Journey through Oceans

I still remember the first time I heard the song. It had to have been the summer before my senior year of high school, and though I don’t know exactly what my spiritual and emotional status was on that particular Wednesday night, I do know that I had come to youth group to worship Jesus, by golly. So I socialized as always and then maybe even did the announcements before the worship service—I don’t know for sure—and then the lights dimmed and the band started the set they’d prepared for the night.

I don’t recall the songs prior to that one, so I can’t have minded them too much, but then our worship leader started telling us about this new song she was going to introduce and how it had touched her and spoken to her and all this. Great, I think, so now let’s just sing it. I’m here to worship, remember?

If shown four power point slides, one of which contained the background that the sound booth fellows decided to put behind the lyrics that night, I could almost assuredly pick out the correct one. It’s that clear of a picture in my mind of those frustrating moments when I could not pick up the melody or figure out how the lyrics fit or glean any type of meaningful worship out of whatever it was that the worship leader was so beautifully singing.

In short, I was not a fan of Oceans by Hillsong United.

But that’s sort of typical for me: I start out hating the songs that will become my favorites. (Just ask my family about my Fireflies mania…)

Over the course of that summer and the following months, Oceans grew on me. I started to understand what the lyricist was trying to convey, started to identify in the pulse of a cry for God in the midst of unknown and seemingly terrifying circumstances.

My heart learned to sing along with my mouth.

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand”

By the time my senior year was wrapping up, Oceans was the song that my apprehensive heart so clung to that I would, without fail, cry through it every time we sang it in church.  Which was every few weeks.

For someone who hates crying in public, I got very used to sniffling my way through worship services.

And then all of a sudden a summer had flown by and I was beginning freshman year of college and that ocean was not just looming deep, I was floundering in it.

And Oceans became a daily prayer, a desperate plea for my Savior to remember that I still felt like I needed saving, still needed someone to keep my head above water. The chorus was my mantra.

“And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”

First semester passed in a hazy blur of tears and uncertainty, a success based on grades, a failure in terms of my spirits. I had found a church and become a regular attender, but my heart wasn’t truly tethered, and when I came home for Christmas break I found myself feeling the way about the church I’ve always called home.

Where was God now?

What happened to feeling secure?

Again I fell back on the penned prayer of my by-now treasured lyricist:

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”

I can’t imagine that God managed to escape the whole thing without having to smile at my piteous persistence. For all my health and family and blessings, I sure was convinced that my world was among the more terrifying in existence.

But even if God did allow Himself a smile, He never stopped caring for me in ways that daily blew my narrowly-focused mind.

When lived moment by moment, my days throughout Christmas vacation and the second semester became egg hunts for God’s provisions and love notes: prizes easily found if only I kept my eyes open.

Sunrises and letters from friends and the wonder of rain on my face kept bringing my focus upward, reminding me of who was in control of both oceans and my life.

And, believe it or not, that song kept cropping up, at worship services and on my car radio. And, surprising maybe no one but myself, I found I was a little less desperate and a little more awe-filled as I sang. And also a little more inclined to smile at the thought of this crazy adventure I was on and of all the provisions I was getting to experience along the way.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

This summer I’ve been home, and my heart has had the opportunity to rejoice in more of the same second semester-type experiences. The biggest difference is that each day now seems to open my eyes a little bit more to the security that I have been afforded in Christ.

The oceans may rage, but my God is so much bigger that me getting upset over it is like the fleas on a dog getting really worried about seeing a puddle that was all choppy from a breeze. Those waves may seem majorly mammoth to the flea, but the dog has got the situation more than under control.

(Also, I don’t think of myself as a flea. It’s more a size thing. Because similes don’t have to be perfect.)

Every day is such a blessing, whether I’m working alongside my family on the house we’re prepping to sell or spending time with the friends I spent two semesters missing like mad or just ambling along through the countryside with my amazing horse.

And sure, there have been tears and frustrations and more than one ‘Why me, God?! What’s up with this super crummy, super unfun situation?!’ screamed silently or not-so-silently at the sky. This is life, remember? And since life doesn’t revolve around me, things don’t always go in a way that’s my favorite.

But every night I end up crawling into bed with a heartfelt ‘Thanks for giving me today and showing me a little bit more of who you are’ on my lips, because it’s kind of hard not to be incredibly grateful when you keep noticing how blessed you are.

