Date Night—Yes!

Remember date nights?I actually ended up marrying my high school sweetheart, Jeff, so I truly don’t remember life without him. But, there were several years when our daughters were toddlers that we certainly didn’t feel like sweethearts. We were more like two people who lived in the same house, and eventually collapsed in bed next to each other—sometimes with two toddlers and a dog between us.Sound familiar?Thankfully, I was part of a bible study for young marrieds and new moms during that season of my life where I learned something vital every week. One such lesson was this—never stop dating your husband. Make time for him, apart from the children, and keep the romance alive. I remember sitting in that bible study and wondering how I could possibly find time to date my husband when we barely had time to do anything except the absolutely necessary household tasks and child-rearing duties. Our lives had become so busy with work and raising our little girls that we’d sort of lost sight of everything else. We were just going through the motions of life, mumbling “I love you” before drifting off to sleep at night.I truly wanted to date my husband again, so I talked to my wonderful mama about our situation, and she happily volunteered to babysit for us once a week so that Jeff and I could have a date. Sometimes our date night consisted of going to the movies, holding hands, and sharing a large box of Junior Mints. Other times, our date night was simply cuddling on the couch and catching up on our favorite TV shows. Still other times, we spent our date night at a local bookstore, drinking coffee, (I don’t like coffee, so I was drinking hot chocolate, of course), reading magazines, and being adults in love. No matter what we did, we looked so forward to that time together each week. I truly believe that because we did make an effort to keep the romance alive as we parented our children, that when our girls both left for college, and we were back to just the two of us, we transitioned much more easily than many couples do.

I remember right after the girls left and it was just the two of us at breakfast, I looked across the table at him and said, “Now what?” halfway joking, but halfway nervous about the next chapter. Without missing a beat, Jeff shot me a mischievous grin and said, “Now I get you all to myself again.”We’ve been dating each other like teenagers ever since, but it all started because we decided to make time for one another early on.I encourage you to do the same. Even if it just means putting your children to bed earlier than usual one night a week and reserving that time for just you and your spouse to reconnect. Make the investment in your marriage. The payoff is huge! You don’t have to spend lots of money on your date nights. If money is tight, rent a free movie from your local library; pop some microwave popcorn; and cuddle on the couch. Or, if you have a willing grandparent or aunt who wants to babysit for free, pack a picnic and a blanket, download your favorite music on your iPhone, and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. Dinner and dancing under the stars could be just that break from the mundane that you both need to rekindle the romance.Here’s the thing. If you and your spouse keep your relationship thriving, you’ll have a happier home, and your children will grow up in a healthy environment. So, go ahead. Plan a date with your spouse, and make a big deal about it. Leave little “countdown to our date” notes in your spouse’s briefcase or in his vehicle. Act like you’re 16 again, and let the romance begin…

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other…” 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)

My Father’s Love

After my father died, my sister and I helped Mom go through his personal items. I couldn’t wait to get into Daddy’s special drawer. It was the one drawer in his nightstand that he didn’t allow anyone to bother. He could hear you opening it from a mile away. I remember as a kid trying to quietly ease open the drawer in order to sneak some quarters from his big bowl of change. (I wanted to feed the Pac Man game at the local arcade.) As I started to reach my hand inside, I heard Dad’s voice, “Michelle Leigh Medlock—get out of my drawer!” He didn’t mind giving me money for Pac Man—he just didn’t want me in his special, private drawer.For years, I’d wondered what could possibly be in that forbidden treasure trove. Why was he so protective of it?“I’ll start in Daddy’s chest of drawers,” I called to my mom as I opened the forbidden drawer.As I searched through Daddy’s things, I found very ordinary items. His comb. Fingernail clippers. His money clip. Pictures of the family. Lots of change. His special engraved calculator he used in business. And a lock box.I was just about to ask Mom if she knew the combination to the lock box, but thought I’d try it first. Surprisingly, it wasn’t actually locked and popped right open with just a little pressure. Inside, I discovered important documents like his and my mother’s marriage license, a small wooden bible, a Jesus Saves lapel pin, and three tiny plastic bracelets—two pink and one blue. The wording had yellowed over the years, but I could still read “Medlock Girl” and my birth date on one of the little pink bracelets. I held that tiny pink bracelet close to my heart for what seemed like hours.

