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Life of an Ordinary Aussie Woman

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

How can I reach the younger generation?

Yesterday I received an email in response to my post, 'An open letter to church-going Christians in Australia from an Ordinary Gen-Xer'.  If you'd like to read it simply click here.

The email message was from an Aussie Christian who said my letter was helpful, as they had been wanting to know how to reach younger people. They then described themselves as 'older', yet one of the youngest in their congregation, and also without any close friendships at church. They wrote about being engaged with at church only when the others "wanted something done". This person expressed their desire to reach others who were seeking, and said they felt this is why they were placed by God in this church...To be there for those who are seeking. They then asked how do they 'reach' the younger generations without urging them to come to church or knocking on strangers' doors.

This is my response below. I want to share it here as a post, as I feel this person is NOT alone with their desire or struggle.

Thanks for your email. I am glad to know the post helped in some way!

I loved reading about your heart for 'reaching others' who are seeking, and I can relate to what you're saying about being in a church community where you feel without close friendships, and the experience of feeling only being engaged with when you're 'useful'. Yes, I know how that can feel. I personally don’t think people’s age is a valid reason for them not engaging with others of a different age. I have gone to church with beautiful older people who pastorally care for others. I also know however when certain age groups are missing from church communities, how the church as a ‘family’ is incomplete.

I want to preface this email by stating, I am not God and I do not want to take His place in your life. I’m happy to offer my opinion and perspective from my own journey and experience, but I urge you to pray and read scripture for guidance as this is the most trustworthy source. J  When I pray and read scripture first, The Lord uses secondary sources such as Christian books, sermons, and His genuine people for confirmation. (I’m not saying you haven’t been praying and reading scripture!)

Basically my whole letter is urging ‘the church’ – that being church communities – to reach Gen Xers. The advice I give relates to how the church community, with its individual members can reach others (specifically my generation). In the letter I speak about sermons (for those who preach). I speak about Sunday school (for Sunday school volunteers and coordinators) not babysitting our children. I speak to all members about being genuine and transparent with their lives, to elders and leaders about discipleship, for example.

My letter is to church communities, as a family of loving believers, and I feel this is your struggle. It seems you are in a church community where you are working predominately alone in your ministry to ‘reach others’ and you are in a church community that is incomplete in regards to the younger generations being absent to make the community a whole family. This is a problem because you are not being pastorally cared for by the church community yourself, and people will come to church to be ministered to by the body of Christ and for a church family; not just because one person is friendly. No one person alone makes the body, as I’m sure you would have heard before. It takes a family of believers with their individual functions, as His body, to minister to others and meet their needs.

Personally I know I cannot meet all the needs of others alone, and I don’t desire to do so. I believe Jesus gives us the model for team ministry in scripture; we see the core group of disciples ministering with Jesus, and we also read of Jesus sending them out in pairs. The early church gathered as a family, and when children, youth, young adults and gen-xers are missing the family is incomplete. This is not to say God can’t or won’t provide the growth…Just that a core family is usually necessary for a church community others will join.

In saying this, I’m not trying to say The Lord has not wanted you to be where you are, or that He desires you to leave your church community at this time. I believe you need to seek His will on this matter for yourself. I believe through Jesus we become Children of God, and as His Children He parents us to grow more like Jesus as we journey along. He lovingly works to mature us in our faith and relationship with Him, and this can result in us finding ourselves in challenging situations where we really need to push closer to Him, praying for wisdom and to hear His voice for guidance…and this is not a bad thing, even though pruning and growth can be painful at times. Ultimately we must desire to be in His will for our lives first and foremost, for this is how we will bear fruit for His Kingdom and glory.

I believe when church communities, as the body, work together in loving unity and respect they will grow and gain church members. I know from experience just how challenging it is when we feel isolated within a church community and this is not how it should be! We should have our own ‘cup filled’ by Christ and His body, and then minister to others out of the overflow.

Younger people, which includes Millennials, as well as my generation, need reaching through acts of love and kindness and this can take many forms. I don’t believe there is a formula as people are individuals. We must be led by God’s prompting and then people will respond and ‘come to church’ when The Lord makes a way and softens their heart to your loving outreach. When we reach new people, we would not disciple them on our own and this is what getting people to church is about…It’s about them hearing the gospel, responding, and then being discipled…It’s not about doing religion. When The Lord makes a way for us to reach new people and we are able to invite them to church, it should be to a family community of authentic, genuine, loving people who will minister to the new person, and each other, as His body should.

