A Little Thanksgiving Reflection on Being Thankful Whatever the Season

"Whether we have less or more there is always something to be thankful for."


I don't know what you've got going on in your on the eve of this Thanksgiving holiday. I don't know what season you are in, or who you are going to miss. What I do know is that God's got us right where we are supposed to be. We're spending the holiday tomorrow as we're supposed to spend it, with who and where we're supposed to spend it. So I challenge you (and me) to look at what's right in front of you - not just the food you are preparing or the family who is arriving, but be grateful for what you've got in the middle of the season of life you are in right now. Cause I bet things aren't perfect. Someone won't be at the table. Someone you love has passed, or someone you love can't be with you for the day and that is OKAY. Trust that God's got you right where you are with who you are with and he wants you to focus on the abundance, not the lack. Focus on who IS at the table, not who isn't. Focus on who may have passed, but is in your heart instead of the empty chair. Focus on how lucky you are to have this life instead of how much life sucks because of what you don't have.

We are pressured from every side to have more, do more, be more but God says, "Be still." We think, feel and often believe we have less or are less when really God says you are, you have ENOUGH. You ARE enough. 

So, what I'm doing is thanking God for my blessings, but I'm especially thanking him for the chance to have this home and family I'm blessed with, which may not have come together perfectly, but it's perfectly imperfect and full of love. I'm thankful everything in my life is just as it is, that I just may mess up something we make for dinner and the world isn't going to end. I may cry a little cause I miss my Dad, but that's OKAY. Some feathers might get ruffled just cause it's a holiday and that's OKAY. I'm just excited because God worked it out so we can have a Thanksgiving meal before my stepdaughter has to go to retail work on Thanksgiving and my stepson is here from New Jersey for the long weekend. My oldest stepdaughter isn't here and staying at school and I know we will miss her presence but it's okay because God's working it all out for HIS good.

As much as we'll miss doing our traditional trip to Des Moines, IA to see my in-laws we get to rest here. We get to not drive 14 hours back and forth and just BE. We get to sit still at a time when everyone is running off to somewhere. And sometimes being still happens so that you can really just see all God has blessed you with. It's like he's saying, "Will you look at this life I've given you? Isn't it amazing?" or as my Dad would say, "Isn't this great?"

What's more than amazing is God can bring us through so many trials and give us so much joy. Whether it's tragedy, loss, separation, or discord - whatever it is, whether we have less or more, there is always something to be thankful for. God is ALWAYS working in us if we believe. He is ALWAYS doing what he's doing for our good. 

So I wish you a blessed and grateful turkey day. May all your dishes turn out okay and if not, enjoy the day anyway. May you and your family have a great time together and may you see the abounding blessings the Lord has put in your life at this very moment no matter what the season, in fact - despite the season that may be a struggle - just notice how much you have to be thankful for. I know I am! Oh and do everything you can NOT to compare and contrast your turkey day news feed to someone else's. No matter how good it looks, everyone is always going through something so try not to focus on the outsides and focus on the life YOU'VE got inside!

Why Pointing Out Our Flaws to Others Doesn't Work

Hey guys. Today was going to be a video, but I've decided to make it brief. Family is #1 and on days like today, it is especially so. A year ago on October 22nd, Mike went through what so many of us who've lost a parent have come to know - the one year anniversary. You never quite know how you are going to feel. You just kinda have to walk through it. No one can make it less or go away, except the God who loves us. But I do remember my husband being there the day Dad died, so I'm just going to be present to Him today the best I can. Know that my heart goes out to any of you who have recently gone through or are approaching that one year mark of a loved one lost! 


So, here's the message that you were supposed to have yesterday.

I saw that Taylor Swift said two things about her flaws, “I know my flaws before other people point them out to me,” and “My confidence is easy to shake. I am very well aware of all my flaws. I am aware of all the insecurities that I have.”

Now, I know for many of this reading that would bring out our inner perfectionist, or comparing critical voice of how we're nowhere near Taylor Swift. But I challenge you to think about it differently. 

On Monday I posted the message at the bottom of the blog to Facebook. It came out of an experience from the weekend that as soon as I went through it, I thought - what a teachable moment for my readers. Cause it sure taught me a lot!

