momentary vs. lasting

I want to numb the pain. I want to follow suit with everybody around me and do something morally irresponsible just to distract me from the turmoil that’s going on inside me.

I want to.

But I can’t.

Because I have rigid morals, and I can’t not toe the line. It’s obedience for the sake of obedience, for the sake of not doing anything wrong. It’s perfectionism.

I vaguely remember that at one time these morals I’ve formed meant something to me. I’ve made the behavioral choices that I have because of one really big factor: I have been loved perfectly by the Father, and my heartfelt response is to follow the guidelines He’s set before me.

I vaguely remember all that. But I don’t feel it tonight.

Tonight I remember just enough of high school youth group to know that this is wanting to ‘treat the symptom instead of the cause.’ Tonight I am processing just enough to know that dumb decisions now can mean hefty consequences later. Tonight I am present just enough to know that tired, emotional thinking is not rational thinking.

I could easily drop out of school right now. This very instant. I am more than ready to gather the few belongings I consider most precious, climb into my car, and start driving West until I have to pull over somewhere to sleep. Then I’ll sleep just long enough to find the stamina to keep driving, and carry on that way until I’m home. I could. Right now.

I could easily get drunk right now. Sloppy, pass-out drunk. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a great way to get out of your head. And if I get drunk enough, then it’s not me making whatever dumb decision comes next: it’s the alcohol, so I can blame that and ignore the fact that I’m still the one in charge of whether I’m drinking or not. I could. Right now.

I could easily take everything out on someone right now. Friends are passing anyway; why not just pick a friendship to end abruptly in order to purge myself of some of the ick I feel? There are plenty of nasty, hateful things that have fluttered through my head in the 19 years I’ve been around, so it’s just a matter of reaching deep inside, retrieving them, and phrasing them so they’re most effective at tearing apart the heart of whomever I’m targeting. I could. Right now.

There are plenty of other options. None of them wise. None of them leading to abundant life.

Because the temporary relief that this world offers is a cheap knock-off of life. (Aka ‘Melissa: remember how we both know that you know this, so don’t go do something we’ll regret later!)

Right now it hurts inside, and I can’t see God’s bigger plan from where I’m standing, and that kind of sucks. But I know that I know it’s still there, and I know that I know why I’m trusting in it.

I could whisper my fears and my doubts and my hurts to the one who designed my heart. I could trust the truths that I’ve stored away for moments like this and remember that however dark the night may seem, joy comes with the morning.

That’s what I choose.

Right now.

Because numbing the pain won’t fix anything.

And I know the one who will fix everything in its time.

– Melissa
“When My Heart Is Torn” by Phil Wickham

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loneliness

I miss having a friend.

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

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

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

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

I feel like a third wheel sometimes.

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

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

But it’s still a cry of my heart.

And it’s still unfulfilled.

And that hurts.

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

But I still feel really alone tonight.

I think I probably just ought to go to sleep.

Actually, I know I should.

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

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

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

I want to go home.

– M

i feel pretty jubilant today

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

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

But I hate to stagnate.

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

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

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

Not good times.

Praise God for loving me despite me being so me.

But you know what the opposite of stagnation is?

Movement.

Growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so I kept praying.

And I cried.

And I detested humanity.

And I prayed.

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

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

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

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

“We love because he first loved us.”

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

Three things, though, that I must clarify:

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

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

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

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

– Melissa
1 John 4:7-21

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

life up high

I love the thrill of hurtling through the skies in a pressurized tin can.

Which is a really sensationalist way of saying that I adore flying.

(I actually really dislike sensationalism in most contexts, because it is highly overused and highly abused in 90% of the contexts I see it in. Like those “news” articles that everybody shares on facebook. [And I refuse to capitalize ‘facebook’ because their logo is literally a lowercase f and so why the heck should I capitalize their site if they don’t?!] But in this context, I felt sensationalist and so there you have it.)

Did you ever fly as a child? Were you one of the terrified, whimpering little waifs who convince themselves against all odds that this is going to be the day that they die? I dislike children in general, so if you were one of those children and you also happen to count me as a friend, then thank your lucky stars that you grew out of that short-person-ness and became someone that I don’t have to mistrust on principle.

