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.

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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

A Seasonally Appropriate Post

Christmas music makes me cry.

Not all of it, granted. And I’ll also admit that a lot of music makes me cry.

But pause for a moment and take in the concept that we sing about:

The omnipotent, omniscient God became a human baby.

What’s the average weight of a newborn? 6, 7, 8 lbs?

That’s nothing.

My backpack weighs more than that most days.

The Lord of Lords became a baby who weighed less than my backpack.

Like, what even? That’s humility beyond my understanding, vulnerability beyond my comprehension. It’s kind of taking my breath away just to even type that.

The God of the universe was cradled by a teenaged mother, who probably sang lullabies to help the King of Kings fall asleep.

I mean, come on! If that doesn’t blow your mind, then your head must be made of something other than brains and bones. (If that’s the case and you haven’t had some kind of surgery to implant a titanium plate in your skull, then I’d suggest you talk to a doctor because you might be a cyborg…)

One of my favorite pictures is from two years ago, when I was directing a goony bunch of high school and junior high students in a Christmas play, and we’d all gathered to take pictures in costume. My younger sister Gracie was playing Mary—and, let me tell you, she looked cute and she knew it—and my best friend was playing Joseph, and the two decided to make fun of each other rather than acknowledging how awkward it was for a thirteen year-old to be playing the wife of a seventeen year-old.

But…we weren’t too far off from being pretty accurate: it’s more than likely that Mary was, by our culture’s standards, just a child herself when she gave birth to Jesus. Probably thirteen or fourteen. Joseph could’ve been as young as sixteen or seventeen, though he might have been older. We can’t know for certain.

Jesus came into the world weighing less than my backpack and trusted himself to the care of a teenage girl from Nazareth.

Let me just say that I wouldn’t trust myself to raise a child, much less thirteen year-old Gracie (or even fifteen year-old Gracie.)

That’s what the Christmas songs are about. That’s what fills my eyes with tears.

The magnitude of the gift…it’s too great.

I don’t feel worth it.

I don’t feel worth anyone giving up the glories of heaven to lie in a feed trough and cough on the dust stirred up by a stable full of restless animals. I don’t feel worth anyone learning the pain of burs and splinters and skinned knees and the cruelty of other humans.

But Jesus did.

One most likely not-so-silent night, nestled away in a smelly little stable in Bethlehem, Jesus took his first breath of earth’s air and changed everything forever.

***

I think I’m failing at writing this post in the way that I want to.

I think maybe my heart’s too full and I’m trying too hard.

Let me try again.

***

Take a deep breath. Hold it for just a moment.

Okay, now rummage around your mind and find all that cynicism you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s okay that it’s there, your life hasn’t been easy, but it’s not something you need right now. Gather it up.

Now let that breath out, and exhale that cynicism, too. Like I said, you don’t need it at the moment.

Humor me just a moment more and go back into your mind palace (mine’s actually more of an attic, hence the subconsciously attic-y metaphor I’ve got going on here) and poke around in those cobwebby corners for that spirit of exuberance you retired years ago. Remember that glow of excitement that everything used to bring bubbling up within you? That’s what we’re looking for. Childlike glee.

Found it? Yeah, I know: the lens got foggy with disuse. But don’t give up on it. Because it’s Christmas, and you’ve got ample opportunity to polish that sense of delight.

Is there a Christmas tree around? Notice how the lights stand out against the green of the branches? The way the ornaments nestle in like they’re basking in the glow? Remember your first ornament? How proud you were to hang it from a branch and how you didn’t notice when Mom came along later to double check that it wouldn’t fall?

And the weather. Outside. What’s it like? Prayerfully it’s not a bajillion degrees outside, but I suppose it could be. If it’s chilly, though, check out the way the air intensifies everything, the way the colors stand out from each other in crisp perfection. Summer smears it all together, but winter clarifies the world. It’s pretty spectacular, snowing or not.

