Soda (lime sherbet & ginger ale)

Only Because of Jesus

Remember when we used to write letters? I did. I wrote them all the time. My cousin and I lived 150+ miles away from one another and throughout the year we would write to one another almost monthly. When we were dating and after we first married, John and I would write letters to each other nearly every single day. I still have them. Notebooks and notebooks full of letters. I loved letter writing. I even got a job as a letter writer. My job: Constituent Correspondent. I worked for a ministry whose CEO put on a daily radio broadcast. He also wrote books and put together marriage conferences all over the world. People would write to him, but the letters and emails were so abundant, that he could not answer them all. That’s were I came in. I, along with a team of 6 or 7, would “correspond” to the “constituent”. I began signing the letters “only because of Jesus, Megan.” I thought it simplified my life and calling. I could not do this life alone. Good days or bad, I am alive and live in freedom, only because of Jesus


Only You would reach down to such an end to
leave heaven and befriend the ones You made
And only You will endure me through it all
though the things of earth may fall You will remain

If I stand and see it through
If I stay the course and make it home
If my heart is overwhelmed with peace in the storm
It’s all, it’s all because of Christ

Because of Christ I’m not forsaken
Because of Christ I’m not alone
Because of Christ I have a confidence and hope
It’s all, it’s all because of Christ

–Austen Stone Worship, Everflow (2017)


For some unknown reason, last Thursday, I had this song on repeat the entire day. My life was feeling perfect and healthy, tho busy and a bit more nasally this week, but good. As I went from store to store running errands, I would start the song over and blare it loud. It was comforting to me, even in the midst of peace in my life. It was a praise, a prayer, and a declaration all wrapped up into one powerful song, as I sang each line as if it were my last. The peaceful melody and gentle music was soothing to my soul. I had no idea a storm was brewing on the horizon…and Jesus was prepping me.

That night I heard, almost as if it were the first time ever, these simple words:

And only You will endure me through it all

though the things of earth may fall You will remain

Not only is He already there, He is aware and preparing me for what is coming. When others fail me, He hears me. And when my heart is broken, He sees me through. “Because of Christ, I’m not forsaken. Because of Christ, I’m not alone! Because of Christ I have a confidence and hope.” In the dark, with my arms lifted high in the air and the tears flowing down my face, I will declare that “when my heart is overwhelmed with the peace of the storm”, it’s not me. It’s all because of Christ!