Just a Thought

Fact: I am still very much single. Because this is just a story, not any kind of representation of my life. Stories are like that: we tell falsehoods but no one gets mad. Because some of us are born to be the voices of others, and some of us just occasionally pretend that we are. Anyway, enjoy a short Saturday story.

– Melissa Continue reading

Advertisements

(yes, it’s about the eclipse.)

So here’s the thing. With this whole Eclipse thing going on I’ve been thinking a lot, and several things have come to mind.

First of all, remember that time in the Bible when God made the sun stand still just because he loved his people so much? (See Joshua 10:12-14) We serve a God big enough to stop the sun simply because he loves us.

Wow.

That’s so amazing. Like, that’s more love than I deserve. It’s more love than I could ever possibly deserve.

And yet, I have it.

There’s no escaping it, no denying it, nothing. I am loved that deeply.

Another thing that I’ve been thinking about, is how easily I get freaked out about little things.

During the eclipse today, I knew exactly what was going on, and yet part of me was still distressed by the fact that the sun was going dark. I mean, how ridiculous! There was a perfectly good explanation for what was going on. 

And yet, here I am, in all my silliness, freaking out.

About the sun, about today, about the future. When I know that there’s a perfectly good plan put in place for them by a perfect God.

Whatever, Melissa.

And then, of course, today I couldn’t help but remember my senior year when there was a lunar eclipse while we were in Mexico.

We were all way too tired, as is always the case in Mexico, and yet our leader loved us enough that he let us stay up way past curfew to watch the Earth’s shadow fall across the full moon.

Bare feet on a concrete parking lot blanket around my shoulders, friends all around me with their faces upturned to the heavens.

That’s a memory that will last forever.

Basically, in summary, I am loved so deeply.

Loved despite all my flaws, by people and by my heavenly father alike. And that brings me safety and joy that eclipses even the most too-tired, too-much of days.

3 more days of work and then I’m done.
– Melissa

a story of Melissa

I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

Even though I polished up my rest-of-my-college-career academic plan tonight and it looks great.

So instead of thinking about the people who make life hurt and the things that sometimes make my heart sing and the ways that I’ve failed others this week, I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time (in a place a lot closer to you than you might think) there lived a little girl. She happens to have the same name as me, actually: Melissa. I don’t know her last name.

Melissa lived in a little town not too far from the US/Mexico border with her grandparents. I don’t know what happened to her parents. I didn’t get to hear that part of the story. I’m just telling you what I do know. What I did hear.

Melissa’s grandparents weren’t very well off. In fact, they were kind of the opposite of well off. And Melissa was seldom very clean. And Melissa didn’t go to school. (At least, that’s the tale I was told.)

So none of the neighborhood kids liked Melissa very much. Sometimes they wouldn’t even play with her.

But one day a bunch of vans full of crazy Americans showed up, and they swarmed everywhere and tried to talk to everyone in their broken Spanish and they started smoothing the ground and pouring concrete and putting walls together.

And they loved on Melissa.

They gave her piggyback rides and laughed with her and tried to tell her that she was worth so much more than any of the other kids could imagine and more than Melissa’s grandparents could imagine and more than Melissa could imagine.

And Melissa smiled. A little bit. She still had to keep up that tough kid vibe, because life is hard. But there were little smiles.

Then the day started to end and the concrete had been poured and the wall-shells had been stacked and all those crazy Americans got back into their big vans and started to leave.

And when one crazy American girl named Melissa looked out the back window, the only thing she noticed was a little Mexican girl named Melissa sitting off by herself. Crying.

I wish I had a photograph of that moment. Because that moment is one that breaks my heart. And it’s not one that words will ever do justice.

Because all of those crazy Americans who were so good at communicating poorly had forgotten to tell Melissa that they’d be back the next day.

They did come back the next day. And the next. And the next. And Melissa got to go to a VBS where she was told things like ‘Dios se ama’ and taught to say things like ‘Jesus te ama’ and got hugged and snuggled as much as she could stand.

And when they left at the end of the fourth day, everyone was crying because it was an actual goodbye, but maybe it wasn’t because Heaven is going to be one big reunion and maybe we’ll all get to party together forever.

But I don’t remember seeing Melissa. I kind of wonder if she was off by herself again, crying. Like me.

I don’t know where Melissa is now. I don’t know if she remembers that those Americans who showed up that one day had more to say than poorly pronounced, poorly grammaticized Spanish phrases that vaguely inquired after the location of the baño.

But I know that God still loves Melissa, so so much. I know that my heart breaks for a little girl who cried because she didn’t want to be alone again after one day of tasting love.

I don’t understand why this Melissa gets to go to school and get an education and wear clean clothes and go home to a family who is whole and who loves her.

It’s been a hard week in this Melissa’s life, and she is so tired right now. She feels kind of alone and kind of frightened by the future and kind of hopeless. But more than that, she feels incredibly grateful that her problems seem so small in the grand scheme of things.

I want to find my little Melissa, the one who couldn’t quite grasp the fact that we share a name, and wrap her in my arms. I want to tell her again how much she is loved and that nothing she is facing is too big for the God who holds us both.

I don’t know how little Melissa’s story ends.

Maybe I won’t ever.

But I really really hope that someday I’m gonna run into a not-so-little-anymore Melissa in heaven, and she’s gonna be like, ‘Wow, you were really dorky as a freshman; glad you grew out of that,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well, you were a total punk as a kid; glad you grew out of that,’ and then we’ll hug and I’ll finally know how her story ends.

That’s how I want her story to end.

Please, God, let that be how our stories end.

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.

in the Middle

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

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

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

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

Tonight was opening night.

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

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

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

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

I said, “Okay.”

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

I really do love this show.

