Alyssa Sellers


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Knowing I Don’t Have to Know

Joy Ride New OrleansThere I was, ugly crying on the cypress wood floor in my uncle’s home in New Orleans. It was the summer of 2002 and, after watching a seemingly innocuous movie, I was an emotional wreck.

Not just because in “Life as a House” an adorable young Anakin Skywalker stood in the pouring rain and fervently cried out for Alyssa, the witty and wise girl-next-door, who happened to share my name as well as some of my pretty fabulous character traits. (Yes, yes, I know. Hayden Christensen was acting in the role of an entirely different character named Sam, but to me he was still the promising young padawan – you know, before he goes all dark side of the force – only NOW with bonus blue hair. Swoon.) No, I was sobbing because Anakin/Sam and the other characters in the film were ultimately searching for redemption, love, and an understanding one’s self, all the things I had journeyed to New Orleans to find.

And because I was failing miserably in my search.

My movie postmortem didn’t start with me lying in a puddle of tears on the floor. It started with me sitting upright on the step at the top of a staircase, looking out through a giant window at a warm summer sunset, and holding a pen and yellow paper tablet in my hands prepared to write a veritable masterpiece of emotion inspired by the movie I had just experienced.

As you may have surmised, that didn’t happen. Continue reading

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Because Even in a Group You Can Feel Totally Alone

cropped-multipigeon.jpg

Alone.

I was in the middle of a three-day camping trip with 50 other people from my church whom I know and love and I felt alone.

It was Saturday; the second morning of our camping adventure and a new wave of friends joined us during the night. I arrived on Thursday afternoon along with three families with kids and one other singleton. Now, in addition, there were married couples without kids, couples at various stages of their dating relationships and a smattering of singles.

I was sharing an old-school canvas tent that I nicknamed Big Top, with a rotating cast of single ladies because most could stay one night but not another. When I woke up on that second morning I walked down the hill passing the tents containing the 50 some odd members of our group, out of the camp site and down the road to the day use picnic area. Continue reading


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Learning To Live By Letting Go

Somewhere in the Carolinas ~ October 2011

Sometimes pivotal thoughts occur to you while you are in the middle of an epic adventure, like traveling the lower half of the lower 48 states in a month with one of your best friends.

Sometimes you find yourself with no music, windows rolled down, staring out at the Appalachian Mountains just before peak fall foliage craving divine direction and thinking:

“Somehow we begin to believe the lie that this now, our current present, is the best there is, was, or ever will be. We forget that this current present, good or bad, is only for now. I’m currently on a 4 week road trip across America and “for now” is as vivid as the colors on the leaves outside my passenger side window. The leaves are changing and so am I.”

Sometimes, you hear God speak a week later, in a friend’s living room with strangers singing along to a guy playing the guitar. I write:

I hold too tightly to this smallness in my hand. “But it’s what I know,” I cry as I stomp and flail about.

“But it’s not what’s best,” God calmly replies.

“Is best ever gonna come?”

“If you let go, Alyssa, you have to let go. My best is too big for you to grasp with your fists grabbing so tightly to the smallness you continually try to hold. Please, let go. You can trust me. I know you, I want my best for you. My word is good. I am good. Let go.”

(One year ago today, my good friend Christy and I set out from Oregon on a four week road-trip to Philadelphia and back. This post is a result of that trip.)


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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Macchu Piccu with Wayna Piccu in Background ~August 2009

Sometimes, it’s the coming back down the hill that’s the hardest. You see something, you learn something, you experience something new and exciting, and then eventually you have to turn around and come back down to where you started.

When I climbed Wayna Picchu, the hill next to Machu Picchu, I had to write my name and country of origin on a ledger at the shack near the trail head. A rather ominous beginning. Walking up those tiny ancient steps, I couldn’t understand why the people going down didn’t give way. I figured it out soon enough. 

The view at the top overlooking Machu Picchu and the Urubamba River valley was breathtaking. After walking around the ruins on top and siting for a while to enjoy the view, we began our trip back down the hill and this is when I discovered that going back down was much harder than going up.  Maybe because going up I was hiking into the unknown. Maybe because looking up, I didn’t think about how these tiny little steps were perched precariously into the mountain face. Maybe, because now that I was going where I had already been, the thrill was gone and in its place returned my fear of heights and falling from them.

