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

momentary vs. lasting

I want to numb the pain. I want to follow suit with everybody around me and do something morally irresponsible just to distract me from the turmoil that’s going on inside me.

I want to.

But I can’t.

Because I have rigid morals, and I can’t not toe the line. It’s obedience for the sake of obedience, for the sake of not doing anything wrong. It’s perfectionism.

I vaguely remember that at one time these morals I’ve formed meant something to me. I’ve made the behavioral choices that I have because of one really big factor: I have been loved perfectly by the Father, and my heartfelt response is to follow the guidelines He’s set before me.

I vaguely remember all that. But I don’t feel it tonight.

Tonight I remember just enough of high school youth group to know that this is wanting to ‘treat the symptom instead of the cause.’ Tonight I am processing just enough to know that dumb decisions now can mean hefty consequences later. Tonight I am present just enough to know that tired, emotional thinking is not rational thinking.

I could easily drop out of school right now. This very instant. I am more than ready to gather the few belongings I consider most precious, climb into my car, and start driving West until I have to pull over somewhere to sleep. Then I’ll sleep just long enough to find the stamina to keep driving, and carry on that way until I’m home. I could. Right now.

I could easily get drunk right now. Sloppy, pass-out drunk. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a great way to get out of your head. And if I get drunk enough, then it’s not me making whatever dumb decision comes next: it’s the alcohol, so I can blame that and ignore the fact that I’m still the one in charge of whether I’m drinking or not. I could. Right now.

I could easily take everything out on someone right now. Friends are passing anyway; why not just pick a friendship to end abruptly in order to purge myself of some of the ick I feel? There are plenty of nasty, hateful things that have fluttered through my head in the 19 years I’ve been around, so it’s just a matter of reaching deep inside, retrieving them, and phrasing them so they’re most effective at tearing apart the heart of whomever I’m targeting. I could. Right now.

There are plenty of other options. None of them wise. None of them leading to abundant life.

Because the temporary relief that this world offers is a cheap knock-off of life. (Aka ‘Melissa: remember how we both know that you know this, so don’t go do something we’ll regret later!)

Right now it hurts inside, and I can’t see God’s bigger plan from where I’m standing, and that kind of sucks. But I know that I know it’s still there, and I know that I know why I’m trusting in it.

I could whisper my fears and my doubts and my hurts to the one who designed my heart. I could trust the truths that I’ve stored away for moments like this and remember that however dark the night may seem, joy comes with the morning.

That’s what I choose.

Right now.

Because numbing the pain won’t fix anything.

And I know the one who will fix everything in its time.

– Melissa
“When My Heart Is Torn” by Phil Wickham

Medicine (the good kind)

I don’t remember when Gracie started calling Smarties ‘medicine’.

Maybe it wasn’t her at all. Maybe it was Abbie.

I don’t know. They probably know, but I don’t.

What I can tell you is that we sisters love us some Smarties. (To the point where Gracie got about a million rolls for Christmas this year, because that’s all anybody gave her because it’s kind of all she talks about sometimes.)

I think it’s appropriate: calling those little rolls of sugar ‘medicine.’

Because medicine isn’t solely a pharmaceutical thing. Not in my mind.

If it is, then laughter can’t be the best medicine, and we all know that it is, so…

Anyway, I bought medicine—Smarties—today, and I’ve added them to my backpack stash of everything-anybody-could-ever-need. So now I can offer friends a pick-me-up on hard days (and just eat a shot of sugar whenever I feel like it.)

Speaking of hard days, I feel like I’ve been having a lot of those lately. Which is a bummer, because I think we can all agree that it’s no fun to feel miserable.

Maybe that’s why my latest saying (probably paraphrased from somebody wise I’ve heard speak at some point or another) is this:

It’s okay to not feel okay, but it’s not okay to stay there forever.

Bad days happen (bad months, even) and I don’t expect myself—I don’t expect you—to act like everything is rainbows and sunshine when in reality there’s a downpour going on and you’re not sure whether or not the house is going to flood. But eventually the rain will stop, and it’s okay to emerge from survival mode and learn to live among the flowers again.

I guess I’m saying this: I don’t want to mope.

I don’t want to let the hard moments overshadow the awesome splendor of everything else (which is a mistake I’ve been prone to making.)

I don’t want to be hunkered down so deep that I miss the call of ‘all clear.’

Yesterday was really hard, and I could go into details, like what were the catalysts or what my introspection has discovered as a possible root cause or what my friends did that helped or didn’t, but that’s not what I’m wanting to say.

Yesterday was hard, and today wasn’t.

Today I laughed more during work than I usually do, and that’s saying something because work is one of my happy places right now.

Today I got my first sun of the season and turned my shoulders and the back of my neck pink because the weather was awesome and there was good, muscle-burning work to be done to care for my horse.

Today I drove through the dark with the windows down and the music WAY too loud because I decided that I wanted Sonic at 10pm, and I sang too loud all the way there and back.

Today I went shopping with my favorite partner-in-crime and bought brownie mix and medicine and Easter Lilies.

Yesterday was hard, today wasn’t, and tomorrow is an unknown.

I’m celebrating today, because today I was given more lung-fulls of air than I can count and more smiles than I can remember.

And I’m telling you this so that maybe we can both remember two things:

#1: Medicine sometimes looks like Smarties.

and

#2: There are good days. There are good moments.

No matter what your tomorrow looks like (no matter what mine looks like, for that matter), remember who’s in control, and remember that the sky can and will clear.

– Melissa
One of Those Days by Chris Rice

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.

loneliness

I miss having a friend.

I know, I’m overtired and hyperemotional, but I do.

I miss having a friend who knows me better than breath.

I miss having someone always around to talk to in the middle of the night about everything on our hearts and everything trivial in our days and everything in between.

And I see the people around me, my friends, and it seems like they’ve found that. Like maybe it comes easier for them or maybe they just got lucky, but either way, it’s them.

I feel like a third wheel sometimes.

I remember curling up with my dad over Thanksgiving of my senior year and sobbing, because I was terrified of the future and still heartbroken over a friendship gone bad, and together we prayed that I’d find someone at school who’d be a best friend. Who I could share my heart with and who would share her heart with me.

It’s nothing I’m guaranteed. Nothing I’m entitled to.

But it’s still a cry of my heart.

And it’s still unfulfilled.

And that hurts.

I have good solid friendships here. I’m so grateful for that, because that definitely isn’t where I was this time last year. And I have amazing friendships at home, and I know that we’re going to be able to weather whatever distances life may impose on us, because we love each other like sisters and we’ve been through too much together.

But I still feel really alone tonight.

I think I probably just ought to go to sleep.

Actually, I know I should.

But what I want to do is go wander around campus in the dark and get lost in conversation with someone.

I don’t know who that someone is. I keep hoping I’ll find out.

I wish Lubbock was closer. I wish Bakersfield was closer. I miss my sisters.

I want to go home.

– M

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.