We’re going to try ignore all the department stores. They make me nervous because there are people everywhere. And too many of them haven’t read this blog post and are still clinging to their cynicism. (So it’s your job to be a beacon of joy and hope. Show ‘em what they’re missing and make ‘em wonder if maybe there’s something better out there.) But if you do end up in Wally World or wherever, look for the joyful people. The ones who remember what a joy it is to be alive in December.

Are you feeling any better? I hope so. I desperately hope so. I hope that you can spontaneously break into laughter because you remember what a beautiful world you’re a part of. I hope you’re remembering how it is to feel things instead of retreating back into the safety of numbness, because safe does not equal fulfilled.

Christmastime is such a roller coaster season for me, because—whether I like it or not—I approach life with a vivacious attentiveness that demands that everything be felt on, like, twenty-seven levels or so. And there’s just so much to take in! Colors and tastes and smells and feelings and songs!

The songs especially are big for me. There are the fun, peppy songs like Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree that just make me want to dance. There are the popular songs like All I Want For Christmas and Winter Wonderland that make me just a touch frustrated and just a touch sad because I don’t have a significant other to share the season with and I wish I did.

But then there are all the other songs, my favorite ones, the ones that tell the story of the season. I know the traditional ones by heart, and I know most the new ones pretty well, too, and I basically sing along no matter how hoarse I may happen to be. And sometimes I cry. Because…well…what the songs have to say is pretty amazing.

They tell of a baby, born in a stable, heralded by angels, and greeted by society’s outcasts. But not just any baby: the baby who was God-become-flesh, come to earth to dwell among his creation and, ultimately, to redeem them from the fate they’d brought down upon their own heads. It’s a beautiful story. It’s a true story. And it’s a story with incredible implications in my own life.

Sometimes I wonder if we don’t forget to remember those implications. If we don’t just go on about our lives when, in reality, we should stop to let our breath be taken away by the beauty of perfect humility and perfect love.

I’ve actually put together a list of a few of my favorite Christmas songs. For you. Wherever you are. My prayer is that you’ll be able to carve out a few moments of quiet to let the words wash over you, to replace the bustle of preparing for Christmas with the peace of the victory Christmas has already accomplished. And I pray that, with childlike awe, you’ll learn something new about Christmas this year, and that you’ll live it in a way that makes other people notice.

I love Christmas, because nearly everybody is glowing with the magnanimity of the season. But the people who are glowing with something more…those people are truly a delight to encounter.

Have a joy-filled day.

– Melissa
Christmas Playlist on Spotify

Christmas Playlist on YouTube

 

 

in the Middle

Hi. Hello. I’m Melissa. But you probably already know that.

My speaking patterns are pretty Middletonian tonight. Thanks, Mr. Eno.

But seriously, my mind is still caught in the patterns of the play I’m currently on tech crew for: Middletown by Will Eno. It’s a beautiful piece, full of explorations of life and deep meanings that make me tilt my head to one side contemplatively somewhere or other every night.

If you’ve never been on a tech crew, never been part of a cast, then I don’t expect you to understand the madness of tech week. Sure, it’s great and all. Great and utterly exhausting. It’s madness, and exhaustion, and frustration, and elation, and it all comes together on opening night.

Tonight was opening night.

Coming into this show, I was incredibly nervous. After all, I am the kind of person who likes to know exactly what she’s doing and exactly how she’s doing it so that there is very little risk of looking like an idiot. I was talking with a friend tonight and this proverb came up:

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.”
Proverbs 17:28 (NIV)

But it’s hard to keep silent as a sound designer. The goal is kind of to…you know…make sounds. And I had never sound designed and I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it. It was risky.

Sometimes, though, you get assigned a job and you know it’s going to grow you and so you take a deep breath and say, “Okay.”

I said, “Okay.”

The long and short of the story is that I didn’t fail miserably, and I have fallen madly in love with bluegrass music. In fact, the hardest part of my job is probably having to not dance during all the transition music. I have to sit still and wait for the cue to fade the music out and that is so hard!

I really do love this show.

I love the thoughts Mr. Eno has to express.

