Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Unchained Melanie

I've been planning on writing this for quite some time. I want to share the story of an unruly wild woman who changed my life. Her name is Melanie, or for those who love her, "Mel Mel".
Melanie has always marched to her own beat. When I say that, I mean it quite literally. When she sings, plays drums or guitar it was literally at a different beat than anyone else. She was completely off tempo and out of tune but was mesmerizing. At first I thought I couldn't tear myself away because it was like watching a train wreck, but as time went on it became clear that it was something else completely that had me transfixed. When Mel was "making her joyful noises" something awesome happened to her face. She just glowed. This was a woman who was overflowing with joy, praising God in a way I had never seen. She didn't seem to have any clue that music wasn't a natural gift, she didn't care. She was going to praise God.
Melanie also had an unconventional look. She always had her hair in a mullet, business in the front, party in the back. Many of Mel's clothes were things she delightfully found on the beach. I remember walking the beaches with her as a 16 year old girl. I wanted to walk back a ways because of embarrassment. Mel didn't just walk the beach, she marched it, singing out of tune and praying out loud sometimes stopping and laughing at something God was revealing to her. At the time I was afraid people would see I was with this woman who looked like a crazy homeless person. Mel did not care in the least what anyone else thought, she was praising God.
Mel had frequent migraines, and still does. I remember her calling me to her room. It was totally black and she was laying in the bed, whispering and tensing from the pain. She grabbed my hand and placed it on her head and said, "Pray for me Chessa. I need you to pray for me." I felt so incapable of praying anything that could possibly help her. She even fed me the words to pray. Over time she taught me how to pray, to pray with faith and urgency.
Melanie is the one I went to when I completely messed up. There was a time that I had done the worst possible thing I could imagine. I was so scared to tell her, I just knew she was going to be so angry and I was going to be in so much trouble. When I finally managed the courage to get the story out, what happened baffled me. She started sobbing. She didn't yell or accuse me, she just cried. She was crying because she hurt for me. She was crying because of the pain I was in and that I came to her with it. I had never experienced something like this.
The lessons I have taken from this God given mother are more than I can write.
Melanie taught me to pray. She taught me to love God with abandon. She gave me a glimpse of the pain God feels for me when I make mistakes, not the fire and brimstone God I grew up believing in.
Mel showed me what love looks like.
The most important thing she taught me took a long time for me to recognize, however.
2 Cor 12:9 "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
In Melanie I learned that God really can take our brokenness to show his power. If Melanie had been a terrific musician, I wouldn't have seen that joy and abandon she found praising God. I wouldn't have experienced just how lost a person could get just experiencing God.
If Mel had been perfectly dressed with her hair always styled just right, I wouldn't have found her approachable. She would have intimidated me. Because she was a mess I felt safe sharing my messes with her. I knew she would receive me, she wouldn't judge me.
Many of the parts of Melanie that really influenced my life were the parts that were weak or broken. They were the things that we so often look at as our failures. In her flaws and inabilities God showed me his face.
My lesson from Melanie is that while God blesses us all with gifts and skills, sometimes it's our lack of skill that is the most effective if we are willing to just serve him with it anyway. When we stop holding back self consciously and allow people to see all of us, even the ugly spots, God is able to use us for his glory, more gloriously than anything we can do with natural skill and grace. It is in our weakness, our clumsiness, our messiness and our downright dirty spots that he can show his strength.
I love you Mel Mel.

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