faith & hope & february

Most of you who read this blog (or at least the ones who do with any regularity) know that in September of my junior year of high school my mom had a seizure in my kitchen and was diagnosed with a tumor that, while benign, had to be surgically removed in November of that year. Nearly as many of you know that surgery wasn’t the immediate solution we’d all misunderstood it to be, and know that it wasn’t until February of my senior year that my mom had been seizure-free for long enough to resume things like driving and climbing ladders.

(If your mom is going to have seizures and not be allowed on ladders, get rid of vaulted ceilings, because cleaning those celing fans will become your job…)

The reason that I know that Mom was cleared to drive in February of 2014 is because that was when the two of us travelled to Texas so that I could tour colleges and audition for theatre programs.

It was a great trip, and it was great that I didn’t have to do all of the driving myself, because I was a nervous wreck. Like, I wouldn’t have a voice to order with when we’d stop to get food. I may have offended my grandparents, because I was much less like myself and much more like a mouse. I shut down when I’m overwhelmed.

We actually ended up at HSU (where I’ve ended up for the past two and a half years) twice: once to audition, and then once again because the theatre director invited us back to see the show that was opening the next weekend.

Both weekends that we stayed with my always-called-her-an-Aunt-even-though-she-isn’t who’s been friends with my mom since they roomed together in college a bamillion years ago. So I don’t know which weekend it was. But whenever it was, Jen arranged for a group/family/something to come pray healing over my mom, because although she was no longer having full-scale seizures, the surgery after-affects still often affected her vision and made her dizzy.

Let me just say that I didn’t grow up exposed to any kind of healing prayers ministry.

I’d read about it in books, with missionaries. That was cool. God does some pretty cool things for missionaries, even bigger than the God-sized works I’d seen over the past year and a half in my family’s life. But I’d never really experienced it in my life.

And we had two prayer quilts on the couch at home. Ones that people in my church had prayed over and held as they prayed specifically for my family. I liked those. I liked to wrap myself up in them on hard days.

Anyway, those people came over, and chatted for a bit, and then prayed over my mom, and she thanked them, and they talked a bit more, and then they left.

I’m 90% sure that everyone thought I was asleep in the back room the whole time, because I never showed my face, not the whole time, and no one ever called me out on my absence. After all, I generally had the decency to come and greet people when I was awake, and I definitely tended to be involved in prayer. Especially in prayer over someone so dear to me.

But I wasn’t asleep.

I was very much awake.

In hiding.

In tears.

Weary.

Scared.

And so achingly guilty from feeling like a failure for not wholeheartedly believing that God—the One who made the heavens and the earth and me and my mother—couldn’t (or wouldn’t, or something) heal that selfsame mother of mine that he created.

Guilt like that is consuming. You can’t fight it or flee it. It drives you to tears to that sting of salt in a wound that might never heal. It eats away at your chest and your stomach and your heart.

It consumes you and your world and your hope.

For that afternoon, I felt devoid of hope. And I felt isolated from the world, or at least from everyone else at the house, because they still had the hope I’d somehow lost.

I wish I could step into seventeen-year-old Melissa’s world. I wish I could wrap her in my arms in the hug she so needed and whisper fiercely to her that God wasn’t done yet and that someday the health problems really would be a thing of the past. I wish I could brush away the tears of shame and pain from her eyes and remind her that God’s a father who loves his little girl enough to hold her when she’s tired and afraid. I wish I could give her the words to ask for help, or even just lead her to the living room to lean on the faith of community in a moment when she was too worn out to pray.

Instead I’m here. And it’s been three years, and I’ve just a week ago accidentally discovered the scars that that afternoon left on my heart.

Lately God’s been teaching me the lesson on persistent prayer that I somehow didn’t quite learn the first time, and I think that’s why I’ve remembered what I’d forgotten. And as much as I initially didn’t want to deal with that long-buried pain, it’s amazing to now look back at all those days I spent praying and other people spent praying, and the days I joined them and the days I didn’t, and to see the outcome:

God’s long-time “not yet” was just that. It wasn’t a “no.”

There was never a point where God said, “Oh, yep, the statute of limitations has run out on this request. I didn’t get to it in time. Bummer. Guess it’s a definite no-go now.”

God did not heal Mom right away.

Instead He murmured, “I’m not done healing the rest of you yet.”

And then, not all at once but little by little, He healed her in his time.

He said, “Yes.”

I am currently staring down some things in my life that have been “not yets” for so long that I’ve given up hope of them ever changing. And let me just tell you, I did not want a reminder of a time when I felt like a complete failure in my prayer life to come up now as I’m daring to pray for God-sized results.

That afternoon, when a group of strangers took up the plea that I was weary from carrying, and the “yes” that eventually followed have become a tangible example for me of the power of persistent prayer and of the importance of being part of a praying community.

I’m not hiding in the guest room anymore.

– Melissa

Advertisements

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

borrowed smiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Melissa Emig
Psalm 16:5