Visions of grandeur

I had the amazing opportunity to go see the Newsboys’ ‘We Believe’ tour tonight with my first cousin once-removed and her husband. Opening for Newsboys were the bands 7eventh Time Down and Family Force 5, and both bands are amazing and talented. I haven’t done too much listening to 7eventh Time Down in the past, but I think tonight’s gonna change that in the near future. (Actually, I have them playing on Spotify right now. The change has begun!)

Family Force 5 are a much louder group than I typically choose for my playlists, but I enjoy the crazy style of worship that they engage in. Which kind of ties in with the specific purpose for this blog post.

For whatever reason (and call me crazy and disagree with me here; that’s fine) I have always struggled to view Newsboys’ performances as anything more than shows for human accolades. Why, I don’t know. Because I’ve seen much more effectually fantastic shows. (Red uses insane amounts of colored flames. Which I think is awesome. But I’ve never been close to the stage, and it gets warm even up in the balcony.)

As I listened to Michael Tait sing great lyrics tonight, I simultaneously pondered why I am so quick to jump to judging this particular band. I still haven’t quite figured it out.

How does one balance being famous, being worshiped by audiences everywhere, with giving all glory to the Creator?

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on the Contrary

I officially desperately need to be asleep. And yet…here I am: down in the classroom in the Anderson lobby, laptop and speech materials and empty dishes and all. Why? Because I am a rebel.

Me? A rebel? The straight-As, rule following, don’t make ripples girl? Huh. You better believe it.

I rebel against all kinds of things all the time.

Tonight, though, I’m particularly rebelling against sleep. Which is a surprisingly frequent occurrence.

I’m not sure quite when I started hating going to bed. Because I don’t mean that nightly routine each of us perfected when we were young: Mom or Dad announced bedtime and we proceeded to argue that we weren’t tired and we couldn’t possibly sleep and that nobody needs sleep anyway and etc.. (For me, this routine included Dad telling me to look him in the eyes, and I knew that if I kept my eyes open he’d say that he could see in them how tired I was, and if I closed them that he’d say that I obviously was so tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. You just can’t win sometimes!) What I’m talking about is after I got over that and then suddenly found myself not protesting bed because of lack of exhaustion, but just protesting bed because of the idea of sleep itself—no matter how necessary I knew it to be.

I think maybe I’m not communicating well. That’s pretty typical for this time of night.

I remember, oh, a year ago? lying on the floor in the living room, desperately tired but resolved not to sleep. I think mostly because life was out of control and it seemed that the one thing I could control was whether I inhabited the world of wakefulness or sleep. Kind of a stupid reason to be awake. But most people seem to think that the teen years are marked by stupid decisions, and sometimes I live up to that.

I also remember two years ago, nights of lying awake, staring at the ceiling, terrified of what I’d see if I let sleep overcome me and dreams play against my eyelids. There were some doozy nightmares, especially as my world was consumed in words like ‘seizures’, ‘tumors’, and ‘brain surgery’. This kind of wakefulness makes more sense to me. Though why the human mind so fears nightmares that we know to be only fantasies is beyond my knowledge. (No, I don’t need someone to enlighten me. I’ve got more than enough on my plate just learning about geology and speech communication and Spanish and theatre and the New Testament and wellness.)

All that to say, I don’t really know when I started hating sleep. And I still don’t always hate it. Occasionally I’ll find myself in a place where I willingly fall into bed and close my eyes and drift off to sleep. Like last night. And the night before. But then nights like tonight come and maybe I worry people and maybe I worry myself and I stay up way too late battling exhaustion and accomplishing nothing except maybe a garbled blog post (and most nights not even that).

Some things defy explanation.

And sometimes that’s good.

Like when it comes to everything I ought to be studying for my New Testament exam tomorrow: the fact that the Son of God would humble himself to the point of incarnation and dwell in a crummy human body (that requires sleep) and live a perfect life in spite of temptations and then die an agonizing death and feel, for the first time ever, total separation from God, and that He’d do all that for me in all my rebelliousness. That defies all explanation.

