Twenty Fourteen

2014 was a good year. It had a lot of joys, a lot of new experiences, a lot of growth, some pain and fears - as do most years. But overall this year felt like a stepping into myself, more of who I am and growing into the person I love being. 

So here are 14 highlights from the past year. 

1. Full Time Staff and Fundraising 
After some very difficult seasons, I felt a sense of joy to step into full time ministry. With that came fundraising. Fundraising was a great way to teach me about story-teling, dependence on Jesus, and humility. 

2. Maintaining and Making Friends 
Making friends outside of college is just hard. This year I've had a lot of new friendships occur, many mature and grow, and taking risks as some prepare to move away. But the friendships I've maintained over this year have been so sustaining to me this year. 

3. Pentatonix Concert 
They are just awesome. It was amazing. There was screaming and shouting and singing. Best mini road trip of the year.

4. Getting a Tattoo
I actually got 2 tattoos this calendar year. It feel surreal sometimes but both carry extremely special and important meaning to me. This is the story of the first one. The second one's story is coming soon. 

5. Supporting Sean and Jenel in the LA Marathon 
In March two of my students ran the LA Marathon. I was so proud of both of them for their perseverance, their training, and their fearlessness. They both inspired me to sign up for a half marathon in May of 2015. Also I got to randomly volunteer hand out water to runners! 

6. How I Met Your Mother Series Finale 
I had watched the show starting in season three. I followed the gang from New York for years. It was both exciting and sad to see the series finally come to a close. But I did finally get to meet the mother and that was legendary. 

7. Teaching Mark I at Catalina
I love teaching manuscript study. And preparing to teach the gospel of Mark was amazing. The text came alive for me again as I saw Jesus' compassion and power throughout the pages. 

8. Orientnation for New Staff (ONS) 
This was one of the best conferences I've been to with InterVarsity. I made lasting friendships, had an amazing breakthrough about my multi-ethnicity, and became reaffirmed in my calling to ministry. Table 9! Yeaaah! 

9. Visiting Nashville
Every year my best friend and I take a vacation. This year we broke our Portland/Seattle tradition to visit somewhere new. Here I grew to love country music, bought a pair of boots, and ate a ton of BBQ. 

10. Hiking to Glen Aulin 
We've talked about it for years and our family finally made this happen. It was a beautiful hike to see parts of Yosemite I had never seen before. I grew up camping here and I loved seeing a new things. 

11. Developing InterVarsity Leaders
This has been the year to develop new leaders in IV. We took on apprentices, taught leaders about intercession and prayer, took risks together. One of the most challenging and fulfilling seasons of ministry so far. 

12. Intercession and Prayer 
Thanks to Molly Ramos, I've learned a lot about intercession and prayer. I'm not an expert at it but I'm growing to see a deep need in my life to commit to interceding and praying on a much deeper level. 

13. Fall Conference 2014
This has been the most memorable Fall Conference I've been to date. Our speaker not only challenged our students to see God as immeasurably more, but I was able to seek healing from Jesus in some deep places. This was the start of some very important growth and seeking more of Jesus not just for my students but for me. 

14. My 27th birthday
I love birthdays and celebrating birthdays. This year was one of the best birthdays I've had. I felt celebrated and relaxed all at the same time. Pizza, card games, and Fast and the Furious movies will do that to a person. And yes even 27 year olds can still have sleepovers. 

Here's to many more adventures in 2015! 

December Insta-Review

Instagram photos in the month of December (follow me on instagram - @melissamonte)

To see the previous InstaReviews


A Great Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing their plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and pace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. 
Isaiah 9:2-7

When Jesus entered the world over 2,000 years ago, he entered a world covered in great darkness. Israel was harshly oppressed by the Romans and God had been silent for almost 400 years (between Old Testament and New). Women were treated poorly, those who were not Jewish were barely allowed to worship in the temple, and as the Romans oppressed Israel, Israel oppressed others - the poor, the sick, the possessed, and the hurt. 

