We all have a Testimony… and here’s mine!
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15
I was welcomed into the world by two wonderful God-fearing parents who wanted a “Melodious Echo” to complete their happy home. (So yes! Just in case you were wondering, this is NOT a nickname…it is my real name!)
In the Beginning!
I'm a full-fledged country gal who grew up with my parent's good old fashion values: work hard, pray hard, live, laugh and love with all your heart. "Serving Christ" in our home was not a mere form or profession. It was a LIVING REALITY of daily life. I saw God provide for my family, and I saw Him answer our prayers in so many ways as a child. My parents took seriously the Word of God and did everything they could to live it and share it. I can’t remember a time when someone wasn’t living with us, or when they weren’t significantly reaching out to someone in need. (And even today, their house is still full…as they’ve adopted seven children and one single mom in need.) I didn’t realize as a kid, how rare this kind of lifestyle is today among modern Christians. But what a blessing their godly example has been to me through the years!
My Beautiful Mother!
There was one dark cloud that seemed to hang over our family in my childhood.
That was my mother’s ongoing difficult-to-diagnose health struggles which began after I was born. At one point I remember her being so sick that she got down to near 80lbs. and we thought she was going to die. Prospects were grim. Even after she started to improve, she was told she would never have any more children. She was so sick, she didn’t even have her monthly cycle, so you can imagine the SURPRISE we all had when a few years later she got pregnant. (Thankfully God surprised us twice, and she lived through it both times and is still going strong!) In continuing to seek health answers during those years, we took her to multiple doctors, even to Canada, but all without any significant breakthroughs. She was miserable a lot of the time and life was difficult watching her suffer. To help ease her pain (before my brothers were born), my cousins and I would talk about heaven with her and what it was going to be like. We would dream and cry together wishing that Jesus would come back soon. (Going to heaven was, and still is, not just something we talk about, but a reality that we are actively preparing for in all that we do.)
Full of Mischief!
Besides these trials, and the normal struggles for our family to pay the every day bills, life really was quite good.
Although full of my share of mischief and quite independent, I was a good kid and a happy kid. At age 12, I decided to give my heart to Jesus and I was baptized. This was an answer to prayer for my parents and set the course for the next steps in my spiritual journey.
A few years later, I went away to a boarding academy for high school. It was there that I first really remember beginning to have a deep personal relationship with Christ for myself. Of course when I was 12, I was sincere in seeking to follow God and even then I had a burning desire to be a missionary, but I still pretty much lived life for myself…like any young adolescent. But when I was 15 years old, as I watched my roommate having her personal daily devotions, I was inspired to do the same. And so I began more and more to experience what it meant to walk with Jesus myself day by day. High school was a very impacting and spiritually rich time in my life. In fact, looking back, I still feel like these years were some of the happiest and most joyful of my young life.
High School Senior Portrait
From high school and into college, God continued to take me deeper in my walk with Him.
I was involved in everything and friends with everyone, it seemed. I taught scripture memory classes, sang in choir, played in band, took pictures and edited for yearbook, spoke for churches and various events, volunteered on all types of ministry projects, wrote articles to encourage my friends in their walk with God, went on mission trips to many third-world countries around the world, lived in Norway for part of a year attending a Bible school, was assistant girls dean for my former high school academy, counseled and mentored young girls that were struggling, and hosted Christ-centered socials while seeking to serve God. My life was always very full and over flowing with activity. And to most, it looked absolutely perfect. And in many respects, it was.
However, under this busy ministry filled lifestyle, I began to have some deep struggles: Struggles with staying consistent in my walk with God. Struggles with allowing selfishness instead of love to control my relationships. Struggles with moodiness. Although I felt like God was always near, and there were many bright spots along the journey, I found myself frustrated at my lack of spiritual victory.
The problem was, I just didn’t know what it meant to abide in Christ. I didn’t know what it meant to walk by faith instead of by my feelings. Feelings often controlled me.
