Vitality

I think I expected college to transform me into some greater version of myself, to wake me up and revitalize me and just generally embolden me.

And while college changed me and grew me, it wasn’t in those ways that I had expected.

This blog is as close to a chronicle of those changes as anyone’s going to get, short of standing me up next to my past self and marking down all the differences between us, and I think it bears pretty clear testimony to the fact that the last three years have left me tired.

Tired and ready to run.

The funny thing is that I didn’t even come to Mackinac with the intent to run from what was hurting me. I just came because I needed a job and thought I wanted an adventure and liked horses.

Yet Mackinac has proven to be a more rejuvenating retreat than I could have known to request, if I thought to request a retreat at all. And it’s also a strange place to feel so deeply revitalized, because this isn’t your traditional mountain-top spiritual hideaway.

I am working long hours with people who, while kind, do not share my faith. There are no pastors daily pumping me full of well-considered interpretations of scripture or guitarists inviting me to join them in songs of faith-fueled praise.

Even so, I am more at peace than I have felt in a long time.

Possibly because Michigan air is easier to breathe.

Which I mean a little bit literally, because I grew up on Bakersfield air so dirty that you can chew it up, spit it out, and build a sooty sandcastle out of it. But metaphorically too.

Life itself feels more abundant here.

Even after nearly three weeks I find myself still silently gasping in delight when I catch sight of Lake Huron as I round the corner to stage along the point, still nearly laughing aloud when I pause to consider the fact that I am holding the lines to a team of horses the same way that my ancestors did.

Lately I laugh a lot.

And if you know me, you’re probably smiling because that’s what you expected. But if you’ve known me during school, when the trying to juggle classes and people and fear and exhaustion have transformed me into a snarling disaster of a person, then you might begin to guess how refreshing it is to laugh.

People smile at me because I am always smiling. They chuckle because I dash at new tasks with such enthusiasm, even though I’m tired and kind of just want to go home. And their amusement brings me more joy, which only increases the infectiousness of my laughter.

I truly do feel as though I’m breathing easier. As though life were painted in brighter colors than it was before.

Contentment and restfulness bring a certain vibrancy to the world.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t feel particularly well-rested. Even today, on my day off when I’ve slept in and napped and generally relaxed all day long, I am yawning with exhaustion before I’ve even eaten dinner.

Nonetheless, these few weeks in Michigan have brought me a certain level of restfulness.

There’s been heartache, too, and my tears have mingled with my desperate begging to the heavens for explanation of things I can’t understand.

But through it all, this peace. This knowledge that I am both where I’m supposed to be and where I want to be. And this almost audible song of celebration coming from everything around me.

I really don’t know how else to describe it, and kind of feel like I’m chasing my tail now as I try to explain.

It’s as though I’m alive again.

As if a person I’d long forgotten how to be is emerging from the storm of the past few years, and she hasn’t forgotten how to be bold or courageous or outgoing. (She has forgotten how to love to run and be active, but we’ll cross the exercise bridge some day in the maybe-never future.)

All that said, I am eager for this summer to end if only to end the torture of the crazy-early mornings. While I have settled into the routine of awakening at 5:30 every morning, I still don’t like it. And every morning I get a little closer to clinging to my pillow and sobbing at the thought of being parted from it.

I guess I don’t have much energy left for a well-worded conclusion. It’s taken long enough to just achieve anything like sense on this page.

My heart-song doesn’t much want to be translated today.

Anyway. Life is an adventure, and I’m so happy to be living this chapter of it. Feel free to come visit and write yourself in.

– Melissa

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. /Psalm 19:1-4a/

I’m Actually Covered in Horse Hair

There are three really big hills here on the island. There’s Turkey Hill, which we don’t take tour carriages up or down. There’s Mission Hill, which is off by the east bluffs and which I’ve only driven down once. And there’s Grand Hill, which goes up past the Grand Hotel and which we drive multiple times a day.

When we take our horses up Grand Hill with full carriages, we give them multiple breaks, just because the carriage is so heavy and because we want them to pace themselves. They are nowhere near overworked, but we’re still careful. (Actually, they just get diva treatment all the time and can I please have their job instead of mine because oh my goodness.)

