Today I am desperate…

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; APART FROM ME, YOU CAN DO NOTHING." John 15:5

Life September 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 11:49 am

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future  Jeremiah 29:11

I believe this because my physical life was spared nearly 22 years ago.  As a young person, newly committed to living my life for Jesus, this verse rang very true for me.  I knew, even at the tender age of 10, that God must have a plan for me if he chose to let me beat the odds.  And as if you needed a *spoiler alert*…He has been faithful to prosper me, protect me and has blessed my future days.  This is the story of my near death experience almost 22 years ago…

March 5, 1989 was an ordinary Sunday at the Sabel house.  Mom, Erik and I were getting ready to go to church, while dad was getting ready to make his weekly grocery shopping trip.  I was 10 years old, Erik was 14.  Mom was faithful to take us to church week after week and dad, while not a church goer at the time, was supportive enough of our going that it never seemed out of place in our family.

If you’re from the Midwest, or have ever been there in the winter, you know that starting in November, there is likely to be some sort of precipitation clear through March or April.  Be it snow, sleet, slush, ice, rain, whatever…it’s likely to be on the ground for the long haul.  This March 5, as I’m told, there was a dusting of snow on the grass and a dangerous thing we refer to as “BLACK ICE” on the hard surfaces.  One of my only memories from that morning is my brother helping my mom down the slippery 2 steps outside our front door, in a gentlemen kind of way.  The remainder of that day and the weeks that followed remain pictures that have been painted in my mind by those who were witnesses to them.  God protected my mind by resting it as only He can.

I played in the youth bell choir at our church and we were going to play that morning.  We were to arrive a bit earlier than usual to set up.  As some are known to be consistently late, we were known for being perpetually on time or early, so when we didn’t arrive at church on schedule, people began to worry.  And they were right to do just that.  The county road that we lived on was lined with corn fields that make any hard surface in between especially hazardous during the winter.  This was not news to us.  My mom took great care and caution on the roads and took every chance she could to be preparing us for our driving days.  My brother especially couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.  But it didn’t matter than morning.  Our full size, blue and silver striped van hit black ice at the slow speed of 15-20 mph and became a machine driving itself.  There was no way that the vehicle could be controlled with nothing by ice beneath the wheels.  It reached it’s  final destination when it collided with a wooden telephone pole on the side of the road.

The law of physics is a funny thing in that the force with which the van finally hit the telephone pole, was much greater than if we had simply hit it at 20 mph.  During the mere seconds that our van acted on the whims of physics and nature, my mom’s head managed to hit the side window, shattering it.  The impact left her ankle broken and body bruised.  My brother suffered a sprained back and a concussion coming to in time to begin walking home on that cold March morning to call an ambulance.  911 did not exist yet, let alone cell phones.

And there I laid, on the floor behind the front seats with my head lodged under the driver’s seat.  I had been thrown from my seat during the impact.  It is worth noting that I am an obvious proponent of seat belts.  My mom was/is too, having been head nurse of ICU for years.  It is our best guess that the fabric of my bulky winter coat had prevented the buckle from latching together completely.  As I laid there, I was bleeding from my mouth, my nose and my ears.  This is the result of a severe head trauma.  One of the other things that happens when the brain is injured, is that it induces the vomit response.  So, not only was I bleeding, I was also throwing up…all while I was completely unconscious.  I lost consciousness the moment my brain suffered trauma.  Thank you Jesus.  I am certain that the amount of physical pain that I would have endured, would have been more than my body could handle and so God protected me.

The first, most notable hero of this traumatic event is my mom.  Shattered ankle and all, she ran from around the driver’s side door to the side of impact where the passenger door was jammed open.  She had already seen the pooling blood and knew that she had to escape panic mode and enter the mode that she knew so well from dealing with emergencies in the hospital.  This hero, my mom, called on her training and knew that to prevent my airway from obstructing completely and to prevent me from drowning in my own blood and vomit, she had to perform an action called a “jaw thrust”.  If you place your thumbs on either side of your jaw bones with your fingers resting in front of your ears and apply pressure with your thumbs, you will know what a jaw thrust is and if you sense what is happening in your throat when you apply pressure, you will know why that action essentially saved my life.

