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

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A Seasonally Appropriate Post

Christmas music makes me cry.

Not all of it, granted. And I’ll also admit that a lot of music makes me cry.

But pause for a moment and take in the concept that we sing about:

The omnipotent, omniscient God became a human baby.

What’s the average weight of a newborn? 6, 7, 8 lbs?

That’s nothing.

My backpack weighs more than that most days.

The Lord of Lords became a baby who weighed less than my backpack.

Like, what even? That’s humility beyond my understanding, vulnerability beyond my comprehension. It’s kind of taking my breath away just to even type that.

The God of the universe was cradled by a teenaged mother, who probably sang lullabies to help the King of Kings fall asleep.

I mean, come on! If that doesn’t blow your mind, then your head must be made of something other than brains and bones. (If that’s the case and you haven’t had some kind of surgery to implant a titanium plate in your skull, then I’d suggest you talk to a doctor because you might be a cyborg…)

One of my favorite pictures is from two years ago, when I was directing a goony bunch of high school and junior high students in a Christmas play, and we’d all gathered to take pictures in costume. My younger sister Gracie was playing Mary—and, let me tell you, she looked cute and she knew it—and my best friend was playing Joseph, and the two decided to make fun of each other rather than acknowledging how awkward it was for a thirteen year-old to be playing the wife of a seventeen year-old.

But…we weren’t too far off from being pretty accurate: it’s more than likely that Mary was, by our culture’s standards, just a child herself when she gave birth to Jesus. Probably thirteen or fourteen. Joseph could’ve been as young as sixteen or seventeen, though he might have been older. We can’t know for certain.

Jesus came into the world weighing less than my backpack and trusted himself to the care of a teenage girl from Nazareth.

Let me just say that I wouldn’t trust myself to raise a child, much less thirteen year-old Gracie (or even fifteen year-old Gracie.)

That’s what the Christmas songs are about. That’s what fills my eyes with tears.

The magnitude of the gift…it’s too great.

I don’t feel worth it.

I don’t feel worth anyone giving up the glories of heaven to lie in a feed trough and cough on the dust stirred up by a stable full of restless animals. I don’t feel worth anyone learning the pain of burs and splinters and skinned knees and the cruelty of other humans.

But Jesus did.

One most likely not-so-silent night, nestled away in a smelly little stable in Bethlehem, Jesus took his first breath of earth’s air and changed everything forever.

***

I think I’m failing at writing this post in the way that I want to.

I think maybe my heart’s too full and I’m trying too hard.

Let me try again.

***

Take a deep breath. Hold it for just a moment.

Okay, now rummage around your mind and find all that cynicism you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s okay that it’s there, your life hasn’t been easy, but it’s not something you need right now. Gather it up.

Now let that breath out, and exhale that cynicism, too. Like I said, you don’t need it at the moment.

Humor me just a moment more and go back into your mind palace (mine’s actually more of an attic, hence the subconsciously attic-y metaphor I’ve got going on here) and poke around in those cobwebby corners for that spirit of exuberance you retired years ago. Remember that glow of excitement that everything used to bring bubbling up within you? That’s what we’re looking for. Childlike glee.

Found it? Yeah, I know: the lens got foggy with disuse. But don’t give up on it. Because it’s Christmas, and you’ve got ample opportunity to polish that sense of delight.

Is there a Christmas tree around? Notice how the lights stand out against the green of the branches? The way the ornaments nestle in like they’re basking in the glow? Remember your first ornament? How proud you were to hang it from a branch and how you didn’t notice when Mom came along later to double check that it wouldn’t fall?

And the weather. Outside. What’s it like? Prayerfully it’s not a bajillion degrees outside, but I suppose it could be. If it’s chilly, though, check out the way the air intensifies everything, the way the colors stand out from each other in crisp perfection. Summer smears it all together, but winter clarifies the world. It’s pretty spectacular, snowing or not.

We’re going to try ignore all the department stores. They make me nervous because there are people everywhere. And too many of them haven’t read this blog post and are still clinging to their cynicism. (So it’s your job to be a beacon of joy and hope. Show ‘em what they’re missing and make ‘em wonder if maybe there’s something better out there.) But if you do end up in Wally World or wherever, look for the joyful people. The ones who remember what a joy it is to be alive in December.

Are you feeling any better? I hope so. I desperately hope so. I hope that you can spontaneously break into laughter because you remember what a beautiful world you’re a part of. I hope you’re remembering how it is to feel things instead of retreating back into the safety of numbness, because safe does not equal fulfilled.

Christmastime is such a roller coaster season for me, because—whether I like it or not—I approach life with a vivacious attentiveness that demands that everything be felt on, like, twenty-seven levels or so. And there’s just so much to take in! Colors and tastes and smells and feelings and songs!