Thankfully, God didn't give up on me and although there were struggles, He continued to help me forward. My burning desire to help others and also to go deeper in my walk with Him increased.
|Loving God's kids in South America!|
Finally, after a few detours in my educational pursuits (I started one major and finished with another), and after taking time away from college as a student missionary deep in the jungles of South America, I graduated from Southern Adventist University with a degree in Nursing. Now I felt like I was really ready to be a missionary. It was another high point and milestone in my life!
However, the next few years were not easy ones. And it was through a period of "deep pain, personal trials, and depression" that God brought me to the end of myself so that He could give me MORE of Himself. (It's a rather dramatic story, as those that know it can attest, and I'm willing to share it with anyone who's interested. But I've decided to cut out the details of the drama here, as I want the emphasis of this testimony to be on the VICTORY God has given me today!) However, I will say this:
Most people look at those in positions of leadership or spiritual influence and think, "It's nice they have it all together, but that could never be me. No one knows what I'm going through!" But as I've seen more and more over the years, and as I can share from personal experience, this is not the case. Every single person you meet, every single person you see serving God has a story. Some stories are stories of victory, and other stories are cover-ups to mask their current pain. But everyone has a story. And God is working in each life to mold them, through their times of trial and pain, to make them more effective witnesses of Himself. And that's what He's done and continues to do with me.
We just have to hold on for that Sunshine!
As they often say, “The darkest hour is just before dawn!”
Before things really began to turn around in my life, I had to learn to die to myself. And so, on one of the most discouraging days of my life, I was out walking and just feeling very alone and distant from God. It was cloudy and gray. (Just like I was feeling!) My closest friends, who I lived with at the time, had gone somewhere for the weekend and I had no one to talk to. Through tear stained eyes I looked up at the over cast sky and just cried out to God. “God, are you still there? Do you hear me? Can you still do anything special with my life?” All seemed blackness. “I can't be in charge anymore. I'm making a complete mess of my life. I need you to help me. I need to know you are still there!” I continued to walk as I cried out in desperation, “I just need to see the light again!”
It was the first time I'd really cried out to God for help in awhile. Due to some of the trials I had walked through, I had allowed myself to become bitter towards God, and I had been pushing Him away. However, at that moment, when I acknowledged my need and I cried out to Him for help, He came near. As I walked with tear stained face looking up into the overcast sky, the dark clouds above me literally broke apart, and the rays of the afternoon sunshine came down directly on me, warming my body. I stopped, dead in my tracks, just starring in amazement up into the sunshine. Inside my heart, I felt a spark of hope.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:6
Although there was no audible voice from Heaven, I knew God was there, and I heard Him speak to my heart that day. “I’m still here Mel! I haven’t forsaken you or forgotten you. And I haven’t gone away. I have something special planned for your life. Don’t give up. Don’t throw everything away.” Suddenly these verses that I’d memorized in years past came bursting into my mind: “Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Heb. 10:35,36. And then, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in [YOU].” Rom. 8:18.
And the promises continued to come… It was time to look up and move forward in HOPE!
God's Healing Medicine!
After this experience on that cloudy day, I finally (after almost two years of depression struggles) acknowledged to God, and to my family, that I needed help. And God had a solution. It was by spending time with Him and learning how to once again, take care of my body His way! Most people in my condition would have sought out anti-depressants or modern medicine, or turned inward to pamper themselves with more "me time." But through a beautiful Christ-centered "others focused" lifestyle program called the “Nedley Depression Recovery Program,” I came back to life. In fact, I didn't just come back to life, but I feel like that was the beginning of an even richer, more vibrant, more emotionally healthy, and more fulfilling life than I had even experienced in my earlier years. It really pays to do things God's way!
Will I trust His Word or not?
It's interesting as I look back, because I never stopped believing in God! I knew enough and had seen enough to know that He is alive and very real! But I had stopped trusting Him, and that made all the difference in the world! I didn’t trust that when He said, “all things work together for good” that they really do. I didn’t trust that when He said, “I will carry you through the storms” that He really will. I didn’t trust that when He said, “I have a better plan for you” that He really did. I didn’t trust that when He said, “I’ll make all things beautiful in time” that He really would. I didn’t trust that when He said, “I think thoughts of peace and not of evil toward you, and I will give you a hope and a future” that He really meant just that.