One of those blessings this past week was the opportunity to attend Glory Fest 2015 in Santa Clarita, CA with five of my very best friends in the world to hear three super awesome Christian bands in concert. But before the bands played (some very awesome worship music, I might add), a group of very talented worship leaders from across the community led us in a time of worship.

And Oceans was the third or fourth song they played.

I was standing in the middle of a park, literally surrounded by the Church, so very far from the spot of fear and trepidation where I stood a year ago, and singing a song that is so well known by my heart. It was beyond beautiful.

But a funny thing happens when God’s growing you: you start to see things a little differently than before.

“So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”

Keep my eyes above the waves.

For over a year, that was a plea to keep my head above water. Don’t let me drown, Lord. Don’t let me end up in a place where the water fills my lungs.

I spent so long treading water.

And on Wednesday, I realized that I’m not anymore.

And now, the words mean so much more.

Keep my eyes above the waves, Lord. Don’t let my line of sight keep creeping down to the problems that seem to want to overtake me. Let me so deeply trust in your control of my situation that I don’t even have to try to monitor the mess anymore. Keep my eyes up on your face.

We’re called to step out of the boat, just like Peter in Matthew 14, and the One we serve is more than capable of allowing us to walk on the waves.

For some reason we let ourselves be convinced that somehow we’re going to drown.

But you know what?

That isn’t going to happen.

He’ll help you keep your eyes above the waves. Whatever that means to you today, and whatever that means to you tomorrow.

Because you know what?

He loves you.

– Melissa
Oceans by Hillsong United


12:00 AM

It’s funny how things evolve.

Now, don’t hear me buying into the idea of Evolution of present day life from an amoeba.

I’m talking about how things like emotional responses change over time.

Because I’m still crazy homesick. But ‘crazy homesick’ is manifesting itself differently this semester than it did last semester.

Last semester, the longest I ever went without breaking down in tears stemming from my vast desire to no longer be here but instead be there was about a week.

I’m less weepy this semester.

Last semester, it felt like every waking hour was filled with thoughts completely centered on home, and whenever I did end up distracted, I noticed.

I’m less single-minded this semester.

Homesickness is more of a persistent ache this semester. It’s fixating on what I hear about life at home and on the pictures I surround myself with. It’s relating every bit of life back to something about my family. In other words, it’s more subtle to me but probably still glaringly obvious to everyone around me. Maybe even more obvious than last semester. I don’t know for certain.

The play closes tomorrow.

And, on one hand, I’m super relieved. I’ve been so exhausted the past week that I’m only certain the week happened at all because a) it’s a different weekend than it was last weekend and b) homework’s turned in that I had to have turned in during the week of February 9-13. The hustle and bustle and socialness of a show has me drained even when I’m getting enough sleep.

But, on the other hand, I’m super dreading the cessation of this show’s run. Because I know me fairly decently by now, and I consistently come down with a bad case of post-show-blues upon the close of any and every show. Even shows I hate. Even show’s I just worked backstage for and spent two weeks bored out of my mind during.

Anticipating how awful something is going to be usually makes it worse, psychosomatically and all that, so I’ve been trying very hard to talk myself out of this sense of impending gloom. Yet history speaks pretty loudly and clearly.

I’ve even taken actions to prepare myself to get over the hump I presume (know) is coming: I’ve started prep work to begin the legwork for putting on a show at home this semester (stay tuned for details as they arise) as well as stocking my plate with various other projects to engage in.

The truth: I’d rather just shut my emotions down and go into hiding for awhile.

Turtles have it good: they take their shells with them everywhere.

And armadillos (which I personally like to call darmarillos just for the heck of it) have armored plates on their backs and the curl up and look ridiculous and are fairly well protected.

And porcupines have awesome terrifying quills bristling everywhere.

(Have I ever mentioned that I have a slight phobia of porcupines? Oh, and also of fire. If you don’t believe me, ask the two idiots who, with a lighter, had me cringing halfway across the stage before the curtain came up for Act 2 tonight…)

And then there’s me: I can be as prickly or turtley or tough as I want, and I still have to deal with people and life.


This is normally where I’d get spiritual. Talk about how what I’ve been learning in my quiet time or in Bible class relates to all this. But it’s midnight and so I’ll condense it to just saying that I’m really really trying to remember to do life not on my own strength. To forgo comfort and safety and do whatever it takes to bring glory to God. I’ll also say that it’s not that I feel that I’m entirely failing. It’s just that the Christian walk isn’t easy. It goes against everything in us. For me, it means dealing with people. And boy oh boy am I over dealing with people.