If you weren’t that sniveling beastie, then there’s a reasonable chance that you were the other extreme, for children, much like myself, often live in extremes. That extreme being that you could hardly be restrained to your assigned seat during the entirety of the flight because you were so thrilled to be off the ground and among the clouds. Even if this wasn’t you, you know the type: the kiddos who practically have stars glimmering in their eyes from the sheer wonder of it all.

Yeah, that’s basically me any time I fly. I adore it.

I mean, security’s a drag, but I get why it’s necessary.

But then you get into the terminals—people-watching paradise—and then you board the plane, which is kind of a ‘meh’ step, except that ‘in the plane’ means ‘headed toward the skies’, so I can tolerate the monotony.

And then, oh liftoff! It’s kind of my favorite. (I say kind of because the whole thing is actually my favorite, so…) The whirr of the engines pushing past the limits that mankind accidentally set for ourselves so long ago, and the feeling of being pushed back in your seat, like you might forget to hang on for the ride and get left behind except that life won’t let that happen to you just yet.

The flight itself is (obviously) best enjoyed from a window seat, and even an endless field of blindingly white clouds beneath the plane (or the fog of clouds around the plane) doesn’t quite get boring if you remember your ordinary everyday view of their underside. In the absence of clouds, earth itself bears a strong resemblance to the patchwork that is life, and the possibilities for contemplation of what’s implied in the analogy are absolutely limitless.

On a side note, I think that when I’m flying I most fully believe in magic. Not rabbits out of a hat or any of that nonsense, but just simple, everyday magic. The magic of a splendor so majestic that my heart screams out that yes, there is a God, a God so much bigger and more beautiful than all I can ask or imagine! The magic that’s not really magic at all, but I’m five years-old at heart and so it’s called magic all the same.

Landing is also my favorite, because It’s basically a race to stop. Life as I customarily know it grows back into focus: from pinprick to matchbox car to full-size pickup truck still dwarfed by the enormity of the sky-bus I’m in. And then woosh: we hit the ground and the flaps on the wings go up and the breath gets pulled out my lungs as we’ve arrived somewhere where the air doesn’t need pressurizing and you don’t need wings to get from place to place.

In other news, I’m flying today* (surprise!) from Dallas into Kansas City so that my dad and I can road trip back to Texas with the truck he bought via eBay. On our way to the airport this morning I was marveling at the thought of what the Wright brothers must have felt in the moment the first test flight succeeded.

Like, woah.

For thousands of years we as a species had looked to the sky and envied the birds, and suddenly we were among them! Everything changed in a moment.

But so much of life is that way: so many things have been radically redefined in the mere blink of an eye.

I mean, it would only take the loss one person I love in a tragic plane crash for this flight to go from an absolute delight to something I’d lose sleep, sweat, and tears over.

But, for now, I’m not afraid.

I am above the clouds, and I’m over the moon about it.

Life is a patchwork of beautiful things; be sure to ‘waste some time’ being elated over them.

– Melissa
Check out one of my favorite artists pretty well capturing what I’m feeling: Alligator Sky (no rap version) by Owl City

*Note: I actually didn’t fly anywhere today. This was written while in the air on Saturday (1/16), but I didn’t have internet access to post it until Sunday, and then I just slept for hours, and now it’s Thursday (1/21) and I’m just now remembering that this is still sitting unpublished on my hard drive. So yeah.

A True Story

Once upon a time there was a college student who desperately didn’t want to write a paper.

(That student was/is/will be you.)

And so, because she was in college and she’d shortened up her focus in life to whatever made her happiest for the next half hour, she decided that the paper could wait.

Of course, if she wasn’t writing the paper, then she had to be doing something else. Because she had this desperate need to either be productive or to distract herself from her unproductivity. So she pulled up the internet.

The internet was/is/will forever be full of all kinds of beautiful and not-so-beautiful nonsense.

But she was a college student.

So the only things that mattered were Facebook and video streaming services.