Grace defies explanation.

Unconditional love defies explanation.

The fact that any of us are even still breathing defies explanation.

I don’t know how that really relates to anything. After all, it’s 12:37am and I’m sick and I’m tired. But I think maybe I’m ready to sleep. I always eventually reach this point: when my eyes really just require too much work to keep open and I have to collapse in surrender to the natural processes God instilled in my body.

Why do I fight God until the same thing happens? It’s so much easier to just submit than to fight until the fight has gone out of me and I have to surrender out of sheer inability to go on.

More things to ponder.

But be blessed tonight, whether you’re on a sleep strike or whether you’re the kind of person who is early to bed and early to rise and ridiculously cheerful upon both occasions.

All my love,
Melissa Emig
Psalm 4:8

borrowed smiles

There’s a bird here on campus who only has one leg. I happen past her about once a week as I walk to or from the cafeteria, and she never fails to make me smile. She’s so perky as she hops about, functioning for all the world like a normal bird, despite what must be an exceedingly annoying handicap. (I don’t know if birds get annoyed. I just know that I would.)

The squirrels make me smile, too. I know they’re viewed as pests, and cause a mess and all that. But good gracious, what agile little fellows and what gorgeous coats and tails! The way they leap, like, halfway up a tree in one bound… Yeah, I’m totally jealous.

I’m midweek in the second week in a row of incredible difficulty. And I need little smiles like birds and squirrels and stupid Spanish mistakes that have me talking about my ‘beautiful’ rather than about my ‘sister’.

As Owl City so eloquently put it, “I’ve heard it said that every mushroom cloud has a silver lining…”

And actually, Owl City is part of my silver lining at the moment: of the two new(!!!) songs he released yesterday, one is his first ever song speaking super directly to his faith, and it features Britt Nicole—another of my favorites! I highly suggest you go pick up ‘You’re Not Alone’ on iTunes, or at least check it out here.

Music is so amazing. Currently I’m jumping around between all my trusted old favorites. Trying out new music is great too, but some days I just need simple familiarity.

I guess I don’t have overmuch to say today. I kind of just needed to see my thoughts in words, to shake free of the hopelessness that I keep letting settle over me. The world isn’t an awful place, there is hope, not all is lost, and I get to see my family a week from tomorrow. (I keep murmuring to myself, ‘Just one more week. You can do this,’ under my breath when I’m most ready to scream/give up, and I suspect that people are going to start thinking I’m utterly insane soon.)

Oh! A shout-out to the amazing Jonah, who sent me dark chocolate and fuzzy socks and totally made my Monday morning! (I’m pretty sure that that’s better even than a pirate ship at this point in my life.)

Savor life today. And if you can’t, if the sky is overcast and you half-believe that the sun has disappeared forever, remember that things will get better, that this isn’t the end, and that I am here for you wherever you are in your journey. Thank you, God, that none of us have to go it alone.

– Melissa Emig
Psalm 16:5

Past the Chemical Burn

I want to be able to fix other people. I want to be able to fix myself. I hate crying because crying feels like weakness and weakness feels like failure and failure is what I fear most in life. And this week I think I’ve done more crying than any other week since I got here.

But what if being broken is okay?

What if the pain isn’t as senseless as I perceive it to be?

Last weekend I was able to buy a small side table at Goodwill as a much-desired DIY rehab project. Because of the stress of the school week, I had to put the task on the backburner this week, but this afternoon I was able to get back to prepping the dear thing for paint. To accomplish this, I’m using a chemical-based paint/stain stripper.

And let me tell you what, those chemicals are intense. After being made abundantly sure of this while bare-handing the project, I went ahead and spent the money on gloves (figuring that the cost of having chemical burns all over my hands would outweigh the value of the money I didn’t want to spend on gloves) but even with the gloves on, a concentration of the goo on my hand burns and the gloves are now pockmarked with spots where chemicals have shriveled the cheap rubbery material.

