to the rhythm of hooves outside my window

Monday, May 15, 2017 – 8:05am

Well, it’s been twenty-something hours since I landed on Mackinac Island, and the truth is that it’s been a beautiful whirlwind. (Notice that I didn’t misspell “whirlwind,” which I did during my freshman year when my hashtag that I used for an entire weekend home was “#whirlwhindweekend,” and I probably will never forgive myself for that idiocy.)

If you’re not up with my latest adventures, I’m going to be spending the summer here, on Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island in Michigan, working for the local carriage company as a driver. Mackinac Island is known for banning cars back in the early 1900s, so now transportation on the island is limited to bikes and horses. Hence the carriage thing. It’s quite the tourist destination, which I’m sure will get old but yesterday just meant seeing a lot of happy people.

The fact that I’m now in Michigan implies that I somehow got from Texas to Michigan, and let me tell you, that was quite the trip. On my way home, if my fam doesn’t manage to come out to visit and give me a ride home at the end of the summer, I need to find some stretch of the trip to manage by train, just so that I can say that I’ve used every mode of transportation in one trip. This time I only managed car, plane, and bus on day one, and ferry on day two. Yesterday actually started off with a ferry ride, and that was absolutely amazing. I have plenty of friends who are pretty sure that, deep within their souls, they’re actually mermaids, and while I can kind of relate, that’s not really the type of love I have for wide expanses of water.

I personally think that I’m secretly a pirate (though someone tried to argue yesterday that “sailor” was a more appropriate label, which I think is dumb.)

Between the wind in my hair, the spray of water on my face, and the feel of Lake Huron surrounding me on all sides, I almost started weeping for joy as soon as we left the dock. Like, I was blinking my tears away so that I didn’t look like a complete idiot amongst all the tourists.

As expensive as island life might be (which is fair; all goods have to come over by ferry and get transported to the store by horse-power) I think it’s really going to work for me. The weather so far has been exquisite—which won’t be a constant, but is worth celebrating today—and the fact that I’m never more than a few miles from the lap of waves on the shore is so comforting.

Also, the view.

Oh. My. Word.

It more or less takes my breath away every single time.

(You are welcome to remind me of my prior enthusiasm when a few weeks have gone by and I’m tired and grumpy and homesick.)

Orientation starts today, and my roommates and I are all grateful that it starts at 9am. Generally we’ll have to be at the barn around 7am, so sleeping in is a rare treat. Granted, I didn’t sleep in because I’m way too nervous about the first day of work to have slept well, and the sun woke me up around 5:30, but the thought was nice.

Also nice was having the time to read the Bible. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but staying in the Word is my Christian Achilles’ heel, so to speak. God is gracious, though, and two days in a row I’ve ended up with mornings where I had nothing to do but curl up with my Bible. This morning I ended up in Psalms 117 and 118, which are both emphatic praises of God’s love and might. Psalm 117 makes me smile because it’s so short: only two verses! I can just see the Psalmist having scribbled down a few words of his morning prayer, and someone picking it up and saying, as we do in Life Group, ‘Woop, Jesus!’ and deciding to put it in the Old Testament Canon.

Okay, so no one would have said exactly that back when the Psalms were being written, but I think the underlying sentiment remains the same: the idea of celebrating God for who he is and what he’s doing/has done, and doing so with gusto.

Overall, it was a really refreshing start to the day, and my echoing heart-prayer that I’ve chosen for today comes from Psalm 118:1.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Things I’m looking forward to about today:

• Finally finding out what’s expected of me and what I can expect from work this summer
• Getting the WiFi password so that I can actually post this…
• Maybe finding some more time this evening for exploring; there are so many hiking trails and locations to explore
• Dinner
• Going to bed tonight, because sleep is just so fantastic

All in all, I have been a heady combination of excited about and terrified of this summer for months now, but now that I’m here I’m finally relaxing into it. It’s weird to think that I’ll be here for so long; one of my roommates mentioned Fourth of July fireworks last night, and that didn’t quite compute in my brain. I’ll celebrate the Fourth here, and my birthday, and miss two family members’ birthdays. When the months seem long, though, and home seems far, I keep reminding myself that this stretch of time isn’t that different from my first semester at HSU, and surviving and thriving is just as doable.

