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When Will The Rhythm Come?

14 Nov

For weeks I’ve been trying to write something to completely capture my various emotions throughout this season, but I’ve come up short. Through engagement, moving, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymooning, and now returning to my new home, I’ve felt everything from extreme happiness to complete shock. I’m navigating through a fantastic, fun, but also lonely season that no one really talks about in marriage books. I’m in a haze. I don’t have a wedding to plan and I’m trying to get used to a man sleeping in my bed.

But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I’ve gained a husband and a new apartment. I’ve gained a great new city. I have a lot of great stuff for my kitchen. I go to the library again. I’ve learned to snorkel and zip line and ride unconventional buses in Mexico. I’ve watched more than one World Series game. I had the best wedding ever. I’ve mellowed out in a lot of ways because I’m not sitting on the 405. I get to start things over. I’m thankful. Truly.

But I’ve lost my rhythm.

These kind of look like the shoes I have

These kind of look like the shoes I have

When I was a kid, I had this dream of being a tap dancer. I actually still have new tap shoes that I keep to remind me of that dream that never materialized. In retrospect, I never was great with rhythm in terms of dancing. I was off beat, insecure, and always felt the other people in the classes I took were better than I was. But in other areas, I had great rhythm. I was an excellent student who thrived in the confines of school and rose to the occasion when teachers gave me assignments. I also thrived in ministries. I showed up, I figured out what to do and how to do it with gusto. Since 2008, I’ve known exactly where I was going to be on Wednesday nights. It’s kind of nice.

A few months ago, my friend, Sarah, who is one of the most creative people I know, mentioned the word “structure.” I shuddered a little bit. Because I like to be unconventional and rebellious in my own way, I have hated to think I need a routine or a structure. I’ve always thought that I was too creative for that. My mom keeps telling me I’m wrong…when Sarah told me structure is good, my jaw dropped open and I secretly wondered if she had been taken and replaced by someone else.

The more I thought about it and the more I’m still considering “structure,” I realizing that I feel like I’m tumbling head over feet in a wave of newness, looking for something familiar so that I can put my feet down on solid ground. Like Sarah, I need to find my structure, or rhythm. I was listening to an unfamiliar jazz station here on the radio when it hit me.

I wonder if I’m like a good jazz song.

Right now, it seems like there’s no reason and there’s a lot of instruments making different sounds. But as you listen, it starts to make sense. The familiar notes start to repeat but at different speeds and in little bits and tastes instead of the way it is in traditional music when you hear the same verse over and over. Maybe I’m like that. Finding different parts of myself in a new way. It just takes time for the undercurrent of the rhythm to take hold.

I started thinking of that song lyric, “I’ve got rhythm…I’ve got music, I’ve got my man who could ask for anything more?” Well, I’ve got the man but the other two are kind of hazy at the moment. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I’m glad I’m putting some of these thoughts down into writing.

Instead of being impatient, I’ll just keep asking questions and reminding myself that transition takes time and I decided to do three huge ones at once. What does my rhythm look like? I don’t know quite yet. So I’ll keep feeling the feelings, writing them out, and asking God to lead me, even in the mundane. Hopefully as I start to be more intentional about my days, the rhythm will come. And it will be a sweet sound when I begin to dance.

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Fear of The Unknown And Not Feeling Known: What Do I Do With All Of My Anxiety?

20 Aug

Frustrated. Sad. Anxious. A clamor, a panging, a feeling that I was forgetting something majorly important. My engagement ring? Well, yes, it was at home in the box, where I’d left it safely the night before, only to be abandoned in my morning haste to beat the traffic that coagulates near Downtown LA on Thursdays mornings after 7:15. But something else? What?

Sometimes pre-wedding anxiety is like that. You just have a constant feeling you’ve left something to chance and that it won’t be okay. Weird, right?  I’ve had too much caffeine. Not enough actual food. In fact, have I eaten at all today, save those two candies in the church office? Hmm. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter. What mattered was this: after the rush, after the haste, after the pounding head and spinning wheels and 29.2 miles in 70 minutes, I was here. Here. To breathe. Breathe? Really? Yes, breathe.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in South Carolina when I found this deserted beach.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in the Carolinas when I found this deserted beach.

