faith & hope & february

Most of you who read this blog (or at least the ones who do with any regularity) know that in September of my junior year of high school my mom had a seizure in my kitchen and was diagnosed with a tumor that, while benign, had to be surgically removed in November of that year. Nearly as many of you know that surgery wasn’t the immediate solution we’d all misunderstood it to be, and know that it wasn’t until February of my senior year that my mom had been seizure-free for long enough to resume things like driving and climbing ladders.

(If your mom is going to have seizures and not be allowed on ladders, get rid of vaulted ceilings, because cleaning those celing fans will become your job…)

The reason that I know that Mom was cleared to drive in February of 2014 is because that was when the two of us travelled to Texas so that I could tour colleges and audition for theatre programs.

It was a great trip, and it was great that I didn’t have to do all of the driving myself, because I was a nervous wreck. Like, I wouldn’t have a voice to order with when we’d stop to get food. I may have offended my grandparents, because I was much less like myself and much more like a mouse. I shut down when I’m overwhelmed.

We actually ended up at HSU (where I’ve ended up for the past two and a half years) twice: once to audition, and then once again because the theatre director invited us back to see the show that was opening the next weekend.

Both weekends that we stayed with my always-called-her-an-Aunt-even-though-she-isn’t who’s been friends with my mom since they roomed together in college a bamillion years ago. So I don’t know which weekend it was. But whenever it was, Jen arranged for a group/family/something to come pray healing over my mom, because although she was no longer having full-scale seizures, the surgery after-affects still often affected her vision and made her dizzy.

Let me just say that I didn’t grow up exposed to any kind of healing prayers ministry.

I’d read about it in books, with missionaries. That was cool. God does some pretty cool things for missionaries, even bigger than the God-sized works I’d seen over the past year and a half in my family’s life. But I’d never really experienced it in my life.

And we had two prayer quilts on the couch at home. Ones that people in my church had prayed over and held as they prayed specifically for my family. I liked those. I liked to wrap myself up in them on hard days.

Anyway, those people came over, and chatted for a bit, and then prayed over my mom, and she thanked them, and they talked a bit more, and then they left.

I’m 90% sure that everyone thought I was asleep in the back room the whole time, because I never showed my face, not the whole time, and no one ever called me out on my absence. After all, I generally had the decency to come and greet people when I was awake, and I definitely tended to be involved in prayer. Especially in prayer over someone so dear to me.

But I wasn’t asleep.

I was very much awake.

In hiding.

In tears.

Weary.

Scared.

And so achingly guilty from feeling like a failure for not wholeheartedly believing that God—the One who made the heavens and the earth and me and my mother—couldn’t (or wouldn’t, or something) heal that selfsame mother of mine that he created.

Guilt like that is consuming. You can’t fight it or flee it. It drives you to tears to that sting of salt in a wound that might never heal. It eats away at your chest and your stomach and your heart.

It consumes you and your world and your hope.

For that afternoon, I felt devoid of hope. And I felt isolated from the world, or at least from everyone else at the house, because they still had the hope I’d somehow lost.

I wish I could step into seventeen-year-old Melissa’s world. I wish I could wrap her in my arms in the hug she so needed and whisper fiercely to her that God wasn’t done yet and that someday the health problems really would be a thing of the past. I wish I could brush away the tears of shame and pain from her eyes and remind her that God’s a father who loves his little girl enough to hold her when she’s tired and afraid. I wish I could give her the words to ask for help, or even just lead her to the living room to lean on the faith of community in a moment when she was too worn out to pray.

Instead I’m here. And it’s been three years, and I’ve just a week ago accidentally discovered the scars that that afternoon left on my heart.

Lately God’s been teaching me the lesson on persistent prayer that I somehow didn’t quite learn the first time, and I think that’s why I’ve remembered what I’d forgotten. And as much as I initially didn’t want to deal with that long-buried pain, it’s amazing to now look back at all those days I spent praying and other people spent praying, and the days I joined them and the days I didn’t, and to see the outcome:

God’s long-time “not yet” was just that. It wasn’t a “no.”

There was never a point where God said, “Oh, yep, the statute of limitations has run out on this request. I didn’t get to it in time. Bummer. Guess it’s a definite no-go now.”

God did not heal Mom right away.

Instead He murmured, “I’m not done healing the rest of you yet.”

And then, not all at once but little by little, He healed her in his time.

He said, “Yes.”

I am currently staring down some things in my life that have been “not yets” for so long that I’ve given up hope of them ever changing. And let me just tell you, I did not want a reminder of a time when I felt like a complete failure in my prayer life to come up now as I’m daring to pray for God-sized results.

That afternoon, when a group of strangers took up the plea that I was weary from carrying, and the “yes” that eventually followed have become a tangible example for me of the power of persistent prayer and of the importance of being part of a praying community.

I’m not hiding in the guest room anymore.

– Melissa

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a heart bound up with ribbons

Quick note: if you’re going to read this, please read it in its entirity. It starts off pretty gloomy, and I don’t want my friends and family to be uncessarily worried about me. I’m okay, I promise.

 

I think I finally get it. I get why bullying is such a hot topic, and I get how the bone-ache of others’ malicious words could lead to a rope-around-neck or blade-to-wrist situation. I haven’t ended up either of those places this past week, but that’s more a duration thing than anything. And a pride thing, too.

I haven’t slit my wrists because that’s too obvious. Because that’s too much evidence to leave of my weakness.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

That’s how it goes, right? So why have the words of others wreaked such havoc on my heart?

I can tell you exactly the last time I hurt so bad that I asked someone to come from where they were to where I was.

Tuesday.

Before that, it was my Junior year of high school, either when my mom was having her first seizure or in the aftermath of all that when I had an absolute breakdown over something unremembered and I spent almost an hour working up the courage to accept someone’s offer of companionship—I can’t remember which one of those two times came first.

Four years. It took me four years to work up the courage for another cry for help. No, not exactly. I invited myself over to my best friend’s house this summer when someone was breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. But still.

I don’t ask for help any more than I accept offers of help.

So why the heck was it words that brought me to such a place of helpless tears this week that I whispered aloud the scream within my heart?

I barely left my room for most of this week. I made it to most of my classes and I didn’t skip work or rehearsals, but I wasn’t brave enough to face the people calling me a villain and so I postponed meals by an hour or more so that the kitchen would be empty again, and I used the door I never use so that I wouldn’t have to go past their door, and I stood for hours doing homework that isn’t due for weeks so that I would have something to occupy my mind with.

Fear has always had a pretty hefty presence in my life. But this stomach-churning terror of having to look at someone knowing what they thought of me and that, no matter what I did, I was going to do the wrong thing in that person’s eyes…it was new.

I’m not startled by fear anymore, but I was this time. I was when I realized that my chest was tight as I did homework and that breathing was hard and that this is what I’ve accidentally talked about when I’ve offhandedly said that such-and-such thing gave me a panic attack.

I’m finally getting it.

The words that tend to break us generally aren’t the ones we’re hearing for the first time. They’re the audible echo of that inner whisper that has always told us that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t deserve friendship or grace. You’re not losing your mind when you start to buy in, you’re just giving into what you’ve always suspected.

You’re berating yourself for not standing up for yourself while simultaneously berating yourself for thinking you don’t deserve to be told of your crimes. And it all makes sense in your head because your inner voice is all confused by the people trying to tear you down and the people trying to build you up and by the voice that sounds a lot like yourself.

Last night I drifted off to sleep wrapped in the memory of a night last semester with friends when I felt very safest and they felt the very most like family.

And that’s a win, because there’s no way I could have remembered that on Tuesday or Wednesday or even Thursday. (To be honest, I can’t even remember if I talked to people on Wednesday or Thursday, because I didn’t trust anyone to care about me a whit.)

But there’s still a twinge that comes with remembering things like sleeping on Maegan’s floor with Michael snoring and Righleigh hogging the blanket we were sharing and Sierra pretending to have been asleep for hours. It’s back to a whisper, but that whisper of unworthiness is still there, telling me that nights like those were flukes and that I need to reframe my expectations.

Honestly, I was struggling long before I fell sobbing to the floor in the dark on Tuesday night. I skipped church last week because I couldn’t bear the thought of standing alone while surrounded by people in twos and threes and holding hands.

This week was an overflow of every fear that this semester has been: that inner voice that assured me that I was alone finally found outer assurance voiced this week, and I couldn’t help but notice all the people who hadn’t noticed my withdrawal. And that on top of actual harassment was just too much.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will break my heart.

I didn’t slit my wrists this week. I didn’t find myself in a closet with a length of rope and a death wish. Thank you, God, that’s not where my story has led this week.

But there are gashes on my heart—from me and from others—still bound up as they heal slowly.

I think I’ve bound them up with ribbons, though. Because I’ve long believed that there is beauty to be gained from pain. And though this healing process is slow, I’m already beginning to see the glimmer of hope.

In forty-eight hours I will be home, and in fifty-two hours I should be hugging my crazy, gone-off-to-Chicago-and-thriving-but-I-miss-her sister. I’m clinging to that idea as I sit alone in my room for the I’ve-lost-track-of-how-manyeth night in a row.

I want to wrap this post up and top it off with a tidy little bow, but that’s not life, is it? There aren’t clear answers as to how any one story ends, and too often the happily part of the ever after is a bit up in the air. We breath in a lungful of air and then we exhale it and then we repeat the two-step cycle indefinitely. And in between those breaths we try to make some sense of this thing called life.

I’m writing from snuggled deep in a colorful blanket, and the music I’m listening to is full of lazy smiles and I’m smiling too. Things are getting better, in this house and in this heart, and I do have people who I’m talking to about few lingering fingers of gloom. I love how vibrant and beautiful life is tonight, and the shadows only make the light glow more brightly.

I found this song yesterday as I was looking for something else. And it made me laugh because someone basically read my mind. (Except for that double negative at the end…I don’t approve of that.)

So I’m going to leave you with this as I bid you goodnight and wander off to get ready to crawl into bed. Goodnight, friends.

Hear that? That’s what you are. A friend. Mine or someone else’s.

Because you are no more alone than am I.

– Melissa

Okay, so maybe this is a soapbox.

It’s May. Halfway through May, actually.

By some wizardry or some something else we’re already partway through the fifth month of a twelve-month year.

Woah.

(This is where you insert a mental image of me, eyes unnaturally wide and hair sleepily disheveled, marveling about how it got to be so late into the year without my noticing it.)

The weather is being all summery here in California, and I’ve been here in California for a week and a half now, and my summer is in full swing.

No more sophomore year!

People keep asking me how college is, and I waffle between hemming and hawing my way around the question and just straight up telling them that it sucks. Usually I settle for something along the lines of, “Sophomore year is over and I never have to do that again. Hallelujah.” And then I get asked what was so hard about this year, and I don’t really know.

How do you explain that you just felt like crap for the majority of a semester no matter how brightly the sun shone some days and that you really weren’t entirely sure that you’d make it to May without dropping out and that you still pretty much feel like you’re going through the motions of going to college because it’s what you expect of yourself and what everybody else expects of you and you have no idea what you’d be doing if you weren’t in school? So I kinda shrug my shoulders and say, “I dunno exactly. It was just really, really hard. And I’m really glad it’s over.”

Nobody’s satisfied with that answer. Least of all me. But I go with it because church people actually don’t usually care about your deepest thoughts. We ask, “How are you?!” as we walk in opposite directions down the sidewalk.

I freaking hate that custom: ‘How are you?’ as synonymous with ‘Hello! Nice to see you!’ Because the response is either the general (and often dishonest [and also totally grammatically incorrect]) ‘I’m good. You?’ or it’s being obnoxiously honest and making someone uncomfortable by giving them an ‘I’m kind of struggling right now’ when all they expected was for you to mindlessly acknowledge their greeting and keep walking.

I know, part of this indignation is my really straightforward personality talking. Because if it were up to me, we’d strip all the pointless small talk away and only talk to each other when we needed to accomplish something or wanted to discuss the really relevant stuff that fills our headspace and is key to who we are.

But at the same time, why do we say this one thing when we actually mean something entirely different? Language is fluid; why has it moved to perpetrate a sham in our everyday speech?

Even on the days when I’m doing fine, I hate answering people’s greetings of ‘How are you?’ Whenever possible to politely do so, I will just smile in a friendly sort of way and keep walking (because that’s what the other person’s doing) and maybe that’s kind of rude, but…I dunno. I feel worse about it when I’m distracted and I unintentionally buy into that, “Great; you?” nonsense.

I’m sure that the classy response is to respond to this not-actual-question with a friendly, ‘Hi! Good to see you!’ or something like it. (But when am I classy?)

How are you today? Like, actually? Where’s your heart along the scale of Great to Breaking?

What if we made sure that ‘How are you?’ communicated something closer to ‘I see you—not just for your face, but for your humanity’?

I’ve stayed home for the last two days, trying to recover from a pretty decent-sized case of social exhaustion. Because small talk is hard and social cues are hard and being me sometimes feels like it needs extensive surgeries to be acceptable. I still don’t know that I’m ready to face the big, big world beyond my front door.

But social exhaustion is not all that there is to this sentiment.

This is a big deal because this is how we lie to each other and this is how the church makes the world think we think we’re perfect while they watch our lives come down in shambles around our ears.

I don’t know. I’m not an activist. I don’t jump in to get my hands dirty to get things done. I talk about change and then curl up in my room and think about it until the idea has died and nothing has come of it. At most I start a personal crusade and then occasionally get on a soapbox about what I think—AKA this blog post.

I don’t pretend that this little blog will take the world by storm. But I do know that if the few of us here would be conscious of meaning it when we said ‘How are you?’ that maybe we could make a difference in the lives of the few people around us.

And that should be our goal, right? To be as positive an influence on our tiny slice of the world as possible.

It’s my goal.

Or, at least, it’s the goal I pull myself back to when my heart quails at the impossibility of changing all the things I see wrong in the world at large.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some food. Because if you were to ask me, right now, how I am, the answer would be that I am ravenous. And that would be an exaggeration, but that’s okay.

Love y’all!

– Melissa
If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli

Why do we associate Leap Day with frogs?

So, funny story:

I’ve been celebrating Leap Day for months.

Like, literally.

Because anything I jump off of something or into something or just up in the air for no reason at all, I like to shout, “Happy Leap Day!” because being exuberant about a day doesn’t just have to be constrained to the one out of four years when there are 366 days to be alive. (And Riley needs to get over himself, because the definition of ‘leaping’ isn’t as narrow as he says it is, and I can celebrate whatever I want whenever I want.)

That said, people today haven’t been very celebratory.

Through words and images on facebook and through their voices in-person, people have been complaining that, ‘why have an extra day if it’s just going to be another Monday?’

A) Mondays do not have to be the tragedy you make them out to be. (But I think that’s another post for another day.)

B) It’s not just this one Monday that having a Leap Day affects.

Tomorrow, it’s only going to be March 1st because tomorrow’s yesterday (today’s today) was Leap Day. No Leap Day would equal tomorrow being March 2nd. And even though I know we all want to rush into the Ides of March, isn’t it great to know that we have an additional day before we have to get a handle on March?

On December 31st, it will only still be the year 2016 because today was Leap Day. Now maybe 2016 will be kind of sucky for you. It happens. We all have a crummy year now and again (some of us have consistently crummy years, and sometimes that’s life’s fault and sometimes it’s just because we’re looking at life from the wrong perspective). But regardless of how life looks as we glance over our shoulders on December 31st, we’ll have an extra 24 hours to unpack and process it thanks to Leap Day.

Maybe I’m too much flowers-and-sunshine.

Or maybe I’ve just learned that leaping off of things is really fun (unless they’re too-tall things that cause injury to those who leap out of them, and then that’s not so fun because doctor’s offices are ick) and that life’s lemons are always just a good squeeze and a couple pounds of sugar away from being really great lemonade.

So Happy Leap Day 2016.

And also Happy Monday.

And also be Happy.

Because no day is accidental.

– Melissa
P.S. This is worth a moment of your time.

i feel pretty jubilant today

Stagnating is one of the things that terrifies me the most.

Now, don’t get me wrong: in some ways I love to stay still. I love to put down roots somewhere, and once I do I cling to ‘normal’ and hate, hate, hate change.

But I hate to stagnate.

I hate to sit in one place doing nothing for too long. I also hate observing people sitting in one place doing nothing for too long.

This is the reason that sometimes, when I’ve had to sit still for a while, I will suddenly spring to my feet and do something silly and active and not sitting still. This is also the reason that even if I don’t jump up and do something random in a random moment I will still jump up and move with intensity if it’s (finally) time to do something else.

And as awesome and dynamic as my relationship with God is, sometimes I let myself stagnate, and I hate it. Sometimes my prayers seem to get stopped by the ceiling and I don’t remember what it’s like to be held because I’ve dug my heels in and refused to go where I’ve been told to go. I don’t grow and I won’t go and I cry the entire time because where is God? because why am I not getting what I want how I want it when I want it?

Not good times.

Praise God for loving me despite me being so me.

But you know what the opposite of stagnation is?

Movement.

Growth.

And those moments of obvious, measurable movement in my spiritual journey stand out as some of the most breathlessly beautiful things I have ever experienced in life.

I remember my junior year of high school, preparing to go on our annual mission trip to Mexico. It was a hard year for me, mainly because of the leadership position I had been put in and because of the leader that was directly over me. There had been many tears, much frustration, and probably some energetic rants to the people I trusted best. And then, one day, kind of out of nowhere, it dawned on me:

I wasn’t the same person I had been a few weeks before.

Through all the struggle and all the pain, something had clicked and I had changed for the better. It was an almost physical feeling of elation; I danced in it for days. The journey remained hard, but I wasn’t the same and I was able to meet it with a new strength and new sense of purpose.

I’ve been dancing through this week, too, and once again it’s something I can’t quite adequately describe.

See, for a long time I have really, genuinely disliked people. As a whole. As a species. Humans are prone to idiocy, laziness, and a herd-like mentality that only makes things worse. Really, what’s to like?

Now, sure, I made exceptions. I had a group of about fifteen humans that I loved and maybe twice that many that I could tolerate for a decent amount of time. I’m not even kidding.

But if I’m called in life to mirror Christ to the world, then hating the very people he loved enough to save isn’t exactly the right game plan.

So I prayed about it. A lot. Beginning the first semester of my freshman year. What use was this new mission field that I felt certain God had brought me to if I disliked everybody too much to even talk to them? Because if there’s one thing I know from being a hard-headed introvert, it’s that few of us have voices outside of the relationships we build, and here I was not building any relationships at all. (Well, I kinda built two. But that’s not the point.)

And so I kept praying.

And I cried.

And I detested humanity.

And I prayed.

But it’s been within the last week that I have realized that I don’t actually hate the human population anymore. I don’t know when it happened. I guess it’s been a gradual change that I’ve just now noticed. Regardless, it’s pretty amazing!

I think I’m actually learning to love people. As a whole. I’m making friends with more than just one or two people. I’m interested in what people have to say, not because it directly pertains to my life but because they are human beings, created in the image of God, and the ability to communicate at all is intrinsically beautiful.

It’s crazy and mind-blowing, and it’s so nothing I could have done on my own.

Simple though it sounds, it’s exactly what 1 John 4:19 has to say:

“We love because he first loved us.”

The more I learn about how vastly and perfectly I am loved, the more I know how to love others. The more I am embraced by vast love the more I see the vast importance of embracing others.

Three things, though, that I must clarify:

  1. I am still an introvert. I still love coming back to the quiet of my room at night. I still process everything internally, and lately I’ve often laughed at how busy of a day I think I’ve had simply because of how many internalized conversations I’ve carried out. So please don’t think I’ve suddenly become the life of the party. (I actually haven’t gone to any parties this semester, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)
  2. I am still a human being and I do not, by any means, have this down pat. I do not suddenly possess the saint-like ability to love everybody no matter what. Despite the fact that I’m doing way better about seeing people as fellow image-bearers of God, there are actually still a couple of people that I would rather leave the room than be around. I acknowledge that they’re valid and probably wonderful people who I just dislike for no apparent reason, and that I just need to get over myself. I’m working on it. God’s working on me.
  3. Despite how this post may read, I am not going to run out and make friends with the entire world. I don’t want to. Because (referring back to point 1 here) I’m not actually an extrovert and I can’t handle trying to be friends with the entire world. It’s not how I’m wired. But what I am going to do is continue doing what I’m learning I do best: loving you in the moment we’re together. And when I meet somebody new, I’m going to do the same for her, too. (Or him. We need a gender neutral pronoun, and I refuse to accept ‘them’/’they’.)

So that’s kind of what’s on my heart. That’s kind of why I’ve been so singy/dancey/overall jubilant for days.

The dark days will come. They always do, because that’s how weather works.

But in those days, when all might seem lost, I’ll remember today, I’ll remember what it feels like to know that I’m not the same person I was this time last year, and I’ll know that the sun is coming back again.

– Melissa
1 John 4:7-21

P.S. This whole ‘love’ thing has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or being seasonally appropriate. It was an unfortunate coincidence. In the future, I’ll try to go back to warning you if a post is going to have to do with the latest and greatest holiday craze.

life up high

I love the thrill of hurtling through the skies in a pressurized tin can.

Which is a really sensationalist way of saying that I adore flying.

(I actually really dislike sensationalism in most contexts, because it is highly overused and highly abused in 90% of the contexts I see it in. Like those “news” articles that everybody shares on facebook. [And I refuse to capitalize ‘facebook’ because their logo is literally a lowercase f and so why the heck should I capitalize their site if they don’t?!] But in this context, I felt sensationalist and so there you have it.)

Did you ever fly as a child? Were you one of the terrified, whimpering little waifs who convince themselves against all odds that this is going to be the day that they die? I dislike children in general, so if you were one of those children and you also happen to count me as a friend, then thank your lucky stars that you grew out of that short-person-ness and became someone that I don’t have to mistrust on principle.

If you weren’t that sniveling beastie, then there’s a reasonable chance that you were the other extreme, for children, much like myself, often live in extremes. That extreme being that you could hardly be restrained to your assigned seat during the entirety of the flight because you were so thrilled to be off the ground and among the clouds. Even if this wasn’t you, you know the type: the kiddos who practically have stars glimmering in their eyes from the sheer wonder of it all.

Yeah, that’s basically me any time I fly. I adore it.

I mean, security’s a drag, but I get why it’s necessary.

But then you get into the terminals—people-watching paradise—and then you board the plane, which is kind of a ‘meh’ step, except that ‘in the plane’ means ‘headed toward the skies’, so I can tolerate the monotony.

And then, oh liftoff! It’s kind of my favorite. (I say kind of because the whole thing is actually my favorite, so…) The whirr of the engines pushing past the limits that mankind accidentally set for ourselves so long ago, and the feeling of being pushed back in your seat, like you might forget to hang on for the ride and get left behind except that life won’t let that happen to you just yet.

The flight itself is (obviously) best enjoyed from a window seat, and even an endless field of blindingly white clouds beneath the plane (or the fog of clouds around the plane) doesn’t quite get boring if you remember your ordinary everyday view of their underside. In the absence of clouds, earth itself bears a strong resemblance to the patchwork that is life, and the possibilities for contemplation of what’s implied in the analogy are absolutely limitless.

On a side note, I think that when I’m flying I most fully believe in magic. Not rabbits out of a hat or any of that nonsense, but just simple, everyday magic. The magic of a splendor so majestic that my heart screams out that yes, there is a God, a God so much bigger and more beautiful than all I can ask or imagine! The magic that’s not really magic at all, but I’m five years-old at heart and so it’s called magic all the same.

Landing is also my favorite, because It’s basically a race to stop. Life as I customarily know it grows back into focus: from pinprick to matchbox car to full-size pickup truck still dwarfed by the enormity of the sky-bus I’m in. And then woosh: we hit the ground and the flaps on the wings go up and the breath gets pulled out my lungs as we’ve arrived somewhere where the air doesn’t need pressurizing and you don’t need wings to get from place to place.

In other news, I’m flying today* (surprise!) from Dallas into Kansas City so that my dad and I can road trip back to Texas with the truck he bought via eBay. On our way to the airport this morning I was marveling at the thought of what the Wright brothers must have felt in the moment the first test flight succeeded.

Like, woah.

For thousands of years we as a species had looked to the sky and envied the birds, and suddenly we were among them! Everything changed in a moment.

But so much of life is that way: so many things have been radically redefined in the mere blink of an eye.

I mean, it would only take the loss one person I love in a tragic plane crash for this flight to go from an absolute delight to something I’d lose sleep, sweat, and tears over.

But, for now, I’m not afraid.

I am above the clouds, and I’m over the moon about it.

Life is a patchwork of beautiful things; be sure to ‘waste some time’ being elated over them.

– Melissa
Check out one of my favorite artists pretty well capturing what I’m feeling: Alligator Sky (no rap version) by Owl City

*Note: I actually didn’t fly anywhere today. This was written while in the air on Saturday (1/16), but I didn’t have internet access to post it until Sunday, and then I just slept for hours, and now it’s Thursday (1/21) and I’m just now remembering that this is still sitting unpublished on my hard drive. So yeah.

i am not the girl with no substance

I worry.

I worry that people think I’m no more than the silly nonsense I spout on a regular basis. That they won’t take the time or won’t have the opportunity to find out that there is depth to me. There is some level of maturity here. I do actually have opinions and philosophies that don’t involve random animals.

It’s not that I don’t have control of the situation. I could resolve myself to stop being so ridiculous and try for a closer impression of what is culturally considered to be normal behavior.

I just don’t see the point in being serious or somber all the time. Because some days my heart is breaking inside of me and it’s honestly really fulfilling to see you smile at the unexpectedness of whatever I just said to you. I feed off of your laughter and it helps me laugh, too. Life isn’t a tragedy, not even when I most suspect it to be, and sometimes my gibberish is just a maddened attempt to remember that.

And on the days when I’m really doing fine, or when I’m practically glowing with joy…then there’s definitely no point in being somber. Because why act all depressing when you actually feel like singing? So sometimes I sing nonsense ditties, and sometimes I tell you stories about the time I babysat a worm while his mother was at work, and sometimes I will offer to write the paper you’re currently bemoaning because I know my version of whatever your topic might be is wildly more entertaining than whatever you were planning on writing and maybe the break you’ll take while I hijack your laptop will help you to see past the struggle to find a reason to smile.

That’s what I think, at least: that life doesn’t have to be filled with solemn adherence to “reality”. That maturity doesn’t have mean that we stop hoping for fantastic happenings.

Also, can I just take a moment to point out that I really hate small talk? I do. I don’t see the point of it and I have trouble engaging in it. And if we’re having a conversation that you would define as ‘small talk’, just know that I am finding some purpose in what we’re talking about. Even if that purpose is simply to learn more about you based on your opinion on things like the weather.

(Not kidding. Your opinion of the current weather, your mood on Mondays, the way you roll up your sleeves, they all say something about you, and I’m often fascinated by the message. Which has no real bearing on the point of this post, so sorry about the rabbit trail, but I’m not actually sorry because this is my blog post and I do what I want.)

I am not a small-talker. But I am a storyteller. In case you hadn’t noticed. Which, considering that my life is full of adventures and oddities and ridiculous occurrences that you’d think only happen in books, isn’t an awful thing to be. I love to tell you wild tales, filled with vivid language and wild hand gestures and just enough embellishment to make you eye me in disbelief so that I can dissolve into laughter and correct myself and still leave you astonished. And when I get bored with the insanity of my own life, I turn to the grand adventures of the characters in my head. I’m sorry that your imagination has faded with time and disuse, but mine hasn’t, and that brings me great joy.

But for all the stories and for all the nonsense, I do know how to be serious. I know how to walk into chaos and step into leadership and get things done. I know how to steel myself for the hard talks, when we don’t agree and we’re breaking each other and ourselves and something has to be done. I know how to sit and listen when what you are going through is anything but a joke and you just need someone to be there to acknowledge that it’s not okay and remind you that you are not alone.

Please do not mistake my jubilance or silliness for a lack of substance.

Or maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe I am wrong and I am completely deluded and shallow after all. But if that’s the case, then maybe take a breath and contemplate what your relentless solemnity is gaining you.

Don’t forget to laugh.

Because even if you don’t agree with my pell-mell dash of chaos, you were not designed for perpetual sadness. The world is much too beautiful for that. There are just too many things reasons to smile.

So find one!

Laugh!

Rejoice in today, because tomorrow will be hard too. Life is hard. I grant you that. But smiling makes it just a little easier.

And for those dark days, I will be here to make jokes you can’t understand and burst into seemingly spontaneous laughter because of something that happened six years ago that I just remembered, and maybe my joy will be enough for us both in that moment.

I worry that no one will take me seriously.

But more than that I worry that people won’t remember what a joy it is to not be confined to seriousness.

– Melissa

the post i actually got typed up (instead of just thinking about it)

Life is never planned.

I mean, perhaps your parents planned to have you, and maybe you even came at the time they were hoping you to.

(I was 10 days late, but born around the time of life that my parents were hoping to have kids. My younger brother was a surprise baby.)

But what I actually am talking about is our absolute inability to dictate how a day is going to transpire.

Sometimes everything goes right.

Sometimes everything goes wrong.

Sometimes life balances precariously in the middle of absolute disaster and absolute ecstasy and there’s nothing but the color of your lens on life to decide which way the scales are going to tip.

Speaking of scales, my youngest sister is learning to play piano and I wish she had a keyboard with headphones.

It’s how you view life that mixes up everything.

Today I got paid way too much to move furniture, far too little (in my opinion) to work a few hours at renovating a house my dad is trying to sell, I took a lovely (though belated and short) nap, and watched bits and fragments of rather uninteresting movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime.

Six months ago, today would have been a bust in my eyes.

Two months ago, I’d probably be curled up in a corner somewhere, trying to remind myself that things are never as bleak as I make them out to be, pep talking myself with the good that I could recognize from today and trying to reason that the good at least balanced out the bad and that today was at least counts as neutral.

Today, however, isn’t six months ago. It isn’t two months ago. It’s today. Here and now in the present.

Today, one of my favorite quotes comes from Owl City: “Every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.” (Which I think maybe I’ve quoted within the confines of this blog before, but it’s still one of my favorites so I’m going to risk redundancy which isn’t really a risk because I have no shame about repeating myself when I’m safely within the confines of my blog.)

Today, I’m fully capable of laughing softly at the misfortunes of today, of grinning joyfully at the unexpected pleasures of today, and of sending nonsense text messages that have very little to do with anything at all sensical.

Sensical is a word. Because nonsensical is a word. Because I say so.

I found a picture last night of a trio of meerkats, dressed and ready for a wedding. There was an officiating clergyman, wearing spectacles and clasping his bible; a bride, clad in a lovely dress and veil and holding a bouquet of roses in her gloved paws; and a groom, spiffy in his tux and bow tie and carrying a rather too large ring in his mouth. It is one of the odder sights that my phone’s screen has presented, but I find the nonsense of the thing perfectly delightful. It made my night last night, and continues to prompt an idiotic grin from me whenever I catch sight of it.

I haven’t really planned for most of what has gone on in my life recently.

Granted, I planned to come home for the summer.

Hallelujah, I’m home for the summer!

And I planned to spend time with my horse.

One forgets the possibility of being so sore after riding until she quits riding for almost a year and then suddenly resumes it with ferocity…

But I hadn’t really anticipated how much adjustment it would take—on the entire family’s part—for long-absent sister to reintegrate herself into the unique (and sometimes volatile) mixture of personalities and emotions within our household. It’s like a daily experiment, and because I never liked science, I never know which chemicals are going to make the other ones explode. Actually, it’s nothing like science. I just felt like saying that. On the bright side, I think all four siblings are on speaking terms with me at the moment. Unless I’ve missed something. Which is entirely possible—life seems at times nothing more than a mad scramble to try not to step on toes.

I also hadn’t really prepared myself for what an analogy of myself my horse provides. Granted, he always has reflected (quite clearly) all the worst parts of me in his stubborn insistence to do things in his own way and his ability to just barely toe the line while still asserting his control over the situation and other lovely tendencies like that, but so long out of the saddle let me forget what a humbling experience trying to work with a horse is. Particularly a horse whose poor training is entirely upon your own head. This summer is going to be a mad scramble to teach an old horse new tricks. Specifically, how to do some very basic maneuvers without grinding his teeth at me.

I have a confession to make:

Humankind is not as idiotic as I usually assert.

It’s only that most of humankind is totally idiotic.

I just keep meeting the exceptions.

I maintain this position because social media and news headlines are both full of records of people doing stupid, stupid, stupid things. Occasionally even my friends decide to dabble in mainstream idiocy and do stupid things. Me included.

But that’s an exception.

Just like the non-idiots are the exceptions.

Hear me: I’m not definitely calling you an idiot. Just vaguely alluding to it in a way that hopefully won’t offend you but will instead demonstrate my general disgust with the majority of society.

We should all keep ducklings to snuggle with.

Ducklings make everything better.

Except for soup.

Never put ducklings in soup.

That’s just cruel and unusual.

Life doesn’t go exactly as we intend it to. But whether the glass is half full, half empty, or full of idiots, God is good and, if you’re looking, you’re sure to glimpse that.

Blessings,
Melissa

Watch this if you need a smile. Also, I can sing ALL of it, including the onomatopoeia and the too-fast-for-belief monologue.

dreams of superheroes

Did you ever dream of being a superhero? Maybe in an actual dream, where you were asleep and your eyes were closed and your mind wandered through impossible worlds and let you accomplish impossible feats. Maybe it was more along the lines of that imaginative play, where you and your friends ceased to be you and your friends and became heroes and villains battling in a world unlike anything your parents could see. Either way, did you ever dream of being a superhero?

I did.

The first title that stands out to me is ‘The Shazam Madam’, birthed from a dream in middle school about helping a group of superheroes who had come back in time to save the world from the twisted individual my future self had become. One of those heroes, and I wish I could remember his name, became my protector, a sort-of imaginary friend who watched over me for several months. We had great adventures together.

Yes, I was that kid who played with imaginary individuals far longer than I ought to have, because my world was small and being homeschooled kept me from the ridicule that my peers would have heaped on me.

I don’t regret it or renounce it. I am who I am because of weird stuff like that.

I never claim to be normal, only to be human. (And some days I renounce even that, but that’s an entirely different story and different breed of weirdness. Some other time I’ll attempt to broach that.)

But anyway. Superheroes.

Our culture is currently fascinated by the idea of superheroes. I mean, in 2014 alone there were four superhero movies released to the big screen. Five if you count Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Why?

Because our culture longs for a hero.

At least, that’s my opinion.

I, personally, have three favorite superheroes.

(And, for the record, I don’t participate in the DC vs. Marvel hostility. Whoever makes good movies [because I also exclusively follow the cinematic universe and am completely ignorant when it comes to comic books. Judge me.] will meet with my approval.)

The first (and probably my most favorite) superhero on my list is Thor. Specifically, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor because my, that man is attractive. In addition to being superbly attractive, Thor is pretty much invincible. (Maybe Avengers: Age of Ultron will bring that statement into question, but for now I’ll abide by that assumption.) The idea of a fantastically gorgeous, mainly unbeatable superhero is just…beautiful. So, yeah; Thor’s my favorite.

Second is Superman himself. (I told you I don’t care about DC vs. Marvel.) Iconic, and probably one of the first superheroes I was ever aware of, Superman can do it all. And he’s only got one weakness: Kryptonite. A show of hands for how many people keep a stock of Kryptonite in their homes? No one? Yeah, me neither. Villains are going to have to go out of their way to take Superman down, and the chances of a villain going to that amount of effort to harm me are pretty slim. Superman’s presence would be quite the safety blanket.

Third, but definitely not least, is the supremely talented Wolverine. Now, sure, the dude’s got an anger issue, and he’s a little bit dangerous with those pointy claw-things he has, BUT he’s basically matchless. Which is why one topic you always ought to avoid around me is the 2013 movie The Wolverine. That move makes me so mad, because a character hereto portrayed as essentially invulnerable to everything suddenly gets absolutely ground to a pulp by a bunch of dudes, most of whom don’t even possess adamantium. Wolverine could SO beat a bunch of ninjas. Anyway, I won’t pursue that rabbit trail today, but the basic point here is that I am quite fond of the dangerous, impetuous man with the claws.

If you haven’t noticed yet what links these three heroes, I’ll go ahead and spell it out for you. They’re all attractive (which is important, but I’d argue not key, because there are some mighty fine men that I don’t happen to be as fond of) and they’re all pretty nearly invincible.

Our culture needs—I need—a hero who’s invincible.

Society is full of heroes. Don’t doubt it. Men and women who defy death to preserve the lives of others. Men and women who give up what could have been a prosperous and cushy life to bring hope and healing to those who can barely keep their heads above water. Men and women who selflessly pursue meeting the needs of those around them and who never get notice or accredited for their actions.

Army fatigues aren’t as flashy as capes and cowls.

Our society is so obsessed with superheroes. Maybe we’d be better off noticing our super our everyday heroes are instead.

But we still long for that invincibility. Or at least I do. Maybe you’re different. That’s okay too.

All I’m saying is that I know a guy who sacrificed his life for mine and died a totally undeserved death just so that I could live. But even in death he was too powerful for the grave that tried to hold him, just as in life he was too smart for the guys who tried to trip him up, and so I have the privilege of knowing him to today be alive and well and extremely, mind-blowingly powerful.

I’m not going to go in for any of that nearly-cheesy ‘Jesus is my Superhero’ stuff. But I’m just saying.

***

Today Sierra and Gianna and I went to the park, where a local church was hosting a free feed for the local college students. And I tied my picnic blanket around my neck and stood on a rise and let the wind ruffle my cape.

– Melissa
Hebrews 1:3

hindsight and raw hands

Growing up with my dad, there were two ways to know that you weren’t working hard enough: 1. if you were cold and 2. if you didn’t sleep well at night.

Well, I’m proud to say that I did work hard enough today.

How do I know?

Well, I never got cold (never mind that the theatre was a sort of an oven) and I am 99% sure that I will sleep very well tonight.

I didn’t exactly work smart enough, though.

My hands are red and raw and swollen from working without gloves.

I had gloves in my back pocket the entire four hours we were working.

Now, to be fair, I did remember that they were there most of the time. But I was switching back and forth between so many different tasks—some of which gloves would have helped, some of which gloves would have hindered—that it hardly seemed worth it to take the time to switch back and forth between gloves.

It would have been worth it.

But that’s easy to say looking back.

Also looking back I realize all the benefits of working for my dad all the time. The benefits that I never noticed at the time.

Stuff like the fact that all the muscle tone I achieved mixing concrete and digging trenches and running the chop saw goes away when I don’t consistently utilize it.

Or the idea that if I’m not spending every weekend doing manual labor that I really ought to be getting a work out some other way. Ew.

(While we’re on this subject, if anyone knows of a contractor here in town who’s interested in hiring a slightly dramatic eighteen year-old who has a pretty decent work ethic and is afraid of power tools and electricity and completely over-paying her, let me know.)

Granted, those days had—and continue to have—downsides.

Like the whole working thing.

And getting frustrated because my plans for causing enough mischief to slide the world into total chaos conflicted with my dad’s schedule for home improvement.

And the fact that I know what I’m doing whenever I have to work alongside people who definitely don’t. (By no fault of their own. Don’t hear me being rude or judgmental. Just annoyed and rather inclined to do things all on my own.)

Such is life.

I’m sure I’ll be fussing and seeing only the downsides when I’m back at home for the summer, working on projects that I don’t see the point of and that interfere with whatever nonsense I’ve dreamed up. Isn’t that the way things go?

But anyhow, I’m now going to go and make sure that I’ve met the requirements for Dad’s second condition of a good work day.

G’night!

– Melissa