By the time I can post this, all these first-morning-thoughts will be outdated, but they’re still me and you’ll still get to read them. Perhaps I’ll even get to where I’m posting with some consistency, and we can both track how this summer grows me…and maybe I’ll grow wings and spend my hours swooping gracefully about above the island. Both are equally likely.

In the meantime and in-between-time (I just love that phrase!) keep celebrating, keep growing where you’re currently planted, and, for goodness sake, keep dancing!

– Melissa
P.S. Rend Collective is currently my jam, and I have a feeling that I’ll be posting a lot of their music this summer. For my first selection, check out their song Come On.

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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.

Lights and Glamour and Humility

Night and exhaustion combined turn me into a sort of half-crazed lunatic who says whatever comes to her mind in whatever order it may come. I think I’ve demonstrated that by now.

But there have been several things bouncing about in my mind that I’ve wanted to share, and so tonight I’m going to strive to accomplish just that.

Which may be difficult based on the way I keep spelling things.

Hmm.

Anyway…

Since the last time I dropped in to say that life was going well, life has continued to…well…go well.

Thursday, in particular, was one of those days that show me why people can preach a ‘health, wealth, and prosperity’ gospel, because it was so fabulous and it was super easy to connect the dots and think, ‘I’ve been doing my devotions and praying and talking to people about my faith and so now I’m being rewarded and why didn’t I start checking all the little boxes of ought-tos earlier so life would quit being so dadgum difficult?’

Except God’s blessings aren’t dependent on our level of surface-level perfection.

And God’s blessings are every bit as present on the days when I don’t get out of class early, find out that I did indeed manage to test out of a class, learn about a concert that my dad buys me and my friends tickets to, get a call from my mom saying that she gets to fly out to see me in the play Hay Fever (which everyone should come see…) and enjoy three full, nearly-healthy meals.

But yeah, that was my glorious Thursday that my suite mate and roommate and I spent quite a while squealing over.

And then Friday was, by all accounts, a fair day.

And then Saturday I had to get my hair cut…which is stated in a rather displeased mumble and accompanied by a face that communicates that this is not a matter that I am exceptionally pleased about and no, I would not like to discuss it further. I miss my hair but am grateful for the opportunity to be in a show even if it requires sacrificing my hair. I keep telling myself that.

BUT Saturday night my roommate, suite mate, and I all got to go see the concert that we found out about on Thursday.

A while ago I gave y’all my rather unimpressed/confused thoughts about seeing the Newsboys in concert.

Tonight I want to (briefly, because I fear I’m getting loopy) share with you my thoughts about seeing Tenth Avenue North in concert.

First off, I adore Tenth Avenue North, and have since my dad introduced the band to me long before they were immensely popular.

Of course, Dad couldn’t remember the numerical value of their name at first, or even which direction they claimed, so for a time I thought the band was Ninth Avenue West. But life goes on and muddles get sorted out, and the sound of Dad singing along to their Over and Underneath album while we detailed the van beside our rental house in Carthage, North Carolina sticks with me.

Also, I’m pretty sure that there’s no other band whose songs I have cried to as often.

And I’m not talking about those hideous ballads, like where the kid’s dying and his family pulls together so that he can celebrate one last Christmas in September before he dies. I detest songs like those. Because I know that life is depressing. I see it all around me and it breaks my heart on a daily basis. But can’t we fill the airwaves with songs about how great God is in that tragedy instead of singing about how tragical the tragedy is?

Sorry if I just insulted your genre. Maybe I shouldn’t post offensive things on the internet. But…yeah, moving on.

The type of crying I’m talking about is in those moments where I’m feeling lost or alone or broken, and I turn on my ‘shuffle all’ playlist and all of a sudden I hear someone singing right to where I am, whispering the words of God over me or murmuring the silent plea of my heart.

Like, seriously, when you find yourself in a place of spiritual desperation, listen through an album or two of these guys’ and you’ll almost without fail find a song that’ll let you breathe, ‘That, that is what I’m feeling.’

So that’s the basis of my thoughts on Tenth Avenue North. I already love them as singers, song writers, and musicians.