As my brother was making his way back to our house, less than a mile down the road, someone we knew was passing by and picked him up to go the rest of the way.  In hind sight, these details are so important in context of my life  just minutes from slipping away.  Being that we lived on the edge of the county probably made it feel like advanced help took an eternity to arrive.  I imagine that would be the case in any emergency, no matter how close help was.  When the ambulance did arrive, my mom continued to find herself caught somewhere between Head Nurse of an ICU emergency and Mama Bear modes.  She began barking out orders to those who were taking over.  She knew which doctors she wanted to operate on me, to care for me and demanded that they be there when we arrived.  Suffice it to say, so I’m told, that they heard her!

When we arrived at the ER, a team of doctors and nurses were there to “greet” us.  After a careful, but quick assessment of my plight, it was determined that I needed an emergency craniotomy (brain surgery) to remove the clot that begun to form in the tiny, delicate space between my brain and skull, called the subdural space.  The metal workings from beneath the driver’s seat of the van had caused 4 individual fractures of my skull.  The blood clot that was forming beneath it was only minutes from taking my life.  It had to be removed.

Before I was taken to the OR, the team of heroic doctors and nurses joined hands around me and prayed over me.  During the time it took to perform this life saving surgery, our faithful church family would file in one by one to stand vigil in the waiting room, figuratively and literally holding my parents and my brother up.  Now, as a parent, I cannot imagine the agony that it must have been for my family.

After the surgery, I was taken to a room in the pediatric wing of the hospital that was connected to the nurses station and had glass windows instead of a privacy wall.  I was too critical to not be observed at all times.  The Neuro Surgeon was in close contact with my parents and as a good doctor does, gave them two perspectives.  One, the text book, expected path of recovery.  Two, the unexpected, unknown path that is possible at any time because the human body is so intricate and unique.  The expected path was what was hoped for both because it was predicable and the outcome was positive.  Thank God, my recovery generally followed that course.

The coma that I was in was both natural and induced.  My body’s response to the trauma was to naturally go into preservation mode and rest.  But, medically speaking, it was necessary to make sure that there was no added stress to my already traumatized brain, and so I was under a partially medically induced coma as well.  As predicted, I began to “wake up” after 7 days.  I was not the same.  But, thankfully, this was not a surprise to my loved ones.  It is a blessing that today, we can laugh about the way I acted out just after this trauma.  As my dad puts it, “I was swearing like a sailor.”  Interestingly, this is common in head injuries.  I was completely uninhibited with my words.  I know for a fact that was I rude to visitors who only came to show their love and support.  Can you imagine feeling grateful to see things like this playing out because it was part of the healing course?  I’m sure my parents spent some awkward moments trying to explain to people that I was doing what they said I’d do.

Although  I was “awake”, I still have very little memory of the time I was in the hospital.  I have a memory of the most painful events after waking up.  One of them was when they removed the staples from my head incision.  The incision begins at the top center of my head and runs a straight line down the side of my head and ends just in front of my left ear.  I don’t know for sure how many staples were used to close the incision, but I know it hurt when they took them out.  I also remember feeling emotionally traumatized that all my hair was shaved off.  I was 10 years old and had long hair.  I was now resigned to wearing hats.  A luxury that I was granted by my amazing elementary school in spite of the “no hats” rule.  Incidentally, I wound up with quite a collection of hats.

I was discharged from the hospital only a couple days after waking up.  Certainly, there was no question that my care at home would be exemplary.  My memories after coming home are rather scattered and vague as well.  I remember sitting with my grandma who had come to stay with us from Florida and working on strengthening my facial muscles.  The entire left side of my body basically needed to relearn how to act.  I had trouble controlling my left leg when I walked.  Imagine taking a normal step with your right leg and then having to consciously throw your left leg out in front of you to take the next step.  That’s what I had to do to teach my brain to control that leg again.  I had to learn simple math facts and time basically from scratch.  Unfortunately math didn’t start out being my strong subject anyway.  What a drag!  I repeatedly squeezed a stress ball in my left hand to strengthen those muscles.  My writing on a page started out appropriately sized and gradually got smaller and smaller.  I had to relearn basic writing skill too.  My rehab was long and at times frustrating and difficult.  But when the options were weighed, we could deal with the temporary frustration.

I was in the 4th grade at the time of the accident.  By 5th grade, I had regained most of the skills that had been damaged.  A few residual things continued to plague me, and to this day, if I’m very tired you can see my droopy smile and if I tear up at a movie or a story, I only have tears out of my right eye.  Overall, my life has been a success story.  When I made the decision to become a nurse (I had long wanted to be a neuro surgeon, no doubt greatly influenced my the man that allowed his hands to be the source of my miracle), I had the opportunity to work beside Dr. Creselius, who had been my surgeon.  What a full circle moment for me.

