what if I rode a tiger to Morocco?

I don’t know what I want to write about tonight.

I definitely want to write.

I just don’t know what about.

I thought maybe I wanted to write about how if I got everything I wished for then the world would be a disaster, and I thought maybe I’d talk about how I keep a solid white marble that I tell myself will grant a wish so that I have to stop and think about the full impact of whatever it is that I think I want more than anything else in the world. But that train of thought ran out about 100 words into a post, and so I decided that that wasn’t the rabbit trail to pursue.

I thought maybe I’d write about today, and how I actually made it through a set strike at the theatre without hating everybody around me, and how it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d prepped myself for it to be, and how much I love being useful and skillful with my hands, but there’s not much to that, and really oughtn’t I get over how much I usually hate strikes and just relax and let it all go? Yeah. I don’t really want to spend several hundred words contemplating that theme.

I thought maybe I could write about my absolute yearning for affection, how it consumes me sometimes and makes me think that I would say ‘yes’ if a total stranger proposed to me on the street, but that’s just weird and it might make people think I’m serious about that and I’m totally not because I distrust people like nobody’s business and that’s the main problem here because I don’t trust anybody enough to let them near enough for them to gain my trust enough for me to believe that they actually like me. And even that is an exaggeration that might make people worried about me and I’m really okay but I just wish that Toby would hug me back.

So I don’t know what to write about tonight.

Buffets are an awesome idea, but they’re totally impractical for me because I eat less at a buffet than I do basically anywhere else, and then I feel silly because everybody else seems to be eating ridiculous amounts of food and I’m just, like, I finished two slices of pizza… Not that I think of eating as a competition. And if buffets are what give me the self-control to stop eating when I ought to, maybe I should live in a buffet. But it does feel silly to pay that much and not eat that much. Does that make sense?

I’m so grateful for friends. For people who make me smile and who call me just so we can hear the sound of each other’s voices and who let me be whoever I want to be. Even if that person does claim to be a five year old and does tend to be socially withdrawn. It’s so awesome to do life alongside people.

Shoes are kind of the worst, and my stupid Walmart flats gave me blisters on both of my pinkie toes today and I think that’s ridiculous but they were the only thing that matched my dress! Why can’t all the clothes in the world go with dusty cowboy boots? Or with neon pink Converse? I don’t get it! I think it’s a conspiracy to make Melissa as miserable and blistered as possible.

I really ought to decide on something to write about…

I got a text, like, twenty minutes ago that my family is finally in Texas and I simply cannot wait to see them! Tomorrow is Monday, which is ew because Monday, but I get to see my minions and my mommy, which is not ew because family! So it’s all gonna work out to be okay. They’re coming out to do the Texas family rounds (which is what happens when your mom is the rebel who moved away from the family homeland) and so that Gracie can hang out with her college-age, rockin’ awesome sisters! The three of us are going to get to go to a Tenth Avenue North concert on Thursday and we are so excited. Or, at least, I am. Grace is. Hey, Abbie: you excited? Oh wait. She can’t hear me from Lubbock. Never mind.

Would you believe that it’s only 8:59pm? That I am writing loopy circles (as opposed to angular circles which aren’t actually a thing) at the measly time of 8:59pm? This is why I go to bed early, people: I am insane 24/7 and night time makes it worse.

I’m…like…the opposite of nocturnal. Plus I hate mornings. Basically, if I can sleep from 9pm to about 10am, that is great. It’s a ridiculous amount of sleep, I know, but it’s fine. I like sleep.

If I had a super power, it would be the ability to learn anything by osmosis. It’s literally the super power of napping. How great is that?!

Oh! I have a white board and it is where I write my homework assignments. Because I would forget where my head was if it wasn’t so solidly affixed to my neck. Anyway, what the all-knowing white board has to say tonight is that I have three papers due this week as well as a test in Spanish! So guess what I’m doing? I’m writing a blog post about nothing at all! I’m also becoming increasingly spastic, but it’s fine. No big deal.

You know what will be lovely? When I can do dishes in something other than a tiny dorm room sink. Because worse than the tiny sink is that absolute lack of counter space. There is nowhere to put the things I have cleaned! So then I have to juggle them while I wash everything else, because putting them down only gets them dirty again! It’s difficult and I know it’s a first world problem and I am ready for it to not be a thing anymore.

Okay. Increasing twitchiness wins the day. I am going to call it a night and head to bed, early though it be. Too bad I never figured out anything to write about…

– Melissa
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the mask comes off: i’m not strong enough

Recently, I’ve been pretty down in spirit.

During my free time.

During my quiet time.

During worship service at church.

Because I keep running up against an I-keep-failing-at-this wall.

I do not love people in the fearless, relentless way to which I know I am called. And that breaks my heart.

So I get quiet.

Or I cry.

I weep my repentance and swear to do better and deep down am filled with the premonition that I’m going to fail again.

Is this all life is: failure and heartbreak and failure again?