For the past three nights, there has been one line per night that has reached out and entwined itself around my soul. And by entwined, I mean that it resonates so deeply that it kind of hurts a little bit. It hurts for me and it hurts for the people I know who have faced blackness. Who have stared into the depths of a seemingly empty life and longed for a glimmer of hope.

“…I wanted to be an emergency, somehow. I always felt like one, deep down.” – John Dodge

Don’t we all? I sometimes do. Maybe not always, but sometimes.

I feel the need to be someone’s emergency. I feel the need for someone to notice my silent screams and to drop everything to come running because I am worth it. I need to feel that I am worth it. That I have worth.

“We all have our dark nights. We’re probably never as alone as we think.” – Mary Swanson

‘As we think.’ As we fear. We fear—I fear that I am desperately alone. It circles back to that worth thing, and I look at what my life is and I know, without a doubt, that I am not good enough.

I am a mess of scars and tangles and raw places. I am rude and venomous and cold.

How can I be anything but alone?

How can I be worth it?

The night is dark, far darker than I think anyone can understand, and deep down I suspect I deserve it. I deserve to be alone.

It doesn’t have to be true. I am the girl who is loved fully and unconditionally. Who has been deemed so ‘worth it’ that a perfect somebody died to save me from myself. He died. I fear death, and maybe he did too, but he died for me to shout that I am irrefutably worth it.

I know that.

But sometimes, in the dark of night, I am still afraid.

Maybe we all are. Maybe you are.

You’re not alone. Know that, please, above all else.

You are not alone in your fear. You are not alone with your fears.

Truth runs deeper than what you feel, what you imagine.

The truth is that you are loved fully and unconditionally. You have been deemed so ‘worth it’ that a perfect somebody died to save you from yourself. He died to save you from your fears. He died to shout that you are irrefutably worth it. And now he lives and promises that you are never alone.

We’re never as alone as we think.

“There’re people like me in the world, I think. You don’t hear much from us because we usually don’t say anything. But we’re out here, trying to get a hold on the whole thing.” – The Mechanic

Us: the mostly silent messes.

We don’t talk about our failures enough, I think. We’re too quiet about our fears.

We dupe ourselves into believing that somehow everyone else has it together. That nobody else has as much to hide as we do.

Can I admit something?

I am a wreck.

That wasn’t really a weighty admittance. I’ve said it before. And I’ll keep saying it. Not as self-deprecation, but as hope.

I am a wreck, and you are a wreck, but we’ve been deemed salvageable.

My life is a salvaged wreck, and somebody’s putting me back together. Slowly, sure, but it’s happening.

Please don’t read this and think that I’m on the edge of crisis. I’m not. Tonight has been truly wonderful, and I’ve kind of been floating all day.

I jumped off of a couple of steps earlier and shouted for joy.

The world is full of joy.

Tonight isn’t one of those dark nights.

But my soul remembers them.

My soul remembers how quickly clouds can darken the skies, and it cries out for someone to understand those moments. I think Mr. Eno does.

I don’t know where you’re at tonight, physically or emotionally.

If you are physically in Abilene, come and see Middletown. No matter where you are emotionally. Please. We have six more shows, November 13-14 and 19-22, and this really isn’t something you should miss.

If you are not in Abilene, find and read Middletown. Especially if ‘dark nights’ and ‘being an emergency’ resonate with you. Read Middletown, and know that I am here to listen. I don’t claim to even begin to have all the answers, but I can listen.

I am good at listening.

And I never want you to feel alone.

Hit me up on facebook, or comment here, or—if you know me in person—come up and start a conversation. I don’t bite. And I’m serious: you never have to let yourself feel alone as long as I’m around.

Feelings are sticky. They don’t make sense. (Trust me. I am currently battling the Battle of the Unruly Emotions and it is downright ridiculous the lies I’m being fed. Like, um, let’s stop ignoring the perspective I am going to great lengths to try to attain, please. And that’s all totally beside the point.)

Fear is sticky, too, and it convinces us that its presence is justified. But it isn’t, and finding an Other to give you some perspective on what you’re fearing is really helpful.