We also live in a world of great need. A world that feels still covered in darkness. The race tensions in America are at a high, with young black men being killed at an alarming rate, with women still out of reach for true equality, with injustice imbedded within our government systems and in our hearts. We too are living in a land of darkness, one we may not be able to recognize. We are again in a time in desperate need of Jesus. 

We need a Wonderful Counselor. We've made some really bad decisions as humanity, as a country, and as individuals. We've let a lot of bad theology, ideologies, and the like get into our minds and hearts. What was supposed to be "love God and love your neighbor" has been replaced with "look out for my own". We need Jesus' wise counsel to flood our minds once again. To have the wisdom to truly understand Jesus' commands in scripture and to live them out fully. 

We need a Mighty God. There are a lot of crappy things happening in our world today. Powerful and overwhelming systemic injustice feels impossible for the single person to change. We need a mighty supernatural God to bring waves of change in places we had not imagined possible. We need justice in the places were there isn't. We need Jesus to bring about reconciliation and restoration. We need to admit our own faults and shortcomings and look to Jesus. 

We need an Everlasting Father. Many of us have had poor father figures, and all the more leads to a distrust of those in positions of authority. We've seen fathers and those in authority abuse, neglect, torment, abandon, and betray us. But Jesus promises an Everlasting Father. One who will never leave, who will never neglect, who does not torment or abuse. We need redemption and a true Father. 

We need a Prince of Peace. It's not hard to look around us and see chaos. With young black men being killed on what feels like a daily basis, with terrorism, with power abuse, with human trafficking, with drug use and abuse, and even natural disasters that we have no control over, our world sometimes feels too chaotic to handle. Jesus promises peace and comfort. Not just for eternity but for the here and now. 

When Jesus was an adult and began his ministry he said the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe. The Kingdom of God - this kingdom of restoration, of peace, of justice, is not just one for heaven. It's one for the here and now. It's for our present and for our future. We must still repent of our sins - both individual and communal and believe in our deep need for Jesus.

I want to have the answers of how that will happen. To solve the problems I see on my newsfeed every day. I want to use the privilege I have to make a difference. When we admit of our desperate need for Jesus, we see things in the light. We no longer live in the darkness of bitterness, of hatred, and of chaos. So Jesus come, bring your wonderful counsel, your might, your fatherly love, and your peace into your hearts so our world may turn more towards your light.


Running Without Music

I've decided to train for a half marathon. Because of that, my friend Claire got me this amazing book called The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances published by the comic, The Oatmeal. That book got me thinking a lot about running and how it connects with my life. They feel jumbled and kind of all over the place but this is the space I've chosen to work some of them out. So bear with me through the ramble and maybe you'll find something encouraging.

On Sunday I decided for the first time in my life to run without music. Now I love music while I run - it pumps me up, helps me run to a beat, gives me inspiration about how I am as a strong as a coursing river and as fierce as a great typhoon. So naturally I was very nervous about running without any music.

After about 10 seconds of running I was bombarded with a stream of thoughts.

Wow, my legs are not a fan of this. Who came up with this running idea anyway?
Run they said, it would be fun they said. Please. 
This is so not my idea of fun. 
You know what would be more fun - a nap. 
Oooh a nap, I like naps. I'm great at naps. 
And pizza! With the nap. 
No nap first. Then pizza. That's great! 
I'm not great at this running thing. 
I'm slow, I'm awkward. 
Did that guy just stare at me? Oh great, he knows how bad I am at this. 
CRACK! Oh my gosh I almost tripped. 
Good, I didn't trip. That would have been bad. 

This took up the first 45 second my run. I was hit with all the reasons why I shouldn't be running. How painful it was currently and how painful it was going to get. I felt like I should just give up because lets be real, I'm never going to get any better. But since I had only been running for 45 seconds, I kept going.

I usually get to this point about 20-30 minutes into a run where I'm just done. I have all these same thoughts about how I'm not good at this. I realized that listening to music had not allowed me to overcome these thoughts of quitting, it just put them off for 20 minutes.