I knew what I needed. A trip to the beach. A different beach that I had only been to once before during a Spring Break several years back when visiting my friend in North Carolina.  A North Carolina beach.
And so I sat there in the counselor office, closed my eyes, and we went there. But not just the two of us. I invited a friend along. One it felt like I hadn’t seen in awhile.
He came from a far off place in the distance. We usually meet on tropical shores but today, it was a warm winter afternoon with a slight breeze on that beach in North Carolina. The one where the wispy grass blows calmly, the seagulls congregate in a lazy circle, the water is shocking and colder than you remember, but a comfort all the same. We usually sit on a log together and chat, but I sit all day so I decided we’d walk on the shore. The sky was more clouds than anything. No blues, just soft, muted grays that reminded me that this wasn’t paradise, but it was a place where all slates were wiped clean. Simple. Truth could be revealed here.
He saw me and acted surprised. But not in a “Make you feel guilty” way. More in a “You’re the only person I want to see today and I’m so glad you showed up!” way. He got closer, not a care in the world, dipping his feet in the water, getting his clothes wet like an excitable 5 year old with rain puddles aplenty, too many to resist.  So he jumped in and out of the waves, waving at me? And then his face grew serious. Not in a scary way. In a “Where ya been? I’m so glad to see you!” way. He approached and I exhaled, the first time in weeks.
And we began to walk. I was hesitant. I told him of my fears, still scared that I would say too much. I hemmed and hawwed, skirtted around words, which I never do.
“I’m scared of a new life where I don’t feel known.”
Not just announcing a feeling but the other Unknowns. Feeling alone. I was wondering, wondering if he was going to go to San Diego with me since I had first really met him and grown with him in LA. It felt honest. It was. I was. For the first time with him, my old friend who knew me better than I knew myself. I was saying everything that had been bottled for far too long. Not champagne but feelings bursting forth, a fountain of truth was emerging.
I talked a bunch. He listened. Then I began to listen. I felt him calm my fears. He showed me pictures of when I’d been so scared before.  Brokenhearted. So lonely. He reminded me that he had been there that time. I had been hopeless, I didn’t see a future. He was now showing me now that I have one. That there are plans laid out. Where I will still have choices and friends and where my love with my future husband will grow into that beautiful thing that I believed in when I was a little girl. I will have a place to call home. Not just a physical place, a place where I will be stable and rooted.
A place that will start with Him. Not my husband him, but Him Him. I won’t create it, although I’ll help. I will claim the gift he is giving me. Like the Israelites when they came back to the Promise Land. I will belong. I will be free. I will lead because those gifts don’t go away with a location change. I will look back at this moment. I will remember how deeply I felt and that what I was asking for was courage and faith. I can’t conjure those up on my own. I can’t dream them into being. I had to ask. I had to confess the places where I had forgotten that He is Lord and I am not. I had to let go of me and hold tight instead to Him when the me part ceases to make sense.
p_00044I’ve been wondering how to feel this “joy” people talk about when they are engaged. Mostly I feel stress and like planning a wedding is a full-time job. I’m not a fan of big decisions or “you HAVE to do it this way.” When I left the beach, it didn’t matter. I knew in this way that you know things after an encounter with the Living God that it was ALL. Going. To Be. Fine. I was going to thrive. I was Set Apart. I was Known and better than anything, LOVED.
It was the peace that surpasses understanding. Finally.
It was the easy burden, the light yoke. I get it now! 
It was the flowers of the field ,not worrying, it was the moment when you laugh because Jesus looks down at his wrist where you think the watch will be and it’s not there because he invented time! “Why wear a watch?” he asked. I laughed. A real gut busting laugh….
I’m now back to my quiet couch in South Pasadena, where I will be for three more months before this new unknown, but less scary now adventure begins. The sky is a briliant orange and pink. A tad different from that serene beach calm, but still calm. He’s showing me life and life abundantly. And I’m starting to believe it again because I had forgotten! It is for freedom that we were set free. And so I do what I learned to do and I. Just. Breathe.

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

What One Thing Is My Best Friend And Worst Enemy?

24 Sep

“Words, Melissa. Words.”

This three “word” sentence has been following me around. It mostly started off as a joke between Mark and myself, when one of us (usually me) would say something that would come off sounding unintentionally hurtful. We all have hot buttons that people who we trust can push. With a few little words, I know that I could say something incredibly harsh and painful to the people I love the most and vice-versa. Words can hurt or words can help. They can bring life or they can bring death…

I’ve been studying words all weekend, unintentionally.

I happened to be at a park watching a soccer game full of 10 year olds on Sunday when I heard the coach yelling at one of his players. Mind you, this kid was 10! “Pedro, that’s not good enough. There’s no excuse for that! What are you doing?!” the coach yelled, as Pedro missed “heading” a ball. I couldn’t help but thinking, does this man know the damage he is inflicting on Pedro? Will Pedro be sitting in his therapist’s office 15 years from now still trying to live up to this man’s expectations? I certainly hope not ,but then I think back to things that people have said to me and they do stick.  What Pedro probably needed in that moment wasn’t a scolding but an encouragement from a man he looks up to. But the coach didn’t offer him that. And sadly, in a way, he failed little Pedro.