It’s really important.

God’s love is sticky, too.

And it’s not an adhesive that you can escape. You are loved, more than you will ever comprehend. It’s okay if you can’t understand that tonight. But please know that. Know that your mess can never be too much. I promise. Bigger than that, God promises.

I love you. I love your humanity and your soul and your destiny for something bigger than yourself.

So goodnight, sweet human. Whether or not it is night where you are. It’s night somewhere, right? In some Middletown somewhere on the planet. Sweet dreams.

– Melissa
my anthem, on the dark nights

i am not the girl with no substance

I worry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to laugh.

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

So find one!

Laugh!

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

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

I worry that no one will take me seriously.

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

– Melissa

Homecoming and Mud and Everything Else

It is currently 11:45pm and I am so tired that I can barely function. So what am I doing?

Writing a blog post. Duh.

Tomorrow morning’s gonna be rough. I’m just gonna call that right now. But, hey; whatever.

It’s Homecoming Week at HSU, so things are hopping around here. As if advising season and sorority/fraternity pledging season weren’t enough to fill the campus with general tumult, add in homecoming prep and daily activities and this crazy event we at HSU call “All-School SING!”

From a performance standpoint, SING is…madness. It is chaos. It is too much pressure and too much singing and a much coveted title of Champion.

From a technical standpoint, SING is…complete madness. It is utter chaos. It is too much pressure and too much singing and directors who don’t understand that we aren’t actually trying to ruin their lives when a cue goes wrong.

Guess who’s working SING Tech…?

Yep.

This girl.

The one sitting at the house-left side of the booth in front of the computer, running projections.

It’s not an awful job, actually. A couple of the shows don’t even have projections.

And it’s easy to amuse myself, intentionally and otherwise.

Like, on Tuesday, I added one slide to a slideshow, turned to talk to the director, turned back and found that I had also added 236 additional slides besides the one I wanted. So that made me giggle way too much.

And today, before the show began, when the curtains were closed and nobody in the audience could see what was being projected, I found a picture of a baby chimpanzee and made him think encouraging things for the people backstage to see. That was fun.

So yeah. I’m amusing myself and getting paid and trying not to dwell on how tired I am or on the people who I’m letting get under my skin.

Aside from SING madness, it’s been raining here!

I love the rain!

I love to run around in it and splash in it and soak up the annual rainfall of Bakersfield in my clothes in the space of an hour.

However.

I learned today that Toby’s pen does not particularly love rain. Or, rather, it does. Much too much.

My dear, hydrophobic horse is now living in a lake, ruling over his wet domain from two little islands. The water is at least four inches deep. Plus another two inches of mud.

I am very glad that I own rain boots.

And I am very ready for the sun to come up and evaporate the lake. Because Toby is not a seahorse. He’s a horse horse.

Really, if I’m entirely honest, life has been crazy and weird on all counts for a while now.

And by crazy and weird I don’t mean all and sunshine and roses.

I mean that lately there have been some grey-colored days, and on those days I am just grateful for people who come into my quiet to let me know that I am not alone and that it’s going to be okay. Hugs are sometimes the best things ever.

I mean that recently I have had spinning-like-a-top days, and on those days I am so grateful for people who don’t get scared of me and who keep up with my mad energy and join me in adventuring into all sorts of mischief. Camaraderie isn’t just a word I can’t spell or pronounce.

On Sunday I was ready to drop out of school.

I’m totally serious.

I was curled up at my aunt’s house with first my sisters and then my entire family, and there was not a single bit of me that wanted to return to Abilene to this drab little dorm room to resume my life as a student.

And so I didn’t return.

Or, rather, I put off returning until I finally left so late that I didn’t get back to campus until 11:30pm. I still managed to go to bed earlier that night than I am tonight. Oh well.

Life’s buzzing in my head, feverishly reminding me that there are a million and one things I want to say, but my tired mind is out of words and so I think I’m going to call it a night.