Some years ago, one of the most dramatic memories returned to me.  When I was visiting home, I was listening to my mom tell the story of our accident.  She recalled that in the moment she knew that she was no longer in control our van sliding on the ice, she called out to God and said, “God, just let us live!”  When I heard it in her voice, for the first time, that split second in a time that I have no memory of at all, came back to me.  And to this day, I am praising him that He did just that…let us LIVE!


Writing September 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 9:29 am

I feel like I’m cheating on my blog!  Life has just whisked me away and left me unavailable for the one thing I truly love, MY WRITING!  As the school year approached, I became very ambitious.  I began saying “yes” more than I think I’ve ever said it before in my life.  When I became a wife, I was convicted to keep my time for my husband sacred and available.  When I became a mom, I was determined to keep their routines a priority.  I learned the art of saying “no”, while not offending and still participating in life.  Now, for the first time in 10 years, I said “yes” a few too many times.  And I feel like I’m missing out on life, even though I’m so involved in it.

I’ve made commitments that I will keep and I will joyfully and whole heartedly complete the tasks that I have begun.  But please forgive me if you start hearing me say, “no” more often.

And please understand that until then, my written words have become fewer and farther between.  But know full well that I have not abandoned my passion.  I will be back and better for it when I am.


Results September 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 10:31 am

“Results Not Typical”…that’s the disclaimer that nearly every weight loss program advertises.  It’s the fine print that really matters.  When I see all the before and after pictures during a Slim Fast or Weight Watchers add or the cut physique of a once fat person advertising P90X or any other home “gym”, I’m inclined to find their website and sign up.  That is until I read the fine print.  If the results are not typical, then I don’t want to try it.


Most of us see ourselves as fairly typical people, so when an advertisement suggests that you have to be atypical to get results, it’s a bit of a turn off.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Well, I was challenged today while I was struggling to run up another hill at our local park, to be “not typical”!  I want results!


A terrific opportunity turned up in my little town this week.  A “typical” woman had a vision to make her community more fit.  And by typical, I mean anything but.  She put out an offer to come and experience her exercise class (bootcamp)  for free this entire week.  She’s the only person I’ve ever met that could conduct 12 classes in 4 days.  NOT TYPICAL!  I made it my goal to show up for one class everyday this week.  Today, I finished it off with a little run on my own.  Today, I feel more than typical.  And as I reached the top of my last hill today, I actually believed that I could achieve results that fit the fine print.


There’s a deep spiritual element here.  The passage that comes to mind when I consider this is Romans 8:37

“No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 


Isn’t this a great passage?  At it’s basic face value, it’s awesome to think that I am a conqueror.  Because, let’s face it, every day we are faced with things that make us question that fact.  But the deeper value of this is even greater.  In context, it is suggesting that we are strengthened by the Spirit that lives in us.


All the way up in vs. 22, there is talk of hope, redemption, weakness.  Oh, sweet weakness!  Not a day goes by that I do not feel weak.  I know I’m not alone.  The good news is that there’s strength in that.  And the even better news is that God works for our good, He is for us and he has indeed made us more than conquerors.


This is NOT typical, friends.  Every time I read Romans 8, probably my favorite chapter in the Bible, I’m reminded and inspired.  Today, I’m thankful that it reminds me that I fit the fine print.  I can achieve results that are not typical, both physically and spiritually.  We serve a God who made me anything but typical.  Of this I am sure!


Time August 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 10:02 am

It’s not that I don’t have plenty of time.  My world just opened wide up when my kids recently started back to school.  This year, unlike any year yet, I am at home with myself and my time!  The question is how will I use it?

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.   Ephesians 5:15-17

When we wake each morning, we must choose how to live out the day ahead of us.  I love that just before this passage I quoted above, in verse 14 it says,  “Awake, sleeper, And arise…  And Christ will shine on you.”  Let me make a disclaimer here that indeed in verse 14, the reference is to “the dead”…those not alive in Christ.  But as a Christ follower, I look at this as it precedes verses 15-17 and I am encouraged. That just simply by waking up, I can receive the gift of Christ shining on me.  Don’t you wish that every day, getting out of bed was actually that joyful?  It can be!