So, here's the story....Mike and I were at the jeweler where we got our rings. They are great people and one of the girls on staff has become a friend. As we were standing there talking to her over the glass case, she stopped in the middle of a sentence, looked at me and said, "I'm sorry. Wait a minute. Are those your real eyes?" Mike said, "Yes," right away for me. I of course said, "Oh it's the blue Notre Dame sweatshirt I have on. It just brings out my eyes." Made sense to me! Then I for some reason felt the need to point out as I leaned over the counter this bone spur thing I have on my wrist. You can't see it unless it gets pointed it. So of course I pointed it out. Once again my friend interjected as she realized what I was doing WAY before me...

"Wait Meredith, why do you always point out your flaws?"

I didn't even realize I was doing it, but when I thought about it for a minute, it was like - WHOA! I totally do that! So for a few days I thought about it, prayed about it and in my Monday devotion time God reminded me that He is my Healthy Voice, and that sometimes my Unhealthy Voice creeps in and I don't even see it. I thank God for those moments when someone else sees it and can call me out on it. 

I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where you are pointing our your own flaws and someone calls you out on it. Not only that, they point out your strengths and you just don't see it. Maybe you have. Maybe you haven't. But next time someone complements you or points out something special about you, see how you respond. Do you say, "Oh I got it Target on sale, thanks." (I totally do that.) Maybe just say "Thanks!"

It's funny how so often we point out our flaws but all it really does is magnify and even solidify them in our minds, as if for some reason they define us. (That's just a huge Unhealthy Voice in the world - that surface imperfections aren't good. Wrong!) 

 But the truth is we need to receive the complement, hear it, and leave it at that. It's so hard for us to recognize our good qualities because we're afraid of looking vain or prideful. But really, isn't it more so if we point out a flaw? It's like, "Oh I suck, here's why."

So resist the urge to say, "Well thank you! - But let me tell you about ____ (my flaw)." We do not need to justify our imperfections by pointing out our flaws. YES we are imperfect. Hello we are HUMAN!! We are worse critics of ourselves than anyone else.

As Mike says his Mom used to always say growing up, "You have to see yourself as others see you," and I think that's sage advice. I'm not saying everyone else gets to define you - cause that's not healthy. But I am saying listen when someone wants to encourage you! Realize that people see the good in you and stop focusing on the people who don't appreciate you or see only the not good in you! Drop the haters. Appreciate the encouragers.

With that, I found a couple verses to encourage you when you are beating yourself up like this.

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." 

Another that is helpful and I'm sharing with you The Message version because I think it points out well the contrast between our mind focusing on the negatives vs. positives. It's Philippians 4:8-9, "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."

When you think about encouraging remember it says that we ARE to encourage each other! 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

And lastly, we may have thoughts about ourselves but God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts so when our own thoughts are defeating us, God gives us this HUGE reminder in Isaiah 55:8-9. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, "declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."


Mid-Week Message: Healthy Voice on Vulnerability

"Healed wounds bring HOPE." - MT Schoeller

Watch today's Healthy Voice Message on the topic of Vulnerability and maybe find a little more courage to find it in yourself.

Isaiah 41:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

Here is Brene Brown's Talk on The Power of Vulnerability

Here is the "In the Arena" Quote

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

My Journey Back Home to See Pope Francis, Part I

Last week, I had the opportunity to be one of thousands of people who got to see Pope Francis up close. It was an incredible experience on multiple levels. But before I go any further, it's important for me to be clear about something.

I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school my whole life where religion class was a yearly requirement and you never missed a Sunday mass. My mom is very devout in her faith, which carried her after my parents divorced years ago. It was her rock, still is her rock. She helped me build my foundation. But my rock is simply Christ. He is the solid rock I stand on. Some Catholics might say I've become Protestant, but I don't identify with a particular religion. I believe I am a child of God and daughter of the One True King. I am a Christ follower. I walk the Jesus way. I am saved by grace and I turn each day to the Bible and depend on my relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

I did not go out there for any reason other than I admire the man Pope Francis is. He carries the title of Pope but he doesn't pretend to be above anyone. He walks humbly, even wearing his pontiff attire. I am drawn to people who have an unshakable, humble and outward demonstration of a living walk with God the Father. I go see people speak who demonstrate this because I want to be in the presence of people I believe to be - not God our father - but channels for the Holy Spirit. This is why I went to see him. I fully respect the Catholic religion I grew up in and anyone who lives out the Catholic faith. I am only offering the experience I had as one who has distanced myself from the religion, and taken a different walk to deepen my faith.

