My name is Melinda.
I grew up on a few acres in a little town called Success, MO. I attended school there until 8th grade and went to high school 17 miles away (because we didn’t have one in Success!). My mom was very creative. She sewed my Easter dresses and hand decorated all my birthday cakes until my siblings came along. My sister Melanie was born when I was 6 and Mariah came along when I was 15. My dad was an over the road truck driver for the 1st 10 years or so of my life, and was only home on weekends. He then got a job closer to home and would still work super long hours. I did whatever I could to please him. Therefore, I was very much a tomboy. I did great in school and never got in trouble – because I never got caught! We attended the local Southern Baptist Church. Church was important, but I don’t really remember thinking much about Jesus and what He did for me. “Being saved” was a must, so I accepted Jesus, but I didn’t seek a relationship with Him. Once I got to high school, I rarely attended my church home and I became a very rebellious teenager. But I’m thankful, because my parents faithfully provided and took care of me all those years – I just wish I would have hugged them more back then and spent more time with them when I was a kid.
I was 11 years old when I accepted Christ and made a public profession of my faith in Him. However I continued to let many sins rule my heart. I believed in God and I knew Jesus was my Savior, but I did not obey Him. I came back to the church many times and then would leave again because my behavior never seemed to change. The decision to follow Christ only begins the transformation work. Because I did not allow Jesus to work on me through the hands and feet of His church early on, I had to wear masks. And I have worn many masks over the years.
People said, “You’re so strong… so independent!” – No. No, I wasn’t. I was just really good at faking it. That strong independent young woman was hurting. I was covering up all that was going on in my life with an outward appearance. I was a defiant jar of clay hardening away from the Potter’s hands. Every once in awhile I cracked from the pressure of stuffing it all inside and someone might witness a meltdown. In that clay pot I stuffed the guilt I felt over disobeying my parents. I stuffed hurt, guilt, and shame from promiscuity at an early age. I stuffed the pain of rejection and never feeling pretty or wanted.
Yet God wanted me. And He kept drawing me back to His Church. I submitted to Him from time to time. I’d go back to my church home and try hard to stay. But I wasn’t grasping Grace. I held tightly to the rules and the laws of “being a Christian” and I just kept failing at it. And so the feeling of not being good enough would lure me into another relationship, deceiving me into believing the God-void was filled, away from the Church. But it never worked and then I’d feel more shame, more regret, more bitterness on top of all the other brokenness I was already carrying.
At age 26 my boyfriend and I bought a house together. Soon we were parents to a precious little girl and we decided to get married when she was six months old. I felt alone in my marriage. We were together for a year, apart for a year, and then back together for a year. Neither of us were happy and neither of us were following Jesus. But Jesus was after BOTH of us.
At age 30 I was facing divorce, financial ruin, and the life of a single mom. I went back to the Church again, and tried to clean myself up. I rejected God’s help in that process, so I failed again. I went back to the bars and the clubs seeking approval and validation for being so “messed up” – I wanted the attention of anyone other than my small child who needed me the most. When I came home to her I felt horrible about going out. Nothing was changing. I was just piling on more things to stuff inside the jar – a jar that was hardening more and more with guilt and anger and bitterness.
I was angry at her dad. I was angry when bills came. I was angry when I saw other families together and happy and going on vacation. I was angry at myself. I felt so alone. I went back to the Church for help but still didn’t have a real relationship with Jesus. You can go to the church and take from the church and even give to the church and never really know Jesus as Lord of your life.
In 2009, I walked into the doors of James River Church. I felt it was a great place for my daughter and found myself growing to love it as well. That fall I attended their women’s conference all alone. But Jesus met me there through a song I knew by heart as a child. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” and something inside of me changed in that moment. I haven’t been the same since. I stopped seeking the approval of others and began fulling seeking God. Jesus broke and set me free from the chains of my sin when I was 11 years old. Twenty years later, I finally dropped them and walked away. I finally started to follow Jesus and let Him love me.
I still mess up. But I no longer stuff this jar of clay with guilt and shame. I am in the Master’s hands now and He is shaping me. He does not use the tools of guilt and shame. His tool is Grace and Grace leaves no scars.
I have forgiven myself, my ex-husband, and people who have hurt me. I am continually seeking the Lord and determined to destroy anything that stands between me and my relationship with Jesus. The strength people see now is not fake! It’s God’s strength at work within me. His working within me has blessed me with a God-fearing husband and a beautiful family. His work within me has drawn my ex-husband into a relationship with Jesus just a few weeks ago at James River’s men’s conference. God chased me for me and my daughter AND her dad!
The mask I wear is Grace – undeserved favor and blessings from God! I’m so thankful He chased after me and kept tugging on my heart and drawing me back to His Church. I’m so glad He showed me just how much He loves me through a familiar childhood song. Because of Jesus, I am none of the things I used to be! I still laugh, smile, like to have fun… but in different ways, for different reasons. Grace is the reason my head is up! Jesus is the reason I am not self-medicating with relationships and alcohol. His chasing after me and not giving up proved His love for me far beyond the words of “Jesus Loves Me”.
My anchor verses (all New Living Translation):
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Psalms 91:1-2 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.