One final thing, though: Why does my hair always look nicest in the middle of the night?! For realzies! What’s with that? My only option is to sleep on a head of curls that will look frizzy and slept-on tomorrow morning.

So not cool.

– Melissa
A Happy Song

the mask comes off: i’m not strong enough

Recently, I’ve been pretty down in spirit.

During my free time.

During my quiet time.

During worship service at church.

Because I keep running up against an I-keep-failing-at-this wall.

I do not love people in the fearless, relentless way to which I know I am called. And that breaks my heart.

So I get quiet.

Or I cry.

I weep my repentance and swear to do better and deep down am filled with the premonition that I’m going to fail again.

Is this all life is: failure and heartbreak and failure again?

If I try harder, though.

If I really mean what I say, and if I grit my teeth, by golly I can love you with the love of God! This time I’ll do it!

If all it took to do what was right was the heartfelt desire to do so, I would be there. Trust me, I would so be there.

But it’s not just wanting. It’s not just saying something and really meaning it.

Because you know what?

I’m just human.

My human strength isn’t enough to even allow me to keep breathing.

Somebody else does that for me.

If life were up to me, try as I might, my heart would stop beating. The atoms that make up my body would cease to know how to have cohesion. I could not exist by mere force of will power.

I’m not cosmically powerful enough.

But there’s someone who is. Someone who literally spoke the universe into existence. Not coaxed it back into proper working condition, no, He spoke and it became.

I speak and things break.

God spoke and the universe became a thing.

That’s the kind of strength I need to make this ‘loving others’ thing a reality.

The exciting thing is, that strength is offered to me.

The Psalms are full of declarations that ‘The Lord is our strength!’

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

“Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!” – Psalm 81:1

“My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26

These are awesome promises to claim. And trust me, I do.

But then comes a new day of inadequacy despite my best intentions and I begin to wonder if I’ve not only failed at loving others, but if I’ve also failed to access strength made available to me, and then I spiral down into guilt that leaves me feeling too ashamed to pray at all.

It’s been a tidy, predictable, awful cycle.

The other night at Midnight Worship we were singing a song (that I can’t remember the title to) wherein the chorus refrains, “I want to know Your heart,” and I suddenly lost my voice.

I am fully aware of God’s heart for me where I am.

I know exactly what I am called to.

But I’m not doing it, so am I in rebellion? Maybe sometimes. Am I a failure? I feel like that.

Pour in, pour out.

That’s what I was given as I cried out to my Abba in frustration and shame.

Pour in, pour out.

That might not make much sense to you, but I grew up in Remedy youth group at LBC, and “pour in, pour out” was one of our Core Values. It’s the idea that others have poured into us, we have been loved and taught about God, and from the overflow of that we can love others and pour into their lives.

And I realized as I stood there, surrounded by the voices of my peers earnestly seeking the heart of God, what I’ve forgotten:

I keep trying to pour out of a cup that’s not actually full.

As I have worked to keep my head above water this semester, time with God has fallen to the wayside, my contact with the people who keep me accountable and partner with me in chasing after God has drastically decreased, and I have neglected to get involved with any kind of small group. I attend church, sure, but it’s a megachurch where I can slip in and out without talking to anyone. Which I generally (aka, always) do.

If I’m honest, the reason I’ve made it to October 5, 2015 without totally losing it is running on overflow from summer.

That’s something I can fix. That’s something I will fix, starting this week.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to quit working to love people just because I don’t have me straightened out yet. That’s definitely not my goal or intention.

But I’ve learned that you’ve got to know the true cause of the problem before you can fix it, and I think maybe I’ve at least partially found mine. And that’s exciting! In an I’m-still-broken, healing-takes-time sort of way…

So I’m going to get back to the basics. Back to living life one breath at a time. Back to where God’s strength isn’t something I call on when I think something’s too hard for me, but where God’s strength is the lifeblood of everything I do.

All this to say, this post isn’t about how awful I am. It’s not about how great I am, either. It’s not actually even about my failures or about fixing my problems.

I share this because life is real.