But when I faced them head on at the beginning of the run, it hit me. There is literally nothing I can do about this. Running is not natural for me. And yes a nap would be way better. But I want to be healthier and I want to runs this half-marathon so out I go, finishing this damn mile. And by facing thoughts in the first 45 seconds meant that when the 20 minute mark hit, I wasn't overcome by a wave of: THIS SUCKS. I had already known that and accepted it 19 minutes and 15 seconds ago.

So when I finished my mile, I wasn't really surprised that I did it two minutes faster than I had been running. Distracting myself from the notion of quitting, distracting myself from the mental and physical pain never made it go away but made it feel so much bigger later on. When I faced that right away, that pain never really left. I just learned how to run with it.

This happens in life too. We so easily distract ourselves from pain or the possibility of pain that we are completely unable to deal with it when it comes around. This pain can be past experiences that have damaged us, insecurities we face, fears that creep in, past hurt and broken. Whatever this pain is we are so used to avoiding pain that when the dam breaks and it rushes at us, we crumble, we fall, and we want to quit because it is all too much. But if we had dealt with our pain, our fears, our junk, our mess, whatever you want to call it, early on then maybe we'd know how to deal with it.

When I would run with music and avoid my thoughts of wanting to quit, they just festered and waited until the dam broke. Then they were unbearable and I made decisions based on the pain I felt. I was letting myself be ruled by it. How often do we let ourselves be ruled by the pain in our lives because we've never faced it head on. I don't think we have to conquer it as much as not let our lives be ruled by it.

But if we face our junk in our lives early on, when it comes up, when our insecurities first get realized, when our friends calls that thing out in us, instead of running for the hills - we face that, then I think it becomes easier to handle. When I ran without music I knew when my body was in pain and I needed to walk and rest or when it was my mind playing tricks with me. I was learning how to listen to myself.

Maybe we need to spend more time listening to ourselves as we deal with the mess and brokenness in our lives. Maybe it will make them easier to deal with.


30 Before 30: Do All the Things

Here is the basic list and the progress I've made so far. To read the descriptions and reason for each one, see my 30 Before 30 Post.
  1. Take a road trip
  2. Travel to 4 states I have never been to
    1. Wisconsin
    2. Tennessee 
    3. Texas 
    4. Montana 
  3. Visit 30 new places
    1. Madison, WI
    2. Nashville, TN
    3. Austin, TX
    4. Mount Rainer National Park
    5. Glacier National Park
  4. Get something published
  5. Date
  6. Nurture a deep friendship with 5 people
  7. Use my voice
  8. Find my fashion style
  9. Run a half-marathon
    1. Signed up! 
    2. Training has begun 
    3. Finished
  10. Read the whole bible
    1. Genesis 
    2. Exodus
    3. Leviticus 
    4. Numbers
    5. Deuteronomy 
    6. Joshua 
    7. Judges 
    8. Ruth
    9. I and II Samuel 
    10. I and II Kings
    11. I and II Chronicles 
    12. Ezra 
    13. Nehemiah 
    14. Esther 
    15. Job
  11. Memorize 30 Scriptures
    1. Philippians 4:4-7
    2. 2 Chronicles 7:14
    3. Hebrews 11: 1
  12. Learn 30 new dishes
  13. Take a class
    1. Motorcycle Training/Safety Class 
  14. Learn a new language
  15. Read 30,000 pages 
    1. Books read in 2014 (total pages: 7,982)
    2. Books read in 2015 (total pages so far: 5,202)
  16. Get 30 new InterVarsity Supporters
    1. Claire
    2. Mike and Stephanie
    3. Nicole and Chris
    4. Lauren
    5. Kevin
    6. Zoe
    7. Brian
    8. Erik
    9. Michelle and Greg
    10. Eric and Kristin
    11. Ernie
    12. Val and Kevin
    13. Susan and Jerry
    14. Bill and Deanne
    15. MaryAnn
    16. Charissa
    17. Darci
    18. Teresa
    19. Eric and Veronica
    20. Lake Ave Church
    21. Shepherd of the Hills Church
    22. Jessica
    23. Sabrena 
    24. Natalie 
    25. Gary
    26. Stephen
    27. Priscila
    28. Ryan  
  17. Bring 30 students to Urbana15
    1. So far we have 15 signed up! 
  18. Serve at church
  19. Create art
    1. Painting on Valentine's Day
  20. Spend time with 30 old friends
    1. Charissa 
    2. Claire 
    3. Shin
    4. Kari and Mackenzie 
    5. SGP
    6. KP and JLui 
    7. Lyn 
    8. Lauren 
    9. Melody
    10. Nicole 
    11. Christina 
    12. Bree
    13. Josiah 
    14. Jonathan 
  21. Go backpacking
    1. We went on a "fake backpacking" trip. Hopefully that will turn into a real backpacking trip soon. 
  22. Write 30 letters to 30 different people
  23. Meet my goal weight
  24. Forgive 30 people
  25. Be a better steward with money
  26. Pay off debt
    1. Paid off my first student loan in August! 
  27. Clean out and organize my life - we are starting one drawer or dresser at a time. 
  28. Design my apartment
  29. Learn basic car and apartment maintenance
    1. How to jump a car battery 
  30. Try 30 fun new things
    1. Long Beach Stay-cation
    2. Get a tattoo!
    3. Saw Clayton Kershaw pitch a no-hitter live! 
    4. Learn salsa dancing 
    5. Eat cheese curds (best things ever!) 
    6. Saw a show at the Grande Ole Opry (while wearing cowboy boots)
    7. Hiking to Glen Aulin for the first time 
    8. Archery
    9. Get a second tattoo
    10. Run a half-marathon
    11. Guest teach at another school's Mark Camp 