I appreciate this is a long response, but I do genuinely care about my fellow sisters and brothers. I hope it does not make you feel pressured in any way to leave your church. I just hope it gives you something to think about while praying and seeking a scriptural answer from God. We all have needs; no matter how spiritually mature we are. We all need a church family. Even though genuine Christians today may be the minority, The Lord is always faithful to provide, and meet our needs. So keep positive and prayerful. Be expectant that He will guide you to meet your needs and heart’s desire to reach others for His glory and Kingdom. I am praying for you.

Love Melanie.

Monday, 15 May 2017

My story so far...

Over the last six or so months I have been blessed to meet many new people through my fiance. Our upcoming wedding this June will be conducted by my fiance's pastor and as he wanted to get to know me better to personalise the service, I said to him I would write down something about who I am as a person. This post is what I wrote today for the pastor. 

Interestingly, I began this blog in 2013 and over this time I have written posts which give an insight to my story, yet I don't think I've ever provided a full testimony. Well, this post is my testimony from when I was a young girl up to today. Of course it doesn't provide every detail, as that would make a book too big to write! For those 'other stories' you'll just have to read the other posts...But here it is thanks to God!

As promised I said I’d write down some things about my life to help you get to know me a little better. So here goes.

I first met Jesus as a young girl around the age of 8 through His people in a small country town here in Victoria called, Merino. Although I did not understand everything about the Christian faith maturely, I knew I wanted to commit my life to Jesus and asked to be baptised. I loved everything about church; the people, services, Sunday school, hymns and fellowship.

We only attended church for a short time (probably 2 years) and my dad moved us to Melbourne. It was then my parent’s marriage came to an end. We had already stopped going to church since moving to Melbourne, and after my dad left we didn’t return. My weekends became dedicated to the performing arts. I was a talented dancer and soon was teaching classes, I also sang and acted a little. My teenage stage of life was very common, being that during my transition into autonomous adulthood I rebelled and chose myself over God. I often fought with my mother who had also disconnected from God, and I left home during year 12. I was lost and this came through in the poor life choices I made. I didn’t pursue university even though I was talented enough. I chose to settle for a life that was much easier; teaching dance and settling for the first guy who was willing to commit.

Fast forward a decade, and I was 28 with 3 young boys. My youngest had been born in April and I had three children under the age of 3 at the time. I presented as a ‘model citizen’. A married woman, with 3 children, a home in a lovely small town, and my own performing arts school. What people didn’t know was I suffered terribly with anxiety, and had done so from around the age of 21. Furthermore my marriage was anything but healthy.

During the day I kept things under wrap, however during the night I would awake from sleep in panic. It wasn’t every night but it was often enough. I didn’t tell anyone, I thought they would think I was crazy. I knew things weren’t right between Jesus and me. I was scared Jesus would come back and I wouldn’t be saved, and I was afraid of losing my marriage. I’d awake thinking I was separated from Jesus, and I’d see shadows on my bedroom wall and felt almost frozen. Yet I’d call out to Jesus to help me, and He did every time! But stubbornly I still refused to give my life to Him…

My third son had been born in the April of 2005 and I was living a life where I was ruled by fear. My marriage was in a cycle where we’d have a big fight about once a month, and I still suffered silently with anxiety. I remember my birthday that June and the awful time I was having in my marriage. I think it was the next month in July we spent a night in Moama at the Maddison Spa resort, as we’d had our house painted and it smelt awful. In the room was a Bible placed there by The Gideons. If you had of asked me at that time what led me to open it, I would have said I had no idea. This was because I wanted nothing to do with Christianity! This is not an exaggeration. Christian people, even Christmas carols, were too challenging for me to even be around, or listen to…Let alone open a bible to read!

Yet thanks to God’s amazing mercy and power I was led to open it. I opened to a passage of Old Testament scripture I have never found again…or perhaps never read the same again. You see, I read a section of ancient scripture in which God was speaking to a country about their desperate state, but as I read it, I knew it described me perfectly…The me I tried to hide from everyone else…The me nobody but God alone could describe.

