Melissa

In the spring of 2016, my current apartment lease was ending and I needed a place to live for a few months before Josh and I got married. I casually mentioned the situation to Melissa, a friend from church. She was nearly a decade older than me and a mother to three young boys, so I figured she might have some wisdom.

“We have an extra room, why don’t you just come live with us?” Melissa said as soon as I told her of my housing predicament, as if this was the most obvious solution. And that, my friends, is a perfect example of Melissa: disarmingly hospitable, radically generous, and straight to the point.

***

I learn an entire lesson on life and motherhood whenever I’m at Melissa’s house. The lesson is usually something along the lines of: think of yourself less, serve others more. Melissa’s home is a scene of glorious chaos, an endless stream of delightful guests and delicious food. No one is ever turned away from her table, which is always full to the brim with things like homemade bread, giant salads, sparkling water, and cheesy wood-fired pizza (yes, they own a pizza oven, which is reason enough to stop by for dinner). I have met people from all walks of life around that table, and it reminds me how beautiful life can be when you open up your heart and home without an agenda.

***

Melissa and her family have fostered several children over the last few years, intentionally entwining their lives with those whose birth parents are unable to care for them. Recently they fostered two young girls, bringing their total kid count to a whopping five. When I asked Melissa how she was handling it, she didn’t sugarcoat things. “It’s a lot,” she told me. “But I don’t want to be afraid of sacrifice, you know?” 

***

Melissa lives so very “in the moment” that she sometimes forgets she owns a phone. Over the summer I asked her to send me some photos from their beach trip and she texted back one single solitary photo, saying, “I really need to get better at taking pictures!” Melissa doesn’t have social media and she prefers face-to-face communication to FaceTime. None of her good deeds are documented on the Internet, and I get the sense that she is content living for “an audience of One,” as they say. 

***

Once, when my boys were babies, I took them to Melissa’s for an overnight visit. Both boys woke up scream-crying at 3am, and Melissa came right down the hallway to help me put them back to sleep. “Try patting them on the butt instead of picking them up,” she whispered to me. “That always helped my kids go back to sleep faster.” She was right. The next morning I shuffled downstairs, bleary-eyed, with a baby on each hip. Melissa wordlessly handed me a cup of coffee and whisked the boys off to play.

*** 

I met Melissa long before I became a mother, but I realize now that much of how I parent—or try to, anyway—is based on what I learned from her. She lives boldly, faithfully, and sacrificially. I am someone who spends a lot of time calculating how to avoid inconvenience and mess (both literal and metaphorical), so it’s refreshing to spend time with a person like Melissa, who welcomes the inevitable messiness of life with open arms. It’s clear from the minute you meet her that she is not meticulously building her own little kingdom here on earth, but rather living for an eternal one. 

Melissa, thank you for all you have taught me and continue to teach me. I am so grateful for you, and I am a better person because you are my friend.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “With a Little Help”.

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