But I like Newsboys as singers, song writers and musicians, too.

Tenth Avenue North (gah, I love the band but I’m getting really sick of a three word long band name to type out all the time with no logical abbreviation that doesn’t strike me as totally tacky…TAN…?…10AN…?…yeah…no) last night won me over as performers.

Okay.

So.

Unpacking that idea:

The first song played, as the lights came up and the audience shouted for joy, was their latest hit from their latest album. Everybody knew it. Everybody sang. It was great.

(Side note: I get a tremendous emotional rush from being surrounded by like-minded believers joining their voices in worship. Church sometimes makes me tear up for this reason, and there’s always at least one moment like this at a Christian concert. Just the beauty of being together, of being free to worship, of being the collective Bride of Christ—loved more than we could ever begin to imagine…mmm…it’s just so beautiful.)

From there the band jumped around from album to album, playing new hits and old favorites, and constantly constantly engaging the crowd in family.

At one point, we were all instructed to put our arms over the shoulders of the people beside us. Because we were family. We are family.

It made me insanely happy to watch each of the rows of people in front of us in the theater (there had to be about ten) start to sway to the music. As a group. A body. (Like I said, emotional rush.)

We danced together—except for the people who didn’t believe in dancing and just did ‘choreographed movement.’

Mike (the lead singer) talked about the symbolism of raising our hands in worship: that it’s not a holier-than-thou position at all, but it’s a reaching up and echoing the words of his daughter when she cries out, ‘Daddy, hold you!’ I love that picture. And I loved being surrounded by hands lifted in surrender and desperation and adoration.

I guess what I’m trying to impress upon you was that it was a night of family.

Not family and a band.

Family.

Broken individuals united by our desperate need for a savior.

I paid to go to a concert.

Instead I got to be part of a worship service/party.

With impressive lighting effects and a bunch of normal guys who happen to be well-known for their worship lyrics.

And that normality? It just made them all the more impressive.

I still ache to have a platform, to get to make a difference like that.

And Tenth Avenue North is an amazing reminder to me that what I’ve visualized is actually possible.

God can be given all the glory through flashing lights and microphones and platforms.

So anyway, it’s pretty late now and I’m not in bed the way I told myself by the time I told myself I was going to be. I’m still pretty giddy from last night (obviously, I think) and all I can really leave you with is an invitation to check out the music of Tenth Avenue North if you never have, and a reminder just how great it is if you are familiar with it but haven’t played it in a while.

And remember…

We’re not meant to live this life alone.

– Melissa
No Man Is An Island by Tenth Avenue North

A Glowing Review

It’s Tuesday.

I know this because I went to my Tuesday classes and did Tuesday things.

But in all reality, it doesn’t at all feel like a Tuesday.

Not that I know what day it feels like.

Not that it matters.

It just oughtn’t be Tuesday.

On an entirely different note, you must pardon me if my speech patterns (or typing patterns, seeing as how I am actually typing and not speaking at all) seem a bit odd; I’ve spent the last few hours in rehearsal, stumbling through an accent I sincerely hope wouldn’t offend anyone British who happened to happen into Van Ellis. There now. I think it’s wearing off a bit. By the time I conclude this post, I might actually be sounding like a Californian valley girl again.

Ha.

As if I ever strive to sound like a valley girl.

Sometimes I do, I know. I say ‘like’ far too often, and occasionally I get that funny high pitch to my voice when I’m very tired and am acting childish.

Not that valley girls are childish.

I’m digging myself into a hole. I can sense it. Send your complaints to my mother who won’t forward them to me and all that jazz.

Skipping to a new topic again, it’s been a surprisingly pleasant week.

Or maybe there’s nothing surprising about it at all: I serve a great God who loves me enough to tell me so.

When last I posted, I was rather dreading the coming semester. With good reason, based upon past experiences. But Monday started rehearsals for the coming show (expect me to keep mentioning this and expect me to keep urging locals to attend) and Tuesday provided a really good conversation, and Wednesday delivered more of the same.

It’s almost as if I’m getting into the swing of things. Just as everyone has been telling me I would.