I went there because I saw that he was being like Jesus, not because I believe he is the ultimate representation of God on earth. He is a human being and the leader of the Catholic Church. I don't put him on a pedestal and from what I see, that's not what he wants. He doesn’t want to be consumed with pomp and circumstance, surrounded by politicians or theologians. He wants to be a voice and hope for the broken and hurting people who need Jesus. 

I've said this before but I was seriously broken and in need of Jesus. It didn't matter that I had the pedigree of Catholic schools and political family background, or how successful I was in my own career. What mattered was that I was falling apart on the inside and the only one who could fix that was Jesus. I spent a lot of years wondering why he was up there, not down here. So when I hit my bottom and the Holy Spirit came into my heart, it changed my life from the inside out. I didn't do that out of some defiant self-will. I didn't do that at all. All I did was receive. I was desperate to receive a love greater than anything I'd ever known. 

Receiving the free gift is not easy when you think you aren't worthy. But that is God's grace. That's why he died on the cross. He meets you at your worst and pulls you out of your darkest place. This Pope is a living, breathing example of that love that God has for all of us. He is reaching out with open arms just like Jesus did when he walked the earth.

What I see in him is hope and what it brings out in me is courage. It takes courage to believe. It takes courage to walk by faith and I've heard many people say, "There is something about this guy that makes me want to believe more," and that to me is an incredible thing. In fact, I didn't realize until I got home that seeing the Pope did exactly that for me. When I got home and I was spending time at the dinner table with my husband telling stories, all of a sudden I got choked up and wasn't sure why. Then the words came. "This trip showed my I have courage." It seemed to simple but it was the moment I realized why God may have put me there. Seeing him reach the broken with realness, no matter what others might say he needed to do brought me so much hope. He's in a role where he's expected to be all these things, but he's just being himself. He's letting the Lord lead Him to where he's supposed to be. That is love right there. That is the love of Christ.

This verse was speaking me leading up to and even now after my experience and I believe it to be true. In fact, it’s stated in a song by the band, “For King and Country” called Proof of your Love. It’s from 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, the Message version (and you can watch the music video at the bottom of the page).

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 

If I speak God’s word with power revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and a say to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and I what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I hear this song and I think of his trip. Although some political people may get frustrated with some of his decisions or viewpoints, I don't believe God sent him here to primarily be a diplomat, but Ambassador for Christ - like anyone of us who carries the love of Christ is to be. 


30th Street Station

Now I'd like to tell you about my experience. Mom and I started the day at 30th Street Station. The relevance of this was huge. 30th street is where I basically grew up. It was my second home as I lived "in between two worlds" traveling back and forth twice a month to visit my Dad. A lot of times it was the place I felt the most secure because it felt like my middle ground. As mom and I walked towards the main concourse, (which mind you is huge - 135ft wide and 95 foot ceilings) I shared with her what this place meant to me. I showed her the escalator I stood at waiting for my Dad and the ticket counter. I turned around and she said, "Aw, is that where you used to go with your Daddy?" and gave me a hug. I can't tell you the power of that moment.

What I can tell you is that I had an instant moment of walking back through time to when I was little Meredith. But this time I was all grown up with Mom on my arm and Dad gone from this earth. It was a living example of me realizing how much I've grown up, how I struggled for so long with that little girl meredith who felt so "in between" but now I am far from it. Today I'm a wife, a stepmom and above all God's daughter. I am so blessed.

Mom and I walked out the front door and continued our journey down Market Street. This road is one that we used to run half-marathons together. Mom clocked many miles during her years of marathon running. We were always running. Running to run from the pain, to free ourselves from the burden of the pain and to escape. Now here we were walking hoping our feet would carry us for the day. Oh, how times change especially since at one point we both would have been dying to just run it. Here we knew we were weak. It was pretty beautiful. On the Parkway we stood most of the day waiting for the Pope to arrive and then we finally saw him. 


The Papal Mass on on the Parkway

When it came time for Mass, Mom and I moved over to the center of the parkway so she could see the altar in front of the Philly Art Museum. I was amazed at how much my faith had changed specifically in my passion for the Word. I wanted to hear the passages they’d chosen and the Pope give a sermon. 

It was so powerful. Here is an excerpt. Go and read the whole context if you have the chance here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/pope-francis-holds-final-mass-philadelphias-benjamin-franklin/story?id=34080571

“Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!

Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit.”


Shortly after Pope Francis delivered this Homily, the eucharistic ministers started walking down the parkway with yellow and white umbrellas to distribute communion. As it came to the spot we were my Mom gave me the look. I knew she wasn’t comfortable with me going to communion. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Catholic faith, they believe unless you are an active participant in the church, you can’t go. I am not. I am a Christian. But I don’t practice a religion. I go to church but my foundation is in the living Word and my personal relationship with God. 

