our make or break words

There is a small insect flying around my room, and it’s about to drive me insane. It hasn’t done anything to me. It’s not biting me or trying to get in my ears or entangling itself in my hair. But it is distracting and aggravating and it needs to find a new home.

(I know I could just kill it, but dead bugs gross me out more than live ones annoy me, so…here we are with me starting off my blog post with a gripe about bugs.)

In all reality, I don’t know what I’m writing about. I have started this blog post no less than half a dozen times just in the last twenty minutes, but I’m getting nowhere.

Believe it or not, I drafted this post on black paper in white text in a font that I never use. It’s an odd method for trying to overcome this block, but hopefully it worked and you’re actually reading a blog post right now. If it does work, then all the oddity is worth it.

Some people probably would have the sense to just stop trying to force something to be written that clearly does not want to be written, but I have very little common sense and so here I am, plugging way at trying to unpack my summer.

I’ve been back in Texas for…almost two weeks now? Yeah.

It feels much longer than that, but not in the “OH MY WORD, LIFE IS AWFUL AND SLOW AND ENOUGH ALREADY” kind of way. More in the sense that this feels natural, it feels normal, it feels established.

Not like it should feel to have lived in a room for less than two weeks after spending fifteen weeks in a different time zone.

Already Mackinac feels pretty remote, which just adds to the weird time-displacement thing that I’ve got going on.

Has it really only been two weeks since I clocked out for the last time? Like, two weeks ago right now I was sitting on my carriage, about to give my last tour of the summer. I was talking to my mom as she stood on the side of the street that I’d travelled many times a day for the last 100 days.

And somehow those 100 days weren’t long enough for me to feel as though I’m out of place now that I’m back in Abilene.

The whole muddle of it is doing a top-notch job of messing with my head.

I know I didn’t really blog much about the last half of my summer. Much of it was a lot like the first half of the summer: joy and growth mingling with exhaustion and heartache.

The highlights were, as is so often the case in life, sweet people and the heartfelt kindnesses they spoke over me.

Like, one day an older gentleman handed me my tip with some joke that I found genuinely funny, so I laughed aloud because the sun was bright and the grass was green and I was alive, and he met my eyes and said, “That giggle: I like it. Do that often.” And then he smiled and was gone.

Just quiet kindnesses like that.

So many blessings were spoken over me, and luck at school wished, and meaningful clasps of my hand to convey that I was a human and I was real.

I wasn’t just some driver to them.

I was a human.

That’s the real takeaway here: let’s just treat each other like the people we are. None of us are faceless. None of us are nameless. We have backstories and hurts and fears and loves.

Duh.

So let’s act like it.

On the flipside, the definite lowlight of my summer was when my favorite horse died and I spent two days giving tours around a lump in my throat, fighting with varying levels of success to keep the tears from flooding my eyes and washing down my cheeks.

The worst day, the first day of knowing that I’d never get to drive my sweet boy again, I pulled up to drop off a load of tourists, gushing at the crew to ‘have a fabulous day’ and ‘thank you for taking my tour’ and the thousand other things that I usually meant but meant a little less that day, and one of the guys who was helping unload my carriage remarked, “Wow, you’re in a good mood today.”

Thinking he was serious, I cooed back with my smile firmly in place, “Oh, it’s all an act. Today sucks.”

And he quietly replied, “I know. Your eyes tell it.”

Which was exactly the right thing to say. It was the exact nod to my humanity that kept me from losing my mind.

So if you’re reading this, Daniel, thanks.

…I think that might be what I have to say.

What I had to say.

However you want to put that.

Huh.

It took all those words just to come up with a few simple points:

  1. Time still feels weird and irrelevant.
  2. My summer was neither all bad, nor all good.
  3. Our words can make or break humanity.

– Melissa

let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. [psalm 19:14]

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a heart bound up with ribbons

Quick note: if you’re going to read this, please read it in its entirity. It starts off pretty gloomy, and I don’t want my friends and family to be uncessarily worried about me. I’m okay, I promise.

 

I think I finally get it. I get why bullying is such a hot topic, and I get how the bone-ache of others’ malicious words could lead to a rope-around-neck or blade-to-wrist situation. I haven’t ended up either of those places this past week, but that’s more a duration thing than anything. And a pride thing, too.

I haven’t slit my wrists because that’s too obvious. Because that’s too much evidence to leave of my weakness.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

That’s how it goes, right? So why have the words of others wreaked such havoc on my heart?

I can tell you exactly the last time I hurt so bad that I asked someone to come from where they were to where I was.

Tuesday.

Before that, it was my Junior year of high school, either when my mom was having her first seizure or in the aftermath of all that when I had an absolute breakdown over something unremembered and I spent almost an hour working up the courage to accept someone’s offer of companionship—I can’t remember which one of those two times came first.