I’ve got a new roommate this semester, and she’s absolutely delightful to spend time with. In fact, we keep starting conversations that are actually about conversating (new word; you’re welcome) rather than procrastinating even though we find awhile later that we’ve entirely neglected to do whatever it is that we were supposed to be doing before we started talking. It works out so nicely on so many levels.

And she has Lego Pirates of the Caribbean for the X-Box. Which we played today.

I repeatedly ran her character over with a pig so that she couldn’t get anything done.

Then she ran me over with a horse.

These are signs of a truly remarkable friendship.

Another highlight of the past days has been the spur-of-the-moment trip I took to San Antonio for the weekend. It’s always lovely to see my cousins, and as per always there were lots of adventures.

Mainly involving me falling in love with adorable animals and then my heart breaking because I can’t have pets in the dorm, or they belonged to somebody else, or both.

Quite tragic, really.

But I got in good snuggle time with horses and dogs and cats and cousins.

And my talented cousin put up with me squirming around and generally being quite ornery as she helped me figure out twenties-style makeup.

And somehow I jinxed another cousin so that every time I happened to come through the room, his character happened to get killed in his video game. Whoops… Sorry, Jonathan.

And I didn’t get lost once in the four hour drive back to school from San Antonio and I managed to stop the fuel pump at exactly $20.00 when I was fueling up!

Yep. Good weekend.

Good week.

Good semester?

It certainly is looking that way.

I think perhaps the biggest factor in the peace and contentment I’ve felt over the past days is (true confessions, here) that I’ve finally started to begin my days with a quiet time. It’s one of those things that I’ve known for so long was vitally important, but knowing something can be quite another matter from knowing it, and even knowing something doesn’t always translate into practicing that thing.

Days seem so much brighter when I start them right. I don’t know why I never did before now.

All in all, I may not be over-the-top excited about this semester, but I’m not dreading it any more.

What is there to dread, anyhow, when God’s in control and my task is simply to follow where I’m lead and overflow onto others the crazy, mind-blowing love that’s been shown to me?

Feel free to remind me of these sentiments the next time I’m in a hole or up a tree and I’m questioning the miracle of grace or how I could possibly continue plodding onwards.

God’s got a plan.

Somewhere deep inside of me always remembers that.

And I’m so glad that all of me remembers it just now.

Now, however, I should sign off, as I sense that inner Noël Coward coming back and I rather fear that I shall suddenly break into quoting vast quantities of lines that probably wouldn’t make any sense to you at all.

Ah, also, I advise that you don’t get hiccups around me. There’s an entire scene of mine devoted to hiccups, and I will quote all of my lines as soon as you first hiccup, regardless of how little sense they might make when paired with whatever you’re replying to me.

Theatre life.

Enjoy your evening, or morning, or whatever it is that you’re currently experiencing.

And remember, no matter what you’ve been up to or however far you think you’ve fallen, there is never a time when you can’t start over any more.

– Melissa
Relentless by Hillsong UNITED

Random tidbit that I could’ve included before I signed my name but wanted to put down here instead: did you know that “copying, posting or reposting on the Internet” of the NIV (New International Version) translation of scripture is prohibited? In other news, if I post any scriptures, from now on I’ll be using the NLT or ESV…

Hungry Hungry Miles

Perhaps one of the crueler inventions of an already callous world was the idea of making someone drive 1453.4 miles to a destination she didn’t want to ever attain. Perhaps I’m making a mountain of a mole hill. But either way, I am officially exhausted from three days of traveling.

I never wanted to learn to drive.

Now I never want to drive again.

(I’ve actually loaned my car out for tomorrow afternoon, which is neither here nor there.)

Semester numero 2 commences tomorrow.

Not excited.

The thing about 1453.4 miles is that it gives you a lot of time. Even with talking to your little sister and with making her life difficult and having your life made difficult by her and with the occasional scattered phone conversation and with music and music and music and with trying not to hit or get hit by anyone on the highway, there is plenty of time. Time for thinking and mulling things over.

I mull things over a lot anyway. That’s actually part of the reason that I have a blog. That, and I love having an audience. Even if it’s only, like, two of you and my parents. Simply the idea of having the opportunity to speak to the world is enough to satisfy me.

But to get back on track: mulling things over.