Further, what will I do with the time that God has granted me for this day?  Over the summer, I observed my kids and thought to myself, “Idle time…”  Is that not what summer time is about for kids?  But consider the effects of idle time.  I found myself saying to them, ” The TV is going off, put your DS away…this idle time is turning your brain to mush!”  I’m becoming my mother after all!!!  As I get older and value my time more, I become more and more aware of how destructive idle time can be.  In 1 Timothy, the widow is warned about idle time, but I think it is applicable to us all… especially women;

“At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house ; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” (1 Tiimothy 5:13)

Today, I am challenged to organize my time so that I am the most effective that I can be.  For me that means making lists, having a plan and being purposeful!  What does it mean for you?  I challenge you to consider what happens when your time is idle and not well thought out.  And then consider how much more effective you can be with your time when it is first committed to God for his glory and purpose.  There’s nothing idle about that!


The Next Thing August 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 12:46 pm

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.  Ecclesiastes 7:8


Some people resist change.  I’m married to a person like that.  My son, takes after his dad and resists change.  I am not that way.   I often long for change.  I confess that I get bored easily and when “the next thing” nears, I become utterly impatient to the point of almost being debilitated.  The two things don’t mix well; desiring change often and the anxiety that I get when the change draws near!

For me, I get bored with the thing that I had once anticipated intensely.  For example, as the end of the school year neared, I became intensely anxious about what the summer would hold.  I worried about how our new neighborhood would accept me and how our lack of routine would effect our family.  I’m telling you, I lost sleep over anticipating the summer.  Now, the summer is less than one week from concluding and I find myself experiencing the same anticipation as I had just a couple of months ago.  But looking back, I can see that the Summer days that I had anticipated so much were fun-filled and did not deserve the anxious energy that I had invested in them before hand!

Now, I realize that from that description, it sounds more like I resist change than I look forward to it.  And perhaps there is room in there for a little resistance, but by in large, I look forward to it.  The scripture reference from Ecclesiastes resonates so deeply for me.  It’s the “end of the matter” that I actually long for.

When I  take the time to pull this scripture apart a little, I am encouraged by it;  “The end of a matter is better than its beginning…”  In other words, “The event of our trials and difficulties is often better than at first we thought.”(Henry’s Commentary)  Even if the event we anticipate isn’t a trial or difficulty, it’s the getting to it that I wish would hurry up.  For example, now that summer is coming to a close, I am filled with anticipation over school starting.  The beginning of school is neither a trial nor difficulty, quite the contrary in fact.  This year, my youngest begins Kindergarten and I, being a stay at home mom, eagerly anticipate a little me time.  But I still find myself longing for it’s beginning…simply to get the end, which is that me time that I so desire.

“…and patience is better than pride.” Matthew Henry’s commentary describes this as “calmness of spirit”.  Need I say more?

To be sure, it’s the calmness of spirit that I long for each day, but especially as I choose how to invest my energy anticipating the next thing.




To Know and Be Known August 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 11:05 pm

How I Overcame My Fear and Started a Blog (again)

The address to a friend’s blog appeared in my e-mail inbox on a regular day in 2005.  She had posted pictures of her beautiful family and was recording the special events that occurred in their lives.  “How cool!” I thought. “But I’ll keep jotting stuff down in my well organized, spiral bound calendars that sit nicely on each of my baby’s dressers.”  I wasn’t exactly sure if the world needed to see my life revealed on the World Wide Web.  I was clearly very naïve about the nature of the blogosphere.  The more I kept up on my friend’s life via her blog, the more intrigued I became.  I would typically take a spin by her blog as I would sit down to write in my computer journal that consisted of multiple Word documents.  The more I wrote in my journal, the more I discovered that I might be able to encourage someone with my words.

By 2005, the world of blogging was far from new.  But in my little circle of friends, blogging was just catching on.  And even at that, there were only a few testing the waters of blogging.  2006 was the year I took my first dip into the blogosphere.  The name of my first blog was aptly named “Three under 3”.  At that time I had 3 children all under 3 years old.  The content of my blog was not hard to come by as each and every day of my life was filled with a new adventure to be sure.  I blogged regularly for nearly 2 years and had some followers, which is a huge boost to any writers ego!  But I confess that life happened.  I didn’t stop writing, but it stopped being public.