While I may not appreciate the chemicals on my skin (which is an understatement, for the record), I do very much appreciate the effect of the chemicals on the table and the way that the old varnish has come away to expose the wood that I want to lay paint on. I’m not one of those weird people who believes that furniture hosts the spirits of the trees from which it’s made (if you personally believe this, I can love you past our disagreement, but disagree I shall) but, golly, I’m glad I’m not that table. To have my outer shell (however orange and ugly) stripped away by a corrosive substance…no thanks.

I try to avoid pain. I think most of us do. But as I’ve walked (sometimes staggered) through this week, pain has been present at every turn. Why?

Why is there pain?

Why is there death?

Why are there debilitating fears or soul-sapping depressions?

I mean, it has to do with living in a fallen world and having the privilege of freewill, but really, those aren’t the questions I really should be asking. The true puzzle lies more along the lines of:

Why would a righteous God choose to save a sinner?

Why would a perfect God love me despite my repeated mistakes?

Why does a just God bother with a sinful world at all?

I still don’t have all the answers I want to this week. I still don’t understand a lot of what’s going on in my life and in the lives of those around me.

But I have to remember what’s important. And I have to remember that God promises to work all things together for the good of those who trust him (even if I don’t ever see what that good is).

Normally I end with either a reference or a link to somewhere, but today I want to embed the video on my mind. Because it’s so central to all that I’m contemplating tonight and I think it pulls together what I find that I cannot.

.

Tomorrow (actually, it’s 12:03, so I should really say ‘today’) is a new day. Nothing is going to go away while I sleep, but hallelujah, His mercies are new every morning.

I’m glad for flowers’ sakes that they don’t have feelings. Because growing isn’t that much fun.

– Melissa E
Psalm 34:18

making the Most of it

There are a great number of things in life that make me smile an awful lot. And tonight I think I need to concentrate on those things, rather than let my mind keep reminding me of how miserable I am. So. Beautiful things in Melissa’s day today:

1. I got to sleep in this morning. Now, granted, I could have gone to chapel. That might have been a very good idea. But I had the option to sleep in, and that extra hour of hiding beneath my covers was a beautiful beautiful thing.

2. My geology teacher’s wardrobe is so weird that it’s truly comical. Today he was wearing an unbuttoned, black, short-sleeved button-down shirt over his brightly colored tie-dyed polo shirt. Also,

3. He postponed our geology test a week.

4. Owl City released album artwork for the two new tracks that come out a week from today (and one of those tracks features Britt Nicole and he’s said reflects more of his Christian beliefs and I’m so totally stoked about this fact that I can’t even communicate the excitement radiating from my person as I think about it).

5. The caf had chicken fried steak available for lunch today. And their chicken fried steak is really really good.

6. I got to talk to my best friend in the whole wide world for ten minutes longer than I had initially hoped. Every minute counts. (So maybe this number 6 should in fact be numbers 6 through 15???)

7. In New Testament Survey today we finally started getting into the gospels (instead of just the backstory we’ve been going over). Since we’re starting at the beginning of the life of Jesus, we got to cover Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1: probably my favorite story in the gospels. And Dr. Williford covered the material not only thoroughly and insightfully, he had the entire class in stitches a good portion of the time. Whereas NT Survey has been a dull but necessary part of my week up until this point, I’m actually really looking forward to the rest of the semester. (Any HSU people possibly reading this who still need to take NT Survey: I highly suggest Dr. Williford for many reasons.)

8. Dr. Potter, my Speech teacher, consistently refers to that tall thing that teachers and pastors put their notes on as a lectern—as opposed to the rest of the world, who mistakenly refer to it as a podium. (A podium is where you stand, people. There’s your English lesson for the day. Please remember and obnoxiously correct as many people as possible and no, don’t really because that would be exceptionally rude and being exceptionally rude is what I go to great lengths to avoid.) The correct usage of a little-used word makes me extraordinarily happy.

9. I haven’t gotten any worse at tennis in the past week! (I may or may not still be the worst player on the court.)

10. I get to see my family in less than two and a half weeks.

11. Tomorrow is not Tuesday.

– Melissa
Luke 1:68