It’s late.

I’m going to sleep so that I can be alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic for church and Hay Fever and set strike tomorrow.

Blessings on all your heads. And maybe water balloons, too.

If any of you have a random water balloon materialize over your head and fall down and land on you with a splat and drench you in icy cold water just as you’re reading this, a) you’re welcome and b) please tell me so that I can laugh in delight at your misfortune while also marveling at the awesome weirdness of God.


– Melissa
Check this out.

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.


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.

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!


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


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

Breaking It Down by Building It Up

I guess something I never expected to learn from living 1,300 miles from home is how to be missed.

Funny, huh? And a little (lot) bit strange.

I mean, who needs to learn how to be missed? Don’t we instead have to learn how to deal with missing someone? Isn’t it our own coping mechanisms that need perfected?


But I think we sometimes—no, I know from experience that I definitely did forget how to be missed.

Don’t worry. I’ll explain.

I know that my family misses me. It’s that thicker-than-blood tie that we share after living in the same house all our lives, after trying to kill each other several times, and after nearly killing anyone who tried to hurt anyone else in the clan. (That sentence makes my family sound bloodthirsty. In reality, I just exaggerate things. Call it poetic license or whatever. But we didn’t actually ever contemplate real-life murder, just for the record.) I expected to miss my family and I expected them to miss me.

But friends are another thing.

Knowing me, there was once a time where I was young and naïve and all the world was sunshine and roses and anyone I missed automatically was assumed to miss me too. I’m still that naïve, unsuspecting girl in many regards. But I’ve lost that supposition that people I care about return the feeling—which is very true in some (a lot of) situations. Except that I apply that distrust to everyone. Including people who actually do consider me their friend.

I’ve had several people I called really true friends walk away in the past years. I’ve gotten used to being the one who cries myself to sleep as someone else forgets that ‘Melissa’ is anything more than a pleasant-sounding name. And so I’ve built walls.

I think maybe, to some extent, all of us have.

We get hurt, we decide that maybe that pain isn’t the most fabulous thing in the world (again, poetic license here) and so we go to semi-drastic measures to assure that we won’t repeat the experience.

But walls like these work to rob the joy from life.

Walls like these feed our insecurities until they are monsters too big for us to prevail against on our own.

And walls like these limit fellowship with people who truly do care about us.

It has taken me nearly three months to stop second guessing people when they say ‘I miss you.’ People who have demonstrated how much they care about me multiple times and in multiple ways.

Pretty ridiculous, right?

What a trust issue, right?

Glad to have gotten over that one, right?

(Well, mostly gotten over. I still have my days.)

But here’s an idea: what if we specifically devoted ourselves to being the reassurance to others that it’s okay to learn to be missed? What if we valued each friendship for the priceless jewel that it is and we didn’t just walk away with no explanation? What if we actually learned from our scars?

I know I’ve been hurt.

I strongly suspect that I’ve unknowingly hurt others.

And I know that that can change me.

It can change each of us.

Just my thoughts this afternoon; take them or leave them. Also: Texas weather is bipolar. That is all.

– Melissa
John 15:12

on the Contrary

I officially desperately need to be asleep. And yet…here I am: down in the classroom in the Anderson lobby, laptop and speech materials and empty dishes and all. Why? Because I am a rebel.

Me? A rebel? The straight-As, rule following, don’t make ripples girl? Huh. You better believe it.

I rebel against all kinds of things all the time.

Tonight, though, I’m particularly rebelling against sleep. Which is a surprisingly frequent occurrence.

I’m not sure quite when I started hating going to bed. Because I don’t mean that nightly routine each of us perfected when we were young: Mom or Dad announced bedtime and we proceeded to argue that we weren’t tired and we couldn’t possibly sleep and that nobody needs sleep anyway and etc.. (For me, this routine included Dad telling me to look him in the eyes, and I knew that if I kept my eyes open he’d say that he could see in them how tired I was, and if I closed them that he’d say that I obviously was so tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. You just can’t win sometimes!) What I’m talking about is after I got over that and then suddenly found myself not protesting bed because of lack of exhaustion, but just protesting bed because of the idea of sleep itself—no matter how necessary I knew it to be.

I think maybe I’m not communicating well. That’s pretty typical for this time of night.