Because I wear a mask, just like you, and I think I’m pretty good at it.

I share this because there is hope.

And I also share this because if you see me, I want you to be able to call me on this. I want you to be able to say, “Hey, Melissa. Whose strength are you operating on today?” and I want to have to honestly answer you even when the honest answer is, “…mine.”

I don’t have a tidy wrap-up for you.

But…let’s value honesty. Let’s value vulnerability, and let’s value absolute dependence on the God who loves us absolutely.

– Melissa
I Need You, I Love You, I Want You by Tenth Avenue North

I didn’t actually proofread this…

Sometimes you just hope beyond hope.

You plan beyond the impossible and you do your very best not to get yourself into a position where a letdown is going to let all of the air out of your sails. You know it will hurt, a little, if things fall through like you know they probably will, because that’s how letdowns work, but you brace yourself for the impact so that it doesn’t capsize you.

But some days your hope gets realized.

The pieces of your impossible dream settle in and you end up with a coherent possibility. A reality, if you can call it that despite the inevitability of life to catch you by surprise.

This afternoon I found out that I have been cast in the play that my theatre department is taking to Scotland next August.

And, to be honest, I thought my audition sucked. Truly. I was inwardly cringing even before I finished the one scene I was asked to read for, and when I wasn’t asked to read again I knew that that was it. I was done for. I’d blown it and that was that. But Scotland is expensive anyway, and I could always act as stage crew if finances came through and I could go.

But I got cast.

Despite everything I thought and everything my insecurities screamed at me.

(And let’s be real: my insecurities are still screaming, maybe even a bit louder now.)

So yeah. That’s my terrifically exciting news for the day:

I will be playing Agnes in Shadow Box here in Texas come April, and then I will be playing Agnes in Shadow Box in Scotland come August.

Aside from that, I didn’t have a spectacular day.

Toby’s been being an idiot and he’s managed to drum up an inflammation in one of the (numerous) scrapes on his leg, and since Saturday his leg has been swollen from the knee down. I swear, that horse thinks I’m studying Veterinary Medicine. The swelling is down somewhat today, but it’s still there and it’s still worrying away at me. I really don’t want to spend money on a vet right now.

Also, Spanish is the worst, and I totally didn’t study for the test we had today and the language does not come intuitively to me and I really need to study next time. That’s all.

But it is Happy Pufferfish Tuesday! So that’s fantabulous!

If you haven’t gotten the vibe yet, I’m kind of in a strange mood, brought on by a terrifying cocktail of emotions compounded by a case of (ever-present) exhaustion. I’ll be okay, but everything’s a bit…oh, what’s the word…spikey? at the moment.

You know…

Spikey…

Like, it peaks and then it valleys and then it peaks and then it valleys?

Like your heartbeat on a monitor.

Except this isn’t just my heart beating.

This is life pulsing, first bright and then dingy.

It’s kind of normal for me, but it’s a little more tonight because I’m going to Scotland!

Do you live like that ever?

In spikes? Up and down, good and bad, each distinct unto itself and each startlingly real and pressing in the moment?

My dad talks about it like a mountain. Like I get to experience the mountains but I also have to trudge through the valleys, and since I’m from California the mountains are all Mount Whitney and the valleys are all Death Valley, and that makes sense when applied to my life as a whole, but what do you call it when it’s happening over and over again in the course of five minutes?

What’s that?

Madness?

Sometimes I think that it is.

But…it’s beautiful. Despite it’s overwhelming nature and its tendency to bounce me back and forth between bouncing and…well…not.

I’m rambling. Because I’m hyper, I think, in a sit-down sort of way.

I should probably stop typing. Because now is when life…well, this post…gets weirder and weirder until suddenly I’m posting pictures of happy pufferfish to social media.

Wait.

I already did that.

Just kidding, we’re apparently past the pufferfish stage.

Now is when I…

I what?

I don’t know.

I think maybe it’s when I start questioning life. Reality.

I love the word Ontology.

A) Because it’s a beautiful word.

and also

B) Because of what it means.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘Ontology’ as “a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being.”