I wrote, like five or six good blog posts over the last three days.

In my head, of course.

If texting and driving simultaneously is illegal, I can’t imagine what typing out a blog post on a laptop while driving is.

No, I can imagine what it is.

It’s insanity.

Which I did not partake of.

And now all those wonderful, well-thought-out thoughts…they’ve vanished. Lost in the oblivion of physical weariness and emotional weariness and a battle against an already aching homesickness that I refuse to give the reigns of my semester to.

Now all that I can manage is a muddled attempt to shatter the walls around my thoughts and a garbled attempt to tell the people who care about me that yes, I’m alive, and yes, I did make it back to this place after all, and no, I’m not going to drop out of school this semester, and yes, I do need your prayers. Desperately.

I miss my awesomely weird friends. I miss my wacko sisters and my zany brother. I miss hugging my mom and butting heads with my dad and making fun of my idiot horse to his face and getting nuzzled anyway.

Everyone has told me that the first semester is the hardest. Which would, in theory, mean that these next four months will be easier than last go round. But I’m afraid to hope and then get my hopes dashed.

But at the same time, life without hope is like a blank canvas.

No, it’s worse than that:

Life without hope is like a wooden frame rudely stripped of its canvas covering and hung in the art gallery all the same.

The next week is going to be full of reacclimating and adjusting to a plate full of new classes and rehearsals every night.

But Christmas break was a beautiful mess, and I’ll try to scrape up some time to rehash some bits of it.

Maybe some of those lost thoughts from all those miles will come back if I ask very nicely.

Most immediate, though, is my need to call it a night and let these tear-watered eyes get some sleep. Tomorrow’s a new day, full of possibilities and classes and people whose scars run just as deep as mine.

Have you ever pondered that: that each of those million-or-so cars that zoom past you on the highway is full of a person who’s thinking about something and who loves someone and who’s going somewhere? It blows my mind. Every time.

The world’s so big that it scares me. But it also makes my problems pale in comparison.

Yet he sees each tear I cry and hears me when I call.

Wow.

On that (rather unexpected by my-weary-self) note, I shall bid each of thee a good night and a beautiful and blessed tomorrow.

Make a difference. Or at least don’t be afraid to try.

– Melissa
He Knows My Name*

*When I was in fourth grade, our little children’s choir sang this song. This version isn’t as good as ours, of course, but it’s still a beautiful song. Also, the YouTube video linked is titled differently, but don’t be confused—it’s the same song. Just mistitled.

Joy to the World

It’s been a good week, and as of yesterday I can officially say that I have made it through a semester of classes—I still have finals to take next week, but that’s not really the same as classes, so I’m calling this a victory regardless of what anyone else has to say on the matter. So there.

The weather this week has been lovely, mainly classes have been lovely—except for Tuesday when I ended up voluntarily singing out of the blue in Bible class to help out a professor who’d forgotten the words to the song he was halfway through singing to illustrate a point, and also got pulled to the front of the class in Speech so that the professor could give a blow-by-blow of my somewhat embarrassingly-high A to the class—and I haven’t hated people all that much.

Highlight of the week (maybe of the entire semester) was definitely reading the cast list posted yesterday to find out that I had been cast in my first college performance!

Adding even more substance to the joy this knowledge brings is the background of longing for the stage that I’ve experienced ever since my last not-directed-by-me-or-performed-in-our-itty-bitty-drama-club performance all the way back in April of my Sophomore year. Two and a half years is a really long time for a dramatist like myself to go without blinking into spotlights.

Of course, being cast in a show has brought with it the typical two-sided extreme of emotion that basically anything elicits from me: I am so overjoyed that I can hardly function and at the same time I feel so inadequate and insufficient that I just want to crawl under something and cry.

How is it possible to have a superiority complex and an inferiority complex at the same time?!

I dunno. It probably has to do with the fact that God knows that I am so prone to trying things on my own and that it takes crazy contradictions like these to get me to retrain my eyes on the only constant my life has ever known: the astounding love of my Creator.

But, yeah. The last couple of days have been emotionally turbulent.

Another highlight (not quite as high, but still great) was getting to see HSU Opera’s performance of ‘The Magic Flute—Abridged’. The performance was fabulous.

