a story of Melissa

I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

Even though I polished up my rest-of-my-college-career academic plan tonight and it looks great.

So instead of thinking about the people who make life hurt and the things that sometimes make my heart sing and the ways that I’ve failed others this week, I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time (in a place a lot closer to you than you might think) there lived a little girl. She happens to have the same name as me, actually: Melissa. I don’t know her last name.

Melissa lived in a little town not too far from the US/Mexico border with her grandparents. I don’t know what happened to her parents. I didn’t get to hear that part of the story. I’m just telling you what I do know. What I did hear.

Melissa’s grandparents weren’t very well off. In fact, they were kind of the opposite of well off. And Melissa was seldom very clean. And Melissa didn’t go to school. (At least, that’s the tale I was told.)

So none of the neighborhood kids liked Melissa very much. Sometimes they wouldn’t even play with her.

But one day a bunch of vans full of crazy Americans showed up, and they swarmed everywhere and tried to talk to everyone in their broken Spanish and they started smoothing the ground and pouring concrete and putting walls together.

And they loved on Melissa.

They gave her piggyback rides and laughed with her and tried to tell her that she was worth so much more than any of the other kids could imagine and more than Melissa’s grandparents could imagine and more than Melissa could imagine.

And Melissa smiled. A little bit. She still had to keep up that tough kid vibe, because life is hard. But there were little smiles.

Then the day started to end and the concrete had been poured and the wall-shells had been stacked and all those crazy Americans got back into their big vans and started to leave.

And when one crazy American girl named Melissa looked out the back window, the only thing she noticed was a little Mexican girl named Melissa sitting off by herself. Crying.

I wish I had a photograph of that moment. Because that moment is one that breaks my heart. And it’s not one that words will ever do justice.

Because all of those crazy Americans who were so good at communicating poorly had forgotten to tell Melissa that they’d be back the next day.

They did come back the next day. And the next. And the next. And Melissa got to go to a VBS where she was told things like ‘Dios se ama’ and taught to say things like ‘Jesus te ama’ and got hugged and snuggled as much as she could stand.

And when they left at the end of the fourth day, everyone was crying because it was an actual goodbye, but maybe it wasn’t because Heaven is going to be one big reunion and maybe we’ll all get to party together forever.

But I don’t remember seeing Melissa. I kind of wonder if she was off by herself again, crying. Like me.

I don’t know where Melissa is now. I don’t know if she remembers that those Americans who showed up that one day had more to say than poorly pronounced, poorly grammaticized Spanish phrases that vaguely inquired after the location of the baño.

But I know that God still loves Melissa, so so much. I know that my heart breaks for a little girl who cried because she didn’t want to be alone again after one day of tasting love.

I don’t understand why this Melissa gets to go to school and get an education and wear clean clothes and go home to a family who is whole and who loves her.

It’s been a hard week in this Melissa’s life, and she is so tired right now. She feels kind of alone and kind of frightened by the future and kind of hopeless. But more than that, she feels incredibly grateful that her problems seem so small in the grand scheme of things.

I want to find my little Melissa, the one who couldn’t quite grasp the fact that we share a name, and wrap her in my arms. I want to tell her again how much she is loved and that nothing she is facing is too big for the God who holds us both.

I don’t know how little Melissa’s story ends.

Maybe I won’t ever.

But I really really hope that someday I’m gonna run into a not-so-little-anymore Melissa in heaven, and she’s gonna be like, ‘Wow, you were really dorky as a freshman; glad you grew out of that,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well, you were a total punk as a kid; glad you grew out of that,’ and then we’ll hug and I’ll finally know how her story ends.

That’s how I want her story to end.

Please, God, let that be how our stories end.

Hope & Joy & Restoration (i’m still here)

A couple of weeks ago as I wrapped up the first week of my junior year of college, one sentence kept running through my head, mantra-like in its persistence and pervasiveness:

“Something’s got to give or I will.”

It had been a long, stressful week following on the tail of a crazy-busy summer, and my heart wasn’t here at school. The more I thought about it, I wasn’t sure if my heart had ever been here at school. Freshman and sophomore years were their own brands of crazy, riddled with long bouts of intense homesickness and severe burnout.