I remember, oh, a year ago? lying on the floor in the living room, desperately tired but resolved not to sleep. I think mostly because life was out of control and it seemed that the one thing I could control was whether I inhabited the world of wakefulness or sleep. Kind of a stupid reason to be awake. But most people seem to think that the teen years are marked by stupid decisions, and sometimes I live up to that.

I also remember two years ago, nights of lying awake, staring at the ceiling, terrified of what I’d see if I let sleep overcome me and dreams play against my eyelids. There were some doozy nightmares, especially as my world was consumed in words like ‘seizures’, ‘tumors’, and ‘brain surgery’. This kind of wakefulness makes more sense to me. Though why the human mind so fears nightmares that we know to be only fantasies is beyond my knowledge. (No, I don’t need someone to enlighten me. I’ve got more than enough on my plate just learning about geology and speech communication and Spanish and theatre and the New Testament and wellness.)

All that to say, I don’t really know when I started hating sleep. And I still don’t always hate it. Occasionally I’ll find myself in a place where I willingly fall into bed and close my eyes and drift off to sleep. Like last night. And the night before. But then nights like tonight come and maybe I worry people and maybe I worry myself and I stay up way too late battling exhaustion and accomplishing nothing except maybe a garbled blog post (and most nights not even that).

Some things defy explanation.

And sometimes that’s good.

Like when it comes to everything I ought to be studying for my New Testament exam tomorrow: the fact that the Son of God would humble himself to the point of incarnation and dwell in a crummy human body (that requires sleep) and live a perfect life in spite of temptations and then die an agonizing death and feel, for the first time ever, total separation from God, and that He’d do all that for me in all my rebelliousness. That defies all explanation.

Grace defies explanation.

Unconditional love defies explanation.

The fact that any of us are even still breathing defies explanation.

I don’t know how that really relates to anything. After all, it’s 12:37am and I’m sick and I’m tired. But I think maybe I’m ready to sleep. I always eventually reach this point: when my eyes really just require too much work to keep open and I have to collapse in surrender to the natural processes God instilled in my body.

Why do I fight God until the same thing happens? It’s so much easier to just submit than to fight until the fight has gone out of me and I have to surrender out of sheer inability to go on.

More things to ponder.

But be blessed tonight, whether you’re on a sleep strike or whether you’re the kind of person who is early to bed and early to rise and ridiculously cheerful upon both occasions.

All my love,
Melissa Emig
Psalm 4:8

borrowed smiles

There’s a bird here on campus who only has one leg. I happen past her about once a week as I walk to or from the cafeteria, and she never fails to make me smile. She’s so perky as she hops about, functioning for all the world like a normal bird, despite what must be an exceedingly annoying handicap. (I don’t know if birds get annoyed. I just know that I would.)

The squirrels make me smile, too. I know they’re viewed as pests, and cause a mess and all that. But good gracious, what agile little fellows and what gorgeous coats and tails! The way they leap, like, halfway up a tree in one bound… Yeah, I’m totally jealous.

I’m midweek in the second week in a row of incredible difficulty. And I need little smiles like birds and squirrels and stupid Spanish mistakes that have me talking about my ‘beautiful’ rather than about my ‘sister’.

As Owl City so eloquently put it, “I’ve heard it said that every mushroom cloud has a silver lining…”

And actually, Owl City is part of my silver lining at the moment: of the two new(!!!) songs he released yesterday, one is his first ever song speaking super directly to his faith, and it features Britt Nicole—another of my favorites! I highly suggest you go pick up ‘You’re Not Alone’ on iTunes, or at least check it out here.

Music is so amazing. Currently I’m jumping around between all my trusted old favorites. Trying out new music is great too, but some days I just need simple familiarity.

I guess I don’t have overmuch to say today. I kind of just needed to see my thoughts in words, to shake free of the hopelessness that I keep letting settle over me. The world isn’t an awful place, there is hope, not all is lost, and I get to see my family a week from tomorrow. (I keep murmuring to myself, ‘Just one more week. You can do this,’ under my breath when I’m most ready to scream/give up, and I suspect that people are going to start thinking I’m utterly insane soon.)

Oh! A shout-out to the amazing Jonah, who sent me dark chocolate and fuzzy socks and totally made my Monday morning! (I’m pretty sure that that’s better even than a pirate ship at this point in my life.)

Savor life today. And if you can’t, if the sky is overcast and you half-believe that the sun has disappeared forever, remember that things will get better, that this isn’t the end, and that I am here for you wherever you are in your journey. Thank you, God, that none of us have to go it alone.

– Melissa Emig
Psalm 16:5