tramping through Narnian snow

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

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

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

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

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

“Life is a box of chocolates.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all of that since January 1.

But January 1…

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

2016 was a box of chocolates that somebody had shaken.

I think 2017 is feeling more like Narnia?

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

Can 2017 be Narnia? And can we meet Aslan?

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

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

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

a heart bound up with ribbons

Quick note: if you’re going to read this, please read it in its entirity. It starts off pretty gloomy, and I don’t want my friends and family to be uncessarily worried about me. I’m okay, I promise.

 

I think I finally get it. I get why bullying is such a hot topic, and I get how the bone-ache of others’ malicious words could lead to a rope-around-neck or blade-to-wrist situation. I haven’t ended up either of those places this past week, but that’s more a duration thing than anything. And a pride thing, too.

I haven’t slit my wrists because that’s too obvious. Because that’s too much evidence to leave of my weakness.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

That’s how it goes, right? So why have the words of others wreaked such havoc on my heart?

I can tell you exactly the last time I hurt so bad that I asked someone to come from where they were to where I was.

Tuesday.

Before that, it was my Junior year of high school, either when my mom was having her first seizure or in the aftermath of all that when I had an absolute breakdown over something unremembered and I spent almost an hour working up the courage to accept someone’s offer of companionship—I can’t remember which one of those two times came first.

Four years. It took me four years to work up the courage for another cry for help. No, not exactly. I invited myself over to my best friend’s house this summer when someone was breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. But still.

I don’t ask for help any more than I accept offers of help.

So why the heck was it words that brought me to such a place of helpless tears this week that I whispered aloud the scream within my heart?

I barely left my room for most of this week. I made it to most of my classes and I didn’t skip work or rehearsals, but I wasn’t brave enough to face the people calling me a villain and so I postponed meals by an hour or more so that the kitchen would be empty again, and I used the door I never use so that I wouldn’t have to go past their door, and I stood for hours doing homework that isn’t due for weeks so that I would have something to occupy my mind with.

Fear has always had a pretty hefty presence in my life. But this stomach-churning terror of having to look at someone knowing what they thought of me and that, no matter what I did, I was going to do the wrong thing in that person’s eyes…it was new.

I’m not startled by fear anymore, but I was this time. I was when I realized that my chest was tight as I did homework and that breathing was hard and that this is what I’ve accidentally talked about when I’ve offhandedly said that such-and-such thing gave me a panic attack.

I’m finally getting it.

The words that tend to break us generally aren’t the ones we’re hearing for the first time. They’re the audible echo of that inner whisper that has always told us that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t deserve friendship or grace. You’re not losing your mind when you start to buy in, you’re just giving into what you’ve always suspected.

You’re berating yourself for not standing up for yourself while simultaneously berating yourself for thinking you don’t deserve to be told of your crimes. And it all makes sense in your head because your inner voice is all confused by the people trying to tear you down and the people trying to build you up and by the voice that sounds a lot like yourself.

Last night I drifted off to sleep wrapped in the memory of a night last semester with friends when I felt very safest and they felt the very most like family.

And that’s a win, because there’s no way I could have remembered that on Tuesday or Wednesday or even Thursday. (To be honest, I can’t even remember if I talked to people on Wednesday or Thursday, because I didn’t trust anyone to care about me a whit.)

But there’s still a twinge that comes with remembering things like sleeping on Maegan’s floor with Michael snoring and Righleigh hogging the blanket we were sharing and Sierra pretending to have been asleep for hours. It’s back to a whisper, but that whisper of unworthiness is still there, telling me that nights like those were flukes and that I need to reframe my expectations.

Honestly, I was struggling long before I fell sobbing to the floor in the dark on Tuesday night. I skipped church last week because I couldn’t bear the thought of standing alone while surrounded by people in twos and threes and holding hands.

This week was an overflow of every fear that this semester has been: that inner voice that assured me that I was alone finally found outer assurance voiced this week, and I couldn’t help but notice all the people who hadn’t noticed my withdrawal. And that on top of actual harassment was just too much.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will break my heart.

I didn’t slit my wrists this week. I didn’t find myself in a closet with a length of rope and a death wish. Thank you, God, that’s not where my story has led this week.

But there are gashes on my heart—from me and from others—still bound up as they heal slowly.

I think I’ve bound them up with ribbons, though. Because I’ve long believed that there is beauty to be gained from pain. And though this healing process is slow, I’m already beginning to see the glimmer of hope.