It was at that moment I realized how very much my Daddy cherished me. He loved me so much that he even treasured my baby bracelet. Today, I keep that baby bracelet in a secret compartment of my purse as a reminder of how much he loved me.I miss my Dad but I am thankful that I have so many wonderful memories of him.  He had embarrassing nicknames for me that he loved to call me in front of my friends. He had the most precious chuckle that I could always pick out of a crowd. He loved eating Hostess apple pies and cherry pies with his coffee for breakfast. (Maybe that’s why I prefer a Snickers and a Diet Coke as my “breakfast of champions.”) But most of all, I remember how much he loved me. It was that unconditional, all-consuming kind of love. I never had to question his love because he showed me every single day.I realize that not everyone was privileged to grow up with a father like Walter Medlock…. Maybe you are estranged from your father. Maybe your dad was abusive, and you’re still dealing with the emotional scars he caused. Or, maybe you don’t even know your earthly father. No matter your situation, I have good news. You have a Heavenly Father who treasures you, and He has little plastic bracelets—His promises of love—all throughout His Word. Every time you find one like, Jeremiah 31:3 that says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” you’ll want to hold it close to your heart—just like I did. Spend some time discovering how much your Heavenly Father loves you today. It’ll change your life.

Here are a few “promises of love” to meditate on today:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT)

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

He is Your God

Last year, I was visiting Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, where Bishop TD Jakes was guest speaking, and what he shared took hold of my heart and hasn’t let go. For that reason, I feel I must share it with you, too, because it’s just that good.We were studying in the book of Exodus, when God is calling Moses to be His mouthpiece to Pharaoh, and Moses tries to convince God that He has chosen the wrong guy—remember that passage? Moses didn’t think Pharaoh would listen to him. After all, Moses stuttered. Plus, he felt unworthy to be used by God because he had murdered an Egyptian (read about this account in Exodus chapter 2).I love this entire exchange between Moses and Almighty God, but the part I love best is when God identifies Himself as “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Bishop Jakes pointed out that when God said that to Moses, it was the very first time He had ever identified Himself in that way.This is significant.See, when God said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” He had already renamed Jacob and called him Israel, so why wouldn’t God say, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” when saying this to Moses? Why use Jacob’s old name?

Bishop Jakes has a theory as to why God chose to identify Himself in this way—because there’s a little Jacob in all of us.Sure, we can understand why God would say He is the God of Abraham. After all, Abraham was a friend of God (Second Chronicles 20:7). And, of course we can understand why God would say He was the God of Isaac. I mean, Isaac was the child of promise given to Abraham and Sarah, though her womb was dead (Genesis 21). But, the God of Jacob? Really, Jacob? His very name means “deceiver,” and that’s exactly what he did to his older brother, cheating him out of his birthright. (Genesis 25:19-34).But that’s why God included Jacob in His lineup. God wanted Moses to know that even though he was a murderer, He still loved him. He was still his God, and He still had a plan for him.Very few of us will ever be as perfect as Abraham or Isaac, but we can all relate to Jacob, right? See, God wanted us to know that He is our God, too, no matter what we’ve done.You can boldly say, “He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and (fill in your name)” because He is! He loves you and He calls you His own. (Read Ephesians 1:13-14.)So, the next time the devil tries to convince you that you’re of no use to God, that you’ve done too many bad things in your life, that you aren’t worthy—say out loud: “Devil, you’re a liar! I am a child of the Most High God, and according to Jeremiah 29:11, He has a great plan for my life.”Pray this with me: “Father, thank You for being my God, even when I fail. Thank You for loving me and never giving up on me. In the Mighty Name of Your Son, Jesus, Amen.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Exodus 3:6 (NIV)