Four years. It took me four years to work up the courage for another cry for help. No, not exactly. I invited myself over to my best friend’s house this summer when someone was breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. But still.

I don’t ask for help any more than I accept offers of help.

So why the heck was it words that brought me to such a place of helpless tears this week that I whispered aloud the scream within my heart?

I barely left my room for most of this week. I made it to most of my classes and I didn’t skip work or rehearsals, but I wasn’t brave enough to face the people calling me a villain and so I postponed meals by an hour or more so that the kitchen would be empty again, and I used the door I never use so that I wouldn’t have to go past their door, and I stood for hours doing homework that isn’t due for weeks so that I would have something to occupy my mind with.

Fear has always had a pretty hefty presence in my life. But this stomach-churning terror of having to look at someone knowing what they thought of me and that, no matter what I did, I was going to do the wrong thing in that person’s eyes…it was new.

I’m not startled by fear anymore, but I was this time. I was when I realized that my chest was tight as I did homework and that breathing was hard and that this is what I’ve accidentally talked about when I’ve offhandedly said that such-and-such thing gave me a panic attack.

I’m finally getting it.

The words that tend to break us generally aren’t the ones we’re hearing for the first time. They’re the audible echo of that inner whisper that has always told us that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t deserve friendship or grace. You’re not losing your mind when you start to buy in, you’re just giving into what you’ve always suspected.

You’re berating yourself for not standing up for yourself while simultaneously berating yourself for thinking you don’t deserve to be told of your crimes. And it all makes sense in your head because your inner voice is all confused by the people trying to tear you down and the people trying to build you up and by the voice that sounds a lot like yourself.

Last night I drifted off to sleep wrapped in the memory of a night last semester with friends when I felt very safest and they felt the very most like family.

And that’s a win, because there’s no way I could have remembered that on Tuesday or Wednesday or even Thursday. (To be honest, I can’t even remember if I talked to people on Wednesday or Thursday, because I didn’t trust anyone to care about me a whit.)

But there’s still a twinge that comes with remembering things like sleeping on Maegan’s floor with Michael snoring and Righleigh hogging the blanket we were sharing and Sierra pretending to have been asleep for hours. It’s back to a whisper, but that whisper of unworthiness is still there, telling me that nights like those were flukes and that I need to reframe my expectations.

Honestly, I was struggling long before I fell sobbing to the floor in the dark on Tuesday night. I skipped church last week because I couldn’t bear the thought of standing alone while surrounded by people in twos and threes and holding hands.

This week was an overflow of every fear that this semester has been: that inner voice that assured me that I was alone finally found outer assurance voiced this week, and I couldn’t help but notice all the people who hadn’t noticed my withdrawal. And that on top of actual harassment was just too much.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will break my heart.

I didn’t slit my wrists this week. I didn’t find myself in a closet with a length of rope and a death wish. Thank you, God, that’s not where my story has led this week.

But there are gashes on my heart—from me and from others—still bound up as they heal slowly.

I think I’ve bound them up with ribbons, though. Because I’ve long believed that there is beauty to be gained from pain. And though this healing process is slow, I’m already beginning to see the glimmer of hope.

In forty-eight hours I will be home, and in fifty-two hours I should be hugging my crazy, gone-off-to-Chicago-and-thriving-but-I-miss-her sister. I’m clinging to that idea as I sit alone in my room for the I’ve-lost-track-of-how-manyeth night in a row.

I want to wrap this post up and top it off with a tidy little bow, but that’s not life, is it? There aren’t clear answers as to how any one story ends, and too often the happily part of the ever after is a bit up in the air. We breath in a lungful of air and then we exhale it and then we repeat the two-step cycle indefinitely. And in between those breaths we try to make some sense of this thing called life.

I’m writing from snuggled deep in a colorful blanket, and the music I’m listening to is full of lazy smiles and I’m smiling too. Things are getting better, in this house and in this heart, and I do have people who I’m talking to about few lingering fingers of gloom. I love how vibrant and beautiful life is tonight, and the shadows only make the light glow more brightly.

I found this song yesterday as I was looking for something else. And it made me laugh because someone basically read my mind. (Except for that double negative at the end…I don’t approve of that.)

So I’m going to leave you with this as I bid you goodnight and wander off to get ready to crawl into bed. Goodnight, friends.

Hear that? That’s what you are. A friend. Mine or someone else’s.

Because you are no more alone than am I.

– Melissa

Destined for More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re lucky.

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

So why?

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

Thing is, it’s not.

Christianity isn’t about you being happy.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. I’m serious.

God loves them, too.

And you know what?

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

And you know what else?

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

The truth?

I don’t really like people.

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

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

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

But I don’t get to do that.

Because life isn’t about me.

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

So I love you.

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

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

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

And you were destined for something greater.

– Melissa