In another episode on the train, I heard a young woman talking to a new acquaintance in a rather loud voice. From listening to her words, I could tell that she didn’t really realize the impact of what she was saying to those around her. She was talking about her first tattoo when she was 12 and how the ink had faded. Then she offhandedly mentioned that she could totally beat people up (using much more colorful language than I care to repeat). She mentioned a pregnant friend that she “smacked around” but now they are “cool.” Of course she said it in a way that seemed normative for her and I kept thinking how tiring it must be to have to constantly try to prove yourself using your words.  What must it be like to go through life without a filter?

And then this morning I heard a very convicting sermon about the power of words.  I realized that I wasn’t too different from the coach or the girl on the train. My words constantly come out of my mouth too quickly and I don’t often pause to take stock of what I’m saying. I just talk because that’s who I am.  Sometimes it works, but other times I’m left apologizing.

On a good day, my words can build people up and bring people together like my last blog post about my grandma.  Today I found out that my words had really impacted my mom. My words in that situation had made her so grateful that I would even think to write something that resembled a tribute to my Grandma. That was a good feeling.

Other times, my words have caused division. I’ve gossiped. I’ve tried too hard. I’ve hurt Mark’s feelings. I’ve really just blown it. So I do my best to apologize and ask for forgiveness. What I’ve realized is how much of a battle this actually is for me. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but sometimes taming my tongue is virtually impossible. I have so many thoughts throughout the day that I can’t say that I just burst at the seams when I’m around friends and family.  So I tried something.

The sermon convicted me that I can’t just overcome my word issues on my own. I have to take it to God and ask for help. I prayed this morning and I honestly think it’s made a huge difference. I’m more aware of what I say to everyone from the auditors in our office to the people who call in for my boss to my bosses and more. And I’ve started to notice their words. I want it to be said that I’m an encourager, not a “Negative Nelly.” I want my words to bring light and love and life, not death. Not discouragement. Not anger or frustration. Not anxiety or hopelessness.

I come back to this a lot but it’s important. Are my words really reflecting who I am on the inside or are they just echoing a part of myself that is dissatisfied, grumpy, and wanting to bring others down? If that’s the case, I need to stop, take a breath, and pray.

It’s okay to pause between words. It’s okay to not answer right away. It’s okay to not spread my opinion to everyone or blurt out something that makes someone I am close to hurt or distrust me.

Proverbs 12:18 says “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

I hope to not thrust swords, but bring healing and life. With God’s help and grace, I pray that it is so!

What about you and your words? Do you struggle with the right words to say?

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

My Phone Is Smart But What About Me?

18 Jun

People with smart phones often come across as distracted. I see them in the elevator at work, in the lobby, walking down the street not paying attention to traffic. Eyes glued to a screen, squinting, often looking perplexed. It’s for this reason that I’ve avoided getting a smart phone for so long. In a culture that has us traveling at a break neck pace toward individualism instead of community, we can easily create our own little worlds with our favorite music, background, photos, apps, contacts, Facebook page, blog, and more. And in that attempt to connect us quicker with our favorite potential Amazon purchases, we lose a piece of ourselves. That is concerning.

And yet today, after years of postponing, I got a smart phone. I did it in a way that I’m proud of because I bought a used phone at a cheap price and I got a plan where I can get everything I need for less than I was paying for my dumb phone and still have no contract. It’s not an iPhone, but I’m using my new Windows phone as a training ground for now. And I feel good about my purchase. Except for my hesitation. What if I lose my awareness and become a drone hooked on the piece of metal and gorilla glass in my hand?

I just came off of a weekend where I spent a ton of time talking to people in face to face conversations in the car. We talked theology and played games. We told heartbreaking and heartwarming stories. We hiked the Grand Canyon and didn’t fall in. We discussed this hypothetical guy named Bob and wondered aloud about his soul in different scenarios.  I saw live elk and watched them eat leaves off of trees in our campsite for 30 minutes. And at no point when I took that self-induced break from my computer and phone did I feel like I was missing something more important than the moment I was in.

And that’s just it. As I embark on my new journey of having a smart phone and trying not to get obsessed with it, I want to remember to take time to step away. I re-learned yesterday in a moment of humility that God is so much bigger than I am. Than all of the little pieces I try to control. Bigger than the Grand Canyon. Bigger than the stars in the sky and our questions about aliens or angels. Bigger than our feeble attempts to control our little worlds. Even if we can do it in the context of our hand held computers, God is ultimately in control. And that is very comforting for someone like me who likes to pretend I am when I can make my background purple or download a panorama app to take amazing pictures.

So here’s to owning a smart phone but being smart about that ownership.

Here’s to taking time out to notice the little moments and continuing on my journey of awareness.

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