If I try harder, though.

If I really mean what I say, and if I grit my teeth, by golly I can love you with the love of God! This time I’ll do it!

If all it took to do what was right was the heartfelt desire to do so, I would be there. Trust me, I would so be there.

But it’s not just wanting. It’s not just saying something and really meaning it.

Because you know what?

I’m just human.

My human strength isn’t enough to even allow me to keep breathing.

Somebody else does that for me.

If life were up to me, try as I might, my heart would stop beating. The atoms that make up my body would cease to know how to have cohesion. I could not exist by mere force of will power.

I’m not cosmically powerful enough.

But there’s someone who is. Someone who literally spoke the universe into existence. Not coaxed it back into proper working condition, no, He spoke and it became.

I speak and things break.

God spoke and the universe became a thing.

That’s the kind of strength I need to make this ‘loving others’ thing a reality.

The exciting thing is, that strength is offered to me.

The Psalms are full of declarations that ‘The Lord is our strength!’

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

“Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!” – Psalm 81:1

“My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26

These are awesome promises to claim. And trust me, I do.

But then comes a new day of inadequacy despite my best intentions and I begin to wonder if I’ve not only failed at loving others, but if I’ve also failed to access strength made available to me, and then I spiral down into guilt that leaves me feeling too ashamed to pray at all.

It’s been a tidy, predictable, awful cycle.

The other night at Midnight Worship we were singing a song (that I can’t remember the title to) wherein the chorus refrains, “I want to know Your heart,” and I suddenly lost my voice.

I am fully aware of God’s heart for me where I am.

I know exactly what I am called to.

But I’m not doing it, so am I in rebellion? Maybe sometimes. Am I a failure? I feel like that.

Pour in, pour out.

That’s what I was given as I cried out to my Abba in frustration and shame.

Pour in, pour out.

That might not make much sense to you, but I grew up in Remedy youth group at LBC, and “pour in, pour out” was one of our Core Values. It’s the idea that others have poured into us, we have been loved and taught about God, and from the overflow of that we can love others and pour into their lives.

And I realized as I stood there, surrounded by the voices of my peers earnestly seeking the heart of God, what I’ve forgotten:

I keep trying to pour out of a cup that’s not actually full.

As I have worked to keep my head above water this semester, time with God has fallen to the wayside, my contact with the people who keep me accountable and partner with me in chasing after God has drastically decreased, and I have neglected to get involved with any kind of small group. I attend church, sure, but it’s a megachurch where I can slip in and out without talking to anyone. Which I generally (aka, always) do.

If I’m honest, the reason I’ve made it to October 5, 2015 without totally losing it is running on overflow from summer.

That’s something I can fix. That’s something I will fix, starting this week.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to quit working to love people just because I don’t have me straightened out yet. That’s definitely not my goal or intention.

But I’ve learned that you’ve got to know the true cause of the problem before you can fix it, and I think maybe I’ve at least partially found mine. And that’s exciting! In an I’m-still-broken, healing-takes-time sort of way…

So I’m going to get back to the basics. Back to living life one breath at a time. Back to where God’s strength isn’t something I call on when I think something’s too hard for me, but where God’s strength is the lifeblood of everything I do.

All this to say, this post isn’t about how awful I am. It’s not about how great I am, either. It’s not actually even about my failures or about fixing my problems.

I share this because life is real.

Because I wear a mask, just like you, and I think I’m pretty good at it.

I share this because there is hope.

And I also share this because if you see me, I want you to be able to call me on this. I want you to be able to say, “Hey, Melissa. Whose strength are you operating on today?” and I want to have to honestly answer you even when the honest answer is, “…mine.”

I don’t have a tidy wrap-up for you.

But…let’s value honesty. Let’s value vulnerability, and let’s value absolute dependence on the God who loves us absolutely.

– Melissa
I Need You, I Love You, I Want You by Tenth Avenue North

Lights and Glamour and Humility

Night and exhaustion combined turn me into a sort of half-crazed lunatic who says whatever comes to her mind in whatever order it may come. I think I’ve demonstrated that by now.

But there have been several things bouncing about in my mind that I’ve wanted to share, and so tonight I’m going to strive to accomplish just that.

Which may be difficult based on the way I keep spelling things.

Hmm.

Anyway…

Since the last time I dropped in to say that life was going well, life has continued to…well…go well.

Thursday, in particular, was one of those days that show me why people can preach a ‘health, wealth, and prosperity’ gospel, because it was so fabulous and it was super easy to connect the dots and think, ‘I’ve been doing my devotions and praying and talking to people about my faith and so now I’m being rewarded and why didn’t I start checking all the little boxes of ought-tos earlier so life would quit being so dadgum difficult?’

Except God’s blessings aren’t dependent on our level of surface-level perfection.

And God’s blessings are every bit as present on the days when I don’t get out of class early, find out that I did indeed manage to test out of a class, learn about a concert that my dad buys me and my friends tickets to, get a call from my mom saying that she gets to fly out to see me in the play Hay Fever (which everyone should come see…) and enjoy three full, nearly-healthy meals.

