friendship

Melissa Hawks on Prayer: The Angelic Toxic Waste Dump

Melissa Hawks on Prayer

Melissa Hawks has been a friend of mine for almost two years now. Our friendship spawned because of a crazy thing Jon Acuff decided to do called the Start Experiment (Now Dreamers and Builders), and has grown into a massive community today. I consider her one of my bests, even though we haven’t known each other for a long amount of time. She’s a woman I’ve shared stomach-hurting laughter and deep, grievous tears with. We have both been there for each other during our darkest of days, and have helped pull each other out of the pit. I’ve watched her grow deep and wide, as she’s watched me. Hopefully, this is the first of many guest posts from Melissa. I’ve noticed throughout our friendship that she’s pretty exceptional when it comes to prayer. She is always praying for others, for circumstances, for herself. I wanted her to share with us today about prayer, so that maybe some of that great habit she has will rub off on us. Without further adieu…


   I first learned how to pray when I was a seventeen year old freshman away at college. That may seem odd considering I grew up in a family where ministry was what you were born to rather than a life choice. I learned all about the technicalities of moaning and groaning and prayer journeys and prayer meetings and prostrating yourself before His face before I could walk. But I learned how to pray at the age of seventeen from a middle-aged professor named Jim Sleeva.

Sleeva is a legend amidst those who sat under his tutelage at the small Christian college I attended. I was never quite sure whether he liked or approved of me; he was hard to read. Back then I was a pretty great at following the rules, but beneath it all I knew the truth. A wild heart beat it’s irregular rhythm within my chest. There was a rumor that Sleeva had x-ray vision like Superman so I knew he could probably see my wild heart too. He reminded me of how I had always pictured Jesus. I couldn’t imagine that Jesus (or Sleeva, if he could see them) would approve of all my thoughts. But, I was pretty well versed in Scripture and I knew Jesus had made quite a name for himself by being nice to the sex workers and women caught in adultery, so I figured maybe at some point he (and Sleeva) might find it in their holy hearts to like me too.

Here’s what I learned from Sleev about praying:  you don’t have to be fancy. He never used grandiose words, or elaborate repetitive phrasings. He spoke exactly like he would speak to anyone else. He would close his eyes, get a giant ridiculous grin on his face and say, “Hey, Jesus. Thanks for these kids here and this beautiful sunny day you gave us to enjoy. You knew exactly what we needed after the last two weeks of storms and rain. Touch my friend Juan, who has the flu and heal his body. Show us how we can love You, each other, those we meet, better. You’re the coolest, Jesus. (because Sleeva was kind of a hippie) Amen. He would finish his prayer and you would think, “yeah. That dude knows Jesus.”

That’s when I learned how to pray.

The whole idea of “pray without ceasing” always seemed overwhelming and and a bit dramatic to me. Until I came to understand that my prayers are just me talking to God. About stuff. All the things. And that’s what I do. When I stopped trying to force my prayers to fit into a certain time frame of a half hour first thing in the morning or an hour before bed (yeah, that never happened), and I just began to start talking to God throughout the day whenever life happened, that’s when relationship formed. That’s when it became like breathing.

That sounds hard, right? Does it sound a little painful? It’s easy. It’s part of being mindful about how you are feeling and what you are thinking. If I notice a sunset or I’m so angry at something that has occurred. I acknowledge those feelings and turn them into a conversation with God. “Thank you for that glorious sunset, God” or “I’m so freakin’ pissed right now, God.” It’s a good habit to get into because it also makes me more in tune with His voice. When I am communicating with Him, I also take more time to listen.

Don’t self-edit your prayers. He’s God. He can handle the real you. I swear in my prayers, because sometimes I swear in real life. The first time I did this was right after I filed for divorce. I was in my car alone and the weight of it all was burying me. I couldn’t breathe; it was too much. I started to pour it all out and with it came a whole heap of language that I knew the community I was raised around wouldn’t have approved of. Between the “Oh, Jesus’s” and the “@#$&” my car was being turned into an angelic toxic waste dump. But He’s GOD. He can handle it. He can handle me. And I reverence Him enough to be real with Him. It doesn’t take away from the sacredness of our conversation, it adds validity to it. I am not hiding from Him.

The intimacy that comes with this kind of relationship with God has some great benefits. It teaches you to live with less fear. I have become less afraid of the dark because the Light is always with me. It also becomes easier to recognize dark things because you are accustomed to living your life in the light. You know immediately when you take an action that you shouldn’t. You learn to love people better, forgive faster, and that God doesn’t fit into any of our boxes we try to shove Him into.

I’m continually learning how to be in relationship with Him. How to trust. How to quit trying to tell Him how my story should be written. I’m so damn bossy. And He is patient, loving, and keeps redeeming me and my story. My prayer of late for my own life has been this, “I trust you to complete that which concerns me.” It’s been the ultimate way of me letting go and leaving it in His hands. Because here is the truth my prayers have taught me…

He is God. He is trustworthy and He is good. And even on the worst days…that is enough.