The songs especially are big for me. There are the fun, peppy songs like Jingle Bells and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree that just make me want to dance. There are the popular songs like All I Want For Christmas and Winter Wonderland that make me just a touch frustrated and just a touch sad because I don’t have a significant other to share the season with and I wish I did.

But then there are all the other songs, my favorite ones, the ones that tell the story of the season. I know the traditional ones by heart, and I know most the new ones pretty well, too, and I basically sing along no matter how hoarse I may happen to be. And sometimes I cry. Because…well…what the songs have to say is pretty amazing.

They tell of a baby, born in a stable, heralded by angels, and greeted by society’s outcasts. But not just any baby: the baby who was God-become-flesh, come to earth to dwell among his creation and, ultimately, to redeem them from the fate they’d brought down upon their own heads. It’s a beautiful story. It’s a true story. And it’s a story with incredible implications in my own life.

Sometimes I wonder if we don’t forget to remember those implications. If we don’t just go on about our lives when, in reality, we should stop to let our breath be taken away by the beauty of perfect humility and perfect love.

I’ve actually put together a list of a few of my favorite Christmas songs. For you. Wherever you are. My prayer is that you’ll be able to carve out a few moments of quiet to let the words wash over you, to replace the bustle of preparing for Christmas with the peace of the victory Christmas has already accomplished. And I pray that, with childlike awe, you’ll learn something new about Christmas this year, and that you’ll live it in a way that makes other people notice.

I love Christmas, because nearly everybody is glowing with the magnanimity of the season. But the people who are glowing with something more…those people are truly a delight to encounter.

Have a joy-filled day.

– Melissa
Christmas Playlist on Spotify

Christmas Playlist on YouTube

 

 

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

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

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
I apologize for the ads on the site, but this is where you go to play this game.

I didn’t actually proofread this…

Sometimes you just hope beyond hope.

You plan beyond the impossible and you do your very best not to get yourself into a position where a letdown is going to let all of the air out of your sails. You know it will hurt, a little, if things fall through like you know they probably will, because that’s how letdowns work, but you brace yourself for the impact so that it doesn’t capsize you.

But some days your hope gets realized.

The pieces of your impossible dream settle in and you end up with a coherent possibility. A reality, if you can call it that despite the inevitability of life to catch you by surprise.

This afternoon I found out that I have been cast in the play that my theatre department is taking to Scotland next August.

And, to be honest, I thought my audition sucked. Truly. I was inwardly cringing even before I finished the one scene I was asked to read for, and when I wasn’t asked to read again I knew that that was it. I was done for. I’d blown it and that was that. But Scotland is expensive anyway, and I could always act as stage crew if finances came through and I could go.

But I got cast.

Despite everything I thought and everything my insecurities screamed at me.

(And let’s be real: my insecurities are still screaming, maybe even a bit louder now.)

So yeah. That’s my terrifically exciting news for the day:

I will be playing Agnes in Shadow Box here in Texas come April, and then I will be playing Agnes in Shadow Box in Scotland come August.

Aside from that, I didn’t have a spectacular day.

Toby’s been being an idiot and he’s managed to drum up an inflammation in one of the (numerous) scrapes on his leg, and since Saturday his leg has been swollen from the knee down. I swear, that horse thinks I’m studying Veterinary Medicine. The swelling is down somewhat today, but it’s still there and it’s still worrying away at me. I really don’t want to spend money on a vet right now.

Also, Spanish is the worst, and I totally didn’t study for the test we had today and the language does not come intuitively to me and I really need to study next time. That’s all.

But it is Happy Pufferfish Tuesday! So that’s fantabulous!

If you haven’t gotten the vibe yet, I’m kind of in a strange mood, brought on by a terrifying cocktail of emotions compounded by a case of (ever-present) exhaustion. I’ll be okay, but everything’s a bit…oh, what’s the word…spikey? at the moment.

You know…

Spikey…

Like, it peaks and then it valleys and then it peaks and then it valleys?

Like your heartbeat on a monitor.

Except this isn’t just my heart beating.

This is life pulsing, first bright and then dingy.

It’s kind of normal for me, but it’s a little more tonight because I’m going to Scotland!

Do you live like that ever?

In spikes? Up and down, good and bad, each distinct unto itself and each startlingly real and pressing in the moment?

My dad talks about it like a mountain. Like I get to experience the mountains but I also have to trudge through the valleys, and since I’m from California the mountains are all Mount Whitney and the valleys are all Death Valley, and that makes sense when applied to my life as a whole, but what do you call it when it’s happening over and over again in the course of five minutes?

What’s that?

Madness?

Sometimes I think that it is.

But…it’s beautiful. Despite it’s overwhelming nature and its tendency to bounce me back and forth between bouncing and…well…not.

I’m rambling. Because I’m hyper, I think, in a sit-down sort of way.