Let me be the first to say that I don’t know that I could typically sit through an opera. However, this one was (as I said) abridged, plus it was in English and was on a level that kids could understand—meaning that we uncultured people could understand it too. The costumes were bright and fun, the singing was great and not overmuch, and the whole thing lasted only forty-five minutes.

Yay, HSU opera!

After the performance there was still a set to strike (even though this show wasn’t the theatre department’s) and out of the goodness of my heart—and the sheer boredness of nothing else to do—I stuck around to help the shop workers with the strike. It only took us less than three hours, and it was honestly perfect.

‘Why perfect,’ you ask?

‘Don’t you have a blister on your finger from this ‘perfect’ strike,’ you skeptically wonder?

It was perfect because not-so-shy but very-introverted-and-almost-antisocial Melissa only had six other people to deal with, and one of them she already knew quite well and a second she’d worked with before. I can handle small groups, and it was great to get to immerse myself in a group of theatre peeps without feeling like I was drowning.

Tonight I get to go to a theatre party.

I am not nearly as excited.

Because there will be a lot of people in a small space.

Yay people.

Life could be so much worse, though. I’ve had an entire semester to have all (or at least a good number) of my insecurities pointed out to me, and I’m rather inclined to believe that I’ll be ready next semester to start vanquishing my foes. (The ones that are fears, that is. I’ll be very careful to avoid attempting the vanquishment of any humans I am inclined to consider foes. I do, you see, have some sort of self-control.)

All that to say, I’ll be acting, I’m excited, God is good, and it’s easy to remember all the reasons to be joyful.

Oh, so one last aside that made me smile, Sierra smile, and definitely amused some random gentleman yesterday. The two of us (Sierra and I) had to make a run to Walmart to pick up food for the party tonight, and as we were walking up to the store, I started singing. If you know me, you know how this goes: I take a common song and switch out the words until I’m singing stare-worthy nonsense completely seriously at the top of my lungs.

Last night I happened to pick up the The Band Perry line ‘If I die young, bury me in satin…’ (I don’t know what song this is from; I only know the chorus, and even that is iffy.) But I switched ‘satin’ to ‘cotton’ and went on to describe (in song) why this was a necessary choice. Sierra rolled her eyes as she has learned to do, but the man we were walking past cracked up laughing.

Maybe I’m not famous (yet) and maybe I do sometimes feel like my voice has an extremely limited impact. But I got the accidental opportunity to bring a smile to someone else—how cool is that!?

I guess my point is two-fold:

  1. It is probably a very bad idea for Sierra and I to be allowed to hang out together, because nonsense happens quite a lot and I sometimes fear for the safety of the world.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself—however weird that might look. Someone might need to hear you singing about cotton or watch you waddle like a penguin down the sidewalk. You do you (to the extent that it glorifies your creator).

That’s really all I’ve got for you today. But in the words of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber: “Remember, God made you special, and He loves you very much. Goodbye!”

– Melissa
(If you need music to dance to, check this out!)

giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! Okay, so it’s several days late. Be thankful for your blessings every day and all that jazz.

The reason for my belated posting is that…well…it was Thanksgiving. And I was busy hanging out with my beloved family of weirdos. You think I’m exaggerating? We had a Turkey Bowl in the snow and the eight year old was expected to tackle my mother. (Yeah, that rule did get changed. But still.)

I feel like I used to be a lot better at mental multi-tasking. Maybe I was just better at mentally checking out. Either way, I’m finding that time spent with my family becomes time that I’m not thinking in blog posts or texting friends until all hours of the night. I guess it comes down to the ‘you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ To anyone still in high school: don’t take your family for granted; before you know it you’ll be living a six hour flight away and get to see them once a month if you’re lucky.

Instead of Thanksgiving being a homey affair, we (my aunt, family, and I) congregated in the little town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Pagosa Springs is a tourist trap, desirable for the “healing” properties of the natural hot springs for which the town is named.

Fun facts: the hot springs in Pagosa Springs stink and the closest Walmart is an hour away until they open the one they’re currently building in town.