But yeah, that was my glorious Thursday that my suite mate and roommate and I spent quite a while squealing over.

And then Friday was, by all accounts, a fair day.

And then Saturday I had to get my hair cut…which is stated in a rather displeased mumble and accompanied by a face that communicates that this is not a matter that I am exceptionally pleased about and no, I would not like to discuss it further. I miss my hair but am grateful for the opportunity to be in a show even if it requires sacrificing my hair. I keep telling myself that.

BUT Saturday night my roommate, suite mate, and I all got to go see the concert that we found out about on Thursday.

A while ago I gave y’all my rather unimpressed/confused thoughts about seeing the Newsboys in concert.

Tonight I want to (briefly, because I fear I’m getting loopy) share with you my thoughts about seeing Tenth Avenue North in concert.

First off, I adore Tenth Avenue North, and have since my dad introduced the band to me long before they were immensely popular.

Of course, Dad couldn’t remember the numerical value of their name at first, or even which direction they claimed, so for a time I thought the band was Ninth Avenue West. But life goes on and muddles get sorted out, and the sound of Dad singing along to their Over and Underneath album while we detailed the van beside our rental house in Carthage, North Carolina sticks with me.

Also, I’m pretty sure that there’s no other band whose songs I have cried to as often.

And I’m not talking about those hideous ballads, like where the kid’s dying and his family pulls together so that he can celebrate one last Christmas in September before he dies. I detest songs like those. Because I know that life is depressing. I see it all around me and it breaks my heart on a daily basis. But can’t we fill the airwaves with songs about how great God is in that tragedy instead of singing about how tragical the tragedy is?

Sorry if I just insulted your genre. Maybe I shouldn’t post offensive things on the internet. But…yeah, moving on.

The type of crying I’m talking about is in those moments where I’m feeling lost or alone or broken, and I turn on my ‘shuffle all’ playlist and all of a sudden I hear someone singing right to where I am, whispering the words of God over me or murmuring the silent plea of my heart.

Like, seriously, when you find yourself in a place of spiritual desperation, listen through an album or two of these guys’ and you’ll almost without fail find a song that’ll let you breathe, ‘That, that is what I’m feeling.’

So that’s the basis of my thoughts on Tenth Avenue North. I already love them as singers, song writers, and musicians.

But I like Newsboys as singers, song writers and musicians, too.

Tenth Avenue North (gah, I love the band but I’m getting really sick of a three word long band name to type out all the time with no logical abbreviation that doesn’t strike me as totally tacky…TAN…?…10AN…?…yeah…no) last night won me over as performers.

Okay.

So.

Unpacking that idea:

The first song played, as the lights came up and the audience shouted for joy, was their latest hit from their latest album. Everybody knew it. Everybody sang. It was great.

(Side note: I get a tremendous emotional rush from being surrounded by like-minded believers joining their voices in worship. Church sometimes makes me tear up for this reason, and there’s always at least one moment like this at a Christian concert. Just the beauty of being together, of being free to worship, of being the collective Bride of Christ—loved more than we could ever begin to imagine…mmm…it’s just so beautiful.)

From there the band jumped around from album to album, playing new hits and old favorites, and constantly constantly engaging the crowd in family.

At one point, we were all instructed to put our arms over the shoulders of the people beside us. Because we were family. We are family.

It made me insanely happy to watch each of the rows of people in front of us in the theater (there had to be about ten) start to sway to the music. As a group. A body. (Like I said, emotional rush.)

We danced together—except for the people who didn’t believe in dancing and just did ‘choreographed movement.’

Mike (the lead singer) talked about the symbolism of raising our hands in worship: that it’s not a holier-than-thou position at all, but it’s a reaching up and echoing the words of his daughter when she cries out, ‘Daddy, hold you!’ I love that picture. And I loved being surrounded by hands lifted in surrender and desperation and adoration.

I guess what I’m trying to impress upon you was that it was a night of family.

Not family and a band.

Family.

Broken individuals united by our desperate need for a savior.

I paid to go to a concert.

Instead I got to be part of a worship service/party.

With impressive lighting effects and a bunch of normal guys who happen to be well-known for their worship lyrics.

And that normality? It just made them all the more impressive.

I still ache to have a platform, to get to make a difference like that.

And Tenth Avenue North is an amazing reminder to me that what I’ve visualized is actually possible.

God can be given all the glory through flashing lights and microphones and platforms.

So anyway, it’s pretty late now and I’m not in bed the way I told myself by the time I told myself I was going to be. I’m still pretty giddy from last night (obviously, I think) and all I can really leave you with is an invitation to check out the music of Tenth Avenue North if you never have, and a reminder just how great it is if you are familiar with it but haven’t played it in a while.

And remember…

We’re not meant to live this life alone.

– Melissa
No Man Is An Island by Tenth Avenue North