I should probably stop typing. Because now is when life…well, this post…gets weirder and weirder until suddenly I’m posting pictures of happy pufferfish to social media.

Wait.

I already did that.

Just kidding, we’re apparently past the pufferfish stage.

Now is when I…

I what?

I don’t know.

I think maybe it’s when I start questioning life. Reality.

I love the word Ontology.

A) Because it’s a beautiful word.

and also

B) Because of what it means.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘Ontology’ as “a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being.”

Isn’t that confusing?

My psychology teacher taught me that, and I’ve clung to the term ever since. Because ontological is me past a certain time of night on a certain cocktail of emotions compounded by a case of (ever-present) exhaustion.

But anyway, morning comes early and I recognize that I’m venturing further and further down a path of weirdness.

Stay chill, my people.

– Melissa
Something odd for your day.

First Friday of Second Year

Cast lists went up today! Aaah!

I’m cast in one of this semester’s shows! Aaah!

Also, apparently I’m designing and running sound for one of them! AAAAAAAAH!

Yeah, I’ve definitely never designed the sound for a show. I’ve never run a sound board. This is going to be either great fun or greatly stressful or some delicious combination of both.

But anyway, I’m involved! I don’t get to stay in my room and be antisocial! Yay!

Enough with the exclamation points. Let’s be serious and boring and monotone for awhile.

Who am I kidding?! Life isn’t boring or monotone, like, ever, and it’s very seldom all that serious.

Except in funerals.

I cry in funerals. Even if I don’t really know the person. Just saying.

That has nothing to do with anything.

Can you tell I’ve had caffeine?

And not enough sleep?

See, people around here bellyache all the time about how gross 8am classes are. Honestly, I can’t blame them. I mean, who wants to break off a snuggle session with her pillow to go listen to a professor talk about something that would make a whole lot more sense in about three hours? I certainly don’t.

And, so far in my college career, I have avoided having to schedule any 8am classes.

Go me!

So instead I brought a horse. Who is now my 8am. Seven days a week.

He also is really dead-set on getting as many burs in his mane and equinely possible (see what I did there?) and it is driving me insane! I mean, come on, dude! We both hate having to stand there so that I can pull about a bajillion burs out of your lovely, flowing mane (which has gorgeous sun highlights from this summer, I’m just saying) and so you could save us both a lot of trouble by just keeping your stupid head out of the pile I have made of all the weeds I’ve pulled so that they wouldn’t be in your way while you beg for the other horses to love you even though they recognize as clearly as I do that you’re an idiot!

Too bad I’m timid about speaking my mind, huh?

Anywho, semester (all one week of it) has been good so far, with the exception of being so tired that functioning is hard(er than it usually is for me). I am doing awesomely poorly in bowling, so it is almost certain that I will have improved by the end of semester, because I can’t really get any worse. My computer applications professor should keep that dullest of dull classes interesting. And my theatre professors are some of the awesomest individuals on the face of the planet. Just saying.

Microsoft Word says that “awesomest” isn’t a word. Well you know what, Word?! I don’t care!

So I finally downloaded a game that I’d seen before but didn’t have the opportunity to get for free at the time—I did get it for free today, by the way—and it definitely kept me amused for a good portion of the day.

It’s called…Goat Simulator.

And you literally run around a town as a goat, destroying things and licking things and terrorizing people.

There’s even a way to make dead goats rain from the sky. I kid you not.

Definitely a waste of time, but I suggest it if you find yourself with a bit of time to kill between classes or something.

I think that kind of wraps up what I have to say.

I’m writing tonight from a place of (big surprise) exhaustion and (equally shocking) sugar overload, so I’m not really feeling coherent enough to tell you anything life-altering that I’ve learned lately. I’m sure there’s something along those lines that could be said, but it’ll have to wait for another day.

In the meantime and in between time, though, have a wonderful evening/morning/day/afternoon/whatever-applies-to-you and I’ll talk at you again before too long, I’m quite sure.

Ciao!

– Melissa

hindsight and raw hands

Growing up with my dad, there were two ways to know that you weren’t working hard enough: 1. if you were cold and 2. if you didn’t sleep well at night.

Well, I’m proud to say that I did work hard enough today.

How do I know?

Well, I never got cold (never mind that the theatre was a sort of an oven) and I am 99% sure that I will sleep very well tonight.

I didn’t exactly work smart enough, though.

My hands are red and raw and swollen from working without gloves.

I had gloves in my back pocket the entire four hours we were working.

Now, to be fair, I did remember that they were there most of the time. But I was switching back and forth between so many different tasks—some of which gloves would have helped, some of which gloves would have hindered—that it hardly seemed worth it to take the time to switch back and forth between gloves.

It would have been worth it.

But that’s easy to say looking back.