In forty-eight hours I will be home, and in fifty-two hours I should be hugging my crazy, gone-off-to-Chicago-and-thriving-but-I-miss-her sister. I’m clinging to that idea as I sit alone in my room for the I’ve-lost-track-of-how-manyeth night in a row.

I want to wrap this post up and top it off with a tidy little bow, but that’s not life, is it? There aren’t clear answers as to how any one story ends, and too often the happily part of the ever after is a bit up in the air. We breath in a lungful of air and then we exhale it and then we repeat the two-step cycle indefinitely. And in between those breaths we try to make some sense of this thing called life.

I’m writing from snuggled deep in a colorful blanket, and the music I’m listening to is full of lazy smiles and I’m smiling too. Things are getting better, in this house and in this heart, and I do have people who I’m talking to about few lingering fingers of gloom. I love how vibrant and beautiful life is tonight, and the shadows only make the light glow more brightly.

I found this song yesterday as I was looking for something else. And it made me laugh because someone basically read my mind. (Except for that double negative at the end…I don’t approve of that.)

So I’m going to leave you with this as I bid you goodnight and wander off to get ready to crawl into bed. Goodnight, friends.

Hear that? That’s what you are. A friend. Mine or someone else’s.

Because you are no more alone than am I.

– Melissa

Why do we associate Leap Day with frogs?

So, funny story:

I’ve been celebrating Leap Day for months.

Like, literally.

Because anything I jump off of something or into something or just up in the air for no reason at all, I like to shout, “Happy Leap Day!” because being exuberant about a day doesn’t just have to be constrained to the one out of four years when there are 366 days to be alive. (And Riley needs to get over himself, because the definition of ‘leaping’ isn’t as narrow as he says it is, and I can celebrate whatever I want whenever I want.)

That said, people today haven’t been very celebratory.

Through words and images on facebook and through their voices in-person, people have been complaining that, ‘why have an extra day if it’s just going to be another Monday?’

A) Mondays do not have to be the tragedy you make them out to be. (But I think that’s another post for another day.)

B) It’s not just this one Monday that having a Leap Day affects.

Tomorrow, it’s only going to be March 1st because tomorrow’s yesterday (today’s today) was Leap Day. No Leap Day would equal tomorrow being March 2nd. And even though I know we all want to rush into the Ides of March, isn’t it great to know that we have an additional day before we have to get a handle on March?

On December 31st, it will only still be the year 2016 because today was Leap Day. Now maybe 2016 will be kind of sucky for you. It happens. We all have a crummy year now and again (some of us have consistently crummy years, and sometimes that’s life’s fault and sometimes it’s just because we’re looking at life from the wrong perspective). But regardless of how life looks as we glance over our shoulders on December 31st, we’ll have an extra 24 hours to unpack and process it thanks to Leap Day.

Maybe I’m too much flowers-and-sunshine.

Or maybe I’ve just learned that leaping off of things is really fun (unless they’re too-tall things that cause injury to those who leap out of them, and then that’s not so fun because doctor’s offices are ick) and that life’s lemons are always just a good squeeze and a couple pounds of sugar away from being really great lemonade.

So Happy Leap Day 2016.

And also Happy Monday.

And also be Happy.

Because no day is accidental.

– Melissa
P.S. This is worth a moment of your time.

loneliness

I miss having a friend.

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

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

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

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

I feel like a third wheel sometimes.

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

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

But it’s still a cry of my heart.

And it’s still unfulfilled.

And that hurts.

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

But I still feel really alone tonight.

I think I probably just ought to go to sleep.

Actually, I know I should.

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

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

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

I want to go home.

– M

i feel pretty jubilant today

Stagnating is one of the things that terrifies me the most.

Now, don’t get me wrong: in some ways I love to stay still. I love to put down roots somewhere, and once I do I cling to ‘normal’ and hate, hate, hate change.

But I hate to stagnate.

I hate to sit in one place doing nothing for too long. I also hate observing people sitting in one place doing nothing for too long.

This is the reason that sometimes, when I’ve had to sit still for a while, I will suddenly spring to my feet and do something silly and active and not sitting still. This is also the reason that even if I don’t jump up and do something random in a random moment I will still jump up and move with intensity if it’s (finally) time to do something else.

And as awesome and dynamic as my relationship with God is, sometimes I let myself stagnate, and I hate it. Sometimes my prayers seem to get stopped by the ceiling and I don’t remember what it’s like to be held because I’ve dug my heels in and refused to go where I’ve been told to go. I don’t grow and I won’t go and I cry the entire time because where is God? because why am I not getting what I want how I want it when I want it?