I love the thoughts Mr. Eno has to express.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I be anything but alone?

How can I be worth it?

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

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

I know that.

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

Maybe we all are. Maybe you are.

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

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

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

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

We’re never as alone as we think.

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

Us: the mostly silent messes.

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

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

Can I admit something?

I am a wreck.

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

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

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

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

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

The world is full of joy.

Tonight isn’t one of those dark nights.

But my soul remembers them.

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

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

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

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

I am good at listening.

And I never want you to feel alone.

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

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

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

It’s really important.

God’s love is sticky, too.

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

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

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

– Melissa
my anthem, on the dark nights

Destined for More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re lucky.

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

So why?

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

Thing is, it’s not.

Christianity isn’t about you being happy.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. I’m serious.

God loves them, too.

And you know what?

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

And you know what else?

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

The truth?

I don’t really like people.

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

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

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

But I don’t get to do that.

Because life isn’t about me.

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

So I love you.

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

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

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

And you were destined for something greater.

– Melissa

A Glowing Review

It’s Tuesday.

I know this because I went to my Tuesday classes and did Tuesday things.

But in all reality, it doesn’t at all feel like a Tuesday.

Not that I know what day it feels like.

Not that it matters.

It just oughtn’t be Tuesday.

On an entirely different note, you must pardon me if my speech patterns (or typing patterns, seeing as how I am actually typing and not speaking at all) seem a bit odd; I’ve spent the last few hours in rehearsal, stumbling through an accent I sincerely hope wouldn’t offend anyone British who happened to happen into Van Ellis. There now. I think it’s wearing off a bit. By the time I conclude this post, I might actually be sounding like a Californian valley girl again.

Ha.

As if I ever strive to sound like a valley girl.

Sometimes I do, I know. I say ‘like’ far too often, and occasionally I get that funny high pitch to my voice when I’m very tired and am acting childish.

Not that valley girls are childish.

I’m digging myself into a hole. I can sense it. Send your complaints to my mother who won’t forward them to me and all that jazz.

Skipping to a new topic again, it’s been a surprisingly pleasant week.

Or maybe there’s nothing surprising about it at all: I serve a great God who loves me enough to tell me so.

When last I posted, I was rather dreading the coming semester. With good reason, based upon past experiences. But Monday started rehearsals for the coming show (expect me to keep mentioning this and expect me to keep urging locals to attend) and Tuesday provided a really good conversation, and Wednesday delivered more of the same.

It’s almost as if I’m getting into the swing of things. Just as everyone has been telling me I would.

I’ve got a new roommate this semester, and she’s absolutely delightful to spend time with. In fact, we keep starting conversations that are actually about conversating (new word; you’re welcome) rather than procrastinating even though we find awhile later that we’ve entirely neglected to do whatever it is that we were supposed to be doing before we started talking. It works out so nicely on so many levels.

And she has Lego Pirates of the Caribbean for the X-Box. Which we played today.

I repeatedly ran her character over with a pig so that she couldn’t get anything done.

Then she ran me over with a horse.

These are signs of a truly remarkable friendship.

Another highlight of the past days has been the spur-of-the-moment trip I took to San Antonio for the weekend. It’s always lovely to see my cousins, and as per always there were lots of adventures.

Mainly involving me falling in love with adorable animals and then my heart breaking because I can’t have pets in the dorm, or they belonged to somebody else, or both.

Quite tragic, really.

But I got in good snuggle time with horses and dogs and cats and cousins.

And my talented cousin put up with me squirming around and generally being quite ornery as she helped me figure out twenties-style makeup.

And somehow I jinxed another cousin so that every time I happened to come through the room, his character happened to get killed in his video game. Whoops… Sorry, Jonathan.

And I didn’t get lost once in the four hour drive back to school from San Antonio and I managed to stop the fuel pump at exactly $20.00 when I was fueling up!

Yep. Good weekend.

Good week.

Good semester?

It certainly is looking that way.

I think perhaps the biggest factor in the peace and contentment I’ve felt over the past days is (true confessions, here) that I’ve finally started to begin my days with a quiet time. It’s one of those things that I’ve known for so long was vitally important, but knowing something can be quite another matter from knowing it, and even knowing something doesn’t always translate into practicing that thing.

Days seem so much brighter when I start them right. I don’t know why I never did before now.

All in all, I may not be over-the-top excited about this semester, but I’m not dreading it any more.

What is there to dread, anyhow, when God’s in control and my task is simply to follow where I’m lead and overflow onto others the crazy, mind-blowing love that’s been shown to me?

Feel free to remind me of these sentiments the next time I’m in a hole or up a tree and I’m questioning the miracle of grace or how I could possibly continue plodding onwards.

God’s got a plan.

Somewhere deep inside of me always remembers that.

And I’m so glad that all of me remembers it just now.

Now, however, I should sign off, as I sense that inner Noël Coward coming back and I rather fear that I shall suddenly break into quoting vast quantities of lines that probably wouldn’t make any sense to you at all.

Ah, also, I advise that you don’t get hiccups around me. There’s an entire scene of mine devoted to hiccups, and I will quote all of my lines as soon as you first hiccup, regardless of how little sense they might make when paired with whatever you’re replying to me.

Theatre life.

Enjoy your evening, or morning, or whatever it is that you’re currently experiencing.

And remember, no matter what you’ve been up to or however far you think you’ve fallen, there is never a time when you can’t start over any more.

– Melissa
Relentless by Hillsong UNITED

Random tidbit that I could’ve included before I signed my name but wanted to put down here instead: did you know that “copying, posting or reposting on the Internet” of the NIV (New International Version) translation of scripture is prohibited? In other news, if I post any scriptures, from now on I’ll be using the NLT or ESV…