She didn’t have Netflix, because she was too cheap for that, so she used Amazon Prime and streamed some old TV show that made her shudder a little and smile a little and actually accomplished nothing at all except for giving her something to do for almost an hour.

Then the episode ended and she had to find something else to do.

There was still that paper that she didn’t want to write.

But she still was focused on the next half hour, so she closed all the windows pertaining to the paper and pulled up a playlist full of music that she was learning to love. And a blank document so that she could write a story.

This story goes nowhere.

It has no climax.

It is unwilling to acknowledge that it has a moral.

(It does, but don’t tell us. We’re choosing to learn things the hard way.)

The college student doesn’t live happily ever after, but she does manage to live despite her mistakes.

We all manage to live despite our mistakes.

We acknowledge our idiocy and we sometimes shake our heads in rueful amusement and we sometimes choose to do things differently the next time.

But sometimes we just pull up our favorite video streaming service and waste another hour while an unwritten paper stays unwritten.

– Melissa

i am not the girl with no substance

I worry.

I worry that people think I’m no more than the silly nonsense I spout on a regular basis. That they won’t take the time or won’t have the opportunity to find out that there is depth to me. There is some level of maturity here. I do actually have opinions and philosophies that don’t involve random animals.

It’s not that I don’t have control of the situation. I could resolve myself to stop being so ridiculous and try for a closer impression of what is culturally considered to be normal behavior.

I just don’t see the point in being serious or somber all the time. Because some days my heart is breaking inside of me and it’s honestly really fulfilling to see you smile at the unexpectedness of whatever I just said to you. I feed off of your laughter and it helps me laugh, too. Life isn’t a tragedy, not even when I most suspect it to be, and sometimes my gibberish is just a maddened attempt to remember that.

And on the days when I’m really doing fine, or when I’m practically glowing with joy…then there’s definitely no point in being somber. Because why act all depressing when you actually feel like singing? So sometimes I sing nonsense ditties, and sometimes I tell you stories about the time I babysat a worm while his mother was at work, and sometimes I will offer to write the paper you’re currently bemoaning because I know my version of whatever your topic might be is wildly more entertaining than whatever you were planning on writing and maybe the break you’ll take while I hijack your laptop will help you to see past the struggle to find a reason to smile.

That’s what I think, at least: that life doesn’t have to be filled with solemn adherence to “reality”. That maturity doesn’t have mean that we stop hoping for fantastic happenings.

Also, can I just take a moment to point out that I really hate small talk? I do. I don’t see the point of it and I have trouble engaging in it. And if we’re having a conversation that you would define as ‘small talk’, just know that I am finding some purpose in what we’re talking about. Even if that purpose is simply to learn more about you based on your opinion on things like the weather.

(Not kidding. Your opinion of the current weather, your mood on Mondays, the way you roll up your sleeves, they all say something about you, and I’m often fascinated by the message. Which has no real bearing on the point of this post, so sorry about the rabbit trail, but I’m not actually sorry because this is my blog post and I do what I want.)

I am not a small-talker. But I am a storyteller. In case you hadn’t noticed. Which, considering that my life is full of adventures and oddities and ridiculous occurrences that you’d think only happen in books, isn’t an awful thing to be. I love to tell you wild tales, filled with vivid language and wild hand gestures and just enough embellishment to make you eye me in disbelief so that I can dissolve into laughter and correct myself and still leave you astonished. And when I get bored with the insanity of my own life, I turn to the grand adventures of the characters in my head. I’m sorry that your imagination has faded with time and disuse, but mine hasn’t, and that brings me great joy.

But for all the stories and for all the nonsense, I do know how to be serious. I know how to walk into chaos and step into leadership and get things done. I know how to steel myself for the hard talks, when we don’t agree and we’re breaking each other and ourselves and something has to be done. I know how to sit and listen when what you are going through is anything but a joke and you just need someone to be there to acknowledge that it’s not okay and remind you that you are not alone.

Please do not mistake my jubilance or silliness for a lack of substance.

Or maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe I am wrong and I am completely deluded and shallow after all. But if that’s the case, then maybe take a breath and contemplate what your relentless solemnity is gaining you.

Don’t forget to laugh.