Not good times.

Praise God for loving me despite me being so me.

But you know what the opposite of stagnation is?

Movement.

Growth.

And those moments of obvious, measurable movement in my spiritual journey stand out as some of the most breathlessly beautiful things I have ever experienced in life.

I remember my junior year of high school, preparing to go on our annual mission trip to Mexico. It was a hard year for me, mainly because of the leadership position I had been put in and because of the leader that was directly over me. There had been many tears, much frustration, and probably some energetic rants to the people I trusted best. And then, one day, kind of out of nowhere, it dawned on me:

I wasn’t the same person I had been a few weeks before.

Through all the struggle and all the pain, something had clicked and I had changed for the better. It was an almost physical feeling of elation; I danced in it for days. The journey remained hard, but I wasn’t the same and I was able to meet it with a new strength and new sense of purpose.

I’ve been dancing through this week, too, and once again it’s something I can’t quite adequately describe.

See, for a long time I have really, genuinely disliked people. As a whole. As a species. Humans are prone to idiocy, laziness, and a herd-like mentality that only makes things worse. Really, what’s to like?

Now, sure, I made exceptions. I had a group of about fifteen humans that I loved and maybe twice that many that I could tolerate for a decent amount of time. I’m not even kidding.

But if I’m called in life to mirror Christ to the world, then hating the very people he loved enough to save isn’t exactly the right game plan.

So I prayed about it. A lot. Beginning the first semester of my freshman year. What use was this new mission field that I felt certain God had brought me to if I disliked everybody too much to even talk to them? Because if there’s one thing I know from being a hard-headed introvert, it’s that few of us have voices outside of the relationships we build, and here I was not building any relationships at all. (Well, I kinda built two. But that’s not the point.)

And so I kept praying.

And I cried.

And I detested humanity.

And I prayed.

But it’s been within the last week that I have realized that I don’t actually hate the human population anymore. I don’t know when it happened. I guess it’s been a gradual change that I’ve just now noticed. Regardless, it’s pretty amazing!

I think I’m actually learning to love people. As a whole. I’m making friends with more than just one or two people. I’m interested in what people have to say, not because it directly pertains to my life but because they are human beings, created in the image of God, and the ability to communicate at all is intrinsically beautiful.

It’s crazy and mind-blowing, and it’s so nothing I could have done on my own.

Simple though it sounds, it’s exactly what 1 John 4:19 has to say:

“We love because he first loved us.”

The more I learn about how vastly and perfectly I am loved, the more I know how to love others. The more I am embraced by vast love the more I see the vast importance of embracing others.

Three things, though, that I must clarify:

  1. I am still an introvert. I still love coming back to the quiet of my room at night. I still process everything internally, and lately I’ve often laughed at how busy of a day I think I’ve had simply because of how many internalized conversations I’ve carried out. So please don’t think I’ve suddenly become the life of the party. (I actually haven’t gone to any parties this semester, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)
  2. I am still a human being and I do not, by any means, have this down pat. I do not suddenly possess the saint-like ability to love everybody no matter what. Despite the fact that I’m doing way better about seeing people as fellow image-bearers of God, there are actually still a couple of people that I would rather leave the room than be around. I acknowledge that they’re valid and probably wonderful people who I just dislike for no apparent reason, and that I just need to get over myself. I’m working on it. God’s working on me.
  3. Despite how this post may read, I am not going to run out and make friends with the entire world. I don’t want to. Because (referring back to point 1 here) I’m not actually an extrovert and I can’t handle trying to be friends with the entire world. It’s not how I’m wired. But what I am going to do is continue doing what I’m learning I do best: loving you in the moment we’re together. And when I meet somebody new, I’m going to do the same for her, too. (Or him. We need a gender neutral pronoun, and I refuse to accept ‘them’/’they’.)

So that’s kind of what’s on my heart. That’s kind of why I’ve been so singy/dancey/overall jubilant for days.

The dark days will come. They always do, because that’s how weather works.

But in those days, when all might seem lost, I’ll remember today, I’ll remember what it feels like to know that I’m not the same person I was this time last year, and I’ll know that the sun is coming back again.

– Melissa
1 John 4:7-21

P.S. This whole ‘love’ thing has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or being seasonally appropriate. It was an unfortunate coincidence. In the future, I’ll try to go back to warning you if a post is going to have to do with the latest and greatest holiday craze.

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

what if I rode a tiger to Morocco?