You’re Almost There

Allyson, my then 20-year-old daughter, and I were very excited to hike Runyon Canyon in LA. So many people had told us that it was a “must do” so we were pumped about finally getting the chance to do it; however, we didn’t realize there were several different courses to the top, and we somehow ended up on the more advanced trail.Scary.Ally, who is 25 years younger than I am and in very good shape, was even huffing and puffing a little as we made our way up the steep inclines. I had gone way past huffing and puffing. If I could have caught my breath, I would have told Ally that I wanted to stop and rest for a bit, but I didn’t have enough energy or air to try and holler for her as she hiked ahead.I felt as though the hikers who passed by on their way down were secretly mocking me, and I was too proud to give up before reaching the top. I wanted to take that all-important Runyon Canyon selfie, documenting the fact that I had actually completed the hike, and on the advanced trail at that!Still, as the sun beat down, I wanted to give up. Just then, I made eye contact with one of those hikers on the way back down the trail. She must have sensed my desperation because she smiled and encouraged, “You’re almost there!”With that piece of needed information, I had hope once again so I put one Nike in front of the other, and pressed on. Turns out, that helpful hiker was correct—I was almost to the top. I just didn’t know it. I was able to finish and arrive at my destination just moments later. Honestly, if she hadn’t shared that important tidbit of information, I might have quit just shy of my goal. I would’ve missed out on that feeling of accomplishment, and I never would’ve had the chance to take the celebratory Runyon Canyon selfie. Most importantly, I would have missed out on sharing that magical moment with my daughter.

That experience made me wonder how many times in life I had quit right before my breakthrough. I wondered how many times I might’ve missed out on something amazing because I threw in the towel too soon. How about you? Have you also been guilty of quitting when circumstances aren’t ideal or when a situation gets too tough?Apparently we’re not alone. Minister of the gospel and sports enthusiast, Chip Brim, shared a vision that God had given him. The Lord showed him thousands of Christians running down the football field. They started off strong, running with all of their might, striving toward their goal. But when they reached the one-yard line, they fell to the ground. Not one of them made it across the goal line to score that all-important touchdown. Instead, they all perished right there—one yard from their destiny.Chip asked the Lord, “Why? What happened?” God told him, “They gave up too soon. They threw in the towel. They didn’t know how close they were…”So, my friends, if you’ve fallen down on the one-yard line—get back up. Ask God to help you. He will do His part if you’ll do yours. Just don’t give up. Keep pressing toward your goals! Because here’s the good news—you’re almost there!Pray this with me: Father, help me to stay on course and remain encouraged so that I don’t quit—no matter how hard it gets. Thank You, Lord, for equipping me with everything I need—spiritually and physically—to finish well. In the Name of Your Son Jesus, Amen.

But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”  2 Chronicles 15:7 (NASB)

 This post is an excerpt from my inspirational book, “Love & Care For The One and Only You.” You can find it online at Amazon and Barnesandnoble.

Shall We Dance?

Since our oldest daughter, Abby, was getting married that June, Jeff and I decided it might be a good idea to take some dance lessons since we knew there would be lots of dancing at the reception, and we really didn’t want to embarrass ourselves or Abby. (Jeff and I were high school sweethearts and we’ve danced at a lot of dances over the years, but we’ve never danced well. Sure, we’ve had a good time but we truly had no idea what we’re doing.) So, surprisingly, when I suggested we take ballroom dance lessons that Fall, he wholeheartedly agreed. I didn’t even have to coerce him!After just a few weeks, we’d learned some Salsa, Swing, the Foxtrot and the basic Waltz. We were making great progress, but we were no Fred and Ginger…we were more like Fred and Wilma. Still, we were enjoying our time on the dance floor.But, dancing isn’t all that we learned.One week, we had the entire class laughing because Jeff picked me up, pulled me where he wanted me to go on the dance floor, and proclaimed, “Woman, let me lead!”Apparently, in my enthusiasm to get the steps just right, I had taken over “the lead,” which had us bumbling and fumbling all over the dance floor. While it was a humorous moment, it was also a teachable one.Our amazing and accomplished dance teacher Kathy Thompson (who is also the owner of Kat’s Performing Arts Studio in our hometown) stopped the music, smiled, and said: “Ballroom is enjoyed the most when it is done correctly. With the man leading very strongly and the woman following his lead. Just the way God has intended a man and woman to live together in this world. This makes the unit so enjoyable for the participants and to those observing.”I think every man in the room said a hearty, “Amen.”Jeff pulled me in for a big hug and said, “See, you gotta let me lead!”He was right, and so was Kathy.Jeff is the spiritual leader of our home, and I respect him with every fiber in me, but sometimes in my overzealousness, I try and take the lead and everything gets out of whack. Just like our dance became ugly and confusing on the dance floor when I took the lead, our marriage lacks harmony and ease when I become “Tammy Takeover.” Truly, life is so much sweeter when we do things God’s way. Ephesians 5:25-33 clearly tells us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and that wives are to respect their husbands. This passage of scripture has gotten a bad reputation in some circles, but it shouldn’t because it works.The Word always works!When our husbands love us the way that they should, and we respect them as we should, we move through life as one, and it’s a beautiful dance.

“Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

Just Look Up!

A few years ago when I moved my youngest daughter, Ally, from one part of Los Angeles to her new apartment in the Fashion District, we had to learn an entirely different part of the city. While our everyday exploring was fun, we neither one have a very good sense of direction, and at times we became quite lost.  But you know what always helped us find our way back to Ally’s apartment complex?Jesus.Well, not Jesus exactly but a large illuminated “Jesus Saves” sign that is situated near her new apartment. Whenever we found ourselves a bit turned around, we’d just look up, and immediately we knew our way home.One night as we were following the brightly-illuminated “Jesus Saves” sign home, I couldn’t help but think how much it paralleled my own life. Any time I have lost my way, all I’ve had to do is look up and find Jesus.He is my compass.Whenever I need answers, I go to His Word. Whenever I need encouragement, I turn to Him in prayer. Whenever I need guidance, I simply look up. Jesus has always been and will always be the One who guides me when I’m unsure which way to go; the One who loves me when I feel unlovable; the One who encourages me when I am questioning my choices; and the One who promises to never leave me, nor forsake me.He is the One.Is He the One in your life? If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, it’s not too late. You don’t have to be at an altar in an ornately-decorated church to make Jesus the Lord of your life. You don’t have to have a priest or a minister present. All you have to do is pray this simple prayer: “Father, I come to you in the Name of Jesus, and I ask you to forgive me of my sins and fill me up with Your love. I believe Jesus died for my sins that I might have eternal life, and I am so grateful. Today, I give my life to You. Be my compass, Lord. I love you. Amen.” If you just prayed this prayer, let me be the first to welcome you into the Family of God. I also want to encourage you to tell someone about your decision today and find a local church to plug into and be a part of. Begin reading the Bible every day, and spend time praying daily, too. Get ready! This journey of faith is exciting!  And, remember, if you get lost—just look up.

3 Tips for Your Writing Journey

I was a lot like you. I had ideas for stories and dreamed of getting published, but I didn’t know how to get started. I knew I could write, but I wasn’t sure how to break into the various markets. Here’s a secret that I learned: everyone starts out in the same place. We all doubt our abilities. We all argue with God, asking, “Are You sure I can do this?” And, we all learn and grow one step at a time.That’s how I started, and now I have more than 70 books published with close to 3 million books sold! It’s been an adventure! God has opened the doors, but I’ve been ready to walk through them because I have continued to learn, grow, write, network, rewrite, grow some more, etc. It’s a process. It’s a journey. It’s a privilege!So I’d like to share three tips about this writing journey with you.

Tip #1: Do it afraid! If God has called you; He will equip you. But you have to be willing to take that step of faith.

Tip #2: Don’t despise small beginnings. Just because you desire to write a 365 day devotional for women, don’t shy away from writing a 200 word Sunday School take-home paper story.

Tip #3: Let God lead you and define you. Step out of your “writing comfort zone” and write in a different genre. Grow as a writer. You might just find out that you’re not only a devotional writer but also a ghostwriter.It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s when we don’t try that we fail. I have the opportunity to teach more in-depth on these topics as well as offer some really practical tips to help you on your writing journey, through my video teachings on Serious Writer Academy. I hope you’ll join me and my colleagues at SWA and have your very own writers conference in the comfort of your own home—learn in your jammies! Yay!I’ve got more great tips for you in my next email , so be sure to watch for it.Where are you on your writing journey? What question do you have about taking that next step?

Special Offer

Here’s a link to my classes with Serious Writer Academy. If you take a class of mine between now and Dec. 5, your name goes in a drawing for a FREE signed book of mine, either: “When Chocolate Isn’t Enough: An Inspirational Survival Guide for Moms” (A humorous devotional for Moms with recipes included!) or “Sister For Sale” (A MOPS-approved children’s picture book about sibling rivalry.)