I’d based too much of my faith on my feelings and impressions instead of on the facts of God's Word. And so I had no anchor in my storms!
I believe this is where thousands, if not millions of professed Christians, have their downfall today. We base our faith on our feelings instead of on the facts of God’s Word. We are like that foolish man that builds his house on the sand. When the storms come, the house falls down! But God wants us to learn to build on the ROCK that will not move. Yes, the storms will still come, but when we can live above our feelings, rooted and grounded in Him, we will survive the storms.
As I already shared, God didn’t just heal me spiritually…He brought me to a much richer experience than I’d ever imagined possible!
Set-Apart Girls Retreat August 2005
It was during this time of restoration (almost 8 years ago now) that I attended my first “Set-Apart Girl” retreat and began to realize more of the “Endless Frontier” that God has for all of us spiritually. I’d always hungered for more of God. I'd always felt my great need. But to be honest, I think since I had always felt like I was ahead of most of the Christian world (at least I felt that way in my pre-depression days), I'd actually settled spiritually. I had escaped the allurements of Egypt, but I had pitched camp in the wilderness, just like the Israelites did on their way to Canaan.
I think most of Christianity has pitched camp in the wilderness…
In fact, as I look around myself today, I think most of our church is camping in the wilderness of spiritual mediocrity. And the devil has put this "lethargic blanket" over us, so we can't move. (We may think we can move, but we really can't, unless we ask God to free us!) But God didn't call us out of Egypt just to have us stay in the wilderness. He didn't help us cross the red sea (or go through whatever trials He has led us through), just to watch us build sand-castles in the desert the rest of our lives. He has a promised land, a spiritual land, a land flowing with milk and honey that He wants to take us to. So why have we pitched camp? Why have we stopped moving? I think it's because we've never seen this "promised land" with our own eyes, so we don't even know what to ask for or pray for.
I've visited Revival Spots too!
I grew up reading stories about “revivals” and “great religious awakenings,” but I’d never really witnessed it in the church or in any groups I was part of, so I didn't really know what to ask God for either. But over the few brief years since God brought me out of my own "red sea experience," the burden upon my heart has been ever increasing…I want more! I’m not content to stay here anymore. I’m not content to just go along with the rest of the sleeping world or the rest of the Laodicean church any longer. I want MORE of Heaven’s blessings, MORE of the Holy Spirit’s filling! I know there is MORE out there and I’m determined to keep walking and to keep moving forward and to keep asking. I will NOT let go of Him except He blesses me!
This quest may seem rather audacious and daring on my part, but I know now that God hasn’t changed. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb. 13:8) And He's looking for people like you and I that will take Him and His Word seriously. There’s no reason we shouldn’t see Him working today just as the children of Israel saw Him work thousands of years ago. I refuse to believe what the scoffers in Christianity say. I refuse to listen to the cynicism that has crept into our church pews. I refuse to settle and just live a normal successful “form of godliness” that the majority of Christianity applauds.
I need MORE. I’m desperate for MORE of God!
One of the promises I claim now every day is Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
Why do I share this testimony?
|With my kids in Bangladesh|
Why? Because I want you to have HOPE as you see how God has worked in my life, He can work in yours as well.
I think more of us need to be sharing our testimonies…and showing how God has given us victory from the darkness…whether that darkness be mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional. God truly does make all things beautiful in His time! What an amazing God we serve.
Obviously, for awhile, I didn’t really understand why God allowed me to walk through this difficult time away from Him! But with time, I slowly began to realize that He not only wanted to soften my heart so I could more effectively reach and understand others, but He wanted to build a fruit bearing plant in my life. However, as I already shared, He couldn’t do that until I had come to the end of myself. He couldn’t bring the milk and honey of the promised land until I had truly died to Egypt: Died to my wants, my dreams, my desires, my plans, my hopes, my agenda, my lifestyle, my accomplishments, my reputation, my pride. (And I’m still learning to die to these things even today!)