I don’t know what I want to write about tonight.

I definitely want to write.

I just don’t know what about.

I thought maybe I wanted to write about how if I got everything I wished for then the world would be a disaster, and I thought maybe I’d talk about how I keep a solid white marble that I tell myself will grant a wish so that I have to stop and think about the full impact of whatever it is that I think I want more than anything else in the world. But that train of thought ran out about 100 words into a post, and so I decided that that wasn’t the rabbit trail to pursue.

I thought maybe I’d write about today, and how I actually made it through a set strike at the theatre without hating everybody around me, and how it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d prepped myself for it to be, and how much I love being useful and skillful with my hands, but there’s not much to that, and really oughtn’t I get over how much I usually hate strikes and just relax and let it all go? Yeah. I don’t really want to spend several hundred words contemplating that theme.

I thought maybe I could write about my absolute yearning for affection, how it consumes me sometimes and makes me think that I would say ‘yes’ if a total stranger proposed to me on the street, but that’s just weird and it might make people think I’m serious about that and I’m totally not because I distrust people like nobody’s business and that’s the main problem here because I don’t trust anybody enough to let them near enough for them to gain my trust enough for me to believe that they actually like me. And even that is an exaggeration that might make people worried about me and I’m really okay but I just wish that Toby would hug me back.

So I don’t know what to write about tonight.

Buffets are an awesome idea, but they’re totally impractical for me because I eat less at a buffet than I do basically anywhere else, and then I feel silly because everybody else seems to be eating ridiculous amounts of food and I’m just, like, I finished two slices of pizza… Not that I think of eating as a competition. And if buffets are what give me the self-control to stop eating when I ought to, maybe I should live in a buffet. But it does feel silly to pay that much and not eat that much. Does that make sense?

I’m so grateful for friends. For people who make me smile and who call me just so we can hear the sound of each other’s voices and who let me be whoever I want to be. Even if that person does claim to be a five year old and does tend to be socially withdrawn. It’s so awesome to do life alongside people.

Shoes are kind of the worst, and my stupid Walmart flats gave me blisters on both of my pinkie toes today and I think that’s ridiculous but they were the only thing that matched my dress! Why can’t all the clothes in the world go with dusty cowboy boots? Or with neon pink Converse? I don’t get it! I think it’s a conspiracy to make Melissa as miserable and blistered as possible.

I really ought to decide on something to write about…

I got a text, like, twenty minutes ago that my family is finally in Texas and I simply cannot wait to see them! Tomorrow is Monday, which is ew because Monday, but I get to see my minions and my mommy, which is not ew because family! So it’s all gonna work out to be okay. They’re coming out to do the Texas family rounds (which is what happens when your mom is the rebel who moved away from the family homeland) and so that Gracie can hang out with her college-age, rockin’ awesome sisters! The three of us are going to get to go to a Tenth Avenue North concert on Thursday and we are so excited. Or, at least, I am. Grace is. Hey, Abbie: you excited? Oh wait. She can’t hear me from Lubbock. Never mind.

Would you believe that it’s only 8:59pm? That I am writing loopy circles (as opposed to angular circles which aren’t actually a thing) at the measly time of 8:59pm? This is why I go to bed early, people: I am insane 24/7 and night time makes it worse.

I’m…like…the opposite of nocturnal. Plus I hate mornings. Basically, if I can sleep from 9pm to about 10am, that is great. It’s a ridiculous amount of sleep, I know, but it’s fine. I like sleep.

If I had a super power, it would be the ability to learn anything by osmosis. It’s literally the super power of napping. How great is that?!

Oh! I have a white board and it is where I write my homework assignments. Because I would forget where my head was if it wasn’t so solidly affixed to my neck. Anyway, what the all-knowing white board has to say tonight is that I have three papers due this week as well as a test in Spanish! So guess what I’m doing? I’m writing a blog post about nothing at all! I’m also becoming increasingly spastic, but it’s fine. No big deal.

You know what will be lovely? When I can do dishes in something other than a tiny dorm room sink. Because worse than the tiny sink is that absolute lack of counter space. There is nowhere to put the things I have cleaned! So then I have to juggle them while I wash everything else, because putting them down only gets them dirty again! It’s difficult and I know it’s a first world problem and I am ready for it to not be a thing anymore.

Okay. Increasing twitchiness wins the day. I am going to call it a night and head to bed, early though it be. Too bad I never figured out anything to write about…

– Melissa
I apologize for the ads on the site, but this is where you go to play this game.

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

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