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

“quince (that’s a fruit)”

The world’s quite a place, really. If you think about it.

We totter about on two appendages—that are crowned with five much smaller appendages apiece—and we mutter syllables that we’ve decided to interpret in a given way, and we almost never bat an eye about how strange the whole scenario is.

What am I talking about?

I have no idea.

In an entirely different vein, it’s Saturday night, even though I just briefly thought it to be Friday, and I’m sitting at home rather than mingling with my peers at the theatre Halloween party. I was really hoping that more people might ask me today what I was going as so that I could wittily respond with some variation of, “An introvert! Because introverts don’t do parties and neither am I tonight!”

But hey, please don’t make my personality type a costume. This is serious and a key part of my identity.

(This is when I wonder if you’re going to be highly offended by my insensitivity, and I kind of hope that you’ll either laugh or roll your eyes, and I vaguely suspect that this is where some of you hit the back button on your browser and we resume our separated and opinionated lives.)

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, between school and work and auditioning a show for community theatre and picking up a murder mystery gig, and I’m really just enjoying my evening off.

In case you were wondering, one of the many reasons that I choose not to drink alcohol is that, when I’ve had a long exhausting day of doing practically nothing and I just need to drink something out of a wine glass, I can have that third glass of cran-apple juice with no consequences other than the knowledge that I’ve consumed a bit more sugar than I probably ought to have allowed myself. Juice is my favorite.

Also, exciting news: I think I’ve finally made peace with the concept of a mouse living in my room enough that I might actually sleep in here tonight! I crashed on my housemate’s bedroom floor last night because I was having a breakdown for the second night in a row and it was just easier to avoid the meltdown. The night before that I had a meltdown during the breakdown and ended up sleeping on the couch.

All that said, I don’t know exactly what I want to say, so instead of writing something deep, thought-provoking, or absolutely hilarious, I have decided that today I’m going to share 10 Facts (that you may or may not be one of the five or so people to already know) about me.

1. I’ve had the same favorite color—purple—for my entire life, but I developed a fondness for the color orange in junior high simply because Abbie and I were sharing a room, and the color scheme couldn’t be pink (her favorite color) and purple because that combination makes her nauseous. So we settled on pink and orange and I claimed orange as my almost-favorite color.

2. I hate lady bugs. Truly. I’m also borderline terrified of them. I know the hatred of them stems from the disgust of having the chrysalises of Abbie’s escaped lady bug larvae around the rim of the dinner table, and idly messing with the edge of the table at dinner just to discover that you’d mutilated a pupa. So disgusting. The terror comes with the fact that they are a six-legged creature.

3. I’m not actually afraid of the dark, even though my nervousness about what’s in the dark can make it seem that way. Night is one of my favorite times and I wish we lived in a safe enough world that I could become nocturnal without worrying about getting attacked as I wander trance-like through the darkness.

4. I keep a spare jug of cran-apple juice on the floor of my closet. I’ve run out of juice one (or seven) too many times, and cran-apple is (as you may have gleaned from me drinking three glasses tonight) one of my lowkey addictions. Someday I’ll have a pantry full of the stuff, but until then I’m using my closet.

5. I’ve had quite a few lucid dreams (maybe 10% of my dreams?) and apparently that’s not super common? I saw some gadget on facebook the other day that’s supposed to help you have lucid dreams and I got super confused because…why? It’s not that great. It’s cool, I guess, but not spectacularly so.

6. I cannot eat tomato soup. And no, I don’t mean that I really don’t like tomato soup. I cannot keep the stuff down because it is that repulsive. Truth be told, even the smell makes me pretty queasy.

7. I don’t particularly love driving and I’m a total homebody, but I love road trips. Yeah. Try figuring out the logic behind that one.

8. I have always slept with white noise, and I find it genuinely strange that people can sleep in “silence”, partly because silence never is. Maybe out in the country where the only sounds are the wind and the ambient insects the whispers of nature are as effective as a box-fan, but it never is silent where I have lived and yet people persist on sleeping without a fan on…!

9. I have never broken any bones, but I have gotten three stitches because of a crazy accident at church. …I think I’m not going to go into details because it sounds so much more intriguing when left as a giant question mark.

10. I’m a total overachiever and I thought I could easily come up with 10 or more interesting facts and here I am completely out of facts so I’m just going to type a bit more rambling nonsense in case you’re not actually reading what I’ve written and you’re just skimming the page to see if I actually went ahead and wrote down 10 interesting facts about myself even though I haven’t really.

All that said, Microsoft Word has decided to throw ugly blue squiggle lines under a lot of my really fun adverbs, and it is making me mad. Verbs are much less interesting without adverbs, and I understand if you’re miffed about me overusing the word ‘really’, Word, but there are some great adverbs in this blog post that you need to just leave alone.

The end.

Good night.

– Melissa

P.S. The title of this article comes from the most memorable line in Reader Rabbit…Math? Maybe? I can’t remember which Reader Rabbit game it was. But I think of the line often and it seemed to suit the unsuitably disheveled nature of this post.

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.)