After some major life events and changes, God began to stir deeply in the place of my heart that is passionate about writing.  I no longer had an active blog, but I was filling pages upon pages of journaling and inspiration that God laid on my heart.  At the time, I was blessed to be part of a sweet community of women who urged me to listen to God’s leading.  I dug my heels in and resisted the idea of becoming a blogger again because between 2006 and 2011, it seemed that every person that breathed had also become present in the blogosphere.  The non conformist in me said, “No!  Find another writing outlet!”  I did not want to be like everyone else.

However, the fact is that the invention of the “blog” has created a place for people to be in a community, so to speak.  I’m clearly not the only one who discovered that.  In my estimation, blogging has gained popularity for 2 main reasons; it’s a place for people to be known, whether it’s to inform or inspire and it’s also a place for people to know, to be informed and inspired.  These are the reasons that I finally broke through my fear and resistance to be like everyone else, and began actively blogging again.  The writer in me is happy to be putting myself out there again in hopes that my passion will inspire those who read and follow my blog.

You can now find me jotting things down at:

Many of my days are spent writing what's on my heart and getting places fast!




Open Doors June 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — erinmelby @ 12:20 pm

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:6-8

Have you ever felt like you had too much on your plate?  And yet every one of the things on your plate were things you had asked for?  You just never imagined that they’d all show up at the same time.

Today, I searched the scripture for a deeper understanding of the passage above.  Like many other passages, this is one that is used often to encourage a brother or sister who is  discouraged.  And like many others it is a passage easily misused.  Indeed, God is not in the business of forking over whatever our little hearts desire or minds can conceive.  Always feeling at risk of misinterpreting God’s Word, I find it extremely worthwhile to understand the context of what I am finding comfort in.  So, as I find comfort in the familiar “ask, seek, knock” passage, I am intrigued and challenged by the previous chapter’s instruction.

Matthew chapter 6 includes the also familiar instructions; giving selflessly (Matthew 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”), proper prayer (Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”) , the warning about the place where we store our treasure (Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”), and the equally challenging warning against our propensity to worry (Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”)  Matthew 6  is packed full of challenging truths!

The fact that these instructions come just before the very freeing permission to ASK God for what we want, SEEK it with the hope of actually finding it and the proverbial KNOCK, that we anticipate will turn into the open door we have been looking for, is humbling.  It’s almost as if God set up the boundaries before he said, “Go”.  I find a certain comfort in this idea.  Just as I have learned as a parent, that my children thrive and are more comfortable when they understand the boundaries, I believe that God, as our Heavenly Father, knows that we too need boundaries.  Certainly, if all God said to me was “ask, seek, knock”, I would be tempted to show no restraint and then be terribly disappointed.

Please don’t misunderstand though.  I believe in a big God who delights in giving in a big way.  I have asked God for many bold things in my life, sometimes without restraint.  God’s not mad at me for that.  In fact, returning to my “full plate” analogy from the top, I am currently experiencing a flood of blessings related to specific things that I have asked for.  It’s worth noting that it is within the my personal effort to seek these things out, that God is allowing me to realize them.

Ask!  When we ask God for something, it is in the context of prayer.  As in my case, frequent prayer, earnest prayer.  God hears us.  But He’s unlikely to bestow the blessing without our show of effort–Seek!  I love the way that the Matthew Henry Commentary states this, “We must not only ask but seek; we must second our prayers with our endeavors; we must, in the use of the appointed means, seek for that which we ask for, else we tempt (test) God.”  And finally, Knock!  Think about what happens when you knock at someone’s door.  It’s such a common action that we don’t really consider our feeling when we do it, but if we do, there’s a moment of anticipation wondering if someone will come to the door and open it or not.  We wonder what their reaction will be when we knock, don’t we?  It’s no accident that this precept is concluded with knocking on God’s proverbial door.  The ask is easy.  Done from far off perhaps, a safe place that’s not too close and demands little interaction.  Seeking is a personal thing.  I can seek something on my own, again without a great deal of interaction.  But knocking demands an expectation. After all, you wouldn’t have knocked if you didn’t expect an answer.  In the realest sense, the final step here involves a very personal interaction with God.  We may wrestle with God, plead with God.  But once we’ve gotten the gumption to knock, it’s in our best interest to keep on knocking.  Persevere friends!

The best news is that by Asking, Seeking and Knocking, we are promised to be given to, to find and that the door will indeed be opened.

So, to wrap this up,  let us be encouraged once again that though our plates be full and at times we are overwhelmed, remember  that we have asked for and sought after many of these things.  May we simply recognize the door that’s been opened due to our knocking.


%d bloggers like this: