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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tramping through Narnian snow

Last month I had the privilege to assistant direct a play by the name of Christmas in Terminal B with a local community theatre group. It was, overall, a beneficial and worthwhile experience, but it was also a real struggle since tech week landed squarely on my finals week.

Last year I spent threeish hours underneath a table in the makeup room of the theatre during finals week because that’s where I was mentally. That was without tech week for a show I was assistant directing—a show in which anything that could go haywire did go haywire.

Anyway…tech week saw me barely clawing my way to the rehearsal space, dark circles under my eyes, random economic principles and facts about European theatre spinning around in my head. The entire cast and crew were awesome at cutting me slack over missed cues and spacey moments, and were also great about letting me go early so that I could study or sleep or whatever that night required of me.

Marlo, our stage manager, even brought me a box of chocolates.

Not just any box of chocolates, mind you: one of the boxes that has a key on the lid so that you know what you’re eating.

“Life is a box of chocolates.”

I don’t know who said that, but it’s so true, especially when you don’t have the chocolate key. But I had it and it was great because I could avoid the coconut ones and the ones with caramel so chewy that it rips out your teeth.

But, you know, Finals Week cannot allow anything so blissful as that.

When I took the chocolates home that night, the box came open just enough in my backpack that all of the chocolates slipped from their cozy little nests and pooled at one end of the box. So much for having a key.

That’s kind of how 2016 and the first couple of weeks of 2017 have felt: there’ve been some really great moments (and some really gross coconut moments) but life’s shook the box up and I have no idea what the heck is going on.

2016 brought the blossoming of unexpected friendships and the completion of the first half of my oh-so-difficult college career. It gave me the most amazing experience of my life to date: Scotland; and it bestowed upon me the most pressing dream of my life to date: to get back to Scotland. It granted me my own room for the first time since Abbie joined the family back in 1997, and that’s been unspeakably awesome. I got to join a small group at my church in Abilene, and act in my all-time favorite venue, and help direct a show for the first time in three years. There were at least three amazing concerts that I got to attend, all of which I got to attend with one family member or another.

But 2016 also saw me wreck my sister’s/my truck, as well as the wreck of a couple of really precious friendships. It handed me a move and some really tough goodbyes, health concerns for my horse (though, really, that’s a yearly thing), and a feud with my sister that didn’t really start to get resolved until a month or so ago. And just college in general, with all its stresses and heartaches and people…all the people.

So now it’s 2017 and there’s a lot to unpack, but I haven’t found time for it amidst the tumult that is this year. I’ve changed my major from two down to one and I’m going to graduate a semester early because I Hardin-Simmons is crushing the breath from my chest and I couldn’t see how I’d have the air to make it to graduation unless something changed, so I made changes and it’s great and also terrifying. Dad’s got to find a job and my family might be moving again and it’s all so upside down and turned around that I can’t follow it anymore or even guess where things are going to land in the next week or so. I have multiple possibilities on the fire for the coming summer, and I’ve shuffled them all around and we’ll see how things fall over the course of this month so that I can make some real decisions. No idea where I’m going to be living this summer or—more critically—this fall when I’m back in Abilene for just one semester instead of two.

And all of that since January 1.

But January 1…

We started off the year gathered around a piano singing Auld Lang Syne. Me and my best friends in the world, just…together. Ha. Now I’m about to cry because gosh I miss them so much and plus I’m tired and also I haven’t cried recently so I’m about due for a poorly justified meltdown. But, yeah, it was fantastic, and then the day was together and laughing and more fantastic. Pretty auspicious start to a year, right?

2016 was a box of chocolates that somebody had shaken.

I think 2017 is feeling more like Narnia?

You know, because it started off magical, and then it’s gotten cold and snowy and wintery, but still magical, and eventually I’ll come out on top of this struggle and it’ll be good awhile and then the next books will come along and life will get crazy and hard again, but at the end there’s the Last Battle and we all come out all right and together again.

Can 2017 be Narnia? And can we meet Aslan?

Maybe. Maybe there’ll be a pirate adventure in here somewhere, and maybe we’ll get to the last pages and come together to sing Auld Lang Syne again, and maybe we’ll harmonize even more closely and hold each other even more tightly because of the battles we’ve come through and the Lion we’ve looked in the eye to see our souls reflected back at us.

I am terrified of 2017. But I think the Pevensies were a little bit scared too. So I think it’s going to be okay.

– Melissa
check out this music inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia

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

“quince (that’s a fruit)”

The world’s quite a place, really. If you think about it.

We totter about on two appendages—that are crowned with five much smaller appendages apiece—and we mutter syllables that we’ve decided to interpret in a given way, and we almost never bat an eye about how strange the whole scenario is.

What am I talking about?

I have no idea.

In an entirely different vein, it’s Saturday night, even though I just briefly thought it to be Friday, and I’m sitting at home rather than mingling with my peers at the theatre Halloween party. I was really hoping that more people might ask me today what I was going as so that I could wittily respond with some variation of, “An introvert! Because introverts don’t do parties and neither am I tonight!”

But hey, please don’t make my personality type a costume. This is serious and a key part of my identity.

(This is when I wonder if you’re going to be highly offended by my insensitivity, and I kind of hope that you’ll either laugh or roll your eyes, and I vaguely suspect that this is where some of you hit the back button on your browser and we resume our separated and opinionated lives.)

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, between school and work and auditioning a show for community theatre and picking up a murder mystery gig, and I’m really just enjoying my evening off.

In case you were wondering, one of the many reasons that I choose not to drink alcohol is that, when I’ve had a long exhausting day of doing practically nothing and I just need to drink something out of a wine glass, I can have that third glass of cran-apple juice with no consequences other than the knowledge that I’ve consumed a bit more sugar than I probably ought to have allowed myself. Juice is my favorite.

Also, exciting news: I think I’ve finally made peace with the concept of a mouse living in my room enough that I might actually sleep in here tonight! I crashed on my housemate’s bedroom floor last night because I was having a breakdown for the second night in a row and it was just easier to avoid the meltdown. The night before that I had a meltdown during the breakdown and ended up sleeping on the couch.

All that said, I don’t know exactly what I want to say, so instead of writing something deep, thought-provoking, or absolutely hilarious, I have decided that today I’m going to share 10 Facts (that you may or may not be one of the five or so people to already know) about me.

1. I’ve had the same favorite color—purple—for my entire life, but I developed a fondness for the color orange in junior high simply because Abbie and I were sharing a room, and the color scheme couldn’t be pink (her favorite color) and purple because that combination makes her nauseous. So we settled on pink and orange and I claimed orange as my almost-favorite color.

2. I hate lady bugs. Truly. I’m also borderline terrified of them. I know the hatred of them stems from the disgust of having the chrysalises of Abbie’s escaped lady bug larvae around the rim of the dinner table, and idly messing with the edge of the table at dinner just to discover that you’d mutilated a pupa. So disgusting. The terror comes with the fact that they are a six-legged creature.

3. I’m not actually afraid of the dark, even though my nervousness about what’s in the dark can make it seem that way. Night is one of my favorite times and I wish we lived in a safe enough world that I could become nocturnal without worrying about getting attacked as I wander trance-like through the darkness.

4. I keep a spare jug of cran-apple juice on the floor of my closet. I’ve run out of juice one (or seven) too many times, and cran-apple is (as you may have gleaned from me drinking three glasses tonight) one of my lowkey addictions. Someday I’ll have a pantry full of the stuff, but until then I’m using my closet.

5. I’ve had quite a few lucid dreams (maybe 10% of my dreams?) and apparently that’s not super common? I saw some gadget on facebook the other day that’s supposed to help you have lucid dreams and I got super confused because…why? It’s not that great. It’s cool, I guess, but not spectacularly so.

6. I cannot eat tomato soup. And no, I don’t mean that I really don’t like tomato soup. I cannot keep the stuff down because it is that repulsive. Truth be told, even the smell makes me pretty queasy.

7. I don’t particularly love driving and I’m a total homebody, but I love road trips. Yeah. Try figuring out the logic behind that one.

8. I have always slept with white noise, and I find it genuinely strange that people can sleep in “silence”, partly because silence never is. Maybe out in the country where the only sounds are the wind and the ambient insects the whispers of nature are as effective as a box-fan, but it never is silent where I have lived and yet people persist on sleeping without a fan on…!

9. I have never broken any bones, but I have gotten three stitches because of a crazy accident at church. …I think I’m not going to go into details because it sounds so much more intriguing when left as a giant question mark.

10. I’m a total overachiever and I thought I could easily come up with 10 or more interesting facts and here I am completely out of facts so I’m just going to type a bit more rambling nonsense in case you’re not actually reading what I’ve written and you’re just skimming the page to see if I actually went ahead and wrote down 10 interesting facts about myself even though I haven’t really.

All that said, Microsoft Word has decided to throw ugly blue squiggle lines under a lot of my really fun adverbs, and it is making me mad. Verbs are much less interesting without adverbs, and I understand if you’re miffed about me overusing the word ‘really’, Word, but there are some great adverbs in this blog post that you need to just leave alone.

The end.

Good night.

– Melissa

P.S. The title of this article comes from the most memorable line in Reader Rabbit…Math? Maybe? I can’t remember which Reader Rabbit game it was. But I think of the line often and it seemed to suit the unsuitably disheveled nature of this post.

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.)

Home isn’t just where you keep your socks.

I’m in Texas again, whiling away the hours until I leave for Scotland on Tuesday and working on minor renovations—and major cleanings—in my family’s new house in Seminole, Texas. It’s an odd house, with an impractical floor plan and an excessive number of doors leading outside, and when I got here the floors were completely covered in dead insects.

Truth: I’m not brave enough to open all the cabinets and find out what’s living inside them in order to clean them. Sorry, Mom, but most of that is going to be on you when y’all move in.

Anyway, I’m currently curled up on one of the new couches in the living room, and Dad’s not home yet so the house is quiet save for the box fan I have going across the room and the rattle of the AC vents. It’s…strangely pleasant. Strange because it’s a pretty big change from the chaos and familiarity of the house in California.

But that house has never truly felt like home. The people living there, they’re home. But the house never has been.

I don’t know how your memory works, but I often have strong audial memories, and they’re unfailingly linked to a specific location, usually just one specific glance of a specific location. So I was remembering listening to an episode of some TV show my siblings were watching—Stuck in the Middle on Disney Channel, maybe?—and I was framing the memory in terms of where I was sitting when I heard a particular bit of dialog, when I realized that I was putting myself in the house we moved out of over four years ago, and I heard the episode this summer. My dreams are like that, too: present day occurrences that take place in my childhood home.

Buckboard Drive just never became home.

And I was sitting here just now, listening to the quiet and contemplating the book I’ve been reading, when it dawned on me: this place feels like home. I have been living here since Monday (four days!) and it already feels like home.

And not just because I have my stuff spread out all over the living room (which is functioning as my bedroom.)

I kinda suspect that’ll change when this place is filled with the noise of my family, but it’s a nice feeling for now.

I think…I think it’s because this summer has been so much chaos that I’m just desperate to find a norm, some constant that I can cling to. I know that’s why I’m looking forward to school starting again, even though I’m totally not looking forward to school.

Seminole’s a quiet little town, seemingly equal parts prosperous and poor, and I’m beginning to get the gist of navigating here. Walmart is tiny, probably the tiniest Walmart I’ve ever been in, meaning that I actually had to go to a grocery store to get a lot of types of food instead of just hitting up a one-stop-shop.

I dunno. Small-town life just feels…right.

That sentiment is doing nothing to quiet that little voice inside that insists that I’ve chosen the wrong career path because theatrical success means moving to a theatre hub which means moving to a city. Is Melissa a city girl? I don’t think so.

So…what? I dunno.

I dunno, I dunno, I dunno.

(Also, Word doesn’t know that dunno is an actual thing. Whatever, Word; not knowing that you’re wrong doesn’t make you any less wrong.)

Dad and I have been talking a lot lately.

Not surprising since it’s just the two of us here right now and we keep driving the three-hour round-trip drive to Lubbock.

But, yeah, we’ve been talking.  About a lot of things, but my 5-year plan has come up more than once. It’s all so confusing. But whatever happens, I think I’ll be in Abilene awhile longer. Which is cool. I’m cool with Abilene.

The sun’s getting nearer to setting and I think Dad’ll be home soon. I never know exactly; his work schedule isn’t consistent and then he’s got to drive a ways to get here.

Today I decided that I wanted to name my future dog Toaster. I can’t remember why. I don’t think I knew why. I also don’t know when I’ll get a dog because HSU is dumb and doesn’t let dogs live in campus houses. Which is dumb.