Books Read in 2014

I am currently working on a 30 Before 30 List - of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. I have several years still but some of them will take that long. One of the things on the list is to read 30,000 pages. I was going to list all the books on the original post until I realized that would probably be close to 100 books. So each year I'll just tally up the books and pages I've read during that year.

Some are good. Some were not. Some were life changing and some took months to finally finish. But no matter how poorly or wonderfully written they were, I was always able to learn something. If you want more specific reviews of each book you can you can also follow along on Goodreads.

So here are the books I've read so far in 2014. Total Page Count is: 7,982
  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth (487 pages) 
  2. The Alchemist by Pauolo Coelho (197 pages) 
  3. All My Friends are Dead by Avery Monsen (96 pages)
  4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (302 pages) 
  5. Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels (198 pages) 
  6. Monster by Frank Peretti (418 pages) 
  7. Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry (557 pages)
  8. Being White by Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp (192 pages)
  9. Are You My Boyfriend by C.B. Bryza (64 pages) 
  10. Black: the Birth of Evil by Ted Dekker (432 pages) 
  11. Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldridge (238 pages)
  12. Red: The Heroic Rescue by Ted Dekker (400 pages)
  13. White: The Great Pursuit by Ted Dekker (400 pages) 
  14. Pursing God's Call by Tom Lin (32 pages) 
  15. Partnering with the Global Church by Nikki A. Toyama-Szeto and Femi B. Adeleye (32 pages)
  16. Green: The Beginning and the End by Ted Dekker (392 pages)
  17. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechansim, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosch (371 pages)
  18. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle (240 pages) 
  19. The Golden Feather by JJ Heller (22 pages)
  20. Spiritual Warfare in Mission by Mary Anne Voelkel (32 pages)
  21. The Mission of Worship by Sandra Van Opstal (46 pages) 
  22. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (304 Pages) 
  23. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (525 Pages) 
  24. Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine (320 Pages) 
  25. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (160 pages) 
  26. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (224 pages) 
  27. Heroes of the Holy Life: Biographies of Fully Devoted Followers of Christ by Wesley Duewel (206 pages) 
  28. House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker (368 pages) 
  29. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distance by Matthew Inman (148 pages)
  30. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (192 pages) 
  31. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (347 pages)
  32. If You Give a Mouse an iPhone by Ann Droyd (40 Pages)