I was convicted there and then of my rebellion and knew I had an eternal choice to make. I knew my life had come to this point in time, where I was standing at a precipice. I was either going to choose myself and be separated from God forever, or I was going to call upon His grace, to receive forgiveness and reconciliation by surrendering all of myself once and for all.

With my cheeks burning, I went into the bathroom and knelt down in the corner of the room, upon the tiled shower recess floor and repented…I called out to Jesus as I had done many times before, but this time counting the cost of what it truly meant to receive salvation…Offering myself back in love, to The One who is love Himself, which is nothing in comparison to His gift of life and peace.

Shortly after that night I went to a shop and bought my own bible and began going to church. My whole life changed. I gave up teaching performing arts as my eyes were opened to how sin had infiltrated my own life in so many ways, and the lives of others. So many good gifts from God are ruined by sin and dance when it becomes secular is no exception. I knew however that nothing would be wasted, and that I must use the past decade of experience and skill of working with young people now for God’s glory and Kingdom.

The next year with hardly any scriptural knowledge yet a desire to be obedient, I began volunteering delivering Christian Religious Education in state schools. The following year in 2007 I had enrolled in a theological degree with Ridley College in Melbourne. I also volunteered in many church activities for example; Sunday school, a local Christian Kids’ Club, youth group, worship leading, running a choir along with other things. I had a great time but ultimately I my heart yearned for others to experience the freedom and love that I had through Jesus. During these years my mother even recommitted her life to Jesus. I remember often just being amazed, thinking that nothing was impossible for God; for if He could reach my cold heart, and raise up a simple, dance teacher to serve Him, what couldn’t He do?!

My two biggest fears were, Jesus coming back and not being saved and my marriage ending. Jesus took both of these fears and dealt with them.

After repenting and committing to Jesus I don’t think I've ever woken up during the night in panic again. I still battled with anxiety, and sometimes I still do, but it’s not been the same. The second fear, Jesus dealt with so lovingly and gently, after I’d been a committed Christian for around seven years. I became single. I lost my marriage and it pretty much happened over night. At the time I knew things weren’t good, they hadn’t been very good for around 2 years, but I still didn’t see it coming. You see, after I had been saved we began having a much healthier marriage as I no longer desired to fight. Our marriage was the best it had ever been and this lasted around 5 years. Things between us however began to decline when one day I confessed to him sins I committed before we married, when I was around 19-21years old. We worked through it, but I also know it was challenging for my ex as he knew I had really changed and he hadn't. He became very unsupportive and hard towards me. The crunch came near the end of 2011. I remember we lived in Echuca, and I saw my ex harden his heart to a video gospel message one day; it wasn’t much longer after that, that he left. I found out around 7 months later he had been with someone else for quite some time while still being with me. I was absolutely gutted. 

Yet Jesus was with me through the pain and tears. I felt Him so close. It was a really challenging time, but He took me on a journey of regaining confidence and learning whom He had made me to be as His daughter. I knew I couldn’t control my ex, but for the first time in my life as a single person, committed to Christ, I knew I could make my own healthy choices. I was determined to do things differently, compared to when I was a young adult. Plus I had a reservoir of amazing second chances He’d already given me over the previous seven years to focus upon.

I didn’t get angry at God. I gave Him my tears. I loved my children to the best of my ability. I picked my study back up at the beginning of 2013 that I had taken a break from. I took up art, began blogging, and later the guitar and Christian songwriting. During this time I had a number of close people in my life pass away. It was tough and lonely at times, but The Lord was faithful through it all. I had His love and the support of my family and church. I was also incredibly blessed to have witnessed my youngest brother also commit his life to Christ.

At the end of 2015 when finishing my degree, I knew The Lord was asking me to 'let go' and trust Him for the future He had planned for me. It was challenging as a single mother, but I took a step of faith and gained employment for a church in Adelaide. I worked there for a year in a dual position of Children’s/Family Pastor and school chaplain. Then The Lord opened a door for the boys and I to return back to Victoria. Around seven months ago I began working in 3 state schools for Access Ministries as a full-time school chaplain. I wasn’t long back in Victoria when I met Richard.