Prepared for this in the back of my mind, I wasn’t resistant because I know no matter what -God loves me. 

And it happened once before. My Mom didn’t want me to go and out of respect I stayed in the pew. What’s funny is that moment just a year or so ago in the pew was a key moment in my faith walk because it helped me let go of my Mom’s faith and secure my own in Christ. So this time, as she walked away I stood strong RESTING in the powerful love of God I’d come to know in my life and completely filled with the Holy Spirit. 

I can’t express to you the peace I had in that moment - but it was tangible. Surrounded by thousands of Catholics on the parkway walking towards communion I stood. Still. I stood - strong. Not in myself, but in Him. 

Let me tell you, there is no other force on the earth that could have given me that peace in that moment. That moment made me realize that I wasn’t little Meredith anymore who felt “not good enough.” I was a long way from being that little overweight girl whose parents got divorced, and felt ashamed and unknown by God because of what had happened.

This time - I was the daughter of God, comfortable in her own skin knowing - no matter what - her worth is in Christ. It wasn’t something I had to will myself to believe.I just knew in the depths of my soul. When Mom returned from communion I turned around and said, “Mom, like I said before - that’s not who my God is. He loves me no matter what, no matter whether I go to your communion service or not. He loves me.” And I turned around, not angry at my mom for her beliefs but strong in my own convictions. It was another moment where I realized my faith was stronger than I even realized and I could thank my Mom for giving me that foundation in her own.

Why do I tell you all this? I tell you because I know there are many who feel far from the church or far from God and this is to show you that we all have different walks and ways to rest in the love of the Lord. But we must know - it is there. He came so that we could have life and have it abundantly.

I hope you will come to my blog again tomorrow as I’m going to post one titled, “The 10 Reasons I Love this Pope.” Part I was about my experience. Part II is about Him and what I believe we can experience through his example. 



A Message of Hope for the Millennials on Addressing Mental Illness

Here is today's message!

Here are the Songs I Mentioned

See You Again by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth

This website has the lyrics and the description of how it it was written after Paul Walker's car crash. Although this song doesn't necessarily deal with mental illness it does address feelings out of a loss that can be a struggle for those who have mental illness.

The Fray, How to Save a Life

This is the official video above and I think it pretty much says it all about our youngsters struggles. I also found this video interview of Isaac Slade sharing about when they wrote the song. This is a link to his inspiration for writing it and interestingly enough how it's translated to others who've been inspired by it.

I've added one last song because it was playing in my mind as I wrote this message. It's from a favorite old band of mind called "The Hooters" who I used to love. They wrote this song and funny I looked up the inspiration behind these lyrics? Linked to teen suicide. The article was written after one of the band members read an article in the paper about three teens committing suicide. That was 1986! Here's a link if you are interested. Oh and here is the video. Get ready for some serious 80s hair action...Oh and here's the lyrics.

Where do the Children Go, The Hooters

A Life Lost

And the last thing I want to share is the obituary of a young girl at my stepdaughter's high school who took her life this past week. There's been controversy about her death not being acknowledged like some other kids who were star athletes, known by many that got a lot of attention for their deaths. Theirs wasn't suicide but overdose. Another student died last year I think and there was a vigil for his passing. 

All of these deaths at such a young age are tragic. The overdose was actually two brothers. I wouldn't wish this on any family. But I will say, no one who dies at a young age by suicide or drug overdose should be ignored. Kids need to know about it because it feels like they lost one of their own and you never know who might make a different choice just by hearing about it. 

The girls name is Adriana Wolkiewicz. Here is her obit. She was just a few days shy of her 17th birthday.

Say a prayer for her family, as well as the other families who lost their loved ones I mentioned and ANY person or family going through mental illness. Don't keep it inside! Get the help! 


A National Mental Illness Awareness Week Blog for College Kids, Children and the Faithful

Arcadia Bluffs, MI

Arcadia Bluffs, MI

It's Mental Illness Awareness Week so I'm just going to call out the issue and give it the attention it needs. Mental illness is not something that can be treated with willpower or positive thinking alone. It must be confronted. The struggle must be addressed with the individual and professionals that know what they are doing. Being stuck in our minds is a dangerous place to be and those of us who struggle need to know that a little help navigating our way through it is a good thing. We must not let the judgement of people who don't know stop us from getting the help we need.