I think that, more than learning how to give a tour of Mackinac or learning how to drive a carriage, this summer is going to be about learning to pace myself.

All this week I have been going full throttle, throwing myself into the work and finding a new task as soon as I finish whatever I’m doing. And I don’t regret it, because I’ve proved to my superiors and peers that I’m both dedicated and competent, and I’ve moved quickly through training and should be done sooner than later, but oh boy am I tired.

I didn’t even fully realize how exhausted I am until I was stripping harnesses off horses at the end of today and met eyes with a quiet old gelding.

Horses’ eyes are actually magical, and they can plumb the depths of your soul without even trying.

So when our gazes locked, suddenly the lack of sleep and the trying so hard and the lurking anxiety and everything else just washed over me and my whole being acknowledged my weariness and tears rushed to my eyes and all I could do was burrow my face in the horse’s neck and focus on keeping my breathing steady. Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of bursting into tears in the middle of a barn of people I’ve worked with for less than a week.

Horses got cared for and I clocked out with dry eyes, but as soon as I got back to my room, I just let myself fall onto my back on the floor and lay there as I felt the tears trickle down my cheek to my hairline.

I legitimately love my job. I love the horses and everything that caring for them entails. (Except maybe the getting hit with overspray during morning baths. Because that’s freaking cold.) I love the driving and how I’m learning to keep the carriage where I want it at the speed I want it. I love the tour and discovering all the fantastic history of this island. I love my roommates and how we laugh and commiserate and explore. And I love the lake and the trees and the wildflowers and the quaint little buildings that are older than I can quite comprehend.

But I am so tired.

Part of me feels weak for needing tomorrow off, even though the day was just assigned to me; I didn’t have to ask for it or whatever. I want to be able to work harder, longer, faster than expected, to keep pace with the people who’ve been doing this for years. I want my tour to be spectacular, my driving to be flawless, my harnessing to be seamless right now.

Like the team I drove yesterday, Elvis and Hogan, I want to throw myself into the weight of the load and just push it until my heart gives out and I fall over.

Being paced is hard. Pacing myself is proving even harder.

And yes, I have lost count of how many of my coworkers have told me to slow down, catch my breath, and take it easy this week. At one point, I got sent out to the wash rack to cool off because I looked so frazzled and overheated. Oops.

I’ve lost the concentration necessary to bring this to any cohesive conclusion, because it’s after 7pm and way too close to fall-into-bed time. So suffice it to say that my goal for tomorrow is to rest up, and my goal for my next week of work is to strike a balance between giving it my all and not overdoing it. Because if I hit this tired again and providence doesn’t provide a day off the next day, I’ll end up sobbing or sick or both. And everyone up here tells me that it’s next to impossible to get healthy again once you’re sick.

Also, if you need a summer job, check out openings on Mackinac. They’re still hiring at a lot of places, and the island is fantastic.

Sleep well, my people. I know I’m going to.

– Melissa

P.S. This week I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on the words to Whatever Comes by Rend Collective, and it’s been such an encouragement. Check it out here!

to the rhythm of hooves outside my window

Monday, May 15, 2017 – 8:05am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, the view.

Oh. My. Word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I’m looking forward to about today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope & Joy & Restoration (i’m still here)

A couple of weeks ago as I wrapped up the first week of my junior year of college, one sentence kept running through my head, mantra-like in its persistence and pervasiveness:

“Something’s got to give or I will.”

It had been a long, stressful week following on the tail of a crazy-busy summer, and my heart wasn’t here at school. The more I thought about it, I wasn’t sure if my heart had ever been here at school. Freshman and sophomore years were their own brands of crazy, riddled with long bouts of intense homesickness and severe burnout.

Two years of fighting to stay at Hardin Simmons because of some higher purpose, some feeling of ‘this is where I’m supposed to be,’ and all I felt was worn out.

I almost dropped out.