No family is perfect, mine included, and we did our share of wanting to kill each other, but we also had a boatload of fun. We drove half an hour to Wolf Creek Pass to play in the snow on Thanksgiving Day, which is where the Turkey Bowl took place and where we got the family picture that is going to be vying for a spot on our Christmas cards this year. We drove two and a half hours (plus the detour to Walmart in Durango) to Four Corners, and we all got to straddle the four states that meet there: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.

I’m not sure if I’ve been in Utah other than that experience…hmm….

Anyway, Four Corners was fun, but if you’re planning to go I’d suggest you wait a few months and then hope and pray that they’ve finished construction on the bathrooms they’re working on because…whew…that portion of the experience was an assault on the olfactory sense.

My sisters, Mum and I got to go window shopping around town yesterday, which was fun for all. Well, the youngest sister had slightly less fun, because she really prefers the concept of shopping to the concept of window shopping. But she found an, um, unique card she’s planning on giving my parents for their anniversary next month, and that pacified the buy-something bug in her to some extent.

Basically, it was just fun to scamper about gigglingly with my favorite girls again. I’ve missed mocking clothes and offering to buy each other atrocious knick-knacks together.

And then we scampered off to see Mockingjay Part 1—Grace read the first of the series early last week, we watched the second movie on Thursday, and she had no idea what to expect going into the movie, so it was hilarious to watch her freak out over the plot. I’m not going to offer a review for all of you, but let me just say that even the very limited use of ASL onscreen (I think they used a grand total of five signs) absolutely made up for any variations the screenwriters may have made from the book’s plot.

All things said and done, good and bad, it really did balance out to be a wonderful extended-weekend.

But now (as in when I wrote this; now it’s this today’s tomorrow) I’m on the road back to the dorms. (My aunt’s driving, people. Stop assuming that I’m stupid enough to try driving and blogging at the same time! Yeesh!)

Not my favorite situation.

However…it’s just twelve days until I see family again, and only a few days after that until I’m back home with the rest of the gang and my friends and my horse. Twelve days of Christmas.

I suppose I don’t have overmuch to say tonight. I’m definitely not feeling overly philosophical, nor even overly emotional. I just know it’s been awhile since I updated the blog, and so wanted to check in with y’all and remind you of the value of those oftentimes insane people you call brother or sister or mom or dad or aunt or some nickname that has such a complicated back story that you don’t even try to explain it to strangers.

I’m sure I’ll be back with updates sooner than later, especially as the chaos of finals ebbs and flows and I procrastinate by finding “equally important” things to do. I’m really good at that.

Until then, though, enjoy the Advent season (there really is no other good phase for the awkward little bit of time after Thanksgiving but before Christmas is truly just around the corner…) and enjoy your family and enjoy life.

Oh, and also learn American Sign Language, because it is a beautiful language. (That’s got little to do with anything, but I just happened to think of it and I tend to type whatever I think. You’re welcome. And I do mean it about learning ASL.)

– Melissa
(insert every Christmas song ever imagined here)

November 13, 2014

That moment when you can finally take a deep breath, stretch out your tense muscles, and mutter on an exhale, “Yeah. That’s over.”

I am finally at Thursday afternoon, and while I do have one remaining class for today, it’s just lecture and turning in an assignment I finished polishing up this morning.

In other words…it’s the weekend. And what a weekend it will be.

Thanks to the fabulous generosity and love of my parents, I fly out of Dallas tomorrow for a crazy fifty hour whirlwind-weekend at home in California. My sisters and I have already discussed that sleep probably isn’t anywhere on the agenda, and we’re okay with that. Life’s too full of friendship for sleep to be anywhere near important.

As I’m pretty sure I’ve communicated, I’ve been pretty homesick since moving to school, and while my family visiting last month was a major blessing, it didn’t lessen my longing for my horse or my best friends or my favorite haunts (namely, church, my bedroom, and the barn-thing in the backyard). And in less than twenty-four hours…I get to see all those things!

Yay!

I just have to make it through these last twenty-three hours. At least I get to sleep through a decent fraction of them.

Anyway.

Deep life thoughts aside from the fact that I finally get to visit home.

