Melissa Update

paris in review
Paris is the contrast between romance and reality, crushed expectations of her visitors.
Within the same moment light dances on the Seine and a dead rat floats through those glittering beams.
She is so fickle, always expect rain.
Always anticipate the thick layer of cloud weighing down, that from above becomes a vast field of cotton tinted with gold.

I remember sitting down with Hope in our living room saying, “this year I really want to grow in being honest with God, sitting in hard spaces and not immediately seeking resolution.” In hindsight I can see how angry I was with Him then. Life since university has been a crazy journey of following Him to places that I did not know, there were beautiful moments, but there was also a lot of pain. 
Broken relationships that seem even more weighty when you only have ten friends in a city, the loss of practicing art for a year—which seemed more like an eternity back then. Being far away from friends and family, watching people I love experience really hard things. 
In Asia I found hope in realizing that this world is not how it was meant to be, in longing for it to be restored, but the six month season in between seemed to uproot everything. In Paris that first week of January I quickly reached the part of the transition curve affectionately known as “the pit”. 
Feeling far from able to thrive as a person. Far from able to build relationships or enter into the contemporary art world in a significant way, due to a limited knowledge of the French language. I spent months asking, “Why would you take art away, only to give it back in a place where I cannot pick up where I left off? I can’t serve you here if I can’t connect with people, much less make art.” 
But, I was going to try.

For the exhibition in April I worked on a piece that I started in university. Meaning is often constructed out of our experiences, picking and choosing different philosophies and ideals to hold on to. Creating these teetering towers that seem to fall at the slightest change in circumstance. I saw that was a way that I constructed my identity—opinions of others, relationships, different seasons of my life coming together to form my view of self. And like choosing the things we want to believe, we present our identities the way we want to be seen. Just look at social media. Constructing versions of ourselves that have a selective memory, only willing to show that which props up the ideal.
There were a couple of different elements in the final performance, an audio track constructed out of different songs that either relate to specific relationships or seasons of life. I recorded myself singing each song and layered the different tracks. During the performance I played the track on repeat and listened, singing different songs aloud as I heard them in the cacophony of my own voice. My phone was hooked up to a video projector and I scrolled through different social media platforms, texted friends, and even FaceTimed someone. Trying to grasp at the different pieces of my identity flying by at hyper speed. 
Going back to those times, watching friendships fall away through the progression of Facebook message threads, perpetuated a feeling of loneliness, this feeling that I had to fend for myself if things were going to work out in Paris. I bottomed out there, not because I shouldn’t have pursued the project, but because I was running in circles, trying to fix my circumstances instead of grieving the unmet expectations before God. 
“The surprise of God is that His strength shows itself most profoundly not in our proficiency at making life work, but in our weakness. His glory is made known not through what appears glorious, but through the base, the lowly, the humble. Usually, the mystery  of glory is revealed in those who seem least likely to bear the resplendence of humanity, let alone the grandeur of God.”
—Dan Allender, The Cry of the Soul
There are so many different stories that could illustrate how God began to deepen my understanding of this truth in the past year. Not being able to communicate, but seeing how Deconstruction spoke to people on a deeper level than the right words might one day.
Sitting with so many different friends, grieving things together from a place where I was not under the illusion that I had the resources to fix it for them, pointing them to the one who does. 
What it keeps coming back to for me was the moment where Hope, Paula, Olga, Mathi and I were sitting around a table. Hope talking about a loving creator, Paula saying that she wanted to cry if that were true, unable to reconcile pain she has seen and experienced. I shared with the girls that I feel the same way. But if I think about the thing we as Christians hold as the highest act of love, Christ on the cross, I realize how horrible it was. Jesus bearing the weight of my sins—both incredible physical pain and total, complete separation from the Father. He was completely forsaken so that I might be brought in. It is crazy, if you think about it. And in that moment it became precious to me again, real, raw and baffling. Maybe love is far from an absence of pain. 
It is not in figuring life out that we see Jesus, it is not in our ability to get over our sin. It is in honest admission of our need for him, it is boasting in our weakness. 

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