Two years of fighting to stay at Hardin Simmons because of some higher purpose, some feeling of ‘this is where I’m supposed to be,’ and all I felt was worn out.

I almost dropped out.

Two weeks ago today I was completely ready to go to the registrar’s office, drop all my classes, pack my truck, and leave. I had developed a pretty solid two-year-plan that involved finishing my degree in Business Administration and diving into the home renovation world via flipping houses—first with Dad, then increasingly on my own as my skill set continued to grow. I was going to miss friends, but it kind of came down to prioritizing my mental health over the fear of letting people down by leaving. And besides, long-distance friendships are a thing, right?

I’m still so so grateful to the people who talked to me for hours all throughout that weekend—my parents, sister, and best friends—who I know would have supported and embraced me regardless of which path I chose. God knew what he was doing when he assigned me a family.

Today I just finished my third week of school. And I’m in a totally different head space than I was in two weeks ago.

The new phrase that it permeating my life is, “God, you have restored my hope.”

And I’m weeping with joy just to type that, because this journey is proving to be so much more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

As much as I sat down with the specific idea of sharing this, though, I don’t know how to put it into words.

I…I guess I came into freshman year, like I said, with this idea that God had me exactly where he wanted me, and I struggled with not being able to fully delight in being where I felt called. But, you know, God doesn’t always call us to comfort, so I slogged on through homesickness (that I would’ve buckled under if home had been any nearer than 19 hours away). And as I think it through now, I still don’t know whether that divine purpose that I kept clinging to was truly still a calling in my life, or if I just feared giving up, feared failing at sticking out this scholastic, grown-up undertaking. Whatever the reason, I still clung to that phrase.

But that phrase felt so threadbare this year.

When we were in Scotland we got to tour Falkland Palace, and one of the more breathtaking spots in the palace was the chapel. Partly because I just am overwhelmed by the breadth of the church, how it spans history and continents. But one can’t enter the chapel without noticing the beautiful tapestries on the walls.

Tapestries fade with time. They weather and the threads come loose. Mice get into them.

They have to be restored before they are truly worthy of awe.

My conviction of my belonging had to be restored before it was worth anything.

In the past two weeks, I have not once told myself that I am in Abilene because I am called to be. I think that I’ve let go of that concept all together, because in all the prayer and seeking counsel that I’ve done lately, I’ve realized that I am not bound to Abilene by God or anyone else. I can make the choice to stay here, or I can make the choice to leave, and neither one violates the call that has been made on my life.

I choose Abilene.

I choose it.

I choose a church where I am (finally allowing myself to be) drawn into a community of believers who are fervently pursuing the heart of God and joyfully sharing that hope with the world.

I choose friends who have so much to teach me and love me in ways I’ve never asked them to.

I choose a horse who lives down the street from me and who makes me laugh every day (even if we’re both getting chased by wasps that will not freaking go away!)

I choose professors who know me and genuinely care about how I’m doing and who have been so gracious about my needing to step back and catch my breath.

I choose Abilene and I choose to hope.

Hope.

That’s my new favorite word.

Joy.

That’s still my favorite word. The two go hand in hand!

Restoration.

(This is the part where I’m a rebel and declare that I have three favorite words because this is my blog and this is America and I do what I want and…yeah.)

As much as this post has rambled and as much as I’m not sure that I’ve communicated all that I’d like to, this is me. This is where I am right now.

I don’t want to take steps backward, but I know that I will.

I don’t want life to hurt anymore, but sometimes it does.

I do want to paint hope and joy and restoration and all their abstract realizations all over my wall, but I can’t do that because I am renting and I don’t want to have to pay fees on top of what I’m already paying to live here, so…

Anyway.

God is restoring my hope.

And for this I shall forever rejoice.

– Melissa
(I usually use this space link to something, but I can’t find just the right song for tonight/this week. There are plenty of lyrics coming to mind, but I’m way too tired to put together some kind of mashup, so…go listen to music that gives you hope, because hope is pretty legit.)