Two weeks ago today I was completely ready to go to the registrar’s office, drop all my classes, pack my truck, and leave. I had developed a pretty solid two-year-plan that involved finishing my degree in Business Administration and diving into the home renovation world via flipping houses—first with Dad, then increasingly on my own as my skill set continued to grow. I was going to miss friends, but it kind of came down to prioritizing my mental health over the fear of letting people down by leaving. And besides, long-distance friendships are a thing, right?

I’m still so so grateful to the people who talked to me for hours all throughout that weekend—my parents, sister, and best friends—who I know would have supported and embraced me regardless of which path I chose. God knew what he was doing when he assigned me a family.

Today I just finished my third week of school. And I’m in a totally different head space than I was in two weeks ago.

The new phrase that it permeating my life is, “God, you have restored my hope.”

And I’m weeping with joy just to type that, because this journey is proving to be so much more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

As much as I sat down with the specific idea of sharing this, though, I don’t know how to put it into words.

I…I guess I came into freshman year, like I said, with this idea that God had me exactly where he wanted me, and I struggled with not being able to fully delight in being where I felt called. But, you know, God doesn’t always call us to comfort, so I slogged on through homesickness (that I would’ve buckled under if home had been any nearer than 19 hours away). And as I think it through now, I still don’t know whether that divine purpose that I kept clinging to was truly still a calling in my life, or if I just feared giving up, feared failing at sticking out this scholastic, grown-up undertaking. Whatever the reason, I still clung to that phrase.

But that phrase felt so threadbare this year.

When we were in Scotland we got to tour Falkland Palace, and one of the more breathtaking spots in the palace was the chapel. Partly because I just am overwhelmed by the breadth of the church, how it spans history and continents. But one can’t enter the chapel without noticing the beautiful tapestries on the walls.

Tapestries fade with time. They weather and the threads come loose. Mice get into them.

They have to be restored before they are truly worthy of awe.

My conviction of my belonging had to be restored before it was worth anything.

In the past two weeks, I have not once told myself that I am in Abilene because I am called to be. I think that I’ve let go of that concept all together, because in all the prayer and seeking counsel that I’ve done lately, I’ve realized that I am not bound to Abilene by God or anyone else. I can make the choice to stay here, or I can make the choice to leave, and neither one violates the call that has been made on my life.

I choose Abilene.

I choose it.

I choose a church where I am (finally allowing myself to be) drawn into a community of believers who are fervently pursuing the heart of God and joyfully sharing that hope with the world.

I choose friends who have so much to teach me and love me in ways I’ve never asked them to.

I choose a horse who lives down the street from me and who makes me laugh every day (even if we’re both getting chased by wasps that will not freaking go away!)

I choose professors who know me and genuinely care about how I’m doing and who have been so gracious about my needing to step back and catch my breath.

I choose Abilene and I choose to hope.

Hope.

That’s my new favorite word.

Joy.

That’s still my favorite word. The two go hand in hand!

Restoration.

(This is the part where I’m a rebel and declare that I have three favorite words because this is my blog and this is America and I do what I want and…yeah.)

As much as this post has rambled and as much as I’m not sure that I’ve communicated all that I’d like to, this is me. This is where I am right now.

I don’t want to take steps backward, but I know that I will.

I don’t want life to hurt anymore, but sometimes it does.

I do want to paint hope and joy and restoration and all their abstract realizations all over my wall, but I can’t do that because I am renting and I don’t want to have to pay fees on top of what I’m already paying to live here, so…

Anyway.

God is restoring my hope.

And for this I shall forever rejoice.

– Melissa
(I usually use this space link to something, but I can’t find just the right song for tonight/this week. There are plenty of lyrics coming to mind, but I’m way too tired to put together some kind of mashup, so…go listen to music that gives you hope, because hope is pretty legit.)

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.

November 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Yay!

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

Anyway.

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

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

And you know what?

It’s been okay.

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

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

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

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

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

I will never get drunk.

Nor will I ever do drugs.

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you find your own reasons to smile today!

– Melissa
Food for Thought

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?

Yeah.

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

Visions of grandeur

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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