In the eight years since things turned around, life hasn’t all been smooth sailing. But God has once again become my STRENGTH and my SONG!!
I love the life God’s given me! Even though things didn't turned out like "I" planned, they've turned out soooooooooo much better. Even with the difficulties I’ve walked through, I can look back with peace and say I wouldn’t chose to be anywhere else today. I love how He’s lead me, I love how He’s growing me. No, I don’t feel like I’ve ARRIVED yet. I still battle with temptations, and I still have struggles, like we all do. Sometimes, even still, if I take my eyes off Him because I've allowed myself to get too busy doing His work, I'll find myself beginning to sink. But as soon as I realize this, I call out to Him begging for forgiveness, and He’s right back beside me, helping me up again.
My heart aches for so many that I know who live in the world or have grown content with the “spiritual mediocrity” of the wilderness of present day pew-warming “churchianity.”
Secretly I often think, “IF only they knew what I know! If only they could see what I see. They’d be beside me in an instant on this incredible journey. But they don’t know! They have no idea what they are missing.”
It seems, most people, just like the 10 spies who were afraid to enter the Promised Land, are afraid of what following God might mean. They forget that the same God who delivered them from Egypt, walked them across the red sea, and has been fighting for them, will also help them make it safely Home! No, it's not all gonna be easy… but think of the REWARD! "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." 2 Cor. 2:9. We still have trials to face here on this earth, for we are told, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” But that's because the Devil doesn't want us to discover what God has waiting for us! We are almost Home!!!! And God will not leave us to weather these final storms alone. He’s in the boat with us. He's walking on water calling us. He's in the fire strengthening us. And He promises to carry us through and to finish the work that He’s started. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Rom. 8:31
The GOSPEL is sooooo beautiful when we can truly understand that He’t not just redeemed us from sin, but promised to walk with us and strengthen us through our trials. He's promised to help us gain the victory and defeat our foe! And one day soon, all the pain and suffering of this world will be forgotten. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in YOU." Rom. 8:18
I’d rather be in the storm facing the giants any day with Christ, than walking in the wilderness of “spiritual mediocrity” without Him!
Since God lead me to be part of the ARME Bible Camp ministry (that’s another amazing story all in itself), I’ve seen Him working in ways I would have never imagined possible. I’ve seen Him bringing REVIVAL to lives, to homes, to congregations, to church leaders. I feel like some of those stories I use to read about are actually coming true before my eyes.
And my life will never be the same! Truly God has put a new song in my mouth, and He has become my ALL in ALL! But even with all the miracles I've seen, and with all the blessings I daily witness…. I’m not pitching my tent yet. I want MORE!
“Now unto Him that's able to do EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY ABOVE all the we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." Eph. 3:20
And…the story isn’t over!
That’s why I’ve started this “Morning Sonshine” blog and website as it is my desire to continue to testify of God's daily faithfulness in my life and in the lives of others. I want this website to be a daily testimony to the goodness of God, and I want everyone to come join me on this amazing adventure of a lifetime.
His Invitation to YOU!
I don’t know where you are in your life…
- If you’re one of those that have settled for spiritual mediocrity in the wilderness
- If you’re committed to Christ and have experienced His blessings, but you want MORE of Him just like me
- Or if you’ve felt betrayed by God and Christianity and simply walked away
Wherever you are, God will reach you and save you, if you let Him. If you desire something better, you’ve not gone too far to be redeemed! And He is just waiting to flood your thirsty soul with Living Water if you will only surrender your burdens and FOLLOW HIM! But you must ASK…You don’t have because you don’t ask! (James 4:2)
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom. 10:13
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Come…He’s calling! I invite you to take THIS JOURNEY with us! It wont always be easy, but you wont regret it. He's coming back soon to take us Home. But even here, you can taste and see for yourself that God is good!
~ For MORE INSPIRING INFO on how to know God better and experience REVIVAL in your personal walk, Click HERE! ~