I decided last Thursday night that it was finally time to cut back on the amount of sugar I consume. Because sugar affects me. Majorly. And so for the last week (excepting Sunday, when I had to bake a cake for a potluck thing, and it’s impossible to bake a cake without licking the batter off the spoon and sampling it fresh out of the oven and licking the icing off your fingers) I’ve avoided anything blatantly sugar filled. So, basically, almost all of my favorite things. (I know that there’s sugar in pizza and macaroni and cheese. But not as much as in ice cream, so I didn’t count those.)

And you know what?

It’s been okay.

Now, sure, I want to have a meltdown every time I walk into the caf.

And I totally miss riding the sugar highs—I like to let myself forget about the inevitable crashes that are oh so unpleasant.

But non-sugared Melissa is a little bit more grounded.

That crazy sugar-induced panic in my chest that I get when I’m facing two exams and a major project on a single day (yesterday…) wasn’t there, and I could just be stressed and exhausted without melting into a puddle of tears.

When I spout off some ridiculous nonsense (today I was singing about deer at the beginning of hunting season to the tune of Best Day Of My Life by American Authors as I ate lunch) I know that it’s actually me talking, not some crazy hyped-up version of me.

I will never get drunk.

Nor will I ever do drugs.

The ways that sugar plays with my head are quite adequate for me, thanks.

All that to say, it’s been a grand (though interrupted by a Sunday) experiment, and I guess I don’t totally regret it. At all. (Wow. I can’t talk in a straight line today. Good grief.) And while I won’t be making this a permanent change, I do envision cutting back on my sugar consumption to at least some degree, especially on crazy exam weeks. (Now that I say that, I need to plan on doing this again during Finals Week. Glad I thought of that.)

The world’s a crazy beautiful place, even when it is consistently below freezing temperatures and you’re from California and you’ve never been this cold in your life, and I’m pretty grateful to be a part of it.

And I’m also really really grateful that before too long I’ll be somewhere where it’s not below freezing and I might even get to run around in shorts because it’ll be above 60 degrees. Yep. Good things.

Well, not too much longer before class, so I may as well start walking that way.

I hope you find your own reasons to smile today!

– Melissa
Food for Thought

Visions of grandeur

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Participant or Prisoner?

Theater is eating my life.

I don’t mind though. Not really.

I mean, that’s why I’m here at HSU: because when I came to visit in February I fell in love with their theater. The building. I fell in love with a building.

And yeah, the scholarships the school offered me were good, and the small town atmosphere was what I was looking for, and the campus was the right size, and family is near, and Texas is a good place to be. But really, I’m here at HSU because GCU didn’t show me the inside of their theater and so my experience there was missing its heart.

Call me crazy. One day I’m going to be that crazy hobo living in an abandoned theater and you can call me even crazier. I don’t care. I won’t care. I am crazy.

But anyway, back to that whole consumption of my existence bit that I started off with.

Every night of last week was dedicated to either rehearsals or performances. I love that concept. Sitting on a dark stage for 2+ hours a night gets a bit dull though.

Plus it’s freezing cold. (I should be losing weight based on how much time I spend shivering. Sadly, though, that’s not happening. I hate exercise…)

But, hey, I sleep, I manage to get homework done, and I’m where I want to be. And I’m finally getting to know theater people! I know that I’ve had this opportunity since day 1 of classes, but being in the green room by necessity is so much more manageable for me socially than it is to just randomly show up amongst people I don’t know and be like, ‘Hey!’ (I’m still semi-convinced that I’m way too introverted to be a theater major.)

On Friday night a little kid in the audience exclaimed ‘Blech!’ in the middle of our performance when Hermia and Lysander kissed. It was adorable.

That’s another amazing thing about theater: the audience. Even though I can’t see anything from my lonely perch backstage, I can hear the people out in the house responding to what’s going on. They laugh and applaud and sometimes they get totally quiet because even a comedy has its tense moments that need pondering.

I recently saw this quote:

“Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it.” – Kristin Chenoweth

I think that’s me with theater. And I think I come under that first everyone.

I know I’ll keep second guessing myself, there’s no doubt about that. But the theater is where I feel alive and the stage is where I feel myself.

So I’ll keep on muddling through classes and auditions and late night rehearsals.

And I’ll bring gloves to the next show so that I don’t get frostbite.