First of all, a shout out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for the work they are doing. I love that they've got a page specifically for advising college students on how to address mental health issues. It is not an easy thing to work on when everything is about having it all together, i.e. grades, social life and future aspirations. I had no idea that I struggled in college with my mental health until I went back for grad school and started to confront my mental health and addiction head on. But I had to go away to get help and a lot of schools don't support offsite treatment. Mental health is not an easy issue to tackle so kudos to any student and/or leader that is wiling to do so. It's worth it. College kids are under a lot of pressure and need this to be one of their top priorities in college. I found a great article last night on the issue of the mental health crisis on college campuses. Click here to read.

Speaking of students, today also happens to be National Child Health Day, as recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services. Why is this important? Because children need attention for their mental health. Their minds are just as much a part of them that needs to be healthy as their bodies. Many people don't address their mental health until the adult years when it becomes too much to bear, or they hit a bottom with an addiction of life circumstance. What we need to do is show kids that it's okay if your mind doesn't feel like it's working right and more importantly, recognize that if they've got other issues with their health, i.e. weight - that maybe there is something way more to it than what you see. Also today kids go through so much - trauma is very present in their lives sadly. Whether it's something at home like broken families, death of a loved one, or abuse or at school like bullying - there are many things that can traumatize a kid. The sooner we throw the mental health into the mix, the better off we'll be. Believe me, if I had realized when I was trying to get to the bottom of obesity working at Health and Human Services for the Secretary, that mental health played such a huge factor in the whole picture I would have focused more on that, than how we're addressing obesity. Obesity - inside job - including mental and emotional health.

Finally I give much kudos to Pastor Rick Warren, his wife Kay and Saddleback Church for hosting the "Gathering on Mental Health and the Church" this week from October 7-9th. I'm hoping to catch the free live webcast on the 8th at 8:30 am PST. They are truly using the tragic loss of their child to suicide to change the landscape on how we address mental health in the church. That is powerful. In no way was their tragedy a good thing, but they are letting God use it for good and that is a good thing. (Speaking of powerful - today was supposed to be a post on the Pope (lol). It is done but this seemed to be more crucial timing for today/week. Check back tomorrow.)

Mental health is an issue SO unaddressed in our society, it's sad. Many people think, "Get over it," simply because they can't see your struggle on the outside. In a way, it's much like obesity. People say, "Just don't eat it," not realizing how much goes on the inside that leads them to make those food choices. Those of us that have to treat our mental health - willingly I might add (big difference from those who don't), know that it's not easy and probably takes more work than anything we've had to do in our lives. But if you address it - you know it's worth the work.

More importantly, I can say the single thing that has transformed my mental health is the power of God in my life. He has come into my heart and through the process of spiritual transformation - began to heal my soul. The Bible says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." It is the Word that give me that renewal. Addressing my mental health, treating it, and maintaining it are a part of my life today. Walking the road of recovery from addiction is how I walk towards God. It keeps me going. It's where he meets me every day in my willingness. It's where my relationship with Him begins, because he is the one who has the power to renew my mind. The people that have come into my life to help me professionally and relationally have been absolute gifts, and reminders that God wants what is best for me.

Mental Illness must be taken just as seriously as physical illness. It doesn't matter that we can't see it. What we must not do is judge it when we see it. For none of us know the struggles that someone goes through inside their mind. I pray for all of those who are on the road to recovery from mental illness and all those still suffering in resistance or lack of knowledge, to know that there is hope. May we all find a way to look towards the light.

P.S. For those college kids who will be connecting with me on Friday, this is what we're talking about!!

Have a great week you all. Check back for the pope blog and a message on Wednesday about why it's okay to feel our feelings!!!

A Healthy Voice Message: Why I'm a Sinner Changed and Saved by Grace

Here's a message reflection on the arrival of Pope Francis to the states and God's healing power in my life.

Here's a message reflection on the arrival of Pope Francis to the states and God's healing power in my life.

These pretty ones were out front on my lawn. Yes, I arranged them ;)

These pretty ones were out front on my lawn. Yes, I arranged them ;)

And here is your bonus. These are the songs that played while I was running just now and thought instead of a powerful video, you could use a playlist to add a few new songs to your own...but you gotta get it off my Facebook page cause I'm not so great with links sometimes. It's not working! 

Oh and check out THIS leaf I found on my walk. Does anyone else see the shape of the heart?! I didn't change it ONE bit!!! I love the signs of His love - everywhere!