Also looking back I realize all the benefits of working for my dad all the time. The benefits that I never noticed at the time.

Stuff like the fact that all the muscle tone I achieved mixing concrete and digging trenches and running the chop saw goes away when I don’t consistently utilize it.

Or the idea that if I’m not spending every weekend doing manual labor that I really ought to be getting a work out some other way. Ew.

(While we’re on this subject, if anyone knows of a contractor here in town who’s interested in hiring a slightly dramatic eighteen year-old who has a pretty decent work ethic and is afraid of power tools and electricity and completely over-paying her, let me know.)

Granted, those days had—and continue to have—downsides.

Like the whole working thing.

And getting frustrated because my plans for causing enough mischief to slide the world into total chaos conflicted with my dad’s schedule for home improvement.

And the fact that I know what I’m doing whenever I have to work alongside people who definitely don’t. (By no fault of their own. Don’t hear me being rude or judgmental. Just annoyed and rather inclined to do things all on my own.)

Such is life.

I’m sure I’ll be fussing and seeing only the downsides when I’m back at home for the summer, working on projects that I don’t see the point of and that interfere with whatever nonsense I’ve dreamed up. Isn’t that the way things go?

But anyhow, I’m now going to go and make sure that I’ve met the requirements for Dad’s second condition of a good work day.

G’night!

– Melissa

12:00 AM

It’s funny how things evolve.

Now, don’t hear me buying into the idea of Evolution of present day life from an amoeba.

I’m talking about how things like emotional responses change over time.

Because I’m still crazy homesick. But ‘crazy homesick’ is manifesting itself differently this semester than it did last semester.

Last semester, the longest I ever went without breaking down in tears stemming from my vast desire to no longer be here but instead be there was about a week.

I’m less weepy this semester.

Last semester, it felt like every waking hour was filled with thoughts completely centered on home, and whenever I did end up distracted, I noticed.

I’m less single-minded this semester.

Homesickness is more of a persistent ache this semester. It’s fixating on what I hear about life at home and on the pictures I surround myself with. It’s relating every bit of life back to something about my family. In other words, it’s more subtle to me but probably still glaringly obvious to everyone around me. Maybe even more obvious than last semester. I don’t know for certain.

The play closes tomorrow.

And, on one hand, I’m super relieved. I’ve been so exhausted the past week that I’m only certain the week happened at all because a) it’s a different weekend than it was last weekend and b) homework’s turned in that I had to have turned in during the week of February 9-13. The hustle and bustle and socialness of a show has me drained even when I’m getting enough sleep.

But, on the other hand, I’m super dreading the cessation of this show’s run. Because I know me fairly decently by now, and I consistently come down with a bad case of post-show-blues upon the close of any and every show. Even shows I hate. Even show’s I just worked backstage for and spent two weeks bored out of my mind during.

Anticipating how awful something is going to be usually makes it worse, psychosomatically and all that, so I’ve been trying very hard to talk myself out of this sense of impending gloom. Yet history speaks pretty loudly and clearly.

I’ve even taken actions to prepare myself to get over the hump I presume (know) is coming: I’ve started prep work to begin the legwork for putting on a show at home this semester (stay tuned for details as they arise) as well as stocking my plate with various other projects to engage in.

The truth: I’d rather just shut my emotions down and go into hiding for awhile.

Turtles have it good: they take their shells with them everywhere.

And armadillos (which I personally like to call darmarillos just for the heck of it) have armored plates on their backs and the curl up and look ridiculous and are fairly well protected.

And porcupines have awesome terrifying quills bristling everywhere.

(Have I ever mentioned that I have a slight phobia of porcupines? Oh, and also of fire. If you don’t believe me, ask the two idiots who, with a lighter, had me cringing halfway across the stage before the curtain came up for Act 2 tonight…)

And then there’s me: I can be as prickly or turtley or tough as I want, and I still have to deal with people and life.

Ugh.

This is normally where I’d get spiritual. Talk about how what I’ve been learning in my quiet time or in Bible class relates to all this. But it’s midnight and so I’ll condense it to just saying that I’m really really trying to remember to do life not on my own strength. To forgo comfort and safety and do whatever it takes to bring glory to God. I’ll also say that it’s not that I feel that I’m entirely failing. It’s just that the Christian walk isn’t easy. It goes against everything in us. For me, it means dealing with people. And boy oh boy am I over dealing with people.

Okay.

It’s late.

I’m going to sleep so that I can be alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic for church and Hay Fever and set strike tomorrow.

Blessings on all your heads. And maybe water balloons, too.

If any of you have a random water balloon materialize over your head and fall down and land on you with a splat and drench you in icy cold water just as you’re reading this, a) you’re welcome and b) please tell me so that I can laugh in delight at your misfortune while also marveling at the awesome weirdness of God.

Adios!

– Melissa
Check this out.

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…