I guess I’ve rambled my way out of pertinent things to say.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m leaving for Scotland on Tuesday and I’ll be there through the 14th. If you want to follow my adventures, I’ll be (trying) to keep everybody updated via THIS OTHER SCOTLAND-SPECIFIC BLOG. I could’ve used this one, but…for why? Plus, this way everything’ll be better organized when my sentimental self wants to reminisce someday. So follow my Scotland blog and have yourselves a merry little Christmas…er…evening. Have yourselves a nice evening. That’s what I meant.

– Melissa E
Check this out! It’s Irish music, rather than Scottish, but I love it.

In Case My Horse is Using the Internet Again

Hey, Toby.

First off, I miss you. I know you can’t quite understand that concept, but I do.

I miss you when I wander barefoot out to the backyard and the only thing that gets between my toes is clean sand. It’s not that I like accidentally stepping in your messes, but…clean pens just are wrong somehow.

I miss you when I eat watermelon and I have to choose between throwing away the rind and risking making the dog sick. I miss the giggles I can’t contain when you are so excited for another bit of rind that you drool the last one all over me. You’re obnoxious and messy, and dang it I just hate throwing away watermelon rinds.

I miss you when the sunset catches my eye and my mind jumps to riding into the sunset with the man who’s still a dream, and I know that I want to be riding off into the sunset with you in the mean time. But I can’t do that because the pens are empty and the trashcan is full of rinds.

I drive past our old haunts and I want to take another ride before life moves me on forever.

We finished the pens.

Finally.

I know you won’t care, never did particularly care, but it’s something, you know? Something finished. Something that I poured time into and you tolerated. And it’s beautiful.

When we finished putting on the fresh coat of paint and I stepped back to take it in, all I could think of was that day when we were painting for the first time and Abbie grabbed my camera and took pictures of me cleaning the pen and it turned into us snuggling.

Attention hog.

I miss that.

I want to try to wrestle a hug from you, want to pointlessly beg you go let me take just one selfie of us. I want you to nearly push me into the feedbox because you’re starving and I’m not moving fast enough.

I want to run outside, because life is too hard but the stars are beacons of hope and your shoulder is strong enough to support me while I pour my heart out to the God who made both of us. How many nights have we spent like that? It’s so different at school and I just want you here because that’s us. Barefoot summer nights under the stars are us.

I just want you here.

I know that summer will end too soon and that we’ll be back at school together. I’ll be just down the road again.

But, Toby?

Summer isn’t the same without my best friend ignoring me from just across the paddock.

Lots of Love,
Your Person

the note from Senior year I found in a box

What if one day you awoke and the world was bare?

What would you miss most?

What would you wish you’d taken a moment to stop and sear into your memory?

The world is a stunningly gorgeous place.

Have you ever noticed that?

Psalm 19 verse 1 says that the heavens declare the glory of God.

That the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Woah.

Have you ever considered that?

Up above you head,

every moment of every day,

is a Masterwork that shouts out the brilliance of its Creator.

And here we go, shuffling through life with our eyes on our feet.

Lame, huh?

I know my feet pretty well.

I’ve known ‘em basically my whole life.

So why do I have to moniter them all the time?

“Feet!

“You’re on your own!

“Don’t disappear, but…

“I’m setting my sights elsewhere!

“Hey…nice socks…”

Stop for a second.

Stop whatever you’re doing.

Now close your eyes…

…and take a deep breath.

How do you do that?

How do you know how to breathe?

Can you imagine not breathing?

No…but that doesn’t mean that you notice it.

You’re too busy.

Take another breath.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

My point is that we rush through life,

or zombie-walk through life,

when there’s so much beauty all around.

What if we all started paying attention to it?

What if we wrote it on signs and took it to the streets?

What if we gathered it in bouquets and handed it out?

Could we start a revolution?

You don’t get it!

Life is too short to have road rage!

It’s too short to quarrel over who was first in line!

You have been given the Breath of Life!

Don’t squander it!

If you awoke tomorrow to a world deprived of color,

empty of warmth,

devoid of beauty,

would you even notice?

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Wake up your senses.

Checkout the masterpiece the Father has authored.

Let’s make

Beauty

Fashionable.

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