Because even if you don’t agree with my pell-mell dash of chaos, you were not designed for perpetual sadness. The world is much too beautiful for that. There are just too many things reasons to smile.

So find one!

Laugh!

Rejoice in today, because tomorrow will be hard too. Life is hard. I grant you that. But smiling makes it just a little easier.

And for those dark days, I will be here to make jokes you can’t understand and burst into seemingly spontaneous laughter because of something that happened six years ago that I just remembered, and maybe my joy will be enough for us both in that moment.

I worry that no one will take me seriously.

But more than that I worry that people won’t remember what a joy it is to not be confined to seriousness.

– Melissa

Homecoming and Mud and Everything Else

It is currently 11:45pm and I am so tired that I can barely function. So what am I doing?

Writing a blog post. Duh.

Tomorrow morning’s gonna be rough. I’m just gonna call that right now. But, hey; whatever.

It’s Homecoming Week at HSU, so things are hopping around here. As if advising season and sorority/fraternity pledging season weren’t enough to fill the campus with general tumult, add in homecoming prep and daily activities and this crazy event we at HSU call “All-School SING!”

From a performance standpoint, SING is…madness. It is chaos. It is too much pressure and too much singing and a much coveted title of Champion.

From a technical standpoint, SING is…complete madness. It is utter chaos. It is too much pressure and too much singing and directors who don’t understand that we aren’t actually trying to ruin their lives when a cue goes wrong.

Guess who’s working SING Tech…?

Yep.

This girl.

The one sitting at the house-left side of the booth in front of the computer, running projections.

It’s not an awful job, actually. A couple of the shows don’t even have projections.

And it’s easy to amuse myself, intentionally and otherwise.

Like, on Tuesday, I added one slide to a slideshow, turned to talk to the director, turned back and found that I had also added 236 additional slides besides the one I wanted. So that made me giggle way too much.

And today, before the show began, when the curtains were closed and nobody in the audience could see what was being projected, I found a picture of a baby chimpanzee and made him think encouraging things for the people backstage to see. That was fun.

So yeah. I’m amusing myself and getting paid and trying not to dwell on how tired I am or on the people who I’m letting get under my skin.

Aside from SING madness, it’s been raining here!

I love the rain!

I love to run around in it and splash in it and soak up the annual rainfall of Bakersfield in my clothes in the space of an hour.

However.

I learned today that Toby’s pen does not particularly love rain. Or, rather, it does. Much too much.

My dear, hydrophobic horse is now living in a lake, ruling over his wet domain from two little islands. The water is at least four inches deep. Plus another two inches of mud.

I am very glad that I own rain boots.

And I am very ready for the sun to come up and evaporate the lake. Because Toby is not a seahorse. He’s a horse horse.

Really, if I’m entirely honest, life has been crazy and weird on all counts for a while now.

And by crazy and weird I don’t mean all and sunshine and roses.

I mean that lately there have been some grey-colored days, and on those days I am just grateful for people who come into my quiet to let me know that I am not alone and that it’s going to be okay. Hugs are sometimes the best things ever.

I mean that recently I have had spinning-like-a-top days, and on those days I am so grateful for people who don’t get scared of me and who keep up with my mad energy and join me in adventuring into all sorts of mischief. Camaraderie isn’t just a word I can’t spell or pronounce.

On Sunday I was ready to drop out of school.

I’m totally serious.

I was curled up at my aunt’s house with first my sisters and then my entire family, and there was not a single bit of me that wanted to return to Abilene to this drab little dorm room to resume my life as a student.

And so I didn’t return.

Or, rather, I put off returning until I finally left so late that I didn’t get back to campus until 11:30pm. I still managed to go to bed earlier that night than I am tonight. Oh well.

Life’s buzzing in my head, feverishly reminding me that there are a million and one things I want to say, but my tired mind is out of words and so I think I’m going to call it a night.

One final thing, though: Why does my hair always look nicest in the middle of the night?! For realzies! What’s with that? My only option is to sleep on a head of curls that will look frizzy and slept-on tomorrow morning.

So not cool.

– Melissa
A Happy Song