Maybe that’s what happened after Jesus’ fed the 5,000 on the side of a hill. When it was over, his followers had to go back down and take what they’d experienced and learned and go back to their work-a-day lives. I mean when was the last time you were in a place for an extended period of time over with 5,000 people? And even more astounding, when were all of those people fed to satisfaction with the equivalents of two peoples sack lunches?

Central Park Summer Stage seats 5,000 as does the McMenamin’s Edgefield Lawn.   The Gershwin Theater, the largest of Broadway’s theaters, seats 1,900 and the Keller Auditorium, Portland’s largest theater, seats 2,992. So, feeding 5,000 men (number doesn’t include the women and children in attendance) with only five loaves of bread and two fishes is rather epic.  Not to mention the life-changing experience of watching Jesus physically heal a few thousand people. Those 5,000+ in attendance were changed by that experience. The 12 men closest to Jesus, witnessing the miracle right in front of their eyes were changed as well.  And then Jesus sent them back down the hillside and out on a boat without him for a few hours.

Ride:Well Team Celebrating Success~ Portland ~June 2012

My church just hosted a team of Ride:Well folks. They rode their bicycles around 450 miles in five days to raise awareness and support for Blood:Water Mission. They are not the same people they were a week ago. But they are returning to lives and places that are relatively unchanged.

So what do we do with this? Well, eventually Jesus met his disciples at the bottom of the hill and when he did, one of them, Peter, walked on water. I pray y’all walk on water, too.

“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
~Matthew 14:29


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The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Yorktown Battlefield ~ October 4, 2011
Sometimes I deny my inner history nerd. Then, one day while traveling across the country, I find myself totally engrossed with every little thing the tiny village of Yorktown has to offer and I realize I LOVE HISTORY. Well, really, I love a good story and that pretty much is what history is. It is a little over a month since I took a National Parks tour of the Yorktown Battlefield and I find myself on the Library of Congress website reading a few of General George Washington’s letters.
I blame it on the entertaining and informative National Park Ranger who told us that six months before the United States’ victory at the Battle of Yorktown, George Washington declared in a letter that, …we are at the end of our tether, and that now or never our deliverance must come.

Now, having read a few of Washington’s letters it appears that the man could be quite the Debbie Downer. After five years of writing about this brutal war, I imagine him hunched over his desk trying to find a new way to describe the state of bad he was currently in and choosing “end of our tether.” It is quite the dire description when you think about it.

I never realized how overwhelming it must have been for Washington and the men of the revolution. They were in the middle of something where, for the most part, the outcome was not in their favor and, by many accounts, was fairly foolhardy. They had absolutely no guarantee of success.

Nonetheless, Washington and his men tenaciously held on to that tether and six months later saw the tide turn in their favor when on October 19, 1781 General Lord Cornwallis of the British Army surrendered in Yorktown. With this victory United States independence was secured and the course of world history was changed significantly. Two years later the war officially ended and Washington became the first president of this baby nation.

So, I’m in the middle, or maybe more accurately in the second third, of my history and, Mr. First President of the United States of America, you inspire me to hold on. I wonder if you also inspired the ladies of Wilson Phillips.



PS: Veteran’s Day is Friday. You should thank one.


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Ch-Ch-Changes

Sometimes, when the clouds and fog are just thick enough to blur the tree lines but not enough to block the sun, I believe I am in a fairy tale. I’m at the beginning of a good one – one that is brimming with possibility, I just know it.

This optimistic attitude is rather new for me. I’ve lived much of my life believing the lie that this now, my current present, is the best there is, was, or ever will be. I recently met a bunch of folks across the United States many of whom also feel the pressure of this lie. Sometimes, we forget that this current present, whether good or bad, is only for now. We forget that tomorrow, or even our next moment, is full of possibility. Driving through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia during my recent four week road trip across the U.S. the concept of “for now” became as vivid as the leaves I viewed from my passenger side window. The leaves were changing and so was I.

I began 2011 with the goal of living in joyful anticipation, an idea based on Romans 8. After many months of my typical ridiculous anxiety, I think I am finally living an adventurously expectant God filled life full of joyful anticipation.