Jessica Ferreira painting

Severing Strings

I am bubbling with joy right now because today will be the first time I feature a guest writer/past-blogger/artist. My best friend, Jessica Ferreira, is an incredible human being with a heart that outweighs gold. We met in 6th grade, when she was heavily into her Spice Girl phase and I was only about some Hanson. She moved back to Venezuela for 7th grade, and I thought I’d never see her again. One day after school in 8th grade, I saw her standing by a wall and had to go and talk to her! The rest is history. Our friendship has cultivated and grown since then, with hilarious highs and barren lows. We get through. She is a fighter, in every sense of the word, and is a walking bottle of creativity. Today she will be sharing with us a work of art that comes from the deepest depths of her soul. Vulnerability has not always been her strong suit, but her journey to transparency is in full swing and one can only be bettered by everything she has to give.

Megan and I have been good friends for a very long time. And by a very long time I mean long enough for us to know that when a Saturday has clear blue skies and is slightly breezy, we both text each other saying, “It’s a BK Kinda Day.”

Yes, Burger King. Don’t judge.

When she asked me to guest blog for her, I was very honored, but skeptical at what I would talk about since “writer” is not the first thing I describe myself as. But alas, it is something I like to do.

When she asked me to write something for her, I got the notion from God to talk about a painting I did a little less than a year ago. The notion was more like a nudge to finally present this piece to others, even though it brings up a lot of roughness in my life.

I don’t have a name for this painting. Yet.

I don’t even know where to begin explaining it really.

However, I can tell you I painted it because I had to release what was going on inside of me. And for me, painting is the only way I know how to do that.

The months before this painting was made had brought about a relationship I had no idea would change my life. I had invested all of me into a person whom I had, at first, genuinely befriended and loved in Christ. As the time passed, however, my needs, along with theirs, became tangled in long strings of attachment; emotionally, physically, mentally, even spiritually. Those strings became thicker and harder to sever, becoming chords that bungeed as we so desperately tried to run the opposite direction. Because of those needs, we saw in each other a glimpse of mutual and unconditional love; a love that stemmed from Godly pursuit, but became twisted enough to make us believe it was all we had.

Satan is very good at doing that.

When things began to unravel (thank God) because of conviction, my life felt like the perpetual walls were caving in. In retrospect, they were actually scales falling off of my eyes.

I saw the strings that we all naturally possess. Strings that, at their proper use, are to be united for healthy relationships, with guidance from the Holy Spirit. But my strings (my needs) became connected through my selfish gain, causing not only hurt and doubt for me, but also rapture and pain in a once beautiful, unfortunately short-lived, friendship.

I wanted love and to be loved, and so I gave my needs away, letting the strings wrap around someone who was never intended to hold on so tightly.

When I started the painting, I had a very difficult time. I had to revive the pain so that it could reach the surface enough to be purged out. After a while, and after staring at it for longer than I care to admit, the lines began to flow, the colors began to emerge, and the feeling of release was finally peeking it’s way through.

The white lines around the figures are our natural, God given needs to reach out and be loved and love fervently. The colorful chords are the ones that had been attached, intense in color and strength but damaging in all ways. However, by the immeasurable Grace of God and the Cross, he severed them.

You may be dealing with issues similar to mine. Problems that are aroused by the need we all have to feel wanted and needed, but going about them the wrong way. We may have the idea that if we love someone enough, and they love us in return, they are capable of fixing us, whatever we may need fixing in our lives.

Listen friends, we are but humans, incapable of rescuing each other from the depths of turmoil. We fail at that because we are fallen. We must continually seek Jesus in order to even border the line of servant-hood and love He walked along so passionately. And Jesus did it because he knew what the Father wanted: dependance on Him. Not dependance on his disciples who loved him, not the crowds who sought him out; not even the idea of just, for one moment, taking in what this world had to offer.

He attached himself to the only source that had the power to revive him in the darkest of times, even if those times were lonely.

It doesn’t matter who or what you love, but a matter of the heart. It is not whether you are in need of something or feel you are attracted to someone, in the right binds of marriage or if are a loving father, mother, sister, son or  daughter. It is where you put them in your heart that you must be aware of.

So my encouragement is this: Be honest with yourselves. It leads to truth. Be honest with where you put people in your life. When you do that, and you realize that there may be a person that has become a chasm between you and God, just hand that to Him, for He alone can handle it. Not you. Not the other person.

I also encourage you to find ways to release these sometimes unspoken emotions. From the talents we have, the times we use to exercise, to even being vulnerable with someone; it can all lead you to a path of awareness.

God knows the ins and outs of your deepest longing. Depend on it. You are worth it.

2 Years.

It’s weird. 2 years of marriage went by uncomfortably fast. But it feels good to say that those two years were vastly substantial. Lots of meat. Real rich.

Here’s our story in a few pictures.

We met in 2007. He didn’t give me a second thought and I thought he was rude and scary.

I did a lot of dancing in 2008. A single, care-free and crazy gal. He got to live the life of the road and spent most of his time with good people.

Thanks to the pretty lady in the middle, we were reunited at the beginning of 2009. Our status went from acquaintances to friends over the year. And then on September 11th, we spend the day together. By the end of September, we decided we wanted to get married. And the rest is history….

My life with Daniel is better than it ever was without him, even in our rough moments. He is my best friend, and my leader. I love him THE MOST much.