Isn’t that confusing?

My psychology teacher taught me that, and I’ve clung to the term ever since. Because ontological is me past a certain time of night on a certain cocktail of emotions compounded by a case of (ever-present) exhaustion.

But anyway, morning comes early and I recognize that I’m venturing further and further down a path of weirdness.

Stay chill, my people.

– Melissa
Something odd for your day.

Destined for More

If the Christian life were all about satisfying the self, life would kind of suck.

Because, I mean, you get saved, and that’s great and all because you’re going to heaven instead of hell, right, but…then what?

If Christianity was all about being happy, earth isn’t the place for Christians.

I don’t know about you, but I long for my heavenly home where pain isn’t a thing and relationships thrive the way God intended them to and I don’t have to worry about how many calories that bar of dark chocolate has.

(Let’s be honest: I really don’t care about the calories all that much. I’m a total chocoholic and I have no shame.)

But seriously, life kinda sucks if it’s all about you being a happy Christian.

Your mentors, the ones who taught you about God and helped you attain salvation, they’re gonna die. Go to heaven and be away from you. And you’re going to be stuck here.

Here, where no matter how hard you try, you will never attain perfection. The day will never ever come where you’re, like, “Dude! I just overcame my last struggle! Now that I’ve attained not lying to anyone, I will never struggle with sin again! I get to sit back and relax and just chill!”

Just in case this is necessary for someone, news flash: You will always be struggling with something. Always. And if you somehow reach a point where you can honestly look at your life and be, like, “Hey, I’ve got it all together!” then you’re not being humble, and that’s a sin, too.

So yeah, you’re stuck in a world where loved ones die and where you’re going to keep messing up no matter how hard or how long you try.

And while you’re here, people are going to give you a hard time. Because you’re a “Christian” and they don’t get it. Or maybe they think they do, or maybe they feel threatened by the way the truth is outshining the lie they’re living, or maybe something else. Whatever the cause, people are going to mess with you and be rude to you simply because you call yourself a Christian.

If you’re lucky.

In some cases, people will take it beyond just rudeness and will actually cause you physical harm. Maybe they’ll even kill you.

So why?

Why live at all if Christianity is about being happy and going to heaven?

Thing is, it’s not.

Christianity isn’t about you being happy.

Christianity is about a God who loves not just you, but the world.

And the really sad part is that a great portion of the world doesn’t know that.

So here’s the deal: instead of it being all about you, it’s all about us. The collective whole that the gospel was written for.

You are loved. Unconditionally, unequivocally, and beyond everything you can imagine.

But so is your neighbor. So is your coworker. So is your boss who you can hardly stand and who some days you wish would step out in front of a passing horse-drawn carriage and break every bone in their body so that she’d have to spend months in a full-body cast.

Yeah. I’m serious.

God loves them, too.

And you know what?

He’s put you in their lives to tell them that.

And you know what else?

He’s put me in people’s lives to tell them that.

The truth?

I don’t really like people.

I’m not even kidding. As a whole, the human population tends to rather repulse me. I’m working on getting my heart in tune with God’s on this one, but it’s a struggle because people are just such (yeah, I’m gonna say it) idiots.

(I’m a person, too, by the way. I annoy me, too.)

If it were up to me, looking out for my own personal happiness, I would go live on an island with my horse and a smart phone and a wifi signal, and I would live out my days in solitude until I got to go to my true home in heaven.

But I don’t get to do that.

Because life isn’t about me.

It’s about doing the will of my Father, which is to tell others what was told me.

So I love you.

I love you as an individual, despite the fact that you’re a person and I sometimes get annoyed with you, because my God loved you enough to die for you. And that makes you pretty worthwhile indeed.

And so whatever I have to do, whatever I have to say, I am committed to telling you how worthwhile life is when you have a purpose bigger than yourself.

Because living to gratify yourself, living to ‘be happy’ inside or outside of Christ, is a pretty dreary, meaningless place to be.

And you were destined for something greater.

– Melissa