I had reached a place of wondering if I’d ever find a suitable, godly man, who would love and embrace me for all who I am, and all whom I’m called and made to be in Christ. A mature, Christian man whom my boys and I would be a great fit with. I knew what I wanted and needed, but I also knew it was a specific and long order! When I first saw Richard I needed God to speak to me about him, as due to being hurt I projected stuff onto Richard, and I didn’t even know him! That being said, I’m glad it happened this way, as I had God’s peace going forward with Richard, and The Lord kept providing us both with confirmation after confirmation.

I know I do not deserve the blessings my Heavenly Father has continually poured out on me and my boys. I am certainly not perfect. I am a work in progress. Sanctification is a journey that God takes us on, as we continue in our relationship with Him through Jesus. Once I was afraid but that was a delusion from the enemy. I have found love and peace and His Name is Jesus. Living my life with Jesus is one where He lovingly matures me through His love and grace – fear is replaced with peace through forgiveness and reconciliation.

I believe that every good and perfect gift comes down from God, and this marriage I am now entering into is such a gift. To experience being loved by a man, as Christ loves His Church. To feel so cherished and secure is such an amazing experience. To feel God’s peace and not worry is balm for my heart…
I simply want my whole life to forever sing His praise, for He is so Good.
I hope reading my story helps you get to know me a little better. Without Jesus I have no story and this is why I live the way I do. I simply want my whole life to forever sing His praise, for He is so Good.

This is my story so far and I am looking forward to the good plan God has for me, Richard, and the boys.


(If you're reading this and were like I once was - you believe in Jesus but are living a self-directed, rebellious life. I encourage you to repent as I did that night in the hotel room. Pray and ask Him to forgive you, and commit to following Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You too will begin a new life where you have peace with God and a heart no longer missing its foundational core. There is nothing that comes close in life to this. Love Melanie.)

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

I Can't Take Any More!

I'm not strong enough, I can't take any more...

Have you felt like this?

I have. Fear. It can be crippling, yes even for 'The Christian'.

I'm not strong enough, I can't take any more...It's not a message we often hear.

Fear. Irrational or rational...does it really matter?

Crippling debt. Marriage infidelity. Defiant, rebellious children. Cancer. Mental Illness. Job loss. Addiction. I could go on and on...

The only solution I have ever found to trials and valleys has been total surrender of the problem to Jesus Christ. And I am writing this post to address what this actually means...Because how many of us have heard, “Give it to Jesus” without understanding what this truly means? And because what happens when we know the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”, yet feel totally incapable of victory? What happens when we feel so low and afraid because we've reached the end of ourselves, and are scared of being cut off from Jesus forever? What happens when we've confessed and repented and still struggle? What happens when we cannot control our circumstances and are so confused? What happens when we say, “I'm not strong enough, I can't take any more...”?

The only solution I have ever found to trials and valleys has been total surrender of the problem to Jesus Christ...But what does this mean?

It means when I reach a point where I know I am utterly helpless and have no strength left to change anything, or ability left to change anything, I cry out; “I cannot do it. I have tried and I have failed. I need you Jesus to intervene. Please take control and intervene, I am helpless without you taking over, I need your super-natural help. I lay it all down and give this situation to you. Forgive me and help me.” Then I fast and pray and wait for His intervention and strength to equip me, and He does.

It is then I experience victory because of His grace and mercy.

Fear. It can take many forms but often I have found it is linked with our own feelings of failure and inadequacy...But this is just the point I am trying to make with this post. We are totally inadequate and will continue to fail without surrendering all of ourselves, not just at the moment of salvation, but moment-by-moment to Jesus as we journey with Him.

Life does not stop. I don't believe bliss lasts super-long for anyone.

We will feel weary, even as Christians. We will struggle. But there is a place where your fear will have to face the God you know, and that is on your knees in a prayer of surrender and commitment to Him taking control. You will find strength and healing through prayer, fasting, and devotional scripture reading while you WAIT for Him to make the way.

Yes, we can receive comfort from other people and we can make our own resolutions, but being a Christian is about relationship, and that relationship is ongoing...moment-by-moment and day-by-day.

Remember, there is freedom in humility, and sanctification is a lifetime journey. Love, Melanie.

Let me leave with 'Oh my soul' from Casting Crowns: